The Chronology Corner (Return)

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"The Adventure of the Empty House"

STATEMENT OF THE YEAR:
"It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested, and the fashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances."

THE TIME OF THE WRITING:
"Only now, at the end of nearly ten years, am I allowed to supply those missing links which make up the whole of that remarkable chain."
"... had I not been barred by a positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only withdrawn upon the third of last month."

TIME AND DATE OF THE MURDER:
"Yet it was upon this easy-going young aristocrat that death came, in most strange and unexpected form, between the hours of ten and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30, 1894."

WATSON TAKES A HAND:
"All day I turned these facts over in my mind . . . . In the evening I strolled across the Park, and found myself about six o’clock at the Oxford Street end of Park Lane."

HOLMES’S SPEEDY RETURN:
"I spent some months in a research into the coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, in the south of France. Having concluded this to my satisfaction and learning that only one of my enemies was now left in London, I was about to return when my movements were hastened by the news of this very remarkable Park Lane Mystery, which not only appealed to me by its own merits, but which seemed to offer some most peculiar personal opportunities. I came over at once to London."
"The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in wax. The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon."

THE MONTH OF HOLMES’S REAPPEARANCE:
"Such was the remarkable narrative to which I listened on that April evening . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
April 5, 1894.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
April 3, 1894.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
With such a clear date for the murder that came to be known as the "Park Lane Mystery," finding the beginning of this case seems to hinge on just how quickly Holmes could have found out about the murder and returned to England. As Holmes was planning his return to London, anyway, it’s entirely possible he was in Grenoble picking up the wax bust when word came of the air-gun murder. There was also probably not delay in his receipt of the news, as brother Mycroft had been surely keeping an eye on possible air-gun deaths.
Holmes’s progress from London to Switzerland in "The Final Problem" gives us a good yardstick with which to measure a trip back from Grenoble. A day from London to Brussels. A day from Brussels to Strasbourg. Another day could have surely gotten Holmes to Grenoble. The return trip would have therefore been a maximum of three days, and that was certainly a leisurely rate. A travelling Holmes intent on his destination could have made much better time, I’m sure.
The other factor to consider in this matter is the fact that Watson and the street loafers are still interested in the Park Lane Mystery on the day Holmes arrives back in London. The murder occurred on Friday, March 30. Mycroft could have telegraphed Holmes on Saturday, March 31. Even if Holmes was already in travel mode and in Grenoble, he probably couldn’t have begun the trip until late in the day. Travelling on Sunday and Monday, a Tuesday afternoon arrival seems not at all unlikely, and still within the range of days when Watson might still be following the case. That said, I’m going to have to go with Tuesday, April 3, 1894.

 

"The Adventure of the Norwood Builder"

THE MORIARTY REFERENCE POINT:
"London has become a singularly uninteresting city since the death of the late lamented Professor Moriarty."

TIME SINCE "EMPTY HOUSE":
"At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I at his request had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street."

THE STATE OF THE PARTNERSHIP:
"Our months of partnership had not been so uneventful as he had stated, for I find, on looking over my notes, that this period includes the case of the papers of ex-President Murillo, and also the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives. His cold and proud nature was always averse, however, from anything in the shape of public applause, and he bound me in the most stringent terms to say no further word of himself, his methods, or his successes—a prohibition which, as I have explained, has only now been removed."

MCFARLANE AT HIS OFFICE:
"I was very much surprised, therefore, when yesterday, about three o’clock in the afternoon, he walked into my office in the city."

HOLMES’S STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"I crawled about the lawn with an August sun on my back, but I got up at the end of an hour no wiser than before."

