TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.




< BACK    NEXT >





"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 generation, and

leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with

its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and


"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


"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 thc 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 realizing 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


"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."


"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


"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


"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. He was in dreadful earnest

and made me swear, with my hands on the Testament, that whatever

happened I would always be true to him. Mother said he was quite

right to make me swear, and that it was a sign of his passion.

Mother was all in his favor from the first and was even fonder

of him than I was. Then, when they talked of marrying within the

week, I began to ask about father; but they both said never to

mind about father, but just to tell him afterwards, and mother

said she would make it all right with him. I didn't quite like

that, Mr. Holmes. It seemed funny that I should ask his leave, as

he was only a few years older than me; but I didn't want to do

anything on the sly, so I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the

company has its French offices, but the letter came back to me on

the very morning of the wedding."

"It missed him, then?"

"Yes, sir; for he had started to England just before it arrived."

"Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was arranged, then, for

the Friday. Was it to be in church?"

"Yes, sir, but very quietly. It was to be at St. Saviour's, near

King's Cross, and we were to have breakfast afterwards at the St.

Pancras Hotel. Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as there were

two of us he put us both into it and stepped himself into a

four-wheeler, which happened to be the only other cab in the

street. We got to the church first, and when the four-wheeler

drove up we waited for him to step out, but he never did, and

when the cabman got down from the box and looked there was no one

there! The cabman said that he could not imagine what had become

of him, for he had seen him get in with his own eyes. That was

last Friday, Mr. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything

since then to throw any light upon what became of him."

"It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated," said


"Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to leave me so. Why, all

the morning he was saying to me that, whatever happened, I was to

be true; and that even if something quite unforeseen occurred to

separate us, I was always to remember that I was pledged to him,

and that he would claim his pledge sooner or later. It seemed

strange talk for a wedding-morning, but what has happened since

gives a meaning to it."

"Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is, then, that some

unforeseen catastrophe has occurred to him?"

"Yes, sir. I believe that he foresaw some danger, or else he

would not have talked so. And then I think that what he foresaw


"But you have no notion as to what it could have been?"


"One more question. How did your mother take the matter?"

"She was angry, and said that I was never to speak of the matter


"And your father? Did you tell him?"

"Yes; and he seemed to think, with me, that something had

happened, and that I should hear of Hosmer again. As he said,

what interest could anyone have in bringing me to the doors of

the church, and then leaving me? Now, if he had borrowed my

money, or if he had married me and got my money settled on him,

there might be some reason, but Hosmer was very independent about

money and never would look at a shilling of mine. And yet, what

could have happened? And why could he not write? Oh, it drives me

half-mad to think of it, and I can't sleep a wink at night." She

pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff and began to sob

heavily into it.

"I shall glance into the case for you," said Holmes, rising, "and

I have no doubt that we shall reach some definite result. Let the

weight of the matter rest upon me now, and do not let your mind

dwell upon it further. Above all, try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel

vanish from your memory, as he has done from your life."

"Then you don't think I'll see him again?"

"I fear not."

"Then what has happened to him?"

"You will leave that question in my hands. I should like an

accurate description of him and any letters of his which you can


"I advertised for him in last Saturday's Chronicle," said she.

"Here is the slip and here are four letters from him."

"Thank you. And your address?"

"No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell."

"Mr. Angel's address you never had, I understand. Where is your

father's place of business?"

"He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great claret importers

of Fenchurch Street."

"Thank you. You have made your statement very clearly. You will

leave the papers here, and remember the advice which I have given

you. Let the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not allow it

to affect your life."

"You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot do that. I shall be

true to Hosmer. He shall find me ready when he comes back."

For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous face, there was

something noble in the simple faith of our visitor which

compelled our respect. She laid her little bundle of papers upon

the table and went her way, with a promise to come again whenever

she might be summoned.

Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his fingertips

still pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of him,

and his gaze directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took down

from the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a

counsellor, and, having lit it, he leaned back in his chair, with

the thick blue cloud-wreaths spinning up from him, and a look of

infinite languor in his face.

"Quite an interesting study, that maiden," he observed. "I found

her more interesting than her little problem, which, by the way,

is rather a trite one. You will find parallel cases, if you

consult my index, in Andover in '77, and there was something of

the sort at The Hague last year. Old as is the idea, however,

there were one or two details which were new to me. But the

maiden herself was most instructive."

"You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite

invisible to me," I remarked.

"Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to

look, and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring

you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of

thumb-nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace.

