بخش 02

مجموعه: شرلوک هولمز / کتاب: مسئله هویت / فصل 2

بخش 02

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Part two

When she had left, I asked Holmes about the case.

‘The young woman is quite interesting, but her little problem is not very difficult or unusual. Would you mind reading me the description of Hosmer Angel?’ I then read it to Holmes: Missing, a gentleman called Hosmer Angel. About 5ft. 7in. tall. He’s strongly built with black hair, black sideboards and moustache; he’s a little bald in the centre; he wears dark glasses; and he’s got a speech defect. He has got a sallow complexion. He was wearing a black coat, black waistcoat, grey trousers and brown boots. Please contact Miss Sutherland etc. etc.

‘That is enough,’ said Holmes. ‘Now look at these letters which Hosmer wrote to her. What do you see?’

‘They are typed,’ I said.

‘Not only that, but the signature is typed too. The point about the signature is very suggestive - in fact, we can call it conclusive.’

‘Of what?’

‘My dear fellow, can’t you see how important this fact is to the case?’

‘No, I can’t,’ I replied, ‘unless Hosmer didn’t sign his letters because he didn’t want to be legally responsible for what he promised.’

‘No, that was not the point,’ said Holmes, ‘but now I will write two letters which will solve this mystery. One of the letters is to Mr Windibank’s firm in the City, and the other one will be to Mr Windibank himself to ask him to come here to meet us tomorrow evening at six o’clock.’

A few minutes before six the next day I returned to Baker Street. When I walked in, Holmes was doing chemistry experiments.

‘Well, have you solved it?’ I said as I walked into the room.

‘Yes, it was the bisulphate of baryta.’

‘No, Miss Sutherland’s mystery!’ I cried.

‘Oh, that! I thought you were asking me about the chemistry experiment.

There was never any mystery in the matter. The only problem is that the scoundrel did not do anything illegal, so he can’t be punished.’

‘Who was Hosmer Angel, and why did he abandon Miss Sutherland?’

But Holmes did not have time to answer me, because just then we heard someone knock at the door, and then someone walking towards Holmes’ room.

‘This is the girl’s stepfather. He wrote to me to say that he was coming,’ said Holmes.

The man who entered the room was a strongly built fellow without sideboards or moustache, with a sallow complexion and he looked at us with a pair of penetrating grey eyes. He was wearing a black top-hat.

‘Good evening, Mr James Windibank,’ said Holmes. ‘I believe this is the typed letter that you wrote to me to say that you were coming here!’

‘Yes, sir. I am sorry that Miss Sutherland has troubled you about this little problem. Also I don’t like other people knowing about our family misfortune. Anyway, I don’t think that you will ever find this Hosmer Angel.’

‘On the contrary,’ said Holmes quietly, ‘I am almost certain that I will find him.’

Mr Windibank started violently, and dropped his gloves. ‘I am happy to hear that,’ he said.

‘It is a curious thing,’ remarked Holmes, ‘that a typewriter is just as distinctive as a man’s handwriting. For example, in this letter of yours, I can see that this part of the ‘r’ has a slight defect. There are also fourteen other characteristics of your typewriter.’

‘We write all the letters in the office with this typewriter,’ said Mr Windibank.

‘And now,’ continued Holmes, ‘I will show you what is really very interesting. In fact, I am thinking about writing a book on the typewriter and its relation to crime.’

Mr Windibank jumped out of his chair and picked up his hat. ‘I cannot waste time over this ridiculous talk. If you can catch the man, catch him, and let me know when you have caught him.’

‘Certainly,’ said Holmes, walking over to the door and locking it. ‘I let you know that I have caught him.’

‘What! Where?’ shouted Mr Windibank becoming white, and looking around like a rat in a trap.

‘You can’t get away, Mr Windibank,’ said Holmes. ‘This case was really very easy. Now sit down and we can talk about it.’

Mr Windibank fell back into the chair. ‘I did not do anything illegal,’ he stammered.

‘I am afraid that you are right. But, Mr Windibank, it was a cruel, selfish and heartless trick. Now, let us look at what happened,’ said Holmes.

Then Holmes sat down and began to talk.

‘The man marries a woman older than himself for her money. He can also use the money of the daughter as long as the daughter lives with him and the mother. The daughter has a lot of money so it is important not to lose it.

But the daughter is friendly and affectionate, so it is clear that she will soon find a husband. At first this man tells the daughter that she cannot go out, but this will not solve the problem forever. Then one day the daughter says that she wants to go to a ball. What does the clever i stepfather do then? With the help of the wife, he disguises himself. He wears dark glasses, and puts on a fake moustache. Then he changes his voice and speaks very softly. He is even more certain that his plan will work because the girl is short-sighted. Then at the ball this man keeps away other lovers by becoming the girl’s lover himself.’

‘It was just a joke at first,’ groaned Mr Windibank. ‘We didn’t think that the girl would fall in love.’

‘Yes, that is probably true,’ continued Holmes. ‘But the girl really fell in love, and you decided to take the situation to the extreme. You began to see her often, and the mother said that she liked him very much. Then you decided to ask Miss Sutherland to marry you so that she would never again think about other men. But it was difficult for you to pretend to go to France every time Miss Sutherland had to see Mr Angel. You had to end the situation dramatically. In some way, you had to keep Miss Sutherland from thinking about other men in the future. Therefore, you made her promise on the Bible, and you told her that something could happen on the very morning of the wedding. You took her to the church, but obviously you could not marry her. You disappeared by using the old trick of entering one door of a cab and walking out the other. I think this is the chain of events, Mr Windibank!’

‘Yes, maybe that is true,’ replied Mr Windibank, ‘but I did not do anything illegal, and now you are breaking the law because you will not let me leave this room.’

‘You are right. You did not do anything illegal,’ said Holmes as he unlocked and opened the door, ‘but you really deserve to be punished, and I would do it.’

Then Holmes picked up a riding-crop, but Mr Windibank ran out the door and out of the house.

‘Now, he certainly is a cold-blooded scoundrel!’ said Holmes laughing. ‘That fellow will continue doing worse and worse crimes until he does something really bad and finishes on the gallows. In any case, this case had some interesting points.’

‘I cannot completely follow your reasoning in this case,’ I said.

‘Well, it was clear from the first, that Mr Hosmer Angel had a very good reason for his actions, and that the only man who could really profit from the situation was the stepfather: he wanted to keep the hundred pounds a year. Then it was very suggestive that Mr Windibank and Mr Hosmer Angel were never together, and so were the dark glasses, the soft voice and the moustache; they all suggested a disguise. The final point was the typed signature. This made me think that the handwriting of the man must be very familiar to Miss Sutherland, and that if she saw even a small portion of it, she would recognise it.’

‘And how did you verify these ideas?’ I asked.

‘First I wrote to Mr Windibank’s firm. ‘In the letter I described Mr Angel after I had eliminated everything that could be a disguise, like the glasses, the moustache and the voice, and I asked them if they had an employee like that. They wrote back to me and said that I had described Mr James Windibank. Then I wrote to Mr Windibank to invite him here, and as I expected he typed his reply to me. Then I compared his letter with the letters of Mr Angel. Voila tout!’

‘And Miss Sutherland?’ I asked.

‘If I tell her, she will not believe me,’ replied Holmes. ‘Maybe you remember this Persian saying, “It is dangerous to take a tiger cub from its mother, and it is dangerous to take a delusion from a woman.’”

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