The View Halloa – The Dancing Men

Is there a sadder story in the entire Canon than this one of Hilton Cubitt and his wife Elsie? And to think that Holmes had his hand on the key to it all, but still could not prevent the tragedy from happening! Despite the disastrous outcome, this remains one of Holmes’s great cases, made perhaps the more memorable because of our thoughts of how it might have turned out so much for the better. But since discussing “what might have been” is something the Hounds do particularly well, I hope you will join the pack again this week as we dog the footsteps of those strange figures known as “The Dancing Men.”
“We have let this affair go far enough.” We should never forget that Abe Slaney is the real villain here, regardless of any mistakes made by the good people involved in the story. However, it=E2=80=99s impossible to discuss “The Dancing Men” without dealing with the question of how much blame we should ascribe to Holmes for the death of Hilton Cubitt. Should Holmes have acted more quickly? Was he distracted by the challenge of the cipher, or was he simply waiting for more information, so that he would not take the wrong kind of action? Was he thinking of Norbury, and therefore hesitant to draw his conclusions too rapidly? Was he merely following the wishes of Hilton Cubitt himself, not to betray Elsie’s trust or create a public scandal?

The dating of this story is interesting. Queen Victoria had Jubilees in both 1887 and 1897, and though the later year (placing the story in 1898) has more support among chronologists, the evidence is by no means conclusive. Leaving aside the more tangible evidence each way, does this case seem more like early Holmes or Post-Hiatus Holmes? Assuming Holmes was at least somewhat at fault in this case, did he fail because of youthful arrogance, or were his powers deteriorating with age?

Because I looked for it: Holmes’s investigation of the crime scene is one of his masterpieces, and I find it particularly remarkable that he chose to interview the cook and housemaid before looking at the scene itself. Did Holmes always work this way: listen first and then look? What might have made him want to hear about this crime first, before seeing the evidence for himself?

Watson wrote, “As we drove up to the porticoed front door, I observed in front of it, beside the tennis lawn, the black tool-house and the pedestalled sundial.” Isn’t this a strange layout for a country house: to have a tool shed and a sundial in the front of the house? Were sundials commonly used as places to leave and pick up messages, or is this only a custom of people with problems of the kind that would interest Sherlock Holmes? Wouldn’t a sundial in the front of the house be a particularly bad place to leave a message?

The View Halloa – The Norwood Builder

Sherlock Holmes is back! Better still, Holmes and Watson are back together again in Baker Street, just like the old days. And we are there too, enjoying their breakfast conversation, and enjoying still more the interruption by a desperate client, an innocent man accused of murder! It’s Holmes to the rescue! The Game’s afoot! (A rabbit’s foot, perhaps?)
The friendship: Watson mentioned that Holmes had “bound me in the most stringent terms to say no further word of himself, his methods or his successes” after his return. But was this a practical idea? On the one hand, how could Holmes get any clients at all if everyone thought he was dead? On the other hand, if people generally knew that Holmes was back in action anyway, and if they already knew a lot about his methods from the earlier stories, then what purpose did it serve to keep Watson from publishing more adventures?

The sentimentalist in me loves the fact that Holmes wanted Watson to give up his medical practice and come back to live in Baker Street. Since Holmes didn’t seem to want Watson for the immediate public relations value of his stories, can we say with confidence that the returning Holmes was in fact admitting his need for companionship? Was there a practical side to the partnership as well? Was this Holmes’s way of saying that Watson was his ideal colleague and assistant?

Having asked that question, can anyone then explain why Holmes didn’t seem to want Watson to come with him to Blackheath? Since when did Watson only go along when there was danger?

It’s all going wrong: Holmes seems to have taken an instant dislike to Mrs. Lexington, the housekeeper. He saw “a sort of sulky defiance in her eyes, which only goes with guilty knowledge.” Holmes was right, of course. It is clear at the end of the case that she must have known a good bit of what was going on. But how much did she really know, and when did she know it? For instance, is it possible that Oldacre told her that the whole affair was a practical joke, and that he intended to reappear before things got too serious? If she did know the whole truth of the plot, what would be her motivation for helping to get McFarlane hanged – and for taking the risk if the plot didn’t come off? Would mere money be enough to get her to cooperate with her employer?

Does anyone know if the science of the day would have permitted an accurate analysis of the remains in the fire? If so, why didn’t Holmes think to suggest this to the police? And a follow-up to that question: When did Holmes first realize that Oldacre was not the body in the fire?

