“You have been reading the papers diligently of late, have you not?”

“It looks like it,” said I ruefully, pointing to a huge bundle in the corner. “I have had nothing else to do.”

“It is fortunate, for you will perhaps be able to post me up. I read nothing except the criminal news and the agony column. The latter is always instructive.”

Ah, Holmes and Watson … Every week, I look forward to reading a new adventure as part of this current buddy read, and every week I look forward to meeting up with our two guys at No. 221B.

This week, I was particularly interested because this is another story that I mostly remember from the Granada TV adaptations. In this one, Holmes was haunted by a recurring nightmare … it was all very “dramatic”.

Having read this week’s instalment, I was a little disappointed that the actual story is very, very simple – no dungeons, no nightmare, no woman in black, and most of all … no horrible, villainous baddie.

In fact, the story is really quite straight-forward – a bride disappears at the wedding reception and the husband engages Holmes to find her, which he does. In fact, in the original story the bride is probably the most inconsiderate character of the piece.

Still, there is some fun to be had with this story, too.

For one, we have banter – both between Holmes and Watson and between Holmes and his client. Holmes is yet again not impressed with his client’s status. This always makes for a fun setting. (Remember his exchanges with the King of Bohemia?)

The other is that I think ACD himself may have been poking a lot of fun at the aristocracy:

For example: In this story, ACD creates the Duke of Balmoral as a character – a highly powerful and, yet, severely impoverished chap (who also features in another story in the canon).

Of course, in real life, there is no Duke of Balmoral. This is not altogether surprising as ACD would have made up any characters – especially members of the aristocracy.

However, ….
Clearly and unmistakeably “Balmoral” is a real place and is the Queen’s estate (about an hour west of where I am typing this) – it’s a great place I love hiking there – and ACD cannot have chosen this reference by accident or without knowing of the connection with not just any aristocrat, but No. 1 on the list.
So, I do not for a second believe that ACD chose the “Duke of Balmoral” on a whim.
As mentioned, in this story the Duke of Balmoral is suffering from a chronic lack of funds and his son – the main character of this piece – is looking to marry into (American) money to help his unfortunate circumstances.
The pith of mockery is that the son is being stood up…for no one less than a commoner who, once too poor to marry the lady in question, returns to … “get the girl”.
I know, I said this before… and still haven’t done anything about it… but I really want to read a biography of ACD. Maybe 2018 will be the year for it!

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