The Five Orange Pips
Complete story, ready to print -- free -- by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
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 time -- a 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.
"l 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 chamber."
"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 quite distinctive."
"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 times - three 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 affair.
"You must know that my grandfather had two sons -- my
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 a room.
"One day -- it was in March, 1883 -- a 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 14,000 pounds, which lay to his credit at the
"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. He had always laughed at what he called
my cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but he looked very
scared and puzzled now that the same thing had come upon
" 'Why, what on earth does this mean, John?' he stammered.
"My heart had turned to lead. 'It is K. K. K.,' said I.
"He looked inside the envelope. 'So it is,' he cried. 'Here are
the very letters. But what is this written above them?'
" 'Put the papers on the sundial,' I read, peeping over his
" 'What papers? What sundial?' he asked.
" 'The sundial in the garden. There is no other,' said I; 'but
the papers must be those that are destroyed.'
" 'Pooh!' said he, gripping hard at his courage. 'We are in a
civilized land here, and we can't have tomfoolery of this kind.
Where does the thing come from?'
" 'From Dundee,' I answered, glancing at the postmark.
" 'Some preposterous practical joke,' said he. 'What have I to
do with sundials and papers? I shall take no notice of such
" 'I should certainly speak to the police,' I said.
" 'And be laughed at for my pains. Nothing of the sort.'
" 'Then let me do so?'
" 'No, I forbid you. I won't have a fuss made about such
"It was in vain to argue with him, for he was a very obstinate
man. I went about, however, with a heart which was full of
"On the third day after the coming of the letter my father went
from home to visit an old friend of his, Major Freebody, who is
in command of one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was glad
that he should go, for it seemed to me that he was farther from
danger when he was away from home. In that, however, I was in
error. Upon the second day of his absence I received a telegram
from the major, imploring me to come at once. My father had
fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the
neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull. I
hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered his consciousness. He had, as it appears, been returning
from Fareham in the twilight, and as the country was unknown
to him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in
bringing in a verdict of 'death from accidental causes.' Carefully
as I examined every fact connected with his death, I was unable
to find anything which could suggest the idea of murder. There
were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record
of strangers having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need not
tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was
well-nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.
"In this sinister way I came into my inheritance. You will ask
me why I did not dispose of it? I answer, because I was well
convinced that our troubles were in some way dependent upon an
incident in my uncle's life, and that the danger would be as
pressing in one house as in another.
"It was in January, '85, that my poor father met his end, and
two years and eight months have elapsed since then. During that
time I have lived happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope
that this curse had passed way from the family, and that it had
ended with the last generation. I had begun to take comfort too
soon, however; yesterday morning the blow fell in the very
shape in which it had come upon my father."
The young man took from his waistcoat a crumpled envelope,
and turning to the table he shook out upon it five little dried
"This is the envelope," he continued. "The postmark is
London -- eastern division. Within are the very words which
were upon my father's last message: 'K. K. K.'; and then 'Put
the papers on the sundial.' "
"What have you done?'' asked Holmes.
"To tell the truth" -- he sank his face into his thin, white
hands -- "I have felt helpless. I have felt like one of those poor
rabbits when the snake is writhing towards it. I seem to be in the
grasp of some resistless, inexorable evil, which no foresight and
no precautions can guard against."
"Tut! tut!" cried Sherlock Holmes. "You must act, man, or
you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you. This is no time
"I have seen the police."
"But they listened to my story with a smile. I am convinced
that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are all
practical jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were really
accidents, as the jury stated, and were not to be connected with
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air. "Incredible
imbecility!" he cried.
"They have, however, allowed me a policeman, who may remain in the house with me."
"Has he come with you to-night?"
"No. His orders were to stay in the house."
Again Holmes raved in the air.
"Why did you come to me," he cried, "and, above all, why
did you not come at once?"
"I did not know. It was only to-day that I spoke to Major
Prendergast about my troubles and was advised by him to come
"It is really two days since you had the letter. We should have
acted before this. You have no further evidence, I suppose, than
that which you have placed before us -- no suggestive detail
which might help us?"
"There is one thing," said John Openshaw. He rummaged in
his coat pocket, and, drawing out a piece of discoloured, bluetinted paper, he laid it out upon the table. "I have some remembrance," said he, "that on the day when my uncle burned the
papers I observed that the small, unburned margins which lay
amid the ashes were of this particular colour. I found this single
sheet upon the floor of his room, and I am inclined to think that
it may be one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out
from among the others, and in that way has escaped destruction.
