Приключения Шерлока Холмса / The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
© Глушенкова Е.В., Тамбовцева С.Г., адаптация текста, словарь
© ООО «Издательство АСТ», 2019
The Red-Headed League
I called on my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year and found him speaking to an elderly gentleman with fiery red hair.
“You could not have come at a better time, my dear Watson,” Holmes said.
“I was afraid that you were engaged.”
“So I am.”
“Then I can wait in the next room.”
“Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my partner and helper in many of my most successful cases, and I have no doubt that he will be of use to me in yours also.”
The gentleman half rose from his chair and nodded.
“I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is outside the routine of everyday life. You have shown it by the enthusiasm with which you chronicled so many of my adventures,” said Holmes.
“Your cases have been of the greatest interest to me,” I observed.
“Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this morning and go begin a story which promises to be one of the most unusual which I have listened to for some time. As far as I have heard, it is impossible for me to say whether this case is an example of crime or not, but events are certainly very unusual. Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, you would repeat your story. I ask you not only because my friend, Dr. Watson, has not heard the beginning but also because your story makes me anxious to hear every detail. As a rule, when I have heard some story, I am able to think of the thousands of other similar cases. But not now.”
The client, looking a little proud, took a newspaper from the pocket of his coat. As he glanced down the advertisement column, I took a good look at the man and tried, like my companion, to read what his dress or appearance could tell me.
I did not learn very much, however. Our visitor looked like a common British tradesman. There was nothing remarkable about the man except his blazing red head.
Sherlock Holmes saw my glances. “Except the facts that he has at some time worked with his hands, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a lot of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”
“How did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?” Mr. Jabez Wilson asked. “How did you know, for example, that I worked with my hands? It’s true, for I began as a carpenter.”
“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is much larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed.”
“Well, and the Freemasonry?”
“I won’t tell you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin.”
“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”
“Your right cuff is so shiny, and the left one has a patch near the elbow where you put it on the desk.”
“Well, but China?”
“The fish that you have tattooed on your hand could only be done in China. I have made a small study of tattoos.”
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed. “Well, I never!” said he. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.”
“I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in explaining. Can you not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?”
“Yes, I have got it now,” he answered. “Here it is. This is what began it all. You just read it for yourself, sir.”
I took the paper from him and read as follows.
TO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE:
On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., there is now another vacancy open for a member of the League with a salary of 4 pounds a week. All red-headed men who are above the age of twenty-one years, are eligible. Apply on Monday, at eleven o’clock, to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7, Fleet Street.
“What does this mean?” I exclaimed after I had twice read the advertisement.
“And now, Mr. Wilson, tell us all about yourself, your household, and the effect which this advertisement had on your life. Make a note, Doctor, of the paper and the date.”
“It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890. Just two months ago.”
“Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?”
“Well, it is just as I told you, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Jabez Wilson; “I have a small pawnbroker’s business at Coburg Square, near the City. It’s not very large, and it has just given me a living. I used to be able to keep two assistants, but now I keep one; and I can do it only because he agrees to work for half wages to learn the business.”
“What is the name of this young man?” asked Sherlock Holmes.
“His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he’s not very young. It’s hard to say his age. I do not wish a better assistant, Mr. Holmes; and I know very well that he could earn twice what I am able to give him. But, after all, if he is satisfied, why should I put ideas in his head?”
“Why, indeed? You seem most lucky to have an assistant for half wages. Your assistant is as remarkable as your advertisement.”
“Oh, he has his faults, too,” said Mr. Wilson. “He is very much interested in photography. He slips away with a camera when he ought to be working, and then dives down into the cellar like a rabbit into its hole to develop his pictures. That is his main fault, but he’s a good worker.”
“He is still with you, I presume?”
“Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who does simple cooking and keeps the place clean – that’s all I have in the house, for I am a widower. We live very quietly, sir, the three of us.
“Spaulding, he came into the office eight weeks ago, with this paper in his hand and said:
“‘I wish, Mr. Wilson, that I was a red-headed man.’
“‘Why?’ I asked.
“‘Here’s a vacancy on the League of the Red-headed Men,’ said he. ‘It’s worth a little fortune to any man who gets it, and I understand that there are more vacancies than there are men.’