THOSE JIBES AT WATSON:
"I fear that the Norwood Disappearance Case will not figure in that chronicle of our successes which I foresee that a patient public will sooner or later have to endure."
"Perhaps I shall get the credit also at some distant day, when I permit my zealous historian to lay out his foolscap once more — eh, Watson?"
"If ever you write an account, Watson, you can make rabbits serve your turn."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
August 20, 1895.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July 2, 1894.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
It’s August and it is "some months" after Holmes’s return in April of 1894. Since we’ll later learn that 1894 was a very busy year for the Holmes-Watson partnership, it seems unlikely that Watson would have selected anything but an 1894 case to talk about his return to 221B, so we can surely take his "some months" to mean months, and not a year or more as some chronologists have theorized. But what day in August of 1894?
Well, there’s an interesting little thing going on behind the scenes in this tale, hinted at by Holmes’s multiple references to Watson’s writings. In the month that would follow, September 1894, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes would have its second edition published in America . . . an edition that suddenly wouldn’t have "The Cardboard Box" in it any more. (Oddly enough, "Cardboard Box" took place in August, too.) Whatever debate it was that caused that story to be pulled from the American edition was undoubtedly what had Holmes thinking of Watson’s writings anew, and with a negative outlook at that. It may have been the remaining Cushing sister who finally showed up at 221B to express her outrage at the tale’s publication, or it might have been some other scandalized reader, but either way Holmes probably didn’t wind up on the good side of the encounter. And he’s still smarting at the time of "Norwood Builder."
Giving Watson as much time as possible to deal with his American publishers after the anti-"Cardboard" event that set Holmes off, I’d have to date this case as early in August as possible: Wednesday, August 1, 1894.

 

"The Adventure of the Dancing Men"

WHAT HAPPENED THE YEAR BEFORE:
"Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee . . ."

THE HASTY WEDDING:
"In some way we became friends, until before my month was up I was as much in love as man could be. We were quietly married at a registry office, and we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple."

THE MONTH, AND DURATION OF THE MARRIAGE:
"Well, we have been married now for a year, and very happy we have been. But about a month ago, at the end of June, I saw for the first time signs of trouble."

THE DANCING MEN COMETH:
"About a week ago — it was the Tuesday of last week—I found on one of the window-sills a number of absurd little dancing figures like these upon the paper."
"None did come for a week, and then yesterday morning I found this paper lying on the sundial in the garden."
"When I got back after my visit to you, the very first thing I saw next morning was a fresh crop of dancing men."
"Two mornings later, a fresh inscription had appeared."

TIME BETWEEN CUBITT VISITS:
"The interview left Sherlock Holmes very thoughtful, and several times in the next few days I saw him take his slip of paper from his notebook and look long and earnestly at the curious figures inscribed upon it. He made no allusion to the affair, however, until one afternoon a fortnight or so later. I was going out when he called me back."

TIME BETWEEN MESSAGES:
"But there was a delay in that answering telegram, and two days of impatience followed, during which Holmes pricked up his ears at every ring of the bell. On the evening of the second there came a letter from Hilton Cubitt."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 27, 1898.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July 27, 1898.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
As the matching dates of Zeisler and the B-G Annotated might infer, the paths of "Dancing Men" chronology are well trod along common paths. The year is determined by adding one to the year of the Jubilee. (The Diamond Jubilee in 1897 is the usual choice, as Watson seems so very married the year following the Golden Jubilee in 1887 — also, the "Return" cases would have to be post-hiatus for Watson to title them so, wouldn’t they?) The month is found in "a month ago, at the end of June," and the day in "about a week ago—it was the Tuesday of last week."
To me, the phrase "about a week ago" or "about a month ago" would tend to mean "almost a week ago" or "almost a month ago," or else Hilton Cubitt would use the phrase "more than a week ago," "a little over a month ago," or something along those lines. Other chronologists would dispute such logic, claiming that "almost" Tuesday can’t be Monday because Watson played billiards the night before at his club.
For people who can’t say exactly which club Watson belonged to, however, or what his position in said club might have been, the lack of billiard availability on a Sunday night seems a bit of a stretch. Even if English law forbade open clubs or billiards on Sunday night, we still can’t say for certain that Watson and Thurston didn’t sneak into their club for a private game. Thus, I’m going to have to go with Monday for "almost Tuesday."
The last one in July of 1898 is nearly a week ahead of month-end, making it a good candidate for "about a month ago" following the same logic, so I’m going with Monday, July 25, 1898.

 

"The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist"

THE BUSY EIGHT YEARS:
"From the years 1894 to 1901 inclusive, Mr. Sherlock Holmes was a very busy man. It is safe to say that there was no public case of any difficulty in which he was not consulted during those eight years, and there were hundreds of private cases, some of them of the most intricate and extraordinary character, in which he played a prominent part."

THE STATEMENT OF THE DATE:
"On referring to my notebook for the year 1895, I find that it was upon Saturday, the 23d of April, that we first heard of Miss Violet Smith."

THE CASE JUST BEFORE THIS ONE:
"Her visit was, I remember, extremely unwelcome to Holmes, for he was immersed at the moment in a very abstruse and complicated problem concerning the peculiar persecution to which John Vincent Harden, the well known tobacco millionaire, had been subjected."

