The Solitary Cyclist – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 24 Mar 1995

  • What happened in 1902?
  • Was the culmination a tragedy?
  • Did Watson elsewhere mention annual manuscript notebooks?
  • Was harshness foreign to Holmes’ nature in his treatment of Watson?
  • Have pedals been improved?
  • Is a spatulation alone (and still) the hazard of keyboard activity?
  • If you were contacted by a lawyer, would you think someone had left you a fortune, and then consider it strange that it was your only relative?
  • Did Violet take the bicycle to London?
  • Can age be judged at 200 yards?
  • Why didn’t Carruthers, until the trap arrived, offer to trail Violet to see who the follower was?
  • Was Violet a governess?
  • Should Holmes have suggested observing the tire tracks?
  • How did Watson get to Charlington in 37 minutes with time to spare?
  • Did Violet seem to be in love?
  • Would inquiries, if discrete, be overheard?
  • How protective are two men on foot at a distance of one mile?
  • Why outdoors for the ceremony?
  • Was Woodley smarter than Holmes in preparing for the earlier train?
  • Must a wedding permit be applied for by both parties in person?
  • Would Violet have been safe in London?
  • Is first name use (Bob and Jack) a class distinction?
  • Were both brothers illiterate?
  • Where was Violet during the dining room interview?
  • Was the plot itself illegal?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 14 Jun 1996

In a case that involves kidnapping, if not rape, Holmes acts, not only with his professional skills, but also with his fists to defend the lady’s safety and honor. He also demonstrates elaborate courtesy and gallantry and teases her a little about her legitimate love life. Is he, in fact, the perfect gentleman — for his own era, if not for our own?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 5 Sep 1997

A lovely heroine…bumbling bad guys…a virtue threatened…with a happy ending. Our new story, The Solitary Cyclist, is part fairy tale and part grand opera! To get us started, here are my questions and comments for the week:

  • Young, beautiful, tall, graceful, queenly, with a spirituality about her face, lots of admirers, yet still charmingly modest — Violet Smith is so perfect! Does this woman have any negative qualities whatsoever?
  • Violet’s father was an orchestra conductor at a theater, a position which would require him to read music and lyrics with ease. How was it that his brother, Violet’s Uncle Ralph Smith, was illiterate?
  • Williamson, the defrocked clergyman, was notable for his frequent swearing. As Watson observed at one point, “The old reprobate with the surplice burst into a volley of bad language.” Exactly what sort of “bad language” did Victorians use? Are there examples from contemporary literature? Let’s suggest some Victorian dialog to fill in the blankity-blanks Watson tastefully deleted!
  • Was a bicycle crucial to the plot? Couldn’t the story work just as well if Violet and her follower walked, or rode horses?
  • SOLI is filled with plants: trees, hedges, shrubbery, flowers. Some were specifically mentioned by name, like the grove of ancient oaks that surrounded Charlington Hall. Others were veiled, such as the reference to ferns in the OE place name “Farnham.” Even our heroine was named for a little bloom! There was, in fact, such an abundance of plants in SOLI that their use must be a deliberate literary device. Why? What purpose do these plants and trees serve?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 20 Nov 1998

Sherlock Holmes was deeply engaged in an investigation of the peculiar persecution of John Vincent Harden, a tobacco millionaire, when Miss Violet Smith appeared at 221B Baker Street to request his assistance. Despite Holmes’ protests that he was very busy, Miss Smith prevailed upon him to listen to her story.

Violet Smith was a young lady from impoverished circumstances, who had been engaged as a tutor for the daughter of a Mr. Carruthers, who claimed to have known her Uncle Ralph Smith while the latter was in Africa. The pay was munificent; double the amount that was usually paid for such services, and the situation was pleasant enough…until a thoroughly despicable ruffian named Woodley came into the picture. Woodley lost no time in making himself thoroughly unwanted by “romancing” Miss Smith, who was already engaged to someone else. Shortly after Woodley had been ousted by Carruthers, she noticed that every time she went bicycling, a bearded cyclist followed her. She did not recognize the man, nor did he ever approach close enough for her to get a good look at him. She was at a loss to understand what was going on and sought Holmes’ advice.

The matter sounded superficial enough, but Holmes suspected something more sinister was afoot. Upon investigating, he and Watson found themselves battling a plot involving Miss Smith, Woodley, Carruthers, and a sinister former clergyman named Williamson. Matters came to a head when Holmes and Watson found the horse-drawn cart, in which Miss Smith had been riding, empty of driver and passenger, and the driver knocked unconscious in the bushes alongside the road. Miss Smith was nowhere to be seen.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will loose the Hounds on a scent of African gold, intrigue, forced marriage, and a shooting. The Hounds must hasten if they are to save the lovely Miss Violet Smith from a fate worse than death.

One of my favorite quotes from the Canon is Holmes’ remark, “I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart.” We see mention of only a few instances of Holmes’ prowess in pugilism (McMurdo in SIGN and Mathews in EMPT come to mind), and SOLI contains the best example: “…a straight left against a slogging ruffian.”

The donnybrook between Holmes and Woodley took place when the latter overheard Holmes questioning the bartender. Holmes had a fairly good description of Woodley from Violet Smith, and should have anticipated that Woodley might be downing a few pints at the local watering hole, so why didn’t Holmes “case the joint” before initiating his interrogation?

When Violet Smith came to see Holmes in London, she took a train. What did she do with her bicycle when she was traveling by rail? Did railroad depots provide some storage space for such occasions?

As the driverless horse, pulling an empty cart, approached Holmes and (belatedly) Watson, why did Homes order the panting Watson to stop it? This is not the only instance of Holmes asking Watson to undertake a task Holmes could have performed for himself, but it is a lot more dangerous than looking up something or reading something aloud. Holmes was at the roadside first; why didn’t he block the horse’s path and grab the reins?

Violet Smith, and not her mother, was cited as Ralph Smith’s next-of-kin. What was the probate law in 1895? Was a niece more closely related than a sister-in-law?

Watson was quite specific in detailing the justice that was meted out to Woodley and Williamson. Why didn’t he keep a record of Carruthers’ fate? What testimony could Holmes have provided that mitigated Carruthers’ jail term? And what became of Carruthers’ 10-year-old daughter while her father was in jail?

Discover more about The Solitary Cyclist and read the canon.