On December 6th…

Dr E W Pritchard and Family. Carte-de-visite from the Howarth-Loomes collection at National Museums Scotland.

Dr Edward William Pritchard was born in Southsea on December 6, 1825. He trained as a physician’s apprentice and served as a ship’s surgeon before eventually settling in Glasgow in 1860. His medical career, however, was of less interest to Holmes than was the murder case which made the papers in 1865.

“Holmes,” I cried, “I seem to see dimly what you are hinting at. We are only just in time to prevent some subtle and horrible crime.”

“Subtle enough and horrible enough. When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson, that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we shall have horrors enough before the night is over; for goodness’ sake let us have a quiet pipe and turn our minds for a few hours to something more cheerful.” (SPEC – Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Chips writes: I had often wondered about this doctor when reading of that case but had not taken time to look him and his criminal activity, which included the murders of both his wife and his mother-in-law. I suggest that anyone interested in the life of this notorious murderer look into the fabulous volume that Selena and I have been using as our secondary source for this column: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney. Their write-up includes the most fascinating details.

On December 4th…

Langham Hotel (Illustrated London News. July 8, 1865)

Langham Hotel (2009)

December 4, 1878: Mary Morstan visited the Langham Hotel. [SIGN] (A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP)

“On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not yet returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my Father.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition.)

 

As noted yesterday, Dorn places NOBL in December of 1888 (most chronologists place it in October of 1888), so he also gives today’s date for the following events:

Francis Hay Moulton moved to 226 Gordon Square.

Peter Warnock as Francis Moulton in “The Eligible Bachelor” (Granada Television, 1993)

“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. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Lord Robert St Simon married Hattie Doran.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (April, 1892)

“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.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Hattie Doran disappeared.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (April, 1892)

“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. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

On December 3rd…

December 3, 1878: Captain Arthur Morstan disappeared. [SIGN] (A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP)

Terence Skelton as Captain Morstan in “The Sign of Four” (Granada Television, 1987)

In the year 1878 my father, who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months’ leave and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived all safe, and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember, was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not yet returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate father. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Illustration by Josef Friedrich (1906)

A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, also places Frances Hay Moulton’s arrival in London and the newspaper announcement that the St Simon wedding “would be an absolutely quiet one” [NOBL] on this day in 1888, but it is an outlier, as other chronologies are near unanimous in putting the case in October 1888.

“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” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

 

SS Abyssinia (1870)

“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.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

On November 30th…

November 30, 1895: Oberstein was captured in the smoking room of the Charing Cross Hotel. [BRUC]

Image extracted from “London (illustrated). A complete guide to the leading hotels, places of amusement … Also a directory … of first-class reliable houses in the various branches of trade” (1872)
Original held and digitised by the British Library.
This file is from the Mechanical Curator collection, a set of over 1 million images scanned from out-of-copyright books and released to Flickr Commons by the British Library
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Now the letter: “Dear Sir, – With regard to our transaction, you will no doubt have observed by now that one essential detail is missing. I have a tracing which will make it complete. This has involved me in extra trouble, however, and I must ask you for a further advance of five hundred pounds. I will not trust it to the post, nor will I take anything but gold or notes. I would come to you abroad, but it would excite remark if I left the country at present. Therefore I shall expect to meet you in the smoking-room of the Charing Cross Hotel at noon on Saturday. Remember that only English notes, or gold, will be taken.” That will do very well. I shall be very much surprised if it does not fetch our man.’
And it did! It is a matter of history – that secret history of a nation which is often so much more intimate and interesting than its public chronicles – that Oberstein, eager to complete the coup of his lifetime, came to the lure and was safely engulfed for fifteen years in a British prison. In his trunk were found the invaluable Bruce-Partington plans, which he had put up for auction in all the naval centres of Europe.

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP

On November 29th…

Illustration by Walter Paget for The Strand Magazine (December, 1913)

November 29, 1890: Culverton Smith confessed to killing his nephew, Victor Savage. [DYIN]

The very one, by George, and it may as well leave the room in my pocket. There goes your last shred of evidence. But you have the truth now, Holmes, and you can die with the knowledge that I killed you. You knew too much of the fate of Victor Savage, so I have sent you to share it. You are very near your end, Holmes. I will sit here and I will watch you die.

