“The Adventure of Black Peter” Or, Wait, what’s this about Norway?

“The Adventure of Black Peter” was first published in 1904 (again in Collier’s first rather than in the Strand) and took place, with none of Baring-Gould’s usual rigmarole with weather or phases of the moon, Wednesday, July 3 to Friday, July 5, 1895. Frankly, he’s very quiet this week – the only other thing he brings up is Humfrey Michell’s distrust of Neligan. According to Michell, ‘it would have been a simple matter for him to obtain the record of the missing securities from the family and take the appropriate steps to obtain title to them for the benefit of the creditors. The only explanation [he] can think of […] is that young Neligan was a liar and was after something else than share certificates. If so, he was a very successful one, because he bamboozled Sherlock Holmes’ (BG, 407). I have to admit to not completely understanding what securities even are, but I believe that Michell does and, if he’s correct, it certainly makes sense. But what else would he have been after?

Evidence of Holmes’ aversion to telephones (and I know how he feels!) abounds in this story, using telegrams and asking Hopkins to wire him and sending a wire to Dundee rather than just making a few simple phone calls. In The Sign of Four, there is a telephone across the road, so there wouldn’t even have had to be a telephone in Baker Street. Leslie points out that ‘it seems odd that Holmes, always on the cutting edge of his own field, would shy away from the use of the telephone, which was spreading rapidly through England (NA, 1004). Can’t say I blame him, though!

At the very end of the story, Holmes mentions that he and Watson can be contacted in Norway if they’re needed during the trial and there is a bit of speculation about what in the world he’s talking about. D. Martin Dakin is, alas, unable to come up with any connections to the story – the only thing he can seem to think of is that Holmes was going in search of some of Neligan’s securities, but even that makes no sense because, as he points out, ‘neither he nor they ever got as far as Norway. (What did Neligan senior hope to do there anyway?)’ (NA, 1004). He has a good point there… Howard Brody suggests that ‘Holmes and Watson were off to investigate whether Neligan’s dinghy had been swept into the maelstrom off the Norwegian coast that Edgar Allan Poe wrote about’ (NA, 1004). Chris Redmond, though, has a very intriguing theory, suggesting that ‘Neligan was not, in fact, murdered, but instead bribed Carey to report his death, and that Holmes went to Norway to attempt to trace his whereabouts (and the whereabouts of the missing securities)’ (NA, 1005).

In another theory regarding a different alliance, Leslie points out that it seems an odd coincidence for Neligan, twelve years after his father’s disappearance, to happen to visit Peter Carey ‘on the very same night that Carey is visited by the only other man who knows what happened on that fateful night in 1883′ (NA, 1003). He suggests that Neligan and Cairns were working together – Cairns manipulated by Neligan into doing the confronting – and that when ‘Cairns was goaded into an impulsive act of violence […] Neligan decided to dissociate himself from Cairns’ (NA, 1003). It makes sense to me – it is a pretty big coincidence…

Ah, up next is…”Charles Augustus Milverton”! Which should be pretty interesting, I’d wager – tune in next week to find out!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.