The Statement of the Case
Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure
of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty
, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect
taste. There was, however, a plainness and simplicity
about her costume
with it a suggestion
of limited means. The dress was a sombre grayish beige
, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban
of the same dull hue
only by a suspicion
of white feather
in the side. Her face had neither regularity
nor beauty of complexion
, but her expression
was sweet and amiable
, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual
. In an experience
of women which extends over many nations and three separate
continents, I have never looked upon a face which gave a clearer promise
of a refined
and sensitive nature
. I could not but observe
that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intense
Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned forward
in his chair with an expression
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 of inestimable service
I relapsed into my chair.
"Briefly," she continued, "the facts are these. My father was an officer in an Indian regiment
who sent me home when I was quite a child. My mother was dead, and I had no relative
in England. I was placed, however, in a comfortable
at Edinburgh, and there I remained until I was seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father, who was senior
captain of his regiment
, obtained twelve months' leave and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived all safe, and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address
. His message
, as I remember
, was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not yet returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the advice
of the manager
of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result
; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate
father. He came home with his heart
full of hope, to find some peace, 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 note-book.
"He disappeared upon the 3d of December, 1878,-nearly ten years ago."
"Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in it to suggest
,-some clothes, some books, and a considerable
number of curiosities from the Andaman Islands. He had been one of the officers in charge of the convict-guard there."
"Had he any friends in town?"
"Only one that we know of,-Major Sholto, of his own regiment
, the 34th Bombay Infantry. The major
had retired some little time before, and lived at Upper Norwood. We communicated with him, of course, but he did not even know that his brother officer was in England."
case," remarked Holmes.
"Your statement is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes. "Has anything else occurred to you?"
"Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to you. This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "The envelope
too, please. Postmark, London, S.W. Date, July 7. Hum! Man's thumb-mark on corner
postman. Best quality
paper. Envelopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery
. No address
. 'Be at the third pillar
from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre to-night at seven o'clock. If you are distrustful, bring two friends. You are a wronged woman, and shall have justice
. Do not bring police. If you do, all will be in vain
. 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 the very man. Your correspondent
says two friends. He and I have worked together before."
"You are both very kind," she answered. "I have led a retired life, and have no friends 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. Is this handwriting the same as that upon the pearl
"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 glances from one to the other. "They are disguised hands, except the letter," he said, presently
, "but there can be no question as to the authorship
. See how the irrepressible
Greek e will break out, and see the twirl of the final
s. They are 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 your father?"
"Nothing could be more unlike."
to hear you say so. We shall look out for you, then, at six. Pray allow
me to keep the papers. I may look into the matter
before then. It is only half-past three. Au revoir, then."
"Au revoir," said our visitor, and, with a bright, kindly glance
from one to the 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, until the gray turban
and white feather
were but a speck in the sombre crowd
He had lit his pipe again, and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. "Is she?" he said, languidly
. "I did not observe
"You really are an automaton
,-a calculating-machine!" I cried. "There is something positively inhuman
in you at times."
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 l an e. Men of character
their long letters, however illegibly they may write. There is vacillation
in his k's and self-esteem
in his capitals. I am going out now. I have some few references to make. Let me recommend
this book,-one of the most ever penned. It is Winwood Reade's 'Martyrdom of Man.' I shall be back in an hour."
I sat in the window with the volume
in my hand, but my thoughts were far from the daring
speculations of the writer. My mind
ran upon our late visitor,-her smiles, the deep rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery
which overhung her life. If she were seventeen at the time of her father's disappearance she must 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 mused, until such dangerous
thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously
into the latest treatise
. What was I, an army surgeon
with a weak leg and a weaker banking-account, that I should dare
to think of such things? She was a unit
, a factor
,-nothing more. If my future
were black, it was better surely to face it like a man than to attempt
to brighten it by mere
will-o'-the-wisps of the imagination.