Jump to: navigation, search

Henley Telegraph (1920) - Sordid

"Sordid" is a short story written by Alfred Hitchcock and originally published in the Henley Telegraph, February 1920.


"It is not for sale, Sir."

Through a friend I had heard of a Japanese dealer in Chelsea, who had a remarkable collection of English and Japanese antiques, and, being a keen collector, I had made my way to his shop to look over his curious stock.

The sword, a fine heavy specimen, with a chased blade and elaborate handle, was not very ancient, perhaps about twenty years old — but it had attracted me.

"I will give you a good price."

"I am sorry, but I do not wish to sell."

There must have been something unusual about it, and so I became more fascinated and determined to obtain the sword. After much expostulating and protesting, he agreed to sell on the promise that I would purchase other things in the near future.

"There is some history connected with this, is there not?" I asked.

"Yes, there is, and if you have time I will tell it to you."

At the time of the Russo-Japanese War, Kiosuma, his son, was an ambitious lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army. It chanced that once Kiosuma was charged with the despatch of documents to a destination back in Japan which took him near his home. On the journey he failed to notice that he was being followed by two men — Russian Agents.

His home was about an hour's journey short of his ultimate destination, so he decided he would call there first.

As he alighted from the train, a feeling of delight enveloped him when he thought of the surprise that he would give his parents. He made his way up the hill of the little village beyond which his parents lived, his path lying through a wood. He quickened his step with the excitement of anticipation, until — almost within sight of his house — he heard a step behind him. Turning, he saw an arm raised, then came oblivion...

It was night when he regained consciousness, and as he struggled to his feet he endeavoured to collect his dazed thoughts.

Then he remembered — the papers!

What should be do? With the papers gone...!

He staggered towards his house, the lights of which were discernible through the trees, and was met by his father.

"O son, from whence came thou?"

Kiosuma proceeded to explain with difficulty.

The brow of his father darkened, his eyes narrowed, and his face grew to that of a mask.

"Oh, unworthy one! Thou hast betrayed the trust of the great Nippon. Where now is thy honor?"

"But my father, they have not the code!"

"Thou dare to excuse thyself! Take the sword — thou knowest the only course."

Slowly, but fearlessly, Kiosuma proceeded to his room. He laid a white sheet on the floor, and placed a candle at each corner, then having robed himself in a white kimono, he knelt down and cast his eyes upwards.

He raised the sword, with the point to his heart and...

I took the sword home and in the firelight continued to examine my purchase while I pondered over the strange tale of the afternoon.

I noticed that the handle was a little loose; perhaps it unscrewed. I tried it with success, and detached the blade.

Lowering it to the firelight I studied the unpolished surface and read...

Made in Germany, 1914!