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  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

  • ADVENTURE III. A CASE OF IDENTITY

  • "My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his

  • lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the

  • mind of man could invent.

  • We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of

  • existence.

  • If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently

  • remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange

  • coincidences, the plannings, the cross-

  • purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to

  • the most outré results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and

  • foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable."

  • "And yet I am not convinced of it," I answered.

  • "The cases which come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and

  • vulgar enough.

  • We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the

  • result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic."

  • "A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a realistic effect,"

  • remarked Holmes.

  • "This is wanting in the police report, where more stress is laid, perhaps, upon

  • the platitudes of the magistrate than upon the details, which to an observer contain

  • the vital essence of the whole matter.

  • Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."

  • I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite understand your thinking so,"

  • I said.

  • "Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser and helper to everybody who is

  • absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you are brought in contact with

  • all that is strange and bizarre.

  • But here"--I picked up the morning paper from the ground--"let us put it to a

  • practical test. Here is the first heading upon which I

  • come.

  • 'A husband's cruelty to his wife.' There is half a column of print, but I know

  • without reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to me.

  • There is, of course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the

  • sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing

  • more crude."

  • "Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument," said Holmes, taking the

  • paper and glancing his eye down it.

  • "This is the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in clearing up

  • some small points in connection with it.

  • The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of

  • was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his

  • false teeth and hurling them at his wife,

  • which, you will allow, is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the

  • average story-teller.

  • Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in

  • your example." He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with

  • a great amethyst in the centre of the lid.

  • Its splendour was in such contrast to his homely ways and simple life that I could

  • not help commenting upon it. "Ah," said he, "I forgot that I had not

  • seen you for some weeks.

  • It is a little souvenir from the King of Bohemia in return for my assistance in the

  • case of the Irene Adler papers." "And the ring?"

  • I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which sparkled upon his finger.

  • "It was from the reigning family of Holland, though the matter in which I

  • served them was of such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to you, who have

  • been good enough to chronicle one or two of my little problems."

  • "And have you any on hand just now?" I asked with interest.

  • "Some ten or twelve, but none which present any feature of interest.

  • They are important, you understand, without being interesting.

  • Indeed, I have found that it is usually in unimportant matters that there is a field

  • for the observation, and for the quick analysis of cause and effect which gives

  • the charm to an investigation.

  • The larger crimes are apt to be the simpler, for the bigger the crime the more

  • obvious, as a rule, is the motive.

  • In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been referred to

  • me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any features of interest.

  • It is possible, however, that I may have something better before very many minutes

  • are over, for this is one of my clients, or I am much mistaken."

  • He had risen from his chair and was standing between the parted blinds gazing

  • down into the dull neutral-tinted London street.

  • Looking over his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a large

  • woman with a heavy fur boa round her neck, and a large curling red feather in a broad-

  • brimmed hat which was tilted in a

  • coquettish Duchess of Devonshire fashion over her ear.

  • From under this great panoply she peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at our

  • windows, while her body oscillated backward and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with

  • her glove buttons.

  • Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the bank, she hurried across the

  • road, and we heard the sharp clang of the bell.

  • "I have seen those symptoms before," said Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the

  • fire. "Oscillation upon the pavement always means

  • an affaire de coeur.

  • She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is not too delicate for

  • communication. And yet even here we may discriminate.

  • When a woman has been seriously wronged by a man she no longer oscillates, and the

  • usual symptom is a broken bell wire.

  • Here we may take it that there is a love matter, but that the maiden is not so much

  • angry as perplexed, or grieved. But here she comes in person to resolve our

  • doubts."

  • As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons entered to announce

  • Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind his small black

  • figure like a full-sailed merchant-man behind a tiny pilot boat.

  • Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he was remarkable, and,

  • having closed the door and bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in the

  • minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to him.

  • "Do you not find," he said, "that with your short sight it is a little trying to do so

  • much typewriting?"

  • "I did at first," she answered, "but now I know where the letters are without

  • looking."

  • Then, suddenly realising the full purport of his words, she gave a violent start and

  • looked up, with fear and astonishment upon her broad, good-humoured face.

  • "You've heard about me, Mr. Holmes," she cried, "else how could you know all that?"

  • "Never mind," said Holmes, laughing; "it is my business to know things.

  • Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook.

  • If not, why should you come to consult me?"

  • "I came to you, sir, because I heard of you from Mrs. Etherege, whose husband you found

  • so easy when the police and everyone had given him up for dead.

  • Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do as much for me.

  • I'm not rich, but still I have a hundred a year in my own right, besides the little

  • that I make by the machine, and I would give it all to know what has become of Mr.

  • Hosmer Angel."

  • "Why did you come away to consult me in such a hurry?" asked Sherlock Holmes, with

  • his finger-tips together and his eyes to the ceiling.

  • Again a startled look came over the somewhat vacuous face of Miss Mary

  • Sutherland.

  • "Yes, I did bang out of the house," she said, "for it made me angry to see the easy

  • way in which Mr. Windibank--that is, my father--took it all.

  • He would not go to the police, and he would not go to you, and so at last, as he would

  • do nothing and kept on saying that there was no harm done, it made me mad, and I

  • just on with my things and came right away to you."

  • "Your father," said Holmes, "your stepfather, surely, since the name is

  • different."

  • "Yes, my stepfather. I call him father, though it sounds funny,

  • too, for he is only five years and two months older than myself."

  • "And your mother is alive?"

  • "Oh, yes, mother is alive and well. I wasn't best pleased, Mr. Holmes, when she

  • married again so soon after father's death, and a man who was nearly fifteen years

  • younger than herself.

  • Father was a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, and he left a tidy business behind

  • him, which mother carried on with Mr. Hardy, the foreman; but when Mr. Windibank

  • came he made her sell the business, for he

  • was very superior, being a traveller in wines.

  • They got 4700 pounds for the goodwill and interest, which wasn't near as much as

  • father could have got if he had been alive."

  • I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling and

  • inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with the greatest

  • concentration of attention.

  • "Your own little income," he asked, "does it come out of the business?"

  • "Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate and was left me by my

  • uncle Ned in Auckland.

  • It is in New Zealand stock, paying 4 1/2 per cent.

  • Two thousand five hundred pounds was the amount, but I can only touch the interest."

  • "You interest me extremely," said Holmes.

  • "And since you draw so large a sum as a hundred a year, with what you earn into the

  • bargain, you no doubt travel a little and indulge yourself in every way.

  • I believe that a single lady can get on very nicely upon an income of about 60

  • pounds."

  • "I could do with much less than that, Mr. Holmes, but you understand that as long as

  • I live at home I don't wish to be a burden to them, and so they have the use of the

  • money just while I am staying with them.

  • Of course, that is only just for the time. Mr. Windibank draws my interest every

  • quarter and pays it over to mother, and I find that I can do pretty well with what I

  • earn at typewriting.

  • It brings me twopence a sheet, and I can often do from fifteen to twenty sheets in a

  • day." "You have made your position very clear to

  • me," said Holmes.

  • "This is my friend, Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before myself.

  • Kindly tell us now all about your connection with Mr. Hosmer Angel."

  • A flush stole over Miss Sutherland's face, and she picked nervously at the fringe of

  • her jacket. "I met him first at the gasfitters' ball,"

  • she said.

  • "They used to send father tickets when he was alive, and then afterwards they

  • remembered us, and sent them to mother. Mr. Windibank did not wish us to go.

  • He never did wish us to go anywhere.

  • He would get quite mad if I wanted so much as to join a Sunday-school treat.

  • But this time I was set on going, and I would go; for what right had he to prevent?

  • He said the folk were not fit for us to know, when all father's friends were to be

  • there.

  • And he said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I had my purple plush that I had never

  • so much as taken out of the drawer.

  • At last, when nothing else would do, he went off to France upon the business of the

  • firm, but we went, mother and I, with Mr. Hardy, who used to be our foreman, and it

  • was there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel."

  • "I suppose," said Holmes, "that when Mr. Windibank came back from France he was very

  • annoyed at your having gone to the ball." "Oh, well, he was very good about it.

  • He laughed, I remember, and shrugged his shoulders, and said there was no use

  • denying anything to a woman, for she would have her way."

  • "I see.

  • Then at the gasfitters' ball you met, as I understand, a gentleman called Mr. Hosmer

  • Angel." "Yes, sir.

  • I met him that night, and he called next day to ask if we had got home all safe, and

  • after that we met him--that is to say, Mr. Holmes, I met him twice for walks, but

  • after that father came back again, and Mr.

  • Hosmer Angel could not come to the house any more."

  • "No?" "Well, you know father didn't like anything

  • of the sort.

  • He wouldn't have any visitors if he could help it, and he used to say that a woman

  • should be happy in her own family circle.

  • But then, as I used to say to mother, a woman wants her own circle to begin with,

  • and I had not got mine yet." "But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel?

  • Did he make no attempt to see you?"

  • "Well, father was going off to France again in a week, and Hosmer wrote and said that

  • it would be safer and better not to see each other until he had gone.

  • We could write in the meantime, and he used to write every day.

  • I took the letters in in the morning, so there was no need for father to know."

  • "Were you engaged to the gentleman at this time?"

  • "Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk that

  • we took.

  • Hosmer--Mr. Angel--was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall Street--and--"

  • "What office?" "That's the worst of it, Mr. Holmes, I

  • don't know."

  • "Where did he live, then?" "He slept on the premises."

  • "And you don't know his address?" "No--except that it was Leadenhall Street."

  • "Where did you address your letters, then?"

  • "To the Leadenhall Street Post Office, to be left till called for.

  • He said that if they were sent to the office he would be chaffed by all the other

  • clerks about having letters from a lady, so I offered to typewrite them, like he did

  • his, but he wouldn't have that, for he said

  • that when I wrote them they seemed to come from me, but when they were typewritten he

  • always felt that the machine had come between us.

  • That will just show you how fond he was of me, Mr. Holmes, and the little things that

  • he would think of." "It was most suggestive," said Holmes.

  • "It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most

  • important. Can you remember any other little things

  • about Mr. Hosmer Angel?"

  • "He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would rather walk with me in the evening

  • than in the daylight, for he said that he hated to be conspicuous.

  • Very retiring and gentlemanly he was.

  • Even his voice was gentle. He'd had the quinsy and swollen glands when

  • he was young, he told me, and it had left him with a weak throat, and a hesitating,

  • whispering fashion of speech.

  • He was always well dressed, very neat and plain, but his eyes were weak, just as mine

  • are, and he wore tinted glasses against the glare."

  • "Well, and what happened when Mr. Windibank, your stepfather, returned to

  • France?"

  • "Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again and proposed that we should marry before

  • father came back.