The Granada television series beefed up “The Norwood Builder” by having Oldacre murder a passing tramp in order to get a convincing body for his fire. Setting aside the inherent sacredness of the Canon for a moment, what do you think of this change? Does it make the story better? Are there any problems with the idea of a murdered tramp?

The View Halloa – The Empty House

I know it seems like a long time ago that we bade a temporary farewell to Sherlock Holmes when he appeared to buy the farm in “The Final Problem.” But now it’s time to resurrect the Great Detective once more. Holmes usually gets quite a bit of grief over this story, mainly from friends of Doctor Watson’s, but let’s see what we can do to show the Master that we’re glad he’s back. And please, no fainting! In a moment, a few comments and questions about “The Adventure of the Empty House.”
I never was in it: Some variation on this question would come up even if I didn’t say a word about it, so let’s just put it on the table straightaway: If Moran and “at least three others” of Moriarty’s gang knew that Holmes was still alive, then what good did it do him to disappear for three years, allowing the non-criminal world, including his best friend, to think that he was dead? And whatever Holmes’s purpose, was it absolutely necessary for him to deceive poor Watson?

Mycroft Holmes knew of his brother’s ruse, but was there anyone else who was in on the secret? Mrs. Hudson, for instance? Inspector Lestrade? Or what about Inspector Patterson, who seems to have worked with Holmes in his battle with the Moriarty organization?

And whatever happened to Inspector Patterson, for that matter? I don’t recall that we ever heard from him again. Hmmm. . . .

Unusual and inexplicable: That is the phrase Watson used to describe the murder of Ronald Adair, though of course he might well have been describing Holmes’s absence and sudden return as well. But about the Adair crime: Watson mentioned that the “case for the prosecution was so overwhelmingly strong that it was not necessary to bring forward all the facts,” which presumably meant that Holmes’s involvement was not revealed. But was the case against Moran so strong? Was Holmes right when he said “The bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose?” Or was this just tough talk? After all, don’t we find in a later story that Colonel Moran is still alive? How did he escape that noose?

If Moran was shooting at a silhouette on the blind, wouldn’t he have to allow for the angle of the light behind it in order to actually hit the bust? How would he go about adjusting for the angle, since the light source itself was not visible behind the blind?

Watson mentioned his own efforts to solve the murder, including his attempt “to find that line of least resistance which my poor friend had declared to be the starting point of any investigation.” I don’t seem to recall any other instance where Watson directly quoted Holmes as saying anything like this. Does the “line of least resistance” idea strike the Hounds as a genuine method employed by Holmes, or does it seem to be Watson’s faulty memory at work?

The View Halloa – The Final Problem

“It is, indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house. The shaft into which the river hurls itself is an immense chasm, lined by glistening coal-black rock, and narrowing into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable depth. . . .”
It seems only last week that Holmes was playing tricks on Percy Phelps and musing on the goodness of Providence. How can it be that our hero has come so suddenly to that fearful place by the Reichenbach Falls? Who is this villain Moriarty and why hadn’t we heard of him before? There are puzzles aplenty in this story, so fill your carpet-bags with ideas, and join the Hounds as we spend a charming week on the chilling story of “The Final Problem.”

Letting the grass grow: Once we learn of Professor Moriarty’s existence, it seems only logical to find that he was trying to get rid of Sherlock Holmes, the only man with enough intelligence and energy to track him down. But why did the Professor wait so long to go after Holmes? Why did he come to warn Holmes before sending out his thugs? And why were his thugs such a clumsy lot? Could it be that Moriarty was telling the truth when he said that Holmes’s death would be “a grief” to him?

Having tracked Holmes to Meiringen and lured Watson away by means of the spurious note, why did Moriarty advance alone to meet Holmes? Later, we learn that Colonel Sebastian Moran was waiting above the Falls to deal with Holmes if Moriarty failed, but it is incredible that the two villains should not have acted in concert. Is it possible that Moriarty did not know Moran was there?

Do you think that Holmes deliberately lured Moriarty into a trap?

Mycroft Holmes sheltered his brother for a night, and Mycroft also drove the brougham for Watson. Was Mycroft putting himself in danger? Why didn’t Moriarty ever strike at Sherlock Holmes through his brother, especially after Sherlock left England?

Along with Irene Adler and Mycroft Holmes, Professor Moriarty is one of the legends of the Canon who have imprinted themselves upon our memories with only the briefest of acquaintances. All three are intelligent and fascinating, but which one has impressed you the most?