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP

On November 28th…

Illustration by Walter Paget for The Strand Magazine (December, 1913)

November 28, 1890: Holmes fasted for a second day. [DYIN]

He was indeed a deplorable spectacle. In the dim light of a foggy November day the sick-room was a gloomy spot, but it was that gaunt wasted face staring at me from the bed which sent a chill to my heart. His eyes had the brightness of fever, there was a hectic flush upon either cheek, and dark crusts clung to his lips. The thin hands upon the coverlet twitched incessantly. His voice was croaking and spasmodic. He lay listlessly as I entered the room but the sight of me brought a gleam of recognition to his eyes.

On November 27th…

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in “The Dying Detective” (Granada, 1994)

November 27, 1890: Holmes fasted. [DYIN]

‘Three days of absolute fast does not improve one’s beauty, Watson. For the rest there is nothing which a sponge may not cure. With vaseline upon one’s forehead, belladonna in one’s eyes, rouge over the cheek-bones, and crusts of beeswax round one’s lips a very satisfying effect can be produced. Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph. A little occasional talk about half-crowns, oysters, or any other extraneous subject produces a pleasing effect of delirium.’

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP

On November 26th…

HMS Orontes [Griffin & Co, 1880]

November 26, 1880: The Orontes docked at Portsmouth bearing Watson. [STUD]

Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawur. Here I rallied, and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about the wards, and even to bask a little upon the verandah, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indian possessions. For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England. I was dispatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes, and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health irretrievably ruined, but with permission from a paternal government to spend the next nine months in attempting to improve it.

Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele for The Strand Magazine (1913)

 

November 26, 1890: Holmes took to his bed. [DYIN]

I was horrified, for I had heard nothing of his illness. I need not say that I rushed for my coat and my hat. As we drove back I asked for the details.

‘There is little I can tell you, sir. He has been working at a case down at Rotherhithe in an alley near the river and he has brought this illness back with him. He took to his bed on Wednesday afternoon and has never moved since. For these three days neither food nor drink have passed his lips.’

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP.

On November 22nd…

November 22, 1895: Colonel Valentine Walter confessed to stealing the Submarine plans. [BRUC]

Jonathan Newth as Col. Valentine Walter (Granada, 1988)

‘I can assure you,’ said Holmes, ‘that every essential is already known. We know that you were pressed for money, that you took an impress of the keys which your brother held, and that you entered into a correspondence with Oberstein, who answered your letters through the advertisement columns of the Daily Telegraph. We are aware that you went down to the office in the fog of Monday night, but that you were seen and followed by young Cadogan West, who had probably some previous reason to suspect you. He saw your theft, but could not give the alarm, as it was just possible that you were taking the papers to your brother in London. Leaving all his private concerns, like the good citizen that he was, he followed you closely in the fog, and kept at your heels until you reached this very house. There he intervened, and then it was, Colonel Walter, that to treason you added the more terrible crime of murder.’

‘I did not! I did not! Before God I swear that I did not!’ cried our wretched prisoner.

‘Tell us, then, how Cadogan West met his end before you laid him upon the roof of a railway carriage.’

‘I will. I swear to you that I will. I did the rest. I confess it. It was just as you say. A Stock Exchange debt had to be paid. I needed the money badly. Oberstein offered me five thousand. It was to save myself from ruin. But as to murder, I am as innocent as you.’

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP.

On November 21st…

November 21, 1895: Mycroft asked Holmes to find the stolen submarine plans. [BRUC]

‘[…]Every effort has been made to keep the secret. The plans, which are exceedingly intricate, comprising some thirty separate patents, each essential to the working of the whole, are kept in an elaborate safe in a confidential office adjoining the Arsenal, with burglar-proof doors and windows. Under no conceivable circumstances were the plans to be taken from the office. If the Chief Constructor of the Navy desired to consult them, even he was forced to go to the Woolwich office for the purpose. And yet here we find them in the pockets of a dead junior clerk in the heart of London. From an official point of view it’s simply awful.’

‘But you have recovered them?’

‘No, Sherlock, no! That’s the pinch. We have not. Ten papers were taken from Woolwich. There were seven in the pockets of Cadogan West. The three most essential are gone – stolen, vanished. You must drop everything, Sherlock. Never mind your usual petty puzzles of the police-court. It’s a vital international problem that you have to solve. Why did Cadogan West take the papers, where are the missing ones, how did he die, how came his body where it was found, how can the evil be set right? Find an answer to all these questions, and you will have done good service for your country.’

