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Painting of Sherlock Holmes by an amateur artist.

"The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is divided into two parts, "The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles" and "The Tiger of San Pedro". It was first published in the August 15, 1908 issue of Collier's magazine in the United States and in the September and October 1908 issues of The Strand magazine in the United Kingdom. It was republished in October 1917 as part of the anthology His Last Bow.

The plot is set in motion when a man named John Scott Eccles requests the help of the brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. Eccles spent the night at Wisteria Lodge, the Surrey home of Mr. Aloysius Garcia. Eccles woke up in the morning to find that Garcia and his two servants had vanished. Shortly after he arrives at Holmes' apartment, two police officers question Eccles regarding the murder of Aloysius Garcia. However, the two policemen readily believe Eccles when he says he knows nothing about the man's death. Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson travel to Surrey to continue the investigation.

"The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" is notable for including the character of a police detective, Inspector Baynes, who is the equal of Sherlock Holmes as far as criminal investigation is concerned.

Many modern readers are likely to find the characterization of Garcia's cook, referred to as a "mulatto, a "half-breed" and a "savage", to be offensive.

The story has been adapted for radio, film and television.

Plot

The story begins on an afternoon in March 1892. Sherlock Holmes receives a telegram which he reads to his friend and housemate Dr. Watson. The telegram says, "Have just had the most incredible and grotesque experience. May I consult you? - Scott Eccles". Holmes is intrigued by the use of the word grotesque. He refers back to two of his previous cases, which Watson recorded as the stories "The Red-Headed League" and "The Five Orange Pips". Those cases initially struck Holmes as being grotesque and turned out to involve serious crimes.

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge 01

John Scott Eccles speaks to Holmes and Watson. 1908 illustration by Arthur Twidle.

The sender of the telegram, Mr. John Scott Eccles, arrives at Holmes' apartment. He is "a stout, tall gray-whiskered and solemnly respectable person ... a Conservative, a churchman, a good citizen, orthodox and conventional to the last degree". Eccles begins to explain his problem but is immediately interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard and Inspector Baynes of the Surrey Constabulary. They want to question Eccles about the murder of Aloysius Garcia. From a letter found in the dead man's pocket, they know that Eccles spent the previous night in Garcia's home, Wisteria Lodge. Holmes reassure Eccles that the police officers just want a statement and tells him to continue to tell his story as he would have done if the policemen had not come.

Eccles says that he met Aloysius Garcia a few months earlier at the dinner party of a mutual friend. Eccles knew Garcia to be of Spanish descent and believed that he worked at the Spanish embassy. Garcia seemed to take an immediate liking to Eccles. He went to see Eccles at his home two days after the dinner party. He invited Eccles to spend a few days at his home, Wisteria Lodge, between the village of Esher and the town of Oxshott in Surrey. Garcia told Eccles that he had only two male servants, a Spanish footman and a cook, a man of mixed race whom Garcia said he had picked up on his travels.

Eccles went to Wisteria Lodge the previous evening. He had misgivings about visiting the home of someone he hardly knew. He found the house to be depressing and the Spanish footman to be an extremely melancholy person. At dinner, Garcia tried to be an entertaining host but appeared to be very nervous. Dinner was interrupted when Garcia was brought a note. He read it, rolled it into a ball and threw it into the fire. After having read the note, Garcia stopped talking to Eccles all together. Eccles was happy to go to bed at eleven o'clock. During the night, Garcia went into Eccles' room and asked if he had rung for the servants. Eccles said that he had not. Garcia apologized to Eccles for having woken him up at one o'clock in the morning.

The following morning, Eccles woke up just before nine o'clock. He was annoyed because he had asked to be woken at eight o'clock. Wanting some hot water, Eccles went looking for the servants but could not find them. He looked all over the house but could find no sign of the two servants or Garcia. Eccles thought at first that he was the victim of a practical joke. He then thought that Garcia might have run off to avoid paying rent. He went to Allan Brothers, the agency from which Garcia rented Wisteria Lodge, and found out that Garcia had paid his rent in full. Eccles went to London to try to find out more about Garcia. At the Spanish embassy, he was told that the man was unknown to them. He went to the home of the man at whose dinner party he first met Garcia, only to find out that the man hardly knew Garcia. He then decided to contact Sherlock Holmes.

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge 02

Watson, Holmes, Inspector Gregson and Inspector Baynes listen to John Scott Eccles. 1908 illustration by Arthur Twidle,

Eccles says that he does not know how Garcia died and that he will do as much as he can to help the police. Inspector Gregson says that he believes him and that most of what Eccles has said agrees with the known facts of the case. The note which Eccles mentioned has been recovered because Garcia missed the fire after he rolled the paper into a ball and threw it. The note was obviously written by a woman, although the address on it was written by someone else. The note reads, "Our own colors, green and white. Green open, white shut. Main stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize. Godspeed, D."

