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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


"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
you."

"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
instituted."

"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.


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