The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
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|"The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger"|
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Series||The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes|
"The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" (1927), one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes is visited by Mrs. Merrilow, a landlady from South Brixton who has an unusual lodger who never shows her face. She saw it once accidentally and it was hideously mutilated. This woman, formerly very quiet, has recently taken to cursing in the night, shouting “Murder, murder!” and “You cruel beast! You monster!”
Also, her health has taken a turn for the worse, and she is wasting away.
Mrs. Merrilow has brought this case to Holmes’s attention as her tenant, Mrs. Ronder, will not involve the clergy or the police in something that she would like to say. She has told her landlady to mention Abbas Parva, knowing that Holmes would understand the reference.
Indeed he does. It was a most tragic case in which a circus lion somehow got loose and savaged two people, one of whom was killed, and the other badly disfigured. The latter is apparently this lodger. The former was her husband. Holmes could make little of the case at the time, but perhaps if someone had actually hired him, the outcome would have been different. As it was, the inquest ruled that Mr. Ronder was the victim of death by misadventure.
Still, even the local police were a bit disturbed at the time by some seeming inconsistencies in the accounts. The lion was part of an act which Mr. and Mrs. Ronder performed right in its cage, and they were the ones who fed it. Why had it suddenly turned on its feeders? Why had it not tried to escape? Who was that man that several people heard screaming when supposedly Mr. Ronder had already been killed?
Upon arriving at Brixton, Holmes and Watson are shown into Mrs. Ronder’s room, which she seldom leaves. She is wearing her veil. Her purpose, it seems, is to make a clean breast of the matter before she dies.
Mr. Ronder was a terrible husband, cruel and violent in the extreme, even to the circus animals, but he didn’t care, even though he wound up in the dock for it several times. He was rich and the fines meant nothing.
Mrs. Ronder had an extramarital lover, the circus strongman, Leonardo. They conceived a plan to get rid of the piglike Mr. Ronder. Leonardo made a club with five nails in it, whose wounds might be taken for a lion’s. Then, one night at Abbas Parva, a small village in Berkshire where the circus had camped for the night, Leonardo smashed Ronder’s head in with the club, and his wife released the lion to make it appear that it had broken free and done the deed. However, the lion turned and pounced on Mrs. Ronder, chewing her face up badly. Leonardo began screaming and ran away. He could have helped his lover, but he was a coward.
She could not bring herself to implicate Leonardo in her husband’s murder at the inquest, and is only now telling Holmes and Watson this story because she believes that she will soon die. Ever since that night, she has lived alone and veiled.
Holmes only has advice to offer. Realizing that Mrs. Ronder is contemplating suicide, he reminds her that her life is worth something as an example of patient suffering in an impatient world. She responds by lifting her veil, and the sight is ghastly.
Nevertheless, two days later, Holmes receives a bottle of prussic acid, from Mrs. Ronder. She was going to use it, but has apparently thought better of it.
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