Inspector Baynes says that Garcia was found dead on Oxshott Common, which is a mile from Wisteria Lodge and a quarter of a mile from any other houses. Garcia had not been robbed. He had been repeatedly beaten on the head with a sandbag and the first blow was struck from behind. Holmes asks if Baynes knows what time Garcia was killed. Baynes says that it rained at one o'clock that morning and that Garcia was killed before the rain started. Eccles says that is impossible because Garcia said that it was one o'clock in the morning when he went into his bedroom. Holmes replies, "Remarkable, but by no means impossible."

After Inspector Gregson, Inspector Baynes and Eccles have left, Holmes says that he does not believe that Garcia was murdered by his two servants. The servants would not have carried out the murder on the one night when Garcia had a guest. However, he cannot explain why they fled. Holmes comments on the fact that the two police officers readily believed Eccles when he said that he knew nothing about Garcia's death. He says that the reason for this is because Eccles is "the very type of British respectability' and the kind of person who makes a very credible witness. For that reason, Garcia cultivated his friendship. Garcia wanted Eccles to be at Wisteria Lodge that evening to provide him with an alibi. When Garcia told Eccles that it was one o'clock in the morning, it was probably no later than midnight.

Holmes believes that the note which Garcia received refers to a meeting. The references to a main stair, and the seventh door in a corridor indicate that the meeting was to take place in a large house. Holmes sends a telegram to the real estate agents Allan Brothers. In reply, he receives a list of the seven large houses within two miles of Oxshott and their occupants.

Holmes and Watson go to Esher and take up residence at the village inn. In the evening, Inspector Baynes takes them to Wisteria Lodge. Constable Walters, who is guarding the building, is startled by their arrival. He explains that, two hours earlier, he was frightened when he saw a face at the window. The face was twice the size of that of an average man and the color of "clay with a splash of milk in it". Holmes sees a footprint near the window, the size of which suggests that it belongs to a very large man.

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge 06

Holmes, Watson and Inspector Baynes find a strange object in the kitchen. 1908 illustration by Arthur Twidle.

Holmes, Watson and Baynes search the house. They find nothing unusual in any of the rooms, except for the kitchen, which was also the cook's bedroom. In the kitchen, they find a small black leathery object with a string of white shells around its middle. The object is impossible to identify but Watson thinks that it might be the preserved remains of a long dead monkey. They also find the remains of a white rooster which had been torn to pieces, a metal pail full of blood and some charred bones which Holmes thinks might be those of a young sheep or goat.

Baynes says that he has theories about the case but he does not want to share them with Holmes. He wants to keep his line of investigation separate from that of Holmes because he hopes to solve the case on his own and make a name for himself. Holmes agrees to this but adds that he will be happy to help the police if requested.

Five days later, it is reported in the newspaper that Garcia's cook has been arrested for his murder. The cook, whose face was briefly seen at the window by Constable Walters, returned to Wisteria Lodge a second time the previous evening. A trap was set for him when he returned. Holmes warns Baynes that he is making a mistake. Baynes reminds him that they agreed to follow separate investigations.

Sherlock Holmes reminds Watson that Garcia invited Eccles to Wisteria Lodge in order to provide him with an alibi. Garcia needed an alibi because he planned to commit a crime. His murderer was probably the target of that crime. Garcia's servants fled because they were accomplices to his crime. They had been told to flee if Garcia did not return by a certain time. They would have been told to go to a prearranged hiding place and to attempt to carry out the crime again later. The cook must have returned to Wisteria Lodge because he left something valuable to him there.

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge 09

Henderson travels with Miss Burnet and Lucas. 1908 illustration by Arthur Twidle.

Holmes says that he made inquiries about the people who live in the seven large houses near Oxshott. One of them, Mr. Henderson who lives in a house called High Gables, soon caught Holmes' attention as "a curious man to whom curious adventures might befall". Holmes learns a lot about Henderson from his former gardener John Warner. He is also able to visit Henderson's house on a pretext. Mr. Henderson is very rich and travels a lot, he has recently returned from High Gables after a year away. He always travels with his two daughters, their governess Miss Burnet and his secretary Mr. Lucas. Henderson's complexion suggests that he has lived for a long time in the tropics and Holmes suspects that he is not really English. The dark complexion and the speech of Henderson's secretary Mr. Lucas leave Holmes in no doubt that he is a foreigner. Henderson is rumored to be afraid of something, he rarely goes out and never goes out without his secretary Lucas. Holmes is certain that the note to Garcia was written by someone from inside High Gables and that person could only have been Miss Burnet. He adds that the governess has not been seen since the night of Garcia's murder.

