Go to previous chapter Go to home page Go to next chapter

The Adventure of the Monolithic Stones

Edited by Alan Downing ©

It was a crisp clear autumn day in 1894 when Inspector Lestrade slid his wiry frame into the living room of our residence with a quick ferret-like movement, barely allowing Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, to crack open the door. Without waiting to be announced, he strode across the floor and shook the hand of my friend Sherlock Holmes. Mrs. Hudson closed the door again.

"Not here to gossip today, Lestrade? You must be here about the Addleton case."

A month ago, Susan Addleton had waived goodbye to her family through her train compartment's window at the Bristol station but she never arrived at her destination in London where her Aunt was waiting to meet her. Despite the account being well publicized in all the papers, the mysterious disappearance had remained unexplained. Her story was all the more tragic in that she was a pretty young lady preparing for her wedding. This morning's paper, though, brought the case to the forefront again, quoting unspecified sources that she had been abducted and taken to Paris for the purpose of white slavery.

"Gossip, Mr. Holmes? The Bristol Police are the ones who gossiped. They're trying to redirect the scrutiny of the press away from their incompetence. Scotland Yard has already determined more in a day than they had in a month!"

"Yet the discoveries are not to your liking, are they? You must fill me in on the details, as the newspapers were not very specific."

"Here are the details you need!" With that, Lestrade dramatically produced a letter and presented it to Holmes in a military fashion. "It is the story of how the Addleton woman became an involuntary participant in white slavery."

Holmes inspected the envelope for a few seconds, sniffed it, and then carefully extracted the letter. After glancing at the letter's contents, he looked up at Lestrade's smug expression. "If you know it to be a fake, why do you come to me?"

"Yes, we suspect it to be a fake. Yet it is our main lead. We need to find the individual who mailed this letter. Sometimes you are uncanny in your guesses at the origins of such evidence. I am to personally contact the Paris police tomorrow and would be interested in your opinion."

"I suggest that you cancel your trip to the continent and spend your time in Bristol instead. The person who mailed this letter is likely to be on the English channel himself. A fisherman, French, but who appreciates English beer. He is an honest, friendly man. He regularly sells his fish to Paris vendors. He is unlikely to know anything at all about the contents of the letter itself. Yet, you are correct that the fisherman could positively identify the author of the letter." Lestrade's smirk was replaced by the astonished look of a child after a magician pulled a rabbit from his hat.

Holmes continued. "The author of the letter lives in or close to Bristol. He frequents pubs that are favoured by the working class. He is not well educated, but he is not stupid. Probably needed to support himself or his family instead of study. Yet he has access to and reads the newspapers. He is a likeable enough fellow. He was a prime suspect of the Bristol Police about three weeks ago, but has successfully removed himself from the list."

Lestrade smiled. "You had me going for a while Mr. Holmes. You almost had me fooled, but I can deduce things myself. You were already consulted by one of my fellow inspectors who already filled you in on the case. Hopkins, no doubt!"

My companion grunted contemptuously. "I hold high hopes for Hopkins. Unlike some, he does not underestimate the values of scientific methods of deduction. Nor does he blindly apply principles that he does not understand." Humbled, Lestrade avoided the icy stare from my companion.

I spoke up. "Holmes, I am as familiar as anybody with your methods, but I must confess that I am at a loss of how you came to your conclusions."

Holmes relaxed again, and handed me the letter. With a confident air, Holmes began another monologue. "It is all quite elementary. From its condition, the letter is very well travelled. The letter was mailed from Paris, but it was written in England. The paper is an English variety common in the Bristol region of our Island but not on the continent. As can be perceived by the relatively good condition of the recent postmark, the letter received its rough treatment before the mailing. There is a stain from a beer mug on the envelop, and drops of beer elsewhere. The letter was most likely exchanged in a pub during a friendly, informal conversation. The envelope had been sealed before being brought to the pub, as one can perceive the stain from the beer mug had penetrated the envelope and also left a faint stain on the folded letter inside. The other stains are those of sea water. As the postmark overlays the water stains, the sea journey predates the posting. From its distinct odour, the letter clearly spent an extended period of time on or around fish, hence the fisherman. There are several other minor clues to its origin, but they are not as obvious."

