McMurdo’s Camp


The Stock Broker’s Clerk

First published in: The Strand Magazine, March 1893; Harper’s Weekly, March 11, 1893

Time frame of story (known/surmised): A June morning, likely in 1889. (Year not stated)

H&W living arrangements: Watson married and not at 221B, and had bought a connection in the Paddington district.

Opening scene: Three months later, Watson sat reading the British Medical Journal after breakfast on a cold morning in early or late Spring (June), and heard the bell. It was Holmes, who asked Watson to accompany him on a case.

Client: Mr. Hall Pycroft, well-built, fresh-complexioned young fellow, with a frank, honest face and a slight, crisp, yellow moustache.

Crime or concern: Client had a bad impression as to the position of his employers based upon the look of the offices, the absence of name on the wall, and other of the points which would strike a business man. After putting his head in a basin of cold water, and trying to think, Mr. Pycroft decided to hire Sherlock Holmes. Later, a watchman at Mawson’s was murdered, clubbed from behind with a poker.

Villain: Arthur Pinner, financial agent, who was the brother of Beddington, the famous forger and cracksman, who in this case was also a burglar and a murderer.

Motive: Divert the new Mawson’s clerk from showing up for the new job, impersonate him, and steal securities which amounted in the aggregate to a sum of considerably over a million sterling.

Logic used to solve: Overall odd story of the hiring of Hall Pycroft, and the barren circumstance of the Birmingham facility of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company, which had not yet cut much dash in offices.

Brother’s tooth was stuffed in a fashion identical to the other alleged brother’s tooth. The glint of the gold in each case caught Mr. Pycroft’s eye.

Policemen: Sergeant Tuson, of the City police, aided by Constable Pollock. Their suspicions were aroused , and the sergeant followed Beddington, and they arrested the culprit after a most desperate resistance.

Holmes’ fees: No mention

Transport: H&W plus client took a cab from Watson’s house to the train-station.

Client went to Birmingham in a train that would take him in plenty time for his appointment. Later, H&W plus client took a first-class carriage as they started upon their journey to Birmingham.

In Birmingham, H&W and client were walking, the three of them, down Corporation Street to the company’s offices.

Food: no mention

Drink: Holmes reacted to statement of the case “Like a connoisseur who has just taken his first sip of a comet vintage.” (No actual comet vintages were consumed.)

Vices: no mention

Other cases mentioned: none

Notable Quotables: “My client is outside in a four-wheeler. Can you come at once?” “In an instant.”

Other interestings: Client’s narrative of his experiences on the 70-minute train ride are a good example of Cockney slang and jargon of the time.  Pinner had a touch of the sheeny about his nose. Client had been making £3 a week at Coxon’s and was offered £4 for his new position at Mawson’s. Pinner offered him £500 per year (more than double his Mawson’s salary) plus a commission at the Franco-Midland Hardware Co.

H&W masqueraded as Mr. Harris, of Bermondsey, and Mr. Price, of Birmingham.

This story shares a plot element with 3GAR and REDH, which is tricking someone to go elsewhere whist the criminal takes advantage of the absence to commit the crime.

When all was said and done: Sounded like Holmes felt a little sorry for the villain after he tried to hang himself upon hearing of his brother’s capture. “Even a villain and murderer can inspire such affection that his brother turns to suicide when he learns that his neck is forfeited.”

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