The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor





The Lord St. Simon marriage, and its curious termination, have

long ceased to be a subject of interest in those exalted circles

in which the unfortunate bridegroom moves. Fresh scandals have

eclipsed it, and their more piquant details have drawn the

gossips away from this four-year-old drama. As I have reason to

believe, however, that the full facts have never been revealed to

the general public, and as my friend Sherlock Holmes had a

considerable share in clearing the matter up, I feel that no

memoir of him would be complete without some little sketch of

this remarkable episode.



It was a few weeks before my own marriage, during the days when I

was still sharing rooms with Holmes in Baker Street, that he came

home from an afternoon stroll to find a letter on the table

waiting for him. I had remained indoors all day, for the weather

had taken a sudden turn to rain, with high autumnal winds, and

the Jezail bullet which I had brought back in one of my limbs as

a relic of my Afghan campaign throbbed with dull persistence.

With my body in one easy-chair and my legs upon another, I had

surrounded myself with a cloud of newspapers until at last,

saturated with the news of the day, I tossed them all aside and

lay listless, watching the huge crest and monogram upon the

envelope upon the table and wondering lazily who my friend's

noble correspondent could be.



"Here is a very fashionable epistle," I remarked as he entered.

"Your morning letters, if I remember right, were from a

fish-monger and a tide-waiter."



"Yes, my correspondence has certainly the charm of variety," he

answered, smiling, "and the humbler are usually the more

interesting. This looks like one of those unwelcome social

summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie."



He broke the seal and glanced over the contents.



"Oh, come, it may prove to be something of interest, after all."



"Not social, then?"



"No, distinctly professional."



"And from a noble client?"



"One of the highest in England."



"My dear fellow, I congratulate you."



"I assure you, Watson, without affectation, that the status of my

client is a matter of less moment to me than the interest of his

case. It is just possible, however, that that also may not be

wanting in this new investigation. You have been reading the

papers diligently of late, have you not?"



"It looks like it," said I ruefully, pointing to a huge bundle in

the corner. "I have had nothing else to do."



"It is fortunate, for you will perhaps be able to post me up. I

read nothing except the criminal news and the agony column. The

latter is always instructive. But if you have followed recent

events so closely you must have read about Lord St. Simon and his

wedding?"



"Oh, yes, with the deepest interest."



"That is well. The letter which I hold in my hand is from Lord

St. Simon. I will read it to you, and in return you must turn

over these papers and let me have whatever bears upon the matter.

This is what he says:



"'MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:--Lord Backwater tells me that I

may place implicit reliance upon your judgment and discretion. I

have determined, therefore, to call upon you and to consult you

in reference to the very painful event which has occurred in

connection with my wedding. Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is

acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no

objection to your co-operation, and that he even thinks that

it might be of some assistance. I will call at four o'clock in

the afternoon, and, should you have any other engagement at that

time, I hope that you will postpone it, as this matter is of

paramount importance. Yours faithfully, ST. SIMON.'



"It is dated from Grosvenor Mansions, written with a quill pen,

and the noble lord has had the misfortune to get a smear of ink

upon the outer side of his right little finger," remarked Holmes

as he folded up the epistle.



"He says four o'clock. It is three now. He will be here in an

hour."



"Then I have just time, with your assistance, to get clear upon

the subject. Turn over those papers and arrange the extracts in

their order of time, while I take a glance as to who our client

is." He picked a red-covered volume from a line of books of

reference beside the mantelpiece. "Here he is," said he, sitting

down and flattening it out upon his knee. "'Lord Robert Walsingham

de Vere St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral.' Hum! 'Arms:

Azure, three caltrops in chief over a fess sable. Born in 1846.'

He's forty-one years of age, which is mature for marriage. Was

Under-Secretary for the colonies in a late administration. The

Duke, his father, was at one time Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

They inherit Plantagenet blood by direct descent, and Tudor on

the distaff side. Ha! Well, there is nothing very instructive in

all this. I think that I must turn to you Watson, for something

more solid."



"I have very little difficulty in finding what I want," said I,

"for the facts are quite recent, and the matter struck me as

remarkable. I feared to refer them to you, however, as I knew

that you had an inquiry on hand and that you disliked the

intrusion of other matters."



"Oh, you mean the little problem of the Grosvenor Square

furniture van. That is quite cleared up now--though, indeed, it

was obvious from the first. Pray give me the results of your

newspaper selections."



"Here is the first notice which I can find. It is in the personal

column of the Morning Post, and dates, as you see, some weeks

back: 'A marriage has been arranged,' it says, 'and will, if

rumour is correct, very shortly take place, between Lord Robert

St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral, and Miss Hatty

Doran, the only daughter of Aloysius Doran. Esq., of San

Francisco, Cal., U.S.A.' That is all."



"Terse and to the point," remarked Holmes, stretching his long,

thin legs towards the fire.



"There was a paragraph amplifying this in one of the society

papers of the same week. Ah, here it is: 'There will soon be a

call for protection in the marriage market, for the present

free-trade principle appears to tell heavily against our home

product. One by one the management of the noble houses of Great

Britain is passing into the hands of our fair cousins from across

the Atlantic. An important addition has been made during the last

week to the list of the prizes which have been borne away by

these charming invaders. Lord St. Simon, who has shown himself

for over twenty years proof against the little god's arrows, has

now definitely announced his approaching marriage with Miss Hatty

Doran, the fascinating daughter of a California millionaire. Miss

Doran, whose graceful figure and striking face attracted much

attention at the Westbury House festivities, is an only child,

and it is currently reported that her dowry will run to

considerably over the six figures, with expectancies for the

future. As it is an open secret that the Duke of Balmoral has

been compelled to sell his pictures within the last few years,

and as Lord St. Simon has no property of his own save the small

estate of Birchmoor, it is obvious that the Californian heiress

is not the only gainer by an alliance which will enable her to

make the easy and common transition from a Republican lady to a

British peeress.'"



"Anything else?" asked Holmes, yawning.



"Oh, yes; plenty. Then there is another note in the Morning Post

to say that the marriage would be an absolutely quiet one, that it

would be at St. George's, Hanover Square, that only half a dozen

intimate friends would be invited, and that the party would

return to the furnished house at Lancaster Gate which has been

taken by Mr. Aloysius Doran. Two days later--that is, on

Wednesday last--there is a curt announcement that the wedding had

taken place, and that the honeymoon would be passed at Lord

Backwater's place, near Petersfield. Those are all the notices

which appeared before the disappearance of the bride."



"Before the what?" asked Holmes with a start.



"The vanishing of the lady."



"When did she vanish, then?"



"At the wedding breakfast."



"Indeed. This is more interesting than it promised to be; quite

dramatic, in fact."



"Yes; it struck me as being a little out of the common."



"They often vanish before the ceremony, and occasionally during

the honeymoon; but I cannot call to mind anything quite so prompt

as this. Pray let me have the details."



"I warn you that they are very incomplete."



"Perhaps we may make them less so."



"Such as they are, they are set forth in a single article of a

morning paper of yesterday, which I will read to you. It is

headed, 'Singular Occurrence at a Fashionable Wedding':



"'The family of Lord Robert St. Simon has been thrown into the

greatest consternation by the strange and painful episodes which

have taken place in connection with his wedding. The ceremony, as

shortly announced in the papers of yesterday, occurred on the

previous morning; but it is only now that it has been possible to

confirm the strange rumours which have been so persistently

floating about. In spite of the attempts of the friends to hush

the matter up, so much public attention has now been drawn to it

that no good purpose can be served by affecting to disregard what

is a common subject for conversation.



"'The ceremony, which was performed at St. George's, Hanover

Square, was a very quiet one, no one being present save the

father of the bride, Mr. Aloysius Doran, the Duchess of Balmoral,

Lord Backwater, Lord Eustace and Lady Clara St. Simon (the

younger brother and sister of the bridegroom), and Lady Alicia

Whittington. The whole party proceeded afterwards to the house of

Mr. Aloysius Doran, at Lancaster Gate, where breakfast had been

prepared. It appears that some little trouble was caused by a

woman, whose name has not been ascertained, who endeavoured to

force her way into the house after the bridal party, alleging

that she had some claim upon Lord St. Simon. It was only after a

painful and prolonged scene that she was ejected by the butler

and the footman. The bride, who had fortunately entered the house

before this unpleasant interruption, had sat down to breakfast

with the rest, when she complained of a sudden indisposition and

retired to her room. Her prolonged absence having caused some

comment, her father followed her, but learned from her maid that

she had only come up to her chamber for an instant, caught up an

ulster and bonnet, and hurried down to the passage. One of the

footmen declared that he had seen a lady leave the house thus

apparelled, but had refused to credit that it was his mistress,

believing her to be with the company. On ascertaining that his

daughter had disappeared, Mr. Aloysius Doran, in conjunction with

the bridegroom, instantly put themselves in communication with

the police, and very energetic inquiries are being made, which

will probably result in a speedy clearing up of this very

singular business. Up to a late hour last night, however, nothing

had transpired as to the whereabouts of the missing lady. There

are rumours of foul play in the matter, and it is said that the

police have caused the arrest of the woman who had caused the

original disturbance, in the belief that, from jealousy or some

other motive, she may have been concerned in the strange

disappearance of the bride.'"



