The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is the final set of twelve (out of a total of fifty-six) Sherlock Holmes short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Strand Magazine between October 1921 and April 1927.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
Sir James Damery comes to see Holmes and Watson about his illustrious client’s problem (the client’s identity is never revealed to the reader, although Watson finds out at the end of the story; it is heavily implied to be King Edward VII). General de Merville’s young daughter Violet has fallen in love with the roguish and sadistic Austrian Baron Adelbert Gruner, who Damery and Holmes are convinced is a shameless philanderer and a murderer. The victim was his last wife, of whose murder he was acquitted owing to a legal technicality and a witness’s untimely death. She met her end in the Splügen Pass. Holmes also finds out that the Baron has expensive tastes and is a collector and a recognised authority on Chinese pottery.
Holmes’s first step is to see Gruner, who is amused to see Holmes trying to “play a hand with no cards in it”. The Baron will not be moved and claims that his charm is more potent than even a post-hypnotic suggestion in conditioning Violet’s mind to reject anything bad that might be said about him. Gruner tells the story of Le Brun, a French agent who was crippled for life after being beaten by thugs after making similar inquiries into the Baron’s personal business.
Holmes gets some help with his mission in the form of Shinwell Johnson, a former criminal who now acts as an informer for Holmes in London’s underworld. Johnson rakes up Miss Kitty Winter, the Baron’s last mistress. She is bent on revenge and will do anything to help Holmes. Kitty tells Holmes that the Baron “collects women” and chronicles his conquests in a book. Holmes realises that this book, written in Gruner’s own hand, is the key to curing Violet of her devotion to the scoundrel. Kitty tells Holmes that this book is kept in the Baron’s study.
First, Holmes goes to see Violet, bringing Kitty with him, but Violet is proof against Holmes’s words. Kitty then makes it clear that Violet might end up dead if she is foolish enough to marry Gruner. The meeting ends with Holmes narrowly averting a public scene involving the enraged Kitty.
Next, Holmes is attacked by two men, and the newspapers imply that he is near death. Watson goes to 221B Baker Street only to discover that Holmes’s injuries have been exaggerated to give the impression that he will be out of action for quite a while. Several days later, Holmes is sufficiently recovered to be out of bed. The Baron is planning a trip to the United States just before the wedding and will be leaving in three days. Holmes knows that Gruner will take his incriminating book with him, never daring to leave it behind in his study.
Holmes orders Watson to learn everything that he can about Chinese pottery in the next 24 hours. The next day, Holmes presents Watson with a fake business card styling him as “Dr. Hill Barton” and an actual piece of Ming pottery, a saucer. He is to go to Baron Gruner’s house, pose as a connoisseur of Chinese pottery, and try to sell the saucer. Watson does as Holmes tells him but cannot fool the Baron for very long. Gruner realises who has sent him.
As Watson faces his murderous captor, a noise from another room alerts the Baron and he rushes into his study just in time to see Holmes jump out of the window. The Baron rushes to the window, but Kitty Winter, who has been hiding outside, throws vitriol in his face. During Holmes’ visit he manages to steal the book.
The Baron is now hideously disfigured, but Holmes says this will not put Violet off him. However, when Violet sees the book of conquests, written in her fiancé’s handwriting, she realises what a rogue he is. An announcement in The Morning Post says that the marriage between Baron Adelbert Gruner and Miss Violet de Merville is off. It also says vitriol-throwing charges are being pressed against Kitty Winter. Extenuating circumstances reduce her sentence to the lowest possible for such an offence.
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
In January 1903, at Baker Street, James M. Dodd sees Holmes about a missing friend, Godfrey Emsworth. Dodd and Emsworth served together in the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa during the Second Boer War, which has only just ended. Emsworth was wounded during this war. Dodd has not seen him since the report of his injury, and “not a word for six months and more”. Since Emsworth has always been such a good friend, Dodd believes something is amiss.
Dodd tried writing to Colonel Emsworth, Godfrey’s father. He had to write twice before he got an answer, and then was told in a terse letter that Godfrey was not at home, and had gone on a voyage around the world. Dodd was not satisfied with this explanation — he was sure that Godfrey would not simply go off around the world without telling his old army friend. Next, Dodd went to the Emsworth family home, Tuxbury Old Park, near Bedford. There were four people there — the Colonel and his wife, and an old butler and his wife. The Colonel was something less than a gracious host. He repeated the story about his son’s world voyage, implied that Dodd was lying about even knowing Godfrey, and seemed irritated at Dodd’s suggestion that he provide information that would allow him to send Godfrey a letter. This the Colonel would not do.
Dodd was still determined to ascertain Godfrey’s fate. That evening, in the ground-floor bedroom, Dodd talked to the butler, Ralph, when he came to deliver some coal. When Ralph mentioned Godfrey in the past tense, Dodd began to suspect that his friend was dead. Ralph indicated that no, he wasn’t, but that it might be better that way.
