For many hours, Sherlock Holme sat hunched over a glass vial in which something unusually smelly was being cooked. His head was lowered to his chest, and he seemed to me like a strange tovtyuyu bird with dull gray feathers and a black tuft.
“So, Watson,” he said suddenly, “are not you going to invest your savings in South African securities?”
I winced in surprise. No matter how I got used to Holmes’s extraordinary abilities, this sudden invasion of my most secret thoughts was completely inexplicable. – How. Gosh, did you hear about this? I asked.
He turned on the chair, holding a smoking test tube in his hand, and his deep-set eyes glowed happily.
“Admit it, Watson, that you are completely baffled,” he said.
“I should get you to write about this on a piece of paper and sign.” – Why?
– Because in five minutes you will say that all this is extremely simple.
“I’m sure I will never say that.” “You see, my dear Watson…” He strengthened the test tube on a tripod and began to lecture me with the appearance of a professor addressing the audience. – It is not so difficult to construct a series of conclusions, in which each subsequent follows in a simple way from the previous one. If after that remove all the middle links and inform the listener only the first link and the last, they will produce a stunning, though false impression.
“But I do not see any connection between these two circumstances!”
– I readily believe. However, I will prove to you in a few minutes that such a connection exists. Here are the omitted links of this simplest chain: first, when we returned from the club last night, the depression between the index and thumbs on your left hand was chalked out; Secondly, whenever you play billiards, you rub this hollow with chalk so that the cue does not slip in your hand; Thirdly, you play billiards only with Searston; Fourthly, a month ago you told me that Searston suggested that you buy together with him South African securities that will go on sale in a month; Fifth, your checkbook is locked in the drawer of my desk, and you did not ask for my key; Sixth, you are not going to invest your money in South African papers. “It’s so simple!” I cried. “Of course,” he said, slightly hurt, – every task is very simple after you explain it. And here is a task that has not been solved yet. Let’s see, friend Watson, how you manage to cope with it.
He took a piece of paper from the table, handed it to me and returned to his chemical analysis.
I saw with amazement that some meaningless hieroglyphs were drawn on the sheet.
“Allow me, Holme, but it was a child!” I cried. – That’s what your opinion is! “What is it, then?”
“Mr. Hilton Cubitt of Ridling Thorpe Manor in Norfolk would like to know what it is.” This little rebus he sent us with the first mail, and he himself went here by the nearest train. Do you hear the call, Watson? It’s probably him.
There were heavy steps on the stairs, and a minute later came a tall, ruddy, clean-shaven gentleman. From his clear eyes and blossoming cheeks it was immediately evident that his life was proceeding far from the fogs of Baker Street. It seemed that he brought with him a whiff of a strong, fresh wind from the eastern shore. After shaking hands with us, he was about to sit down, when suddenly his gaze fell on a leaf with amusing badges, which I had just examined and left on the table.
“What do you think about it, Mr. Holme?” he exclaimed.
– I was told that you are a big fan of all sorts of mysterious cases, and I decided that it is more strange than this you can not find anything. I sent you this paper in advance so that you have time to study it before I arrive.
“It’s a really curious figure,
Said Holme. “At first glance, you can take it for a child’s prank.” Who, it would seem, except for the children, could draw these tiny dancing men? Why did you attach so much importance to such a bizarre trifle?
“Yes, I would not have given it any importance, if it were not for my wife.” She was terribly frightened. She does not say anything to me, but I see horror in her eyes. That’s why I took it so much to heart.
Hill lifted the piece of paper, and the rays of the sun lit up it. It was a leaf torn from a notebook. On it were drawn with a pencil such figures:
“This business promises a lot of curious and extraordinary,” he said. “You have already told me something in your letter, Mr. Hilton Cubitt, but I would be very grateful if you kindly agreed to repeat your story so that you could listen to my friend, Dr. Watson.”
“I’m a bad storyteller,” our guest said, nervously squeezing and unclenching his big strong hands. – If in my story you find something that is not clear, ask me, please, questions. To begin with, I married last year… But first I must say that although I am not a rich person, our family lives in Ridling-Torpe for five centuries already and is considered the most notable family in the whole Norfolk county. Last year I came to London for holidays and stayed in the furnished rooms on Russell Square, because Parker, the priest of our parish, stayed there. In these furnished rooms lived a young American lady, named Patrick, Ilei Patrick. We soon became friends. Less than a month, I fell in love with her most ardent love. We got a little quiet and left for my place in Norfolk.