The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor is one of the short stories about Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in The Strand Magazine in 1892. It is now in the public domain. It has been transferred to electronic text by optical character recognition, and this copy has been reformatted for E2 and cleaned of OCR errors by rootbeer277. A paper version can be found in a collection of short stories called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Once more we go back in time to before Dr. Watson's marriage, when he is still living with Holmes at 221b Baker Street. The duo is approached by Lord Robert Walsingham de Vere St. Simon, whose marriage to an American woman has been interrupted by her sudden disappearance from the reception. Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard (in his second Sherlock Holmes appearance) believes it may have something to do with the scorned woman who Lord St. Simon was once seeing, who burst in to interrupt the reception, but Sherlock Holmes has a different theory.
Arthur Conan Doyle reportedly thought this was one of his weaker stories.
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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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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?"
"Did you become engaged then?"
"But you were on a friendly footing?"
"I was amused by her society, and she could see that I was
"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
"Yes, her father brought her over for this last London season.
I met her several times, became engaged to her, and have now
"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
"I really have made no inquiries on the subject."
"Very naturally not. Did you see Miss Doran on the day
before the wedding?"
"Was she in good spirits?"
"Never better. She kept talking of what we should do in our
"Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the morning of the
"She was as bright as possible — at least until after the
"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
"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
"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 eye-brows. "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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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, 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
"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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