If the butler’s words had deepened the mystery, Godfrey’s appearance at the bedroom window made it utterly bottomless. There he was, with his nose pressed against the glass, but looking ghastly pale. He ran off when he saw that Dodd was looking straight at him. Dodd opened the window and climbed out, thinking to go after him and put an end to this mystery. In the pathways of the park, he could not see where Godfrey had gone, but heard a door slam somewhere ahead of him, not back at the house.
Dodd contrived to stay another day at Tuxbury Old Park, and went looking about the property. He saw a well-dressed man leaving an outbuilding, whose suspicion was aroused somewhat, as Dodd was aware that he was watching him. The outbuilding seemed empty enough, but he was sure that it was where Godfrey had gone the previous evening.
After nightfall, he crept out of the bedroom window again and stole down to the outbuilding. Finding a crack in the shutters, he looked in, saw the man he had seen earlier in the day, and another figure who he was sure was Godfrey, although he could not see him clearly.
At this point came a tap on his shoulder. It was Colonel Emsworth, beside himself with rage, and he made it plain to Dodd that he was to leave on the first available train.
Dodd comes straight to Holmes to relate the story, and Holmes, as is often the case, finds the matter to be quite elementary. There are, after all, only a few reasons why a family would shut one of its members in an outbuilding. Holmes needs only to ask about the publication that the man with Godfrey was reading, and although Dodd cannot be absolutely sure of it, Holmes seems satisfied with the answer. Only one piece of evidence is missing.
Holmes has his missing clue that same day when he and Dodd visit Tuxbury Old Park, much to Colonel Emsworth’s fury. The clue comes in the form of a tarry smell from the leather gloves that Ralph has just removed. The Colonel threatens to summon the police if Dodd and Holmes do not leave, but Holmes points out that doing this would cause the very catastrophe the Colonel wants to avoid.
Holmes then makes it known that he has deduced that the mystery can be summed up in one word: leprosy. Upon visiting the outbuilding, Holmes and Dodd hear Godfrey’s story right from his own lips. The night he was wounded in South Africa, he found his way to a house and slept in a bed there. When he woke up in the morning, he found himself surrounded by lepers. A doctor there told him that he was in a leper hospital, and would likely contract the disease after sleeping in a leper’s bed. The doctor helped heal his wounds, and once Godfrey got back to England, the dreaded symptoms began to appear. His family’s fear of their son being put in an institution, and possibly the stigma attached to leprosy, have forced them to keep his presence secret.
The story ends happily, however. Holmes has brought with him Sir James Saunders, a famous dermatologist from London. Dr. Saunders determines that Emsworth actually has ichthyosis, or pseudo-leprosy, a disease that is quite treatable.
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street where the page boy Billy shows him a wax effigy of Holmes placed near a curtained window in the sitting room. The effigy produces a shadow on the curtain that, when viewed from outside, is the unmistakable profile of Sherlock Holmes. Using this visual trick, Holmes aims to give a perfect target to a would-be murderer with a rifle. Holmes names his murderer as Count Negretto Sylvius, the diamond thief he has been following in disguise. He gives the criminal’s address to Watson, then sends the doctor out the back for the police. As the Count arrives, Holmes has Billy invite him inside, then takes him by surprise when he attempts an assault on the effigy. Holmes then offers the Count and his helper, boxer Sam Merton, freedom if they give up the jewel, or jail if not.
He invites them to discuss the deal while he plays violin in the next room. When the Count decides to double-cross Holmes and takes the stone from his secret pocket to show Sam in window light, the detective springs from the chair in place of his replica and grabs the £100K jewel. His bedroom has a gramophone and secret passage to behind the curtain.
After the police take away the villains, Lord Cantlemere sweeps in. Unlike the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, he did not want Holmes. When tricked into insisting on arrest for whoever is found possessing the diamond, he finds the jewel in his pocket – where Holmes has placed it – and apologizes. Finally, Holmes can eat.
The Adventure of the Three Gables
The story begins with a visit to 221B Baker Street from Steve Dixie, a black man and a cowardly ruffian who warns Sherlock Holmes to keep away from Harrow. Although Dixie has come to intimidate Holmes, Holmes secures Dixie’s future cooperation by threatening to tell what he knows about the suspicious Perkins death involving Dixie. Dixie’s boss is Barney Stockdale, and he must be connected with the Harrow Weald case, of which Holmes has just learnt from a message from Mary Maberley, a lady who lives at Three Gables, a house at Harrow Weald.
