Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

  • Watson opens with a little spiel about how he chooses which cases to publish. There are tons to choose from, but Watson picks the ones that are interesting, unusual, and that show off the awesome detective skills of Holmes. Good to know, Watson.
  • We get a date for this case as well: April 1895. Sometimes Watson gives us a month or a year, and other times he deliberately withholds the date for various reasons.
  • The case we have now was an unusual one, which is why Watson picked it.
  • Holmes is working hard on another case when Violet Smith arrives.
  • Sidebar: Violet is actually an interesting historical figure, and you can read more about women in the 1890s and the hip trend of biking in Violet's "Character Analysis."
  • She refuses to leave until she's told her story so Holmes finally lets her talk, even though he hates being interrupted.
  • Holmes does his usual observation routine on Violet and reveals that she's a bicyclist and a musician.
  • Violet then gives a rambling, complicated narrative that goes something like this: Violet's dad was a conductor, and her family never had much money. Dad died and Violet and her mom were left very poor.
  • Then they read an ad in the paper looking for them. They answered it and met two men, Mr. Woodley and Mr. Carruthers.
  • These men had known Violet's uncle, Ralph Smith, in South Africa. Ralph had just died and he asked his friends to check up on his only relatives, Mrs. Smith and Violet.
  • The Smith ladies were like, thanks guys.
  • Violet lets slip that she's engaged to an electrician named Cyril Morton.
  • Mr. Carruthers then hired Violet to teach music to his child.
  • So Violet stayed at his house and worked there during the week and then took the train to London on the weekends to see her mother.
  • All was well, except for the fact that every man that meets Violet falls for her apparently.
  • First Mr. Woodley came to stay and kept sexually harassing Violet till Carruthers threw him out.
  • Then Violet noticed that Carruthers had a crush on her.
  • And then Violet got a stalker. Some mystery guy riding a bike followed her every time she rode her bike from Carruthers' house to the train station.
  • Violet thinks her bicycling stalker is creepy and wants Holmes to help her.
  • Holmes grills her a bit and then agrees to take the case since it's weird enough to peak his interest.
  • But since Holmes is already working on some other stuff he decides to outsource this one. He sends Watson down to Carruthers' house in Farnham and tells him to do a stake-out and find some clues.
  • How far is Farnham from London? Well, you can see on this map.
  • So Watson sets off on his very own detective adventure.
  • He observes the mystery cyclist, who had a beard, and he pokes around and finds out about the person living in a nearby house, a Mr. Williamson of Charlington Hall. Williamson is a disgraced clergyman.
  • Watson arrives home in a good mood, but Holmes quickly bursts his bubble by criticizing his entire detective adventure. Apparently all the information Watson gathered is worthless.
  • Watson is mad, but Holmes blows him off and tells him that he'll go with him next weekend to solve the case himself.
  • Way to be an egomaniac, Holmes.
  • Then a telegram arrives from Violet. Mr. Carruthers proposed to her. She said no and then quit her job because of the awkwardness of the situation. Her last day will be at the end of this week.
  • Holmes goes off to investigate, and he comes home looking beat up.
  • Unlike Watson, Holmes went to a pub to get his information on the neighborhood and ended up getting into a bar brawl with Mr. Woodley.
  • Then another letter arrives from Violet. She tells them that Woodley is back in town and is harassing her again.
  • Holmes and Watson go down on Saturday to watch after Violet as she rides to the train station.
  • When they arrive they find that Violet had been riding in a carriage instead of on a bike this time. The carriage has been run off the road and Violet is missing.
  • The mystery cyclist rides up and offers to help find Violet.
  • The group rush to nearby Charlington Hall and stumble upon a wedding.
  • Woodley has kidnapped Violet and is forcing her to marry him in a ceremony performed by ex-clergyman Mr. Williamson.
  • Woodley laughs evilly and says that Violet is his wife, so there.
  • The mystery cyclist, in a move worthy of Holmes, reveals himself to be Mr. Carruthers and announces that Violet is actually Woodley's widow. Then he shoots Woodley. Ooh!
  • Holmes tells everyone to knock it off.
  • The men carry Woodley inside and Watson tends to Violet, who is massively freaked out.
  • Holmes then logically points out that a forced marriage isn't binding and that Williamson isn't a real clergyman anymore so none of this is even legal.
  • Carruthers probably feels pretty stupid now for his trigger-happy reaction.
  • Williamson doesn't appreciate Holmes's logic. Williamson is kind of hilarious. He should have a chat with Holmes every story.
  • Carruthers now handily explains everything to us.
  • He and Woodley were friends with Ralph Smith because Smith had money. After he died, the two hatched a scheme to marry his heir, Violet, and steal all her money.
  • FYI: In this period when a woman got married her money and property automatically went to her husband. Hence the marriage scheme.
  • Carruthers decided to be the groom here, but then he ended up genuinely falling for Violet.
  • He and Woodley had a falling out over this.
  • Woodley enlisted Williamson to help him, and the two kidnapped Violet.
  • Carruthers had been impersonating a cycling stalker in an effort to protect Violet from any shenanigans.
  • Watson tells us that Woodley recovered and went to jail along with Williamson. Carruthers did some jail time but was let out pretty quickly. And Violet inherited a fortune and married Cyril Morton.

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