The Three Students – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 28 Apr 1995

  • Why not Oxford or Cambridge?
  • Are English Charters a giveaway or a false clue?
  • What common interest did Holmes and Watson share with a Greek tutor and lecturer?
  • Did Soames pay for the consultation?
  • Would the police have taken the case?
  • What indicated the passage was in Greek? In English?
  • Why a large knife?
  • Did the evidence suggest a muscular suspect?
  • Was the bedroom window an escape path?
  • Was competing for the scholarship compulsory?
  • Was there any reason for the reputation of Indians to be quiet and inscrutable?
  • Would an idler worry about a scholarship test?
  • If the tea tray prevented locking the door, how was the door unlocked?
  • When had the students had their evening meal?
  • Why only three suspects?
  • Was the printer or his delivery man known to the students?
  • Did Ras return and leave before Gilchrist arrived?
  • What made the proofs identifiable at a distance when seen through a window?
  • Why such sharp spikes?
  • Does one look in to ask a question without knocking and being invited in?

Chris Redmond – Thu, 18 Jul 1996

It isn’t Papa Bear, and it isn’t Mama Bear, so it must be door number 3 — isn’t there something just a little too pat, too artificial, about a mystery in which Holmes must choose one of precisely three suspects in a carefully confined area?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 10 Oct 1997

Wipe those muddy shoes before you come in to read our next story, The Adventure of the Three Students! Some questions and comments to ponder:

  • Given the fact that no harm was ultimately done, doesn’t Watson go way, way overboard with his discretion disclaimers? Put another way, was the “scandal” in this story really all that “painful?”
  • Some prominent scholars contend that 3STU was a hoax perpetrated by Soames and Gilchrist. One even claimed that Watson was in on the joke, which was designed to help Holmes overcome depression and boredom — a combination which could lead to further cocaine abuse. What do you think?
  • Holmes pretended to study the “curious pieces of medieval domestic architecture” to gain entry to two of the students’ rooms. What architectural features distinguish medieval interiors?
  • Attention African historians! If we accept Baring Gould’s chronology, and this story took place in early April 1895, what might the next four years (pre-Boer War) hold for the guilty man?
  • Holmes correctly deduced the Faber Company pencil shavings. Faber is still around, and many of us regularly use their products. With all the attention paid to the German firm, however, it’s easy to overlook the fact that England was also a major producer of pencils. Next time you’re in the Keswick area, stop in at the Cumberland Pencil Museum, celebrating the considerable local pencil industry — in business for 450 years, since the days of Queen Elizabeth I. Don’t want to travel all the way to the Lake District? Then pop a videotape of Granada’s “Lady Frances Carfax” into your VCR; that episode was filmed a stone’s throw from the Cumberland Pencil Museum.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 1 Jan 1999

Sherlock Holmes was researching early English charters at a major university when Mr. Hilton Soames, a tutor and lecturer in the Greek language, dropped by to present an unusual problem to him. Holmes was not of a mind to entertain trivial matters such as apparent cheating on a scholarship examination, but he rather ungraciously agreed to look into the matter.
The problem was this: Soames had been proofreading his portion of an examination for the Fortescue Scholarship after the galley proofs were returned by the printer. He stepped out for a spot of tea and returned about an hour later to find that someone had entered his rooms and apparently had copied some or all of the proofs. There were only three persons taking that portion of the Fortescue examination: a young athlete named Gilchrist; an inscrutable native of India named Daulat Ras; and a rakehell young student named Miles McLaren. One of these men must have intruded and copied the examination in Greek; no one else would have had any interest in the matter. The question is, which one?

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will summon the Hounds to take up the scent of a problem which threatened to engulf a great university in scandal. It is a thin scent, with several twists and turns that include a fainting servant named Bannister. It is not a great leap of faith for the Mâitre to believe that the Hounds will hurdle the difficulties, however.

St. Luke is reputed to have been a Greek physician who hailed from Antioch (now located in Turkey). There are parallels between “Greek,” which Soames taught, and “physician,” which was Watson’s profession. Could there be a link also between “Antioch” and the great university where this Adventure takes place?

Young Gilchrist was poor and would have wanted very much to win the Fortescue Scholarship to further his education. Might he have mentioned this to Bannister, who then sought to help his young master by leaving the key in Soames’ door when he knew that the tutor was not in his rooms?

Soames’ portion of the Fortescue Scholarship consisted of half a chapter of Thucydides. The passage of Thucydides was sent to a printer for replication, and the printer would have had to typeset the galley proofs in Greek characters. Did printers know Greek in those days?

In any case, Soames had not finished proofreading the printer’s galleys by 4:30 of the afternoon before the Examination. He discovered shortly after 5:30 that the proofs had been tampered with. That same evening he called upon Holmes and Watson (who seemed to be better acquainted with Soames than Holmes was). The resulting investigation ended shortly before 9:00, with Soames protesting to Holmes that the matter must be resolved that evening so that the Examination could go forward on the morrow as scheduled. Even if Holmes had so obliged Soames, would there have remained enough time to finish proofreading the papers, deliver them to the printer first thing in the morning, have any necessary corrections made, and still be able to start the Fortescue Examination on time?

I have sometimes wondered how Gilchrist made the long jump from being a university student to a commissioned member of the Rhodesian Police Force. What would his qualifications for the latter position have been? When did he apply for the position, and why did he apply if he was so interested in continuing his education that he would cheat to win a scholarship? It sounds to me as though he was considering “getting out of Dodge” before the specter of the Fortescue loomed on the immediate horizon.

Discover more about The Three Students and read the canon.