Mrs. Maberley is an elderly woman whose son has recently died in Rome. He was an attaché there. Some peculiar things have happened at Three Gables. Mrs. Maberley has lived there nearly two years and in all that time has attracted very little attention from her neighbours. Suddenly, however, a man came to her recently and offered to buy her house and all the furniture in it. She was not really willing to do it, especially after her lawyer, Mr. Sutro, told her that the legal agreement drawn up by this prospective buyer would forbid her to remove any possessions from the house when she moved out.
As she is telling Holmes this story, he becomes aware that someone is eavesdropping on the conversation. He opens a door and drags in Susan, a wheezing maid. Holmes manages to establish that Susan communicated to Barney Stockdale the fact that her mistress was hiring Sherlock Holmes, and that precipitated Steve Dixie’s visit. Holmes also finds out that a rich woman hired Barney Stockdale and his thugs to do her dirty work. Susan is also a member of the gang but will not give up all their secrets. She leaves in a huff.
Obviously, this woman wants something that has come into the house quite recently. Holmes, seeing some trunks with Italian placenames on them, realizes that her late son Douglas’s belongings must hold the key. He instructs Mrs. Maberley to try to get Mr. Sutro to spend a couple of nights at Three Gables, to keep the house guarded.
Holmes finds Dixie outside, keeping the house under surveillance. Dixie is now inclined to help Holmes if he can, to avoid any indiscreet talk about the Perkins lad who met his end so tragically. He swears, however, that he does not know who has hired Barney Stockdale.
Holmes and Watson go back to Three Gables to investigate a burglary that has happened there. The burglars chloroformed Mrs. Maberley and stole a manuscript from her son’s belongings. She retained part of one sheet of paper from it when, coming round, she lunged after one of the thieves.
The police inspector at the scene treats the matter as an ordinary burglary, but Holmes knows better. He examines the bit of manuscript retained by Mrs. Maberley, and it appears to be the end of a lurid novel. Holmes is struck by the peculiar wording; the story abruptly changes from third-person narration to first-person narration. It is in Douglas’s handwriting; so it would seem that he was putting himself in a story that he was writing.
Holmes and Watson go to see Isadora Klein, a wealthy woman who is used to getting what she wants. The happenings at Three Gables and the information from Langdale Pike have all added up to something. It turns out that Douglas Maberley was involved with Isadora Klein at one time. She broke the relationship off, and he almost wrought his revenge by writing a thinly veiled account of their affair, to be published as a novel. Everyone in London would know who the characters truly were, were the novel ever published. Isadora established that no copy had ever been sent to Douglas’s publisher but realized that he must have a copy. She hired Barney Stockdale and his confederates to secure the manuscript. She tried legal means at first, and when that did not work, she resorted to crime. She has burnt the manuscript.
Holmes forces Isadora Klein to write a cheque for £5000 to furnish Mrs. Maberley with a first-class trip round the world in return for his silence about Isadora’s nefarious dealings.
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
Holmes receives an odd letter that makes reference to vampires. Mr. Robert Ferguson, who comes to 221B Baker Street the next morning, has become convinced that his Peruvian second wife has been sucking their baby son’s blood. By his first wife, he has a 15-year-old son named Jack, who suffered an unfortunate accident as a child and now, although he can still walk, he does not have the full use of his legs. After the bloodsucking began, Jack has unaccountably been struck twice by his stepmother, although Mr. Ferguson cannot imagine why. Ever since being found out by her husband, she has locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Only her Peruvian maid, Dolores, is allowed in. She takes Mrs. Ferguson her meals.
Even before Holmes and Watson set off for Mr. Ferguson’s house in Sussex, Holmes has deduced what is going on, and it has nothing to do with vampires. Holmes’s trip is made simply to observe and confirm what he has already deduced.
Upon their arrival in Sussex, Mrs. Ferguson’s maid announces that her mistress is ill, and Dr. Watson offers to help. He finds an agitated woman in the room upstairs – she speaks of all being destroyed, and of sacrificing herself rather than breaking her husband’s heart. She also demands her child, who has been with the nurse, Mrs. Mason, ever since Mr. Ferguson has known about the bloodsucking incidents. Holmes examines the South American weapons displayed in the house and meets the children. While Mr. Ferguson is doting on his younger son, Watson notices that Holmes is gazing at the window. He cannot imagine why his friend is doing this.
Holmes then explains the truth about what has been happening, much to the relief of Mrs. Ferguson as this is exactly what she has wanted: for the truth to come from someone else’s lips. It turns out that the culprit is Jack, Mr. Ferguson’s elder son, who is extremely jealous of his young half-brother. Holmes has deduced this and confirmed it by looking at Jack’s reflection in the window while his father’s attention was on the baby. Jack has been attempting to murder his half-brother by shooting poisoned darts at him, and his stepmother’s behaviour of sucking the baby’s neck is thereby explained: she was sucking the poison out. It also explains why she struck Jack, and why she was sick when Holmes and Watson arrived. The wounds, therefore, were caused by the darts, not by her biting.
