Tuesday Terror! The Case of Lady Sannox by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Never betray Sir Arthur…

I don’t usually use two stories from the same author so close together, but firstly, it’s my beloved ACD, and secondly, I feel this is almost a companion piece to last week’s story, The Retirement of Signor Lambert. Another adulterous affair, another revenge but this time against the erring wife and so, so much more horrific than last week’s. Not for the faint-hearted – you have been warned!

The Case of Lady Sannox
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The relations between Douglas Stone and the notorious Lady Sannox were very well known both among the fashionable circles of which she was a brilliant member, and the scientific bodies which numbered him among their most illustrious confreres. There was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest when it was announced one morning that the lady had absolutely and for ever taken the veil, and that the world would see her no more. When, at the very tail of this rumour, there came the assurance that the celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel nerves, had been found in the morning by his valet, seated on one side of his bed, smiling pleasantly upon the universe, with both legs jammed into one side of his breeches and his great brain about as valuable as a cap full of porridge, the matter was strong enough to give quite a little thrill of interest to folk who had never hoped that their jaded nerves were capable of such a sensation.

Douglas Stone had expensive tastes and liked the best of everything. And when he met Lady Sannox, he knew he had to have her. Not a terribly difficult task…

She had a liking for new experiences, and was gracious to most men who wooed her. It may have been cause or it may have been effect that Lord Sannox looked fifty, though he was but six-and-thirty.

The Lovers

Poor old Lord Sannox! Don’t feel too sorry for him, though! People had never been sure whether he was unaware of his wife’s indiscretions or whether he simply chose to ignore them. But when Douglas Stone became the new favourite, even Lord Sannox couldn’t fail to notice…

There was no subterfuge about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous fashion, he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The scandal became notorious.

The Husband

One night, Stone was due to visit his Lady but as he was about to leave home a man arrived, asking for his medical assistance for his wife…

A few moments later the butler swung open the door and ushered in a small and decrepit man, who walked with a bent back and with the forward push of the face and blink of the eyes which goes with extreme short sight. His face was swarthy, and his hair and beard of the deepest black. In one hand he held a turban of white muslin striped with red, in the other a small chamois-leather bag.

He tells Stone that his wife has met with an accident and has been poisoned by an obscure Oriental poison. She must have an operation immediately if she is to be saved! Stone is rather unmoved by this, but the promise of a huge fee sways him, and they set off to the man’s house…

It was a mean-looking house in a narrow and sordid street. The surgeon, who knew his London well, cast a swift glance into the shadows, but there was nothing distinctive—no shop, no movement, nothing but a double line of dull, flat-faced houses, a double stretch of wet flagstones which gleamed in the lamplight, and a double rush of water in the gutters which swirled and gurgled towards the sewer gratings.

Inside, the man takes Stone to the patient…

A single small lamp stood upon a bracket on the wall. Douglas Stone took it down, and picking his way among the lumber, walked over to a couch in the corner, on which lay a woman dressed in the Turkish fashion, with yashmak and veil.

And then…

The Climax

* * * * *

No, if you want to know the rest you must read it for yourself! It’s one of the stories in Late Victorian Gothic Tales (and many other anthologies), but if you’d like to read it online, here’s a link

I warn you, this one actually horrifies me and the porpy has now taken a lifelong vow of celibacy and retired to a monastery. It reminds us that ACD is not nearly as cuddly as Dr Watson and that he was a medical man before he was a writer. But it is brilliantly written, and completely unforgettable – though you might wish it wasn’t! It also reminds us that humans are much more to be feared than ghosties, ghoulies or even things that go bump in the night!

The porpy’s at the back. But fear not! I’m sure I’ll be able to tempt him
out again once the initial horror begins to fade!

Fretful Porpentine rating:  😮 😮 😮 😮 😮

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

27 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Case of Lady Sannox by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    • Haha – thank you for sympathising with me as well as the porpy! Everyone else has been much more concerned about him! 😉 This one really does make me shudder – that ACD could be pretty brutal sometimes!

  1. Oh, my, FictionFan! Trust ACD to really turn on the terror. Seriously, he really did know how to create a truly shocking story, and I think one of the reasons is that he relied on psychological manipulation (of the reader and characters) as much as anything else. I think that really adds to the ‘punch’ of his stories. Little wonder you and the porpy reacted as you did.

    • It always surprises me when he gets as dark as this, though I don’t know why it should since some of the Holmes stories are pretty horrific – do you remember the one about the woman who receives a severed ear through the post?? But there’s something about this one that just freezes my blood… so much cruelty! (And yet, quite fun… 😉 )

    • Hahaha! I read a collection of his Gothic stories last year and quite a few of them arose out of his medical experiences – let’s just say thank goodness for the NHS! 😉

  2. If this terrified you and the porpy so much, I probably ought to bypass it. I like to sleep at night, and too-terrifying tales have a way of thwarting that! Are you sure porpy is at the back? He must have his snout immersed in one of those hymnals!

    • I do think this is probably the most horrific story I’ve used, but he tells it so well! Still makes me shudder every time I think of it, though! 😱 Hahaha! I suspect he’s hiding under one of the monks’ robes… 😉

  3. Poor old Porpy, this one was clearly too much for him to cope with. ACD certainly knew how to create a sinister atmosphere, but one of the other things I love about his writing is his ability to create vivid physical descriptions of characters. I have been working with a writer over the last couple of years in order to adapt one of the Sherlock stories for the stage and make it accessible for deaf and visually impaired audiences. It has been really easy when it comes to inserting Audio Description into the narrative, as ACD has basically already done it for me.

    • I hadn’t really thought of that but you’re right – I do always have a clear picture of his characters which very often isn’t the case for me. How interesting – in my ignorance I can kinda see how a play could be made accessible for either deaf or visually impaired but I can’t quite imagine how to do both at the same time. Must be fascinating to do it and give you a real sense of achievement when it works! And anything that gives more people access to ACD gets my full approval… 😉

  4. Not a fan of modern day horror/terror, you’ve almost got me convinced to add this Victorian collection to my TBR pile. The two stories you’ve shared recently sound wonderfully frightening! 😱 I really like the cover on the book, too! Poor Porpy. I hope you haven’t totally done him in with this one.

    • There are some real classics in this anthology – some that rank up there amongst the best as far as I’m concerned. I also read an OWC collection of Conan Doyle’s stories last year, called Gothic Tales, which was brilliant. He’s such a great storyteller and his stuff ranges from humorous all the way through to really dark! And the introductions in these books are always good too – informative without being too academic. Hahaha! The porpy’s a resilient little beast – I’m sure he’ll come home soon… 🦔😉

  5. OK I’m going to guess this has something to do with an STD of sorts. Like…herpes of the face, is that why she started wearing a veil? Or her husband scarred her face or something? Ahhh you have to tell me, I’m dying of curiosity and I don’t have time to read the story online LOL

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