'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, 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-grey 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 endeavoured to elicit from my companion what had first turned his mind in the direction of criminal research, but I had never caught him before in a communicative humour. Now he sat forward in his 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.