"And is that all?"



"Only one little item in another of the morning papers, but it is

a suggestive one."



"And it is--"



"That Miss Flora Millar, the lady who had caused the disturbance,

has actually been arrested. It appears that she was formerly a

danseuse at the Allegro, and that she has known the bridegroom

for some years. There are no further particulars, and the whole

case is in your hands now--so far as it has been set forth in the

public press."



"And an exceedingly interesting case it appears to be. I would

not have missed it for worlds. But there is a ring at the bell,

Watson, and as the clock makes it a few minutes after four, I

have no doubt that this will prove to be our noble client. Do not

dream of going, Watson, for I very much prefer having a witness,

if only as a check to my own memory."



"Lord Robert St. Simon," announced our page-boy, throwing open

the door. A gentleman entered, with a pleasant, cultured face,

high-nosed and pale, with something perhaps of petulance about

the mouth, and with the steady, well-opened eye of a man whose

pleasant lot it had ever been to command and to be obeyed. His

manner was brisk, and yet his general appearance gave an undue

impression of age, for he had a slight forward stoop and a little

bend of the knees as he walked. His hair, too, as he swept off

his very curly-brimmed hat, was grizzled round the edges and thin

upon the top. As to his dress, it was careful to the verge of

foppishness, with high collar, black frock-coat, white waistcoat,

yellow gloves, patent-leather shoes, and light-coloured gaiters.

He advanced slowly into the room, turning his head from left to

right, and swinging in his right hand the cord which held his

golden eyeglasses.



"Good-day, Lord St. Simon," said Holmes, rising and bowing. "Pray

take the basket-chair. This is my friend and colleague, Dr.

Watson. Draw up a little to the fire, and we will talk this

matter over."



"A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine,

Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you

have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir,

though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of

society."



"No, I am descending."



"I beg pardon."



"My last client of the sort was a king."



"Oh, really! I had no idea. And which king?"



"The King of Scandinavia."



"What! Had he lost his wife?"



"You can understand," said Holmes suavely, "that I extend to the

affairs of my other clients the same secrecy which I promise to

you in yours."



"Of course! Very right! very right! I'm sure I beg pardon. As to

my own case, I am ready to give you any information which may

assist you in forming an opinion."



"Thank you. I have already learned all that is in the public

prints, nothing more. I presume that I may take it as correct--

this article, for example, as to the disappearance of the bride."



Lord St. Simon glanced over it. "Yes, it is correct, as far as it

goes."



"But it needs a great deal of supplementing before anyone could

offer an opinion. I think that I may arrive at my facts most

directly by questioning you."



"Pray do so."



"When did you first meet Miss Hatty Doran?"



"In San Francisco, a year ago."



"You were travelling in the States?"



"Yes."



"Did you become engaged then?"



"No."



"But you were on a friendly footing?"



"I was amused by her society, and she could see that I was

amused."



"Her father is very rich?"



"He is said to be the richest man on the Pacific slope."



"And how did he make his money?"



"In mining. He had nothing a few years ago. Then he struck gold,

invested it, and came up by leaps and bounds."



"Now, what is your own impression as to the young lady's--your

wife's character?"



The nobleman swung his glasses a little faster and stared down

into the fire. "You see, Mr. Holmes," said he, "my wife was

twenty before her father became a rich man. During that time she

ran free in a mining camp and wandered through woods or

mountains, so that her education has come from Nature rather than

from the schoolmaster. She is what we call in England a tomboy,

with a strong nature, wild and free, unfettered by any sort of

traditions. She is impetuous--volcanic, I was about to say. She

is swift in making up her mind and fearless in carrying out her

resolutions. On the other hand, I would not have given her the

name which I have the honour to bear"--he gave a little stately

cough--"had not I thought her to be at bottom a noble woman. I

believe that she is capable of heroic self-sacrifice and that

anything dishonourable would be repugnant to her."



"Have you her photograph?"



"I brought this with me." He opened a locket and showed us the

full face of a very lovely woman. It was not a photograph but an

ivory miniature, and the artist had brought out the full effect

of the lustrous black hair, the large dark eyes, and the

exquisite mouth. Holmes gazed long and earnestly at it. Then he

closed the locket and handed it back to Lord St. Simon.