Other problems: Holmes instructed Watson to send his luggage to Victoria Station by a “trusty messenger,” and he also referred to “your man” when discussing the procedure Watson should use to obtain a safe cab. Who was this trusty and useful person who assisted Watson?

In The Valley of Fear, Holmes said “You can tell an old master by the sweep of his brush. I can tell a Moriarty when I see one.” Which of the stories we have covered so far in the Adventures and the Memoirs might suggest the Moriarty brush-work?

When did Holmes write the note that Watson found under his cigarette case? Was it while Moriarty was standing there, as Holmes later indicated? Or did he write the note after Moriarty was dead?

The View Halloa – The Naval Treaty

What a lovely thing a rose is! And what a fascinating character Sherlock Holmes is! Imagine his breaking off in the middle of a case to admire a rose and muse upon the ways of Providence! Despite this moment of reverie and the perplexity it caused his clients, Holmes was in control of this case from start to finish, sifting through the surfeit of clues with seeming ease and bringing the whole matter to a happy ending, with time left over to play a practical joke on the hapless Percy Phelps. Please join us now as the Hounds ring for a cup of coffee and tread the linoleum-lined halls of the Foreign Office in search of “The Naval Treaty.”
Percy Phelps and friends: I’ll admit it right at the start: I don’t think very highly of Percy “Tadpole” Phelps. He seems to be one of those obnoxious people who lord it over those less gifted or fortunate (Watson, the Tangeys) and royally kiss up to those above them (Lord Holdhurst, Sherlock Holmes.) So forgive me if my questions seem to go in the direction of encouraging negative responses about Phelps. If there is anyone out there who wants to defend this little toady, well — I wish you luck with it.

When it comes to character, Annie Harrison seemed far too good for Phelps. His one good point seems to be that he recognized her worth. Or was he marrying her for her family’s money?

On of the most interesting exchanges in the story is this one between Holmes and Watson:

“But the writing is not his own.”
“Precisely. It is a woman’s.”
“A man’s surely,” I cried.

Two questions occur to me. First, why did Watson feel so strongly that Percy’s amanuensis must have been a man? And second, though Holmes was surely right that handwriting can reveal a great deal concerning the character of the writer, is — or was — there any thoroughly reliable way to tell a person’s sex from handwriting?
Although Holmes saved Percy’s biscuits in the matter of the missing treaty, he certainly picked a rather callous — some might say cruel — way of revealing the happy results of his investigations. Was this Holmes’s way of taking the proud Percy down a peg or two in front of his old school-mate Watson — a rather warm and comradely thought on Holmes’s part, though perhaps a little too strongly done.

Holmes branches out: Had Holmes been called into this case before Watson got the note from Phelps? Consider that mysterious conversation between Holmes and Watson on the train returning from Woking, where Holmes says, “I’ve been making independent inquiries, you see.” But when could he have done that? Watson’s narrative implies that he and Holmes set straight off for Woking after Watson showed Holmes the note asking for his help.

I love Holmes’s “rose” speech, but is the logic of it truly sound?

I’m not sure this statement is true in terms of a complete Canonical chronology, but if one reads the stories in the Doubleday order, “The Naval Treaty” is the first recorded case in which Holmes stepped outside his role as criminal and personal investigator and began to exert his talents in the realm of national and international affairs. (I don’t count “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Beryl Coronet” as national or international, since those concerned essentially personal problems, even though some of the individuals involved were of exalted importance.) Is this the first time that Sherlock Holmes ever dealt with a mystery that affected affairs of state? Is it a coincidence that this case should immediately follow “The Greek Interpreter,” in which we met brother Mycroft? Had Mycroft discussed the case with Sherlock prior to Watson’s receiving the note from Phelps? And if the brothers discussed the case, did Mycroft ask his younger brother to help with the investigation, or did he order him to stay out of international affairs?

