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The Adventure of the Copper Beeches [Feb. 16th, 2008|08:25 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club


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[Current Music |"We Are the Champions" - Queen]

After a brief argument Holmes has with Watson over the style of his stories, Holmes shows him a note from a Violet Hunter who is requesting his help, stating that he has fallen far to be solicited for aid from young ladies. Hunter arrives and explains she is an out of work governess. She had recently been offered a position at more than double the usually yearly salary by Mr. and Mrs. Rucastle, but the conditions are odd, requiring her to wear an oddly colored dress, move from place to place in a room at the wife's request, and cut her hair short. She originally turned down the offer, but has since reconsidered and wants Holmes's opinion. He does state that he wouldn't like a sister of his in the job, but does not stand in her way. She requests he be on standby in case of an emergency, to which he readily complies.

Ten days later, a telegram arrives from Violet, requesting Holmes and Watson meet her at an inn nearby to where she is staying. They arrive, and she tells them the odd story of her life at the Copper Beeches, stating that each morning the couple has her put on the oddly colored blue dress (which Rucastle tells her belongs to his daughter who is currently in America) and sit with her back to the window while the husband tells funny stories and makes her laugh. Suspecting something was going on in the window behind her, she snuck a mirror into her handkerchief and noticed a man standing in the road outside and looking at her. The wife caught her, however, and told her to turn around and wave the man away. She was not asked to sit in the room again. During this time, she also found a set of tresses identical to her own in a locked drawer in her room. Additionally, her charge, young Edward, is a total brat who enjoys torturing animals. Additionally, while taking him for a walk, she noticed that not only was one wing of the house vacated and one of its windows boarded up, but that it was also locked. The next time the male servant gets drunk, she quickly slips down the accidentally unlocked passage and sees a barred up door and the shadow of a figure under it. Frightened, she runs back down the hallway and into Ruscastle, who threatens to throw her to the mastiff if she should ever go there again. That would be when she telegraphed Holmes.

Holmes puts two and two together and realizes that the daughter is being kept prisoner in the locked room and Violet was chosen to impersonate her so that her fiance, the man in the street, would think she no longer cared for him. He tells Violet to lock the female servant in the wine cellar while the male is drunk, the dog chained up, and the Rucastles are out visiting the next night, then let the two of them in to free the girl. She does exactly this, and when the door is opened, no one is there, but a skylight is open and a ladder propped against the wall. Holmes assumes the father has spirited away the daughter, but this is disproved as Rucastle, infuriated, arrives to demand what they have done with his daughter. Rucastle runs to the kennel to set the mastiff on Holmes and Co., but he has forgotten the dog hasn't been fed in two days and winds up a Scooby Snack. The female servant explains the she knew Miss Alice had been locked in the room because Rucastle knew she was considering marriage and would take her small fortune with her. Her fiance had broken her out of the room only a few minutes before Holmes arrived, and they have eloped. Not quite sure whether their being there is entirely legal anymore, Holmes, Watson, and Violet get out. Rucastle did recover but was a broken man requiring his wife's help to survive. Violet went on to success at running a girl's school, and Holmes, to Watson's disappointment, took no further interest in her.

Possible discussion questions:
-Watson is rather critical of Holmes character at the beginning of the story, calling him an "egotist." Is this a fair description of Holmes's personality, or is Watson being overly sensitive to the criticism of his stories?
-Is it me, or did it sound like Violet was walking into some weird dom/sub thing?
-Mr. Rucastle is obviously cruel, but Mrs. is a bit less clear. What is your take on her?
-Violet is the second female Holmes has found intriguing, the first being Irene Adler. What do these two women have in common? How are they different? Why does Holmes seem so adamant on the subject of not falling in love?
-Rather like the somewhat pointless though menacing babboon from The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the dog is a highly menacing animal, possibly a prototype of the one in Hound of the Baskervilles. Rucastle is frightening enough, but why is the dog capable of increasing the tension so much more than, say, Rucastle brandishing a gun at our heroes?
-This is the final story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, though Arthur Conan Doyle wrote several other stories about the title character. What is it about Sherlock that has made him a character absolutely imprinted on most people's brains, to the point where even the name is synonymous with a brilliant detective even if the person hasn't read a single one of the stories? Is he a realistic character or too perfect? What makes him likable (if you find him likable)? How did he become so wildly popular?

Happily, the strike is at an end, and so is our reading group. I do hope it's been fun for some of you. Congratulations and best of luck to the WGA in going back to work and creating the shows we all love so much. :)