"The young lady came to London, then, and you renewed your

acquaintance?"



"Yes, her father brought her over for this last London season. I

met her several times, became engaged to her, and have now

married her."



"She brought, I understand, a considerable dowry?"



"A fair dowry. Not more than is usual in my family."



"And this, of course, remains to you, since the marriage is a

fait accompli?"



"I really have made no inquiries on the subject."



"Very naturally not. Did you see Miss Doran on the day before the

wedding?"



"Yes."



"Was she in good spirits?"



"Never better. She kept talking of what we should do in our

future lives."



"Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the morning of the

wedding?"



"She was as bright as possible--at least until after the

ceremony."



"And did you observe any change in her then?"



"Well, to tell the truth, I saw then the first signs that I had

ever seen that her temper was just a little sharp. The incident

however, was too trivial to relate and can have no possible

bearing upon the case."



"Pray let us have it, for all that."



"Oh, it is childish. She dropped her bouquet as we went towards

the vestry. She was passing the front pew at the time, and it

fell over into the pew. There was a moment's delay, but the

gentleman in the pew handed it up to her again, and it did not

appear to be the worse for the fall. Yet when I spoke to her of

the matter, she answered me abruptly; and in the carriage, on our

way home, she seemed absurdly agitated over this trifling cause."



"Indeed! You say that there was a gentleman in the pew. Some of

the general public were present, then?"



"Oh, yes. It is impossible to exclude them when the church is

open."



"This gentleman was not one of your wife's friends?"



"No, no; I call him a gentleman by courtesy, but he was quite a

common-looking person. I hardly noticed his appearance. But

really I think that we are wandering rather far from the point."



"Lady St. Simon, then, returned from the wedding in a less

cheerful frame of mind than she had gone to it. What did she do

on re-entering her father's house?"



"I saw her in conversation with her maid."



"And who is her maid?"



"Alice is her name. She is an American and came from California

with her."



"A confidential servant?"



"A little too much so. It seemed to me that her mistress allowed

her to take great liberties. Still, of course, in America they

look upon these things in a different way."



"How long did she speak to this Alice?"



"Oh, a few minutes. I had something else to think of."



"You did not overhear what they said?"



"Lady St. Simon said something about 'jumping a claim.' She was

accustomed to use slang of the kind. I have no idea what she

meant."



"American slang is very expressive sometimes. And what did your

wife do when she finished speaking to her maid?"



"She walked into the breakfast-room."



"On your arm?"



"No, alone. She was very independent in little matters like that.

Then, after we had sat down for ten minutes or so, she rose

hurriedly, muttered some words of apology, and left the room. She

never came back."



"But this maid, Alice, as I understand, deposes that she went to

her room, covered her bride's dress with a long ulster, put on a

bonnet, and went out."



"Quite so. And she was afterwards seen walking into Hyde Park in

company with Flora Millar, a woman who is now in custody, and who

had already made a disturbance at Mr. Doran's house that

morning."



"Ah, yes. I should like a few particulars as to this young lady,

and your relations to her."



Lord St. Simon shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows.

"We have been on a friendly footing for some years--I may say on

a very friendly footing. She used to be at the Allegro. I have

not treated her ungenerously, and she had no just cause of

complaint against me, but you know what women are, Mr. Holmes.

Flora was a dear little thing, but exceedingly hot-headed and

devotedly attached to me. She wrote me dreadful letters when she

heard that I was about to be married, and, to tell the truth, the

reason why I had the marriage celebrated so quietly was that I

feared lest there might be a scandal in the church. She came to

Mr. Doran's door just after we returned, and she endeavoured to

push her way in, uttering very abusive expressions towards my

wife, and even threatening her, but I had foreseen the

possibility of something of the sort, and I had two police

fellows there in private clothes, who soon pushed her out again.

She was quiet when she saw that there was no good in making a

row."



"Did your wife hear all this?"



"No, thank goodness, she did not."



"And she was seen walking with this very woman afterwards?"



"Yes. That is what Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, looks upon as

so serious. It is thought that Flora decoyed my wife out and laid

some terrible trap for her."



"Well, it is a possible supposition."



"You think so, too?"



"I did not say a probable one. But you do not yourself look upon

this as likely?"



"I do not think Flora would hurt a fly."



"Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters. Pray

what is your own theory as to what took place?"



"Well, really, I came to seek a theory, not to propound one. I

have given you all the facts. Since you ask me, however, I may

say that it has occurred to me as possible that the excitement of

this affair, the consciousness that she had made so immense a

social stride, had the effect of causing some little nervous

disturbance in my wife."



