English > ESL Library Index

Online ESL Literature Library
Great literature free and accessible for everyone.


THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


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. 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
Holmes.

"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
happened."

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

"None."

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

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

"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
spare."

"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
it."



Many Thanks for Using the ESL Literature Library from 1-language.com.


Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.