Adventure of the Red Circle
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"The Adventure of the Red Circle" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. It is included in the anthology His Last Bow.

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Mrs. Warren, a landlady, comes to 221B Baker Street with some questions about her lodger. A youngish, heavily bearded man, who spoke good but accented English came to her and offered double her usual rent on the condition that he get the room on his own terms. He went out the first night that he was there, and came back after midnight when the rest of the household had gone to bed. Since then, neither Mrs. Warren, her husband, or their servant girl have seen him. The lodger insisted on having the Daily Gazette every morning, and sometimes requested other things. All requests were printed on a slip of paper left on a chair outside the room where meals were also left.

Mrs. Warren has brought some spent matches and a cigarette end from her lodger, hoping that Holmes can read something from them. It is clear that the cigarette has been smoked without a holder, which is quite unusual for a man with whiskers. He also eats very little, and never receives visitors or messages.

After the landlady leaves, Holmes remarks to Dr. Watson that it seems likely that the person in Mrs. Warren’s house is not the bearded man who made the arrangements. The evidence lies not only in the cigarette, but in the fact that the lodger’s knowledge of English is not as good as the bearded man’s (he wrote MATCH as one of his requests, for instance, not MATCHES). His “return” on the first night was very late so that no-one would see him and he has taken great pains to ensure no-one has seen him since.

Holmes suspects that messages are being sent to the lodger, perhaps in the Daily Gazette’s agony column. He finds them: “Will find some sure means of communication. Meanwhile, this column. G.” (only two days after the lodger’s arrival), “Am making successful arrangements. Patience and prudence. The clouds will pass. G.” (three days later), and “The path is clearing. If I find chance signal message remember code agreed?one A, two B, and so on. You will hear soon. G.” (yesterday). Holmes needs only wait one day for a very useful message: “High red house with white stone facings. Third floor. Second window left. After dusk. G.” Holmes decides that it is time to reconnoitre Mrs. Warren’s neighbourhood.

Just then, Mrs. Warren arrives complaining that her husband was kidnapped that morning and taken by cab to Hampstead Heath where he was unceremoniously cast onto the roadway. He never got a clear look at his kidnappers or their cab. Holmes realizes that the ruffians mistook Mr. Warren for the lodger, and dumped him after they realized their mistake.

Holmes and Watson go to Mrs. Warren’s house just before lunchtime, hoping to catch a glimpse of the lodger as he takes his lunch from the chair. Before going in, Holmes observes that the lodger’s window commands a good view down Howe Street, and at the other end is a house matching the one mentioned in the agony column.

In Mrs. Warren’s house, Holmes and Watson hide in a boxroom. By using a mirror they see the lodger retrieve the lunch tray from the hall, discovering that the lodger is a woman. They realize that she has been carefully printing (rather than writing in common handwriting) her requests to hide her gender. It is equally clear that she and her bearded confederate, likely a lover or husband, are in some kind of danger and seeking refuge. From the lodger’s horror at suspecting a trick at lunchtime, and the exceptional precautions that have been taken to ensure secrecy, it must be a matter of life and death.
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Content rating: Everyone

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