"And the honesty and the friendliness of the fisherman?" I inquired.

"I simply deduced that the author of the letter struck up a conversation with a French fisherman in a dock-side Bristol pub, a place where the author apparently felt at home. The author and the fisherman were strangers, for the author would not want his identity known if the letter was later opened and read by the fisherman, or if the mailer was eventually found. Perhaps the author bought a round or two for the fisherman. In the end, the fisherman and author became on friendly enough terms that the fisherman had agreed to mail the letter from Paris for the author. The fisherman was clearly an honest man as he went through with the agreement even though it would be easier not to do so and certainly more convenient. In fact, he probably had to ask a favour himself to accomplish this task. Fishermen do not sell their wares directly to the Paris public. He would have to ask some Paris fish monger with whom he regularly did business to mail the letter for him."

"But why would the author entrust a stranger to do this task?" I prompted.

"Because he had no choice. He wanted to add credibility to his story by having the letter mailed in Paris, where our poor Miss Addleton was supposedly held prisoner in some bordello. He could not afford to travel to Paris himself, and that would draw more attention to him in any event. The purpose of the letter was clearly to divert attention away from himself. If the letter never arrived at the intended destination, he would be no worse off."

"The author's education?"

"There was a misspelled word and the letter's colloquial style."

"His intelligence?"

"The author was scared, and quickly devised a complex plan to redirect attention from himself. The story in the letter is similar to those being popularized in the papers. It is a conglomeration of two stories about white slavery that I am familiar with. Hence, he read the papers regularly. However, one of the stories that he based his letter on was later proven to be false by Scotland Yard in a manner that would also prove his story false. Of course, the papers did not publicize the correction of their mistake and this was unknown to the author of the letter. Nevertheless, the letter was good enough to fool the Bristol police."

"How do you know he was a prime suspect of the Bristol police?"

"The motive of the letter was to redirect attention. The police had indubitably questioned him as a suspect within the first week of the investigation . Based on the amount of travel the letter has taken, it was written at least three weeks ago and the disappearance was only four weeks ago. Ironically, if the author had waited, he would have found out that his elaborate scheme was unnecessary as the bumbling police have no current suspects. Fortunately, he made his mistake. I believe my armchair musings can easily be confirmed by Lestrade."

Lestrade cleared his throat. "The early investigation was mostly spent interviewing family members and folks up and down the railway, but nothing suspicious had occurred. There was only one person who could fit your description, Aubrey Dyer. He is a son of a farmer in Stanton Drew and Susan Addleton's first love. Miss Addleton grew up in Stanton Drew, which is a dozen or so miles south of Bristol. She being pretty and he being handsome and popular, they became childhood sweethearts. When the Addleton family moved to Bristol a little over a year ago, Miss Addleton soon realized that Aubrey Dyer was, shall we say, a big fish in a small pond. Being pretty, her dance card was always full and she soon attracted the attention of a son of a well-to-do Bristol businessman. They were engaged to be married at the beginning of next year. A week before her disappearance, Aubrey Dyer was in Bristol as periodically required by work at the farm. He visited Miss Addleton, and admitted still thinking of her as his sweetheart. She corrected this perception in no uncertain terms and asked never to see him again. He was not happy at this turn of events and got exceedingly drunk at a Bristol pub that evening. On the day of her disappearance, Aubrey Dyer spent the day working at his farm fixing a wall and the evening at the local pub. The police verified his story with his brothers and the public-house's bartender and eliminated him as a suspect."

I envisioned poor Miss Addleton and the potential horror of her situation filled me with a sense of urgency. "We must rectify this situation at once! We must contact the Bristol police immediately and inform them of their mistake."

"I do not think that is advisable," Lestrade interjected. "Like the press, the Bristol Police are not ones to admit their mistakes. I think it best if Scotland Yard solves this case. It will serve to repair our rather tarnished reputations of late and to help squelch the hysteria about white slave trafficking. Unfortunately, I am scheduled to leave to meet with Monsieur Dubuque of the Paris Police tomorrow. In light of the situation, I will endeavour to change my plans. I will inform Monsieur Dubuque of your conjectures about the letter's mailer in another way. Perhaps you and Dr. Watson could confirm your theories in Stanton Drew in person tomorrow. I will meet you the day after unless I wire you otherwise."