The View Halloa – The Greek Interpreter

Perhaps its story structure leaves something to be desired: nearly all of the action is presented to the reader by the narration of one of the characters. But whatever its failings, “The Greek Interpreter” provides us with one of the Canon’s legendary supporting characters, Mycroft Holmes. His “absolutely corpulent” figure joins the dainty one of Irene Adler as one of those people who seem to hold an endless fascination for Sherlockians. A third legend, the brilliantly evil Moriarty, waits for us in a story yet to come, but for now, let’s enjoy the relative peace and quiet and kick off the week’s discussion with a few comments and questions about the senior Holmes brother, and the story in which we meet him. And don’t forget that “The Greek Interpreter” is also famous the source of one of the best-loved quotes in the Canon: “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.”
Brother Mycroft Exerts Himself: Why are most of us so interested in Mycroft? Is it simply that he is the brother of Sherlock Holmes, and therefore another factor in the life and development of our hero? Are we intrigued by the suggestion that Mycroft’s powers are greater than the mighty Sherlock’s? Mycroft certainly has his moment when he tops Sherlock in their little game of observation and deduction, but beyond that, can it really be said that the elder brother demonstrates any superior knowledge and judgment? If we had only the evidence of “The Greek Interpreter,” and never heard (in “The Bruce-Partington Plans”) that sometimes Mycroft “IS the British government,” would we find him as interesting as we do?

It is fun to hear about the early life and family of Sherlock Holmes, and this story is the source of a good deal of what we do know. And wouldn’t you like to know more about Holmes’s grandmother? Besides passing along that “art in the blood,” do you think that she was a direct influence on either or both (or all three) of the Holmes brothers?

Do you think that Mycroft was really as sedentary and misanthropic as Sherlock led Watson to believe? How could a man observe and deduce anything intelligent about the world and people around him unless he had to some extent mingled in that world to gain knowledge of it? And if Mycroft was so introverted, how did he acquire his “slight acquaintance” with Mr. Melas?

We’ve been talking about Canonical Dummies for the last few weeks. Does “The Greek Interpreter” give us a few more instances of stupidity in action? Mycroft Holmes may not qualify as stupid, but he made a serious mistake by putting an advertisement in the paper and revealing to the villains that Mr. Melas had told his story. Was he unaware that he was putting Melas in serious danger, or did he not care?

“The Greek Interpreter” has some similarities to “The Engineer’s Thumb.” Which do you think is the better story?

Did Holmes and Watson really did play golf, or were they talking about the use of golf clubs as murder weapons?

The View Halloa – The Resident Patient

Now here’s a funny coincidence. Just after I finished looking over this week’s story, I picked up something from the Wodehouse collection and happened to come across this passage: “Sir Roderick Glossop . . . is always called a nerve specialist, because it sounds better, but everybody knows that he’s really a sort of janitor to the looneybin. I mean to say, when your uncle the Duke begins to feel the strain a bit and you find him in the blue drawing-room sticking straws in his hair, old Glossop is the first person you send for.” Well, Percy Trevelyan happened to be a nerve specialist, and there were certainly some crazy goings-on at 403 Brook Street, where the Hounds will now gather to pursue the case of “The Resident Patient.”
Obscure Nervous Lesions: Watson leads us right to the mental question when he describes the “somewhat incoherent series of Memoirs with which I have endeavoured to illustrate the mental peculiarities of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” Mental peculiarities, eh? The story begins with a mind-reading sequence, of all things, and although

this incident was lifted from the previously-written but censored story of “The Cardboard Box,” there is something appropriate about putting it at the front of a story about a nerve-disease doctor – “janitor to the looneybin?” Isn’t it interesting that Watson, a former army surgeon, had actually read Dr. Trevelyan’s monograph on “obscure nervous lesions?” Was it a coincidence, or was there a reason why Watson was well-versed in the literature of nervous complaints? Did he have any worries about his own or Holmes’s sanity? Is there any Canonical evidence that either Holmes or Watson was not “Quite Right?”
If Blessington hadn’t been a criminal, his arrangement with Dr. Percy Trevelyan would have been a pretty good one. Was this sort of thing more common in Holmes’s day, or was the idea of investing in a young doctor (or lawyer, artist or musician) every bit as unusual as we would consider such a set-up today?

More learned Hounds will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that “Lady Day,” the day Dr. Trevelyan moved into Brook Street, is March 25, and is the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. Beyond the fact that Lady Day was one of the usual “quarter days” when a term of tenancy would logically begin, can we attach any significance to the fact that Trevelyan mentioned that particular day even though it made no difference to his subsequent story? Is there a religious connotation? A mathematical symmetry?

The doctor is innocent: At first reading, the obvious suspect in this case is Dr. Trevelyan himself – Watson even says so. Holmes assured him that the doctor was not the culprit, but was the evidence of those oversized footprints really sufficient to put the doctor in the clear? After all, Trevelyan was supposed to be a clever man, and it might easily occur to him to trespass into Blessington’s room with disguised footprints.

