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The Enormous Wedding Band


This is a fairly short story, in as close as I could get to Doyle's style. It occurs in Holmes's Baker Street rooms, and is one of the endless heretofore unpublished tales from Watson's archives.

Mystery / Adventure
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

"Your timing is impeccable as usual, my dear Watson," stated my friend jubilantly as I strode across the threshold of what were once our shared Baker Street rooms. "Pray take a seat and join me in a pipe."

It was early in the summer of 1889, and the pleasant freshness of the day was, as I recall, a poor cousin to the fine evening on which I found myself visiting Mr. Sherlock Holmes. My day had been a long one--good for the practice but, I fear, tiring for its practitioner--and I had been looking forward through it all to a few hours in conversation with the great detective.

It had been fully two months since I had last joined him on a case, but the papers had spoken well of his exploits on the continent; the arrest of the Belgian forger, LeClaire, and the triumphant return of the stolen diamond of Kallisti were among the more prominent cases which my friend had undertaken during this interval, though at this time are little more than historical events. At some later date I hope to persuade Holmes to describe in his own way for the general public the particulars of these adventures, but I urge the reader to expect little in the way of results from my pleas.

I noticed that Holmes' spirits were indeed high on that occasion as I was gleefully ushered into my usual chair; his keen eyes shone with the energy and air of suppressed excitement that comes only when he is close upon the scent of his favourite quarry. It pleased me to see that his periodic lethargy had not forced him back to the seemingly bottomless cocaine bottle in which even he might one day find himself hopelessly trapped.

"You have a case, I see," said I, as I filled my pipe with a pinch of the dark shag from Holmes' proffered slipper. Instantly his fairer mannerisms were lost, exposing the façade of the pure logician with which so many had been impressed, and he reposed in his usual languid position.

"I have a few, here and there, at present," said he, "but there is little of interest in the way of official business. I have, however, a bit of a trifle that you might find interesting."

"Of course," said I eagerly, rubbing my hands in anticipation. "Your trifles give most of us brain fever. What is it? a murder? an abduction? a theft?"

"Really, nothing quite so tedious. After all these years, have I not yet convinced you that the most interesting and intellectually rewarding cases are those that one never reads about in the papers? There is no originality left in crime, if only for the reason that it has all been done before."

"Yes, Holmes. Your point is well taken. What, then, does the matter involve?"

"It involves this." Holmes pulled from his waistcoat pocket and handed me a gold ring of such singular girth that it undoubtedly would have fit over his thumb without difficulty.

"A wedding ring? Surely this cannot command your full attention."

"On the contrary, my dear Watson," said he, "this trinket presents us with more than a few avenues of thought. For instance, what would you make of its owner?"

As I turned the ring over in my hand a few times I bent the full force of my will upon it, in hopes that in extreme concentration I might duplicate the results my friend achieved at his merest whim. "I presume that this has been lost."

"Quite so. Our good friend MacCrae--you remember, he runs the fruit stand on Church Street--found it among his wares two days ago. He brought it straight over to Baker Street, and here it sits. So?"

"Well, first of all," said I, "the man must surely be a giant." I slipped the ring over my fore-finger, and found nearly enough room within its circumference for another digit.

"What else?"

"He is careless and insensitive."

"How so?"

"I gather these from the fact that he lost the ring and by virtue of the numerous notches and scratches about its surface. Only a blackguard would allow his band to enter into such a state." My own pristine wedding ring gave mute testament to my conviction in this.

"I see. Anything else?"

"Frankly, no, I see nothing more." I handed back the ring.

He frowned and slowly shook his head as I reached the end of my own intellect.

"I would be remiss, Watson, if I did not admit a little disappointment with your performance. Although you did observe many of the salient facts, you failed to make any plausible deductions."

Holmes' cold, clinical analysis of my efforts gave me pause, but it was, as always, impossible for me to remain annoyed with him. "What, then, do you suppose is the nature of the owner?"

"Well, beyond the obvious fact that he is a gaunt, ill, sentimental widower, I must admit that there is little else to be determined."

Despite having been privy on numerous occasions to my friend's seemingly mystical methods, I found myself overwhelmed by his conclusions. "Really, Holmes," I replied, not supposing for a moment that he might be correct.

"Yes, Watson, really." Sherlock Holmes placed the ring deliberately in his pocket and assumed his familiar, pensive posture, his fingertips touching and his elbows upon the rests of his chair. "I infer from your tone that you do not follow my reasoning."

"Most assuredly I do not. As usual your deductions have transcended my mind, and I fear this time they might have risen above even your own."

"Hardly. I should think that in a few moments the dullest urchin should be able to follow the path down which logic has taken me.

"Observe the ring." He held it up once more, and again I was stupefied by its size. "Now, take off your ring, Watson, so that I might make a simple comparison."

"I cannot, Holmes, you know that," I replied. I was hardly capable of even turning my own ring about, having gained several pounds since my marriage, as do most young men.

"Precisely. Thus would the finger of the 'giant' you propose cling to this circlet of gold. It is clearly impossible that such a ring so tightly bound would be yielded so easily to a basket of peaches as I am assured that it was. He must have been emaciated by some sort of illness.

"Observe, now, the number of marks you pointed out upon the ring's surface. Note the regular patterns, and their localised occurrences. This adds further weight to my argument. It is plain also to see the collection of filth-- distasteful, I know, to a married man--filling in these tiny grooves. Clearly the activity which produced these marks has been ceased for some time. From this I suspect a vocation requiring some hard labour, which could not be continued following his illness.

"The fact that he is a widower comes rather simply from the knowledge that he did his own shopping. How else would he come to a fruit vendor? His weakened state is in all probability a result of his wife's death, though that is only speculation.

"Your picture of an uncaring, absent-minded cad will not hold up to any scrutiny either, I am afraid, for it is not an uncaring man who would walk about London with such an uncomfortably large item dangling from his finger. Such a man as you suggest would either not deign to wear the only personal souvenir of his late wife or have it refitted. His sentimentality ruled over his reason, and as a result he lost the ring."

"Splendid!" I ejaculated, as Holmes rested his head against the back of his seat. "Should I be blessed with your company until my death-bed, I have little doubt that you would never cease to baffle me with your wit."

Holmes waved away my compliments with a casual gesture of his hand, but I could see that, as a tinge of colour sprang to his sallow cheeks, his heart was gladdened to be so well admired. "It is a trifle. But it is an interesting trifle. Read this."

He threw across a copy of the Times, opened to the Agony column. Instantly an advertisement circled in pencil caught my eye, and I read the notice aloud, as it is reproduced here:

FOUND: One gold wedding ring of considerable size, on June 8th, 1889. To claim contact Dr. J. Watson, 221b Baker Street.

"As you know, Watson," said Holmes, as I finished my brief narrative, "it has long been my desire to keep my name out of the papers; hence my unauthorised use of your name. In fact, your arrival to-night has saved me from being a liar."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because of this," he briefly replied, as he offered a folded telegram over to me. It was sent by a Mr. Jeremy Brand who had lost his wedding ring on the date mentioned, asking if I could be so kind as to be in at eight o'clock so that he might claim his lost property, et cetera.

I glanced at my watch. "Holmes, it is nearly eight already."

"So it is," said he, "and unless I am very much mistaken, it is the step of Mr. Brand upon our stairs that now fills my ears. He is punctual, if nothing else."

Sherlock Holmes and I stood up at once as we heard the knock upon our door, and strode across to meet our visitor. On opening the portal I found myself face to face with perhaps the largest man I have ever seen. Although no taller than Holmes--and as such, by no means a short man--his weight could not have been less than eighteen stone. I was not so taken with the enormous physical stature of our guest, however, that his mental presence--obvious in his high brow and his keen, expressive eyes--was entirely unnoticed. His prim, though sombre dress marked him as an American, although he wore a great waxed moustache after a more British fashion, which he stroked compulsively as he entered our sitting room. Needless to say, I could not have been more surprised at Mr. Brand's appearance, for I had been fully convinced of the correctness of Holmes' deductions and the impossibility of mine.

"Doctor Watson," he began, in a deep, resounding voice. "I trust you have received my wire." His wide eyes shifted between myself and Holmes, expecting one of us to reveal ourselves as his host.

"It was I who ran the advertisement, Mr. Brand. My name is Sherlock Holmes, and my friend is Doctor Watson. Please join us in the study." Holmes took the hat and cane of our voluminous visitor, directed him to one of his larger chairs, and we then both seated ourselves opposite the fellow. As I clasped hands with our guest, I became aware of the crushing strength housed within his massive frame. Although it was clear that Mr. Brand wished to proceed quickly to the matter at hand, Holmes continued to deftly deflect the course of our conversation into a fascinating, though superfluous intercourse. Only when it seemed that he could no longer politely keep the topic away from the matter of the ring, it was nigh upon nine o'clock.

"I hope you will not think me unkind," relented Holmes at last, "if I require that you offer some proof of your ownership of the item in question, aside from the obvious fact that yours is one of only a very few fingers upon which it would adequately fit."

"Not at all, Mr. Holmes," said Brand. "I have brought a portrait here to-day which should assuage all doubt of my claim." As he reached into his breast pocket for the photograph, Holmes stole a glance at the wall clock with what would have been described--by anyone less familiar with him than myself--as a nervous action.

Brand handed over the photograph; it depicted him, sans moustache, standing next to a very lovely woman he said to be his wife. "As you can see, gentlemen, I am wearing what could only be my lost ring in this photograph," he stated. "My jeweller assures me that its size and make is quite unique."

"I should say so," said Holmes, as he glanced once again at the clock. "And in gold of eighteen carats, yours must be a wealthy background."

"In truth, Mr. Holmes, it is nearer to fourteen carats, although it is of course rather valuable, even if only for its materials."

Holmes flashed a brief smile, for the most part masking another stolen glance at the clock. "Of course. My eyes are not what they once were, you understand. At any rate, Doctor Watson is, I know, simply dying to learn how you managed to lose your ring."

Our visitor twisted his mouth in what could only be perceived as an embarrassed smirk, although for the briefest of instants an expression something like fear flashed across his face. "I am afraid that it is a result of my carelessness, and so I thank fortune all the more for its return to me.

"You see, my wife and I came to London to attend her cousin's wedding. During the ceremony I felt acute shame for the shoddy state of my own ring--you may have noticed its poor condition--and on an impulse that evening I spent nearly an hour taking it off, with the intention of having it cleaned the next day.

"On that day, I left the hotel and set off in the direction of a highly recommended jeweller. During my stroll I spotted a fruit vendor, and, after having skipped breakfast, stopped to purchase some of his wares. As I reached his stand, I checked my pockets to see if I had enough money--your system of currency still baffles me, I'm afraid--and inadvertently pulled out my ring along with the coins.

"At just that moment I heard a great cry, startling me and causing me to drop what was in my hand. I immediately rushed to the source of the disturbance, forgetting in my haste that I had lost possession of my wedding ring.

"What I observed was, of course, the scene of the Church Street Murder. I do not need to tell you, gentlemen, what I saw." The faithful reader should recall the grisly portrait painted by the writers of the Times of the as yet unidentified slain man, a great curved knife thrust between his ribs and left to bleed to death in a cul-de-sac.

"And now, of course, you have arrived here," stated Sherlock Holmes as the well-spoken American concluded his tale. "Your tale was for the most part thoroughly plausible, I must say, sir. It is, however, a falsehood. Don't you agree, inspector?" His last comment was directed towards Inspector Lestrade, who presently burst unheralded into Holmes' sitting room.

"I don't know what's up your sleeve this evening, Mr. Holmes," blurted Lestrade, his cheeks flushed with the effort of storming up the staircase. "You had better have a decent excuse for bringing me here at this hour."

"I should think that you will be thanking me in a few moments despite my hasty summons, inspector," said Holmes. "After all, it is not often that I have visiting my rooms the most wanted man in London."

Mr. Brand, who was by no means calm upon Lestrade's abrupt entrance, flew before our eyes into such a rage that made him seem more beast than man; both his chair and soon after the Chesterfield were upset in the wake of his sudden fury. Had Holmes not clapped his pistol to our visitor's head, I doubt that even we three should have survived the encounter. Within moments Brand was wriggling in a vain attempt to free himself from Lestrade's irons.

Lestrade's ferret-like features were drawn into a mask of extreme confusion, as was the status quo when professionally involved with my friend. "I must confess," began the inspector, "that this time you have baffled even myself."

"And I as well," I added.

Holmes returned the toppled chair to its upright position and flopped down into it. "Gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to return my furniture to its usual state and find yourselves a place to sit, I shall endeavour to tell all. Ah, thank you both.

"Now then. Mr. Brand--for the purposes of this explanation, we shall continue to refer to him as such--is in fact not the true owner of this ring." He held out the ring once more, inciting exclamations of incredulity from Lestrade and ungentlemanly remarks from Brand. Holmes then retold the recent history of the case as I have described heretofore.

"But who is he, and what connection has he with the Church Street case?"

"Excellent questions, inspector. But I think that, at least for now, I can answer only the latter, and only in uncertain terms: I believe he is the murderer."

"Liar!" exclaimed Brand, his face taking an odd hue of purple. "I have killed no one!"

"All right, then," interjected Lestrade, as the official notebook was withdrawn from his pocket. "Tell us what happened, keeping in mind that everything you say will be taken down."

"You will learn nothing from me. I know that even here your laws can convict me of nothing more severe than the damaging of Mr. Holmes' furniture."

"I do not think so," said Holmes gravely. "You say you will not confess; I tell you that if you do not, I shall reveal all, for ill or for good."

Brand paid little heed to Holmes' words, but would not meet his stern glare. "I will not speak," he reaffirmed.

Holmes threw up his arms in resignation. "Very well. Stop me if ever I deviate from the truth.

"I believe that you, Mr. Brand, have an identical twin brother. You are the sons of a self-made man who was born in England, and emigrated to America. Your brother was the favoured among you both for a reason which you probably deem unfair, and, perhaps, more out of spite than affection, he married your betrothed. You followed him and his wife to England, and you murdered him, in all likelihood to usurp his identity and claim his inheritance. Have I erred, Mr. Brand?"

Our visitor could scarcely utter a word in rebuttal to Holmes' tale, for he had fallen suddenly into a stupor and slumped over in his chair. With the help of brandy and ammonia I quickly brought him round.

"You are the devil, Mr. Holmes," sputtered Brand as soon as his senses were restored. "But I will deal with you only so far as I must, so as to assure my own freedom. How you knew it is a mystery to me, but, yes, your tale for the most part rings true. Once I have filled in the details, you would be heartless indeed to find fault with my conduct.

"As children, Russell--my brother--and I were often mistaken for one another; so much so that my father fashioned for each of us a pendant that we would wear to distinguish between ourselves for the benefit of the help. Russell was a mischievous boy, and, to hide the blame of his own sins, he on one occasion stole my pendant and was intentionally caught in the act by one of the servants. Naturally the blame of all misdoings in our household from that moment forward fell squarely upon myself, and my father--the very sort of man you described, Mr. Holmes--favoured Russell.

"Eventually we grew older, and outgrew childish pranks; or so I had believed. When I began to court the finest lady in all of Illinois, and eventually won her hand, Russell found a way to convince her that it was he all along whom she had grown to love. I made the mistake of not telling her of my brother, and so paid the price in my loneliness. The two eloped and moved to England; I, however, remained in America, shattered and wroth once again for the antics of my only sibling. I knew that he had married my fiancée only for her dowry, since the inheritance from our father would not come as quickly as he would have liked.

"You can imagine my situation, gentlemen: the love of my life had run off with my brother, and I was myself out of favour with my father, probably disinherited. I had little to live for, save the seething hatred within my soul for Russell. Even his name was ashes in my mouth--every day saw my rage double, until finally I could take no more. I decided that he would die.

"And so, as you have said, I followed Russell and his wife, Victoria, my dearest Vicki, to your country, at long last finding them in Sussex. I watched their little cottage for weeks on end, to discern their routine and devise a plan to slay him. I waited until a Saturday, when Victoria was habitually at the market, and Russell at the dog-races. I stole into their house and waited for my brother to return, for it was, in my experience, invariably he who returned first. I awaited the moment when my brother and I would meet, with only the better man surviving."

Mr. Brand appeared to have lost some composure at that juncture, so much so that I feared that he might slip once again into insensibility.

"Forgive me, gentlemen," he continued, as he waved me away. "My memories of the next few moments are less than pleasant. Victoria must have decided to cut short her day and return home early, for it was she who first saw me in her sitting room. I have no doubt that the shock of seeing me, a man identical in every way to her husband, save my moustache and the look of murder on my face, drove her senses from her, and she fell faint, striking her head violently on the cobblestone path.

"Of course I fled, after seeing that hers was a hopeless case--her skull was fairly well crushed, and when I felt her wrist there was no pulse. As I put more and more distance between myself and the body of my beloved, my heart sickened at the thought of revenge. No longer did I wish my brother any harm, now that Victoria was gone. "I then spent a time abroad, living off my meagre stipend. After a while I was wired by a lawyer from the States, and learned in this way that my father had died. The telegram went on to state that my only source of income, my monthly allowance, would be ceased--I was disinherited. But I assure you, this was of only secondary consideration when compared to the sorrow for my father's passing; despite his treatment of me, I still loved the man. In his memory, I decided to make my peace with Russell.