“‘Why, what is it?’ I asked. You see, Mr. Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home man, and, as my business came to me instead of my going to it, I often stayed in for several weeks. So I didn’t know much of what was going on outside, and I was always glad of any news.
“‘Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Men?’ he asked with his eyes open.
“‘Why, how strange, for you are eligibile yourself for one of the vacancies.’
“‘And what are they worth?’ I asked.
“‘Oh, a couple of hundred a year, but the work is easy, and you can do some other work at the same time.’
“Well, the business has not been very good for some years, and an extra couple of hundred would be very handy.
“‘Tell me all about it,’ said I.
“‘Well,’ said he, showing me the advertisement, ‘you can see for yourself that the League has a vacancy, and there is the address where you can apply. As far as I know, the League was founded by an American millionaire, Ezekiah Hopkins. He was himself red-headed, and he had a great sympathy for all red-headed men; so when he died it was found that he had left his enormous fortune with instructions to help men whose hair is of that colour. From all I hear it is good pay, and very little to do.’
“‘But,’ said I, ‘there are millions of red-headed men who can apply.’
“‘Not so many as you think,’ he answered. ‘They must be Londoners, and grown men. This American started from London when he was young. Then I have heard it is no use your applying if your hair is light red, or dark red, or anything but real bright, blazing, fiery red.’
“Now, it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see for yourselves, that my hair is of that very colour, so it seemed to me that if there was any competition I had a good chance. Vincent Spaulding seemed to know so much about it that I ordered him to come with me. So we shut the business up and started off for the address that was given us in the advertisement.
“I never hope to see anything like that again, Mr. Holmes. From north, south, east, and west every man who had a shade of red in his hair had come to answer the advertisement. Fleet Street was crowded with red-headed men. I had not thought there were so many in the whole country as were brought together by that advertisement. Every shade of red they were; but, as Spaulding said, there were not many who had the real blazing red. When I saw how many were waiting, I was in despair; but Spaulding got me through the crowd, and up to the steps which led to the office, and soon we found ourselves in the office.
“There was nothing in the office but a couple of wooden chairs and a table, behind which sat a small man with a head that was even redder than mine. He said a few words to each candidate as he came up, and then he always found some fault in them which would disqualify them. Getting a vacancy did not seem to be such an easy matter, after all. However, when our turn came the little man was much more favourable to me than to any of the others, and he closed the door as we entered, so that he might speak in private with us.
“‘This is Mr. Jabez Wilson,’ said my assistant, ‘and he wishes to fill a vacancy in the League.’
“‘And he suits us,’ the other answered. ‘I do not remember when I saw anything so fine.’ He took a step backward, and looked at my hair. Then suddenly he ran forward, shook my hand, and congratulated me warmly on my success.
“‘I am sure, you will excuse me for taking a precaution.’ With those words he seized my hair in both his hands, and pulled until I cried with pain. ‘I think that all is as it should be. But we have to be careful, for we have twice been deceived by wigs and once by paint,’ said he as he released me. He went to the window and shouted at the top of his voice that the vacancy was filled.
“‘My name,’ said he, ‘is Mr. Duncan Ross. Are you a married man, Mr. Wilson? Have you a family?’
“I answered that I had not.
“His face fell.
“‘Dear me!’ he said, ‘that is very serious indeed! I am sorry to hear you say that. The league was founded for the propagation of the red-headed men. It is very bad that you are a bachelor.’
“My face fell at this, Mr. Holmes, for I thought that I would not have the vacancy after all; but after thinking it over for a few minutes he said that it would be all right.
“‘We cannot lose a man with such a head of hair as yours. When will you be able to start work?’ said he.
“‘Well, I have a business already,’ said I.
“‘Oh, never mind about that, Mr. Wilson!’ said Vincent Spaulding. ‘I am able to look after that for you.’
“‘What will be the working hours?’ I asked.
“‘Ten to two.’
“A pawnbroker’s business is mostly done in the evening, Mr. Holmes, especially Thursday and Friday evening, which is just before pay-day; so it suited me very well to earn a little in the mornings. Besides, I knew that my assistant was a good man, and that he would see to anything that turned up.
“‘That will suit me very well,’ said I. ‘And the pay?’
“‘It is 4 pounds a week.’
“‘And the work?’
“‘What do you call very simple?’
“‘Well, you have to be in the office the whole time. If you leave, you will lose your position.’
“‘It’s only four hours a day, and I shall not leave,’ said I.
“‘Neither sickness, nor business, nor anything else will excuse you,’ said Mr. Duncan Ross; ‘you must stay there, or you lose your position.’
“‘And the work?’
“‘You are to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica. You must find your ink, pens, and paper, but we give you this table and chair. Will you be ready tomorrow?’
“‘Certainly,’ I answered.
“‘Then, good-bye, Mr. Jabez Wilson, and let me congratulate you once more on the important position which you have received.’ He showed me out of the room and I went home with my assistant. I was so pleased at my good fortune.”
“Well, I thought over the matter all day, and by evening I was in low spirits again; for now I was sure that the whole affair must be some great fraud. It seemed very strange that anyone could make such a will, or that they would pay such a sum for doing anything so simple as copying out the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, in the morning I decided to have a look at it after all, so I bought a bottle of ink, and with a pen and seven sheets of paper, I started off for Fleet Street.
“Well, to my surprise and delight, everything was all right. The table was ready for me, and Mr. Duncan Ross was there to see that I started work. He told me to start with the letter A, and then he left me; but he came from time to time to see that all was right with me. At two o’clock he said good-bye to me, and locked the door of the office after me.
“This went on day after day, Mr. Holmes, and on Saturday the manager came in and paid four golden sovereigns for my week’s work. It was the same next week, and the same the week after. Every morning I was there at ten, and every afternoon I left at two. Usually Mr. Duncan Ross came in the morning, but after a time, he stopped coming in at all. Still, of course, I never left the room for a moment, for I was not sure when he might come, and the position was so good, and suited me so well, that I did not want to risk losing it.
“Eight weeks passed like this, and I had written almost all the letter A, and hoped that I soon might get on to the B.
“This morning I went to my work as usual at ten o’clock, but the door was locked, with a little note on it. Here it is, and you can read for yourself.”
He showed us a piece of paper. It read:
THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE IS DISSOLVED.
October 9, 1890.
Sherlock Holmes and I read this short note and looked at the sad face behind it, and the comical side of the affair was so obvious that we both burst out laughing.
“I cannot see that there is anything very funny,” cried our client. “If you can do nothing better than laugh at me, I can go to another detective.”
“No, no,” cried Holmes. “I really wouldn’t miss your case for the world. It is most unusual. But there is something a little funny about it. What did you do when you found the note on the door?”
“I was astonished, sir. I did not know what to do. Then I called at the offices round, but nobody knew anything about it. I went to the landlord, who is living on the ground-floor, and I asked him if he could tell me what had become of the Red-headed League. He said that he had never heard of it. Then I asked him who Mr. Duncan Ross was. He answered that the name was new to him.
“Well,” said I, “the gentleman at No. 4.”
“What, the red-headed man?”
“Oh,” said he, “his name was William Morris. He was a solicitor and was using my room until his new office was ready. He moved out yesterday.”
“Where can I find him?”
“Oh, at his new office. He told me the address. Yes, 17 King Edward Street.”
“I started off, Mr. Holmes, but when I got to that address it was a manufactory, and no one in it had ever heard of either Mr. William Morris or Mr. Duncan Ross.”
“And what did you do then?” asked Holmes.
“I went home to Saxe-Coburg Square, and I took the advice of my assistant. But he could not help me. He could only say that if I waited I might get a letter. But that was not good enough, Mr. Holmes. I did not wish to lose such a place without a struggle, so, as I had heard that you gave good advice to poor people, I came to you.”
“And you did very well,” said Holmes. “Your case is remarkable, and I shall be happy to look into it. The affair may be very serious.”
“Of course serious!” said Mr. Jabez Wilson. “I have lost four pounds a week.”
“As far as you are personally concerned,” remarked Holmes, “I do not see that you have anything against this extraordinary league. On the contrary, you are, as I understand, richer by about 30 pounds, to say nothing of the knowledge which you have got on every subject which comes under the letter A. You have lost nothing.”
