THE DANCING MEN
One morning Holmes handed Watson a sheet of paper with some stick figures and asked him what he thought they were. Watson believed they were a child’s drawing, but Holmes told him that a client, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, was 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 arrived, he explainsthat 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 him not to ask 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 menhieroglyphics were found written on piece of paper lying on the sundial. When Cubitt found it and showed it to Elsie, she promptly fainted. He did not wish to violate his promise to his wife and asked whether these dancing men were related to her unknown past, so he has come to Holmes for help in understanding this apparent mystery involving the woman he loves. Holmes asked Cubitt some questions and senthim home, asking him to watch for more dancing men drawings and urging Cubitt to copy down faithfully any that he finds. Holmes studied the drawing silently and made no remarks about the case to Watson. About two weeks later, Cubitt returns with more hieroglyphics; some had been written in chalk on a door, others have been scrawled on a paper left on the sundial. One night, Cubitt reported, he sawa figure moving through the darkness in the yard; he took his pistol and, despite his wife’s protests, went after the man. He did not find anyone, but the next morning more dancing men, apparently drawn by this mysterious visitor, were found chalked on the door. Cubitt believed that his wife possibly knew who this man was;however he remainded true to his promise and refused to interrogate herabout the matter. Cubitt returned to his home—Riding Thorpe Manor—on the train, and Holmes puzzles over the drawings some more. When Cubitt mails him another set of drawings found on the sundial, Holmes examined them and decided that he had the key to the mystery and needed to visit Norfolk immediately. When he and Watson arrived at Riding Thorpe Manor, they found Inspector Martin of the localpolice. Martin reported that Cubitt has been shot dead; Mrs. Cubitt has also been shot but remained alive in critical condition. It was assumed that Mrs. Cubitt murdered her husband and then attempted to take her own life. Holmes was stunned by this news and immediately examined the scene of the crime and questions the staff about the shooting. After close scrutiny of the room where the murder tookplace, Holmes discovered that three shots were fired, rather than only two as the police assumed. Because only two bullets were fired from the gun found with the bodies, Holmes concluded that another person with a gun was present at the time of the murder. The third person perhaps fired into the house through an open window, he reasoned, a thesis confirmed by a spent cartridge found in the garden.Testimony from the staff that they heard a loud explosion, followed by a second explosion not nearly so loud, established that there were two shots fired almost simultaneously, followed shortly by a single third shot. Holmes questioned the stable boy about the inns and farms in the area and then sits down and writes a brief note, which he sent to a nearby farm, addressed to a Mr. Abe Slaney. Holmesremarked that they would have about an hour before anything happens; he used the time to explain the secret of the dancing men. The individual dancing figures are symbols substituted for letters of the alphabet. Because the most frequently used letter in the English alphabet is "E," Holmes assumed that the dancing man hieroglyph that appeared most often stood for the letter "E." By substituting...
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