Ralph Edwards – Fri, 25 Nov 1994
- Is Holmes’s initial statement (concerning the man who loves art for its own sake) true?
- Why didn’t Watson record causes célèbres and sensational trials?
- Why a cinder and not a match?
- Did Holmes recognize his pipe-choice moods?
- Why wasn’t the table cleared?
- What occupational indicators still exist?
- Was the remark purely fanciful about pencils, etc.?
- Why didn’t Violet go to Nova Scotia?
- Why had Violet saved so little?
- What fate faced Violet if she became penniless?
- Would employers normally pay the employment agency?
- Were cockroaches common to most households in those days?
- How long did Violet’s visit last? (good night?)
- How did (and do) city and country crime rates compare?
- What are the six other explanations?
- What conclusions can be derived from the lunch having been pre-ordered?
- Why the hurry with most of three hours available?
- Is beige ever blue?
- Where was the house entrance?
- Was Violet’s joy at night solely situational?
- Why the delay until 7 p.m?
- How did Holmes know that Fowler was a seaman? Was he?
- Would brain fever lead to a loss of hair?
- What protected road travelers against Carlo?
- Why the talk of salary in three figures and then offering only 100 pounds?
- Did a large head suggest abnormality or an outstanding intellect?
- Why does Dr. Watson refer to the “old” room at 221B?
- What is the significance of Holmes referring to “our cases”?
- Having locked the drawer, why did the Rucastles then provide Violet Hunter with a key to the drawer containing Alice’s hair?
Chris Redmond – Fri, 1 Mar 1996
This story is often said to be full of “gothic” elements, starting with the innocent maiden in the big creepy house. (It’s not unique: other Canonical tales, such as “Shoscombe Old Place”, are also gothic in their way.) If it’s a gothic, can it also be a detective story? And why does Arthur Conan Doyle think red hair is so funny, anyway?
Steve Clarkson – Fri, 7 Aug 1998
Sherlock Holmes felt that his career had hit its zero point when young Miss Violet Hunter asked to consult the Great Detective as to whether she should accept a position as governess. But when Miss Hunter’s tale unfolded Holmes admitted that the position was not one he would like to see his sister, should he have one, take. He advised Miss Hunter to accept the job, assuring her that a call for help will bring him to her assistance, day or night.
Sure enough, within a couple of weeks a telegram came from Violet Hunter. “‘Do come!’ she pleaded, ‘I am at my wits’ end.'” Upon arriving in the old English capital of Winchester, near where she was staying, Holmes and Watson learned of a household with a drunken groom, his dour and silent wife, a jolly master but a sad, taciturn mistress, and a young son with an overlarge head who delighted in smacking cockroaches with a slipper and trapping mice, small birds, and insects. Upstairs in a locked corridor, behind a door barred with iron, there lives someone — or something — that Violet Hunter is forbidden to learn about. And outside the house at night, a huge, savage, half-starved dog roams free to discourage nocturnal visitors.
In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will let slip the Hounds to pursue a host of unanswered questions about this Adventure. Let Jephro Rucastle beware!
As the story opens, Holmes is giving up finding anything in the agony columns of a variety of newspapers, and with a smile ventures to give Watson a small verbal pat on the back for the latter’s written treatment of some of Holmes’s cases. Watson returns the smile and admits that sometimes his chronicles border on the sensational. When Holmes agrees and expands on that topic, Watson’s tone turns cold. Why was he offended? And why does Holmes equate “sensationalism” only with crime? Surely, if some football stands collapsed or a husband habitually threw his false teeth at his wife after meals, would that not be sensational as well?
Violet Hunter says of the dress her employers gave her to wear, “‘It was an excellent material, a sort of beige.'” My dictionary defines “beige” (as a first definition) as “A soft fabric of undyed and unbleached wool.” “Beige” is also subsequently defined as “A sort of grayish brown.” If the fabric was not dyed, how did it come to be a “peculiar shade of blue?” Conversely, if it was dyed could it still be called “beige?”
What is the likelihood of the hair of two unrelated women being exactly the same shade of chestnut and, apparently, about the same length? And why did the Rucastles store it in the very room Miss Hunter was to use, and then supply her with a “bunch of keys,” one of which would open the locked drawer in which Alice’s hair was kept?
The center door in the suite of “vacant” rooms was locked from the outside, and further reinforced with a curious contrivance: “one of the broad bars of an iron bed, padlocked at one end to a ring in the wall, and fastened at the other with a stout cord.” Why was one end fastened with cord or rope? Did Jephro Rucastle have to untie the cord each time he visited Alice? Why did Holmes cut the cord rather than use the keys acquired from the sodden Toller to open the lock at the other end of the iron bar? Above all, how could a bar across the outside of an inward-opening door (have you ever seen a bedroom door that opened out into the hallway?) but not attached to the door itself be a means of containing someone imprisoned inside the room?
A final flurry of scents for the Hounds to follow: There is no indication of a fence enclosing the Copper Beeches. How did Toller manage to restrict the savage dog to the property during its nighttime prowls? How did Holmes know that Mr. Fowler was a seaman? How did Watson learn what finally became of Mr. and Mrs. Rucastle or, for that matter, Miss Violet Hunter? What became of the Rucastles’ hydrocephalic son? Did it require a special license for Alice and Mr. Fowler to marry the next day at Southampton?