Summary: Part I, Chapter VII: Light in the Darkness

Lestrade shares his discoveries. Suspecting Stangerson murdered Drebber, Lestrade visited hotels near the train station and discovered that Stangerson had checked into one hotel several days ago. Lestrade and the hotelier went to Stangerson’s room and saw blood pooling under the door. Inside, Stangerson lay dead on his bed. He had been stabbed. Lestrade then shares more details, including that the word rache was written on the wall and that an eyewitness saw a man matching Holmes’s description of the murderer descending from the window on a ladder outside. 

Holmes asks Lestrade about Stangerson’s belongings, particularly interested in a pillbox that Lestrade has in his possession. The box contains two pills, which Watson confirms are water soluble. Holmes cuts a pill in two and dissolves half in water. At Holmes’s request, Watson gets the landlady’s dog, which is very ill and needs to be put down. Holmes feeds the dog the liquid, but nothing happens. After a few moments of self-doubt, Holmes follows the same process with the other pill and feeds it to the dog, who convulses and dies.

Holmes explains that the case of Drebber’s death presented one real clue, which he followed to the case’s natural conclusion. Gregson impatiently demands that Holmes identify the murderer. Holmes says the man will commit no more murders and that he knows the murderer’s name but needs to locate him, which he expects to do soon. Holmes notes that if the man grows suspicious, he will disappear. 

Suddenly, Wiggins, the street urchins’ leader, appears and tells Holmes that a cab waits for him downstairs. Holmes pulls out a set of handcuffs, asks Wiggins to bring up the cab driver, and fusses with luggage. The cab driver enters the flat, and as he kneels to help Holmes with his bag, Holmes slaps the cuffs on him. Holmes then introduces the man as Jefferson Hope, the murderer. Hope tries to escape out the window, but the four men drag him back into the room and subdue him. Holmes says they will take him to Scotland Yard in his cab and invites Gregson and Lestrade to ask questions.

Analysis: Part I, Chapter VII

In Chapter VII, new revelations build the story toward its climax and contrast Holmes’s singular brilliance with the rest of the characters. Watson describes his growing perception of the truth as “mists . . . gradually clearing away” and Gregson and Lestrade appear completely lost, but for Holmes, each revelation makes him more certain of his conclusions. Highlighting this contrast is the others’ astonishment that deductions Holmes made immediately after surveying the crime scene in the beginning of the book prove correct, such as the use of poison and the murderer’s physical description. In spite of this, Holmes is surprised by the death of Stangerson and begins to doubt his conclusions when the first pill has no effect on the dog. This creates a sense of suspense in the action, which increases as Holmes withholds information until the last possible moment of climax. The climactic moment when Holmes claps handcuffs on the criminal is all the more dramatic because Holmes has previously indicated that the suspected murderer is the only man involved in the case who is a match for him. But here Holmes demonstrates his superiority by outwitting even the talented and wily Jefferson Hope.

Holmes has solved the case, but he still has not identified the killer’s motivation for the murders, an absence of key information that foreshadows a detailed explanation yet to come. Throughout the first half of the novel, Holmes’s most extraordinary talent has been his ability to construct a story out of seemingly random bits of information. All the men present know that Jefferson Hope has traveled from America to London in order to murder Drebber and Stangerson and that revenge (“RACHE”) may play a role, but even Holmes cannot guess why. With an entire half of the novel still to come, the stage is set for an answer to that question, and another story to tell.