The Gloria Scott





"I have some papers here," said my friend Sherlock Holmes, as we sat

one winter's night on either side of the fire, "which I really think,

Watson, that it would be worth your while to glance over. These are the

documents in the extraordinary case of the Gloria Scott, and this is the

message which struck Justice of the Peace Trevor dead with horror when

he read it."



He had picked from a drawer a little tarnished cylinder, and, undoing

the tape, he handed me a short note scrawled upon a half-sheet of

slate-gray paper.



"The supply of game for London is going steadily up," it ran.

"Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive all orders

for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant's life."



As I glanced up from reading this enigmatical message, I saw Holmes

chuckling at the expression upon my face.



"You look a little bewildered," said he.



"I cannot see how such a message as this could inspire horror. It seems

to me to be rather grotesque than otherwise."



"Very likely. Yet the fact remains that the reader, who was a fine,

robust old man, was knocked clean down by it as if it had been the butt

end of a pistol."



"You arouse my curiosity," said I. "But why did you say just now that

there were very particular reasons why I should study this case?"



"Because it was the first in which I was ever engaged."



I had often endeavored to elicit from my companion what had first turned

his mind in the direction of criminal research, but had never caught him

before in a communicative humor. Now he sat forward in this arm-chair

and spread out the documents upon his knees. Then he lit his pipe and

sat for some time smoking and turning them over.



"You never heard me talk of Victor Trevor?" he asked. "He was the only

friend I made during the two years I was at college. I was never a very

sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and

working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed

much with the men of my year. Bar fencing and boxing I had few athletic

tastes, and then my line of study was quite distinct from that of the

other fellows, so that we had no points of contact at all. Trevor was

the only man I knew, and that only through the accident of his bull

terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel.



"It was a prosaic way of forming a friendship, but it was effective.

I was laid by the heels for ten days, but Trevor used to come in to

inquire after me. At first it was only a minute's chat, but soon his

visits lengthened, and before the end of the term we were close friends.

He was a hearty, full-blooded fellow, full of spirits and energy,

the very opposite to me in most respects, but we had some subjects

in common, and it was a bond of union when I found that he was as

friendless as I. Finally, he invited me down to his father's place at

Donnithorpe, in Norfolk, and I accepted his hospitality for a month of

the long vacation.



"Old Trevor was evidently a man of some wealth and consideration, a

J.P., and a landed proprietor. Donnithorpe is a little hamlet just to

the north of Langmere, in the country of the Broads. The house was

an old-fashioned, wide-spread, oak-beamed brick building, with a fine

lime-lined avenue leading up to it. There was excellent wild-duck

shooting in the fens, remarkably good fishing, a small but select

library, taken over, as I understood, from a former occupant, and a

tolerable cook, so that he would be a fastidious man who could not put

in a pleasant month there.



"Trevor senior was a widower, and my friend his only son.



"There had been a daughter, I heard, but she had died of diphtheria

while on a visit to Birmingham. The father interested me extremely.

He was a man of little culture, but with a considerable amount of rude

strength, both physically and mentally. He knew hardly any books, but

he had traveled far, had seen much of the world. And had remembered

all that he had learned. In person he was a thick-set, burly man with

a shock of grizzled hair, a brown, weather-beaten face, and blue eyes

which were keen to the verge of fierceness. Yet he had a reputation for

kindness and charity on the country-side, and was noted for the leniency

of his sentences from the bench.



"One evening, shortly after my arrival, we were sitting over a glass of

port after dinner, when young Trevor began to talk about those habits

of observation and inference which I had already formed into a system,

although I had not yet appreciated the part which they were to play in

my life. The old man evidently thought that his son was exaggerating in

his description of one or two trivial feats which I had performed.



"'Come, now, Mr. Holmes,' said he, laughing good-humoredly. 'I'm an

excellent subject, if you can deduce anything from me.'



"'I fear there is not very much,' I answered; 'I might suggest that

you have gone about in fear of some personal attack within the last

twelvemonth.'



"The laugh faded from his lips, and he stared at me in great surprise.



"'Well, that's true enough,' said he. 'You know, Victor,' turning to his

son, 'when we broke up that poaching gang they swore to knife us, and

Sir Edward Holly has actually been attacked. I've always been on my

guard since then, though I have no idea how you know it.'



