Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
When Dr. Watson visits the apartment of his friend Sherlock Holmes, he finds the world’s first consulting detective in conference with a client with bright red hair, Mr. Jabez Wilson. Holmes invites Watson to remain and to hear the client’s unusual story. Wilson, a man of about sixty, is a not very successful small businessperson; the most noteworthy thing about him is the flaming color of his hair. After introductions all around, Wilson explains how upset he has been by a recent incident, so upset that he has come to Holmes for his help.
Wilson says that he is a man of very settled habits, a bachelor who almost never deviates from the daily routine of running his pawnshop. At least, he never deviated until he heard of the Red-Headed League. One day in his shop, his assistant, Vincent Spaulding, called his attention to an advertisement in the newspaper that announced an opening in the Red-Headed League. The announcement promised a salary of four pounds a week (about twenty dollars at the time of the story) for “purely nominal services” to the candidate who was accepted. The amount was a considerable sum at the time, especially if the duties were slight, and Spaulding urged Wilson to apply. The timid pawnbroker did so, but only after Spaulding practically took him to the office mentioned in the ad.
There Wilson heard the story of an eccentric American millionaire who had left a fortune to provide an income for Londoners with red hair as bright as the millionaire’s had been. Wilson was accepted into the League. He learned that the nominal duties consisted only of his coming to the office from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. each day and copying out the Encyclopaedia Britannica in longhand. Since most of Wilson’s business was done in the evening, he was delighted at the chance to supplement his income. This he did for eight weeks, getting well into the “A” volume, until one day he arrived at the office to find it closed, with a notice on the door that the Red-Headed...
(The entire section is 844 words.)
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