I agreed with Lestrade. "Time may be of the essence. Surely we must leave immediately."

Holmes looked at me sympathetically and said "Very well. We still have time to pack an overnight bag to catch the last train for Bristol. The devil may have returned to Stanton Drew."

The trip to Bristol began as a quiet one. I was deep in my own thoughts, but Holmes read them as clearly as if they were written on my forehead. "No, Miss Addleton did not make it to this station. Furthermore, we will not need to stay in Stanton Drew tonight. It has already been a month and I am convinced that one more night will not put Miss Addleton in any additional peril. Best to start fresh in the morning." I was startled at the accuracy of my pondering that Holmes described. Holmes smiled. "It is no mystery. At the last station, your expression changed suddenly when you saw a young woman who vaguely matches the description of Susan Addleton. You then looked at the station sign, thought for a moment, and sadly shook your head. You then looked at your watch, the train schedule, and your night bag."

"I must be boringly transparent to you, Holmes."

"On the contrary, I sometimes wish I could see the world through your eyes. See its innocence, its wonders, its beauties. To me, the world is something to observe, to analyze, to deduce. I will enjoy observing you tomorrow at Stanton Drew."

"Why is that?"

"Surely you have heard of the legend of Stanton Drew."

"No. Please enlighten me."

"Very well. Many years ago, a wedding took place at Stanton Drew on a beautiful Saturday in late spring. After the ceremony, the wedding party went into the field next to the church to engage in a country dance. A local harpist played and played while the bride, groom, family and friends danced and danced. The day gave way to evening, the evening to a moon-lit night. Suddenly, the harpist announced that it was time to stop as the Sabbath day was soon to begin. The bride did not agree, saying that she would only be married once and that she would dance all night if she wanted to. Furthermore, she'd find someone else to play, even if she'd have to go to Hell with him.

"Shortly after the musician left, an old man arrived and asked the bride what the commotion was about. Her tears brought about such sympathy, that the old man took out a pipe from under his cloak and began to play. Soon, all danced to his music as they have never danced before. The musician quickened his tempo, and the dancers whirled faster and faster. Although out of breath, they realized they could not stop and they danced continuously until dawn. Finally, the musician stopped and put away his pipe. The dancers could finally stop, and most collapsed to the ground from exhaustion. In the morning light, they could see that the musician had cloven hooves and horns. They had danced for the devil during Sabbath. The dancers were so horrified, that they became petrified into stone. The stones are in Stanton Drew to this very day in a field near a church."

"I am surprised, Holmes. I did not know you were one to read legends. Too impractical for your analytical mind."

"This is not any legend, Watson. This one pertains to Neolithic man and his Megalithic stones. One of my few interests outside of my field of work." Holmes talked about the subject for the remainder of the trip. Caught up in his enthusiasm, I barely noticed the time pass. By the end of the journey, I was secretly anticipating our trip to Stanton Drew instead of dreading the horrors that may await us.

Early the next morning, we hired a wagonette to take us to Stanton Drew. We proceeded down a windy country road, following the River Chew towards its source. Holmes had explained that we were in a pass that connects the Yeo valley and the Brisol Avon Valley. It was undoubtedly part of a prehistoric highway that led to the heartland of Wessex. As we approached our destination, I could not help but to feel some disappointment. I had heard that the megaliths at Stonehenge could be seen from a great distance and one would be overwhelmed as one approached closer. In contrast, we were nestled in a valley. The Mendips to the south, rolling hills to the east, and Broadfield Down rising steeply to the west. We passed a public house called the Druid's Arms before I could see the fields beyond the church about which the legend spoke. Holmes and I left the wagonette and proceeded by foot to this field, careful to avoid some of the deep muddy tracks left by the cattle that shared the field.

As we approached, I was surprised to find not one circle of stones, but three. We approached the largest circle in the middle first. The circle was huge, its diameter over the length of a football field and it had an avenue of stones leading out of its north end. The circle to the north-east was only 100 or so feet wide and also had a short avenue of stones. Across the road to the south-west was the third circle, about half the size of the great circle. Only three of the many stones of the great circle appeared to be standing. The one to the north-east had four of its stones upright, forming a semi-circle. The other circle's stones were all recumbent and grass-covered.