"'You have a very handsome stick,' I answered. 'By the inscription I

observed that you had not had it more than a year. But you have taken

some pains to bore the head of it and pour melted lead into the hole so

as to make it a formidable weapon. I argued that you would not take such

precautions unless you had some danger to fear.'



"'Anything else?' he asked, smiling.



"'You have boxed a good deal in your youth.'



"'Right again. How did you know it? Is my nose knocked a little out of

the straight?'



"'No,' said I. 'It is your ears. They have the peculiar flattening and

thickening which marks the boxing man.'



"'Anything else?'



"'You have done a good deal of digging by your callosities.'



"'Made all my money at the gold fields.'



"'You have been in New Zealand.'



"'Right again.'



"'You have visited Japan.'



"'Quite true.'



"'And you have been most intimately associated with some one whose

initials were J. A., and whom you afterwards were eager to entirely

forget.'



"Mr. Trevor stood slowly up, fixed his large blue eyes upon me with a

strange wild stare, and then pitched forward, with his face among the

nutshells which strewed the cloth, in a dead faint.



"You can imagine, Watson, how shocked both his son and I were. His

attack did not last long, however, for when we undid his collar, and

sprinkled the water from one of the finger-glasses over his face, he

gave a gasp or two and sat up.



"'Ah, boys,' said he, forcing a smile, 'I hope I haven't frightened you.

Strong as I look, there is a weak place in my heart, and it does not

take much to knock me over. I don't know how you manage this, Mr.

Holmes, but it seems to me that all the detectives of fact and of fancy

would be children in your hands. That's your line of life, sir, and you

may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world.'



"And that recommendation, with the exaggerated estimate of my ability

with which he prefaced it, was, if you will believe me, Watson, the very

first thing which ever made me feel that a profession might be made

out of what had up to that time been the merest hobby. At the moment,

however, I was too much concerned at the sudden illness of my host to

think of anything else.



"'I hope that I have said nothing to pain you?' said I.



"'Well, you certainly touched upon rather a tender point. Might I ask

how you know, and how much you know?' He spoke now in a half-jesting

fashion, but a look of terror still lurked at the back of his eyes.



"'It is simplicity itself,' said I. 'When you bared your arm to draw

that fish into the boat I saw that J. A. Had been tattooed in the bend

of the elbow. The letters were still legible, but it was perfectly clear

from their blurred appearance, and from the staining of the skin round

them, that efforts had been made to obliterate them. It was obvious,

then, that those initials had once been very familiar to you, and that

you had afterwards wished to forget them.'



"What an eye you have!" he cried, with a sigh of relief. 'It is just as

you say. But we won't talk of it. Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old

lovers are the worst. Come into the billiard-room and have a quiet

cigar.'





"From that day, amid all his cordiality, there was always a touch of

suspicion in Mr. Trevor's manner towards me. Even his son remarked it.

'You've given the governor such a turn,' said he, 'that he'll never be

sure again of what you know and what you don't know.' He did not mean

to show it, I am sure, but it was so strongly in his mind that it peeped

out at every action. At last I became so convinced that I was causing

him uneasiness that I drew my visit to a close. On the very day,

however, before I left, and incident occurred which proved in the sequel

to be of importance.



"We were sitting out upon the lawn on garden chairs, the three of us,

basking in the sun and admiring the view across the Broads, when a maid

came out to say that there was a man at the door who wanted to see Mr.

Trevor.



"'What is his name?' asked my host.



"'He would not give any.'



"'What does he want, then?'





"'He says that you know him, and that he only wants a moment's

conversation.'



"'Show him round here.' An instant afterwards there appeared a little

wizened fellow with a cringing manner and a shambling style of

walking. He wore an open jacket, with a splotch of tar on the sleeve,

a red-and-black check shirt, dungaree trousers, and heavy boots badly

worn. His face was thin and brown and crafty, with a perpetual smile

upon it, which showed an irregular line of yellow teeth, and his

crinkled hands were half closed in a way that is distinctive of sailors.

As he came slouching across the lawn I heard Mr. Trevor make a sort of

hiccoughing noise in his throat, and jumping out of his chair, he ran

into the house. He was back in a moment, and I smelt a strong reek of

brandy as he passed me.



"'Well, my man,' said he. 'What can I do for you?'



"The sailor stood looking at him with puckered eyes, and with the same

loose-lipped smile upon his face.



"'You don't know me?' he asked.



"'Why, dear me, it is surely Hudson,' said Mr. Trevor in a tone of

surprise.