Beyond the mention of pips, I do not see that it helps us much. I
think myself that it is a page from some private diary. The
writing is undoubtedly my uncle's."
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over the sheet of
paper, which showed by its ragged edge that it had indeed been
torn from a book. It was headed, "March, 1869," and beneath
were the following enigmatical notices:
4th. Hudson came. Same old platform.
7th. Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and John Swain,
of St. Augustine.
9th. McCauley cleared.
1Oth. John Swain cleared.
12th. Visited Paramore. All well.
"Thank you!" said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning it to our visitor. "And now you must on no account lose
another instant. We cannot spare time even to discuss what you
have told me. You must get home instantly and act."
"What shall I do?"
"There is but one thing to do. It must be done at once. You
must put this piece of paper which you have shown us into the
brass box which you have described. You must also put in a note
to say that all the other papers were burned by your uncle, and
that this is the only one which remains. You must assert that in
such words as will carry conviction with them. Having done
this, you must at once put the box out upon the sundial, as
directed. Do you understand?"
"Do not think of revenge, or anything of the sort, at present. I
think that we may gain that by means of the law; but we have
our web to weave, while theirs is already woven. The first
consideration is to remove the pressing danger which threatens
you. The second is to clear up the mystery and to punish the
"I thank you," said the young man, rising and pulling on his
overcoat. "You have given me fresh life and hope. I shall
certainly do as you advise."
"Do not lose an instant. And, above all, take care of yourself
in the meanwhile, for I do not think that there can be a doubt that
you are threatened by a very real and imminent danger. How do
you go back?
"By train from Waterloo."
"It is not yet nine. The streets will be crowded, so l trust that
you may be in safety. And yet you cannot guard yourself too
"I am armed."
"That is well. To-morrow I shall set to work upon your case."
"I shall see you at Horsham, then?"
"No, your secret lies in London. It is there that I shall seek
"Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two days, with
news as to the box and the papers. I shall take your advice in
every particular." He shook hands with us and took his leave.
Outside the wind still screamed and the rain splashed and pattered against the windows. This strange, wild story seemed to
have come to us from amid the mad elements -- blown in upon us
like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale -- and now to have been
reabsorbed by them once more.
Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence, with his head
sunk forward and his eyes bent upon the red glow of the fire.
Then he lit his pipe, and leaning back in his chair he watched the
blue smoke-rings as they chased each other up to the ceiling.
"I think, Watson," he remarked at last, "that of all our cases
we have had none more fantastic than this."
"Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four."
"Well, yes. Save, perhaps, that. And yet this John Openshaw
seems to me to be walking amid even greater perils than did the
"But have you," I asked, "formed any definite conception as
to what these perils are?"
"There can be no question as to their nature," he answered.
"Then what are they? Who is this K. K. K., and why does he
pursue this unhappy family?"
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed his elbows upon
the arms of his chair, with his finger-tips together. "The ideal
reasoner," he remarked, "would, when he had once been shown
a single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all the
chain of events which led up to it but also all the results which
would follow from it. As Cuvier could correctly describe a
whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone, so the
observer who has thoroughly understood one link in a series of
incidents should be able to accurately state all the other ones,
both before and after. We have not yet grasped the results which
the reason alone can attain to. Problems may be solved in the
study which have baffled all those who have sought a solution by
the aid of their senses. To carry the art, however, to its highest
pitch, it is necessary that the reasoner should be able to utilize all
the facts which have come to his knowledge; and this in itself
implies, as you will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias,
is a somewhat rare accomplishment. It is not so impossible,
however, that a man should possess all knowledge which is
likely to be useful to him in his work, and this I have endeavoured in my case to do. If I remember rightly, you on one
occasion, in the early days of our friendship, defined my limits
in a very precise fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing. "It was a singular document.
Philosophy, astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I
remember. Botany variable, geology profound as regards the
mud-stains from any region within fifty miles of town, chemistry
eccentric, anatomy unsystematic, sensational literature and crime
records unique, violin-player, boxer, swordsman, lawyer, and
self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco. Those, I think, were the
main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item. "Well," he said, "I say
now, as I said then, that a man should keep his little brain-attic
stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest
he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can
get it if he wants it. Now, for such a case as the one which has
been submitted to us to-night, we need certainly to muster all our
resources. Kindly hand me down the letter K of the American
Encyclopaedia which stands upon the shelf beside you. Thank
you. Now let us consider the situation and see what may be
deduced from it. In the first place, we may start with a strong
presumption that Colonel Openshaw had some very strong reason for leaving America. Men at his time of life do not change
all their habits and exchange willingly the charming climate of
Florida for the lonely life of an English provincial town. His
extreme love of solitude in England suggests the idea that he was
in fear of someone or something, so we may assume as a
working hypothesis that it was fear of someone or something
which drove him from America. As to what it was he feared, we
can only deduce that by considering the formidable letters which
were received by himself and his successors. Did you remark the
postmarks of those letters?"