UNCLE RALPH’S TIME AWAY:
"My mother and I were left without a relation in the world except one uncle, Ralph Smith, who went to Africa twenty-five years ago, and we have never had a word from him since."

A CONFIRMATION OF THE MONTH:
"Excuse me," said Holmes. "When was this interview?"
"Last December — four months ago."

THE DAYS OF THE CASE
"You must know that every Saturday forenoon I ride on my bicycle to Farnham Station, in order to get the 12:22 to town ... Two weeks ago I was passing this place, when I chanced to look back over my shoulder, and about two hundred yards behind me I saw a man, also on a bicycle ... on my return on the Monday, I saw the same man on the same stretch of road. My astonishment was increased when the incident occurred again, exactly as before, on the following Saturday and Monday."
"Thursday brought us another letter from our client."
"I think, Watson, that we must spare time to run down together on Saturday morning and make sure that this curious and inclusive investigation has no untoward ending."
"Two days ago Woodley came up to my house with this cable, which showed that Ralph Smith was dead."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
April 13, 1895.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
April 23, 1898.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Well, Watson seems to have done us all a favor in this case and said it plainly: Saturday, April 23, 1895. There’s just one problem: in 1895, the 23rd falls on a Tuesday. The Saturdays are April 6, 13, 20, and 27. And our two friendly Chronology Corner past masters, Baring-Gould and Zeisler, each take a different route in deciding what the error is. Baring-Gould claims it’s the first digit in day, Zeisler goes with the last digit in year. In both cases, the error comes down to a single digit, someone mistaking a "2" for a "1" or an "8" for a "5."
So why doesn’t anyone think that maybe that "3" could have been a "0"?
The day is a lot easier to mess up than the year, so I’m leaning toward the B-G hypothesis, but mistaking a "1" for a "2"? Nope. I have to go with Saturday, April 20, 1895 for this one, the closest possible Saturday to the one Watson put in print.

 

"The Adventure of the Priory School"

FROM HOLMES’S ENCYCLOPAEDIA:
"’Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.’—half the alphabet! ‘Baron Beverley, Earl of Carston’ — dear me, what a list! ‘Lord Lieutenant of Hallamshire since 1900. Married Edith, daughter of Sir Charles Appledore, 1888. Heir and only child, Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and fifty thousand acres. Minerals in Lancashire and Wales. Address: Carlton House Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire; Carston Castle, Bangor, Wales. Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief Secretary of State for — —’ Well, well, this man is certainly one of the greatest subjects of the Crown!"

HUXTABLE AND SALTIRE FIRST CROSS PATHS:
"On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of the summer term."

AND THEN THEY PART WAYS:
"He was last seen on the night of May 13th — that is, the night of last Monday."
"His absence was discovered at seven o’clock on Tuesday morning."

THE DAY HOLMES TAKES THE CASE:
"Now, on Thursday morning, we are as ignorant as we were on Tuesday."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
May 16, 1901.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
May 17, 1900.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
May 13th occurs on a Monday during Holmes’s Canonical period activity in 1889, 1895, 1901, and 1907, and 1912. The latter two years are easily dismissed as Holmes is well known to have been in Sussex and America, respectively. As Holmes’s encyclopaedia refers to "1900," one can hardly place the case before that year, which leaves us with 1901.
While Zeisler may dispute such hard evidence, being a bit over-enthralled with subjective statements about the moon, few other chronologers have, and I find myself inclined to agree with the pack on this one: This case began on Thursday, May 16, 1901.

 

"The Adventure of Black Peter"

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR:
"I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year ‘95."
"In this memorable year ‘95, a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden
death of Cardinal Tosca — an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope — down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London. Close on the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy of Woodman’s Lee, and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the death of Captain Peter Carey."

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so often and so long from our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand."

THE DATES OF PETER CAREY:
"He was born in ’45 — fifty years of age. He was a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the steam
sealer Sea Unicorn, of Dundee. He had then had several successful voyages in succession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired. After that he travelled for some years, and finally he bought a small place called Woodman’s Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and there he died just a week ago to-day."

THE DAYS OF CAREY’S DEATH:
"You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest Row
about one o’clock in the morning—two days before the murder ... this refers to the Monday, and the crime was done upon the Wednesday."
"On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods, flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He roamed about the house, and the women ran for it when they heard him coming. Late in the evening, he went down to his own hut. About two o’clock the following morning, his daughter, who slept with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction ..."