"'Hudson it is, sir,' said the seaman. 'Why, it's thirty year and more

since I saw you last. Here you are in your house, and me still picking

my salt meat out of the harness cask.'



"'Tut, you will find that I have not forgotten old times,' cried Mr.

Trevor, and, walking towards the sailor, he said something in a low

voice. 'Go into the kitchen,' he continued out loud, 'and you will get

food and drink. I have no doubt that I shall find you a situation.'



"'Thank you, sir,' said the seaman, touching his fore-lock. 'I'm just

off a two-yearer in an eight-knot tramp, short-handed at that, and I

wants a rest. I thought I'd get it either with Mr. Beddoes or with you.'



"'Ah!' cried Trevor. 'You know where Mr. Beddoes is?'



"'Bless you, sir, I know where all my old friends are,' said the

fellow with a sinister smile, and he slouched off after the maid to the

kitchen. Mr. Trevor mumbled something to us about having been shipmate

with the man when he was going back to the diggings, and then, leaving

us on the lawn, he went indoors. An hour later, when we entered the

house, we found him stretched dead drunk upon the dining-room sofa. The

whole incident left a most ugly impression upon my mind, and I was

not sorry next day to leave Donnithorpe behind me, for I felt that my

presence must be a source of embarrassment to my friend.



"All this occurred during the first month of the long vacation. I went

up to my London rooms, where I spent seven weeks working out a few

experiments in organic chemistry. One day, however, when the autumn was

far advanced and the vacation drawing to a close, I received a telegram

from my friend imploring me to return to Donnithorpe, and saying that

he was in great need of my advice and assistance. Of course I dropped

everything and set out for the North once more.



"He met me with the dog-cart at the station, and I saw at a glance that

the last two months had been very trying ones for him. He had grown thin

and careworn, and had lost the loud, cheery manner for which he had been

remarkable.



"'The governor is dying,' were the first words he said.



"'Impossible!' I cried. 'What is the matter?'



"'Apoplexy. Nervous shock, He's been on the verge all day. I doubt if we

shall find him alive.'



"I was, as you may think, Watson, horrified at this unexpected news.



"'What has caused it?' I asked.



"'Ah, that is the point. Jump in and we can talk it over while we drive.

You remember that fellow who came upon the evening before you left us?'



"'Perfectly.'



"'Do you know who it was that we let into the house that day?'



"'I have no idea.'



"'It was the devil, Holmes,' he cried.



"I stared at him in astonishment.



"'Yes, it was the devil himself. We have not had a peaceful hour

since--not one. The governor has never held up his head from that

evening, and now the life has been crushed out of him and his heart

broken, all through this accursed Hudson.'



"'What power had he, then?'



"'Ah, that is what I would give so much to know. The kindly, charitable,

good old governor--how could he have fallen into the clutches of such a

ruffian! But I am so glad that you have come, Holmes. I trust very much

to your judgment and discretion, and I know that you will advise me for

the best.'



"We were dashing along the smooth white country road, with the long

stretch of the Broads in front of us glimmering in the red light of the

setting sun. From a grove upon our left I could already see the high

chimneys and the flag-staff which marked the squire's dwelling.



"'My father made the fellow gardener,' said my companion, 'and then, as

that did not satisfy him, he was promoted to be butler. The house seemed

to be at his mercy, and he wandered about and did what he chose in it.

The maids complained of his drunken habits and his vile language. The

dad raised their wages all round to recompense them for the annoyance.

The fellow would take the boat and my father's best gun and treat

himself to little shooting trips. And all this with such a sneering,

leering, insolent face that I would have knocked him down twenty times

over if he had been a man of my own age. I tell you, Holmes, I have

had to keep a tight hold upon myself all this time; and now I am asking

myself whether, if I had let myself go a little more, I might not have

been a wiser man.



"'Well, matters went from bad to worse with us, and this animal Hudson

became more and more intrusive, until at last, on making some insolent

reply to my father in my presence one day, I took him by the shoulders

and turned him out of the room. He slunk away with a livid face and two

venomous eyes which uttered more threats than his tongue could do. I

don't know what passed between the poor dad and him after that, but the

dad came to me next day and asked me whether I would mind apologizing to

Hudson. I refused, as you can imagine, and asked my father how he

could allow such a wretch to take such liberties with himself and his

household.



