ADVENTURE V. THE FIVE ORANGE PIPS
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
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,
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
case. All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none
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
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
the sea waves. My wife was on a visit to her mother's, and for
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, perhaps?"
"Except yourself I have none," he answered. "I
do not encourage
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less would bring a
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
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.
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden
his eyes. "I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I
brought some traces of the storm and rain into your snug
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes. "They
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
"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
"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
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
"And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your experience,
have ever listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain
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
"You must know that my grandfather had two sons--my uncle
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
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
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
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
collection of old trunks and bundles as would be expected in such
"One day--it was in March, 1883--a letter with a foreign
lay upon the table in front of the colonel's plate. It was not
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
this be?' Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little
dried orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began
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 color 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
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
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
glanced at the box I noticed, with a start, that upon the lid
printed the treble K which I had read in the morning upon the
"'I wish you, John,' said my uncle, 'to witness my will.
my estate, with all its advantages and all its disadvantages,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
were new raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr. Holmes, and
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,
of some 14,000 pounds, which lay to his credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your statement
is, I foresee,
one of the most remarkable to which I have ever listened. Let
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
later, upon the night of May 2d."
"Thank you. Pray proceed."