The Veiled Lodger – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 5 Aug 1994

  • At what ages and in which years was Holmes active?
  • Why did Holmes retire so early?
  • Which six years did Watson miss?
  • What did Watson do after Holmes retired?
  • Where were the case records kept?
  • Were family honor and famous forebears limited by social class?
  • If the miscreant was known, why was the warning not given personally?
  • Do any other Cases have elements as disparate as a politician, lighthouse, and trained cormorant?
  • Didn’t Watson usually change identification data?
  • Where did Watson reside in 1896?
  • Did Watson imitate Dickens with “Merrilow”?
  • Does today’s anti-smoking campaign have roots as far back as 1896?
  • How was milk dispensed in those years?
  • Is “these times” a chronic problem for landladies or an economic period?
  • Can a person who is wasting away also be described as full and voluptuous?
  • Does Abbas Parvas seem like an English place name?
  • Was Eugenia to pay for Holmes’ services?
  • Is 3 p.m. considered early afternoon?
  • When do lions roar?
  • Would a lion’s paw crack a skull?
  • How do felines attack their prey?
  • What had Allahabad to do with this case?
  • Is Montrachet appropriate for a pick-up lunch?
  • Is the broken armchair appropriate?
  • Why was the husband’s photo kept?
  • With raw meat available, was human killing likely?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 27 Oct 1995

The introduction to this tale identifies it as “one of the most terrible human tragedies.” Is it a tragedy in the classical sense, involving a fall from greatness that evokes pity and terror, or is it merely a sad story? And aren’t most of Holmes’ cases tragedies in the looser sense?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 17 Apr 1998

Hur-REE! Hur-REE! Hur-REE! Step right up to the Big Top for our next story, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger. There’s a clown, a strong man, and a wild animal, but watch out for the ringmaster’s whip! My questions and comments for this tale:

  • Why did Holmes want to have a witness present during his meeting with Mrs. Ronder?
  • “No words can describe the framework of a face when the face itself is gone.” Her chin was fine, her mouth intact, and her eyes were still “beautiful.” With so much of her face unscathed, were the actual injuries really that horrible?
  • Of all the angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim — why was Gabriel specifically singled out for comparison to Leonardo?
  • How did Victorians dispose of known hazardous materials? And should Holmes and Watson take any special precautions handling and sniffing at that blue bottle?
  • Leonardo drowned at Margate presumably while swimming near the town’s fine beach. Of interest to the Hounds, who discussed bathing cots and bathing machines a few days ago, Margate was where Benjamin Beale lived. He, of course, was the modest Quaker man who invented the bathing machine in 1753. But Margate is notable for another Sherlockian sort of reason. It was from Margate that Elizabeth Stuart embarked for the continent in 1613, after her marriage to Frederick V…the King of Bohemia!

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 18 Jun 1999

Mrs. Merrilow, a landlady, was concerned about her mysterious boarder. At night Mrs. Merrilow would hear her lodger, Eugenia Ronder, crying aloud in her sleep — terrible cries of “Murder!” and “Coward!”. Mrs. Merrilow counseled Mrs. Ronder that the clergy and the police were available to remedy whatever was bothering her, but Mrs. Ronder opted to talk with Sherlock Holmes instead. Watson mentions a case involving a politician, a lighthouse, and a trained cormorant, but this case features a circus, a lion, and a strongman.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will loose the Hounds on the trail of a grotesque crime that Holmes had been unable to solve when it occurred. The trail is old and cold, and the murder weapon may lie at the bottom of a deep, green pool formed in an abandoned chalk pit. The Pack will not have an easy time unraveling the mixed scents in this hunt, for more than one villain is involved.

The full title of this story is The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger, but it’s not really an “adventure” in the sense of the word that is most often used. It’s an exercise, in hindsight, involving a crime that Holmes was unable to solve when it occurred. In that respect, the plot resembles SIXN, in which Holmes also was consulted but at the time was unable to shed light on the missing Black Pearl of the Borgias. VEIL is also another instance of Holmes “commuting a felony” by shrugging off a woman’s confession of complicity in cold-blooded murder. The question boils down to this: Was Holmes justified, in this case, or any of the others, in concealing the true solution of a crime on the basis of an ethical judgment that disregards the fact that the law was broken?

VEIL is one of three stories in the Canon that have an undercurrent of adultery, the other two being CARD and RETI. In the latter cases, both the wife and her lover are slain by the aggrieved husband. The husbands in CARD and RETI, Jim Browner and Josiah Amberley, were apprehended within days and faced the penalties prescribed by law immediately. But in VEIL, the husband — a real rotter by all accounts — was murdered, and the wife and illicit lover lived on for a number of years. Eugenia Ronder was terribly disfigured but survived, and it might be said that Leonardo got off scot-free, although we don’t know whether his conscience troubled him. Is there any significance in VEIL’s deviation from the earlier “norm” set by CARD and RETI? Can all three of these stories, as well as ABBE (published in 1904), DEVI (1910), and HOUN (1902), be linked to Doyle’s advocacy for liberalization of England’s divorce laws?

Watson begins the narrative by tantalizing us with a reference to yet another unchronicled case, that of “the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant.” In mentioning this case, Watson deplores attempts to obtain his or Holmes’ records of it, and threatens to make the facts known to the public if any further attempts are made. “There is at least one reader who will understand,” he writes. Implicit in that remark is a clue that more than one person was involved. But how could Watson be sure that the person to whom his threat was directed would actually read those words? Was that person an editor who would handle his manuscript — or a literary agent, may we imagine?

Mrs. Ronder’s landlady, Mrs. Merrilow (not “Merridew of abominable memory” (EMPT) is described as “buxom,” and when she exits 221B her gait is described as “waddling.” To me, this implies more than “buxom;” it indicates obesity. Is this stereotypical description actually a portrait of a typical landlady of the time? Did Mrs. Hudson look like this?

Holmes was consulted by young Edmunds, of the Berkshire Constabulary, at the time of the incident but was unable to shed any light on it; although he was troubled by some inconsistencies that were not considered at the time of the inquest. Young Edmunds, he told Watson, subsequently was sent to Allahabad. Allahabad is a city in southern Uttar Pradesh, in India. Apparently, Edmunds didn’t decide to go to Allahabad — he was “sent.” Who might have sent him there, and why?

Discover more about The Veiled Lodger and read the canon.