"The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee,
and the third from London."
"From East London. What do you deduce from that?"
"They are all seaports. That the writer was on board of a
"Excellent. We have already a clue. There can be no doubt
that the probability -- the strong probability -- is that the writer
was on board of a ship. And now let us consider another point.
In the case of Pondicherry, seven weeks elapsed between the
threat and its fulfillment, in Dundee it was only some three or
four days. Does that suggest anything?"
"A greater distance to travel."
"But the letter had also a greater distance to come."
"Then I do not see the point."
"There is at least a presumption that the vessel in which the
man or men are is a sailing-ship. It looks as if they always seni
their singular warning or token before them when starting upon
their mission. You see how quickly the deed followed the sign
when it came from Dundee. If they had come from Pondicherry
in a steamer they would have arrived almost as soon as their
letter. But, as a matter of fact, seven weeks elapsed. I think that
those seven weeks represented the difference between the mailboat which brought the letter and the sailing vessel which brought
"It is possible."
"More than that. It is probable. And now you see the deadly
urgency of this new case, and why I urged young Openshaw to
caution. The blow has always fallen at the end of the time which
it would take the senders to travel the distance. But this one
comes from London, and therefore we cannot count upon delay."
"Good God!" I cried. "What can it mean, this relentless
"The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital
importance to the person or persons in the sailing-ship. I think
that it is quite clear that there must be more than one of them. A
single man could not have carried out two deaths in such a way
as to deceive a coroner's jury. There must have been several in
it, and they must have been men of resource and determination.
Their papers they mean to have, be the holder of them who it
may. In this way you see K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an
individual and becomes the badge of a society."
"But of what society?"
"Have you never --" said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward
and sinking his voice --"have you never heard of the Ku Klux
"I never have."
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee.
"Here it is," said he presently:
"Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle. This
terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate
soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil War, and it
rapidly formed local branches in different parts of the
country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas,
Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used for political
purposes, principally for the terrorizing of the negro voters and the murdering and driving from the country of
those who were opposed to its views. Its outrages were
usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked man in
some fantastic but generally recognized shape -- a sprig of
oak-leaves in some parts, melon seeds or orange pips in
others. On receiving this the victim might either openly
abjure his former ways, or might fly from the country. If
he braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come
upon him, and usually in some strange and unforeseen
manner. So perfect was the organization of the society,
and so systematic its methods, that there is hardly a case
upon record where any man succeeded in braving it with
impunity, or in which any of its outrages were traced
home to the perpetrators. For some years the organization
flourished in spite of the efforts of the United States
government and of the better classes of the community in
the South. Eventually, in the year 1869, the movement
rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since that date.
"You will observe," said Holmes, laying down the volume,
"that the sudden breaking up of the society was coincident with
the disappearance of Openshaw from America with their papers.
It may well have been cause and effect. It is no wonder that he
and his family have some of the more implacable spirits upon
their track. You can understand that this register and diary may
implicate some of the first men in the South, and that there may
be many who will not sleep easy at night until it is recovered."
"Then the page we have seen --"
"Is such as we might expect. It ran, if I remember right, 'sent
the pips to A, B, and C' -- that is, sent the society's warning to
them. Then there are successive entries that A and B cleared, or
left the country, and finally that C was visited, with, I fear, a
sinister result for C. Well, I think, Doctor, that we may let some
light into this dark place, and I believe that the only chance
young Openshaw has in the meantime is to do what I have told
him. There is nothing more to be said or to be done to-night, so
hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour
the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a
subdued brightness through the dim veil which hangs over the
great city. Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I
"You will excuse me for not waiting for you," said he; "I
have, I foresee, a very busy day before me in looking into this
case of young Openshaw's."
"What steps will you take?" I asked.
"It will very much depend upon the results of my first inquiries. I may have to go down to Horsham, after all."
"You will not go there first?"
"No, I shall commence with the City. Just ring the bell and
the maid will bring up your coffee."
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table
and glanced my eye over it. It rested upon a heading which sent
a chill to my heart.
"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."
"Ah!" said he, laying down his cup, "I feared as much. How
was it done?" He spoke calmly, but I could see that he was
"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading
'Tragedy Near Waterloo Bridge.' Here is the account:
"Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook,
of the H Division, on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a
cry for help and a splash in the water. The night, however,
was extremely dark and stormy, so that, in spite of the help
of several passers-by, it was quite impossible to effect a
rescue. The alarm, however, was given, and, by the aid of
the water-police, the body was eventually recovered. It
proved to be that of a young gentleman whose name, as it
appears from an envelope which was found in his pocket,
was John Openshaw, and whose residence is near Horsham.
It is conjectured that he may have been hurrying down to
catch the last train from Waterloo Station, and that in his
haste and the extreme darkness he missed his path and
walked over the edge of one of the small landing-places for
river steamboats. The body exhibited no traces of violence,
and there can be no doubt that the deceased had been the
victim of an unfortunate accident, which should have the
effect of calling the attention of the authorities to the condition of the riverside landing-stages."
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed
and shaken than I had ever seen him.
"That hurts my pride, Watson," he said at last. "It is a petty
feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal
matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall set my
hand upon this gang. That he should come to me for help, and
that I should send him away to his death --!" He sprang from his
chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation, with
a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and
unclasping of his long thin hands.
"They must be cunning devils," he exclaimed at last. "How
could they have decoyed him down there? The Embankment is
not on the direct line to the station. The bridge, no doubt, was
too crowded, even on such a night, for their purpose. Well,
Watson, we shall see who will win in the long run. I am going
"To the police?"
"No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web
they may take the flies, but not before."
All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was
late in the evening before I returned to Baker Street. Sherlock
Holmes had not come back yet. It was nearly ten o'clock before
he entered, looking pale and worn. He walked up to the sideboard, and tearing a piece from the loaf he devoured it voraciously, washing it down with a long draught of water.
"You are hungry," I remarked.
"Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have had nothing
"Not a bite. I had no time to think of it."
"And how have you succeeded?"
"You have a clue?"
"I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young Openshaw
shall not long remain unavenged. Why, Watson, let us put their
own devilish trade-mark upon them. It is well thought of!"
"What do you mean?"
He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces
he squeezed out the pips upon the table. Of these he took five
and thrust them into an envelope. On the inside of the flap he
wrote "S. H. for J. 0." Then he sealed it and addressed it to
"Captain James Calhoun, Bark Lone Star, Savannah, Georgia."
"That will await him when he enters port," said he, chuckling. "It may give him a sleepless night. He will find it as sure a
precursor of his fate as Openshaw did before him."
"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"
"The leader of the gang. I shall have the others, but he first."
"How did you trace it, then?"
He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket, all covered
with dates and names.
"I have spent the whole day," said he, "over Lloyd's registers and files of the old papers, following the future career of
every vessel which touched at Pondicherry in January and February in '83. There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which
were reported there during those months. Of these, one, the Lone
Star, instantly attracted my attention, since, although it was
reported as having cleared from London, the name is that which
is given to one of the states of the Union."
"Texas, I think."
"I was not and am not sure which; but I knew that the ship
must have an American origin."
"I searched the Dundee records, and when I found that the
bark Lone Star was there in January, '85, my suspicion became a
certainty. I then inquired as to the vessels which lay at present in
the port of London."
"The Lone Star had arrived here last week. I went down to
the Albert Dock and found that she had been taken down the
river by the early tide this morning, homeward bound to Savannah. I wired to Gravesend and learned that she had passed some
time ago, and as the wind is easterly I have no doubt that she is
now past the Goodwins and not very far from the Isle of Wight."
"What will you do, then?"
"Oh, I have my hand upon him. He and the two mates, are
as I learn, the only native-born Americans in the ship. The others
are Finns and Germans. I know, also, that they were all three
away from the ship last night. I had it from the stevedore who
has been loading their cargo. By the time that their sailing-ship
reaches Savannah the mail-boat will have carried this letter, and
the cable will have informed the police of Savannah that these
three gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge of murder."
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human plans,
and the murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive the
orange pips which would show them that another, as cunning
and as resolute as themselves, was upon their track. Very long
and very severe were the equinoctial gales that year. We waited
long for news of the Lone Star of Savannah, but none ever
reached us. We did at last hear that somewhere far out in the
Atlantic a shattered stern-post of the boat was seen swinging in
the trough of a wave, with the letters "L. S." carved upon it,
and that is all which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone