The Adventure of the Dancing Men

The Adventure of the Dancing MenThe Adventure of the Dancing Men

Oh, heck yes! Thunder Down Under and the Chippendales! That’s what I’m talking about!

Oh, this isn’t that kind of story and we’re not talking about those kind of dancing men; I was getting ready to drive to Harrah’s Casino. I’m kind of sad now.

Sherlock was making meth one day when he suddenly asked John if he really did suggest not investing in South African securities. John is a bit perplexed by this and has no idea how Sherlock has come to know his opinion on South African securities. Sherlock explains his logic and he’s correct as usual.

Sherlock then goes on to say that he’s expecting someone, a case. No sooner has Sherlock said this than a man shows up. The man’s name is Hilton Cubitt; he’s from Norfolk. His family is a genteel family, but not enough quite genteel to make him overly revered or wealthy. Hilton Cubitt is gigantic. He begins his story after his introduction. He tells John and Sherlock that something is frightening his wife to death.  His wife says she cannot tell him, but he can see that she is scared. What has frightened her so much seems to be a child’s drawing. It’s of little dancing men. He has brought the drawing with him.

Hilton goes on to explain that he has been married to his wife Elsie for a year. She’s an American. They met a year earlier. They fell head over heels for each other and were abruptly married. They have been quite happy,even if Hilton’s family frowns upon him marrying so suddenly. The happiness has been changed by recent events. When Elsie and Hilton married Elsie told Hilton that she was not a bad person, but there were bad things in her past, but she was not guilty of those things. She wanted to forget about those things and not have questions about them.

Hilton goes on to say that his wife first received a startling letter from America. Then Hilton found upon one of the window sills a drawing of little dancing men. Then he found the current drawing he has on the sundial. Hilton says he will do anything to help his wife, but he won’t force her to tell what’s going on.

Sherlock begins to ask questions about Hilton’s neighborhood. Have there been any strangers? Has anyone new moved in? Hilton says there is nothing too strange, but some of the farmers take in lodgers. Sherlock says the little men have some meaning, but he doesn’t have enough material to figure it out yet. He tells Hilton to go home and wire him if anything else develops.

A couple of weeks later Hilton sends a telegraph to Sherlock. He says he’s coming back to Baker Street, and he does. He says his wife still won’t say anything, he has fresh dancing men pictures, and he has seen the man who draws them himself. He says he first saw a new picture of dancing men the morning he returned home on the tool house. He copied it exactly. Two days later there was another drawing. He copied that also. Three days later there was another drawing on paper placed on the sundial. After this, Hilton decided to wait up at night with his revolver to catch the artist.

Elsie didn’t want him to wait up, but he did anyway. They saw a man creeping to the sundial. Hilton was going to get him, but Elsie held him back and the artist escaped. The next morning there was another drawing on the tool house. Sherlock asks if it looks as if it were the same drawing or a completely different drawing. Hilton says it was on a different panel of the door. Sherlock asks Hilton if he can stay the night, but Hilton says he doesn’t want to leave his wife alone for the night. Sherlock asks to keep the drawings of the dancing men.

Sherlock works on the drawings and makes lots of notes himself. They wait on a telegram from Hilton. He sends a note with another drawing. Sherlock says they must go to North Walsham right away. John says there aren’t anymore trains. So they have to go the next morning. When they arrive at the station a man asks if they’re detectives and if they’re going to Hilton’s house. It turns out something terrible has happened. There has been a murder-suicide, or what appears to be a murder suicide. Nobody is quite sure who has shot whom.

Hilton is dead. Elsie is wounded and unconscious. Everyone supposes that Elsie shot her husband and then tried to shoot herself, but Sherlock says another shot had been fired. One had been fired from inside the room to the outside. There is a third person in the equation.

The Adventure of the Dancing MenSherlock sends off a note with a local boy to a nearby farm. Sherlock tells the local detective that they will soon have their culprit. A man appears and he is immediately arrested. This man is named Abe Slaney and he is a notorious American criminal. Abe is detained, but is able to tell his story. He did not know that Elsie was shot and that Hilton was dead, but he was the third person.

It turns out that Elsie belonged to a crime family from Chicago, in the United States. She was once engaged to Abe Slaney, but got fed up with belonging to a crime family and left. She met Hilton and married him. Abe wasn’t going to let go of his woman so easily and came to England to find her. They passed notes back and forth using a secret code. The dancing men represent letters, Sherlock has already figured this out. Abe wanted Elsie to leave her husband and go with him, but she didn’t want to go; she liked her life.

One evening Abe came to her house. Hilton aimed at Abe, but missed, Abe fired at Hilton and he fell over. Abe didn’t know that he was dead. Abe is taken to prison where he will serve out the rest of his life. Elsie does recover, but spends the rest of her life alone and helping the poor.

The Adventure of the Dancing MenObservations

There is a portion of this story that I did not explain. I didn’t explain Sherlock’s reasoning about the dancing men. Why didn’t I explain it? Well, I didn’t explain it because it’s complicated. It’s cryptography. Basically, cryptography means secret writing. I actually had to study cryptography when I was studying information security. Cryptography is one way you can keep your information secure. If no one can understand what data you’re securing, then they can’t really steal it. Cryptography has been in use for a very long time and the dancing man code is actually viable. You could use this same code to write secret messages to your friends.

We use cryptography a lot today. You don’t see it, but every time you type in a password on any computer or any device, you’re using cryptography. The cryptography that your devices use is more aptly called encryption and it’s much more complicated than the dancing man code. Cryptography also plays a huge part in warfare. If you know anything about WWII, you should know that a large part of the war was concerned with breaking codes and making codes.