Standing in the centre of the great circle, I felt the magnificence of this site for the first time. If the stones had been placed closer together instead of covering this great expanse, the sight would have been overwhelming indeed. Each of the stones, had they been standing, would have towered over a man, and must have weighed 5 to 10 tons each. I could not imagine how Neolithic man would have been able to stand them upright, let alone transport them from the hills, miles away, for purposes now unknown. Possibly the stones surrounded some long-gone wooden temple. Thousands of years later, the stones were weathered, pockmarked, and partially buried. One wonders what horrible pagan rituals these stones may have witnessed. I thought of robed covered druids performing human sacrifices in the moonlit night or the burning of human effigies made out of wicker. Such dark thoughts brought me back to the present and the true purpose of our visit to Stanton Drew.

I walked over the long green grass to one of the recumbent stones next to the gate of the field and stood on top of it. From this vantage point, I could see all of the stones of the great circle. I began to count the stones, nodding for each one. I was up to twenty, when a voice behind me interrupted my thoughts.

"You won't be able to count them you know." The voice said with a Welsh accent. "It is one of the local legends."

I turned to see a friendly-looking clergyman leaning over the fence. Holmes had apparently seen the man approaching us and had joined me near my pedestal. "Really?" Holmes said. "I counted twenty seven."

"Some say twenty seven, some say thirty. The only way to know for sure is to buy a few dozen loaves of bread from our local bakery and place it on top of each stone as you count it." The clergyman replied with a twinkle in his eye. "It is another legend associated with stone circles. But that legend brings a little additional money to our small town. Legends of stone circles are a hobby of mine."

Holmes chuckled. "Da ywr maen gyda'r Efengyl Good is the stone together with the Gospel."

"Exactly. At least, that is the way I feel. I doubt if the stones would feel the same about that Welsh proverb. Have you heard the legend about the wedding party that turned to stone because they knowingly violated the Sabbath for the sake of one more dance?"

"Yes, we're quite familiar with that one. It's part of the reason we've come a long way to see these monuments."

"It is a shame we don't get more visitors. Stanton Drew has the second biggest stone circle in England as well as one of the few stone coves, a quiot, and numerous Neolithic and bronze-age cairns. Yet few have heard of us. We're off the beaten path. We've never been excavated. Most people go to Avebury or Stonehenge instead. Have you visited the Cove? It's behind the Druid's Arms. It is a collection of three huge stones that once formed an open-aired sentry box. Now, the rear stone has fallen. They are supposed to be the bride, the groom, and the best man of the wedding."

"No," said Holmes, "We'll definitely go to see those. Can you tell me more of the quiot that you mentioned?"

"Hautville's Quoit was named after a medieval lord, Sir John Hautville, whose tomb is in my church. The legend is that it was once a much larger holed stone. Sir Hautville was supposed to have thrown the stone into the middle of the road. Unfortunately, the years have chipped away at it, partly to get stone to put on the road itself."

"A holed stone? I've heard of many legends applied to those."

"Fertility, health, sacred vows of marriage. Yes, they all apply to holed stones."

"How do we get to Hautville's Quoit?"

"It's quite simple. Walk a straight line through the center of the great circle through the center of the northern circle, and keep walking beyond the Chew River and you'll bump right into it."

"Thank you. We'd like to see it right away. You've been very helpful," Holmes said enthusiastically.

"Well, I best be going too. If you'd like to know anything, please drop by the church any time."

The clergyman waved and continued his stroll towards town. We started towards the Quoit. Ten minutes later we were there. Only a stump remained of this once great stone.

"Not much left of the stone, Holmes. I don't think we'll find much more here."

"But I already have, Watson. Come over here." Holmes was under a nearby oak tree surrounded by hedges. Holmes pointed to some writing carved into the tree. I leaned close to the tree and read aloud.

"'A.D. and S.A. Forever.' Aubry Dyer and Susan Addleton. But we already know they were sweethearts."

"But the fact that this is carved into an oak tree so near a holed stone is of special importance. Vows made here are not supposed to be broken," Holmes spoke gravely. "I think we should talk to Aubrey Dyer and his brothers in person. But first, we should refresh ourselves by visiting the Druid's Arms."

