‘You deduced it, then?’


‘And from what?’

‘From your slippers.’

I glanced down at the new patent leathers which I was wearing. ‘How on earth—?’ I began, but Holmes answered my question before it was asked.

‘Your slippers are new,’ he said. ‘You could not have had them more than a few weeks. The soles which you are at this moment presenting to me are slightly scorched. For a moment I thought they might have got wet and been burned in the drying. But near the instep there is a small circular wafer of paper with the shopman’s hieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of course have removed this. You had then been sitting with your feet outstretched to the fire, which a man would hardly do even in so wet a June as this if he were in his full health.’

Like all Holmes’s reasoning the thing seemed simplicity itself when it was once explained. He read the thought upon my features, and his smile had a tinge of bitterness.

‘I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I explain,’ said he. ‘Results without causes are much more impressive. You are ready to come to Birmingham, then?’

‘Certainly. What is the case?’

‘You shall hear it all in the train. My client is outside in a four-wheeler. Can you come at once?’

‘In an instant.’ I scribbled a note to my neighbour, rushed upstairs to explain the matter to my wife, and joined Holmes upon the doorstep.

‘Your neighbour is a doctor?’ said he, nodding at the brass plate.

‘Yes. He bought a practice as I did.’

‘An old-established one?’

‘Just the same as mine. Both have been ever since the houses were built.’

‘Ah, then you got hold of the best of the two.’

‘I think I did. But how do you know?’

‘By the steps, my boy. Yours are worn three inches deeper than his. But this gentleman in the cab is my client, Mr Hall Pycroft. Allow me to introduce you to him. Whip your horse up, cabby, for we have only just time to catch our train.’

The man whom I found myself facing was a well-built, fresh-complexioned young fellow with a frank, honest face and a slight, crisp, yellow moustache. He wore a very shiny top-hat and a neat suit of sober black, which made him look what he was—a smart young City man, of the class who have been labelled Cockneys, but who give us our crack Volunteer regiments, and who turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than any body of men in these islands. His round, ruddy face was naturally full of cheeriness, but the corners of his mouth seemed to me to be pulled down in a half-comical distress. It was not, however, until we were all in a first-class carriage and well started upon our journey to Birmingham, that I was able to learn what the trouble was which had driven him to Sherlock Holmes.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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