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
Holmes receives a letter from a Nathan Garrideb of 136 Little Ryder Street, asking for help in a most peculiar quest. He is looking for another man with his unusual surname, for it will mean a $5 million inheritance for him. He has been approached by another man, John Garrideb of Kansas, who says that he needs to find others with the same last name.
The American Garrideb comes to see Holmes and Watson at 221B Baker Street, and is apparently not very pleased that Nathan Garrideb has involved a detective. Garrideb, who claims to be a lawyer, spins a ridiculous story about Alexander Hamilton Garrideb, a millionaire land tycoon he met in Kansas. Hamilton Garrideb bequeathed his $15 million estate to John Garrideb on the provision that he find two more Garridebs to share it with equally. He came to England to seek out people with the name, having failed in his own country. So far, he has found only Nathan.
During the interview, Holmes detects many discrepancies in John Garrideb’s story, ranging from the time he has spent in London being obviously longer than he claims and his knowledge of a completely fictitious mayor of the town where Garrideb claims to have lived in before coming to England, but decides not to confront him. This piques Holmes’ interest, and he decides to contact Nathan Garrideb to investigate further. Upon arrival at Little Ryder Street, Holmes observes Nathan Garrideb’s nameplate outside the house. It has obviously been there for years; so Holmes concludes that Garrideb is at least his true surname.
It turns out that Nathan Garrideb is an elderly eccentric who collects everything from ancient coins to old bones. Garrideb’s rooms look like a small museum. He is obviously a serious collector, but has nothing of great value in his collection. Holmes finds out that John Garrideb has never asked for any money, nor has he suggested any course of action. Nathan Garrideb has no reason, it seems, to be suspicious of John Garrideb. This puzzles Holmes.
During Holmes’s and Watson’s visit, John Garrideb arrives in a most jolly mood. He has apparently found a third Garrideb, as proof of which he shows a newspaper advertisement purportedly placed by a Howard Garrideb in the course of his everyday business. Holmes sees instantly that John Garrideb has placed the advertisement himself from various Americanisms in the spelling and wording.
Despite Nathan Garrideb’s objections—for he is a man who very seldom goes out, much less travels—John Garrideb insists that Nathan go to Birmingham and meet this Howard Garrideb. It has now become clear to Holmes what the “rigmarole of lies” is all about. John Garrideb wants Nathan Garrideb to be out of his rooms for a while.
The next day brings fresh information. Holmes goes to see Inspector Lestrade at Scotland Yard and identifies John Garrideb as James Winter alias Morecroft alias “Killer” Evans, escaped prison after shooting three men in the States. In London, he killed Rodger Prescott, a Chicago forger whose description matches the former occupant of Nathan Garrideb’s room.
Holmes and Watson go to Garrideb’s home armed with revolvers. They do not have to wait long before Winter shows up. From their hiding place, Holmes and Watson see the criminal use a “jemmy” to open a trapdoor revealing a little cellar. They capture Winter, but not before he manages to shoot twice, striking Watson in the leg. For once, Holmes shows his human side; he is distraught over Watson’s injury, and strikes Winter on the head with the butt of a gun hard enough to draw blood, vowing that the villain would have never left the rooms alive if he had killed Watson. Fortunately, Watson’s wound is superficial. The little cellar contains a printing press and stacks of counterfeit banknotes, hidden there by Prescott, the man that Winter killed.
Winter is sent back to prison. Nathan Garrideb ends up in a nursing home, so great is his disappointment, but many CID men are pleased that Prescott’s equipment has at last been found. Watson seems the happiest at the adventure’s outcome despite being hurt, declaring, “It was worth a wound, it was worth many wounds, to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask”, from the sight of Holmes’s panic and rage over his friend’s shooting.
The Problem of Thor Bridge
Neil Gibson, the Gold King and former Senator from “some Western state”, approaches Holmes to investigate the murder of his wife Maria in order to clear his children’s governess, Grace Dunbar, of the crime. It soon emerges that Mr. Gibson’s marriage had been unhappy and he treated his wife very badly. He had fallen in love with her when he met her in Brazil, but soon realised they had nothing in common. He became attracted to Miss Dunbar; since he could not marry her, he had attempted to please her in other ways, such as trying to help people less fortunate than himself.
Maria Gibson was found lying in a pool of blood on Thor Bridge with a bullet through the head and note from the governess, agreeing to a meeting at that location, in her hand. A recently discharged revolver with one shot fired is found in Miss Dunbar’s wardrobe. Holmes agrees to look at the situation in spite of the damning evidence.
