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|"The Man with the Twisted Lip"|
"The Man with the Twisted Lip" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the sixth of the twelve stories collected as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in The Strand Magazine on December 1891.
At the outset of the story Kate Whitney, a friend of Dr Watson and his wife, Mary, calls upon them late one night in deep distress. Kate's husband, Isa, left home two days previously and has not yet returned. Kate knows that her husband will be indulging his addiction for opium but is frightened by the length of time he has been away.
Watson goes to find Isa and send him home. He goes to the “Bar of Gold” in Upper Swandom Lane and has no trouble locating Isa and arranging that he should return home immediately.
To Watson’s surprise an old man in the den reveals himself as none other Sherlock Holmes in one of his disguises. Holmes requests that Watson accompanies him on a case and they set off together to Kent. Holmes explains that he is investigating the disappearance of Mr Neville St. Clair.
St. Clair lived in a large villa in Lee, Kent, with his wife and their two children. He had no occupation but went into London most days in order to manage his interests and investments. One morning he left for town in order to do some business and to buy a box of bricks for his son. Mrs St. Clair happened to go into town herself that day in order to collect a package and she walked through Swandom Lane on her way back to the station.
As she walked along she suddenly saw her husband staring down at her from a high window. He seemed to be in a panic and abruptly disappeared as though he had been pulled away by force.
Mrs St. Clair tried to enter the building but was prevented from doing so by the proprietor. She found an inspector and two constables in the next street and returned with them. This time the proprietor had to admit her. In the upstairs room was a disfigured beggar named Hugh Boone who was a lodger in the rooms.
Mrs St. Clair found a box of children’s bricks, the toy which her husband had promised to bring home. Upon this discovery the rooms were searched more thoroughly and an entire suit of Neville St. Clair’s clothes were found. The lodging backed onto the river and traces of blood were found on the sill above the water.
Hugh Boone was arrested upon suspicion of murdering Neville St. Clair. He did, however, point to a cut on his finger and claim that the blood on the window was his own. Neville St. Clair’s coat was later found washed up upon the mud bank. It had been weighed down with a large amount of small change which again incriminated Boone. It was supposed that he would have got rid of all of Neville St. Clair’s clothes if he’d had sufficient time to do so.
Holmes and Watson travel to The Cedars, the home Neville St. Clair shared with his family. Mrs St. Clair asks Holmes to give his honest opinion on the fate of Neville. Holmes states that he believes Neville died on Monday. Mrs St. Clair then reveals that she has received a letter from her husband that day. The letter urges Mrs St. Clair to wait patiently and assures her that everything will be alright. Neville St. Clair’s signet ring was enclosed in the envelope.
After acquiring assurance from Mrs St. Clair that her husband never gave any signs of having taken opium Holmes sits in deep concentration for several hours. Watson’s narration informs us that Holmes often meditated in this fashion when turning over every aspect of a case to find a solution or to conclude that more information would be needed.
In the early hours of the morning Holmes informs a confused Watson that he has taken the key to the mystery from the bathroom and that they should go immediately to Bow Street.
Once they arrive Holmes asks Inspector Bradstreet if he can see Hugh Boone. Watson and Bradstreet are both surprised when Holmes vigorously scrubs Boone’s face and in doing so removes the dirt and make up that was disguising Neville St. Clair.
Neville St. Clair explains that during his youth he took to the stage where he became proficient at the art of making up. Years later while working as a journalist he posed as a beggar in order to write an accurate article for his editor. Because of his extraordinary talent in presenting himself as an extremely piteous and disfigured man Neville St. Clair realised that he could earn much more money than he did by his work on the paper.
Neville St. Clair eventually married but kept his trade a secret. He continued to present himself as Boone during the day by changing his clothes and persona in rooms rented in Upper Swandom Lane.
This had gone on until by chance Mrs St. Clair had spotted Neville when she walked down Swandom Lane. Neville St. Clair had hurriedly changed back into his beggar’s guise and attempted to dispose of his clothes through the window. He only got as far as weighing down and throwing his coat. In the process he opened up a cut on his hand in and smeared the window sill with blood.
Neville St. Clair promises to put a stop to his life as Huge Boone in return for Bradstreet hushing up the case and ensuring that the details do not become public.