I wholeheartedly agreed. We soon had a pint in our hands and were out back of the Inn admiring the remains of the cove. The stones were much bigger than those in the circles. The biggest stone in the cove stood twice the height of a man and must have weighed several tens of tons. It was exceedingly top-heavy but firmly planted.

I was so captivated by the sight that I didn't hear our server come up behind us. I jumped and almost spilled my drink when he sang a tune:

"Stanton Drew in the County of Somerset

That's where the Devil played at Sue's request.

They paid the price for dancing on a Sunday.

Now they are standing evermore at rest."

I was going to ask the young man about his choice of the name 'Sue' when Holmes asked. "That is an old bard's song about Stanton Drew, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's at least 200 years old. It is about the Cove's stones, known as the Bride and Groom."

"So we've heard."

"Have you also heard that on the sixth day of the full moon, at midnight, the stones walk down to the River Chew to get a drink, killing anybody on the way?"

"No, I haven't. Interesting legend. I might like to see that. When is the next sixth day of the full moon?"

"Tomorrow night. It is the night when the moon is most powerful."

Working backwards, I realize that Miss Addleton's disappearance occurred on the previous such day. I caught Holmes's eye and by his almost imperceptible nod knew he had done the same. Holmes inquired "Isn't that an old Druid belief?"

"Yes. We know quite a bit about Druid beliefs around here. After all, this is the Druid's Arms."

"I too have studied the Druids and believe them to be misunderstood. Did you know that one of Aristotle's disciples, Diogenes Laertius, classified Druids as philosophers? Druids were early astronomers with one of the first accurate calendars based on the eighteen year lunar cycle. Many believe that the stone circles were used to map astronomical events. They were also one of the earliest doctors in that they knew the medicinal herbs. I'd love to discuss the druid rituals with the local expert."

"Oh, that would be Aubrey Dyer."

Casually, Holmes asked the young man. "Where can I find Mr. Dyer? Can I give him your name?"

"Certainly, he's one of my closest friends. He's a regular and might be here this evening. He'll definitely be here tomorrow night."

"Because of the 6th day of the full moon?"

"Yes, you could say he's the head of the local club."

"Fascinating. My brother is the founder of a club in London called the Diogenes Club. We're two of a kind. Unfortunately, my friend and I have some business to attend to in Bristol tonight and I'm not certain that we'll be able to return tomorrow. Do you think it would be possible to meet Mr. Dyer this afternoon?"

"You could go by his father's farm. It's only a short distance away."

Half an hour later, we were on a foot path to the farm. I spent much of the time marvelling how Holmes had obtained so much information without revealing anything about the true nature of his investigation. Holmes though was not in the mood for praise and walked at a pace that I struggled to maintain. I was disappointed that we could not spend more time enjoying the clean fresh country air with its rolling green hills and meandering streams that contrasted so heavily with the foggy, smoky London atmosphere with its dirty houses and smelly sewers. Eventually, we reached a stile that allowed access over the wall to the fields of the Dyer farm. Instead of going up and over, Holmes stopped in his tracks and asked me to sit down and enjoy the view for a moment. I was more than happy to cooperate with his request. I rested my aching leg while Holmes examined the wall, the ground, and the stile in minute detail. It appeared that the wall had been recently repaired. There were some deep footprints in the ground near the wall and stile that were made when the ground was much softer than it was now. Other than the fact that the stile was unusually sturdy and relatively new, I did not understand Holmes's fascination with it. Ten minutes after we had stopped, Holmes indicated that we could now proceed to the farm. I went up and over the stile and continued towards the field. I was passing a large tree on the border of the field when a young man suddenly appeared from behind it.

"Who are you and what are you doing on our property!" the man demanded.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Watson and this is my friend Sherlock Holmes. We got your name from -" I started to reply when he interrupted.

"You're those Scotland Yard detectives! Well, you're not getting another word from me. I already said everything that I am going to say to the police. Now get off our property!" The man was getting angry. I realized I had made major a faux pas. Even before I had explained that we were tourists in the area, the man was already suspicious and uncooperative. Without thinking, I had given out our identity, something Holmes had not done all day. Holmes acted as if he didn't notice and took command of the situation.

