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Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes
The Red Headed League
A cura di Francesca Veneziano
Testi di Alessia Manoiero
Correzione bozze: Sara Berretta, Annalisa Damonte
Supervisione grafica: Alessandro Agostino
Voce narrante: Nicholas Brandon
Illustrazioni e copertina di: Lorenzo Calamano, Simone Cavazzoni, Lorenzo
Si ringrazia per la collaborazione l’Istituto Istruzione Superiore G. Caboto Chiavari –
GE e in particolare la professoressa Alessandra Vano
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Prima edizione: aprile 2013
CHAPTER ONE - Mister Jabez Wilson
p. 5
CHAPTER TWO - An Unusual Job
p. 10
CHAPTER THREE - Mister Wilson’s Shop
p. 14
CHAPTER FOUR - The cellar
p. 18
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
Mister Jabez Wilson
One Saturday morning John Watson went to visit his friend Sherlock
Holmes but he already had a visitor. The visitor was a large man with
a red face, small eyes and shining red hair.
‘I see you are busy, Mister Holmes. I’ll come back at another time.’
said Watson.
‘You came at the perfect time, my dear Watson,’ said Holmes.
‘I thought you were busy,’ I said.
‘Yes, it’s true, I’m very busy actually.’ Holmes replied.
‘I’ll wait in the other room then.’
‘No!’ said Holmes. Holmes then explained to his visitor: Mister
Watson has helped me in most of my successful cases. I’m sure he
can help you as well.
‘I know you like difficult cases, Watson. This case is very unusual
actually.’ Mister Wilson please tell Doctor Watson your story.’
As Holmes immediately realized Watson was observing the old man
and from the clothes he was wearing had realized that he was a
shopkeeper. Then Holmes said: ‘You are trying to be a detective,
Mister Watson. It’s quite clear that Mister Wilson was a workman
The large man got up from his chair and said: ‘I’m very glad to meet
you, Doctor Watson.’ Then they all sat down.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
and that he lived in China for some time. And that he’d been writing
a lot.’
Mister Wilson looked very surprised. ‘How can you know that, Mister
Holmes? You are right, in the past I was a workman.’ ‘I could tell it
from your hands, Mister Wilson,’ Holmes said. ‘Your right hand is
bigger that your left. This means that you used your right hand a lot.’
‘Yes, but can you know that I’ve been writing recently?’
‘I just looked at the sleeves of your shirt, Mister Wilson. Your right
sleeve is much thinner than your left. So you’ve been writing a lot at
a desk.’
‘How did you know that I lived in China?’
‘You have a tattoo of a pink fish on your right hand and that kind of
tattoo is only done in China. You also have a Chinese coin on your
watch chain.’ Mister Wilson laughed and said: ‘At first I thought you
were very clever, but maybe it was not so difficult.’
Holmes said: ‘Watson, sometimes I think that it is better not to reveal
my methods.’
Mister Wilson had a newspaper in his pocket. Holmes said to him:
‘Did you find the advertisement?’
Man needed for new job at League.
Pay: four pounds/week. Work: office-based
Job only open to people with red hair. Come to Red-Headed League
offices, 7 Pope’s Court, Fleet Street, London at eleven o’clock, Monday
morning, DUNCAN ROSS
Yes, I did. It was an advertisement in the Morning Chronicle of two
months ago.
‘What does it mean?’ asked Watson, after reading this strange
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
Holmes laughed happily. ‘It’s very strange, Watson, isn’t it? And now
Mister Wilson, tell us about yourself.’
‘Well, I have a shop below my house at Saxe Coburg Square in
London. My business is not very big and I don’t make much money. I
have an assistant that wants to learn the job and so he accepts half
‘What’s his name?’ said Holmes.
‘His name is Vincent Spaulding. He’s not young, but he’s a very good
‘Tell me more,’ said Holmes.
‘He loves photography and spends a lot of time in the cellar
developing his pictures. Sometimes he stays there for hours!’
‘Are there any servants in your home?’
‘Yes there is a young girl who cooks and cleans the house. My wife is
dead and we didn’t have any children.’
‘Two months ago Spaulding came into my office with this newspaper
in his hand and said: ‘I’m sorry my hair isn’t red.’ I asked him why and
he said: ‘With red hair I could get another job and make a lot of
money. Look at this advertisement!’
‘The Red Headed League is a club for men with red hair and they are
offering a job to men with this characteristic. You should apply for it.’
‘Four pounds a week’ he said. ‘And you can easily continue working
Well, Mr Holmes, two hundred pounds a year is very useful to me. So
I asked Spaulding for more information. He showed me the
advertisement and said: ‘I’ve heard that the League is financed by a
rich American, Ezekiah Hopkins. He was a strange man with red hair
‘What’s the pay?’ I asked.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
who died and left all of his money to the Red Headed League. The
money is used to give easy jobs to men with red hair.’
‘But thousands of men have red hair’ I said, ‘I can never get the job.’
‘No, Mister Wilson, said Spaulding. ‘The Red Headed League gives
jobs to men from London. Ezekiah Hopkins was born in London. He
loved London. Also, only men with shining red hair can get these
jobs. The league doesn’t accept men with dark red hair or light red
hair. You can have this job easily!’
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
An Unusual Job
‘I decided to ask Spaulding to come with me to the Red Headed
League’s offices,’ said Mister Wilson. ‘So I closed the shop for the day
and we went to Fleet Street. Spaulding was happy to have a holiday.’
‘Fleet Street was full of men with red hair, but few men had shining
red hair like mine. Spaulding pushed through all the people and we
got to the office. There was little furniture – two uncomfortable
chairs, a kitchen table and a book case. A small man with shining red
hair sat at the table and spoke to many men with red hair. He said
‘no’ to all of them and then he talked to me. He was friendly and
closed the office door behind us.’
‘This is Mr Jabez Wilson,’ said my assistant, ‘and he would like the job
in the League.’
‘His hair looks fine,’ the man said, ‘but is it real? We must be very
He shook my hand and warmly said: ‘My name is Duncan Ross and I
am the Secretary of the League. When can you start?’
‘Well, I already have a job.’ I said.
‘Oh, don’t worry about that Mister Wilson!’ said Spaulding, ‘I can
take care of the shop for you.’
All of a sudden he started pulling my hair. I cried out with pain. He
hurt me and said: you screamed, so this means that your hair is real.
Congratulations! The job is yours!’
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
‘What are the working hours?’ I asked Mister Ross.
‘From ten o’clock in the morning until two o’clock in the afternoon.’
‘Those hours are good,’ I said happily. ‘What must I do?’
‘Your job is to copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica. You have to bring
your own pen, ink and paper. You must stay in the office until 2
o’clock in the afternoon. Can you start tomorrow?’
‘You see, Mister Holmes, I do most of my work in the evening and so I
could work for Mr. Ross in the morning and I knew that Spaulding
could look after the business in the morning.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
‘Of course,’ I answered.
The next morning I started my new job. Mr. Ross showed me the
beginning of the letter ‘A’ in the encyclopaedia and then left. Every
day I finished my work at two o’clock. Each week Mr. Ross gave me
four pounds in gold. This went on for nearly eight weeks. Then,
suddenly, everything ended.’
‘Ended?‘ asked Holmes.
‘Yes, it all happened this morning. I went to work at ten o’clock, but
the door was closed and I found this notice on the door:
9 October, 1890
Sherlock Holmes and Watson started laughing.
‘It’s not funny!’, said Mr Wilson angrily. ‘If you think this is funny, I’ll
‘No, no!’, cried Holmes. ‘Your case is very strange, but it is quite
funny. Please, Mister Wilson, go on.’
‘I asked the people in the building but no one knew anything about
Mister Duncan Ross or the Red Headed League. I was angry and
‘I went home and told Spaulding. He was surprised and didn’t know
what to say. So I decided to talk to you Mister Holmes, you see, I
don’t want to lose those four pounds a week!’
‘This could be a very serious case,’ said Holmes.
‘Of course it is and I’m losing four pounds a week!’
‘And so what did you do then?’ asked Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
‘You shouldn’t be so angry, Mr. Wilson, the League paid you thirtytwo pounds for eight weeks’ work. And you learned a lot about the
letter ‘A’ in the encyclopaedia. I’d like to ask you some questions.
When did Vincent Spaulding start working for you?’
