The Red Headed League, Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892
The following is an excerpt from the short story, The Red Headed League, a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
1. I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
2. one day in the autumn of last year and found him in
3. deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced,
4. elderly gentleman with fiery red hair. With an apology
5. for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when Holmes
6. pulled me abruptly into the room and closed the door
7. behind me.
8. “You could not possibly have come at a better time,
9. my dear Watson,” he said cordially.
10. “I was afraid that you were engaged.”
11. “So I am. Very much so.”
12. “Then I can wait in the next room.”
13. “Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my
14. partner and helper in many of my most successful cases,
15. and I have no doubt that he will be of the utmost use to me
16. in yours also.”
17. The stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a
18. bob of greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from
19. his small fat-encircled eyes.
20. “Try the settee,” said Holmes, relapsing into his armchair and
21. putting his fingertips together, as was his custom when in
22. judicial moods. “I know, my dear Watson, that you share my
23. love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and
24. humdrum routine of everyday life. You have shown your
25. relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to
26. chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to
27. embellish so many of my own little adventures.”
28. “Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me,”
29. I observed.
30. “You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before
31. we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary
32. Sutherland, that for strange effects and extraordinary
33. combinations we must go to life itself, which is always
34. far more daring than any effort of the imagination.”
35. “A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting.”
36. “You did, Doctor, but none the less you must come
37. round to my view, for otherwise I shall keep on piling
38. fact upon fact on you until your reason breaks down under
39. them and acknowledges me to be right. Now, Mr.
40. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon
41. me this morning, and to begin a narrative which promises
42. to be one of the most singular which I have listened to for
43. some time. You have heard me remark that the strangest
44. and most unique things are very often connected not with
45. the larger but with the smaller crimes, and occasionally,
46. indeed, where there is room for doubt whether any
47. positive crime has been committed. As far as I have heard,
48. it is impossible for me to say whether the present case is
49. an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is
50. certainly among the most singular that I have ever
51. listened to. Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, you would have
52. the great kindness to recommence your narrative. I ask
53. you not merely because my friend Dr. Watson has not
54. heard the opening part but also because the peculiar nature
55. of the story makes me anxious to have every possible
56. detail from your lips. As a rule, when I have heard some
57. slight indication of the course of events, I am able to
58. guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases
59. which occur to my memory. In the present instance I am
60. forced to admit that the facts are, to the best of my belief,
62. The portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of
63. some little pride and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper
64. from the inside pocket of his greatcoat. As he glanced
65. down the advertisement column, with his head thrust
66. forward and the paper flattened out upon his knee, I took
67. a good look at the man and endeavoured, after the fashion
68. of my companion, to read the indications which might be
69. presented by his dress or appearance.
70. I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor
71. bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman,
72. obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy grey shepherd’s
73. check trousers, a not over-clean black frock-coat, unbuttoned in
74. the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain,
75. and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament
76. A frayed top-hat and a faded brown overcoat with a wrinkled
77. velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him. Altogether, look as I
78. would, there was nothing remarkable about the man save his
79. blazing red head, and the expression of extreme chagrin and
80. discontent upon his features.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. "The Red-Headed League." Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York and London: Harper & Bros., 1892. N. pag. WorldCat [OCLC]. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
According to the passage, what unique skill does Holmes possess?