"'"Ah, my boy," said he, "it is all very well to talk, but you don't

know how I am placed. But you shall know, Victor. I'll see that you

shall know, come what may. You wouldn't believe harm of your poor old

father, would you, lad?" He was very much moved, and shut himself up

in the study all day, where I could see through the window that he was

writing busily.



"'That evening there came what seemed to me to be a grand release,

for Hudson told us that he was going to leave us. He walked into the

dining-room as we sat after dinner, and announced his intention in the

thick voice of a half-drunken man.



"'"I've had enough of Norfolk," said he. "I'll run down to Mr. Beddoes

in Hampshire. He'll be as glad to see me as you were, I dare say."



"'"You're not going away in an unkind spirit, Hudson, I hope," said my

father, with a tameness which made my blood boil.



"'"I've not had my 'pology," said he sulkily, glancing in my direction.



"'"Victor, you will acknowledge that you have used this worthy fellow

rather roughly," said the dad, turning to me.



"'"On the contrary, I think that we have both shown extraordinary

patience towards him," I answered.



"'"Oh, you do, do you?" he snarls. "Very good, mate. We'll see about

that!"



"'He slouched out of the room, and half an hour afterwards left the

house, leaving my father in a state of pitiable nervousness. Night after

night I heard him pacing his room, and it was just as he was recovering

his confidence that the blow did at last fall.'



"'And how?' I asked eagerly.



"'In a most extraordinary fashion. A letter arrived for my father

yesterday evening, bearing the Fordingbridge post-mark. My father read

it, clapped both his hands to his head, and began running round the room

in little circles like a man who has been driven out of his senses. When

I at last drew him down on to the sofa, his mouth and eyelids were all

puckered on one side, and I saw that he had a stroke. Dr. Fordham came

over at once. We put him to bed; but the paralysis has spread, he has

shown no sign of returning consciousness, and I think that we shall

hardly find him alive.'



"'You horrify me, Trevor!' I cried. 'What then could have been in this

letter to cause so dreadful a result?'



"'Nothing. There lies the inexplicable part of it. The message was

absurd and trivial. Ah, my God, it is as I feared!'



"As he spoke we came round the curve of the avenue, and saw in the

fading light that every blind in the house had been drawn down. As

we dashed up to the door, my friend's face convulsed with grief, a

gentleman in black emerged from it.



"'When did it happen, doctor?' asked Trevor.



"'Almost immediately after you left.'



"'Did he recover consciousness?'



"'For an instant before the end.'



"'Any message for me.'



"'Only that the papers were in the back drawer of the Japanese cabinet.'



"My friend ascended with the doctor to the chamber of death, while I

remained in the study, turning the whole matter over and over in my

head, and feeling as sombre as ever I had done in my life. What was the

past of this Trevor, pugilist, traveler, and gold-digger, and how had he

placed himself in the power of this acid-faced seaman? Why, too, should

he faint at an allusion to the half-effaced initials upon his arm, and

die of fright when he had a letter from Fordingham? Then I remembered

that Fordingham was in Hampshire, and that this Mr. Beddoes, whom the

seaman had gone to visit and presumably to blackmail, had also been

mentioned as living in Hampshire. The letter, then, might either come

from Hudson, the seaman, saying that he had betrayed the guilty secret

which appeared to exist, or it might come from Beddoes, warning an old

confederate that such a betrayal was imminent. So far it seemed clear

enough. But then how could this letter be trivial and grotesque, as

describe by the son? He must have misread it. If so, it must have been

one of those ingenious secret codes which mean one thing while they seem

to mean another. I must see this letter. If there were a hidden meaning

in it, I was confident that I could pluck it forth. For an hour I sat

pondering over it in the gloom, until at last a weeping maid brought in

a lamp, and close at her heels came my friend Trevor, pale but composed,

with these very papers which lie upon my knee held in his grasp. He sat

down opposite to me, drew the lamp to the edge of the table, and handed

me a short note scribbled, as you see, upon a single sheet of gray

paper. 'The supply of game for London is going steadily up,' it ran.

'Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive all orders

for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant's life.'