From the outset, Holmes observes some rather odd things about the case. How could Miss Dunbar so coolly and rationally have planned and carried out the murder and then carelessly tossed the murder weapon into her wardrobe? What was the strange chip on the underside of the bridge’s stone balustrade? Why was Mrs. Gibson clutching the note from Miss Dunbar when she died? If the murder weapon was one of a matched pair of pistols, why couldn’t the other one be found in Mr. Gibson’s collection?
Holmes uses his powers of deduction to solve the crime, and demonstrates, using Watson’s revolver, how it was perpetrated: Mrs Gibson, outraged and jealous of Miss Dunbar’s relationship with her husband, resolved to end her own life and frame her rival for the crime. After arranging a meeting with Miss Dunbar, requesting her to leave her response in a note, Mrs Gibson tied a rock on a piece of string to the end of a revolver, and shot herself, the rock pulling the revolver over the side of the bridge; the revolver found in Miss Dunbar’s wardrobe was the other pistol of the pair, which had been fired off in the woods earlier, and the chip in the bridge was caused by the pistol hitting the stonework as it was pulled off by the rock. Holmes’s reconstruction reproduces the damage to the balustrade of the bridge. He asks the police to drag the lake for the revolvers of Watson and Gibson.
The Adventure of the Creeping Man
A man named Trevor Bennett comes to Holmes with a most unusual problem. He is Professor Presbury’s personal secretary, and Mr. Bennett is also engaged to the professor’s only daughter, Edith. Professor Presbury is himself engaged to a young lady, Alice Morphy, a colleague’s daughter, although he himself is already 61 years of age. Their impending marriage does not seem to have caused a great scandal, so that is not Mr Bennett’s problem. Nonetheless, the trouble seems to have begun at about the time of Professor Presbury’s and Alice’s engagement. First, the professor suddenly left home for a fortnight without telling anyone where he was going. He returned looking rather travel-worn, and it was only through a letter from a friend sent to Mr Bennett that the family learnt that Professor Presbury had been to Prague. Upon returning from Prague, Presbury told Mr. Bennett that certain letters would arrive with a cross under the stamp, and that he was not to open these. Until this time, Mr. Bennett had enjoyed the professor’s implicit trust and had opened all his letters as part of his job. As the professor said, such letters did arrive, and he gave them straight to the professor. Whether any replies were sent Mr. Bennett does not know, as they never passed through his hands. The professor also brought a small carved wooden box back with him from Prague. One day, as Mr. Bennett was looking for a cannula, he picked the box up, and the professor became very angry with him. Mr. Bennett was quite shaken by the incident.
The whole household feels that they are living with another man, not the Professor Presbury that they once knew. He has become furtive and sly, and there are definite changes in his moods and habits, some of which are quite bizarre; however, his mind does not seem to be adversely affected. His lectures are still brilliant, and he can still function as a professor. Mr. Bennett also observed a curious behaviour in his employer. He opened his bedroom door one night, as he tells Holmes and Watson, and saw the professor crawling along the hall on his hands and feet. When he spoke to Professor Presbury, his master swore at him and scuttled off to the stairway. Edith Presbury, who arrives at 221B Baker Street halfway through her fiancé’s interview with Holmes, says that she saw her father at her bedroom window one night at two o’clock in the morning. Her bedroom is on the second floor, and there is no long ladder in the garden. She is positive that she did not imagine this.
Also, the professor’s usually faithful Irish Wolfhound has taken to attacking him on occasion, and has had to be chained up outside. Holmes knows from his study of dogs that this is significant. Mr. Bennett also mentions that the dog attacks happened on July 2, 11 and 20. Holmes does not mention it aloud at the time, but these are intervals of nine days.
Holmes and Watson go to Camford to see the professor the next day. They decide to pretend that they have an appointment, and that if Professor Presbury does not remember making one, he will likely put it down to the dreamworld that he has been living in lately. Things do not go quite this way. The professor is quite sure that he has made no appointment, and confirms this with an embarrassed Mr. Bennett. Presbury then becomes furiously angry at the intrusion, and for a minute Dr. Watson thinks that they might actually have to fight their way out of the house. Mr. Bennett, though, convinces the professor that violence against a man as well known as Sherlock Holmes would surely bring about a scandal, so Presbury allows the two visitors to depart. Holmes and Watson leave, and then Holmes confides to Watson that the visit has been worthwhile, as he has learnt much about the professor’s mind, namely that it is clear and functional, despite the recent peculiar behaviour. Mr. Bennett comes out of the house after Holmes and tells him that he has found the address to/from which Professor Presbury has been writing/receiving the mysterious letters. The addressee is a man named Dorak, a Central European name, which fits in with the professor’s secret journey to Prague. Holmes later finds out from Mercer, his “general utility man”, that Dorak is indeed a Bohemian, an elderly, suave man who keeps a large general store. Before leaving the professor’s house, Holmes takes a look at Edith’s bedroom window, and sees that the only possible way for someone to climb up there is by using the creeper, rather unlikely for a 61-year-old man.
