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 co­oper­a­tion, 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 mariage 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 light­col­oured 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.”Good­day, 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 carty­ing 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 vety 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 reen­ter­ing 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 pat­tic­u­lars 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?””l 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 preex­ist­ing 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, hello, 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 pea­jack­et 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 pea­jack­et.”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 man­er?””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 park­keep­er. 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 l 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 pate 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 claimjump­ing -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, l 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.”

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