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Arthur Conan Doyle
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|Arthur Conan Doyle |
A Case of Identity
A Scandal in Bohemia
HIS LAST BOW
THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER
THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET
THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN
THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER`S THUMB
THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER
THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER
THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS
THE CASE BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
The Aduenture of the Speckled Band
The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Five Orange Pips
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Red-headed League
The Sign of the Four
Through the Magic Door
The Five Orange Pips
When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes
cases between the years `82 and `90, I am faced by so many which
present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter
to know which to choose and which to leave. Some, however, have
already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not
offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend
possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these
papers to illustrate. Some, too, have baffled his analytical
skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending,
while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their
explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on
that absolute logical proof which was so dear to him. There is,
however, one of these last which was so remarkable in its details
and so startling in its results that I am tempted to give some
account of it in spite of the fact that there are points in
connection with it which never have been, and probably never will
be, entirely cleared up.
The year `87 furnished us with a long series of cases of
greater or less interest, of which I retain the records. Among my
headings under this one twelve months I find an account of the
adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant
Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a
furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the
British bark Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the
Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the
Camberwell poisoning case. In the latter, as may be remembered,
Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the dead man`s watch, to
prove that it had been wound up two hours before, and that
therefore the deceased had gone to bed within that timeÄÄa
deduction which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the
case. All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of
them present such singular features as the strange train of
circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial
gales had set in with exceptional violence. All day the wind had
screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even
here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to
raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life, and to
recognize the presence of those great elemental forces which
shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like
untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in, the storm grew
higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in
the chimney. Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the
fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the
other was deep in one of Clark Russell`s fine sea-stories until
the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text,
and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of
the sea waves. My wife was on a visit to her mother`s, and for a
few days I was a dweller once more in my old quarters at Baker
"Why," said I, glancing up at my companion, "that was surely
the bell. Who could come to-night? Some friend of yours,
"Except yourself I have none," he answered. "I do not
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less would bring a man
out on such a day and at such an hour. But I take it that it is
more likely to be some crony of the landlady`s."
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture, however, for
there came a step in the passage and a tapping at the door. He
stretched out his long arm to turn the lamp away from himself and
towards the vacant chair upon which a newcomer must sit. "Come
in!" said he.
The man who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the
outside, well-groomed and trimly clad, with something of
refinement and delicacy in his bearing. The streaming umbrella
which he held in his hand, and his long shining waterproof told of
the fierce weather through which he had come. He looked about him
anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that his face
was pale and his eyes heavy, like those of a man who is weighed
down with some great anxiety.
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden pince-nez
to his eyes. "I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I
have brought some traces of the storm and rain into your snug
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes. "They may rest
here on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from
the south-west, I see."
"Yes, from Horsham."
"That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is
"I have come for advice."
"That is easily got."
"That is not always so easy."
"I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes. I heard from Major
Prendergast how you saved him in the Tankerville Club scandal."
"Ah, of course. He was wrongfully accused of cheating at
"He said that you could solve anything."
"He said too much."
"That you are never beaten."
"I have been beaten four timesÄÄthree times by men, and once
by a woman."
"But what is that compared with the number of your successes?"
"It is true that I have been generally successful."
"Then you may be so with me."
"I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favour
me with some details as to your case."
"It is no ordinary one."
"None of those which come to me are. I am the last court of
"And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your experience, you
have ever listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of
events than those which have happened in my own family."
"You fill me with interest," said Holmes. "Pray give us the
essential facts from the commencement, and I can afterwards
question you as to those details which seem to me to be most
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed his wet feet out
towards the blaze.
"My name," said he, "is John Openshaw, but my own affairs
have, as far as I can understand, little to do with this awful
business. It is a hereditary matter; so in order to give you an
idea of the facts, I must go back to the commencement of the
"You must know that my grandfather had two sonsÄÄmy uncle
Elias and my father Joseph. My father had a small factory at
Coventry, which he enlarged at the time of the invention of
bicycling. He was a patentee of the Openshaw unbreakable tire,
and his business met with such success that he was able to sell it
and to retire upon a handsome competence.
"My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he was a young man
and became a planter in Florida, where he was reported to have
done very well. At the time of the war he fought in Jackson`s
army, and afterwards under Hood, where he rose to be a colonel.
When Lee laid down his arms my uncle returned to his plantation,
where he remained for three or four years. About 1869 or 1870 he
came back to Europe and took a small estate in Sussex, near
Horsham. He had made a very considerable fortune in the States,
and his reason for leaving them was his aversion to the negroes,
and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the
franchise to them. He was a singular man, fierce and
quick-tempered, very foul-mouthed when he was angry, and of a most
retiring disposition. During all the years that he lived at
Horsham, I doubt if ever he set foot in the town. He had a garden
and two or three fields round his house, and there he would take
his exercise, though very often for weeks on end he would never
leave his room. He drank a great deal of brandy and smoked very
heavily, but he would see no society and did not want any friends,
not even his own brother.