"In short, that she had become suddenly deranged?"



"Well, really, when I consider that she has turned her back--I

will not say upon me, but upon so much that many have aspired to

without success--I can hardly explain it in any other fashion."



"Well, certainly that is also a conceivable hypothesis," said

Holmes, smiling. "And now, Lord St. Simon, I think that I have

nearly all my data. May I ask whether you were seated at the

breakfast-table so that you could see out of the window?"



"We could see the other side of the road and the Park."



"Quite so. Then I do not think that I need to detain you longer.

I shall communicate with you."



"Should you be fortunate enough to solve this problem," said our

client, rising.



"I have solved it."



"Eh? What was that?"



"I say that I have solved it."



"Where, then, is my wife?"



"That is a detail which I shall speedily supply."



Lord St. Simon shook his head. "I am afraid that it will take

wiser heads than yours or mine," he remarked, and bowing in a

stately, old-fashioned manner he departed.



"It is very good of Lord St. Simon to honour my head by putting

it on a level with his own," said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. "I

think that I shall have a whisky and soda and a cigar after all

this cross-questioning. I had formed my conclusions as to the

case before our client came into the room."



"My dear Holmes!"



"I have notes of several similar cases, though none, as I

remarked before, which were quite as prompt. My whole examination

served to turn my conjecture into a certainty. Circumstantial

evidence is occasionally very convincing, as when you find a

trout in the milk, to quote Thoreau's example."



"But I have heard all that you have heard."



"Without, however, the knowledge of pre-existing cases which

serves me so well. There was a parallel instance in Aberdeen some

years back, and something on very much the same lines at Munich

the year after the Franco-Prussian War. It is one of these

cases--but, hullo, here is Lestrade! Good-afternoon, Lestrade!

You will find an extra tumbler upon the sideboard, and there are

cigars in the box."



The official detective was attired in a pea-jacket and cravat,

which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance, and he carried a

black canvas bag in his hand. With a short greeting he seated

himself and lit the cigar which had been offered to him.



"What's up, then?" asked Holmes with a twinkle in his eye. "You

look dissatisfied."



"And I feel dissatisfied. It is this infernal St. Simon marriage

case. I can make neither head nor tail of the business."



"Really! You surprise me."



"Who ever heard of such a mixed affair? Every clue seems to slip

through my fingers. I have been at work upon it all day."



"And very wet it seems to have made you," said Holmes laying his

hand upon the arm of the pea-jacket.



"Yes, I have been dragging the Serpentine."



"In heaven's name, what for?"



"In search of the body of Lady St. Simon."



Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.



"Have you dragged the basin of Trafalgar Square fountain?" he

asked.



"Why? What do you mean?"



"Because you have just as good a chance of finding this lady in

the one as in the other."



Lestrade shot an angry glance at my companion. "I suppose you

know all about it," he snarled.



"Well, I have only just heard the facts, but my mind is made up."



"Oh, indeed! Then you think that the Serpentine plays no part in

the matter?"



"I think it very unlikely."



"Then perhaps you will kindly explain how it is that we found

this in it?" He opened his bag as he spoke, and tumbled onto the

floor a wedding-dress of watered silk, a pair of white satin

shoes and a bride's wreath and veil, all discoloured and soaked

in water. "There," said he, putting a new wedding-ring upon the

top of the pile. "There is a little nut for you to crack, Master

Holmes."



"Oh, indeed!" said my friend, blowing blue rings into the air.

"You dragged them from the Serpentine?"



"No. They were found floating near the margin by a park-keeper.

They have been identified as her clothes, and it seemed to me

that if the clothes were there the body would not be far off."



"By the same brilliant reasoning, every man's body is to be found

in the neighbourhood of his wardrobe. And pray what did you hope

to arrive at through this?"



"At some evidence implicating Flora Millar in the disappearance."



"I am afraid that you will find it difficult."



"Are you, indeed, now?" cried Lestrade with some bitterness. "I

am afraid, Holmes, that you are not very practical with your

deductions and your inferences. You have made two blunders in as

many minutes. This dress does implicate Miss Flora Millar."



"And how?"



"In the dress is a pocket. In the pocket is a card-case. In the

card-case is a note. And here is the very note." He slapped it

down upon the table in front of him. "Listen to this: 'You will

see me when all is ready. Come at once. F.H.M.' Now my theory all

along has been that Lady St. Simon was decoyed away by Flora

Millar, and that she, with confederates, no doubt, was

responsible for her disappearance. Here, signed with her

initials, is the very note which was no doubt quietly slipped

into her hand at the door and which lured her within their

reach."



