"The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was first published in 1927, appearing in the January 22, 1927 issue of Liberty magazine in the United States and the February 1927 issue of The Strand magazine in the United Kingdom. It would be published again in June of the same year as part of the anthology The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
The story's title character is a woman named Mrs. Ronder who keeps her disfigured face permanently hidden beneath a veil. Mrs. Ronder's landlady, Mrs. Merrilow, becomes worried about her tenant after Mrs. Ronder starts to shout out things, including, "Murder!" Mrs. Ronder agrees to Mrs. Merrilow's suggestion that the famous private detective Sherlock Holmes be allowed to come and talk to her. Holmes realizes that the Mrs. Ronder whom Mrs. Merrilow told him about is the same Mrs. Ronder who was bitten in the face by a lion seven years earlier. The same lion is said to have killed her husband. Although Mr. Ronder's death was ruled to be accidental, Holmes thinks there is something suspicious about it.
One morning in 1894, in response to a note, Dr.Watson goes to see his friend Sherlock Holmes. He finds Holmes with an old woman, whom the detective introduces as Mrs. Merrilow. For seven years, Mrs. Merrilow has been renting a room in her house to a woman named Mrs. Ronder. Mrs. Ronder rarely goes out and keeps her face covered by a veil at all times. Mrs. Merrilow only briefly saw Mrs. Ronder's face once and found it to be horribly mutilated. In spite of her somewhat odd behavior, Mrs. Merrilow considers Mrs. Ronder to be a good lodger because she always pays her rent on time and has caused her few problems.
Recently Mrs. Merrilow has become concerned about her lodger. Mrs. Ronder has been heard to cry out, "Murder!" She also shouted out, "You cruel beast! You monster!" in the middle of the night. Mrs. Merrilow said to Mrs. Ronder that she should speak to a priest or the police about her problems. Mrs. Ronder did not like either of those suggestions, although she said, "It would ease my mind if someone knew the truth before I died." When Mrs. Merrilow suggested speaking to Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Ronder agreed. She told Mrs. Merrilow to tell the famous consulting detective that she was the "wife of Ronder's wild beast show" and that she should say the words "Abbas Parva" to him.
After Mrs. Merrilow has left, Holmes reminds himself of the "Abbas Parva tragedy" of seven years earlier by consulting his records about it. He then tells Watson about the case.
Mr. Ronder was the owner of a circus which had once been very popular. By the time of the tragedy, however, the quality of his shows had greatly deteriorated. Ronder was known to be bad-tempered and violent, especially when drunk, and had many enemies. Ronder and his wife both performed with a North African lion named Sahara King. So that the lion would see Mr. and Mrs. Ronder as its friends, no other people were allowed to feed it. Sometimes the lion was fed by Mr. Ronder, sometimes by Mrs. Ronder and sometimes by the husband and wife together. It was always fed at night.
One evening, the members of Ronder's circus made camp for the night near the village of Abbas Parva. Everyone in the camp awoke around midnight to the sound of a woman's screams. Sahara King was found to be out of its cage and biting the face of Mrs. Ronder. Nearby, Mr. Ronder lay dead with his skull crushed and claw marks on his head. Some men, including Leonardo the strong man and Griggs the clown, were able to get the lion off Mrs. Ronder and back in its cage. As Mrs. Ronder was carried back to her caravan, she was heard to shout, "Coward! Coward!" Due to the horrible injuries which Mrs. Ronder suffered, an inquest into her husband's death could not be held for six months, by which time she was well enough to testify.
Mr. Ronder's death was ruled to be accidental, although there are some features of it which remain unexplained. It is strange that the lion which performed with Mr. and Mrs. Ronder many times should suddenly choose to attack them. It is also strange that, after killing Mr. Ronder, instead of simply running away, the lion went back in the direction of its cage, near to which Mrs. Ronder was standing, to attack her. Some witnesses also said that they heard a man shouting at the same time that Mrs. Ronder was screaming. The man could not have been Mr. Ronder, who would have already been dead as a result of his head injuries by that time.
Holmes and Watson go to Mrs. Merrilow's house and are led to Mrs. Ronder's room. Mrs. Ronder says that she did not tell the truth about her husband's death at the time of the inquest. She lied in order to protect Leonardo. Since she has found out that Leonardo recently drowned during a swimming accident and since she will soon die also, Mrs. Ronder feels ready to tell Holmes the truth.
Mrs. Ronder was born into a circus family. She married Ronder when she was young and came to regret it. He was horribly abusive towards her and treated all the people and animals around him with cruelty. Consequently, all the best performers began to leave Ronder's circus until few remained except Griggs the clown and Leonardo the strong man.
Leonardo and Mrs. Ronder started to have an affair. Together, they planned to murder Mr. Ronder and make it look as if the lion Sahara King had killed him. Leonardo made a club with an iron top. On the iron top were five long steel nails which had been bent. The club was designed so that woulds inflicted by it would look as if they had been made by a lion's paw and claws. When Mr. and Mrs. Ronder approached Sahara King's cage at the lion's feeding time, Leonardo struck Mr. Ronder from behind. Mrs. Ronder then opened the cage. However, the smell of human blood brought about a sudden change in the animal's behavior and it attacked Mrs. Ronder. Leonardo shouted in terror before running away. Leonardo could have easily saved Mrs. Ronder quickly by killing the lion with his club. He did not do so, however, because it would have revealed that he was guilty of the murder of Mr. Ronder. For that reason, Mrs. Ronder would later shout that Leonardo was a coward. Mrs. Ronder says that she remembers Leonardo and Griggs getting the lion off her and then remembers nothing else for months.
Holmes realizes that when Mrs. Ronder said she would soon die, she meant that she planned to commit suicide. Holmes tries to persuade Mrs. Ronder not to kill herself. In response, she lifts her veil, shows Holmes her mutilated face and says, "I wonder if you would bear it." Nevertheless, soon afterwards, Holmes receives a package which contains a bottle of poison and a note which reads, "I send you my temptation. I will follow your advice." The note is not signed but Holmes is certain that Mrs. Ronder has decided not to take her own life.
"The Eligible Bachelor", the hour-long ninth episode of the Granada TV series The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, is an adaptation of the 1892 Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" with some additional elements taken from "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger". It was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on February 5, 1992.
A faithful radio adaptation of "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger", starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson, first aired on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom on March 15, 1995.
- Text of "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" on Bibliowiki. The story is in the public domain in Canada but is still under copyright in the United States.
- "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" on Baker Street wiki.