Back to Benedict Cumberbatch, again, he recently starred in a movie called The Imitation Game about Alan Turing. Turing was a very important man to cryptography and code breaking during WWII. He actually created one of the first computers and the first computer algorithms in order to aid coding and decoding during WWII. Unfortunately, poor Turing had a very rough life despite the amazing advances he made to the world. Without Turing, our computer world simply wouldn’t be the same.

It’s obvious that Arthur was really getting into some of the more technical details of crime solving. In the last story he spoke about fingerprints and in this story he’s talking about secret codes. Arthur knew the basics of code breaking. He apparently researched this. I’m proud of you Arthur; you researched something! In any letter code, you figure out the most prominent, or rather, most frequent, letter first. In the English language, that most frequent letter is going to be E. After you have E figured out, you continue on with the letters that come before or after E. In some cases, certain letters appear most often with some letters and other letters are never associated with some letters. A person really has to know their spelling and grammar to be a good code breaker, or, fancy word, cryptanalyst. Double-letters are also a very important tool in breaking codes. There are only so many letters that double in the English language. If you found a phrase that was *((+, and each symbol stood for a letter, you could assume that the two (s in the word were Es, because E is the most common letter to be doubled in the middle of a word, but you would also have to consider the possibility that it could be two Os or even two Ls, heck, maybe it’s two Gs and the person is trying to tell you that they have a craving for Eggo waffles.

Secret codes are neat, but beware, every code and every language can be cracked. It is true that there are a few famous codes and languages that we haven’t been able to figure out so far, but it will happen. You may think you’re crafty in thinking up your secret code, but there is going to be someone else who can figure it out. That’s why you have to add additional security measures on top of cryptography, like maybe encrypting your info, just like our computers do these days. Encrypting isn’t only coding a message, it’s also scrambling it a bit and then sending along the key to do the unscramble. If you don’t have the key to do the unscramble, you’re probably never going to figure it out.

Moving on from cryptography, I’m still not sure how Elsie ended up being shot. I read over that part of the story a couple of times, but I’m coming up short. I can’t figure out if Elsie shot herself, or it Hilton shot her, or if maybe Abe shot her. I’m leaning towards maybe Elsie was so overwrought that she shot herself, but if the story flat-out came out and said who shot Elsie, I missed it.

Just as more information, Abe Slaney is from Chicago, which is a town known for its criminals. A while back I read an entire book about Chicago, the World’s Fair, and H.H. Holmes, dastardly owner and creator of the murder castle. Chicago has almost always been a rough town. It’s not the US city one would associate with something like the Mafia, that would be New York City, but Chicago has its criminals.  It started out as something of an outpost/logging town and those were rough in the first place. Then people moved there, bringing crime with them. These days Chicago is full of crime, not quite as full as Detroit I don’t think, but it’s still pretty crime ridden. I just know that I hate the airport there; it’s a nightmare.

The Adventure of the Dancing MenThemes

First of all, I think this is another case where a man is being too pushy to his wife. Elsie would have told Hilton about her life, if she had felt a need to. Hilton even says that there were a couple of times when Elsie seemed on the verge of telling him what was going on. Second of all, I don’t think Elsie was in any danger. While it may be true that Abe Slaney, a dangerous criminal, was hanging around drawing weird dancing men on everything, I don’t think he would have hurt Elsie. I don’t think he would have hurt Hilton had he not been shot at first. Maybe I’m too trusting, but honestly, I think he might have just gone away after a while.

Yes, Elsie was scared. She was scared for her current life. She has nice new husband. She has a nice house. She has moved on into a different life. She wants to start over anew. She was scared Abe Slaney was going to ruin all of that for her. She didn’t want to be associated with a big crime family. She was freaked out. Any woman who is staring a piece of her past in the face, while living a completely different life, is going to be freaked out.

With all of that said, Abe Slaney is still a dangerous criminal and shouldn’t be at large. If there is cause to nab him in England, he should be nabbed.

There’s room for danger in this story, we did end up with danger, but I kind of feel the story wouldn’t have ended so badly if Hilton had just cooled his jets, granted, he did kind of have a right to shoot at Abe for trespassing on his property.

Going back to the being too pushy business, this man had been told by his wife that she couldn’t tell about her past and he promised not to ask. He promised, but then he went behind her back and hired a detective to figure out the whole thing. Look, if your spouse says to you, “Yes, I will marry you, but I don’t want you asking about so-and-so,” and they’re otherwise a very good spouse, what’s the problem? You don’t then hire a personal investigator to figure out why they didn’t want to talk about so-and-so. Maybe they just had a bunch of pictures from when they were fat and they didn’t want you to see. What’s so difficult about letting your significant other have a bit of privacy in their life?

I’m getting kind of miffed at Arthur about this. It’s ok for a man to have secrets when he marries a woman, but it’s not ok for the woman to have secrets when she marries a man. If it turns out she does have secrets, then it’s completely ok for the man do whatever he thinks is necessary to get at those secrets. Way to be sexist, Arthur. Remember the story of The Yellow Face? Remember how that man just had to know what his wife’s secret was. He hired Sherlock. He pushed the matter and pushed the matter and pushed the matter. This is the same thing in this story. All of this makes me wonder how Arthur treated his wives. He probably had background checks and made them confess to him every little naughty thing they had ever done.



Apparently, if you’re an American woman and you want to marry a British man, Arthur thinks you should have no secrets. I also kind of get the feeling that Arthur doesn’t want British men to marry American women. They’re taking all the good men! Oh no!

chicago, code, code breaking, code with dancing men, controlling husband, cryptography, dancing men, dancing people, elsie, hilton, john watson, secrets, sherlock, sherlock holmes, The Adventure of the Dancing Men, The Adventure of the Dancing Men sherlock holmes, The Adventure of the Dancing Men sir arthur conan doyle, writing in code
Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes


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