The Bloodstained Handprint at the Iwade Bank
岩出銀行血汐の手形 [Iwade Ginko Chishio no Tegata]
Synopsis by Ian McArthur.
A detective mystery. Date of first narration: 1891. Origin unknown.
Sleet falls over London as Iwade Yoshio, president of the Iwade Bank, leaves work and hurries toward the station by London Bridge to catch his regular train home near the town of Chîsubikki. Just short of the station, he encounters a filthy, shivering urchin. The boy begs some money from Iwade. Iwade pauses to consider whether he should give the boy money, but pressed for time, he decides to hurry on and not risk missing his train. As Iwade mounts the steps to the station, the boy notices Iwade’s wallet is not properly in his pocket. He steals the wallet.
Yamada goes to buy his ticket, but the wallet is missing. He returns to the bank, fearing he has left it there, but it is not in his office. He reports the missing wallet to the police, takes more money from his office safe, and returns home. The next morning, Iwade is summoned to the police station where he is informed that a boy has handed in his wallet and confessed that he stole it. Iwade thinks it strange that the thief would confess and return the wallet and demands to meet the boy.
The boy, whose name is Yamada Matashichi, gives a tearful confession to Iwade. He stole the wallet to save his mother from starvation and ill-health, but on taking it to where his mother lay, homeless and exposed to the cold, he found her dead. Filled with remorse, he handed the wallet to the police and is prepared to suffer the consequences of his immoral act. Iwade takes pity on Matashichi and takes him into his care.
Iwade pays for Matashichi’s education and eventually appoints him as a clerk at the bank. At the age of 20, Matashichi has become a fine, handsome, well-educated young man. He and Iwade’s only daughter Omasa fall in love and make a secret vow to marry. Itô, the bank’s manager, learns of the couple’s love for each other and informs Iwade, who accuses Matashichi of duping his daughter and seeking to marry her for her inheritance. Iwade angrily dismisses Matashichi, ordering him never to come to their house again, but gives him 200 yen from his safe to allow him to make his way in the world. Matashichi humbly thanks Iwade for all he has done for him and promises to repay the money when he has made a success of himself.
A few days later, the normally punctual Iwade fails to return home for his evening meal. The alarm is raised and he is found stabbed to death in his office.
Matashichi is arrested in Liverpool while attempting to board a ship for the United States. The police send him to London for further investigation and he is committed for trial.
Omasa insists that Matashichi is innocent and visits her father’s brother, Iwade Takejirô, a lawyer, to request his assistance. She explains that on the night her father died, Matashichi had arranged through a household servant for them to meet in the garden and had then informed her that her father had refused their match.
Takejirô meets the detective on the case and explains Omasa’s concern. Takejirô asks to see the piece of paper with a bloodstained handprint found near the corpse and explains that he plans to find the killer using his knowledge of fingerprints gained during a visit to Japan and China several years ago.
As his brother’s successor, Takejirô orders the bank’s employees to assemble in a room and to submit to giving their handprints. He then uses a magic lantern to project onto the wall the magnified handprint found in Iwade’s office. Alongside this, he projects each employee’s handprint using a second magic lantern, until he reaches the handprint of the janitor Katô Torakichi. Confronted with the similarity between the two handprints, Katô confesses to the murder, explaining that he had been seeking money from Iwade’s safe to pay off gambling debts.
Takejirô persuades Omasa’s mother to consent to a marriage between Omasa and Matashichi. In doing so, Takejirô overcomes the mother’s objections to her daughter marrying a former beggar by arguing that even Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, General Ulysses Grant, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi all rose from humble origins to eventually contribute to their country. Omasa’s mother consents to the marriage and the couple live happily ever after in England.