A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapter VI: A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson MD


Once the prisoner found himself powerless, he stopped resisting and told his captors that he would walk down to the cab and would willingly get in. The men were surprised at his attitude, as well as his massively, powerfully-built frame. The prisoner was brought to the police headquarters and the name of the prisoner was taken down. Jefferson Hope was informed he would be put before the magistrates in a week, but he could speak a few words now.

Hope replied that he had many words to speak and did not need to wait until his trial. He said that he would not even be tried, which surprised his captors. Hope asked Watson to put his ear to his chest; the doctor listened and then burst out, "Why...you have an aortic aneurism!" Quite calmly, Hope acknowledged the truth of this, explaining that he got it from years of overexposure and underfeeding in the mountains and that he would no doubt be dead very soon. It was important to him to leave an account of his crimes so the world did not think him merely a "common cut-throat."

With the assent of the inspector and detectives, Hope settled down to tell his tale. He spoke calmly and methodically, and Watson vouched for the validity of his own journal's accounting of this, as he had access to Lestrade's notebook.

Hope explained that the two men were guilty of the deaths of a father and daughter. The statute of limitations had run out and they could never be held legally accountable for their actions. Thus, it was necessary for him to be "judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one." Any other man would have done the same. The girl had been married to Drebber twenty-one years ago and died of a broken heart. Hope took her ring and viewed revenge. As the men he followed were rich and he was poor, this was not as easy as he had hoped.

He followed them throughout London, but soon realized he needed a job to put money in his pockets. He knew driving and riding came naturally to him so he applied to be a cab-driver. He managed to scrape by on this small salary, soon learning all the roads and byways of the tangled city. To his delight he finally learned that Stangerson and Drebber were staying at a boardinghouse. They were still quite cunning, however, and must have surmised they were being followed, as they never went anywhere alone. While Drebber was a drunk, Stangerson was quite alert.

One night while observing their street, Hope saw another cab stop at their house and both men got in with their luggage. They headed toward the train station and asked after a Liverpool train. Hope was pleased when the men learned they had just missed it. Drebber told Stangerson he had some business to do and that they should split up for the time being. Stangerson was unhappy at this suggestion but after an argument, this was what occurred.

Hope was elated, for his moment of retribution had finally come. He could not be too precipitous, however, for "there is no satisfaction in vengeance unless the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes him, and why retribution has come upon him." Hope remembered that a few days previous a man who lived on Brixton Road had dropped a key in his cab and Hope had made a copy of it. The empty house would be perfect for the murder.

Drebber came out of the bar where he was drinking, got into a cab, and proceeded back to the boardinghouse. Hope witnessed Drebber's altercation with Arthur, and then, stumbling into the street, got into Hope's cab. Hope was thrilled, but bided his time and took Drebber to the bar that he requested. Hope explained to his listeners that he was not planning on killing Drebber in cold blood, but that he had pills that he had formed himself from a poison he learned about while working as a janitor at a college. The pills would be a much better and less violent death for his enemies.

When Drebber got back into the cab, besotted with drink, he did not even notice when Hope drove him to Brixton Road. Hope helped Drebber out and the two men went into the dark empty house, Hope lighting a candle he had brought. As soon as the match was struck Hope looked at Drebber and said "Now, Enoch Drebber...who am I?" Horror spread across Drebber's face when he recognized his foe.

Hope was filled with contentment as the imminent revenge he had so long desired. He accused Drebber of Lucy's murder by broken heart and watched with pleasure as Drebber cowered in fear. Hope then told him that God would decide who was to be vindicated; he took out both pills and explained that one was poison and one was a placebo and that whichever one Drebber took, he would take the other. Drebber's cries for mercy did not avail him and he finally chose one of the pills. Fortunately for Hope, Drebber chose the poison and died within minutes, his face contorted.

Hope had a bloody nose that he had not noticed while this was occurring, and to mislead and tease the police he wrote RACHE on the wall with a finger dipped in blood. He departed the house but was despondent to learn that somewhere along the way he had dropped the beloved ring. When he returned and saw the police he pretended to be drunk.

As for Stangerson, Hope climbed up a ladder into his room. He told Stangerson to account for the deaths and put the same choice of pills to him. However, Stangerson attacked Hope and the latter was forced to stab him in self-defense.

After the murders Hope continued to drive the cab for a few days. One day a young street boy came up to him and told him a Sherlock Holmes requested his cab at 221B Baker Street. Thinking nothing of this, Hope went to the address. That was the end of his tale. It was told in such a fashion that all the listeners were left dumbstruck and silent at its close.

Holmes finally asked who Hope's accomplice was who had come to pick up the ring, but Hope smiled and said he would not get his friend into trouble. Holmes agreed with Hope that the friend had behaved quite smartly. The conversation was finally ended when the inspector said it was time to comply with the forms of the law and put Jefferson Hope into prison. Holmes and Watson returned to Baker Street.


In this breathtaking chapter Hope accounts for his actual undertaking of the murders. The clues that were laid out in the first few chapters of the novel are mostly resolved. Hope became a cabbie because he was skilled at driving and needed income. He obtained the pills by creating them himself after learning about them at a university where he worked as a janitor. He had a key to the empty house from a copy he made from a previous rider's key that was dropped in his cab.

The night of his long-awaited revenge, Hope tracked the two men to their boardinghouse and observed their frustration on missing the train and then their split for the evening. He picked up Drebber and took him to the house in Lauriston Gardens and murdered him with the poison. Drebber was given a choice between the poison and the placebo but unfortunately (for him) picked wrongly. Hope had no intention of killing in cold blood but was forced to stab Stangerson when the latter fought back and nearly murdered Hope.

Hope also reveals to the detectives that he is not really going to be held accountable for his crimes because he will die soon from an aortic aneurism. This fact is interesting not only because it suggests that Hope really will die of a broken heart, but because this means Doyle is further condoning the crimes committed and exonerating their author. Hope does not have to go through a trial or waste away his life in prison. He does not face any corporeal punishment at all. He is allowed the catharsis of telling his tale, and then, in the next and final chapter, dies peacefully and contentedly. The reader is no doubt pleased with this outcome, as he or she has come to feel a measure of sympathy for the criminal.

A few minor notes to make about this chapter include the poison and the accomplice. The South American arrow poison that Jefferson Hope uses in the pills is curare, but commentators have noted the fact that this poison only works if it is injected or another form of skin puncture. Hope's decision of how to administer the poison is an interesting one. He gives Drebber a choice between the placebo and poison and is content himself with either possible outcome. For him, justice will determine who should live and who should die. The fact that Hope makes it out alive from this further reinforces the notion that his killing of Drebber was righteous.

Finally, the accomplice of Hope who disguised himself as an old woman to answer the newspaper advertisement for the ring is one of the great unknowns in the Sherlock Holmes universe; his identity is never revealed and he stands as one rare example of Holmes's lack of knowledge. Also, some readers might question what York College is; it is commonly assumed to be either New York University or a fictional college Doyle devised in York, Pennsylvania.