And even if there had been someone else in Blessington’s room, isn’t it still possible that Dr. Trevelyan might have been their accomplice? Had he grown tired of doling out three-quarters of his income to Blessington? Had Hayward, Biddle and Moffat won the doctor’s sympathy for their cause, or simply made him a tempting offer on top of his increased profit? If the doctor was not in league with them, is there any logical way to explain how the gang of bank robbers managed to fool him with their phony cataleptic Russian act? In fact, if the gang eventually arrived in the middle of the night to kill Blessington while the household was asleep, why would they have made an appointment with the doctor at all?

The View Halloa -The Crooked Man

I doubt that you will find this story on the top ten list of most Sherlockians. There are not enough thrills, for one thing. Did you ever wonder why Watson selected it for publication? There must have been dozens of cases among his notes that posed more difficulties in their solutions, or contained even more bizarre features. Perhaps he was proud of the fact that Holmes called on him in person to enlist his aid in the case. Perhaps the story appealed to him because of his own military background. Or perhaps he published it because Holmes liked it. The Master certainly solved this one very logically and completely. It is almost a textbook illustration of Holmes’s methods of gathering evidence. Perhaps this was one of the cases Holmes might have included in the “course of lectures” that he preferred to Watson’s “series of tales.”
The Investigation: From the first, Holmes viewed the Barclay case as a “supposed murder,” and he correctly singled out the clue of the missing door key as the most significant point to resolve. But there is one feature of the crime scene which troubles me, and which I do not think Holmes considered with sufficient care: the position of Colonel Barclay’s body. He was found “with his feet tilted over the side of an armchair, and his head upon the ground near the corner of the fender…dead in a pool of his own blood.” I don’t have any problem with the head on the fender, but how did his feet end up over the side of an armchair? Was he standing up or sitting down during the altercation with his wife? Either way, can the Hounds explain how he ended up with his head on the ground and his feet over the chair?

Were the police aware that there had been a third person in the room when Colonel Barclay died? If not, should Holmes have told them? Should Holmes have gone to the police after he talked to Miss Morrison? Should he have told the police about Henry Wood? Why was Holmes so determined to keep the police out of this case?

A few other questions: If Watson had never formally practiced medicine while living in Baker Street with Holmes, how did Holmes know what his friend’s habits were on a busy day versus a light day?

Was Major Murphy romantically inclined towards Nancy Barclay? Did he request Holmes’s help in order to clear her of murder, or was he worried that he might eventually be seen as a suspect?

Leaving aside Barclay’s wrongdoing, would Nancy have had a happier life if she had married the “harum-scarum” Henry Wood?

If Wood only partially understood the language of his captors outside Bhurtee, is it possible that he made a mistake as to Barclay’s duplicity? Was Barclay responsible for Wood’s capture without being guilty of intentional betrayal? Did he simply make a bad map, or let slip some casual conversation about Wood’s mission that was overheard by the native servant? Was the servant the true culprit?

The View Halloa – The Reigate Puzzle

Or is it “The Reigate Squires?” Or “The Reigate Squire,” the title under which it was first published? Although it may not be one of Holmes’s truly great cases, I love this story for its portrait of the friendship — and also the partnership — between Holmes and Watson. Holmes had overworked himself on a case, and the faithful Watson naturally dropped everything to come to the aid of his ailing friend. When their relaxing week in the country turned into a murder investigation, Watson was right there to back up Holmes in every way: reacting in horror to Holmes’s fainting fit, taking the blame for the overturned table, and even rescuing Holmes from the clutches of the murderers! Good old Watson! Don’t take a nap on the gun-room sofa yet! In a moment, I’ll post some puzzling Reigate points for the Hounds to ponder.
A week in the country: Early in the investigation, Inspector Forrester said, “I think that Mr. Holmes has not quite got over his illness yet. He’s been behaving very queerly. . . .” Was Forrester right? Later on, when Holmes employed his fainting fit as a diversion, did he choose this method at least in part because he genuinely did not feel well? If he had been feeling completely well, wouldn’t he have been better prepared for the assault by the Cunninghams? What was wrong with Holmes anyway? Was he simply exhausted and run down after the Baron Maupertuis case? Was he still suffering from the depression in which Watson found him?

What about those Cunninghams, and the legal difficulties which led them to such desperate measures to try to get their hands on the paper which gave old Action “the clearest claim upon half their present estate?” Can the Hounds think of any possible information which could have had such a dramatic effect on their property? And if the lawsuit had been going on for years without a resolution, how “clear” could that evidence have been? Therefore, why did the Cunninghams suddenly reach the point where they were willing to take the risk of burglary to get that piece of paper away from Acton?