November 21, 1901: Holmes wrote to thank Morrison, Morrison and Dodd for their letter about vampires. [SUSS]

BAKER STREET,
Nov. 21st.
Re Vampires

Sir,

Referring to your letter of the 19th, I beg to state that I have looked into the inquiry of your client, Mr Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, and that the matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. With thanks for your recommendation,

I am, Sir,
Faithfully yours,
SHERLOCK HOLMES

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP

On November 20th…

November 20, 1901: Bob Ferguson called on Holmes for advice [SUSS]

Illustration by Howard K Elcock for The Strand Magazine (January, 1924)

Promptly at ten o’clock next morning Ferguson strode into our room. I had remembered him as a long, slab-sided man with loose limbs and a fine turn of speed, which had carried him round many an opposing back. There is surely nothing in life more painful than to meet the wreck of a fine athlete whom one has known in his prime. His great frame had fallen in, his flaxen hair was scanty, and his shoulders were bowed. I fear that I roused corresponding emotions in him.

‘Hullo, Watson,’ said he, and his voice was still deep and hearty. ‘You don’t look quite the man you did when I threw you over the ropes into the crowd at the Old Deer Park. I expect I have changed a bit also. But it’s this last day or two that has aged me. I see by your telegram, Mr Holmes, that it is no use my pretending to be anyone’s deputy.’

‘It is simpler to deal direct,’ said Holmes.

‘Of course it is. But you can imagine how difficult it is when you are speaking of the one woman you are bound to protect and help. What can I do? How am I to go to the police with such a story? And yet the kiddies have got to be protected. Is it madness, Mr Holmes? Is it something in the blood? Have you any similar case in your experience? For God’s sake, give me some advice, for I am at my wits’ end.’

November 20, 1901: Holmes told Bob Ferguson that his son, Jacky had tried to poison the baby [SUSS]

Illustration by Howard K Elcock for The Strand Magazine (January, 1924)

‘Jacky!’

‘I watched him as you fondled the child just now. His face was clearly reflected in the glass of the window where the shutter formed a background. I saw such jealousy, such cruel hatred, as I have seldom seen in a human face.’

‘My Jacky!’

‘You have to face it, Mr Ferguson. It is the more painful because it is a distorted love, a maniacal exaggerated love for you, and possibly for his dead mother, which has prompted his action. His very soul is consumed with hatred for this splendid child, whose health and beauty are a contrast to his own weakness.’

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP.

On November 19th…

Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele for Collier’s (December 12, 1908)

November 19, 1895: Cadogan West’s body was found on the underground tracks around 6 a.m. [BRUC]

The body was found at six on the Tuesday morning. It was lying wide of the metals upon the left hand of the track as one goes eastward, at a point close to the station, where the line emerges from the tunnel in which it runs. The head was badly crushed – an injury which might well have been caused by a fall from the train. The body could only have come on the fine in that way. Had it been carried down from any neighbouring street, it must have passed the station barriers, where a collector is always standing. This point seems absolutely certain.

November 19, 1901: Holmes received a letter about vampires. [SUSS]

Illustration by Howard K Elcock for The Strand Magazine (January, 1924)

46 OLD JEWRY
Nov. 19th.
Re Vampires

Sir,

Our client, Mr Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson & Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, has made some inquiry from us in a communication of even date concerning vampires. As our firm specializes entirely upon the assessment of machinery the matter hardly comes within our purview, and we have therefore recommended Mr Ferguson to call upon you and lay the matter before you. We have not forgotten your successful action in the case of Matilda Briggs.

We are, Sir,
Faithfully yours,
MORRISON, MORRISON, AND DODD
per E.J.C.

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP

On November 18th…

November 18, 1895: Oberstein murdered Arthur Cadogan West. [BRUC] (Spoilers! –Selena Buttons)

Illustration by Arthur Twidle for The Strand Magazine (December, 1908)

