The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

The Adventure of the Solitary CyclistThe Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

It’s not what you think it is judging by the picture. Well, actually, I don’t even know what I think it is from the picture. A woman is gagged, a man is dressed as a priest  another man is dressed as if he’s going to play golf or polo, another man is running towards all of this with John and Sherlock trailing along; if I hadn’t read the story, I wouldn’t know what in the heck was going on.

John starts this story off by saying Sherlock was involved in a lot of cases between 1894 and 1901. John says that one particularly interesting case involved Ms. Violet Smith. This particular case happened in 1895. On the 23rd of April a young woman showed up at Baker Street. Sherlock was really, really busy, but was polite enough not to tell Violet to scram because he was really, really busy. He listened to her strange story instead.

Sherlock is immediately able to tell that Violet likes to ride a bicycle. He is also able to determine that she plays the piano. She says her father is dead and the only family she has is her mother. One day there was an advertisement in the paper for her. It turns out to be two lawyers a Mr. Carruthers and a Mr. Woodley. They were back from South Africa for a while. They told her that her uncle was dead and had left her everything. This happened four months previously. Violet does not like Mr. Woodley at all, but Mr. Carruthers isn’t so bad. Violet is also engaged to a man named Cyril. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Carruthers offered Violet a job teaching music to his daughter, who was ten, in Farnham. He said that she may come home every weekend and her pay would be good.

Violet rode her bicycle to the train station every weekend to get on the train to go see her mother. The man that Violet did not like, Mr. Woodley, would often show up for a visit at Mr. Carruthers house and she did not like this at all. At one point, Mr. Carruthers asked him not to come back. He wanted to marry her, but she was already engaged and she didn’t like him anyway. Violet says that every weekend she rode the bicycle to the station, but she has noticed something strange on her rides. For a point in the road, there is another bicyclist behind her. He seems to appear out of nowhere. He has a dark beard. He then disappears out of nowhere. He doesn’t make the complete journey. It seems there is nowhere for him to have come from. Violet even hid around a corner one time waiting for him to show up and he never does. She says that there is a house she must pass, but it seems to be empty. She doesn’t know who this man is or why he seems to be following her.

Sherlock cannot go anywhere because he is much too busy, so he sends John to Farnham. John tries to find out who rents the house on the road called Charlington Hall. John gets to Farnham and finds that the road is indeed sparse and there isn’t really anywhere for someone to hide. There is a gate on the side of the road that goes to Charlington Hall. John hides around the area to see the man cycling after Violet. The man was as described. He had a dark suit and a dark beard, he saw him hide. A while later Violet rode down and the man follows soon behind her. The man is very careful not to get close enough for Violet to see. Violet chased after him at one point, but he turned around the other way and ran from her. The man hid for a while and then came out and rode back towards the hall.

John then inquires about the house. It’s been let to a Mr. Williamson. Sherlock seems to think that John could have done more on his journey when John relays all of this to Sherlock. Sherlock is determined that the cyclist is somebody Violet knows, otherwise he wouldn’t be so eager to avoid meeting her.

Violet writes to Sherlock and John. She describes what John watched, but then says that her job there is strange now because Mr. Carruthers has asked to marry her, he’s a widower. Sherlock says Violet’s situation may be getting dangerous. Sherlock goes to the pub in Farnham. There he gets into a fight with Mr. Woodley. He has found out that Mr. Williamson is some type of disgraced clergyman. Mr. Woodley and Mr. Williamson usually only come up to the house on the weekend.

Violet sends a later saying that Mr. Carruthers bought a cart for her to go to the station in, but she’s decided to leave. Mr. Woodley has been sneaking around the house and arguing with Mr. Carruthers. Sherlock and John decided to go up the next Saturday. Sherlock takes a gun.

Sherlock and John make their way to the road just as Violet is leaving in her cart. When they meet the cart, it’s empty. Someone has snatched Violet. They hop in the cart and take it to the hall, where they meet the cyclist. The man accuses Sherlock and John of snatching Violet, but they tell the man they found the cart empty. The man says that they have her. He also has a gun. They go through the bush, but find a young man tied up there; it’s the groom, who had been driving the horse.

They went out to the hall and ran behind. There they saw Violet, a priest of some sort and Mr. Woodley. It appeared a hasty wedding was going on, but the bride didn’t look as if she had volunteered. Woodley told the man to take his beard off and he did; it was Mr. Carruthers.