Now, what did you gather from that woman's appearance? Describe


"Well, she had a slate-colored, broad-brimmed straw hat, with a

feather of a brickish red. Her jacket was black, with black beads

sewn upon it, and a fringe of little black jet ornaments. Her

dress was brown, rather darker than coffee color, with a little

purple plush at the neck and sleeves. Her gloves were grayish and

were worn through at the right forefinger. Her boots I didn't

observe. She had small round, hanging gold earrings, and a

general air of being fairly well-to-do in a vulgar, comfortable,

easy-going way."

Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.

"'Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully. You have

really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed

everything of importance, but you have hit upon the method, and

you have a quick eye for color. Never trust to general

impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. My

first glance is always at a woman's sleeve. In a man it is

perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser. As you

observe, this woman had plush upon her sleeves, which is a most

useful material for showing traces. The double line a little

above the wrist, where the typewritist presses against the table,

was beautifully defined. The sewing-machine, of the hand type,

leaves a similar mark, but only on the left arm, and on the side

of it farthest from the thumb, instead of being right across the

broadest part, as this was. I then glanced at her face, and,

observing the dint of a pince-nez at either side of her nose, I

ventured a remark upon short sight and typewriting, which seemed

to surprise her."

"It surprised me."

"But, surely, it was obvious. I was then much surprised and

interested on glancing down to observe that, though the boots

which she was wearing were not unlike each other, they were

really odd ones; the one having a slightly decorated toe-cap, and

the other a plain one. One was buttoned only in the two lower

buttons out of five, and the other at the first, third, and

fifth. Now, when you see that a young lady, otherwise neatly

dressed, has come away from home with odd boots, half-buttoned,

it is no great deduction to say that she came away in a hurry."

"And what else?" I asked, keenly interested, as I always was, by

my friend's incisive reasoning.

"I noted, in passing, that she had written a note before leaving

home but after being fully dressed. You observed that her right

glove was torn at the forefinger, but you did not apparently see

that both glove and finger were stained with violet ink. She had

written in a hurry and dipped her pen too deep. It must have been

this morning, or the mark would not remain clear upon the finger.

All this is amusing, though rather elementary, but I must go back

to business, Watson. Would you mind reading me the advertised

description of Mr. Hosmer Angel?"

I held the little printed slip to the light.

"Missing [it said] on the morning of the fourteenth, a gentleman

named Hosmer Angel. About five ft. seven in. in height;

strongly built, sallow complexion, black hair, a little bald in

the centre, bushy, black side-whiskers and moustache; tinted

glasses, slight infirmity of speech. Was dressed, when last seen,

in black frock-coat faced with silk, black waistcoat, gold Albert

chain, and gray Harris tweed trousers, with brown gaiters over

elastic-sided boots. Known to have been employed in an office in

Leadenhall Street. Anybody bringing--"

"That will do," said Holmes. "As to the letters," he continued,

glancing over them, "they are very commonplace. Absolutely no

clew in them to Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once. There

is one remarkable point, however, which will no doubt strike


"They are typewritten," I remarked.

"Not only that, but the signature is typewritten. Look at the

neat little 'Hosmer Angel' at the bottom. There is a date, you

see, but no superscription except Leadenhall Street, which is

rather vague. The point about the signature is very suggestive

--in fact, we may call it conclusive."

"Of what?"

"My dear fellow, is it possible you do not see how strongly it

bears upon the case?"

"I cannot say that I do unless it were that he wished to be able

to deny his signature if an action for breach of promise were


"No, that was not the point. However, I shall write two letters,

which should settle the matter. One is to a firm in the City, the

other is to the young lady's stepfather, Mr. Windibank, asking

him whether he could meet us here at six o'clock tomorrow

evening. It is just as well that we should do business with the

male relatives. And now, Doctor, we can do nothing until the

answers to those letters come, so we may put our little problem

upon the shelf for the interim."

I had had so many reasons to believe in my friend's subtle powers

of reasoning and extraordinary energy in action that I felt that

he must have some solid grounds for the assured and easy

demeanour with which he treated the singular mystery which he had

been called upon to fathom. Once only had I known him to fail, in

the case of the King of Bohemia and of the Irene Adler

photograph; but when I looked back to the weird business of 'The

Sign of Four', and the extraordinary circumstances connected with

'A Study in Scarlet', I felt that it would be a strange tangle

indeed which he could not unravel.

I left him then, still puffing at his black clay pipe, with the

conviction that when I came again on the next evening I would

find that he held in his hands all the clews which would lead up

to the identity of the disappearing bridegroom of Miss Mary


A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own

attention at the time, and the whole of next day I was busy at

the bedside of the sufferer. It was not until close upon six

o'clock that I found myself free and was able to spring into a

hansom and drive to Baker Street, half afraid that I might be too

late to assist at the denouement of the little mystery. I found

Sherlock Holmes alone, however, half asleep, with his long, thin

form curled up in the recesses of his armchair. A formidable

array of bottles and test-tubes, with the pungent cleanly smell

of hydrochloric acid, told me that he had spent his day in the

chemical work which was so dear to him.

"Well, have you solved it?" I asked as I entered.

"Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta."

"No, no, the mystery!" I cried.

"Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have been working upon.

There was never any mystery in the matter, though, as I said

yesterday, some of the details are of interest. The only drawback

is that there is no law, I fear, that can touch the scoundrel."

"Who was he, then, and what was his object in deserting Miss


The question was hardly out of my mouth, and Holmes had not yet

opened his lips to reply, when we heard a heavy footfall in the

passage and a tap at the door.

"This is the girl's stepfather, Mr. James Windibank," said

Holmes. "He has written to me to say that he would be here at

six. Come in!"

The man who entered was a sturdy, middle-sized fellow, some

thirty years of age, clean-shaven, and sallow-skinned, with a

bland, insinuating manner, and a pair of wonderfully sharp and

penetrating gray eyes. He shot a questioning glance at each of

us, placed his shiny top-hat upon the sideboard, and with a

slight bow sidled down into the nearest chair.

"Good-evening, Mr. James Windibank," said Holmes. "I think that

this typewritten letter is from you, in which you made an

appointment with me for six o'clock?"

"Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little late, but I am not

quite my own master, you know. I am sorry that Miss Sutherland

has troubled you about this little matter, for I think it is far

better not to wash linen of the sort in public. It was quite

against my wishes that she came, but she is a very excitable,

impulsive girl, as you may have noticed, and she is not easily

controlled when she has made up her mind on a point. Of course, I

did not mind you so much, as you are not connected with the

official police, but it is not pleasant to have a family

misfortune like this noised abroad. Besides, it is a useless

expense, for how could you possibly find this Hosmer Angel?"

"On the contrary," said Holmes quietly; "I have every reason to

believe that I will succeed in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel."

Mr. Windibank gave a violent start and dropped his gloves. "I am

delighted to hear it," he said.

"It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has

really quite as much individuality as a man's handwriting. Unless

they are quite new, no two of them write exactly alike. Some

letters get more worn than others, and some wear only on one

side. Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that

in every case there is some little slurring over of the 'e,' and

a slight defect in the tail of the 'r.' There are fourteen other

characteristics, but those are the more obvious."

"We do all our correspondence with this machine at the office,

and no doubt it is a little worn," our visitor answered, glancing

keenly at Holmes with his bright little eyes.

"And now I will show you what is really a very interesting study,

Mr. Windibank," Holmes continued. "I think of writing another

little monograph some of these days on the typewriter and its

relation to crime. It is a subject to which I have devoted some

little attention. I have here four letters which purport to come

from the missing man. They are all typewritten. In each case, not

only are the 'e's' slurred and the 'r's' tailless, but you will

observe, if you care to use my magnifying lens, that the fourteen

other characteristics to which I have alluded are there as well."

Mr. Windibank sprang out of his chair and picked up his hat. "I

cannot waste time over this sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes,"

he said. "If you can catch the man, catch him, and let me know

when you have done it."

"Certainly," said Holmes, stepping over and turning the key in

the door. "I let you know, then, that I have caught him!"

"What! where?" shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips

and glancing about him like a rat in a trap.

"Oh, it won't do--really it won't," said Holmes suavely. "There

is no possible getting out of it, Mr. Windibank. It is quite too

transparent, and it was a very bad compliment when you said that

it was impossible for me to solve so simple a question. That's

right! Sit down and let us talk it over."

Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a ghastly face and a

glitter of moisture on his brow. "It--it's not actionable," he


"I am very much afraid that it is not. But between ourselves,

Windibank, it was as cruel and selfish and heartless a trick in a

petty way as ever came before me. Now, let me just run over the

course of events, and you will contradict me if I go wrong."

The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his

breast, like one who is utterly crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up

on the corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his hands

in his pockets, began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed,

than to us.

