Looks like quite the interesting happening according to this drawing.
Sherlock and John are sitting at Baker Street one rainy evening. A man shows up and it’s none other than Stanley Hopkins. Remember him? We talked about him earlier in relation to the harpooning incident and wanting to kiss Sherlock’s hand.
Stanley walks in and asks Sherlock if he has read the news for the day. As it so happens, Sherlock has not read the news for the day. He had been reading manuscripts from the 15th century. Stanley’s reason for coming to see Sherlock is in relation to the Yoxley case.
A man has been murdered and Stanley has absolutely no idea who might have done it. The man’s name is Willoughby Smith; yes, his parents did hate him; they named him Willoughby after all. He works for a man called professor Coram. He was found murdered in Professor Coram’s study. The murder weapon was a letter opener. Willoughby was able to say a few last words before he died of profuse blood lose. He said, “The Professor. It was she,” then he died.
The maid wasn’t in the room when this happened. Everyone rushed in. There is no clue as to who might have killed the man other than a pince-nez made of gold. Just for clarification, a pince-nez is basically a pair of eyeglasses that don’t have ear loops. You put them on your nose and hope they stay. The glasses don’t belong to anybody in the house. No unknown visitors were sighted. There aren’t really any footmarks on the path outside of the house. There isn’t really a clue as to where the murderer went.
Sherlock asks Stanley what he wants him to do about it, but he also gives Stanley this insult:
“What did you do, Hopkins, after you had made certain that you had made certain of nothing?”
Stanley says the passage ways are lined with coconut matting. Willoughby did not fall on his knife. He also has the glasses with him. He lets Sherlock check them out.
Sherlock says that the glasses belong to a woman who has eyes close together, a big nose, terrible vision, and she has been to the optometrist twice within the past year or so. Stanley is amazed, but would still like Sherlock to go up to Yoxley to check things out. They all decide to leave in the morning. They have a slumber party and get on the train at 6:00am. They also played spin the bottle and talked about boys, but that’s not in the story.
They arrive at Yoxley and Sherlock begins looking all around. There are a few marks on the path, but none to indicate an exit from the house. It seems that someone did enter, but maybe they didn’t leave, or they left a different way. In the study Sherlock notices that the lock of a cabinet in the room has been scratched. He asks the maid if it had been there before and she said it had not. Someone was looking for something and Willoughby just happened to get in the way. The murderer had not brought a weapon and therefore did not intend to kill Willoughby.
Sherlock then wanted to talk to the professor. The professor’s room is attached to the study via a small hallway and staircase. The murderer did not pass out of the main door by the maid, so the murderer must have passed in the professor’s room. The added fact that the professor seemed to have been eating more the past couple of days was a clue for Sherlock. Sherlock pointed at a cabinet and said the murderer was inside.
Before anyone else could bat an eye, the cabinet opened and a woman rushed out. She admitted to the murder and also said she was the wife of the professor. It turns out the professor was not English at all; he’s a Russian. He got out of Russia and got his position in England by betraying his fellows. One man is in prison and his wife also went to prison. She broke in to steal the papers that would secure the release of the other man. She didn’t plan on killing Willoughby. Before anyone could arrest her she died, she had taken poison right before bursting out of the cabinet.
I’ve already explained what a Pince-nez is, but here is a picture of Anton Chekov with a pince-nez for illustration.
There is another word I would like to explain in this story. That word is Palimpsest. Basically, a palimpsest is a manuscript that has been recycled. Maybe you had a story you wrote on some nice vellum, but then decided your paper supply was a little scarce, so you wrote over or tried to erase your earlier writing on the paper so you could write something else. You couldn’t entirely remove the traces of your earlier writing.
While it is true that you can erase graphite, and to some extent ink, from paper, you can’t ever get the paper back to the way it was. When you use paper, especially hand-made papers or thicker papers, you actually create indentations in the paper and you damage the little teeth sticking up. No matter what you do, that damage is still going to be there. You can erase the graphite all you want, you’re not getting rid of the indentations of your writing. There has been a lot of information gleaned from re-used paper.
There is something important about this story that must be mentioned. You might look it over and never know it’s significance to the events of the story. The group is speaking of the lock on the cabinet in the professor’s study. There is a scratch around it, but it couldn’t have been picked. If you read the details, our murderer has her own copy of the key that goes to the cabinet and it’s a Chubb’s key. She does not try to pick the lock. Why is that? That is because it’s a Chubb detector lock, which basically means the lock is created in such a way that when anything other than the key is inserted into it, it jams. The jam can only be cleared when the original key or a regulator key is inserted. Because of this, any owner of a Chubb detector lock would know if someone had tampered with their things. It also shows that the professor was very careful about what he had locked away.
As for the cigarettes, apparently it was the thing to smoke Egyptian cigarettes for quite some time. If you were smoking cigarettes in England during a certain time period, you were smoking Egyptian cigarettes, but there is no manufacturer named Lonides.
The Andaman islands are mentioned briefly in this story. They’re real and they’re in the Bay of Bengal. England tried at one point to colonize the islands and also have a penal colony there. It didn’t work out too well. There was a lot of death and disease. The natives weren’t too friendly either.
The word ejaculated is used once in this story and the word ejaculation is also used once in this story.
Why is it always the Russians? When we think of spies we don’t say, “Oh, it was an Australian spy.” We say it was a Russian spy. Everyone always suspects the Russians of being spies. Are you Russian? if, yes, then everyone probably thinks you’re a spy. It’s a bit discriminatory if you ask me, but then again, you have to be smart to be a spy, so maybe it’s also a back-handed compliment.
There really is such a thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Willoughby didn’t do anything, but now he’s dead. The woman didn’t plan on killing him. Everybody liked the guy, but he’s dead. That just sucks. The professor doesn’t even seem to care that he’s dead. He’s like, “Oh, I think he killed himself.” He stabbed himself in the neck and then tried to name a murderer? Oh really? That makes a lot of sense.
In the end, people were just like, “Oh, what’s his face, yeah, he was a nice guy.” Poor Willoughby.
I hate that people like Willoughby are looked over. I’m sure he was a nice guy. He was probably smart, but apparently not excessively so, otherwise, more people would care about his death. He was just average Willoughby. I know everyone can’t be remembered for great accomplishments, but Willoughby seemed to have a half-existence in his life as well. People didn’t have much to say about him. They didn’t hate him, but they weren’t flocking to hang out with him either.
Make yourself memorable. Make sure there are people who would care if you were gone. Make sure there are people who hang out with you. Make sure you have connections in life. Willoughby seemed to have connections, but in reality, he didn’t. His connections were surface connections. They were like those Facebook friends you have that are just kind of there and you never talk to and you didn’t really hang out with in school. They didn’t mean anything to Willoughby. The professor didn’t even mean anything to Willoughby. Look, if someone murders you, there need to be people who know you well enough to know that you don’t have a secret lover and you didn’t murder yourself because of a break-up. We need people. We need buddies. We need people who care. You shouldn’t live in the world with only the shallowest of human connections.
If you murder someone, don’t leave your glasses behind.
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Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes