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"Square-toes had hopped over" [STUD] 

Source: YouTube screengrab 

When Sherlock Holmes hears about the discovery of Arthur Cadogan West's body, early in the events of "The Bruce-Partington Plans," he is told that no ticket for an Underground train was found in West's pockets. 

His immediate response: 
"According to my experience it is not possible to reach the platform of a Metropolitan train without exhibiting one's ticket. Presumably, then, the young man had one."

It should be obvious to a Watson — even to a Lestrade — that this deduction is simply wrong. Indeed, it turns out that West never had a ticket, for the simple reason that he never was a passenger. Holmes can be forgiven for not immediately realizing that the young man's body had been placed on the roof of a train, not a proceeding that happens every day, but it seems extraordinary that he does not consider a much more commonplace explanation.

Metropolitan Railway ticket from 1901, now in the London Transport Museum


How might a passenger get to the train without buying a ticket? Through the trick known nowadays in New York as turnstile-hopping, or through corruption by a friendly and negligent employee. 

Regardless of the Metropolitan Railway's security measures and the vigilance of its guards, there must have been many attempts every day, some of them successful, to sneak onto a platform, and thence onto a train, without buying a ticket.

Is it possible that Holmes, whose usual fare included jewel thefts, murdered baronets, and vanishing steamships, remained blissfully unaware of petty crime and twopenny fraud? The man who claimed to have "an exact knowledge of London" must surely have had some knowledge of pickpocketing, prostitution, drunkenness, random violence, and the thousand little cheats by which the poorer classes got by. 

No doubt Watson's delicacy excised these phenomena from the records of Holmes's cases. The acute observer will notice "a little knot of roughs" and a broken window at the corner of Goodge Street in "The Blue Carbuncle," and of course the fraudulent beggar Hugh Boone in "The Man with the Twisted Lip," but it is difficult to think of many other examples. 

The official police had to pay attention to such matters, but Holmes was in a position to overlook them, or at least to delegate them to his ragamuffin Irregulars, and Watson clearly did not wish to bring them to his readers' attention.

The remarkable discrepancy between London crime (and London life) as a whole, and the more affluent and sanitized portion of it that was of interest to Sherlock Holmes, has of course often been noticed. Mostly we attribute it to class bias. 

The Holmes who airily commented in "The Noble Bachelor" about the quality of his incoming correspondence — "the humbler are usually the more interesting" — did not generally walk the talk: his known cases involve, if not royalty and aristocracy, at least the respectable members of the middle class. If they are financially embarrassed it is frequently because they have spent their fortunes, like Sir Robert Norberton of "Shoscombe Old Place."

Admittedly, Hall Pycroft of "The Stock-Broker's Clerk" has never been wealthy, but he is a self-respecting member of the clerical class, who probably read Watson's narratives in the Strand magazine once he had caught up on the day's stock market news. 

Even while employed, he might have found it expedient to join a goose club like Henry Baker, paying so many pence a week toward the year-end luxury of a Christmas dinner, and once out of a situation he quickly found it difficult to make ends meet, but he would never have fit with that knot of street-corner roughs.

Cadogan West, the young man who died on the Underground without even the solace of a ticket on his person, was of a similar occupational class, though more financially secure. In the Baker Street Journal for Autumn 2013 ("Short Sentences: Deductions from a Few Words in 'The Bruce-Partington Plans'"), I noted that his fiancée, Violet Westbury, was telling Holmes no more than the truth when she described his salary as "ample." 

Judging from available information about the pay scales for government clerks, West probably earned about £300 a year, or 50 percent more than Hall Pycroft's £200. In current US dollar buying power, the equivalent would be about $40,000.

In other words, at the age of 27, he was earning close to the median annual income currently enjoyed in the United States, and he had it tax-free since British income tax in the 1890s did not touch middle-class earners. 

If West's needs were indeed "simple," as Violet Westbury also tells Holmes, he must have been well able to support himself and comfortably anticipate taking a wife. Sherlock Holmes did not have most of this information at the time of his exchange with Watson about the missing ticket, but perhaps he jumped to a conclusion from the simple knowledge that Cadogan West was a government employee.

Apparent respectability, however, is no guarantee, as Britain's Financial Conduct Authority discovered in December 2014 when it was found necessary to ban a London hedge fund manager from the finance industry after he was found to have evaded £42,000 in commuter fares.