"I dare say my face looked as bewildered as yours did just now when

first I read this message. Then I reread it very carefully. It was

evidently as I had thought, and some secret meaning must lie buried

in this strange combination of words. Or could it be that there was

a prearranged significance to such phrases as 'fly-paper' and

'hen-pheasant'? Such a meaning would be arbitrary and could not be

deduced in any way. And yet I was loath to believe that this was the

case, and the presence of the word Hudson seemed to show that the

subject of the message was as I had guessed, and that it was from

Beddoes rather than the sailor. I tried it backwards, but the

combination 'life pheasant's hen' was not encouraging. Then I tried

alternate words, but neither 'the of for' nor 'supply game London'

promised to throw any light upon it.



"And then in an instant the key of the riddle was in my hands, and I saw

that every third word, beginning with the first, would give a message

which might well drive old Trevor to despair.



"It was short and terse, the warning, as I now read it to my companion:



"'The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life.'



"Victor Trevor sank his face into his shaking hands. 'It must be that,

I suppose,' said he. "This is worse than death, for it means disgrace

as well. But what is the meaning of these "head-keepers" and

"hen-pheasants"?'



"'It means nothing to the message, but it might mean a good deal to us

if we had no other means of discovering the sender. You see that he has

begun by writing "The...game...is," and so on. Afterwards he had, to

fulfill the prearranged cipher, to fill in any two words in each space.

He would naturally use the first words which came to his mind, and

if there were so many which referred to sport among them, you may

be tolerably sure that he is either an ardent shot or interested in

breeding. Do you know anything of this Beddoes?'



"'Why, now that you mention it,' said he, 'I remember that my poor

father used to have an invitation from him to shoot over his preserves

every autumn.'



"'Then it is undoubtedly from him that the note comes,' said I. 'It only

remains for us to find out what this secret was which the sailor Hudson

seems to have held over the heads of these two wealthy and respected

men.'



"'Alas, Holmes, I fear that it is one of sin and shame!' cried my

friend. 'But from you I shall have no secrets. Here is the statement

which was drawn up by my father when he knew that the danger from Hudson

had become imminent. I found it in the Japanese cabinet, as he told the

doctor. Take it and read it to me, for I have neither the strength nor

the courage to do it myself.'



"These are the very papers, Watson, which he handed to me, and I will

read them to you, as I read them in the old study that night to him.

They are endorsed outside, as you see, 'Some particulars of the voyage

of the bark Gloria Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on the 8th

October, 1855, to her destruction in N. Lat. 15 degrees 20', W. Long.

25 degrees 14' on Nov. 6th.' It is in the form of a letter, and runs in

this way:



"'My dear, dear son, now that approaching disgrace begins to darken the

closing years of my life, I can write with all truth and honesty that it

is not the terror of the law, it is not the loss of my position in the

county, nor is it my fall in the eyes of all who have known me, which

cuts me to the heart; but it is the thought that you should come to

blush for me--you who love me and who have seldom, I hope, had reason to

do other than respect me. But if the blow falls which is forever hanging

over me, then I should wish you to read this, that you may know straight

from me how far I have been to blame. On the other hand, if all should

go well (which may kind God Almighty grant!), then if by any chance this

paper should be still undestroyed and should fall into your hands, I

conjure you, by all you hold sacred, by the memory of your dear mother,

and by the love which had been between us, to hurl it into the fire and

to never give one thought to it again.



"'If then your eye goes on to read this line, I know that I shall

already have been exposed and dragged from my home, or as is more

likely, for you know that my heart is weak, by lying with my tongue

sealed forever in death. In either case the time for suppression is

past, and every word which I tell you is the naked truth, and this I

swear as I hope for mercy.



"'My name, dear lad, is not Trevor. I was James Armitage in my younger

days, and you can understand now the shock that it was to me a few weeks

ago when your college friend addressed me in words which seemed to imply

that he had surprised my secret. As Armitage it was that I entered a

London banking-house, and as Armitage I was convicted of breaking my

country's laws, and was sentenced to transportation. Do not think very

harshly of me, laddie. It was a debt of honor, so called, which I had

to pay, and I used money which was not my own to do it, in the certainty

that I could replace it before there could be any possibility of its

being missed. But the most dreadful ill-luck pursued me. The money which

I had reckoned upon never came to hand, and a premature examination of

accounts exposed my deficit. The case might have been dealt leniently

with, but the laws were more harshly administered thirty years ago than

now, and on my twenty-third birthday I found myself chained as a felon

with thirty-seven other convicts in 'tween-decks of the bark Gloria

Scott, bound for Australia.



"'It was the year '55 when the Crimean war was at its height, and the

old convict ships had been largely used as transports in the Black

Sea. The government was compelled, therefore, to use smaller and less

suitable vessels for sending out their prisoners. The Gloria Scott

had been in the Chinese tea-trade, but she was an old-fashioned,

heavy-bowed, broad-beamed craft, and the new clippers had cut her

out. She was a five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight

jail-birds, she carried twenty-six of a crew, eighteen soldiers, a

captain, three mates, a doctor, a chaplain, and four warders. Nearly a

hundred souls were in her, all told, when we set sail from Falmouth.



"'The partitions between the cells of the convicts, instead of being of

thick oak, as is usual in convict-ships, were quite thin and frail.

The man next to me, upon the aft side, was one whom I had particularly

noticed when we were led down the quay. He was a young man with a

clear, hairless face, a long, thin nose, and rather nut-cracker jaws.

He carried his head very jauntily in the air, had a swaggering style

of walking, and was, above all else, remarkable for his extraordinary

height. I don't think any of our heads would have come up to his

shoulder, and I am sure that he could not have measured less than six

and a half feet. It was strange among so many sad and weary faces to see

one which was full of energy and resolution. The sight of it was to me

like a fire in a snow-storm. I was glad, then, to find that he was my

neighbor, and gladder still when, in the dead of the night, I heard a

whisper close to my ear, and found that he had managed to cut an opening

in the board which separated us.



"'"Hullo, chummy!" said he, "what's your name, and what are you here

for?"



"'I answered him, and asked in turn who I was talking with.



"'"I'm Jack Prendergast," said he, "and by God! You'll learn to bless my

name before you've done with me."



"'I remembered hearing of his case, for it was one which had made an

immense sensation throughout the country some time before my own arrest.

He was a man of good family and of great ability, but of incurably

vicious habits, who had by an ingenious system of fraud obtained huge

sums of money from the leading London merchants.



"'"Ha, ha! You remember my case!" said he proudly.



"'"Very well, indeed."



"'"Then maybe you remember something queer about it?"



"'"What was that, then?"



"'"I'd had nearly a quarter of a million, hadn't I?"



"'"So it was said."



"'"But none was recovered, eh?"



"'"No."



"'"Well, where d'ye suppose the balance is?" he asked.



"'"I have no idea," said I.



"'"Right between my finger and thumb," he cried. "By God! I've got more

pounds to my name than you've hairs on your head. And if you've money,

my son, and know how to handle it and spread it, you can do anything.

Now, you don't think it likely that a man who could do anything is going

to wear his breeches out sitting in the stinking hold of a rat-gutted,

beetle-ridden, mouldy old coffin of a Chin China coaster. No, sir, such

a man will look after himself and will look after his chums. You may lay

to that! You hold on to him, and you may kiss the book that he'll haul

you through."



"'That was his style of talk, and at first I thought it meant nothing;

but after a while, when he had tested me and sworn me in with all

possible solemnity, he let me understand that there really was a plot

to gain command of the vessel. A dozen of the prisoners had hatched it

before they came aboard, Prendergast was the leader, and his money was

the motive power.



"'"I'd a partner," said he, "a rare good man, as true as a stock to a

barrel. He's got the dibbs, he has, and where do you think he is at this

moment? Why, he's the chaplain of this ship--the chaplain, no less! He

came aboard with a black coat, and his papers right, and money enough in

his box to buy the thing right up from keel to main-truck. The crew

are his, body and soul. He could buy 'em at so much a gross with a cash

discount, and he did it before ever they signed on. He's got two of the

warders and Mereer, the second mate, and he'd get the captain himself,

if he thought him worth it."



"'"What are we to do, then?" I asked.



"'"What do you think?" said he. "We'll make the coats of some of these

soldiers redder than ever the tailor did."



"'"But they are armed," said I.



"'"And so shall we be, my boy. There's a brace of pistols for every

mother's son of us, and if we can't carry this ship, with the crew at

our back, it's time we were all sent to a young misses' boarding-school.

You speak to your mate upon the left to-night, and see if he is to be

trusted."



"'I did so, and found my other neighbor to be a young fellow in much

the same position as myself, whose crime had been forgery. His name was

Evans, but he afterwards changed it, like myself, and he is now a rich

and prosperous man in the south of England. He was ready enough to join

the conspiracy, as the only means of saving ourselves, and before we had

crossed the Bay there were only two of the prisoners who were not in the

secret. One of these was of weak mind, and we did not dare to trust him,

and the other was suffering from jaundice, and could not be of any use

to us.



