As recounted and interpreted in the form of a
Watson visits Holmes
on a fine autumn day.
Just two months from April
does the good doctor say?!
It has no bearing on the tale,
so I won't argue with the time of year.
Just another Watson discrepancy,
that seems to be unclear.
A Jabez Wilson is seeking Holmes
requesting quick and accurate advice,
for a most peculiar incident
to interrupt his boring life.
Described as elderly and stout
with fiery red hair.
Watson tries to deduce more,
but to himself declares:
"Average commonplace British tradesman,
obese, pompous and slow".
Does Sherlock observe more?
Is there more to know?
Yes, of course, our detective sees
and tells all too.
Mr. Wilson's trip to China, past manual labor,
and considerable writing of late,
just to name a few.
The fact he is a pawn broker,
a widower with no family.
Shows Mr. Wilson's day to day
is of ordinary quality.
Holmes not yet sure
if there was a crime,
finds the facts unique, though,
as presented at the time.
He has said "…life itself
is always far more daring
than any effort of the imagination".
Which Watson isn't convinced, nor caring.
It all started with a newspaper,
to be exact, The Morning Chronicle,
dated April 27, 1890,
that had an unusual article.
This was presented to Mr. Wilson
by Vincent Spaulding, his assistant.
Working for half wages willingly, I might add,
making Holmes' suspicion persistent.
The article was a request
of all red-headed men,
over 21, it said,
and is accepted then,
would fill a vacancy
in the Red-Headed League,
and even get paid;
what an intrigue!
Mr. Spaulding insisted
that Mr. Wilson apply.
Which, of course, he did
and to his happiness and surprise,
won the membership;
then was immediately told,
his job was to copy the Encyclopedia Britannica,
or the four pounds a week (plus membership) would
be on hold.
So he worked faithfully for eight weeks
from ten until two.
Received payment on time as well,
until that very day, something new
occurred. When he arrived for work,
the place was locked tight;
with a note that stated,
dissolved this October ninth!
Mr. Wilson feeling "staggered" followed a trail
that came abruptly to an end.
So thought of the great Sherlock Holmes
to help put the mystery to amends.
As Mr. Wilson describes Spaulding,
at Sherlock Holmes' request,
the Detective shows considerable excitement,
though doesn't reveal his test.
Mr. Spaulding's only fault
seems to be his picture taking,
and "diving down the cellar"
for long periods of picture developing.
Watson wondering aloud
what this mysterious business is about,
hears Holmes say usually the more bizarre a thing,
the less mysterious it turns out.
Settling down to smoke,
and asking for a fifty minute mum,
Holmes considered all of this
"quite a three pipe problem".
After which he goes on an excursion,
with Dr. Watson in tow.
First to observe Mr. Spaulding's knees,
and to study Saxe-Coburg Square, high and low.
Then a light lunch
and to St. James' Hall,
for afternoon of music
with Watson not figuring it out at all.
While listening to a German program,
Holmes is plotting the demise
of the criminals involved
who are about to commit a crime.
With instructions to Watson
to be at Bakers Street by ten,
and to remember his revolver,
the Doctor knows right then,
that his partner has a plan.
Therefore when he arrives,
there are police agent, Jones, and
Bank Director, Merryweather, at Holmes' side.
Mr. Spaulding, you see,
is really a John Clay,
an aristocratic criminal
who is always getting away.
French gold is the target this time,
Still packed and waiting
for able hands to come forth.
The four travel back to the square,
as Watson learns what his colleague intends,
and this is the place where
their nocturnal adventure begins.
Down a narrow passage
and through a side door,
Mr. Merryweather leads the way,
along a small corridor.
Crossing a massive iron gate,
descending winding stone steps,
then a dark earth smelling passage, a third door,
and into the vaulted bank's depths.
The lantern shows the place
full of boxes and crates,
where skeptical Mr. Merryweather
is asked to sit, be quiet, and wait.
They all sit in darkness.
To Watson the wait seems long.
His revolver ready and nerves at a peak,
thinking the night is almost gone.
But in a little over an hour,
a yellow line of light
glints out of the stone floor,
then with a bigger gap, gets bright.
Two small men come into view
thinking all is clear.
Sherlock springs out and seizes one,
but the other isn't as near
and tears out of Jones' clutches,
only to be met at the door,
by two officers and an inspector,
waiting happily for this chore.
Then the light flashes upon
the barrel of a gun!
Holmes' hunting crop comes down,
and the useless struggle is done!
Jones handcuffs Mr. Clay,
much to Clay's disgust.
As he tries to present some dignity,
though the robbery is a bust.
The one doubting Merryweather
pours praise upon our hero;
who expects the bank to refund
his small expense to zero.
Holmes' success seemed so simple
as the two friends were being reflective.
Like adding links to a chain,
connected by the Great Detective.
Continued admiration by Watson
can sincerely be easily traced.
As he remarks of his colleague as being
"a benefactor to the race".
The Master does show us here
some of his best deduction.
And, in my opinion as well as Doyle's,
is a favorite of his detection.
Teresa Brown-Roberts, "The Red-Headed League"
The Norwood Building Inspectors
The Sherlock Holmes Society of Charleston, West Virginia
March 14, 2001
Copyright 2001, Teresa Brown-Roberts, All