The Yellow Face – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Mon, 5 Dec 1994

  • How did Holmes maintain his muscularity?
  • Was Munro’s muscularity general or just in his jaw?
  • Does a ramble in the Park represent exercise?
  • Why did both Munros feel half choked and need air?
  • Are “not a difference” and “nervous, high strung” consistent?
  • What individuality shows up in shoelaces?
  • Was total muscularity confirmed?
  • Is the right-handed deduction correct?
  • Does pleasure try a man’s nerves more than work?
  • How did Effie come to know Hebron?
  • Why was there less work for Munro in the summer?
  • What does summer have to do with a springtime case?
  • What was the origin of the cottage furnishings?
  • Did Effie take the candle with her?
  • Does a heavy sleeper keep his watch under his pillow?
  • Was Effie an incompetent liar?
  • Did Effie deliberately time her visits so as to be caught?
  • Was there a curious incident of the cat in the kitchen?
  • If no letters, how did Effie hear from the nurse?
  • Did Holmes’s theory cover the child or the father?
  • Would race be shown on a death certificate?
  • Would a blackmailer demand a photograph?
  • Why did Holmes and Watson go unarmed against blackmailers?
  • Why was the cottage door unclosed?
  • Why was the child in disguise just then?
  • How did Effie support her child and the nurse?
  • Was England more tolerant than America?
  • Was Munro the type to take ten minutes to ponder?
  • Where did Munro spend the night?
  • Is “livid chalky white” the same as “livid yellow”?
  • Why didn’t Munro arrive before 3 p.m.

Chris Redmond – Fri, 15 Mar 1996

Most Sherlock Holmes stories, whatever else they may be, are exciting. The same cannot really be said of The Yellow Face. Is the author successful in using boredom and the commonplace as a background for Sherlock Holmes’s extraordinary sparkle?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 6 Jun 1997

As others have noted, YELL is an odd story. But I enjoy much of it! Some things to consider:

  • In the introduction to YELL Watson says that Holmes’ versatility and energy were admirable when the detective was at his wit’s end. What are some other examples of this in the canon? Does NORW qualify, where Holmes has that low point at breakfast followed by his writhing merriment when he sees the bogus fingerprint?
  • Co-incidentally, Violet Hunter was repeatedly at her “wit’s end.” She was a versatile and energetic person, too. Maybe this is another reason why Watson paired them in his mind.
  • I’m always enchanted by the page boy. We’ll let him be “Billy,” though this is a story that doesn’t specifically name him. Who else but this beautifully-drawn character could drop the word “sir” 8 times in a mere 12 lines (Doubleday edition)? And he does it so effortlessly!
  • Isn’t it possible that John Hebron is of mixed race, not 100 percent black? Isn’t that why he has “unmistakable signs upon his features of his African descent?” If this is possible, then his daughter is no more than one-quarter black, despite her dark skin.
  • We’re assured that except for an occasional encounter with cocaine, Sherlock Holmes has no vices. Is that really true?
  • YELL makes me think of Elton John. Isn’t he originally from Pinner, and doesn’t he now make his home in Atlanta?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 21 Aug 1998

Grant Munro was a happy, prosperous man. He had a good income, a nice villa in the country, and a loving devoted wife whom he loved dearly in return. Then, suddenly, his world seems to come crashing about his ears, and he found himself discussing his most private affairs with two complete strangers — Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson.

It all started when his wife asked for £100. He was startled, for that was quite a sum of money in those days. When he asked what it was for, his wife Effie was evasive and said she couldn’t tell him right then. But it was her money, even though she had given it all over to him when they married, and so he gave her the £100. Soon after, a vacant cottage across the street from his villa was occupied, and when he went over to offer neighbourly assistance he was rudely rebuffed.

That very night, he told his wife that the cottage was occupied. At three in the morning, he awakened to find his wife stealthily getting dressed. He pretended to be asleep and heard her go out the front door. When she returned some twenty minutes later, Grant Munro gave up all pretence of being asleep and asked her where she had gone. And for the first time in their married life, Effie lied to him.

The next day Grant Munro went for a walk to clear his thoughts. As he passed by the cottage he saw a strange, rigid, yellow face peering out at him from an upstairs window. And who should walk out of the cottage but Effie. It was only after she pleaded with him that he agreed not to go into the cottage to see who was there, but he made her promise she wouldn’t visit the cottage again. But he kept seeing the strange yellow face in the same window, and Effie did go back to the cottage again. This time he rushed into the cottage, but found it deserted. Her breach of faith caused him to leave her, and he found himself with Holmes and Watson, spilling out his unhappy story.

Holmes and Watson felt that blackmail was involved. But was there? Who or what was the creature in the window, and why was Effie Munro apparently shielding it? In a few minutes the Maître de Chasse will post his Comments and Questions, and send the Hounds into the cottage to sniff out the truth of the matter.

If those Hounds who use the Doubleday Doran version of the Canon are confused as to how this Adventure gets its name, it is understandable. In the Doubleday text, Grant Munro at first describes the face he sees at the cottage window as “…of a livid, chalky white.” Both the Strand and the Annotated give that as “…of a livid dead yellow.”  Later in the Adventure Munro alludes to the face as “…that yellow livid face,” with which the texts of the Strand and Annotated agree. Still further on, the Doubleday Doran has Munro speaking of an “unusual colour,” while the other two texts have it as “unnatural colour.” By the way, the word “livid” refers to any marked discoloration of the skin. It is derived from a Latin word which means, “to have a bluish color.”

But for the Annotated fans, both the Strand and the Doubleday Doran edition have Watson referring to MUSG as an example of a case in which Holmes erred. The Annotated cites SECO as the example. In any event, could it be said that either MUSG or SECO could be viewed as a case in which Holmes “…erred [but] the truth was still discovered?”

There are some curious things about Effie Munro. When she decided to sneak out of her conjugal bedroom to visit the creature in the cottage, she lit a candle. Why did she do that if she wanted her husband to remain asleep? She showed her husband a copy of her late husband’s death certificate, but were death certificates required in Atlanta in the early 1880’s? Why would she have a copy of the certificate if she was at all inclined to remarry, since no English suitor would have known she had been married before? And if Effie loved “Jack” as much as she professed and he believed, why did she carry a portrait of her first husband around in a locket, right up to the moment her little secret was discovered?

It seems odd that Effie would have gone to the expense of bringing her daughter and the nurse over from America. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper for her to concoct some excuse about a sick relative and go to America instead? Wouldn’t the risk of someone discovering her secret have been minimized by that approach? And did she expect to keep the little girl cooped up inside the cottage forever?

Of course, Grant Munro does some odd things, too. Keeping one’s watch under one’s pillow while sleeping is a good way to get both a stiff neck and a broken watch. When he entered the suddenly-vacated cottage he saw a full-length portrait of his wife, which he had requested only three months earlier, on the mantel. Why didn’t he notice its absence from his own house where, surely, it would have been displayed prominently?

Discover more about The Yellow Face and read the canon.