Holmes has formed a theory that every nine days, Professor Presbury takes some kind of drug which causes the odd behaviour. Holmes believed that he became addicted in Prague, and is now supplied by this Dorak in London. Holmes has told Mr. Bennett that he and Watson will be in Camford once again on the next Tuesday. As is usual with Holmes, he does not explain why. He and Watson show up on the appointed evening, and Holmes suddenly realises something. He has observed the professor’s thick and horny knuckles, and until now, has not made the connection between these, the odd behaviour, the dog’s change in attitude towards his master, and the creeper. The professor is behaving like a monkey.
Shortly after the realisation, Holmes and Watson are treated to a firsthand display of Professor Presbury’s odd behaviour. He comes out of the house, scampers about on all fours, climbs on the creeper, and torments the tied-up dog. Unfortunately, the wolfhound gets loose and attacks the professor. The two of them, with Mr. Bennett’s help, manage to get the dog off the professor, but he is wounded badly. Watson and Bennett, who is also a medical man, tend to the professor’s injuries.
Holmes then examines the professor’s little wooden box after having obtained the key from the now unconscious owner. It contained a drug, as Holmes expected, but there was also a letter there from a man named Lowenstein who, it turns out, is a quack whose help the professor sought out as a way of achieving rejuvenation, which he thought would be advisable if he were going to marry a young woman. The drug is an extract obtained from langurs, and although it has apparently given the professor renewed energy, it has also given him some of the langur’s traits.
The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane
Holmes is enjoying his retirement in Sussex when one day at the beach, he meets his friend Harold Stackhurst, the headmaster of a nearby preparatory school called The Gables. No sooner have they met than Stackhurst’s science professor, Fitzroy McPherson, staggers up to them, clearly in agony and wearing only an overcoat and trousers. He collapses, manages to say something about a “lion’s mane”, and then succumbs. He is observed to have red welts all over his back, possibly administered by a flexible weapon of some kind, for the marks curve over his shoulder and round his ribs.
Moments later, Ian Murdoch, a mathematics professor at The Gables, comes up behind them. He has not seen the attack, and has only just arrived at the beach from the school. Holmes sees a couple of people far up the beach, but thinks they are much too far away to have had anything to do with McPherson’s death. Likewise, the few fishing boats off the beach are too far out.
It emerges that Murdoch and McPherson were friends, but had not always been. Murdoch is an enigmatic fellow with an occasional bad temper. He once threw McPherson’s dog through a plate-glass window, for instance. Despite this, Stackhurst is sure that the two were on good terms with each other.
McPherson also had a lover, and on further investigation, it turns out that Maud Bellamy was McPherson’s fiancée. A note confirming a meeting with her was found on McPherson, although it gave no clear details.
Holmes goes to look at the lagoon formed by a recent storm that local men have been using as a bathing pond. He sees McPherson’s towel lying there dry and concludes that he never went into the water. Holmes arranges to have the caves and other nooks at the foot of the cliffs searched. Nothing and no-one turns up, which is what Holmes expected would be the case.
Stackhurst and Holmes decide to go and see Miss Bellamy to see whether she can shed any light on this perplexing mystery. Just as they are approaching The Haven, the Bellamys’ house, they see Ian Murdoch emerge. Stackhurst demands to know what he was doing there, and an angry exchange ensues with Murdoch declaring in effect that it is none of Stackhurst’s business. Stackhurst loses his temper and sacks Murdoch on the spot. Murdoch then storms off to get ready to move out.
A Lion’s Mane jellyfish capturing a sea gooseberry.
They visit the Bellamys and find an amazingly beautiful woman in Maud Bellamy, but two extremely unpleasant men in her father and muscular brother. It seems that Mr. Bellamy and his son did not approve of the liaison between Maud and McPherson; indeed, they do not even find out about the engagement until this meeting, so secret had been the affair. Maud says that she will help however she can. It emerges that Murdoch was once a potential suitor to Miss Bellamy. This, in turn, causes Holmes to suspect that he may be responsible for McPherson’s death, out of jealousy.
Then McPherson’s dog is found dead at the pool where McPherson met his end. It obviously died in agony, much as its master had. At this point, Holmes begins to suspect something else. The dead McPherson’s dying words, “lion’s mane,” have triggered a memory, but he cannot quite place it.
