The “Gloria Scott”
First published in: The Strand Magazine, April 1893; Harper’s Weekly, April 15, 1893
Time frame of story (known/surmised): It was Holmes’ first case. Dates given in story are contradictory. Believed to be mid-1870’s, possibly 1880.
H&W living arrangements: Holmes tells story to Watson as they share quarters at 221B. The actual case took place before H&W met; Holmes then had his own living quarters in London.
Opening scene: At 221B. H&W sat one winter’s night on either side of the fire. Holmes relates the tale to Watson.
Client: Victor Trevor, a hearty, full-blooded fellow, full of spirits and energy who had became a friend of Holmes in college, after Holmes was laid by the heels for 10 days through the accident of Trevor’s bull terrier freezing on to Holmes’ ankle one morning on the way to chapel.
Crime or concern: Blackmail/extortion related to a secret of sin and shame. Trevor’s father had been a convict being sent to Australia, but was shipwrecked after a mutiny, then rescued, and made his fortune down under, returning to England as a rich colonial. Former ship-mate tracked him down, and blackmailed him. Old Trevor died of nervous shock and apoplexy (a stroke) as a result of the incident.
Villain: Hudson, the sailor/blackmailer/extortionist
Motive: Hudson was tired of the sailor’s life and wanted a share of his rescuers’ fortunes.
Logic used to solve: Observations led to suspicion of secrets from the past. Strange reaction of Old Trevor to the appearance of Hudson. Holmes remembered that Fordingham was in Hampshire, where the Old Trevor’s partner, Beddoes lived. Holmes then saw through the a code in which the message sounded like nonsense, but not if you only read every third word.
Policemen: None involved.
Holmes’ fees: None. Holmes was a student, and had not yet become a professional.
Transport: Donnithorpe is a little hamlet just to the north of Langmere, in the country of the Broads. When Holmes returned to Donnithorpe, Young Trevor met him at the station with a dog-cart.
Food: The Trevor estate employed a tolerable cook.
After dinner one evening, Holmes and the Trevors were sitting down over a glass of port, cracking and eating nuts.
Drink: (Upon seeing Hudson) 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 Holmes smelt a strong reek of brandy. Old Trevor then went into the house shortly and drank himself into a stupor.
Vices: Holmes lit his pipe and sat for some time smoking while showing Watson the documents of the case.
Other cases mentioned: none
Notable Quotables: “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.” – Old Trevor
Other interestings: Holmes credited Old Trevor with first putting him onto the idea of becoming a detective. Regarding Trevor’s quote above, Holmes said, “it was 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.”
This case, like MUSG, provides information on Holmes’ early days.
When all was said and done: The heartbroken Victor Trevor left England and went out to the Terai tea planting, and word passed back to England that he was doing well. (The tea growing belt of Terai, Darjeeling, is a narrow strip of land lying below the Himalayan foothills extending up to Bihar border.) Hudson and Beddoes (the second intended blackmail/extortion victim) both disappeared utterly and completely. The police believed that Hudson had done away with Beddoes and had fled. Holmes believed that the truth was exactly the opposite, that Beddoes, pushed to desperation and believing himself to have been already betrayed, had revenged himself upon Hudson, and fled from the country with as much money as he could lay his hands on.