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by Arthur Conan Doyle

"'MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:--"Lord Backwater tells me that I
may place implicit reliance upon your judgment and discretion. I
have determined, therefore, to call upon you and to consult you
in reference to the very painful event which has occurred in
connection with my wedding. Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is
acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no
objection to your cooperation, and that he even thinks that
it might be of some assistance. I will call at four o'clock in
the afternoon, and, should you have any other engagement at that
time, I hope that you will postpone it, as this matter is of
paramount importance. Yours faithfully, ST. SIMON.'

"It is dated from Grosvenor Mansions, written with a quill pen,
and the noble lord has had the misfortune to get a smear of ink
upon the outer side of his right little finger," remarked Holmes
as he folded up the epistle.

"He says four o'clock. It is three now. He will be here in an

"Then I have just time, with your assistance, to get clear upon
the subject. Turn over those papers and arrange the extracts in
their order of time, while I take a glance as to who our client
is." He picked a red-covered volume from a line of books of
reference beside the mantelpiece. "Here he is," said he, sitting
down and flattening it out upon his knee. "Lord Robert Walsingham
de Vere St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral. Hum! Arms:
Azure, three caltrops in chief over a fess sable. Born in 1846.
He's forty-one years of age, which is mature for marriage. Was
Under-Secretary for the colonies in a late administration. The
Duke, his father, was at one time Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
They inherit Plantagenet blood by direct descent, and Tudor on
the distaff side. Ha! Well, there is nothing very instructive in
all this. I think that I must turn to you Watson, for something
more solid."

"I have very little difficulty in finding what I want," said I,
"for the facts are quite recent, and the matter struck me as
remarkable. I feared to refer them to you, however, as I knew
that you had an inquiry on hand and that you disliked the
intrusion of other matters."

"Oh, you mean the little problem of the Grosvenor Square
furniture van. That is quite cleared up now--though, indeed, it
was obvious from the first. Pray give me the results of your
newspaper selections."

"Here is the first notice which I can find. It is in the personal
column of the Morning Post, and dates, as you see, some weeks
back: 'A marriage has been arranged,' it says, 'and will, if
rumour is correct, very shortly take place, between Lord Robert
St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral, and Miss Hatty
Doran, the only daughter of Aloysius Doran. Esq., of San
Francisco, Cal., U.S.A.' That is all."

"Terse and to the point," remarked Holmes, stretching his long,
thin legs towards the fire.

"There was a paragraph amplifying this in one of the society
papers of the same week. Ah, here it is: 'There will soon be a
call for protection in the marriage market, for the present
free-trade principle appears to tell heavily against our home
product. One by one the management of the noble houses of Great
Britain is passing into the hands of our fair cousins from across
the Atlantic. An important addition has been made during the last
week to the list of the prizes which have been borne away by
these charming invaders. Lord St. Simon, who has shown himself
for over twenty years proof against the little god's arrows, has
now definitely announced his approaching marriage with Miss Hatty
Doran, the fascinating daughter of a California millionaire. Miss
Doran, whose graceful figure and striking face attracted much
attention at the Westbury House festivities, is an only child,
and it is currently reported that her dowry will run to
considerably over the six figures, with expectancies for the
future. As it is an open secret that the Duke of Balmoral has
been compelled to sell his pictures within the last few years,
and as Lord St. Simon has no property of his own save the small
estate of Birchmoor, it is obvious that the Californian heiress
is not the only gainer by an alliance which will enable her to
make the easy and common transition from a Republican lady to a
British peeress.'"

"Anything else?" asked Holmes, yawning.

"Oh, yes; plenty. Then there is another note in the Morning Post
to say that the mariage would be an absolutely quiet one, that it
would be at St. George's, Hanover Square, that only half a dozen
intimate friends would be invited, and that the party would
return to the furnished house at Lancaster Gate which has been
taken by Mr. Aloysius Doran. Two days later--that is, on
Wednesday last--there is a curt announcement that the wedding had
taken place, and that the honeymoon would be passed at Lord
Backwater's place, near Petersfield. Those are all the notices
which appeared before the disappearance of the bride."

"Before the what?" asked Holmes with a start.

"The vanishing of the lady."

"When did she vanish, then?"

"At the wedding breakfast."

"Indeed. This is more interesting than it promised to be; quite
dramatic, in fact."

"Yes; it struck me as being a little out of the common."

"They often vanish before the ceremony, and occasionally during
the honeymoon; but I cannot call to mind anything quite so prompt
as this. Pray let me have the details."

"I warn you that they are very incomplete."

"Perhaps we may make them less so."

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