"We are here to talk to you about your actions for the days immediately after the inspector's interview with you. We want to know why you went to Bristol and who you saw." He demanded.

"I was there on farm business. That's all you need to know," the man said gruffly.

"I also wanted to ask you about your relationship with Sue Addleton. You two had secretly agreed to be married before she moved. Correct?"

"How did you know!" He was furious now. I placed myself in a position to restrain him if he should decide to attack Holmes. Knowing that he was out manned, he backed down and began a verbal tirade. "She's nothing but a whore anyway! You should be looking for her in a whorehouse in Paris! You should be looking for the Frenchman who mailed the letter!"

Two younger men, only barely out of boyhood, were running down the path, one of them carrying a rifle. "Shut up, brother. Don't say another word." Then, looking at us. "Now, you two! Leave now! You're not welcome here."

"Yes, we'll be going now. We've worn out our welcome. Come, Watson."

We went back to the Druid's Arms to take our hired waggonette back to Bristol. From a distance, I could see the Dyer brothers watching us leave. I was more convinced than ever of Aubrey's guilt, but Holmes did not want to discuss the matter any further.

The next morning, Holmes and I met Lestrade and six local policeman. Each was armed with a shovel as Holmes had requested by telegram when we had returned to Bristol the previous evening. We all crowded into a wagon that was already occupied by a long rope, a lantern, and many solid, wooden fence posts. I was perplexed by this assortment, but Holmes refused to reveal his plans. Lestrade was glad to fill the silence by boasting about his productive communication with the French police and how Scotland Yard was better able to handle difficult cases such as this.

We continued past the Dyer Farm and towards Stanton Drew. With the heavy police presence, I had expected us to arrest Aubrey first and interrogate him to find the location of Susan Addleton as soon as possible. When I questioned Holmes, he coldly said "We need to find the body first. We won't be able to convict without it. I also need to find the final pieces of the puzzle." For the first time, I realized that there was no chance of finding Susan Addleton alive. The others were similarly affected by Holmes's words for we passed the rest of the trip in silence until we stopped at the Church. The vicar had noticed our arrival and came out to greet us with a concerned expression.

"Good morning, gentlemen. I certainly hope that none of my flock is in trouble."

"I'm afraid I can't answer that right now, but we would appreciate your cooperation," Holmes replied.

"Of course, how can I help you?"

"Yesterday, you had indicated that there were numerous Neolithic and bronze-age cairns nearby."

"Yes, there are five Neolithic chambered tombs and fourteen round barrows on the downs."

"Of the chambered tombs, are there any that are relatively isolated, intact, unexcavated, with its entrance blocked by a heavy stone?"

"One of the long barrows in particular comes in mind. It's not as impressive as the Wayland Smithy long barrow, but ours still holds its secrets. I will show you the way."

We travelled to the downs to the west, up and down steep hills. On the top of one of the hills was a grass-covered mound. The mound was surrounded by a low wall of piled, unmortared stone perhaps three feet high. The mound's peak rose up approximately another three feet. The length was over a hundred feet long, and more than half as wide, in a somewhat trapezoidal shape. On one end, there was an indentation. On the other, there was a large standing stone. The grass on the top was long and swayed in the winds that blustered over the downs. The grass next to the mound was much shorter, as it had been trimmed by the cattle that left evidence of their presence by the deep impressions of hooves in the soggy ground. I gasped, "It doesn't look as it has been touched for a thousand years."

"Over four thousand years is more like it," said the vicar.

Holmes was a bundle of energy, darting from one place to another and then up the mound. "Where better to hide something that you did not want to be discovered? Unfortunately, this burial place has been recently desecrated. Look, over here near the big rock. The grass next to it has been carefully removed and replaced." Holmes then climbed the mound. "Look here, and here. Four deep impressions, eight inch squares, probably made by sturdy wooden posts. These impressions were also covered up." Holmes searched the ground further from the mound. "Aha! Here they are. Horseshoe prints are intermixed with those made by cattle. We were most fortunate that it rained shortly before they were here."

"Yes, it rains quite a bit here, but not nearly as much as at the Mendips down south," said the vicar, being overly helpful.