Mr. Woodley tells Bob Carruthers that he’s too late; Violet is his wife now.

Bob says: No, she’s your widow.

Then Bob shoots Woodley. Woodley was going to shoot Bob, but Sherlock pulled out his gun so Woodley wouldn’t shoot. Woodley’s wound isn’t life threatening and he will live. Sherlock says that the marriage will not be valid because the clergyman performing it is disgraced.

The truth finally comes out. Carruthers and Woodley were originally in a plan together. Violet had inherited a large sum from her uncle. They determined that one of them would marry her and they would split the money. The plan was originally for Woodley to marry Violet, but Violet didn’t like Woodley. Mr. Carruthers found that he actually cared for her and asked her to marry him, but she already had a boyfriend. When Carruthers told Woodley to go away Woodley endeavored to snatch Violet on her way to the train station, so Mr. Carruthers started following her on bicycle until she was past the hall in order to protect her.

The police came and arrested everyone who needed to be arrested. Violet went home, inherited a large fortune, and married her fiance. Everyone else went to prison.

The Adventure of the Solitary CyclistObservation

I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know an awful lot about laws, but I assume that there must have been some marriage laws in place in England during the time. I’m sure you just couldn’t snatch a woman off of the street and marry her; this isn’t the middle-east, where I think something like that may still be legal to some extent.

Look, we’re far from the days of some man grabbing your hair and dragging you into a cave to become your wife. Generally, you have a choice. Some person can’t just marry you against your will.

With all of that said, there are still culture pockets around the world where the woman’s say doesn’t really mean a darn thing. In some middle-eastern cultures it is still perfectly legal for a parent to say to some guy, “Hey, here’s my daughter marry her, but give me three cows first,” and have that be that. The daughter has no say in this person she is marrying. Do they already have three wives? Do they smoke? Is he a jerk? Is he seventy-five? None of it matters because the daughter can’t do anything about it.

Even in the United States, yes, even here, there are still cultures where the woman really doesn’t have a say in marriage. In some of the FLDS sects, for example, some leader says, “You’re going to marry this guy,” and the woman does it. In her culture, she’s banished if she refuses. Her family is there. Her children are there, if she has any. Her entire life is there. She doesn’t refuse because she’ll lose everything and be out on the street. She doesn’t know how to live life outside of her small culture. It looks as if it is legal, because she voluntarily signs the marriage license, if there is one, but in reality, it’s probably not legal, but it would be difficult to prove.

I looked up something about England. It wasn’t until 1887 that a woman could legally own property, even property that she had inherited. If she did inherit something it would automatically pass on to the closest male relative who cared for her, or supposedly cared for her. This story takes place in 1895, which only a few years since this law was passed. I don’t know if Arthur factored this into his story or not. For either Carruthers or Woodley to get Violet’s money, she would have to consent to letting him have it-were she not married, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t have been some shady measures to get her money.

For a very long time in England, until 1990 in fact, a woman’s income was considered her husband’s income, for tax purposes anyway. I can’t go overly into detail about marriage laws in England, but Woodley and Carruthers may have been counting on the fact that once Violet was one of their wives, they could do whatever they wanted with her money, because laws of the time still favored the husband. Anything of a woman’s would belong to the man once they were married. On a strange side of this law, if a woman had debt or committed a crime, the man was held responsible because it was assumed that she was acting under his direction. So if you were married, back in the day, to this woman and she murdered a whole bunch of people without you knowing, you might be tried for her crime. Nifty huh?

I looked into it some more and England has apparently never had an annulment for a marriage not being consummated. So according to that, Violet could have been forced to marry Woodley, he could have locked her in a closet for the rest of their marriage and still had their marriage be valid even if they never had sex. Annulments were very difficult to obtain for women in England. I don’t know about now. A woman could only divorce her husband if he were unfaithful and something else. A man could divorce his wife simply if she were unfaithful. Supposedly, an annulment could happen if proper permissions were not obtained before the marriage took place. That would probably be how our Miss Violet in this tale would have had to have gone about it had things gone any further, but it would have to proved that the proper permissions had not been obtained.

Another way the marriage might have ended would have been if it was a marriage under duress, which this was, but the law often argued that the women willingly said her vows, even if there was a gun held to her head. So Violet would have had a very difficult time getting out of this had it not been stopped right away. Arthur doesn’t mention the legal fallout of this whole deal, so perhaps he didn’t even know how this would have turned out.

I’ll say one thing for Arthur, despite him being a sexist in other ways, women can have no secrets from their husbands and they should all be named Mary, he’s a bit of a feminist in regards to marriage law. He writes that a forced marriage is not a legal marriage. Way to go Arthur. We are talking about a more advanced time period as far as women’s equality, but all the stuff I just mentioned was still going on to some degree. Women’s property was still being taken by their husbands. Annulments and divorces were still very difficult to obtain for women. This was getting to be more of a woman’s age, but it wasn’t there yet. Sherlock’s statement that a forced marriage isn’t a marriage is refreshing. See, Sherlock isn’t as mean as some people make him out to be. He’s caring and something of a feminist.

The Adventure of the Solitary CyclistThemes


Look, Carruthers and Woodley only thought they could force Violet to marry one of them because the laws were on their side. If the laws had not been on their side, none of this crap would have happened. It is true that Woodley at first endeavored to woo Violet, but he’s a loser, so that didn’t work out. Even if Woodley had wooed Violet and she liked him alright, the law was still on their side. They might still be able to get at her money because Woodley was married to Violet and thus her property became his property. Recent laws may have made it possible for Violet to inherit the money on her own as a woman, but laws still said that her husband pretty much owned her.

I have heckled Arthur about being a sexist in past posts. In this post I don’t think he is. He’s on the woman’s side in this story. At least for this story, Arthur is a feminist.

Look, sometimes laws suck. I don’t know enough about England’s governmental structure to make many assumptions on England’s part, but I know enough about the government structure of the United States to make a few statements. We’re a democracy correct? The people get to choose, supposedly. The senators and representatives are just supposed to be there to carry out your wishes. That’s not always how it works out. In practice, the US is part democracy and part republic and probably part oligarchy and part dictatorship, depending on who you talk to. Our government structure isn’t as cut and dry as we think it is.

Sometimes laws are made that do not favor the majority or even favor the people the laws are supposed to be protecting. Theoretically, laws are there to protect us. We have speed limit laws to keep people from getting ran over and to keep the amount of car wrecks down. We have drug laws to keep everyone from getting hooked on drugs and driving their cars while they think they’re flying a magical unicorn. We have laws that say we won’t discriminate, because people discriminate and that causes all kinds of problems for the people being discriminated against. Our laws are supposed to be our security blanket. That isn’t always the case though.

As society grows, we get laws that reflect our growth. There used to be laws that state a woman couldn’t vote. That’s changed. We became more enlightened and we had to get a specific federal law that said women could vote, otherwise people would refuse to let women vote. The marriage laws of London in the 1800s didn’t favor the woman. The marriage laws of the US in the 1800s didn’t favor the woman. All the laws favored the man. This was because men made all the laws and they made laws to favor themselves saying some bullcrap about how they were protecting the women who simply weren’t as smart as men and needed the protection of a man. Yeah, ok. Ptsch!

I think if this fake marriage hadn’t been caught right away, Violet might have been stuck legally. It would have been very hard for her to get out of it. It all looked nice and legal on paper, even if the act to make it happen was kidnapping, which was probably illegal back then, but, heck, maybe that was legal then too. There is an idea that goes around: something can be legal, but it may not be lawful. Just because it’s a law doesn’t make it right, essentially. Our laws don’t always protect us and when that’s the case, we’ve got to be very careful about what we end up in. Even if we are  careful, we may find ourselves on the wrong end of the law when we’ve done nothing wrong. So it does pay to know the laws of your area and country and it also pays to help make legislation when possible because someone else might be trying to make a law that hurts rather than protects.


I must say, I think Bob is pretty awesome. That line, “No, she’s your widow,” right before he shoots Woodley was pretty awesome.

annulment, feminism and sir arthur conan doyle, forced marriage, john watson, laws are there to protect, laws don’t always protect, legal versus lawful, marriage law, marriage laws england, marriage laws england 1800s, mr carruthers, sherlock, sherlock holmes, sir arthur conan doyle, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist sherlock holmes, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist sir arthur conan doyle, violet, violet smith
Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes


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