THE MONTH OF NELIGAN’S FINAL FATE:
"On the first page were written the initials ‘J. H. N.’ and the date ‘1883.’"
"It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of August, 1883, on board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of my father’s fate."
"It was in ‘83 that it happened — August of that year. . . We were coming out of the ice-pack on our way home, with head winds and a week’s southerly gale, when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north. There was one man on her —a landsman. . . So far as I know, the man’s name was never mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if he had never been . . . Only one man knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own eyes, I saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch of a dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland Lights."

CAIRNS MEETS CAREY:
"The first night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what would make me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all two nights later."


LENGTH OF HOLMES’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE MATTER:
"There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 3, 1895.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July 10, 1895.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
This one isn’t too hard to calculate: The year is definitely 1895, both in Watson’s words and in Black Peter’s birth year plus his age. Watson also says his friend had been absent much during the first week of July. Holmes tells us he spent ten days on the case. Carey was killed on a Wednesday "a week ago."
Put all this together and look at a calendar, you’ll come up with Wednesday, July 10, 1895, just like Zeisler did, and just like I did. (Those folks that say July 3 just weren’t listening closely enough to Watson.)

 

"The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"

WATSON TOSSES OUT A CHALLENGE:
"The reader will excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact by which he might trace the actual occurrence."

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
"We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I, and had returned about six o’clock on a cold, frosty winter’s evening."

THE CURRENT MURDERER COUNT:
"I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow."

THE TIME UNTIL THE MARRIAGE OF LADY EVA:
"She is to be married in a fortnight to the Earl of Dovercourt."

THE DATES WATSON WAS GOING TO CONCEAL:
"My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the money is not paid on the 14th, there certainly will be no marriage on the 18th."

THE DEADLINE RUNS OUT:
"To-morrow is the last day of grace, and unless we can get the letters to-night, this villain will be as good as his word and will bring about her ruin."

THE DAYS OF ESCOTT:
"For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this attire, but beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hampstead, and that it was not wasted, I knew nothing of what he was doing. At last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening, when the wind screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from his last expedition."

THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF HOLMES AND WATSON:
"It was a six-foot wall which barred our path, but he sprang to the top and over. As I did the same I felt the hand of the man behind me grab at my ankle, but I kicked myself free and scrambled over a grass-strewn coping. I fell upon my face among some bushes, but Holmes had me on my feet in an instant, and together we dashed away across the huge expanse of Hampstead Heath. We had run two miles, I suppose, before Holmes at last halted and listened intently."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
January 5, 1899.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
January 6, 1886.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
Finding a date for "Charles Augustus Milverton" is a work that must be based upon the observation of trifles. Watson has said from the outset that he’s concealing the date from us, and the number of blackmail victims, combined with the burglary on the part of he and Holmes, give him ample reasons to do so. So how does one date this case? By looking to the case’s primary focus, of course.
As smart as Milverton was, there is no way his operation and personal safety continued for as long as it did with Milverton as an independent operator. Especially prior to 1891, when there was but one king of all London crime, and that king wouldn’t have taken kindly to an independent operator making as much as Milverton did without proper tribute being paid.
Yes, it is very hard to see Charles Augustus Milverton operating in Moriartian London without ties to the Professor, and given the amount of money that Milverton brought in with his blackmail business, one would suspect those ties were very close. So close, and so profitable, would be such a connection that I’m sure Moriarty would have felt "incommoded" by Milverton’s sudden demise and the burning of his papers.
And when was Moriarty "incommoded"? On January 23, 1891.
"But," one might argue, "Watson acts like he hadn’t seen Holmes for many months before ‘The Final Problem.’" If you look closely at what Watson writes in that tale, he says he only retained records of three cases with Holmes in 1890. He says he read of Holmes in the paper and received notes from him in 1891, but he never really says he didn’t see Holmes in 1891. We also know, from "The Valley of Fear," that Watson abbreviated his awareness of Holmes’s battle against Moriarty in FINA, and I think CHAS was another example of that abbreviation (especially when one remembers that FINA was written to clear Holmes’s reputation ... a record of him committing a burglary would hardly have helped).
If one needs further evidence of Watson dropping CHAS from his published accounts of the Moriarty war, examine Holmes’s comment in FINA with a mind to CHAS: "I must further beg you to be so unconventional as to allow me to leave your house presently by scrambling over your back garden wall."
If one of Watson’s last adventures with Holmes involved the two of them scrambling over a back garden wall, as CHAS did, this suddenly becomes a clever little in-joke between the two men worthy of Holmes’s sense of humor.
Once one then looks at the winter setting of CHAS, it all seems to fall into place. Watson may have supplied false dates in this story with Milverton’s "the money is not paid on the 14th, there certainly will be no marriage on the 18th," but he had already given us a true one in "The Final Problem." And from there we can easily work backwards.
Although the "14th . . . 18th" statement is incorrect as to the exact dates (as Watson told us he was going to be), one can still get the timetable of Milverton’s demands and Watson’s involvement from it. The wedding is two weeks from the day Watson became involved, and Milverton wanted his money four days before the wedding. The night Milverton dies begins the evening before "the last day of grace" . . . four days before the wedding, and Milverton’s post-midnight demise makes January 23, 1891 three days before the wedding. Adding those three days gives us a wedding on January 26 and subtracting the fortnight (14 days) that Holmes says remains before the wedding when the case begins, we can pretty surely say that "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" began on Monday, January 12, 1891.

