The Adventure of the Gloria Scott by Arthur Conan Doyle Summary

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A confusing letter, a secret past and cold-blooded murder converge in this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tale, ~'The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.~' In this lesson, we'll take a look at the plot of this Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Coded Language

Did you ever have a childhood friend with whom you communicated in your own secret language? Maybe you had certain phrases you'd speak to each other or a special alphabet you'd use in writing that only the two of you understood. The characters in this story have their own coded language, of sorts, and it's a secret letter that sets off an interesting chain of events. Let's dive into the story.

''The Adventure of the Gloria Scott''

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Sherlock Holmes was a bit of an odd duck in college. Yet, he's developed a friendship with one other student, someone equally as peculiar, a man named Victor Trevor. This story involves Holmes recounting an unusual occurrence during the men's university days to his partner, Dr. John Watson.

Holmes was invited to spend some time at the Trevor estate when the two were friends in college. The man of the house, Trevor's father, intrigued Holmes, and apparently the feeling was mutual. One evening during his visit, the man challenges Holmes' investigative skills saying, '''I'm an excellent subject, if you can deduce anything from me.'' Holmes begins to analyze the man, paying particular attention to a connection to someone with the initials ''J.A.'', which causes the man to faint on the spot. When he awakens, he quizzes Holmes lightly, but ''a look of terror still lurked at the back of his eyes.'' Clearly, Holmes has touched a nerve.

Believing he'd outstayed his welcome, Holmes makes plans to leave the estate.

Hudson Appears

Before Holmes makes his getaway, an unidentified man shows up at the Trevor estate: ''His face was thin and brown and crafty, with a perpetual smile upon it, which showed an irregular line of yellow teeth, and his crinkled hands were half closed in a way that is distinctive of sailors.''

The elder Trevor is clearly taken aback by the man's appearance and rushes inside to get a shot of liquor. The mysterious visitor, named Hudson, confirms the two were friends as far back as 30 years. Hudson is ushered inside to get some food, but not before he mentions knowing the whereabouts of a mutual acquaintance, Mr. Beddoes: '''Bless you, sir, I know where all my old friends are,' said the fellow with a sinister smile.'' Later that evening, Trevor Senior is found inside, passed out drunk.

Getting Reacquainted

Holmes returned to his studies and several years passed. Then, out of the blue, he received a telegram from his old friend, asking him to return to his father's estate. His father is dying, he said, having suffered a stroke after receiving a strange letter. The man later dies before his son and Holmes can return to the house. The letter read: ''The supply of game for London is going steadily up. 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.''

By the time the letter arrived, Hudson himself had long since gone. Holmes' friend said the man, who was employed by the elder Trevor, had been a menace in the house, demanding more and more money and tormenting the other staff. The younger Trevor called the man ''the devil himself.'' Yet, Hudson was allowed to continue his rude and insufferable behavior until the day he announced, suddenly, he was leaving to visit their mutual friend, Beddoes.

Holmes Surveys the Letter

The letter, having been the final nail in Trevor's coffin, draws Holmes' attention. He's finally able to break the code and discovers the letter's actual meaning: ''The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life.'' It is a warning of blackmail from Beddoes to the elder Trevor.

The younger Trevor finds a letter written by his father, a confession of sorts.

Enter the Gloria Scott

The elder Trevor was really James Armitage (that explains the initials J.A., a tattoo Holmes had seen in earlier days), a criminal who was sentenced to transportation for embezzlement. Transportation meant transporting criminals to the colonies to serve their sentences. Beddoes, better known as Evans in that day, was also being transported.

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