‘He had his suspicions before, and he followed me as you describe. I never knew it until I was at the very door. It was thick fog, and one could not see three yards. I had given two taps and Oberstein had come to the door. The young man rushed up and demanded to know what we were about to do with the papers. Oberstein had a short life-preserver. He always carried it with him. As West forced his way after us into the house Oberstein struck him on the head. The blow was a fatal one. He was dead within five minutes. There he lay in the hall, and we were at our wits’ end what to do. Then Oberstein had this idea about the trains which halted under his back window. But first he examined the papers which I had brought. He said that three of them were essential, and that he must keep them. “You cannot keep them,” said I. “There will be a dreadful row at Woolwich if they are not returned.””I must keep them,” said he, “for they are so technical that it is impossible in the time to make copies.” “Then they must all go back together to-night,” said I. He thought for a little, and then he cried out that he had it. “Three I will keep,” said he. “The others we will stuff into the pocket of this young man. When he is found the whole business will assuredly be put to his account.” I could see no other way out of it, so we did as he suggested. We waited half an hour at the window before a train stopped. It was so thick that nothing could be seen, and we had no difficulty in lowering West’s body on to the train. That was the end of the matter so far as I was concerned.’

November 18, 1901: Bob Ferguson’s wife fell ill. [SUSS]

Illustration by Howard K. Elcock for The Strand Magazine (January, 1924)

I followed the girl, who was quivering with strong emotion, up the staircase and down an ancient corridor. At the end was an iron-clamped and massive door. It struck me as I looked at it that if Ferguson tried to force his way to his wife he would find it no easy matter. The girl drew a key from her pocket, and the heavy oaken planks creaked upon their old hinges. I passed in and she swiftly followed, fastening the door behind her.

On the bed a woman was lying who was clearly in a high fever. She was only half conscious, but as I entered she raised a pair of frightened but beautiful eyes and glared at me in apprehension. Seeing a stranger, she appeared to be relieved, and sank back with a sigh upon the pillow. I stepped up to her with a few reassuring words, and she lay still while I took her pulse and temperature. Both were high, and yet my impression was that the condition was rather that of mental and nervous excitement than of any actual seizure.

Birth of an Irene

Publicity material for Sherlock Holmes (2009)

On November 17, 1978, Rachel Anne McAdams was born in London, Ontario, Canada. She began acting as a teenager in theater productions and earned a BFA in Theatre at York University.

In 2009, she appeared as Irene Adler in the film Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson (respectively).

On November 6th…

November 6, 1857: The Gloria Scott sank. [GLOR]

The prison hulk, Success, at Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

These are the very papers, Watson, which he handed to me, and I will read them to you as I read them in the old study that night to him. They are indorsed outside, as you see: “Some particulars of the voyage of the barque Gloria Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on the 8th October, 1855, to her destruction in N. lat. 15° 20′, W. long. 25° 14′, on November 6th.”

[…]The seamen had hauled the foreyard aback during the rising, but now as we left them they brought it square again, and, as there was a light wind from the north and east, the barque began to draw slowly away from us. Our boat lay, rising and falling, upon the long, smooth rollers, and Evans and I, who were the most educated of the party, were sitting in the sheets working out our position and planning what coast we should make for. It was a nice question, for the Cape de Verds was about 500 miles to the north of us, and the African coast about 700 miles to the east. On the whole, as the wind was coming round to north, we thought that Sierra Leone might be best, and turned our head in that direction, the barque being at that time nearly hull down on our starboard quarter. Suddenly as we looked at her we saw a dense black cloud of smoke shoot up from her, which hung like a monstrous tree upon the sky-line. A few seconds later a roar like thunder burst upon our ears, and as the smoke thinned away there was no sign left of the Gloria Scott.

On October 19th…

October 19, 1889: Holmes and Watson shot and killed the Hound of the Baskervilles. [HOUN]

 

A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish, be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.

Illustrations by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

With long bounds the huge black creature was leaping down the track, following hard upon the footsteps of our friend. So paralysed were we by the apparition that we allowed him to pass before we had recovered our nerve. Then Holmes and I both fired together, and the creature gave a hideous howl, which showed that one at least had hit him. He did not pause, however, but bounded onwards. Far away on the path we saw Sir Henry looking back, his face white in the moonlight, his hands raised in horror, glaring helplessly at the frightful thing which was hunting him down.

But that cry of pain from the hound had blown all our fears to the winds. If he was vulnerable he was mortal, and if we could wound him we could kill him. Never have I seen a man run as Holmes ran that night. I am reckoned fleet of foot, but he outpaced me as much as I outpaced the little professional. In front of us as we flew up the track we heard scream after scream from Sir Henry and the deep roar of the hound. I was in time to see the beast spring upon its victim, hurl him to the ground and worry at his throat. But the next instant Holmes had emptied five barrels of his revolver into the creature’s flank. With a last howl of agony and a vicious snap in the air it rolled upon its back, four feet pawing furiously, and then fell limp upon its side. I stooped, panting, and pressed my pistol to the dreadful, shimmering head, but it was useless to press the trigger. The giant hound was dead.

October 19, 1889: Jack Stapleton perished in the Grimpen Mire. [HOUN]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

But more than that we were never destined to know, though there was much which we might surmise. There was no chance of finding footsteps in the mire, for the rising mud oozed swiftly in upon them, but as we at last reached firmer ground beyond the morass we all looked eagerly for them. But no slightest sign of them ever met our eyes. If the earth told a true story, then Stapleton never reached that island of refuge towards which he struggled through the fog upon that last night. Somewhere in the heart of the great Grimpen Mire, down in the foul slime of the huge morass which had sucked him in, this cold and cruel-hearted man is for ever buried.

On October 15th…

October 15, 1889: Watson wrote his second report to Holmes. [HOUN]

Detail of Sherlock Holmes statue in Edinburgh

Baskerville Hall, Oct. 15th

My Dear Holmes, If I was compelled to leave you without much news during the early days of my mission you must acknowledge that I am making up for lost time, and that events are now crowding thick and fast upon us. In my last report I ended upon my top note with Barrymore at the window, and now I have quite a budget already which will, unless I am much mistaken, considerably surprise you. Things have taken a turn which I could not have anticipated. In some ways they have within the last forty-eight hours become much clearer and in some ways they have become more complicated. But I will tell you all and you shall judge for yourself.

On October 14th…

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

October 14, 1889: Sir Henry learned that Selden was Mrs Barrymore’s brother. [HOUN]

This, then, was the explanation of the stealthy expeditions at night and the light at the window. Sir Henry and I both stared at the woman in amazement. Was it possible that this stolidly respectable person was of the same blood as one of the most notorious criminals in the country?

“Yes, sir, my name was Selden, and he is my younger brother. We humoured him too much when he was a lad, and gave him his own way in everything until he came to think that the world was made for his pleasure, and that he could do what he liked in it. Then as he grew older he met wicked companions, and the devil entered into him until he broke my mother’s heart and dragged our name in the dirt. From crime to crime he sank lower and lower, until it is only the mercy of God which has snatched him from the scaffold; but to me, sir, he was always the little curly-headed boy that I had nursed and played with, as an elder sister would. That was why he broke prison, sir. He knew that I was here and that we could not refuse to help him. When he dragged himself here one night, weary and starving, with the warders hard at his heels, what could we do? We took him in and fed him and cared for him. Then you returned, sir, and my brother thought he would be safer on the moor than anywhere else until the hue and cry was over, so he lay in hiding there. But every second night we made sure if he was still there by putting a light in the window, and if there was an answer my husband took out some bread and meat to him. Every day we hoped that he was gone, but as long as he was there we could not desert him. That is the whole truth, as I am an honest Christian woman, and you will see that if there is blame in the matter it does not lie with my husband, but with me, for whose sake he has done all that he has.”

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

October 14, 1889: Selden was chased across the moor by Watson and Sir Henry. [HOUN]

We stumbled slowly along in the darkness, with the black loom of the craggy hills around us, and the yellow speck of light burning steadily in front. There is nothing so deceptive as the distance of a light upon a pitch-dark night, and sometimes the glimmer seemed to be far away upon the horizon and sometimes it might have been within a few yards of us. But at last we could see whence it came, and then we knew that we were indeed very close. A guttering candle was stuck in a crevice of the rocks which flanked it on each side so as to keep the wind from it and also to prevent it from being visible, save in the direction of Baskerville Hall. A boulder of granite concealed our approach,and crouching behind it we gazed over it at the signal light. It was strange to see this single candle burning there in the middle of the moor, with no sign of life near it—just the one straight yellow flame and the gleam of the rock on each side of it.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

October 14, 1889: Watson and Sir Henry saw Holmes’s outline against the moor. [HOUN]

I assure you that I have never in my life seen anything more clearly. As far as I could judge, the figure was that of a tall, thin man. He stood with his legs a little separated, his arms folded, his head bowed, as if he were brooding over that enormous wilderness of peat and granite which lay before him. He might have been the very spirit of that terrible place. It was not the convict. This man was far from the place where the latter had disappeared. Besides, he was a much taller man. With a cry of surprise I pointed him out to the baronet, but in the instant during which I had turned to grasp his arm the man was gone. There was the sharp pinnacle of granite still cutting the lower edge of the moon, but its peak bore no trace of that silent and motionless figure.

On October 13th…

October 13, 1889 (or possibly 1886, or 1888, or 1900, depending on your chronologist of choice!): At 2 a.m., Watson watched Barrymore signal to Selden. [HOUN]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

When I came round the balcony he had reached the end of the farther corridor, and I could see from the glimmer of light through an open door that he had entered one of the rooms. Now, all these rooms are unfurnished and unoccupied, so that his expedition became more mysterious than ever. The light shone steadily, as if he were standing motionless. I crept down the passage as noiselessly as I could and peeped round the corner of the door.

Barrymore was crouching at the window with the candle held against the glass. His profile was half turned towards me, and his face seemed to be rigid with expectation as he stared out into the blackness of the moor. For some minutes he stood watching intently. Then he gave a deep groan and with an impatient gesture he put out the light. Instantly I made my way back to my room, and very shortly came the stealthy steps passing once more upon their return journey. Long afterwards when I had fallen into a light sleep I heard a key turn somewhere in a lock, but I could not tell whence the sound came. What it all means I cannot guess, but there is some secret business going on in this house of gloom which sooner or later we shall get to the bottom of.

October 13: Watson watched the meeting on the moor of Sir Henry and Beryl Stapleton. [HOUN]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1901 – April, 1902)

I hurried along the road at the top of my speed without seeing anything of Sir Henry, until I came to the point where the moor path branches off. There, fearing that perhaps I had come in the wrong direction, after all, I mounted a hill from which I could command a view – the same hill which is cut into the dark quarry. Then I saw him at once. He was on the moor path, about a quarter of a mile off, and a lady was by his side who could only be Miss Stapleton. It was dear that there was already an understanding between them and that they had met by appointment. They were walking slowly along in deep conversation, and I saw her making quick little movements of her hands as if she were very earnest in what she was saying, while he listened intently, and once or twice shook his head in strong dissent. I stood among the rocks watching them, very much puzzled as to what I should do next. To follow them and break into their intimate conversation seemed to be an outrage, and yet my clear duty was never for an instant to let him out of my sight. To act the spy upon a friend was a hateful task. Still, I could see no better course than to observe him from the hill, and to clear my conscience by confessing to him afterwards what I had done. It is true that if any sudden danger had threatened him I was too far away to be of use, and yet I am sure that you will agree with me that the position was very difficult, and that there was nothing more which I could do.

October 13: Watson wrote his first report to Holmes. [HOUN]

Baskerville Hall, Oct. 13th

My Dear Holmes,

My previous letters and telegrams have kept you pretty well up-to-date as to all that has occurred in this most Godforsaken corner of the world. The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul, its vastness, and also its grim charm. When you are once out upon its bosom you have left all traces of modern England behind you, but on the other hand you are conscious everywhere of the homes and the work of prehistoric people. On all sides of you as you walk are the houses of these forgotten folk, with their graves and the huge monoliths which are supposed to have marked their temples. As you look at their grey stone huts against the scarred hillsides you leave your own age behind you, and if you were to see a skin-clad, hairy man crawl out from the low door, fitting a flint-tipped arrow on to the string of his bow, you would feel that his presence there was more natural than your own. The strange thing is that they should have lived so thickly on what must always have been most unfruitful soil. I am no antiquarian, but I could imagine that they were some unwarlike and harried race who were forced to accept that which none other would occupy.

All this however, is foreign to the mission on which you sent me, and will probably be very uninteresting to your severely practical mind. I can still remember your complete indifference as to whether the sun moved round the earth or the earth round the sun. Let me, therefore, return to the facts concerning Sir Henry Baskerville.

On October 12th…

October 12, 1886 (per Baring-Gould): Lord Bellinger and the Right Honorable Trelawney Hope consulted Holmes at Baker Street, and “The Adventure of the Second Stain” began.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (December, 1904)

It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of European fame within the walls of our humble room in Baker Street. The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. The other, dark, clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and endowed with every beauty of body and of mind, was the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs, and the most rising statesman in the country. They sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee, and it was easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was business of the most pressing importance which had brought them. The Premier’s thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly over the ivory head of his umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from Holmes to me. The European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with the seals of his watch-chain.