Inspector Bardle of the Sussex Constabulary visits Holmes to ask if there is enough evidence to arrest Murdoch. Holmes is sure that there is not. Murdoch has an alibi. He also could not have singlehandedly overcome McPherson, who was quite strong, despite having heart trouble. The two men also consider McPherson’s wounds. The weals actually looked as though they may have been administered by a hot wire mesh, or perhaps a cat o’ nine tails. Holmes is about to go back to the bathing pond to test a theory he has formed which might explain McPherson’s death. As he is about to leave, Murdoch arrives, helped in by Stackhurst, who is afraid that Murdoch might be dying; he fainted twice in pain. He has the same wounds on him that McPherson had. In great agony, he passes out, but finally recovers.
At the bathing pond, Holmes spots the murderer: a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata), a deadly creature about which Holmes has read. Holmes takes a rock and kills it. Murdoch is exonerated. It turns out that, given his former relationship with Maud, he acted as a go-between for her and McPherson, but for the same reason, did not wish to discuss it with anyone. Stackhurst forgives Murdoch and gives him his job back.
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
Holmes is visited by Mrs. Merrilow, a landlady from South Brixton who has an unusual lodger who never shows her face. She saw it once accidentally and it was hideously mutilated. This woman, formerly very quiet, has recently taken to cursing in the night, shouting “Murder, murder!” and “You cruel beast! You monster!” Also, her health has taken a turn for the worse, and she is wasting away. Mrs. Merrilow has brought this case to Holmes’s attention as her tenant, Mrs. Ronder, will not involve the clergy or the police in something that she would like to say. She has told her landlady to mention Abbas Parva, knowing that Holmes would understand the reference.
Indeed he does. It was a most tragic case in which a circus lion somehow got loose and savaged two people, one of whom was killed, and the other badly disfigured. The latter is apparently this lodger – the former was her husband. Holmes could make little of the case at the time, but perhaps if someone had actually hired him, the outcome would have been different. As it was, the inquest ruled that Mr. Ronder was the victim of death by misadventure. Still, even the local police were a bit disturbed at the time by some seeming inconsistencies in the accounts. For example, the lion was part of an act which Mr. and Mrs. Ronder performed right in its cage, and they were the ones who fed it. Why had it suddenly turned on its feeders? Why had it not tried to escape? Who was this man that several people heard screaming when supposedly Mr. Ronder had already been killed?
Mrs. Ronder wearing her veil
Upon arriving at Brixton, Holmes and Watson are shown into Mrs. Ronder’s room, which she seldom leaves. She is wearing her veil. Her purpose, it seems, is to make a clean breast of the matter before she dies. She tell Holmes and Watson that Mr. Ronder was a terrible husband, cruel and violent in the extreme, even to the circus animals, but he didn’t care, even though he wound up in the dock for it several times. He was very rich and the fines meant nothing.
Mrs. Ronder also had an extramarital lover in Leonardo, the circus strongman. He was always very supportive and encouraging to his lover, who felt that Leonardo was the only man her husband feared. Eventually, Mrs. Ronder and Leonardo realized that Mr. Ronder was not fit to live, and formed a plan to eradicate him. As part of the plan, Leonardo made a club with five nails in it, which could deliver wounds that might be mistaken for those of a lion’s paw. Then one night at Abbas Parva, a small village in Berkshire where the circus was camped for the night, Mrs. Ronder and Leonardo carried out their plan. When Mrs. Ronder and her husband went to the lion’s cage to feed it, Leonardo crept up behind them and smashed Mr. Ronder’s head with the club, and Mrs. Ronder released the lion to make it appear that it had broken free and done the deed. But the lion, having been riven into a feeding frenzy by the scent of Mr. Ronder’s blood, turned and pounced on Mrs. Ronder instead, badly chewing her face up in the process. At the sight of this, Leonardo started screaming and ran to get help from the other circus members. He could have saved his lover himself by using the club on the lion, but he was too cowardly.
Mrs. Ronder could not bring herself to implicate Leonardo in her husband’s murder at the inquest, and is only now telling Holmes and Watson this story because she believes that she will soon die. She never saw or heard of Leonardo again, and later learned that he had drowned. Ever since the night of the incident, she has lived alone and veiled. Holmes can only offer advice in this situation; realising that Mrs. Ronder is contemplating suicide, he reminds her that her life is worth something as an example of patient suffering in an impatient world. She responds to this by lifting her veil, and the sight is ghastly.
Nevertheless, Holmes receives a bottle of prussic acid from Mrs. Ronder two days later. She was going to use it to kill herself, but upon considering what Holmes told her, she apparently thought better of it.
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
Head trainer John Mason from Shoscombe Old Place, a racing stable in Berkshire, comes to Holmes about his master, Sir Robert Norberton. Mason thinks he has gone mad. Sir Robert’s sister, Lady Beatrice Falder, owns Shoscombe, but it will revert to her late husband’s brother when she dies. The stable has a horse, Shoscombe Prince, who Sir Robert hopes will win the Derby. He would be out of debt if that actually happened.