"Very good, Lestrade," said Holmes, laughing. "You really are

very fine indeed. Let me see it." He took up the paper in a

listless way, but his attention instantly became riveted, and he

gave a little cry of satisfaction. "This is indeed important,"

said he.



"Ha! you find it so?"



"Extremely so. I congratulate you warmly."



Lestrade rose in his triumph and bent his head to look. "Why," he

shrieked, "you're looking at the wrong side!"



"On the contrary, this is the right side."



"The right side? You're mad! Here is the note written in pencil

over here."



"And over here is what appears to be the fragment of a hotel

bill, which interests me deeply."



"There's nothing in it. I looked at it before," said Lestrade.

"'Oct. 4th, rooms 8s., breakfast 2s. 6d., cocktail 1s., lunch 2s.

6d., glass sherry, 8d.' I see nothing in that."



"Very likely not. It is most important, all the same. As to the

note, it is important also, or at least the initials are, so I

congratulate you again."



"I've wasted time enough," said Lestrade, rising. "I believe in

hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine theories.

Good-day, Mr. Holmes, and we shall see which gets to the bottom

of the matter first." He gathered up the garments, thrust them

into the bag, and made for the door.



"Just one hint to you, Lestrade," drawled Holmes before his rival

vanished; "I will tell you the true solution of the matter. Lady

St. Simon is a myth. There is not, and there never has been, any

such person."



Lestrade looked sadly at my companion. Then he turned to me,

tapped his forehead three times, shook his head solemnly, and

hurried away.



He had hardly shut the door behind him when Holmes rose to put on

his overcoat. "There is something in what the fellow says about

outdoor work," he remarked, "so I think, Watson, that I must

leave you to your papers for a little."



It was after five o'clock when Sherlock Holmes left me, but I had

no time to be lonely, for within an hour there arrived a

confectioner's man with a very large flat box. This he unpacked

with the help of a youth whom he had brought with him, and

presently, to my very great astonishment, a quite epicurean

little cold supper began to be laid out upon our humble

lodging-house mahogany. There were a couple of brace of cold

woodcock, a pheasant, a pâté de foie gras pie with a group of

ancient and cobwebby bottles. Having laid out all these luxuries,

my two visitors vanished away, like the genii of the Arabian

Nights, with no explanation save that the things had been paid

for and were ordered to this address.



Just before nine o'clock Sherlock Holmes stepped briskly into the

room. His features were gravely set, but there was a light in his

eye which made me think that he had not been disappointed in his

conclusions.



"They have laid the supper, then," he said, rubbing his hands.



"You seem to expect company. They have laid for five."



"Yes, I fancy we may have some company dropping in," said he. "I

am surprised that Lord St. Simon has not already arrived. Ha! I

fancy that I hear his step now upon the stairs."



It was indeed our visitor of the afternoon who came bustling in,

dangling his glasses more vigorously than ever, and with a very

perturbed expression upon his aristocratic features.



"My messenger reached you, then?" asked Holmes.



"Yes, and I confess that the contents startled me beyond measure.

Have you good authority for what you say?"



"The best possible."



Lord St. Simon sank into a chair and passed his hand over his

forehead.



"What will the Duke say," he murmured, "when he hears that one of

the family has been subjected to such humiliation?"



"It is the purest accident. I cannot allow that there is any

humiliation."



"Ah, you look on these things from another standpoint."



"I fail to see that anyone is to blame. I can hardly see how the

lady could have acted otherwise, though her abrupt method of

doing it was undoubtedly to be regretted. Having no mother, she

had no one to advise her at such a crisis."



"It was a slight, sir, a public slight," said Lord St. Simon,

tapping his fingers upon the table.



"You must make allowance for this poor girl, placed in so

unprecedented a position."



"I will make no allowance. I am very angry indeed, and I have

been shamefully used."



"I think that I heard a ring," said Holmes. "Yes, there are steps

on the landing. If I cannot persuade you to take a lenient view

of the matter, Lord St. Simon, I have brought an advocate here

who may be more successful." He opened the door and ushered in a

lady and gentleman. "Lord St. Simon," said he "allow me to

introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Francis Hay Moulton. The lady, I

think, you have already met."



At the sight of these newcomers our client had sprung from his

seat and stood very erect, with his eyes cast down and his hand

thrust into the breast of his frock-coat, a picture of offended

dignity. The lady had taken a quick step forward and had held out

her hand to him, but he still refused to raise his eyes. It was

as well for his resolution, perhaps, for her pleading face was

one which it was hard to resist.