Colonel Hayter: Watson tells us that Holmes and Colonel Hayter had “much in common.” Other than their mutual friendship with Watson, what interests or traits do you suppose Holmes and the Colonel might have shared?

In the Sherlock Holmes stories, the title “Colonel” usually means Bad News! Did you ever wonder a little about Colonel Hayter? We all accept him immediately as one of the good guys, because he is an old friend of Watson’s, but isn’t it odd that at the time of this case, the Colonel apparently had taken up residence in Reigate only recently? He “frequently” asked Watson to visit, and “remarked” that Holmes would also be welcome. I invite the Hounds to reread the breakfast scene where the murder is announced (D399), with the idea that Colonel Hayter could be a suspect in the murder. Notice his “innocent” questions, and the way that Watson described him as “coolly settling down to his breakfast again.” And don’t forget that Hayter took a pistol upstairs with him on the night of the murder! Although the elder Cunningham’s confession makes no mention of Hayter’s complicity, is it just possible that Holmes and Watson missed something here? But what did they miss? How and why might Hayter have been involved in the Cunningham/Acton feud?

Was it wise of Holmes to “hide none of my methods . . . from anyone who might take an intelligent interest in them.” Did criminals read Watson’s accounts of Holmes’s cases?

The View Halloa – The ‘Gloria Scott’

Sherlock Holmes is probably the most immediately recognizable character in all of literature and film. Almost everyone can tell you about the Hound of the Baskervilles, and many are familiar with the dog in the night time, the Snake and Professor Moriarty. But does the casual reader know anything of Holmes’s college days, or of the vicious bull terrier who indirectly led Holmes to his life’s work? No! “The Gloria Scott” is an adventure for devotees: those of us who want to know everything about our hero. As a detective story, it may not rank among the greats, but as a story of the Great Detective, it’s just the thing for eager Hounds to sink their teeth into — just as that bull terrier decided to do.
Young Sherlock Holmes: Holmes said that the case “was the first in which I was ever engaged.” The word “engaged” has a couple of meanings, of course. What did Holmes mean when he said “engaged?” Did he mean simply “involved” or “busy?” He was involved, it’s true, but the case hardly absorbed him. And no one “engaged” him in the sense of hiring him – at least, he did not say that Victor Trevor paid him any money to advise him in his troubles. Then again, if this was the first case in which Holmes was “engaged,” was Charles Augustus Milverton the second?

In his student days, Holmes said that he considered his habit of observation and deduction to be “the merest hobby.” What subjects was he studying at college? What profession did he propose to follow before detective work lured him away? Wouldn’t he have considered his skills at observation to be an asset in his main course of study, rather than a hobby unto itself? Or was he studying something where observation and deduction were not particularly useful to him? Can anyone think of a subject where this might be so?

Holmes spent his vacation working out a few problems in organic chemistry. Was he using his vacation time this way in order to advance his knowledge in a field that he was studying officially, or did he work on chemistry on his own time because he was not enrolled in any chemistry classes during the official term? I wonder if Holmes took any classes in common with Victor Trevor.

The Trevors: It doesn’t take an in-depth study of this case to see that there are a few problems with Justice of the Peace Trevor’s story of his youthful misfortunes. The first trouble comes with the dates. For Sherlock Holmes to have been at college, the story must have taken place around 1872 – 75. If Trevor’s transportation for embezzlement took place thirty years before that time, how could it have been “’55, when the Crimean War was at its height? Is there any logical explanation for the discrepancy? Should this error cause us to doubt the rest of the tale?

Trevor wrote most of his account when he was in reasonably good health, but he suffered a stroke when he read the message from his friend Beddoes. His confession is then appended with a shaky note saying, “Beddoes writes in cipher to say H. has told all. Sweet Lord, have mercy on our souls!” When did he write this? During a slight recovery from his stroke? Did he dictate the postscript to someone else? To whom?

Sherlock Holmes never saw old Trevor alive after he cut his vacation short and went to London. In fact, Holmes implies that he never saw old Trevor dead, either. Was Trevor really dead? Did he ever suffer a stroke? Who was the doctor?

And speaking of young Trevor: last year when we discussed “The Gloria Scott,” the Hounds own Birlstone Railway Smash noted that according to the Sherlock Holmes Theory of Dogs (see “The Creeping Man”) we might well expect Victor Trevor to have had a personality similar to the terrier who froze onto Holmes’s ankle. What do you think? Does the phrase, “I keep a bull terrier!” mean “I’m extremely cranky and vicious!”?