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Vol. 26 DECEMBER, 1903


II. -- The Adventure of the Dancing Men

Section I Section II Section III
  • copper
    • a very cheap metal which is used to make pennies and pence -- used as a nickname for pence in England (note that policemen were also called coppers because their helmets were made of copper) -- to spend your last copper means to spend everything, even your pennies
  • watering-place
    • a term for a vacation spot with water -- on the coast or on a lake
  • lodgers
    • homeowners rent out extra rooms in their houses to short-term guests to earn extra money, the guests are called lodgers
  • pressing
    • urgent
  • inscribed
    • written
  • fortnight
    • two weeks
  • hansom
    • a horse drawn cab or taxi -- with an enclosed cab
  • design
    • in this case a plan or purpose to do something bad to a person -- "design upon you" -- the preposition "upon" impies you are unwilling -- "design for you" would mean something positive and you would probably be consulted
Section IV
  • rubbed
    • two ways of using it here -- "rubbed out" means to erase -- "rubbed hands" means to place the palms of the hands together and move them back and forth -- a gesture of anticipation
  • chuckled
    • a small laugh
  • scrawled
    • written sloppily, fast writing
  • pebble
    • small stone
  • frankly
    • direct, not trying to make something gentle, honest even if it hurts
  • practical joke
    • "practical" because someone takes some action to change the environment or life of another for fun or humor -- for instance, you put salt in the sugar bowl -- funny to the person who plays the joke, not to the one who eats the salt
  • nuisance
    • something that causes inconvenience, usually something of no great importance -- she uses the word to make the problem seem smaller that she really thinks it is
  • squatted
    • bent his knees and sat upon his heels with only his feet touching the ground -- as opposed to knelt when one or two knees would be on the ground, or stood when the feet are on the ground but the knees aren't bent -- a picture would be so much easier!
  • convulsive
    • sudden and violent -- implies that emotion gave her unusual strength
Section V
  • mere
    • small
  • panel
    • a section or part of the door, in China there are often paintings on the panels
  • skulking
    • sneaking, watching secretly
  • rascal
    • a person engaged in undesirable behavior, we also call children rascals when they misbehave, but when used in reference to a child it implies that the child has no evil intent.  In reference to an adult it is assumed that the adult intends the bad behavior.
  • shrubbery
    • lines of bushes that surround houses
  • preserved
    • kept
  • intricate
    • detailed
  • absorbed in
    • concentrated on, focused on
  • furrowed brow
    • deep lines between the eye brows -- signal of thinking
  • collection
    • refers to the fact that Watson collects the stories of Holmes' mysteries and publishes them
  • pedestal
    • the base or support on which the sun-dial stands, most likely a column
  • frieze
    • a horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration -- refers to the line of dancing men
  • sprang
    • past tense of "to spring" -- to jump up
  • haggard
    • unattractively tired, showing signs of lots of work and a lack of sleep/food
  • web
    • where the spider lives and traps food
Section VI
  • bizarre
    • strange, unusual
  • alighted
    • got off the train
  • the gallows
    • used to hang a person by a rope around their neck -- usually for the crime of murder
  • despondent
    • lacking hope, in a state of despair
  • melancholy
    • deep sadness
  • German Ocean
    • Norfolk is on the east side of Britain -- the "German Ocean" refers to the North Sea
  • timber gables
    • gables refers to the tips or peaks of a house, timber gables means that the house was made of
      wood -- indicating that the owner was comfortable but not wealthy
  • porticoed
    • having a small roof which comes out from the house to cover the entry
  • waxed moustache
    • an old-fashioned method of wearing a moustache -- wax is combed into it to stiffen it so you can shape it -- often with curls at the end of the points.  A moustache refers to facial hair above the lips.
  • associate me in your investigation
    • work with me as a partner
  • pistol, revolver
    • two words for hand gun
Section VII
  • inexorable
    • impossible to plead with -- means that his eyes sought the truth and would not accept anything less -- they would not show pity or be persuaded by a tearful story
  • smell of powder
    • gun powder has a very distinct and powerful smell
  • instantaneous
    • immediate
  • powder-marking
    • when you fire a gun, you get powder-marks on your hands, when a gun is fired close to an object there are powder-marks close to the bullet hole;  therefore, Mr. Henry Cubitt had been shot from a distance.
Section VIII
  • draught (draft)
    • breeze inside a room or house
  • guttered
    • when a candle burns in a draught (draft) the flame opens a channel on one side and the wax pours down the side of the candle unevenly
  • Capital!
    • a slang expression of pleased surprise -- old-fashioned
  • splintering
    • small, sharp pieces of wood sticking up around the hole -- the direction and pattern would indicate the path of the bullet
  • trampled
    • had been walked on in such a way to break the flowers to the ground -- the word trample implies that no consideration or care had been given -- we also use the word in the phrase "trample on someone's feelings" meaning that one person acted without caring that another would certainly be hurt
  • retriever
    • a type of hunting dog used to find birds in the weeds and bring them back
  • disposition
    • tendancy
Section IX
  • dispatched
    • sent
  • earnestness
    • seriousness
  • while away the time
    • pass the time, wait, implies that there is nothing to do and nothing to worry about
  • antics
    • playful behavior
  • recapitulated
    • summarized, went over, reviewed
  • fore-runner
    • something that comes before, a predictor
  • trifling
    • small and unimportant -- he uses it here as understatement to show modesty
  • monograph
    • a paper written on a single focused topic (the prefix mono- means "one", -graph means "write")
  • cipher
    • a code for communication
  • predominate
    • to be the strongest element or force
  • hypothesis
    • idea that needs to be tested
Section X
  • preponderance
    • majority, dominance in frequency
  • abreast
    • equal in number or frequency
  • latter
    • the second of two things mentionned
  • contraction
    • shortening of a name or word
  • allusion
    • talking about in a vague way
  • into her confidence
    • to tell him the secret
  • crook
    • thief, dishonest person, criminal
Section XI
  • to frame a letter
    • to structure or plan the wording for a specific purpose
  • bristling black beard
    • the beard would cover most of his face and be very uneven with hair going in every direction
  • peal
    • to ring (the bell)
  • deftly
    • quick skillfully, making a complicated movement look easy
  • manacled
    • in handcuffs
  • despair
    • no hope
  • dogged
    • refers to dogs being used to track people by scent
Section XII
  • Joint
    • American slang for a long-term prison
  • on the cross
    • American slang for "dishonest"
  • heeled
    • American slang for "carrying a gun"
  • pulled off almost at the same instant
    • American slang for "fired my gun at the same time"
  • like a jay
    • American slang for a person who comes with no suspicion or defense -- refers to a bird which
      is very easy to catch
Section XIII
  • epilogue
    • conclusion to a story which sums up the story or tells what happened in the future -- in this case, it is used to explain the reasoning behind Holmes' conclusions.
  • assizes
    • a meeting of a court of law
  • mitigating circumstances
    • facts which help to explain a criminal act to make it less serious -- if you steal bread to feed your children it is less serious, since Slaney had not come with the intent to kill Cubitt it would be unlikely that he would hang.  Normally, since Cubitt had fired the first shot, Slaney would not be guilty at all -- it would be called self-defense.  But since Cubitt was defending his wife and home, Slaney could not plead self-defense, he was the initial aggressor.

Last update: September 2001
© Marilyn Shea, 2001