Sadly, this story is not about the episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob and Patrick have tremendous loads of fun with nothing but a cardboard box and Squidward gets extremely jealous and inquisitive. That was classic.
No, this story is about something much more sinister. When you get a package in the mail, you generally know that it’s something you’ve ordered off of Amazon, but that wasn’t the case with one little old lady named Susan Cushing. Susan got a package one day and it happened to hold quite the terrible contents. Inside the box were two human ears. Susan doesn’t have many friends, she is not married, and generally people like her. Why on Earth would somebody send her two ears?
Lestrade supposes that perhaps they were a prank played by some medical students whom Susan used to rent to. Upon examining the ears, Sherlock comes to the conclusion that they’re not from a preserved body as such would be used during dissection; they’re from recently deceased people, two people in fact. One ear belongs to a man, a sailor, and another ear belongs to a woman. Since no one has reported having their ears cut off, it’s assumed these two people are dead.
Sherlock asks Susan all kinds of questions about her family. She has three sisters. One is married, the other is not. The married one has an alcoholic husband. The unmarried one used to live with Susan, but they couldn’t get along so she moved out. The two sisters are named Sarah and Mary. Susan has not heard from her sisters in some time.
Sarah doesn’t live very far away and Sherlock and John decide to pay her a visit. When they reach the house they are told that she cannot see them because she has brain fever(basically she’s had a mental breakdown).
Sherlock and John go out to dinner with Lestrade, where Sherlock talks about violins incessantly and receives a telegram. He tells Lestrade he has solved it. He says the crime is shocking. He gives a name to Lestrade and tells him to arrest the man.
The name happens to be the name of Mary’s husband. Apparently, Sarah wanted Mary’s husband and flirted with him all the time. She lived at their house and it was a difficult situation. The man, Browner, had taken up drinking again after swearing it off. Apparently, Sarah got Mary to talking to another sailor. She created suspicion in Mary’s mind about her husband. She was finally told that she had to leave the house. Mary wasn’t very happy. He told Sarah that if he ever caught his wife with the sailor again, he would send Mary’s ear to her.
Mary did not heed her husband’s warning. She went out with the sailor for a nice day. Browner followed them and killed them in a boat. He cut off an ear from each and mailed them to Sarah, at Susan’s house, where she had previously resided, but he did not know that she wasn’t there. Sarah was so distraught about the whole thing that she came down with brain fever.
Browner is arrested. Sherlock deduced from the rocky family relations and the string used to tie the package that a man of the sea with violent passions was somehow involved.
Gosh, this is awful. One of the sisters got her ear cut off. Granted she shouldn’t have been cheating on her husband, or whatever it was, she shouldn’t have had her ear cut off. As described the murders sound exactly like the “crime of passion” thing we were talking about in another post on Sherlock. I looked into crimes of passion a bit more. They still carry a sentence, but it can be a reduced sentence. You still have to have a pretty good lawyer though. I doubt that Browner would have been granted a crime of passion sentence, because I don’t think the legal term existed then. I actually don’t know if the legal term exists in England at all.
It may be that Browner gets a full sentence, but it may also be that the court has a little compassion on him because he wife was cheating on him, but then you throw in the alcoholic equation and he’s probably not getting off of anything. Even back in the day when people drank up storms, there were people who didn’t like it. There would have been people who frowned upon Browner drinking so much.
This story contains a token of murder. We’ve seen the plot device used on many occasions. So-and-so’s dead; here’s their finger. So-and-so is dead; here’s their head in a box. I killed so-and-so; have a scalp. It’s a way to say, “Your loved one isn’t only dead, but I also chopped them to pieces.” It’s a way to show the people of the world that you mean business. It makes sense in a sick and twisted way. Yeah, still though, chopping off someone’s ear doesn’t seem very nice.
This story mentions something called an antimacassar, while having seen the word and being familiar with its usage, I wasn’t entirely sure what an antimacassar was. An Antimacassar is basically a piece of cloth you put over the top of a chair to protect it from grease, dirt, and other stuff. You might have decorated it and made it pretty, just as Susan in this story was doing.
Arthur must have admired Beecher, because he has mentioned him again in this story.
You know what I’m taking away from this–don’t marry an alcoholic and don’t try to steal your sister’s husband. Addiction is a tricky thing. It never really goes away. If you were addicted to say, Diet Coke, like me, you may be able to quit for a while, but the minute you pick up another Diet Coke, you just don’t take one sip, you go all out. You’re like Diet Coke this, Diet Coke that, Diet Coke in the morning, Diet Coke in the evening–there is no in-between; you’re either in or you’re out; you’re either pregnant or you’re not.
Browner in this story had evidently had problems with alcohol at one point, but decided to quit, perhaps at the coaxing of Mary his wife, but he went back to it. He didn’t just take a sip; he went in for the whole darn enchilada. As you know, alcohol can change your moods and your reactions. Some people giggle hysterically when drunk, while others will fight you. Browner was the violent type as we see.
Yeah, his wife cheated on him. The story doesn’t say as much as Browner caught them in bed together, but what else were they doing? Mary was cheating on her husband. Any husband should be angry that his wife is cheating on him, but an alcoholic husband is probably going to go off his rocker. He killed two people and cut off their ears. I would call that going off your rocker.
Also, this woman, Sarah, why in the heck did she want her sister’s husband? I mean he married Mary, it’s done, you can’t have him, go find somebody else. It’s just like how none of us can have Benedict Cumberbatch now; we just have to find somebody else. It’s over. Sarah probably had a good run when she flirted with Browner before they were married, but he likes Mary, time to get a new boyfriend. There are more men. Browner doesn’t even sound that great. He’s a sailor and he’s an alcoholic. That’s not anything to write home about.
I met the greatest guy. He’s a sailor. He has tattoos. He cusses like a sailor, because he is one. He is a reformed alcoholic. He tells me he’ll never touch another drop. He’s a bit possessive, but I kind of like it. We’re getting married tomorrow.
Seriously? Yeah, no. They could have all done better. Sarah actually sounds pretty smart and likable, besides the trying to break up a marriage thing. She could have found herself another man. Why didn’t she take the sailor that she pushed on her sister? He sounded nice enough. Let it go. There are other fish in the sea, seriously. You cannot spend your entire life pining after one person. There are other people out there. So what if you thought Reginald Flufferbottom was the most wonderful thing in the world. He’s married, go find yourself another man. He may not be Reginald Flufferbottom, but I think you’ll be alright.
Some marriages suck, but you shouldn’t try to break them up. If for some odd reason two people want to be together, let them be together. It’s their life. It doesn’t matter if you like the guy or the girl, or you’re jealous, or what. It’s their relationship and it’s important to them; you shouldn’t do anything to undermine it. Let them have their life. Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and let situations happen that you’re not comfortable with.
I’m still thinking about Spongebob Squarepants and his cardboard box.
alcoholic husband, body parts in a box, cardboard box, cut off ears, ears, ears in a box, jealous sister, john watson, sherlock, sherlock holmes, sir arthur conan doyle, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box sherlock holmes, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box sir arthur conan doyle, three sisters
Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes