‘Come in,’ said Holmes.
A man entered. He was young and well-dressed. But his raincoat was wet, and the umbrella in his hand dripped water. He looked nervous: his face was pale and his eyes were heavy and tired.
`I am very sorry,’ the man said. `I hope I am not troubling you tonight. I am afraid I have brought some of the storm with me into your warm home.’
`Give me your coat and umbrella,’ said Holmes, standing. `I will hang them up on this hook; they will dry quickly. You have come from the South West, I see.’
`Yes, from Horsham. But how did you know?’
`There is clay and chalk on your shoes. It is quite distinctive,’ said Holmes.
`I have come for advice,’ said the man.
`I can give that easily,’ said Holmes.
`And your help.’
`That is not so easy.’
`I have heard about you, Mr Holmes. I heard from Major Prendergast. He told me that you helped him in the Tankerville Club scandal.’
`I remember him,’ said Holmes. `He was wrongly accused of cheating at cards.’
`He said that you can solve anything.’
`He said too much.’
`He also said that you are never beaten.’
`Not quite true. Three men and one woman have beaten me. But generally, I am quite successful.’
`Then you might be successful with me.’
`Sit down,’ Holmes told the man, `and give me some details about your case.’
The man sat. `This is such a strange and mysterious case, and it happened to my own family.’
Holmes pulled his chair closer towards the fire and sat too. `Please start your story from the beginning. After you finish, I will ask questions about the most important details.’
The young man stretched his wet feet towards the hot fire. Then he began his story. ‘My name,’ he said, `is John Openshaw… ‘