‘Nearly three months ago.’
‘What is he like?’
‘He’s small but not slim and he moves quickly. He’s about thirty years
old and has a white mark above his eyes.’
Holmes looked suddenly excited.
‘A white mark!’ He cried? ‘And does he have little holes in his ears for
‘Yes, he does.’
‘Hmmm,’ said Holmes, sitting back in his chair. ‘Well, Mr. Wilson, I
need to think about this case. Today is Saturday. I’ll have an answer
on Monday.’
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
Mister Wilson’s Shop
‘Well, Watson’ said Holmes when our visitor left, ‘What do you think
of this unusual case?’
‘I don’t know.’ Then Holmes sat back in his chair, closed his eyes and
started smoking his pipe.
Holmes seemed to be asleep. But then he suddenly jumped up and
put his pipe down on the table.
‘There is a concert of classical music at St James’s Hall this afternoon,
let’s go.’
‘Yes, I’m free today,’ replied Mr. Watson.
‘Good! Put on your hat and come. I want to have some lunch first.’
They went to Saxe Cobourg Square. It’s a very poor and ugly area of
the city.
Outside the shop there was a sign with the name JABEZ WILSON
painted in big white letters. This was Mister Wilson’s shop.
Holmes stopped and looked at the shop for a moment. Then he stood
in front of it and hit the large stones of the street with his walking
stick. He knocked on the shop door.
A young man opened the door.
There was some grass in the middle of the square and old houses
around it. One of them had a shop window, a shop door and a house
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
‘Can you tell me the way to the Strand?’ asked Holmes.
‘Third right, fourth left,’ answered the assistant.
Holmes walked away.
‘Have you met him before?’ asked Mr. Watson.
‘No, but I observed the knees of his trousers.’
‘And what did you notice?’
‘What I expected to see.’
‘Why did you hit the stones of the street?’
‘My dear Watson, this is the time for investigating, not for talking.
Let’s go and look at the street behind the square.’
They left the square and we were soon in one of the noisiest streets
in London, where they saw a bakery, a newspaper shop, a restaurant,
and an office of the City and the Suburban Bank.
‘We did well, Watson,’ said Holmes. ‘Now, let’s have lunch and after
we’ll go to the concert.’
Holmes was a very good musician and he loved concerts.
After the concert he said, ‘Do you want to go home now, Watson?’
‘Yes, I do, Mister Holmes.’
‘What time?’
‘Ten o’clock.’
‘Baker Street at ten then.’
‘Good! It could be dangerous, so bring your gun.’
‘I have a lot to do,’ he said. ‘This case at Saxe-Coburg Square is
serious. Someone is planning a serious crime, but I think we can stop
it. Let’s meet tonight.’
Watson felt confused about the case, but Mister Holmes of course
didn’t, and he thought to himself,
‘I saw and heard the exact same things as Holmes, but he seems to
understand everything – and I didn’t understand anything.
I thought about it for a long time, but everything was mysterious for
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
They arrived at ten o’clock. There were two carriages in Baker Street.
There were also two visitors. One was a policeman named Peter
Jones, and the other was a man with a sad face and dark clothes.
‘Watson, I think you know Mr. Jones? Let me introduce you to Mr.
Merryweather, the director of the City and Suburban Bank. He’s
working with us tonight.’
‘I hope you are right Mr. Holmes, said Mr. Merryweather, ‘because I
missed my usual card game with my friends this evening. It’s the first
time in thirty-seven years!’
‘I think this will be an exciting night, Mister Merryweather,’ said
Holmes. ‘You are going to save thirty thousand pounds. And you,
Jones are going to catch a horrible criminal.’
‘John Clay, the murderer and the bank robber?’ exclaimed Jones!
‘He is young, but he is the cleverest and most dangerous criminal in
England. His grand-father was a king’s brother and he’s an Oxford
University man,’
‘It’s time to go now,’ said Holmes, looking at his watch. ‘Mr.
Merryweather, please go with Mister Jones in the first carriage, and
Watson and I will follow you in the second one.’
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
The cellar
During the journey, Holmes didn’t speak much. Instead he sang some
of the music from the concert that afternoon. Then the two carriages
arrived at the City and Suburban Bank in the main street near SaxeCoburg Square. Mr. Merryweather took his case and opened a side
door of the bank and the four of them went through many doors and
dark corridors. Then he took a lamp and went to a big cellar. There
were lots of boxes in there.
‘The ceiling seems strong’ said Holmes.
‘The floor is strong as well,’ said Merryweather, hitting it with his
stick. ‘Oh dear, it sounds empty.’
‘Please speak quietly otherwise the thieves will hear us! Please sit
down and be quiet.’
‘We probably have one more hour,’ said Holmes. ‘The thieves won’t
do anything until Mister Wilson is in bed. Afterwards they will work
very quickly. Well, Watson, I’m sure you are aware that we are in the
cellar of one of London’s biggest banks. Mister Merryweather is the
director of the bank and I’m sure he will explain the situation to you.’
‘You see Doctor Watson, it’s our French gold’, the director said very
quietly. ‘In the big boxes there are thirty thousand pounds in gold
coins! That is why the worst criminals are interested in this cellar.’
Mr. Merryweather sat down in silence. Holmes took out a magnifying
glass from his pocket. He carefully looked at the cracks between the
large stones of the floor.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
‘Gentlemen, now we must wait,’ said Holmes. He then switched off
the lamp and they were all in the dark.
‘There is only one way for them to escape,’ said Holmes ‘through
Wilson’s house and into Saxe Coburg Square. Did you do what I
asked, Jones?’
‘Yes, Mister Holmes, three policemen are waiting outside Mr Wilson’s
house,’ said Jones.
‘Very good! Now we just have to be silent and wait,’ said Holmes.
‘They will soon be here, so we must hide,’ said Holmes. When they
come we must be ready to act rapidly. These men are dangerous.
Watson, be prepared to shoot at them if necessary.’
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
They waited for an hour and a quarter but it seemed much longer.
Everyone was tired. Suddenly, they saw some light through the
cracks in the floor. A white hand appeared. The light became brighter
and a face appeared. It was Mister Wilson’s assistant, Spaulding. The
young man had a look around and then climbed up into the cellar. He
helped another man to get out of the hole. Both men were small, one
of them had bright, red hair.
Holmes ran and managed to catch Mr. Wilson’s assistant.
‘Jump down the hole again, Archie!’ cried Spaulding.
The other man climbed down quickly. Spaulding had a gun in his
hand, but Holmes hit it to the floor with his stick.
‘You don’t have any chance to win, John Clay,’ said Holmes.
‘I know, but my friend escaped.’
‘No, three policemen are waiting outside Mister Wilson’s house to
catch him,’ said Holmes.
‘Oh really? You arranged everything perfectly Mister Holmes, well
done,’ said Spaulding.
‘Well done to you,’ Holmes answered, ‘Your idea of the Red Headed
League was new and unusual.’
‘Give me your hands,’ said Jones to Clay.
‘I don’t know how to thank you Mister Holmes, you’ve stopped one
of the biggest bank robberies in history.’
‘This case was very interesting’, said Holmes.
‘Don’t’ touch me!’ cried Clay.
Sherlock Holmes - The Red Headed League
In the early hours of the morning, Holmes and Watson returned to
Baker Street.
‘Clay and Duncan Ross just wanted to get Mister Wilson away from
his shop several hours every day.’
‘Yes, but how did you know they were planning a bank robbery?’
asked Watson.
‘I just thought about the assistant’s hobby: photography. He loved it
and spent a lot of time developing pictures. Mister Wilson described
Vincent Spaulding to me and I immediately knew that he was John
Clay, the bank robber. He spent a long time in Mister Wilson’s cellar
because he was digging a tunnel to another building. Besides
Spaulding’s trousers were dirty with brown earth, so when I
discovered that the City and Suburban Bank was behind Mister
Wilson’s house, I suddenly understood everything.’
‘How did you know the robbery was tonight?’ asked Watson.
‘Dear Watson, they closed the League offices because they were not
interested in Mister Wilson’s shop anymore. I realized that the tunnel
was finished and that they were going to use it soon. The robbery
was tonight because today it’s Saturday and so no-one could discover
it until Monday.’
‘You were brilliant,’ said Watson.
‘Thanks, at least this case wasn’t boring.’