"The man married a woman very much older than himself for her

money," said he, "and he enjoyed the use of the money of the

daughter as long as she lived with them. It was a considerable

sum, for people in their position, and the loss of it would have

made a serious difference. It was worth an effort to preserve it.

The daughter was of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate

and warm-hearted in her ways, so that it was evident that with

her fair personal advantages, and her little income, she would

not be allowed to remain single long. Now her marriage would

mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her

stepfather do to prevent it? He takes the obvious course of

keeping her at home and forbidding her to seek the company of

people of her own age. But soon he found that that would not

answer forever. She became restive, insisted upon her rights, and

finally announced her positive intention of going to a certain

ball. What does her clever stepfather do then? He conceives an

idea more creditable to his head than to his heart. With the

connivance and assistance of his wife he disguised himself,

covered those keen eyes with tinted glasses, masked the face with

a moustache and a pair of bushy whiskers, sunk that clear voice

into an insinuating whisper, and doubly secure on account of the

girl's short sight, he appears as Mr. Hosmer Angel, and keeps off

other lovers by making love himself."

"It was only a joke at first," groaned our visitor. "We never

thought that she would have been so carried away."

"Very likely not. However that may be, the young lady was very

decidedly carried away, and, having quite made up her mind that

her stepfather was in France, the suspicion of treachery never

for an instant entered her mind. She was flattered by the

gentleman's attentions, and the effect was increased by the

loudly expressed admiration of her mother. Then Mr. Angel began

to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be pushed as

far as it would go if a real effect were to be produced. There

were meetings, and an engagement, which would finally secure the

girl's affections from turning towards anyone else. But the

deception could not be kept up forever. These pretended journeys

to France were rather cumbrous. The thing to do was clearly to

bring the business to an end in such a dramatic manner that it

would leave a permanent impression upon the young lady's mind and

prevent her from looking upon any other suitor for some time to

come. Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and

hence also the allusions to a possibility of something happening

on the very morning of the wedding. James Windibank wished Miss

Sutherland to be so bound to Hosmer Angel, and so uncertain as to

his fate, that for ten years to come, at any rate, she would not

listen to another man. As far as the church door he brought her,

and then, as he could go no farther, he conveniently vanished

away by the old trick of stepping in at one door of a

four-wheeler and out at the other. I think that was the chain of

events, Mr. Windibank!"

Our visitor had recovered something of his assurance while Holmes

had been talking, and he rose from his chair now with a cold

sneer upon his pale face.

"It may be so, or it may not. Mr. Holmes," said he, "but if you

are so very sharp you ought to be sharp enough to know that it is

you who are breaking the law now, and not me. I have done nothing

actionable from the first, but as long as you keep that door

locked you lay yourself open to an action for assault and illegal


"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said Holmes, unlocking

and throwing open the door, "yet there never was a man who

deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a

friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!"

he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon

the man's face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but

here's a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat

myself to--" He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he

could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs,

the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr.

James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.

"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!" said Holmes, laughing, as he

threw himself down into his chair once more. "That fellow will

rise from crime to crime until he does something very bad, and

ends on a gallows. The case has, in some respects, been not

entirely devoid of interest."

"I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your reasoning," I


"Well, of course it was obvious from the first that this Mr.

Hosmer Angel must have some strong object for his curious

conduct, and it was equally clear that the only man who really

profited by the incident, as far as we could see, was the

stepfather. Then the fact that the two men were never together,

but that the one always appeared when the other was away, was

suggestive. So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice,

which both hinted at a disguise, as did the bushy whiskers. My

suspicions were all confirmed by his peculiar action in

typewriting his signature, which, of course, inferred that his

handwriting was so familiar to her that she would recognize even

the smallest sample of it. You see all these isolated facts,

together with many minor ones, all pointed in the same


"And how did you verify them?"

"Having once spotted my man, it was easy to get corroboration. I

knew the firm for which this man worked. Having taken the printed

description. I eliminated everything from it which could be the

result of a disguise--the whiskers, the glasses, the voice, and I

sent it to the firm, with a request that they would inform me

whether it answered to the description of any of their

travellers. I had already noticed the peculiarities of the

typewriter, and I wrote to the man himself at his business

address asking him if he would come here. As I expected, his

reply was typewritten and revealed the same trivial but

characteristic defects. The same post brought me a letter from

Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street, to say that the

description tallied in every respect with that of their employee,

James Windibank. Voila tout!"

"And Miss Sutherland?"

"If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old

Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger

cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'

There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much

knowledge of the world."



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT > 





Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 




Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA