Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Like almost all the Sherlock Holmes stories authored by Arthur Conan Doyle, this one is presented as a memoir written by Watson, the first-person narrator. The story begins in Holmes and Watson’s Baker Street apartment in London. Holmes, who appears to be deeply engrossed in his chemicals and test-tubes, surprises Watson by apparently reading his mind: “So, Watson . . . you do not propose to invest in South African securities?” Watson, astonished by Holmes’s remark, demands an explanation, and Holmes complies, relating an intricate chain of reasoning that begins with the presence of chalk on Watson’s left hand the previous night and concludes with his investment decision.
Holmes then hands Watson a sheet of paper bearing some stick figures and asks him what he makes of it. Watson believes it to be a child’s drawing, but Holmes tells him that a client, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, is calling on them soon to seek an explanation of the stick figures drawn on the paper, figures that seem to resemble dancing men. When Cubitt arrives, he explains that he has been married for about a year to a young American woman. He knew little about his wife, Elsie, when they met, and she requested that he not ask her about her past, a past she says she would like to forget. He has honored her request, but recently she seemed quite shaken after receiving a letter from the United States. Shortly after she read and burned that letter, the dancing men hieroglyphics were found...
(The entire section is 1232 words.)
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