 

"The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"

THE BUST-BUSTING SEQUENCE:
"The first case reported was four days ago," said he. "It was at the shop of Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale of pictures and statues in the Kennington Road."
"The second case, however, was more serious, and also more singular. It occurred only last night."
"The development for which my friend had asked came in a quicker and an infinitely more tragic form than he could have imagined. I was still dressing in my bedroom next morning . . ."

THE LENGTH OF BEPPO’S SENTENCE:
"It was more than a year ago now. He knifed another Italian in the street . . . . The man lived and he got off with a year.

THE DATES OF BUST SALES AND ARRESTS:
"When you referred in your ledger to the sale of those casts I observed that the date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the date when Beppo was arrested?"
"I could tell you roughly by the pay-list. Yes, he was paid last on May 20th."
"Mr. Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied him with the bust some months ago. We ordered three busts of that sort from Gelder & Co., of Stepney."

THE PRIDE OF THE YARD:
"We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there’s not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn’t be glad to shake you by the hand."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
June 8, 1900.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
June 11, 1900.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
In finding the year of this case, I found myself irresistibly drawn to that statement of Lestrade from the case’s conclusion. Every man at Scotland Yard wanted to shake Holmes’s hand. They’ve known him for years. He’s been successful before. And the men of the Yard haven’t even heard of his solution to the Borgia pearl business. Why are they suddenly so "not jealous?" Why are they so eager to shake his hand?
Only one reason seems satisfying enough, and that reason can be found in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs," where Watson writes: "I remember the date very well, for it was in the same month that Holmes refused a knighthood for services which may perhaps some day be described. I only refer to the matter in passing, for in my position of partner and confidant I am obliged to be particularly careful to avoid any indiscretion. I repeat, however, that this enables me to fix the date, which was the latter end of June, 1902, shortly after the conclusion of the South African War."
It was a June in which Holmes was offered a knighthood. It is also June in which "Six Napoleons" takes place, if we add a year to Beppo’s arrest for his jail time. The men of Scotland Yard would all know of such an event as Holmes’s impending knighthood. And one would think, as Lestrade says, that they would be very proud of their advisor of so many years. Since it’s after June 3 (or else the reference to "June 3rd of last year" would have been unnecessary) and still before the June Honours are presented, I’d have to say that this case starts on Wednesday, June 4, 1902.

 

"The Adventure of the Three Students"

THE STATEMENT OF THE YEAR:
"It was in the year ‘95 that a combination of events, into which I need not enter, caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our great university towns, and it was during this time that the small but instructive adventure which I am about to relate befell us. It will be obvious that any details which would help the reader exactly to identify the college or the criminal would be injudicious and offensive."

THE EXAM’S SCHEDULE:
"I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that to-morrow is the first day of the examination for the Fortescue Scholarship."
"To-day, about three o’clock, the proofs of this paper arrived from the printers."

FOOD OF THE SEASON:
"By Jove! My dear fellow, it is nearly nine, and the landlady babbled of green peas at seven-thirty."

YOUNG GILCHRIST’S ODD CLAIM:
"I have been offered a commission in the Rhodesian Police, and I am going out to South Africa at once."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
April 5, 1895.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
March 27, 1895.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Watson shows a lot of kindliness towards the athletic young Gilchrist in his write-up this tale, and treats the little cheater far better than he deserves. One almost would think Holmes and Watson believe the young blackguard’s announcement of self-imposed exile to South Africa to escape a charge of cheating. He’s lying, of course, but in his choice of lies we can find one helpful grain of truth: the date that this case began.
Like any energetic young "Animal House" college liar, Gilchrist grabbed for his lies any fact which had recently been added to the upper layer of his brain. And on Friday, May 3, 1895, certain territories belonging to the British South Africa Company were finally proclaimed "Rhodesia" after the company’s general manager, Cecil Rhodes. Give Gilchrist a few days to hear about it in a bar somewhere, as well as allowing for the proofs coming back from the printer on the day the case started, combined with the start of the exam the next day, and one comes to the inevitable result: This case began on Monday, May 6, 1895, well in season for those green peas the landlady babbled of.

 

"The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez"

THE STATEMENT OF THE YEAR:
"When I look at the three massive manuscript volumes which contain our work for the year 1894, I confess that it is very difficult for me, out of such a wealth of material ... I see my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an account of the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case comes also within this period, and so does the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin—an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour. . . . none of them unites so many singular points of interest as the episode of Yoxley Old Place."

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"It was a wild, tempestuous night, towards the close of November."

THE WEATHER REPORT:
"The gale had blown itself out next day, but it was a bitter morning when we started upon our journey."

A REFERENCE TO A PAST CASE:
"We saw the cold winter sun rise over the dreary marshes of the Thames and the long, sullen reaches of the river, which I shall ever associate with our pursuit of the Andaman Islander in the earlier days of our career."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
November 14, 1894.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
October 27, 1894.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
It’s November, it’s 1894, and Watson is not a happy man. The sun is cold, the marshes dreary, and even the river is sullen to him. Why is Watson so depressed, at a time when he and Holmes have begun anew, and are taking on adventures and investigations at a tremendous rate? He seems to be writing quite a bit. He’s keeping up on his medical skills. Why is he so glum?
There’s only one thing that makes a man this mopey, and it can be seen in his reference to the Andaman Islander . . . someone whom he probably wasn’t thinking of at all as they crossed the river. The true center of his thoughts should be plain: Watson proposed marriage to Mary Morstan during a September not long after that river chase he writes of in GOLD. It is likely they married in November, a month that gives them enough time to plan their future without interfering with holiday activity. The cause of Watson’s suddenly melancholy musings on a river than was always near at hand anyway suggest that the day this case starts was special in some way — the way a wedding anniversary is special.
Saturday is the traditional day of weddings, and the latest Saturday in November of 1888 was the 24th. Curiously enough, November 24th also falls on a Saturday in 1894, giving Watson even more reason to sadly remember what would have been his sixth anniversary, had his wife still been with him. Thus, I’m dating the beginning of this case on Friday, November 23, 1894.

 

"The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter"

THE STATEMENT OF MONTH AND (SORT-OF) YEAR:
"We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street, but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy February morning, some seven or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour."

THE SCOTLAND YARD REFERRAL:
"I’ve been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley Hopkins. He advised me to come to you."

THE STATE OF HOLMES’S BUSINESS:
"Even the most insignificant problem would be welcome in these stagnant days."
"Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to dread such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience that my companion’s brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave it without material upon which to work. For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career."
"Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look into the matter."

THE RUGBY SCHEDULE:
"To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up, and we settled at Bentley’s private hotel."

REFERENCE TO A PAST VILLAIN:
"I have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that way, was more calculated to fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty."

THE SEASON REITERATED:
"‘Come, Watson,’ said he, and we passed from that house of grief into the pale sunlight of the winter day."

PUBLICATION DATE OF THE STORY:
August 1904.