“No, sir. But I want to find out about them, and who they are, and why they played this trick—if it was a trick – on me. It was a pretty expensive joke for them, for it cost them thirty-two pounds.”
“We shall try to clear up these points for you. And, first, one or two questions, Mr. Wilson. This assistant of yours who first brought you the advertisement—how long had he been with you?”
“About a month then.”
“How did he come?”
“In answer to an advertisement.”
“Was he the only who answered the advertisement?”
“No, I had a dozen.”
“Why did you choose him?”
“Because he was cheap.”
“At half wages.”
“What is he like, this Vincent Spaulding?”
“Small, very quick, no hair on his face, about thirty. He has a white scar on his forehead.”
Holmes sat up in his chair very much excited. “I thought as much,” said he. “Are his ears pierced for earrings?”
“Yes, sir. He told me he had done it when he was a boy.”
“He is still with you?”
“Oh, yes, sir; I have only just left him.”
“And has he worked well in your absence?”
“Yes, sir. There’s never very much to do in the morning.”
“That will do, Mr. Wilson. I shall be happy to give you an opinion on the matter in a day or two. Today is Saturday, and I hope that by Monday we may come to a conclusion.”
“Well, Watson,” said Holmes when our visitor had left us, “what do you make of it all?”
“I make nothing of it,” I answered. “It is a very mysterious business.”
“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more unusual a thing is the less mysterious it is in the end. But I must hurry up.”
“What are you going to do, then?” I asked.
“To smoke,” he answered. “It is a three pipe problem, and I ask you not to speak to me for fifty minutes.” He sat in his chair, with his eyes closed. I had come to the conclusion that he had fallen asleep, when he suddenly sprang out of his chair like a man who had made up his mind and put his pipe down on the table.
“What do you think, Watson? Could you come with me for a few hours?” he said.
“I have nothing to do today. My practice is never very busy.”
We travelled by the Underground first; and then a short walk took us to Saxe-Coburg Square, the scene of the unusual story which we had listened to in the morning. It was a little, shabby place, where two-storeyed houses looked out into a small garden. A brown board with “JABEZ WILSON” in white letters on a corner house showed us the place where our red-headed client carried on his business. Sherlock Holmes stopped in front of it and looked it all over. Then he walked slowly up the street, and then down again to the corner, still looking at the houses. Finally he returned to the pawnbroker’s, struck on the ground with his stick two or three times, went up to the door and knocked. It was opened by a young fellow, who asked him to come in.
“Thank you,” said Holmes, “I only wished to ask you how I could go from here to the Strand.”
“The first turning to the left,” answered the assistant, closing the door.
“Smart fellow,” remarked Holmes as we walked away. “I think, he is the fourth smartest man in London. I have known something of him before.”
“Evidently,” said I, “Mr. Wilson’s assistant is involved in this mystery of the Red-headed League. I am sure that you asked your way only to see him.”
“The knees of his trousers.”
“And what did you see?”
“What I expected to see.”
“Why did you strike the ground?”
“My dear doctor, this is a time for action, not for talk. We are spies in an enemy’s country. We know something of Saxe-Coburg Square. Let us now see some other places.”
The road in which we found ourselves as we turned round the corner from Saxe-Coburg Square was a great contrast to it. It was one of the main arteries with busy traffic. It was difficult to realize as we looked at the line of fine shops and business offices that they were really on the other side of the quiet square which we had just left.
“Let me see,” said Holmes, standing at the corner and glancing along the street, “I should like to remember the order of the houses here. There is Mortimer’s, the tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch of the City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant. And now, Doctor, we’ve done our work.
“Do you want to go home?”
“And I have some business to do which will take some hours. This business at Coburg Square is serious.”
“A crime is being prepared. I believe that we shall be in time to stop it. I shall want your help tonight.”
“At what time?”
“At ten. There may be some danger, so put your army revolver in your pocket.” And he disappeared in the crowd.
I must say I always felt stupid when I was with Sherlock Holmes. I had heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened but what was going to happen, while to me the whole business was still a mystery. As I drove home to my house in Kensington I thought over it. Where were we going, and what were we to do? I had the hint from Holmes that this pawnbroker’s assistant was a criminal. But I could not think what he was up to and then decided that the night would bring an explanation.