"'From the beginning there was really nothing to prevent us from taking

possession of the ship. The crew were a set of ruffians, specially

picked for the job. The sham chaplain came into our cells to exhort us,

carrying a black bag, supposed to be full of tracts, and so often did

he come that by the third day we had each stowed away at the foot of our

beds a file, a brace of pistols, a pound of powder, and twenty slugs.

Two of the warders were agents of Prendergast, and the second mate was

his right-hand man. The captain, the two mates, two warders Lieutenant

Martin, his eighteen soldiers, and the doctor were all that we had

against us. Yet, safe as it was, we determined to neglect no precaution,

and to make our attack suddenly by night. It came, however, more quickly

than we expected, and in this way.



"'One evening, about the third week after our start, the doctor had come

down to see one of the prisoners who was ill, and putting his hand down

on the bottom of his bunk he felt the outline of the pistols. If he had

been silent he might have blown the whole thing, but he was a nervous

little chap, so he gave a cry of surprise and turned so pale that the

man knew what was up in an instant and seized him. He was gagged before

he could give the alarm, and tied down upon the bed. He had unlocked

the door that led to the deck, and we were through it in a rush. The two

sentries were shot down, and so was a corporal who came running to see

what was the matter. There were two more soldiers at the door of the

state-room, and their muskets seemed not to be loaded, for they never

fired upon us, and they were shot while trying to fix their bayonets.

Then we rushed on into the captain's cabin, but as we pushed open the

door there was an explosion from within, and there he lay with his

brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic which was pinned upon the

table, while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand at

his elbow. The two mates had both been seized by the crew, and the whole

business seemed to be settled.



"'The state-room was next the cabin, and we flocked in there and flopped

down on the settees, all speaking together, for we were just mad with

the feeling that we were free once more. There were lockers all round,

and Wilson, the sham chaplain, knocked one of them in, and pulled out a

dozen of brown sherry. We cracked off the necks of the bottles, poured

the stuff out into tumblers, and were just tossing them off, when in an

instant without warning there came the roar of muskets in our ears, and

the saloon was so full of smoke that we could not see across the table.

When it cleared again the place was a shambles. Wilson and eight others

were wriggling on the top of each other on the floor, and the blood and

the brown sherry on that table turn me sick now when I think of it. We

were so cowed by the sight that I think we should have given the job up

if it had not been for Prendergast. He bellowed like a bull and rushed

for the door with all that were left alive at his heels. Out we ran,

and there on the poop were the lieutenant and ten of his men. The swing

skylights above the saloon table had been a bit open, and they had fired

on us through the slit. We got on them before they could load, and they

stood to it like men; but we had the upper hand of them, and in five

minutes it was all over. My God! Was there ever a slaughter-house

like that ship! Prendergast was like a raging devil, and he picked the

soldiers up as if they had been children and threw them overboard alive

or dead. There was one sergeant that was horribly wounded and yet kept

on swimming for a surprising time, until some one in mercy blew out his

brains. When the fighting was over there was no one left of our enemies

except just the warders the mates, and the doctor.



"'It was over them that the great quarrel arose. There were many of us

who were glad enough to win back our freedom, and yet who had no wish

to have murder on our souls. It was one thing to knock the soldiers over

with their muskets in their hands, and it was another to stand by while

men were being killed in cold blood. Eight of us, five convicts and

three sailors, said that we would not see it done. But there was no

moving Prendergast and those who were with him. Our only chance of

safety lay in making a clean job of it, said he, and he would not leave

a tongue with power to wag in a witness-box. It nearly came to our

sharing the fate of the prisoners, but at last he said that if we wished

we might take a boat and go. We jumped at the offer, for we were already

sick of these bloodthirsty doings, and we saw that there would be worse

before it was done. We were given a suit of sailor togs each, a barrel

of water, two casks, one of junk and one of biscuits, and a compass.

Prendergast threw us over a chart, told us that we were shipwrecked

mariners whose ship had foundered in Lat. 15 degrees and Long 25 degrees

west, and then cut the painter and let us go.



"'And now I come to the most surprising part of my story, my dear son.

