MR JOHN SCOTT ECCLES
I FIND it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy day towards the end of March in the year 1895.* Holmes had received a telegram whilst we sat at our lunch, and he had scribbled a reply. He made no remark, but the matter remained in his thoughts, for he stood in front of the fire afterwards with a thoughtful face, smoking his pipe, and casting an occasional glance at the message. Suddenly he turned upon me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
'I suppose, Watson, we must look upon you as a man of letters,' said he. 'How do you define the word "grotesque"?'
'Strange--remarkable,' I suggested.
He shook his head at my definition.
'There is surely something more than that,' said he; 'some underlying suggestion of the tragic and the terrible. If you cast your mind back to some of those narratives with which you have afflicted a long-suffering public, you will recognize how often the grotesque has deepened into the criminal. Think of that little affair of the red-headed men. That was grotesque enough in the outset, and yet it ended in a desperate attempt at robbery. Or, again, there was that most grotesque affair of the five orange pips,* which led straight to a murderous conspiracy. The word puts me on the alert.'
'Have you it there?' I asked.
He read the telegram aloud.
'"Have just had most incredible and grotesque experience. May I consult you?--Scott Eccles, Post Office, Charing Cross."'*
'Man or woman?' I asked.
'Oh, man, of course. No woman would ever send a reply-paid telegram.* She would have come.'
'Will you see him?'