Sherlock Holmes tells Watson of his plan to break into High Gables and rescue Miss Burnet. At that moment, John Warner arrives. He tells Holmes that Henderson, his daughters and Lucas have left High Gables. They took Miss Burnet with them but she managed to escape and he has her in a cab outside. Miss Burnet is taken into the inn. She has clearly been drugged and needs several cups of strong coffee to revive her. Inspector Baynes is also summoned to the inn. Baynes reveals that he also suspected Henderson. Furthermore, he believed that Henderson knew he was under suspicion. For that reason, Baynes deliberately arrested the wrong man. It was hoped that Henderson would then feel safe enough to leave his house and Miss Burnet could be rescued. Baynes goes on to say that Henderson is really Juan Murillo, the former dictator of the Central American country San Pedro.[1] Juan Murillo, nicknamed the Tiger of San Pedro, was an extremely cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant who ruled San Pedro for a decade. Five years earlier, the people of San Pedro rose up and overthrew him. Murillo, however, managed to escape on board a ship. He took his two daughters, his secretary Lopez and a large amount of money with him.

Miss Burnet recovers her senses. She explains that she is the widow of Victor Durando, hence the initial "D." on the note. Victor Durando had been the ambassador of San Pedro to Britain. Murillo had him killed, as he had many other men killed, because he saw him as a potential future rival to his power. After Juan Murillo escaped from San Pedro, Victor Durando's window joined an organization dedicated to the former dictator's elimination. She found out that he was passing himself off as Mr. Henderson and was able to obtain a position as governess to his children. She was then able to tell other members of the organization about Murillo's movements. Aloysius Garcia, his cook and footman all came from San Pedro and also belonged to the organization dedicated to Murillo's destruction.

Since Murillo rarely went out in public and never went out without his secretary Lopez, who used the name Lucas in England, an assassination attempt could only be made on Murillo while he was sleeping. Murillo was aware of this and used a different bedroom in High Gables every night to try to confuse any would be assassins. The note which Miss Burnet wrote to Garcia told him which bedroom Murillo would be in that night. Lights of green and white, the colors of the flag of San Pedro, were also to be used as signals. A green light in the window would mean that the assassination attempt could go ahead. A white light would mean that it would have to be cancelled.

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Lopez and Murillo lead the drugged Miss Burnet to the carriage. 1908 illustration by Arthur Twidle.

While she was writing the note, Miss Burnet was surprised by Lopez and Murillo. They forced her to tell them Garcia's address, which Lopez then wrote on the note. They considered allowing Garcia to come to the house and then kill him, claiming that he was a burglar. They decided against that idea out of fear that their real identities might come out in an inquest. Instead, they surprised and killed Garcia before he reached the house. For the next five days, Miss Burnet was kept locked up, threatened and abused and given hardly any food. On the afternoon of the fifth day, she was given a large lunch. When she began to eat it, she realized that the food was drugged. Nevertheless, when Murillo and Lopez took Miss Burnet outside, she managed to escape.

Holmes and Baynes fear that Murillo and Lopez may be found not guilty of Garcia's murder by claiming that it was in self-defense. Watson disagrees on the grounds that Garcia was deliberately lured to his death. Murillo and Lopez do not stand trial in England. They escape to Spain and adopt the identities of the Marquess of Montava and Rulli. Some time later, they are found dead in a Madrid hotel. Their deaths are blamed on Nihilists and nobody is ever arrested for the crimes.

Watson is puzzled as to why Garcia's cook returned to Wisteria Lodge and what the significance of the white rooster which had been torn apart, the pail full of blood and the charred bones was. Holmes explains that the small black object in the kitchen was the cook's fetish and that he went back to Wisteria Lodge to retrieve it. The cook was a practitioner of Voodoo and, as such, never carried out any important task without performing a Voodoo ritual first. He sacrificed a white rooster and a black goat in the hope of getting the gods to look favorably on the assassination attempt on Murillo.

Adaptations

The Tiger of San Pedro, a 1921 British silent movie starring Ellie Norwood as Holmes, is an adaptation of "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge".

The story was adapted as the twelfth episode of the BBC TV series Sherlock Holmes, starring Peter Cushing as Holmes. It first aired in the United Kingdom on November 25, 1968. The episode is now lost.

Jeremy Brett

Portrait of Jeremy Brett by an amateur artist.

The eleventh episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the second Granada TV Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett as the detective, is an adaptation of "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge". It was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on April 20, 1988. There are several differences between the episode and the original short story. There is no reference to Voodoo in the episode, Garcia's cook is said to have returned to Wisteria Lodge simply to retrieve some valuables. The character of John Warner is omitted. Holmes and Watson approach High Gables, with the intention of rescuing Miss Burnet, when they see her being carried to a carriage by Murillo and his secretary. They pursue the carriage to the train station on bicycles. Holmes manages to drag Miss Burnet from a moving train. Garcia's cook and footman are also on board the train. They go into the compartment of Murillo and his secretary and shoot the men dead before they have the chance to leave England.

A radio adaptation of "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson, was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom on January 5, 1994. As in the 1988 television adaptation, Murillo and his secretary are killed on a train by Garcia's cook while they are still in Britain.

The story provided the title for John LaBarbera's jazz composition "The Tiger of San Pedro", which was popularized by trombonist Bill Watrous.

Footnotes

  1. San Pedro is a completely fictitious Central American nation.

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