"You're angry, Robert," said she. "Well, I guess you have every

cause to be."



"Pray make no apology to me," said Lord St. Simon bitterly.



"Oh, yes, I know that I have treated you real bad and that I

should have spoken to you before I went; but I was kind of

rattled, and from the time when I saw Frank here again I just

didn't know what I was doing or saying. I only wonder I didn't

fall down and do a faint right there before the altar."



"Perhaps, Mrs. Moulton, you would like my friend and me to leave

the room while you explain this matter?"



"If I may give an opinion," remarked the strange gentleman,

"we've had just a little too much secrecy over this business

already. For my part, I should like all Europe and America to

hear the rights of it." He was a small, wiry, sunburnt man,

clean-shaven, with a sharp face and alert manner.



"Then I'll tell our story right away," said the lady. "Frank here

and I met in '84, in McQuire's camp, near the Rockies, where pa

was working a claim. We were engaged to each other, Frank and I;

but then one day father struck a rich pocket and made a pile,

while poor Frank here had a claim that petered out and came to

nothing. The richer pa grew the poorer was Frank; so at last pa

wouldn't hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he took

me away to 'Frisco. Frank wouldn't throw up his hand, though; so

he followed me there, and he saw me without pa knowing anything

about it. It would only have made him mad to know, so we just

fixed it all up for ourselves. Frank said that he would go and

make his pile, too, and never come back to claim me until he had

as much as pa. So then I promised to wait for him to the end of

time and pledged myself not to marry anyone else while he lived.

'Why shouldn't we be married right away, then,' said he, 'and

then I will feel sure of you; and I won't claim to be your

husband until I come back?' Well, we talked it over, and he had

fixed it all up so nicely, with a clergyman all ready in waiting,

that we just did it right there; and then Frank went off to seek

his fortune, and I went back to pa.



"The next I heard of Frank was that he was in Montana, and then

he went prospecting in Arizona, and then I heard of him from New

Mexico. After that came a long newspaper story about how a

miners' camp had been attacked by Apache Indians, and there was

my Frank's name among the killed. I fainted dead away, and I was

very sick for months after. Pa thought I had a decline and took

me to half the doctors in 'Frisco. Not a word of news came for a

year and more, so that I never doubted that Frank was really

dead. Then Lord St. Simon came to 'Frisco, and we came to London,

and a marriage was arranged, and pa was very pleased, but I felt

all the time that no man on this earth would ever take the place

in my heart that had been given to my poor Frank.



"Still, if I had married Lord St. Simon, of course I'd have done

my duty by him. We can't command our love, but we can our

actions. I went to the altar with him with the intention to make

him just as good a wife as it was in me to be. But you may

imagine what I felt when, just as I came to the altar rails, I

glanced back and saw Frank standing and looking at me out of the

first pew. I thought it was his ghost at first; but when I looked

again there he was still, with a kind of question in his eyes, as

if to ask me whether I were glad or sorry to see him. I wonder I

didn't drop. I know that everything was turning round, and the

words of the clergyman were just like the buzz of a bee in my

ear. I didn't know what to do. Should I stop the service and make

a scene in the church? I glanced at him again, and he seemed to

know what I was thinking, for he raised his finger to his lips to

tell me to be still. Then I saw him scribble on a piece of paper,

and I knew that he was writing me a note. As I passed his pew on

the way out I dropped my bouquet over to him, and he slipped the

note into my hand when he returned me the flowers. It was only a

line asking me to join him when he made the sign to me to do so.

Of course I never doubted for a moment that my first duty was now

to him, and I determined to do just whatever he might direct.



"When I got back I told my maid, who had known him in California,

and had always been his friend. I ordered her to say nothing, but

to get a few things packed and my ulster ready. I know I ought to

have spoken to Lord St. Simon, but it was dreadful hard before

his mother and all those great people. I just made up my mind to

run away and explain afterwards. I hadn't been at the table ten

minutes before I saw Frank out of the window at the other side of

the road. He beckoned to me and then began walking into the Park.

I slipped out, put on my things, and followed him. Some woman

came talking something or other about Lord St. Simon to

me--seemed to me from the little I heard as if he had a little

secret of his own before marriage also--but I managed to get away

from her and soon overtook Frank. We got into a cab together, and

away we drove to some lodgings he had taken in Gordon Square, and

that was my true wedding after all those years of waiting. Frank

had been a prisoner among the Apaches, had escaped, came on to

'Frisco, found that I had given him up for dead and had gone to

England, followed me there, and had come upon me at last on the

very morning of my second wedding."