"We must reopen the tomb using the same entrance as the recent perpetrators. They were better prepared, but I believe we have sufficient manpower." Holmes then instructed the policemen to carefully remove the turf next to the well-entrenched large rock at the end. Under the turf laid another large, flat rock that acted as cover to the entrance. Next, Holmes had the policemen lay down one of the posts that we had brought along with us next to the stone. Using this post for leverage, another post was pried under the lip of the stone. Using the weight and strength of six men, the lever was able to budge and eventually raise the stone slightly. As soon as the stone was raised, I inserted another post under the stone to prevent it from lowering. As soon as a gap to the underlying chamber was opened, the unmistakable stench associated with putrefaction became terribly evident. Holmes climbed the mound and lit the lantern. Peeking inside, Holmes informed us of its contents.

"Here lies the remains of Susan Addleton at the entrance of a long passageway. Her throat is slit in a ritual fashion, from one side to the other. She is lying on her left side, in a crouched position, as if someone placed her that way on purpose. Next to her body, the ground is dry and dusty. Clearly visible are footprints that I can safely identify as those of all three Dyer brothers. The evidence is clear. Lestrade, I recommend that you arrest the three Dyer brothers. You should also arrest the bartender at the Druid's Arms. He should provide useful evidence against them."

The full story never was made public as the brothers pleaded guilty in exchange for lengthy sentences. The public still has the impression that the Addleton tragedy had to do with white slavery. The truth was much more sinister and exactly as Holmes deduced. Aubrey Dyer and Susan Addleton were childhood sweethearts. Aubrey was handsome, popular, and a natural leader. Living so near the stones, Aubrey was naturally fascinated by Druids and their rituals. He started a small club that later evolved into a Druid-centric cult with him as the head Shaman. His brothers and the bartender were the earliest and closest members. Aubrey and Susan swore their oath for marriage on a Hautville's Quoit in a manner that Aubrey believed sacred just before Susan left for Bristol. Yet, Susan soon was unfaithful to Aubrey when she realized there were many men in Bristol interested in her who were nicer, less moody, equally handsome, and much better off financially than Aubrey. During one of his visits to Bristol, Aubrey was furious and reminded her of the Druid oath and the serious consequences of violating it. Susan just laughed at him contemptuously and said that she didn't want to see him again. It was then that Aubrey started to plan his revenge. Eventually, he learned of Susan's engagement. By this time, he had informed his brothers of the necessity of making a sacrifice in the manner of the Druids in order to gain mystical powers. A human virgin was the most powerful sacrifice possible, and Aubrey used his persuasive powers to convince his brothers that Susan was the one. Aubrey went back to Bristol and apologized to Susan for their last meeting and wanted to make amends. She continued to treat him contemptuously and sent him on his way, but not without first informing him of her intention to take an early train to London to prepare for her wedding. Knowing the lunar influences to be the most powerful on the day of her travel, Aubrey's plans were set. His brothers constructed a sturdy new stile to his specifications. He went to Bristol to the first stop after Miss Addleton's departure station. There he waited for the train. When it arrived, he was able to locate her. With a powerful story that evoked sympathy, combined with the fact that Susan had regretted the way she had treated Aubrey on his last visit, Aubrey was able to coax Susan out of the train after which he drugged her. He took her back to the farm with her hidden in the back of the wagon. The three brothers then proceeded to the long barrow. While their brother was in Bristol, the younger two had been busy. Using a horse, some rope, and their stile as an A-frame for leverage, they were able to open up the chambered tomb. At the end of the barrow with the indentation, they conducted their gruesome ritual slaying. They then lowered her body into the tomb. Finally they covered the tomb and tried to restore it as close as possible to its original state. Confident that the tomb would remain untouched for another thousand years, the brothers returned back to the farm. The next day they repaired the wall and installed their new stile. They also discussed their cover story with the bartender, who was an unwitting accomplice. When the police interrogated Aubrey, Aubrey was left with the strong impression that they were on to him. He panicked. Not knowing that he was no longer a suspect, he wrote the letter to misdirect the police. This was his ultimate mistake, because it brought Sherlock Holmes onto the case.

"… an account of the Addleton tragedy and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow." The Golden Pince-nez. 1894.

Go to previous chapter Go to home page Go to next chapter Email the authors
Rate the story:

Hosting by WebRing.