The Uttermost Farthing

R. Austin Freeman
Uttermost Farthing, The

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Title: The Uttermost Farthing A Savant's Vendetta
Author: R. Austin Freeman
Release Date: April 14, 2004 [EBook #12028]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Steven desJardins and Distributed Proofreaders


The Motive Force
II. "Number One"
III. The Housemaid's Followers
IV. The Gifts of Chance
V. By-products of Industry
VI. The Trail of the Serpent
VII. The Uttermost Farthing


It is not without some misgivings that I at length make public the
strange history communicated to me by my lamented friend Humphrey
Challoner. The outlook of the narrator is so evidently abnormal, his
ethical standards are so remote from those ordinarily current, that the
chronicle of his life and actions may not only fail to secure the
sympathy of the reader but may even excite a certain amount of moral
repulsion. But by those who knew him, his generosity to the poor, and
especially to those who struggled against undeserved misfortune, will
be an ample set-off to his severity and even ferocity towards the
enemies of society.

Humphrey Challoner was a great savant spoiled by untimely wealth.
When I knew him he had lapsed into a mere dilettante; at least, so I
thought at the time, though subsequent revelations showed him in a
rather different light. He had some reputation as a criminal
anthropologist and had formerly been well known as a comparative
anatomist, but when I made his acquaintance he seemed to be occupied
chiefly in making endless additions to the specimens in his private
museum. This collection I could never quite understand. It consisted
chiefly of human and other mammalian skeletons, all of which
presented certain small deviations from the normal; but its object I
could never make out--until after his death; and then, indeed, the
revelation was a truly astounding one.
I first made Challoner's acquaintance in my professional capacity. He
consulted me about some trifling ailment and we took rather a liking to
each other. He was a learned man and his learning overlapped my own
specialty, so that we had a good deal in common. And his personality
interested me deeply. He gave me the impression of a man naturally
buoyant, genial, witty, whose life had been blighted by some great
sorrow. Ordinarily sad and grave in manner, he exhibited flashes of a
grim, fantastic humor that came as a delightful surprise and showed
what he had been, and might still have been, but for that tragedy at
which he sometimes hinted. Gentle, sympathetic, generous, his
universal kindliness had yet one curious exception: his attitude towards
habitual offenders against the law was one of almost ferocious
At the time that I went away for my autumn holiday his health was not
quite satisfactory. He made no complaint, indeed he expressed himself
as feeling perfectly well; but a certain, indefinable change in his
appearance had made me a little uneasy. I said nothing to him on the
subject, merely asking him to keep me informed as to his condition
during my absence, but it was not without anxiety that I took leave of
The habits of London society enable a consultant to take a fairly liberal
holiday. I was absent about six weeks, and when I returned and called

on Challoner, his appearance shocked me. There was no doubt now as
to the gravity of his condition. His head appeared almost to have
doubled in size. His face was bloated, his features were thickened, his
eyelids puffy and his eyes protruding. He stood, breathing hard from
the exertion of crossing the room and held out an obviously swollen
"Well, Wharton," said he, with a strange, shapeless smile, "how do you
find me? Don't you think I'm getting a fine fellow? Growing like a
pumpkin, by Jove! I've changed the size of my collars three times in a
month and the new ones are too tight already." He laughed--as he had
spoken--in a thick, muffled voice and I made shift to produce some sort
of smile in response to his hideous facial contortion.
"You don't seem to like the novelty, my child," he continued gaily and
with another horrible grin. "Don't like this softening of the classic
outlines, hey? Well, I'll admit it isn't pretty, but, bless us! what does
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