The next morning, Ferrier goes into the city to send his message. When he returns home, he is surprised to see two men in his sitting room. Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson introduce themselves and compare their claims for Lucy’s hand in marriage. Stangerson argues that he has the better claim, as he has only four wives compared to Drebber’s seven, and says that when his father dies, he will inherit his tanning yard, leather factory, and higher ranking in the Church. For his part, Drebber argues that his claim is stronger, as he can “keep” more wives since his father’s mill makes him richer than Stangerson. Drebber claims that they “will leave it all to her [Lucy’s] decision,” but Ferrier, who is becoming increasingly furious at their presumption, threatens to force them out. The men leave angrily, threatening Ferrier with the power of the Prophet, the Council of Four, and God.
Sexism and hypocrisy permeate this scene, as Drebber ironically and hypocritically claims that he and Stangerson “leave it all to [Lucy’s] decision” to choose between them, despite the fact that Young has already threatened her life. Stangerson and Drebber talk about their wives as if they were toys or objects, arguing over who should get Lucy based on how many wives they have already collected. Their presumption is not limited to their unwelcome claims over Lucy, but also extends to their callous consideration of what they will inherit once their fathers die and the blasphemous assumption that they can harness the power of God.
Lucy tries to calm her father down, assuring him that Hope will return soon. In desperate need of advice, Ferrier reflects on their situation, knowing that wealthy men like him have gone missing for much smaller missteps. The next morning when he wakes up, he finds a note pinned to his blanket over his chest, saying “Twenty-nine days are given you for amendment, and then—” Ferrier is shaken by the unspoken threat that has been delivered to him while he was sleeping. The next day, he and Lucy find the number 28 burned into the ceiling of their house. Every day, another number counting down appears somewhere around the house, and despite Ferrier’s efforts to keep watch, he is never able to detect the culprit. Ferrier becomes increasingly afraid and haggard, and comes to rely on Jefferson Hope as his last hope.
Not only are these Mormons physically violent against perceived dissenters, but they also use psychological intimidation and threats to terrorize, manipulate, and control their members. As these terror tactics begin to wear down on Ferrier, Jefferson Hope (whose surname is no coincidence) increasingly represents the Ferriers’ hope for escape.
The numbers go down to 4 and 3, causing Ferrier to lose all hope in Hope’s arrival. Nevertheless Ferrier would still rather die than allow his daughter to be dishonored. On the day a 2 appears on his wall, Ferrier is despairing of what will become of Lucy when he hears a quiet tap on his door. Wondering if it his enemies, he opens the door and is shocked to see a man lying on the floor, sliding himself into the house. When the man gets up, Ferrier is even more shocked to see that it is Jefferson Hope, who tells Ferrier that the house is being watched on all sides, which is why he had to crawl into the house. Now that Hope is here, Ferrier feels better about their chances.
Just as he had shown from his decision to adopt Lucy, Ferrier is a noble man, vowing to protect his daughter at all costs. The presence and absence of Jefferson Hope correlates with the literal hope for the Ferriers’ escape. When Hope has been absent for nearly two months, Ferrier begins to lose hope in their survival, but once Hope arrives, Ferrier regains his hope.
While Ferrier prepares his daughter for their journey, Hope packs up the food and water. Hope explains that they would have to leave immediately through the window and walk two miles to the horses. They are walking into the cornfield when Hope suddenly stops Ferrier and Lucy, as two men appear, exchanging secret signals “Nine to seven” and “Seven to five.” After the men disappear into the darkness, the three travelers run as fast as they can to the horses and mule and make their way to the outskirts of the Mormons’ land. However, a sentinel stops them, and Ferrier claims they had been given leave by the Holy Four. The sentinel says, “Nine to seven,” to which Hope responds “Seven to five,” satisfying the sentinel, who allows them to pass.
Doyle’s inclusion of secret codes reinforces his image of the Danite Band as a secret society whose members could be anyone in the community (and adds to the general sense of sinister mystery appropriate for a Sherlock Holmes story). Fortunately for the Ferriers, Hope’s quick thinking allows them to use the codes against the Mormons and escape.