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
December 8, 1896.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
December 8, 1896.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
The year of this case can quickly be narrowed with a little math and a nod to Moriarty’s reign. It was plainly past 1894, as the mention of the late Professor indicates. And since it was published in 1904, the phrase "some seven or eight years ago" means it could not have been later than 1897. Past scholars have taken the history of Oxford-Cambridge rugby over the word of Watson in this case, choosing December over February, and selecting the year by who won. But trusting Watson must always be the first choice for the Sherlockian chronologer, or we discredit our best witness. Unless an old evening paper can be found with the exact wording Watson has transcribed in his text, we therefore must assume that the Oxford-Cambridge game was a special exhibition one, or even a purely student-organized bit of fun, that occurred in February and was not included in known records outside of the Canon.
We can eliminate the year 1895, as Watson has earlier spoken of what great form, physically and mentally, Holmes was in that year, and in "Missing Three-Quarter," Watson is very concerned about Holmes returning to drug use. And while 1896 is a good possibility, the recommendation of Stanley Hopkins is a sign that Holmes was on Hopkins’s mind. And the February that we’ll soon be finding out Holmes was on Hopkins’s mind was February 1897. (More in the "Abbey Grange" segment.)
Having already broken with the official rugby schedules in favor of Watson, I’m going to have to climb further out on that limb to say that Overton and his team-mates came up to London on Friday for a weekend in the city followed by a Sunday game. February would be heating up for Holmes by the second weekend of 1897 (as we’ll see next story), so I’m going to have to date this one on Saturday, February 6, 1897. (But not without admitting that this has to be the toughest case that this chronologist has encountered thus far.)

 

"The Adventure of the Abbey Grange"

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON AND YEAR:
"It was on a bitterly cold night and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of ‘97."

HOW QUICKLY HOLMES IS CALLED IN:
"The crime was committed before twelve last night."

THE CURRENT HOPKINS COUNT:
"Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occasion his summons has been entirely justified."

THE MAID’S TERM OF SERVICE:
"She has been with her all her life," said Hopkins. "Nursed her as a baby, and came with her to England when they first left Australia, eighteen months ago. Theresa Wright is her name, and the kind of maid you don’t pick up nowadays."

DURATION OF THE BRACKENSTALL MARRIAGE:
"He was all honey when first we met him—only eighteen months ago, and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. She had only just arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage—she had never been from home before. He won her with his title and his money and his false London ways. If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did. What month did we meet him? Well, I tell you it was just after we arrived. We arrived in June, and it was July. They were married in January of last year."
"I have been married about a year."

WHEN THE BOAT SAILED:
"In June of ‘95, only one of their line had reached a home port. It was the Rock of Gibraltar, their largest and best boat. A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss Fraser, of Adelaide, with her maid had made the voyage in her. The boat was now somewhere south of the Suez Canal on her way to Australia. Her officers were the same as in ‘95, with one exception. The first officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had been made a captain and was to take charge of their new ship, the Bass Rock, sailing in two days’ time from Southampton."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
January 23, 1897.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
January 15th or 24th, 1897.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Sometimes it’s the exact dates that are troubling when one is putting dates to Watson’s cases, sometimes it’s more subtle things. Watson writes that this case took place towards the end of winter. Theresa Wright says Mary Fraser met Sir Eustace eighteen months before, in July, which would make it January. Hopkins says Fraser and Wright left Australia eighteen months before (in June), which would make it December. And neither month really qualifies for the end of winter.
Theresa says the Brackenstalls were married in "January of last year," and Lady Mary says the wedding is "about a year" old. Yet both of these women are lying throughout the investigation, so their testimony must be looked at with a suspicious eye. Good old Watson’s "towards the end of winter" must be our best guide here, and that puts the case a little later than January. The bitter cold and ice seem to make it more likely February than March, but the best judge of what day it is must come from one of the worst lies in the entire Canon of Holmes.
"One day out in a country lane I met Theresa Wright, her old maid," Jack Crocker says, of his reacquaintance with Mary Fraser’s maid. Seems mighty coincidental, doesn’t it? Especially when coming from the lips of a man who also said, "Every day of that voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I kneeled down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it."
This man’s obsession with Mary Fraser was not the sort of thing that lets a reunion come based on a casual encounter. No, Crocker’s visit to Abbey Grange was most surely planned, and that planning could only have been done with one late-winter goal in mind: February 14th, and a Valentine’s Day reunion.
Thus, I’m going to sentimentally date this case on Monday, February 15, 1897.

 

"The Adventure of the Second Stain"

DATE OF PUBLICATION:
December 1904

TIMING OF THE PUBLICATION:
"I had intended "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" to be the last of those exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, which I should ever communicate to the public. This resolution of mine was not due to any lack of material, since I have notes of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded, nor was it caused by any waning interest on the part of my readers in the singular personality and unique methods of this remarkable man. The real reason lay in the reluctance which Mr. Holmes has shown to the continued publication of his experiences. So long as he was in actual professional practice the records of his successes were of some practical value to him, but since he has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety has become hateful to him, and he has peremptorily requested that his wishes in this matter should be strictly observed. It was only upon my representing to him that I had given a promise that "The Adventure of the Second Stain" should be published when the times were ripe, and pointing out to him that it is only appropriate that this long series of episodes should culminate in the most important international case which he has ever been called upon to handle, that I at last succeeded in obtaining his consent that a carefully guarded account of the incident should at last be laid before the public."

