The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 13 May 1994

  • Is a home bath necessarily invigorating rather than relaxing?
  • Are alternatives still in use?
  • How did Watson’s splashes from a hansom differ from Helen Stoner’s splashes from a dog-cart (SPEC)?
  • Why couldn’t Watson’s bow have been tied by a bootblack?
  • What bow knots were normal?
  • What other circumstances would result in Watson having a companion and removing his shoes?
  • Why is a drifting and friendless woman the most useful of mortals?
  • Who supplied Holmes with a copy of the account?
  • Reconcile “drifting and friendless,” “sole survivor of the direct family of the late Earl of Rufton,” and “the family are anxious.”
  • Having spared no sum to clear the matter up, what was the reaction of the wealthy family of Lady Frances Carfax on learning that Holmes remained in London while he sent Watson to investigate her whereabouts?
  • Is the “weeks rent” comment significant?
  • Why did Watson report Lady Frances Carfax’s return to London by letter instead of by telegram?
  • Having received the letter, why did Holmes leave London?
  • Why did Holmes disguise himself?
  • Was Holmes’ statement that Watson gave the alarm everywhere and yet discovered nothing accurate?
  • Did Holmes really do better?
  • 7:30 – AM or PM?
  • Why the delay in getting a warrant?
  • Why was Annie allowed to get a policeman?
  • Should Holmes have been arrested?
  • Could invited police not have searched the house, discovering the den?
  • How did Peters learn of Rose Spender?
  • Where did the screwdrivers come from?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 25 Oct 1996

Underneath the mystery in this tale is, of course, a story of true love, a story that resembles The Devil’s Foot but with a happier ending. Through no fault of his own, “Holy Peters” is guilty of no murder, though certainly of a few other offenses. Do these compromises with tragedy and death weaken the story or strengthen it?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 23 Jan 1998

From Baden to Brixton…from the Langham to the workhouse…from an English earldom to a Biblical kingdom…the story we start this weekend is a real study in contrasts! It’s that intriguing tale called The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax.  My questions and comments:

  • Watson says a Turkish bath “is what we call an alternative in medicine — a fresh starting point, a cleanser of the system.” I originally read this as “an alternative in medicine.” Based on his personality, do you think Watson would advocate the alternative treatments practiced these days? Is he the type of person (and doctor) to go in for things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, colon cleansing, hypnosis, and so on?
  • Isn’t Holmes unfairly blaming the victim when he says that the single woman is “the inevitable inciter of crime in others?”
  • Can we try and figure out who is Peters’ confederate in London?
  • Watson’s detective skills are belittled once again, while the Hon. Philip Green’s sleuthing gets high marks. Is Holmes’ assessment of each man fair?
  • Lady Frances was very fond of some “remarkable” old Spanish jewelry she’d inherited. The most remarkable thing about old Spanish jewelry is how precious little of it actually remains in Spain. To view a good collection of old Spanish jewelry, you must travel to France, to the Musee de Cluny. Many, many jewels owned by wealthy Spaniards were sold, divided, lost, or plundered over the years — a sparkling exodus to other lands. Not even the Spanish royal collection was spared: “Crown jewels and princely jewels completely vanished in the nineteenth century between Napoleon’s invasion, civil wars and brutal changes of rulers,” wrote Prince Michael of Greece, in his 1983 book Crown Jewels. The lack of old jewelry in Spain was so acute that when King Juan Carlos was enthroned, in 1975, it was a real challenge to find enough jewels for the coronation ceremony. A crown was finally located for the new king, but Prince Michael lamented that it wasn’t even made of real gold! It’s not surprising that several remarkable pieces would turn up in the jewel case of an English lady. It would be most interesting to know the history of those Spanish jewels Lady Frances possessed — how and when they came into her family, and whether Philip eventually recovered them for her from Bovington’s.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 26 Mar 19

Lady Frances Carfax was almost alone in the world, the drifting remnant of an aristocratic family. When her father, the Earl of Rufton, died she was left without very much in the way of financial resources. Yet her inheritance, such as it was, was sufficient to enable her to roam about the Continent with her personal maid Marie Devine, never staying for more than a few weeks in any one place. Then she vanished. She dismissed her maid for unknown reasons, and no one saw any more of Lady Frances once she left Lausanne, Switzerland, with a huge, black-bearded ruffian, described as “a veritable savage,” on her track. Her concerned relatives turned to Sherlock Holmes for assistance.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will sound his great horn to summon the Hounds to the trail of Lady Frances Carfax. It is a cold scent, and the Hounds will have to cross the English Channel to resume their pursuit of the missing aristocrat in the swarming streets of London. At the end of the trail lies a crime which Holmes described as “new to me in the annals of crime.”

This is a good story, although perhaps a bit overlong. I think Holmes exaggerates, however, when he describes the concept of burying two persons in one coffin under one death certificate as “new to me in the annals of crime,” given his studies in “Sensational Literature.” Watson describes his knowledge of the subject as “Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.” And does anyone agree with me that the Hon. Philip Green is not a very sympathetic figure as the heroic champion of a damsel in danger?

My latest reading of LADY started out with a series of questions: Who might have shared Watson’s cab? How does one tie a shoelace into a double bow? Why is a friendless woman often “…the most useful of mortals?” Could anyone just “glance over” another person’s bank records without the consent of the account holder? And isn’t it curious that “…it had been remarked by the servants that the heavy trunk in the lady’s bedroom was always scrupulously locked?” How would the servants know this unless they had tried to open it? Was there some system in place among London pawnbrokers whereby they could be alerted to be on the watch for certain items which might be pawned? And was the system so efficient that suspect items could be reported to the authorities within the time frame allowed in this story?

Holmes accused Watson of bungling his end of the investigation, yet he sent Watson to Lausanne while the real source of pertinent information, Susan Dobney, was in England. In the absence of the assistance Miss Dobney could provide, how else could Watson have proceeded, other than as he did?

When the coffin was brought out of the house on Poultney Square, Watson says that it was “supported by three men.” That seems to be an unusual number of pallbearers. And, given that the coffin actually contained not only the wasted body of Rose Spender but of Lady Frances also, might the combined weight of coffin and contents have been greater than could be borne by only three men? And what was it about the coffin-lid that required the combined strength of three or more men to remove it once the lid had been unscrewed?

Discover more about Lady Frances Carfax and read the canon.