"He didn`t mind me; in fact, he took a fancy to me, for at the
time when he saw me first I was a youngster of twelve or so. This
would be in the year 1878, after he had been eight or nine years
in England. He begged my father to let me live with him, and he
was very kind to me in his way. When he was sober he used to be
fond of playing backgammon and draughts with me, and he would make
me his representative both with the servants and with the
tradespeople, so that by the time that I was sixteen I was quite
master of the house. I kept all the keys and could go where I
liked and do what I liked, so long as I did not disturb him in his
privacy. There was one singular exception, however, for he had a
single room, a lumber-room up among the attics, which was
invariably locked, and which he would never permit either me or
anyone else to enter. With a boy`s curiosity I have peeped
through the keyhole, but I was never able to see more than such a
collection of old trunks and bundles as would be expected in such
"One dayÄÄit was in March, 1883ÄÄa letter with a foreign stamp
lay upon the table in front of the colonel`s plate. It was not a
common thing for him to receive letters, for his bills were all
paid in ready money, and he had no friends of any sort. `From
India!` said he as he took it up, `Pondicherry postmark! What can
this be?` Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried
orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began to laugh
at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his
face. His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the
colour of putty, and he glared at the envelope which he still held
in his trembling hand, `K. K. K.!` he shrieked, and then, `My God,
my God, my sins have overtaken me!`
"`What is it, uncle?` I cried.
"`Death,` said he, and rising from the table he retired to his
room, leaving me palpitating with horror. I took up the envelope
and saw scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the
gum, the letter K three times repeated. There was nothing else
save the five dried pips. What could be the reason of his
overpowering terror? I left the breakfast-table, and as I
ascended the stair I met him coming down with an old rusty key,
which must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a small
brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
"`They may do what they like, but I`ll checkmate them still,`
said he with an oath. `Tell Mary that I shall want a fire in my
room to-day, and send down to Fordham, the Horsham lawyer.`
"I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer arrived I was asked
to step up to the room. The fire was burning brightly, and in the
grate there was a mass of black, fluffy ashes, as of burned paper,
while the brass box stood open and empty beside it. As I glanced
at the box I noticed, with a start, that upon the lid was printed
the treble K which I had read in the morning upon the envelope.
"`I wish you, John,` said my uncle, `to witness my will. I
leave my estate, with all its advantages and all its
disadvantages, to my brother, your father, whence it will, no
doubt, descend to you. If you can enjoy it in peace, well and
good! If you find you cannot, take my advice, my boy, and leave
it to your deadliest enemy. I am sorry to give you such a
two-edged thing, but I can`t say what turn things are going to
take. Kindly sign the paper where Mr. Fordham shows you.`
"I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer took it away
with him. The singular incident made, as you may think, the
deepest impression upon me, and I pondered over it and turned it
every way in my mind without being able to make anything of it.
Yet I could not shake off the vague feeling of dread which it left
behind, though the sensation grew less keen as the weeks passed,
and nothing happened to disturb the usual routine of our lives. I
could see a change in my uncle, however. He drank more than ever,
and he was less inclined for any sort of society. Most of his
time he would spend in his room, with the door locked upon the
inside, but sometimes he would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy
and would burst out of the house and tear about the garden with a
revolver in his hand, screaming out that he was afraid of no man,
and that he was not to be cooped up, like a sheep in a pen, by man
or devil. When these hot fits were over, however, he would rush
tumultuously in at the door and lock and bar it behind him, like a
man who can brazen it out no longer against the terror which lies
at the roots of his soul. At such times I have seen his face,
even on a cold day, glisten with moisture, as though it were new
raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr. Holmes, and not to
abuse your patience, there came a night when he made one of those
drunken sallies from which he never came back. We found him, when
we went to search for him, face downward in a little green-scummed
pool, which lay at the foot of the garden. There was no sign of
any violence, and the water was but two feet deep, so that the
jury, having regard to his known eccentricity, brought in a
verdict of `suicide.` But I, who knew how he winced from the very
thought of death, had much ado to persuade myself that he had gone
out of his way to meet it. The matter passed, however, and my
father entered into possession of the estate, and of some œ14,000,
which lay to his credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your statement is, I
foresee, one of the most remarkable to which I have ever listened.
Let me have the date of the reception by your uncle of the letter,
and the date of his supposed suicide."
"The letter arrived on March 10, 1883. His death was seven
weeks later, upon the night of May 2d."
"Thank you. Pray proceed."
"When my father took over the Horsham property, he, at my
request, made a careful examination of the attic, which had been
always locked up. We found the brass box there, although its
contents had been destroyed. On the inside of the cover was a
paper label, with the initials of K. K. K. repeated upon it, and
`Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a register` written beneath.
These, we presume, indicated the nature of the papers which had
been destroyed by Colonel Openshaw. For the rest, there was
nothing of much importance in the attic save a great many
scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my uncle`s life in
America. Some of them were of the war time and showed that he had
done his duty well and had borne the repute of a brave soldier.
Others were of a date during the reconstruction of the Southern
states, and were mostly concerned with politics, for he had
evidently taken a strong part in opposing the carpet-bag
politicians who had been sent down from the North.
"Well, it was the beginning of `84 when my father came to live
at Horsham, and all went as well as possible with us until the
January of `85. On the fourth day after the new year I heard my
father give a sharp cry of surprise as we sat together at the
breakfast-table. There he was, sitting with a newly opened
envelope in one hand and five dried orange pips in the
outstretched palm of the other one. /... /
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