The seamen had hauled the fore-yard aback during the rising, but now as

we left them they brought it square again, and as there was a light wind

from the north and east the bark began to draw slowly away from us. Our

boat lay, rising and falling, upon the long, smooth rollers, and Evans

and I, who were the most educated of the party, were sitting in the

sheets working out our position and planning what coast we should make

for. It was a nice question, for the Cape de Verdes were about five

hundred miles to the north of us, and the African coast about seven

hundred to the east. On the whole, as the wind was coming round to the

north, we thought that Sierra Leone might be best, and turned our head

in that direction, the bark being at that time nearly hull down on our

starboard quarter. Suddenly as we looked at her we saw a dense black

cloud of smoke shoot up from her, which hung like a monstrous tree upon

the sky line. A few seconds later a roar like thunder burst upon our

ears, and as the smoke thinned away there was no sign left of the

Gloria Scott. In an instant we swept the boat's head round again and

pulled with all our strength for the place where the haze still trailing

over the water marked the scene of this catastrophe.



"'It was a long hour before we reached it, and at first we feared that

we had come too late to save any one. A splintered boat and a number of

crates and fragments of spars rising and falling on the waves showed us

where the vessel had foundered; but there was no sign of life, and we

had turned away in despair when we heard a cry for help, and saw at some

distance a piece of wreckage with a man lying stretched across it. When

we pulled him aboard the boat he proved to be a young seaman of the

name of Hudson, who was so burned and exhausted that he could give us no

account of what had happened until the following morning.



"'It seemed that after we had left, Prendergast and his gang had

proceeded to put to death the five remaining prisoners. The two warders

had been shot and thrown overboard, and so also had the third mate.

Prendergast then descended into the 'tween-decks and with his own hands

cut the throat of the unfortunate surgeon. There only remained the first

mate, who was a bold and active man. When he saw the convict approaching

him with the bloody knife in his hand he kicked off his bonds, which he

had somehow contrived to loosen, and rushing down the deck he plunged

into the after-hold. A dozen convicts, who descended with their pistols

in search of him, found him with a match-box in his hand seated beside

an open powder-barrel, which was one of a hundred carried on board, and

swearing that he would blow all hands up if he were in any way molested.

An instant later the explosion occurred, though Hudson thought it was

caused by the misdirected bullet of one of the convicts rather than the

mate's match. Be the cause what it may, it was the end of the Gloria

Scott and of the rabble who held command of her.



"'Such, in a few words, my dear boy, is the history of this terrible

business in which I was involved. Next day we were picked up by the brig

Hotspur, bound for Australia, whose captain found no difficulty in

believing that we were the survivors of a passenger ship which had

foundered. The transport ship Gloria Scott was set down by the Admiralty

as being lost at sea, and no word has ever leaked out as to her true

fate. After an excellent voyage the Hotspur landed us at Sydney, where

Evans and I changed our names and made our way to the diggings,

where, among the crowds who were gathered from all nations, we had no

difficulty in losing our former identities. The rest I need not relate.

We prospered, we traveled, we came back as rich colonials to England,

and we bought country estates. For more than twenty years we have

led peaceful and useful lives, and we hoped that our past was forever

buried. Imagine, then, my feelings when in the seaman who came to us I

recognized instantly the man who had been picked off the wreck. He had

tracked us down somehow, and had set himself to live upon our fears. You

will understand now how it was that I strove to keep the peace with him,

and you will in some measure sympathize with me in the fears which fill

me, now that he has gone from me to his other victim with threats upon

his tongue.'



"Underneath is written in a hand so shaky as to be hardly legible,

'Beddoes writes in cipher to say H. Has told all. Sweet Lord, have mercy

on our souls!'



"That was the narrative which I read that night to young Trevor, and I

think, Watson, that under the circumstances it was a dramatic one.

The good fellow was heart-broken at it, and went out to the Terai tea

planting, where I hear that he is doing well. As to the sailor and

Beddoes, neither of them was ever heard of again after that day on which

the letter of warning was written. They both disappeared utterly and

completely. No complaint had been lodged with the police, so that

Beddoes had mistaken a threat for a deed. Hudson had been seen lurking

about, and it was believed by the police that he had done away with

Beddoes and had fled. For myself I believe that the truth was exactly

the opposite. I think that it is most probable that Beddoes, pushed to

desperation and believing himself to have been already betrayed, had

revenged himself upon Hudson, and had fled from the country with as much

money as he could lay his hands on. Those are the facts of the case,

Doctor, and if they are of any use to your collection, I am sure that

they are very heartily at your service."





The Generous The Gold-bug facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback