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Chapter 2 The Statement of the Case

  • Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure o_anner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and dresse_n the most perfect taste. There was, however, a plainness and simplicit_bout her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dres_as a sombre grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a smal_urban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion of white feather i_he side. Her face had neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet and amiable, and her large blue eyes wer_ingularly spiritual and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extend_ver many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon _ace which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature. I coul_ot but observe that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed fo_er, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intens_nward agitation.
  • "I have come to you, Mr. Holmes," she said,"because you once enabled m_mployer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a little domestic complication. Sh_as much impressed by your kindness and skill."
  • "Mrs. Cecil Forrester," he repeated thoughtfully. "I believe that I was o_ome slight service to her. The case, however, as I remember it, was a ver_imple one."
  • "She did not think so. But at least you cannot say the same of mine. I ca_ardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly inexplicable, than th_ituation in which I find myself."
  • Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned forward in hi_hair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features.
  • "State your case," said he in brisk business tones.
  • I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
  • "You will, I am sure, excuse me," I said, rising from my chair.
  • To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to detain me.
  • "If your friend," she said, "would be good enough to stop, he might be o_nestimable service to me."
  • I relapsed into my chair.
  • "Briefly," she continued, "the facts are these. My father was an officer in a_ndian regiment, who sent me home when I was quite a child. My mother wa_ead, and I had no relative in England. I was placed, however, in _omfortable boarding establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained until _as seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father, who was senior captai_f his regiment, obtained twelve months' leave and came home. He telegraphe_o me from London that he had arrived all safe and directed me to come down a_nce, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember, wa_ull of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the Langham and wa_nformed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out th_ight before and had not returned. I waited all day without news of him. Tha_ight, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with th_olice, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led t_o result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of m_nfortunate father. He came home with his heart full of hope to find som_eace, some comfort, and instead —"
  • She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the sentence.
  • "The date?" asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
  • "He disappeared upon the third of December, 1878 — nearly ten years ago."
  • "His luggage?"
  • "Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in it to suggest a clue — som_lothes, some books, and a considerable number of curiosities from the Andama_slands. He had been one of the officers in charge of the convict-guar_here."
  • "Had he any friends in town?"
  • "Only one that we know of — Major Sholto, of his own regiment, the Thirty- fourth Bombay Infantry. The major had retired some little time before an_ived at Upper Norwood. We communicated with him, of course, but he did no_ven know that his brother officer was in England."
  • "A singular case," remarked Holmes.
  • "I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About six years ago — to be exact, upon the fourth of May, 1882 — an advertisement appeared in th_imes asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan, and stating that it woul_e to her advantage to come forward. There was no name or address appended. _ad at that time just entered the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in th_apacity of governess. By her advice I published my address in th_dvertisement column. The same day there arrived through the post a smal_ardboard box addressed to me, which I found to contain a very large an_ustrous pearl. No word of writing was enclosed. Since then every year upo_he same date there has always appeared a similar box, containing a simila_earl, without any clue as to the sender. They have been pronounced by a_xpert to be of a rare variety and of considerable value. You can see fo_ourself that they are very handsome."
  • She opened a flat box as she spoke and showed me six of the finest pearls tha_ had ever seen.
  • "Your statement is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes. "Has anything els_ccurred to you?"
  • "Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to you. This morning _eceived this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself."
  • "Thank you," said Holmes. "The envelope, too, please. Post-mark, London, S. W.
  • Date, July 7. Hum! Man's thumbmark on corner — probably postman. Best qualit_aper. Envelopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery. N_ddress.
  • "Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre to-night a_even o'clock. If you are distrustful bring two friends. You are a wronge_oman and shall have justice. Do not bring police. If you do, all will be i_ain. Your unknown friend.
  • Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery! What do you intend to do, Miss Morstan?"
  • That is exactly what I want to ask you."
  • "Then we shall most certainly go — you and I and — yes. why Dr. Watson is th_ery man. Your correspondent says two friends. He and I have worked togethe_efore."
  • "But would he come?" she asked with something appealing in her voice an_xpression.
  • "I shall be proud and happy," said I fervently, "if I can be of any service."
  • "You are both very kind," she answered. "I have led a retired life and have n_riends whom I could appeal to. If I am here at six it will do, I suppose?"
  • "You must not be later," said Holmes. "There. is one other point, however. I_his handwriting the same as that upon the pearl-box addresses?"
  • "I have them here," she answered, producing half a dozen pieces of paper.
  • "You are certainly a model client. You have the correct intuition. Let us see, now." He spread out the papers upon the table and gave little darting glance_rom one to the other. "They are disguised hands, except the letter," he sai_resently; "but there can be no question as to the authorship. See how th_rrepressible Greek e will break out, and see the twirl of the final s. The_re undoubtedly by the same person. I should not like to suggest false hopes, Miss Morstan, but is there any resemblance between this hand and that of you_ather?"
  • "Nothing could be more unlike."
  • "I expected to hear you say so. We shall look out for you, then, at six. Pra_llow me to keep the papers. I may look into the matter before then. It i_nly half-past three. Au revoir then."
  • "Au revoir," said our visitor; and with a bright, kindly glance from one t_he other of us, she replaced her pearl-box in her bosom and hurried away.
  • Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly down the street unti_he gray turban and white feather were but a speck in the sombre crowd.
  • "What a very attractive woman!" I exclaimed, turning to my companion.
  • He had lit his pipe again and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. "I_he?" he said languidly; "I did not observe."
  • "You really are an automaton — a calculating machine," I cried. "There i_omething positively inhuman in you at times."
  • He smiled gently.
  • "It is of the first importance," he cried, "not to allow your judgment to b_iased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in _roblem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assur_ou that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning thre_ittle children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of m_cquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a millio_pon the London poor."
  • "In this case, however —"
  • "I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule. Have you ever ha_ccasion to study character in handwriting? What do you make of this fellow'_cribble?"
  • "It is legible and regular," I answered. "A man of business habits and som_orce of character."
  • Holmes shook his head.
  • "Look at his long letters," he said. "They hardly rise above the common herd.
  • That d might be an a, and that I an e. Men of character always differentiat_heir long letters, however illegibly they may write. There is vacillation i_is k's and self-esteem in his capitals. I am going out now. I have some fe_eferences to make. Let me recommend this book — one of the most remarkabl_ver penned. It is Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man. I shall be back in a_our."
  • I sat in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were far fro_he daring speculations of the writer. My mind ran upon our late visitor — he_miles, the deep rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery which overhun_er life. If she were seventeen at the time of her father's disappearance sh_ust be seven-and-twenty now — a sweet age, when youth has lost its self- consciousness and become a little sobered by experience. So I sat and muse_ntil such dangerous thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my des_nd plunged furiously into the latest treatise upon pathology. What was I, a_rmy surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking account, that I should dar_o think of such things? She was a unit, a factor — nothing more. If my futur_ere black, it was better surely to face it like a man than to attempt t_righten it by mere will-o'-the-wisps of the imagination.