A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapter V: The Avenging Angels


The travelers continued through the treacherous wilderness even though they were exhausted. Hope pressed the Ferriers onward, exhorting them to remember that their enemies were no doubt already on their tail. They saw no one, however, and hoped that they would make it out of the mountains safely.

The afternoon of the second day saw their provisions begin to run out, so Hope decided to leave Lucy and her father with the horses and look for an animal to hunt. After walking for a few miles through the twisting ravine he espied a bighorn and was able to shoot it. As it was too heavy to carry, he cut off some pieces and headed back. Unfortunately, the ravine pathways were so similar that he could not exactly recall which path would lead him back to the Ferriers. Night was coming and he was no closer to finding his way.

Finally, after being gone for about five hours he found his way to familiar territory. Giving a loud cry to alert the Ferriers of his imminent presence, he was disturbed when it merely echoed back at him unanswered. He began to dread what he would find when he got back to the fire. His fears became a reality when he arrived at only the smoldering remains of the fire, with no horses or human beings in sight. It was obvious that "some sudden and terrible disaster had occurred during his absence –a disaster which had embraced them all, and yet left no traces behind it."

Shaking himself out of his bewilderment, Hope investigated the camp and observed the many hoof prints of multiple riders whose path clearly took them back to Salt Lake City. There was also a newly dug grave with the inscription on a piece of paper –"JOHN FERRIER, formerly of Salt Lake City, Died August 4th." There was no grave for Lucy; she had clearly been taken back to the city of Elect to assume her fate as one of the wives of Drebber or Stangerson. Hope was disconsolate at this, but almost immediately resolved that he would devote his life to revenge. He could apply his "strong will and untiring energy" to that one end.

Hope toiled through the ravine back to a point where he could overlook Salt Lake City. There were clearly some festivities occurring that day, he observed, and wondering what was going on. His reverie was interrupted by a solitary rider, whom he recognized as an old Mormon acquaintance named Cowper. He accosted Cowper for news of Lucy Ferrier. Cowper was stricken and was nervous to speak with Hope, but after being pressed, informed Hope that the festivities were celebrating Lucy's marriage to young Enoch Drebber. Stangerson had shot her father and said his claim was better, but Drebber's party in the Council was stronger, and Young awarded Lucy to him. After Cowper bid Hope adieu, Hope slunk away into the mountains.

Lucy pined away and died within a month of her wedding. This was not entirely distressing to Drebber, who had only really wanted her money. Drebber's other wives prepared her for burial; while they were doing so, they were shocked when Jefferson Hope burst into the room and kissed Lucy's brow and removed her wedding ring. He left before an alarm could be raised.

Hope lived in the nearby wilderness, and scared Drebber and Stangerson with attempts on their lives. Once a bullet went through Stangerson's window and almost hit him, on another day a boulder nearly crashed down upon Drebber as he passed by a cliff. The two men kept up a guard from thenceforth and never went anywhere alone.

Years passed and Hope stayed out of site. His rage had not cooled, however –it was even stronger after being nursed for so long. He stayed out of sight to gain money to pursue his object of revenge. After about five years he returned to Salt Lake City and was shocked to learn that a schism among the Chosen People led to the secession of many, including Drebber and Stangerson. There were no clues as to their whereabouts.

Even though most men would have abandoned this as a lost cause, Hope was undaunted. He spent years tracking them down and was finally rewarded when he learned Drebber was in Cleveland. Drebber actually caught sight of Hope in that town and hurried away from his would-be murderer. Stangerson was now his secretary, and the two of them had Jefferson Hope arrested. He was detained for two weeks on account of not being able to post bail, and when he was released he discovered his two enemies had fled for Europe.

Hope continued to save money and tracked them all over Europe. He was always a step behind until he finally caught up with them in London. The rest of the story would now be told from Dr. Watson's journal.


Jefferson Hope's rationale for murdering Drebber and Stangerson is made clear in this chapter. He discovers that Ferrier has been murdered and Lucy abducted and eventually married to Drebber. She dies within a month of the marriage, clearly from a broken heart. Doyle also alludes to the fact that she was raped, since from his perspective forced marriage is indeed rape. Hope has nothing left to live for but revenge; this goal consumes him. His entire life is now devoted to the atonement through blood that Drebber and Stangerson must pay. His lack of money and information about the whereabouts of the men do little to staunch his passion for vengeance, and he tracks them all over Europe. When he finally catches up to them, Watson's journal picks up the story with an accounting of his actions in London.

Doyle writes of a schism amongst the Mormons: "There had been a schism among the Chosen People a few months before, some of the younger members of the Church having rebelled against the authority of the Elders, and the result had been the secession of a certain number of malcontents, who had left Utah and become Gentiles" (109). Stangerson and Drebber were among them. This schism was rooted in actual historical events. It refers to the Morrisite schism of 1862 where some Mormons refused to participate in militia activity; some of the objectors' leaders were killed and other Mormons fled from the perceived danger of the vengeful Morrisites, other Mormon vigilantes, or federal authorities.

Hope terrorizes Drebber and Stangerson for a bit before they flee, and Drebber recognizes Hope as his previous rival for Lucy's affection. They did not come forward until he left town, however, and were no doubt the ones who asked Brigham Young to intervene in the affair. One of Doyle's sources, Fanny Stenhouse's An Englishwoman in Utah, wrote about Young doing the same thing for his own son who was courting Stenhouse's daughter. The marriage ended up taking place against her objections.

In this chapter Doyle actually lays the groundwork for readers' growing sympathy for the previously-assumed coldhearted villain, Jefferson Hope. Instead of the murderer of Drebber and Hope turning out to be a psychopath, a thief, a political radical, or some other distasteful figure, he is a man whose love has been (virtually) murdered by brutish Mormons. Drebber did not even love Lucy, but desired her merely for her money. Drebber and Stangerson are the villains of the novel; they are cruel, unyielding, hypocritical, violent, and dogmatic. Drebber's physical features even bespeak the ugliness of his soul. Hope, by contrast, is a sympathetic figure consumed by his love for the pure and lovely Lucy.

Readers are drawn into the story of the love between Hope and Lucy set against a backdrop of persecution, secrecy, and violence. When Ferrier and Lucy's fates are discovered, it feels natural to clamor for vengeance against their killers. Hope's decision to become judge, jury, and executioner seems natural; readers feel a sense of sympathy for this poor man and hope for Drebber and Stangerson to be brought to justice. This is an interesting stance for Doyle to take. This is no longer a traditional good-and-bad tale filled with easily discernible heroes and villains.