"Finding him was simplicity itself, as the trail he left behind in exchanging the sickly countryside for the wretched maze you call a city was one which a blind man could follow. I therefore came here, to London, where Russell had fled following the loss of his wife, and followed him for a few days. You would not have believed the physical transformation of my brother, gentlemen; while he was once a man very much like myself, he was reduced to a mere shade of his former self. His body better resembled that of a scarecrow than the hearty man I once knew. I instantly knew that Victoria's death had indeed weighed upon him, and that he married her for more than her money, after all.

"It was not long before I confronted Russell in one of your city's less travelled alleyways, as he made his way along during his daily walk. I then forgave Russell for his past transgressions, and to my surprise, he accepted me with open arms, crying like a babe and full of apologies.

"I should have stopped at that, but I could not leave the business about Victoria untouched. As soon as he heard what I have earlier confessed to, the rage that is our birthright overtook him; but even with the knife that he drew from his jacket, he was no longer a match for me.

"Without warning Russell leapt at me with great ferocity; I was unable to do else but defend myself against his sudden attack. I stood agape with horror, however, when I saw that in our struggle the blade had accidentally been turned against him, and that he lay dying before me. His last gasps were curses flung at me, saying that even if I was not arrested and hanged for his murder, my life would be forever ruined. And of course, he was right; without his financial assistance, I would be unable to survive even as I had, thrust into poverty. My own despair was nearly as great as his own, and for an instant I contemplated using the knife myself.

"I hastily decided, as I had considered so many times before, to usurp Russell's identity and claim the family fortune. With the few moments I had before being discovered, I unceremoniously rifled through Russell's pockets, finding the photograph I earlier showed you. But the true object of my search was his wedding band, a present given him by our father. Without that ring upon my finger, the lawyers would have suspected that I was in fact not the chosen son."

"If I may presume to reveal the rest," said Sherlock Holmes, after hearing the lengthy narrative, "you fled the cul-de-sac, destitute and heart-broken, until you picked up to-day's copy of the Times. Seeing the advertisement for the found ring, you naturally saw your opportunity for a life of ease renewed. Having observed your brother's daily routine, you correctly deduced that it was only at the fruit stand that he could have lost the ring."

"And very neatly, too," quipped Lestrade as he closed his notepad. "The question is this: what ever shall we do with you? Can you corroborate your story?"

"I believe I can answer that, inspector," answered Holmes before Brand could speak. "Upon an examination of the body by the coroner, I have little doubt that the probability of the wound being inflicted as was suggested was noted. I myself have made something of a study upon the subject, and have found that such a wound is practically impossible to reproduce artificially. As to the other matters, frankly, I doubt that there shall ever be a case made against Mr. Brand. Of course, there is the business of my furniture..."

"Do you mean to say that we should let this man free?" exclaimed Lestrade.

"Far be it from me to dictate the policies of the constabulary, my good inspector. On what charge would you seek a conviction against our guest?"

"Your point is made. However, I am under some pressure from the public to see the affair to a satisfactory conclusion."

"One has already been provided, inspector: the death was a suicide. For any man in the condition of the deceased to attempt an assault upon our gracious visitor would be completely ludicrous, and must be considered the final act of a desperate man. And I scarcely believe that the particulars gone over this evening are of any interest to the general public. Your reputation should hardly be tarnished; the lack of any evidence, save what has here transpired, more than excuses the Yard for failing to make any progress. It was only for your own enlightenment that I invited you here this evening, as I knew that your keen mind would appreciate seeing the end of such a tangled and taxing case." I could almost feel the bite in Holmes' voice as he condescended to the celebrated police inspector.

"Yes, of course, Mr. Holmes." The familiar twinkle was present in Lestrade's eye as he collected his shackles from Mr. Brand. "Once again, you have proven yourself a worthy amateur--equal even to myself, I should think."

"Please, inspector, my modesty," said Holmes drily as Lestrade stepped through and out the doorway. "Now then," he began, even as Lestrade's footfalls echoed through the building, "there remains what we shall do with the good Mr. Brand."

"Do with me?" exclaimed Brand, as he very nearly capsized another of Holmes' chairs in his urgency to regain his feet. "For the trouble you've given me you should be thankful that I leave you with full use of your legs!"

"Please, Mr. Brand; there is no need for such warmth. I have gone rather far for your interests in this matter, and would like nothing better than to turn the Yard and all its dogs upon you just to ease my own conscience. As it is my own conduct borders on the criminal for convincing Lestrade to let the affair drop, as I know that having it made a part of the public record would, for your ends at least, simply not do. In any case, I was of course referring to the matter of the ring."

"Indeed, Holmes," said I. "Now that Russell is deceased, who should retain it?"

"The very thought that occurred to me, doctor. I have, you understand, some reservations regarding your case, as even the least conscientious of investigators must. Well, Mr. Brand? Whom do you think deserves the possession of the trinket at the centre of this little drama?"

"I hoped that you would leave Russell's band with me, but you will not have the satisfaction of seeing me beg. I shall take my leave of this hateful country to-morrow--if you decide in my favour, you should know that I intend to claim my inheritance, no matter how distasteful you may find it. So?"

Although it was for the occupation of consulting detective that my friend had spent much of his life in training, it was in the role of judge that Holmes was most self-expressive. With an air of nonchalance he tossed over to Brand the item on which of late so much death and ruin had pivoted.

"Mind you, I have three provisions concurrent to the release of the ring," warned Holmes as Mr. Brand was about to depart. "If they are not met, be assured that I will crush you from my sitting-room."

"Your demonstrations have taught me that yours is no idle threat, Mr. Holmes. Name your price."

"Excellent. We have a reasonable man before us after all, eh, Watson? First of all: I require that, once your inheritance is secured, you provide a finder's fee of one hundred pounds to a Mr. Basil MacCrae, of 87 Church Street; second: that you provide me with compensation for the refurbishing of my shoddily treated furnishings. A receipt will be forwarded. Finally, I wish one piece of information regarding your deceased sibling: did he have any hobbies?"

Jeremy Brand was, I must confess, not the only person confused by at least the latter of Holmes' demands. "As to your monetary demands, they will of course be met. In the case of Russell's activities, I have some recollection that he enjoyed carpentry, but I am afraid he was none too skilled at his craft."

"Ah, yes, undoubtedly so. Have a pleasant voyage, Mr. Brand." Grinning, Holmes resumed his chair and lit another pipe as I saw our guest to the door.

"I am sure, Holmes," said I, as I poured myself a glass of sherry, "that the whole of to-night's drama will be shown to be absurdly simple."

"Not at all," said he between thoughtful puffs. "The situation to which we were witnesses this evening presented some quite novel aspects. I may have been a little premature in my assessment of the state of the art of crime, in that there still remains some small room for improvement."

"I see. I hope that you will excuse my lack of enthusiasm. At any rate, I should like to know what clue it was that I have missed which led you to your deductions regarding Brand's former situation."

Holmes could not suppress a sardonic grin at my request. "My methods are on a more mortal level than you would have your regular readers believe. Were it not for the happy chance of discovering the ring, I doubt that we should be any less in the dark than the official force. I had occasion to examine the body of the brother, Russell, coming to many of the conclusions we have explored earlier. You will be able to identify with my surprise when, some days later, I was presented with the wedding ring, which, by my own independent deductions, I knew could belong only to the dead man. Immediately the prospect of solving this little mystery occurred to me, and I ran the advertisement. The presence of Lestrade and my fanciful accusations of murder were merely my own calculated attempts to unnerve my man, in order to achieve a complete confession, for as his own story told us, his was a formidable mind."

"But how the deuce did you know that the man had a self-made father?"

"His hat, Watson, was most instructive. When I see a man wearing an ensemble consisting of a rather non-descript American suit and a five guinea hat from Stockworth's Haberdashers in Liverpool, well, something must surely suggest itself. I had no doubt that the hat would be a gift from a father-figure, and a practical one at that; a frivolous parent might simply purchase for his son a whole luxurious wardrobe. His father clearly expected more from his son, but did not wish to alienate him totally, and so supplied with him with a solitary, though impeccable item of clothing.

"As to the other biographical presumptions, well, let us just say that once the basic premise was established--that Brand required the ring of his brother--mine was the only scenario which would adequately cover the facts. The ring suggested the presence of a woman in the affair; the appearance of both the victim and our visitor made probable such an association as I mentioned. The likelihood of one brother impersonating the other was a bit of a gamble on my part, I must confess, but I felt sure that I was right. Naturally, I deduced many of these facts with only the incomplete information available to me before this evening, but the puzzle was complete before Mr. Brand could utter a word. Discussion of the other eleven scenarios which I had formed prior to meeting Mr. Brand would, I believe, be an unjustified digression just now, as you seem to be more acutely interested in the events as they occurred outside of my own conjectures."

"And your questions of the brother's hobbies?"

"To find how the grooves upon the ring were originally formed--merely to satisfy my own morbid curiosity. But enough of such trivialities, my dear Watson. Pray tell, in which colour do you fancy I should reupholster the Chesterfield?"

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