STATEMENT OF THE SEASON AND DAY OF THE WEEK:
"It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of European fame within the walls of our humble room in Baker Street."

THE TIMING OF THE LETTER:
"The letter—for it was a letter from a foreign potentate — was received six days ago."
"Each member of the Cabinet was informed of it yesterday, but the pledge of secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting was increased by the solemn warning which was given by the Prime Minister."
"It was taken, then, yesterday evening between seven-thirty and eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier hour, since whoever took it evidently knew that it was there and would naturally secure it as early as possible."

THE STATE OF HOLMES’S PRACTICE:
"You are two of the most busy men in the country, and in my own small way I have also a good many calls upon me. I regret exceedingly that I cannot help you in this matter, and any continuation of this interview would be a waste of time."

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
", , , And yet as we saw it that autumn morning . . ."

THE STATE OF WATSON’S RELATIONSHIPS:
"Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department."

A PAST UNTOLD CASE:
"And you must have observed, Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the light at her back. She did not wish us to read her expression. . . . You remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her nose — that proved to be the correct solution."

TIME PASSES:
"All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood which his friends would call taciturn, and others morose."
"So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I could follow it in the papers. . . . Upon the fourth day there appeared a long telegram from Paris"
"But if I have told you nothing in the last three days, it is because there is nothing to tell. . . . Only one important thing has happened in the last three days, and that is that nothing has happened."

THE DAYS FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH:
"Yesterday a lady, who has been known as Mme. Henri Fournaye, occupying a small villa in the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the authorities by her servants as being insane. . . . On inquiry, the police have discovered that Mme. Henri Fournaye only returned from a journey to London on Tuesday last. . . . Her movements upon the Monday night have not yet been traced, but it is undoubted that a woman answering to her description attracted much attention at Charing Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the wildness of her appearance and the violence of her gestures. . . . There is evidence that a woman, who might have been Mme. Fournaye, was seen for some hours upon Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street."

LADY HILDA’S VIGIL:
"For two days I watched the place, but the door was never left open. Last night I made a last attempt."

TRELAWNEY HOPE’S TIME AWAY FROM THE BOX:
"Have you examined the box since Tuesday morning?"
"No. It was not necessary."

AN IMPORTANT BIT FROM ANOTHER STORY (NAVA):
"The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them recorded in my notes under the headings of "The Adventure of the Second Stain," "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Tired Captain." The first of these, however, deals with interests of such importance and implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be impossible to make it public. No case, however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever illustrated the value of his analytical methods so clearly or has impressed those who were associated with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim report of the interview in which he demonstrated the true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new century will have come, however, before the story can be safely told."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
October 12, 1886.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
A Tuesday in July 1889.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Though the details of "The Adventure of the Second Stain" mentioned in "Naval Treaty" seem almost like they come from a very different "The Adventure of the Second Stain," there are also enough points of similarity to accept it as the same case for chronological purposes. Watson plainly still couldn’t (or wouldn’t, for the sake of a good story) write everything, even after the turn of the century, but that which he did is close enough to the original reference to go with his "same month as Naval Treaty" date.
So, with the "Naval Treaty" connection, and its dating of July 29, 1887 as a starting point, certain questions regarding the "Second Stain" mystery letter start to come up: Which foreign potentate was raging about British colonialism in that letter which everyone so feared? The Premier seems to point that potentate’s identification in the direction of Europe, but is that mere subterfuge, one quickly seen through by Holmes? For if any potentate was liable to get stirred up by British colonialism in July, wouldn’t it be one who’s very patriotism helped the matter along in that very month?
Especially, for example, on July 4th?
Try this scenario on for size: Grover Cleveland has a bit too much to drink before fireworks on Monday, July 4th. Afterwards, in a fit of patriotic passion, he writes a fiery letter to the British Prime Minister. It goes into the mail the next day, taking a little over a week to cross the Atlantic and get to the Minister on Wednesday, July 13. Six days later, the Prime Minister comes to 221B Baker Street on Tuesday, July 19, 1887.

Hmmm, I think like it. Anybody else go for this one?

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