Mason is not quite sure what he wants Holmes to investigate, but a number of odd changes have happened at the stable:
Why has Lady Beatrice suddenly forgone her usual habit of stopping to greet her favourite horse? Why does she just ride on by in her carriage?
Why has Sir Robert become so wild-eyed lately?
Why has he given his sister’s dog away to a neighbourhood innkeeper?
Why does he go to the old crypt at night, and who is that man that he meets there?
Why have burnt human bones been found in the furnace at Shoscombe?
Holmes decides to investigate on the spot. He and Dr. Watson go to Berkshire posing as anglers and learn some interesting things. The keeper of the inn where they are staying is the one who now has Lady Beatrice’s dog, and it is quite an expensive breed, one that an innkeeper ordinarily could never afford.
With the innkeeper’s permission, Holmes takes the dog for a walk, and goes to Shoscombe, where he releases it as Lady Beatrice’s carriage comes out of the gate. The dog dashes forward enthusiastically at first, but then flees in terror. Then, even though a maid and Lady Beatrice are supposedly the only two people in the carriage, it is a male voice that yells “Drive on!”
Then there is the crypt. John Mason observes that a heap of bones there earlier is now gone. Holmes finds a coffin with a fresh, swathed body in it. Just then, Sir Robert arrives, catching Holmes and Watson in the act. After Holmes makes it plain that he has deduced most of the odd goings-on, Sir Robert invites him and Watson back to the house and explains everything.
About a week earlier, Lady Beatrice died of dropsy, and Sir Robert felt compelled to keep the fact secret so that the creditors would not swoop down on Shoscombe before he had a chance to win the Derby and pay off all his debts. He and the maid’s husband hid the body in the crypt, but also found that they had to dispose of an older body — in the furnace. This same man also dressed up in Lady Beatrice’s clothes and took her place in the carriage each day. The dog knew what had happened and might have given the game away if its noise had aroused suspicion.
Holmes refers the matter to the police, but the story ends happily. Shoscombe Prince wins the Derby, Sir Robert escapes any major judicial penalty for what he did to his sister’s body, and he pays off all his debts with a great deal left over.
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
Sherlock Holmes is hired by a retired art supply dealer from Lewisham, Josiah Amberley, to look into his wife’s disappearance. She has left with a neighbour, Dr. Ray Ernest, taking a sizeable quantity of cash and securities. Amberley wants the two tracked down.
Holmes is too busy with another case at the moment; so he sends Dr. Watson to Lewisham to observe what he can, although Watson is keenly aware that this is more Holmes’s province. He does his best, observing that Amberley is busy painting his house, which seems a bit odd. He even sees Amberley’s wife’s unused theatre ticket; she and her young man disappeared while Amberley went to the theatre alone after his wife complained of a headache. Watson notes the seat number.
Watson also sees Amberley’s strongroom from which his wife had taken the valuables. She, apparently, had a key of her own. He meets a lounger with a rather military appearance in the street, and later observes him running to catch the train at Blackheath Station as he is returning to 221B Baker Street. Holmes recognises the description; it is his rival in detection, Barker. It later turns out that Ray Ernest’s family has hired him to find the missing doctor.
A number of other things about Amberley are obvious. He is a miser, and as such is quite a jealous man. He is an avid chess player (indeed, so is Ernest, which is how they became acquainted), suggesting to Holmes that he also has a scheming mind.
Holmes suspects something, and so sends Watson and Amberley on a fool’s errand to the remote village of Little Purlington, near Frinton in Essex, just to keep Amberley out of the way while Holmes breaks into his house to investigate it. He is “caught” by Barker, but they decide to work together.
They reach a conclusion, and later Holmes confronts Amberley with the dramatic question “What did you do with the bodies?” Holmes manhandles Amberley just in time to stop him taking a poison pill. Amberley is obviously guilty.
Holmes explains how he reached his conclusion. Amberley’s alibi fell apart when Holmes discovered that his seat at the Haymarket Theatre had not been occupied on the night in question, its number deduced from the ticket that Watson had seen. Also, the painting was a clue. Holmes realised that it was being done to mask a smell, and he soon discovered what that was: gas. He found a gas pipe leading into the strongroom with a tap outside. Amberley had lured his wife and her lover — for so he had believed Dr. Ernest to be — into the strongroom, locked them in, and turned the gas on, killing them out of jealousy. He had simply hidden the “stolen” valuables somewhere. In indelible pencil, one of the victims wrote “We we…”, perhaps meaning to write “We were murdered.”
The bodies are found in a disused well in the garden, hidden under a dog kennel, just where Holmes suggested that the police look.
Amberley apparently hired Holmes out of “pure swank”, believing that no-one would ever find him out.
Holmes believes that Amberley will likely end up at Broadmoor rather than on the scaffold, owing to his mental state.