"I saw it in a paper," explained the American. "It gave the name

and the church but not where the lady lived."



"Then we had a talk as to what we should do, and Frank was all

for openness, but I was so ashamed of it all that I felt as if I

should like to vanish away and never see any of them again--just

sending a line to pa, perhaps, to show him that I was alive. It

was awful to me to think of all those lords and ladies sitting

round that breakfast-table and waiting for me to come back. So

Frank took my wedding-clothes and things and made a bundle of

them, so that I should not be traced, and dropped them away

somewhere where no one could find them. It is likely that we

should have gone on to Paris to-morrow, only that this good

gentleman, Mr. Holmes, came round to us this evening, though how

he found us is more than I can think, and he showed us very

clearly and kindly that I was wrong and that Frank was right, and

that we should be putting ourselves in the wrong if we were so

secret. Then he offered to give us a chance of talking to Lord

St. Simon alone, and so we came right away round to his rooms at

once. Now, Robert, you have heard it all, and I am very sorry if

I have given you pain, and I hope that you do not think very

meanly of me."



Lord St. Simon had by no means relaxed his rigid attitude, but

had listened with a frowning brow and a compressed lip to this

long narrative.



"Excuse me," he said, "but it is not my custom to discuss my most

intimate personal affairs in this public manner."



"Then you won't forgive me? You won't shake hands before I go?"



"Oh, certainly, if it would give you any pleasure." He put out

his hand and coldly grasped that which she extended to him.



"I had hoped," suggested Holmes, "that you would have joined us

in a friendly supper."



"I think that there you ask a little too much," responded his

Lordship. "I may be forced to acquiesce in these recent

developments, but I can hardly be expected to make merry over

them. I think that with your permission I will now wish you all a

very good-night." He included us all in a sweeping bow and

stalked out of the room.



"Then I trust that you at least will honour me with your

company," said Sherlock Holmes. "It is always a joy to meet an

American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the

folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone

years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens

of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a

quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."



"The case has been an interesting one," remarked Holmes when our

visitors had left us, "because it serves to show very clearly how

simple the explanation may be of an affair which at first sight

seems to be almost inexplicable. Nothing could be more natural

than the sequence of events as narrated by this lady, and nothing

stranger than the result when viewed, for instance, by Mr.

Lestrade of Scotland Yard."



"You were not yourself at fault at all, then?"



"From the first, two facts were very obvious to me, the one that

the lady had been quite willing to undergo the wedding ceremony,

the other that she had repented of it within a few minutes of

returning home. Obviously something had occurred during the

morning, then, to cause her to change her mind. What could that

something be? She could not have spoken to anyone when she was

out, for she had been in the company of the bridegroom. Had she

seen someone, then? If she had, it must be someone from America

because she had spent so short a time in this country that she

could hardly have allowed anyone to acquire so deep an influence

over her that the mere sight of him would induce her to change

her plans so completely. You see we have already arrived, by a

process of exclusion, at the idea that she might have seen an

American. Then who could this American be, and why should he

possess so much influence over her? It might be a lover; it might

be a husband. Her young womanhood had, I knew, been spent in

rough scenes and under strange conditions. So far I had got

before I ever heard Lord St. Simon's narrative. When he told us

of a man in a pew, of the change in the bride's manner, of so

transparent a device for obtaining a note as the dropping of a

bouquet, of her resort to her confidential maid, and of her very

significant allusion to claim-jumping--which in miners' parlance

means taking possession of that which another person has a prior

claim to--the whole situation became absolutely clear. She had

gone off with a man, and the man was either a lover or was a

previous husband--the chances being in favour of the latter."



"And how in the world did you find them?"



"It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held

information in his hands the value of which he did not himself

know. The initials were, of course, of the highest importance,

but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he had

settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels."



"How did you deduce the select?"



"By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and eightpence

for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive

hotels. There are not many in London which charge at that rate.

In the second one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue, I

learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an

American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking

over the entries against him, I came upon the very items which I

had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to be forwarded

to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate

enough to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them

some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be

better in every way that they should make their position a little

clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in

particular. I invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I

made him keep the appointment."



"But with no very good result," I remarked. "His conduct was

certainly not very gracious."



"Ah, Watson," said Holmes, smiling, "perhaps you would not be

very gracious either, if, after all the trouble of wooing and

wedding, you found yourself deprived in an instant of wife and of

fortune. I think that we may judge Lord St. Simon very mercifully

and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in

the same position. Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for

the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away

these bleak autumnal evenings."





The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback