Oh, come, it may prove to be something of interest,
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?
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 oclock 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 oclock. 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. Hes 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 nowthough, 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 gods 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. Georges, 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 laterthat is, on Wednesday
lastthere is a curt announcement that the wedding had taken place, and that the
honeymoon would be passed at Lord Backwaters 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
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.
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.
Georges, 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 nowso far as it has been set forth in the public press.
And an exceedingly interesting case it appears to be. I
would not have missed it for worlds. But there is a ring at the bell, Watson, and as the
clock makes it a few minutes after four, I have no doubt that this will prove to be our
noble client. Do not dream of going, Watson, for I very much prefer having a witness, if
only as a check to my own memory.
Lord Robert St. Simon, announced our page-boy,
throwing open the door. A gentleman entered, with a pleasant, cultured face, high-nosed
and pale, with something perhaps of petulance about the mouth, and with the steady,
well-opened eye of a man whose pleasant lot it had ever been to command and to be obeyed.
His manner was brisk, and yet his general appearance gave an undue impression of age, for
he had a slight forward stoop and a little bend of the knees as he walked. His hair, too,
as he swept off his very curly-brimmed hat, was grizzled round the edges and thin upon the
top. As to his dress, it was careful to the verge of foppishness, with high collar, black
frock-coat, white waistcoat, yellow gloves, patent-leather shoes, and light-coloured
gaiters. He advanced slowly into the room, turning his head from left to right, and
swinging in his right hand the cord which held his golden eyeglasses.
Good-day, Lord St. Simon, said Holmes, rising and
bowing. Pray take the basket-chair. This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson.
Draw up a little to the fire, and we will talk this matter over.
A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily
imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already
managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly
from the same class of society.
No, I am descending.
I beg pardon.
My last client of the sort was a king.
Oh, really! I had no idea. And which king?
The King of Scandinavia.
What! Had he lost his wife?
You can understand, said Holmes suavely,
that I extend to the affairs of my other clients the same secrecy which I promise to
you in yours.
Of course! Very right! very right! Im 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 correctthis 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
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
Her father is very rich?
He is said to be the richest man on the Pacific
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
ladysyour wifes 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 impetuousvolcanic, 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
bearhe gave a little stately coughhad 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 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?
Was she in good spirits?
Never better. She kept talking of what we should do in
our future lives.
Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the morning of
She was as bright as possibleat least until after
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 moments 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
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 wifes
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
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
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 brides dress with a long ulster, put on a bonnet, and
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. Dorans house that morning.
Ah, yes. I should like a few particulars as to this
young lady, and your relations to her.
Lord St. Simon shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows.
We have been on a friendly footing for some yearsI 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. Dorans 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
Yes. That is what Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, looks
upon as so serious. It is thought that Flora decoyed my wife out and laid some terrible
trap for her.
Well, it is a possible supposition.
You think so, too?
I did not say a probable one. But you do not yourself
look upon this as likely?
I do not think Flora would hurt a fly.
Still, jealousy is a strange transformer of characters.
Pray what is your own theory as to what took place?
Well, really, I came to seek a theory, not to propound
one. I have given you all the facts. Since you ask me, however, I may say that it has
occurred to me as possible that the excitement of this affair, the consciousness that she
had made so immense a social stride, had the effect of causing some little nervous
disturbance in my wife.
In short, that she had become suddenly deranged?
Well, really, when I consider that she has turned her
backI will not say upon me, but upon so much that many have aspired to without
successI 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
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 Thoreaus 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 casesbut,
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 pea-jacket and cravat,
which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance, and he carried a black canvas bag in his
hand. With a short greeting he seated himself and lit the cigar which had been offered to
Whats up, then? asked Holmes with a twinkle
in his eye. You look dissatisfied.
And I feel dissatisfied. It is this infernal St. Simon
marriage case. I can make neither head nor tail of the business.
Really! You surprise me.
Who ever heard of such a mixed affair? Every clue seems
to slip through my fingers. I have been at work upon it all day.
And very wet it seems to have made you, said
Holmes, laying his hand upon the arm of the pea-jacket.
Yes, I have been dragging the Serpentine.
In heavens 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
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 brides 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,
Oh, indeed! said my friend, blowing blue rings
into the air. You dragged them from the Serpentine?
No. They were found floating near the margin by a
park-keeper. They have been identified as her clothes, and it seemed to me that if the
clothes were there the body would not be far off.
By the same brilliant reasoning, every mans 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
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.
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, youre looking at the wrong side!
On the contrary, this is the right side.
The right side? Youre 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.
Theres nothing in it. I looked at it before,
- 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
Ive wasted time enough, said Lestrade,
rising. I believe in hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine
theories. Good-day, Mr. Holmes, and we shall see which gets to the bottom of the matter
first. He gathered up the garments, thrust them into the bag, and made for the door.
Just one hint to you, Lestrade, drawled Holmes
before his rival vanished; I will tell you the true solution of the matter. Lady St.
Simon is a myth. There is not, and there never has been, any such person.
Lestrade looked sadly at my companion. Then he turned to me,
tapped his forehead three times, shook his head solemnly, and hurried away.
He had hardly shut the door behind him when Holmes rose to put
on his overcoat. There is something in what the fellow says about outdoor
work, he remarked, so I think, Watson, that I must leave you to your papers
for a little.
It was after five oclock when Sherlock Holmes left me,
but I had no time to be lonely, for within an hour there arrived a confectioners 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 pâte 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.
before nine oclock 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
You seem to expect company. They have laid for
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
Ah, you look on these things from another
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
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.
Youre angry, Robert, said she.
Well, I guess you have every cause to be.
Pray make no apology to me, said Lord St. Simon
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 didnt know what I was doing or saying. I
only wonder I didnt 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?
I may give an opinion, remarked the strange gentleman, weve 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 Ill tell our story right away, said the
lady. Frank here and I met in 84, in McQuires 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
wouldnt hear of our engagement lasting any longer, and he took me away to
Frisco. Frank wouldnt 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 shouldnt we be married right away, then, said he, and
then I will feel sure of you; and I wont 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 Franks 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
Id have done my duty by him. We cant 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
didnt 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 didnt 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 hadnt 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 meseemed to me from the little I heard as
if he had a little secret of his own before marriage alsobut 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 againjust 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 wont forgive me? You wont 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. Simons
narrative. When he told us of a man in a pew, of the change in the brides manner, of
so transparent a device for obtaining a note as the dropping of a bouquet, of her resort
to her confidential maid, and of her very significant allusion to claim-jumpingwhich
in miners parlance means taking possession of that which another person has a prior
claim tothe whole situation became absolutely clear. She had gone off with a man,
and the man was either a lover or was a previous husbandthe chances being in favour
of the latter.
And how in the world did you find them?
It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held
information in his hands the value of which he did not himself know. The initials were, of
course, of the highest importance, but more valuable still was it to know that within a
week he had settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels.
How did you deduce the select?
By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and
eightpence for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive hotels. There are
not many in London which charge at that rate. In the second one which I visited in
Northumberland Avenue, I learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an
American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking over the entries against
him, I came upon the very items which I had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were
to be forwarded to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate enough
to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them some paternal advice and to
point out to them that it would be better in every way that they should make their
position a little clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in particular.
I invited them to meet him here, and, as you see, I made him keep the appointment.
with no very good result, I remarked. His conduct was certainly not very
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.