The latest free graded reader by me is called Sherlock Holmes – Identity. It is a short story (cca 3,800 words) and you can either read it here, or download it to your Kindle and then read it at your leisure. This graded reader is at pre-intermediate level.
Sherlock Holmes – Identity – free graded reader
“My dear Watson,” said Sherlock Holmes when we sat on either side of the fire in his house at Baker Street. “Life is much stranger than anything which we could create. If we could see what is happening in every house we would see things which are absolutely unbelievable.”
“Well, when I read police reports of the things that really happen in houses, the things described there are not very nice,” I answered.
“This is because police reports do not contain enough details. If there were enough details you would see that the real-life things are much more interesting then any book or a novel.”
I shook my head. “I cannot agree with you, Sherlock. For example, if you have a look in today’s newspaper you will see this. ‘A Husband is Terrible to his Wife‘. I think it is the common story. He has a lover, he drinks a lot, then he has no money, he beats his wife who then tells everything to her sister. Boring and ugly.”
“This is the Dundas separation case, isn’t it? In fact I did some work in this case and I can tell you that the whole story was a bit different. The man never drank beer, there was no other woman, and the behaviour which was so bad was that after each meal the husband took out his false teeth and showed them to his wife,” Sherlock said.
I wanted to stop arguing with Sherlock Holmes so I asked him: “Do you have any interesting case right now?”
“Not really. There are ten or twelve cases but none of them is of an interest. Usually the bigger the case the less interesting it is because they are usually very clear. But if I am not mistaken we will have a new client within a minute.”
He was standing at the window looking down into the boring London street now. When I looked over his shoulder I could see a large woman with a hat standing on the pavement. She was hesitating whether she should cross the street or not. Suddenly she hurried across the street and we heard a sharp sound of the bell.
“I have seen this before,” said Holmes. “The hesitation means that it is a love affair. She would like advice but she’s not sure if it is not too sensitive to tell anyone.”
As Sherlock spoke someone knocked on the door, the door opened and the servant announced Miss Mary Sutherland. Sherlock Holmes welcomed her warmly, closed the door and she sat in an armchair.
“Don’t you think,” he said, “that with your short eyes you shouldn’t do so much typewriting?”
“I did at first,” she answered, “but now I know where the letters are without looking.“ Then, she suddenly realised what she said and looked at Sherlock Holmes surprised. “How do you know this?”
“Never mind,” said Sherlock laughing. “It is my business to know things. Why else would you come to consult me?”
“I came to you because Mrs. Etherege told me how you found her husband easily when the police thought that he was dead. Oh, Mr Holmes, I wish you would do the same for me. I’m not rich, but I have Ł100 a year. I will give it all to you if you find out what happened to Mr. Hosmer Angel.”
“Why did you come in such a hurry?” Mr Holmes asked.
“Because Mr. Windibank, he’s my father, laughed at me. He said he would not go to you or to the police. He repeated that no real crime happened.”
“He must be your stepfather, because your names are not the same.”
“Yes he is my stepfather. I call him father but it is a bit funny, because he is only five years older than me.”
“And your mother is still alive?” Sherlock asked.
“Yes my mother is still alive and well. I wasn’t really happy when she married again after my father’s death. The man is 15 years younger than she. My father was a plumber and he had a nice business but when my mother married Mr. Windibank he decided to sell the business. They got Ł4700 for the business, which wasn’t as much as my father would get.”
I thought that Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be interested in such a story, but he was listening with the greatest concentration.
“And your money,” he asked, “does it come from this business?”
“No, sir. It was left to me by my uncle who lived in New Zealand. He left me Ł2500 but I only get the interest which is Ł100 a year.”
“It is an extremely interesting case,” said Sherlock Holmes. “Because you earn some money by typing and you have Ł100 a year, I think that you travel a little and enjoy your life. I think that a single lady can get Ł60 a year very well.”
“I can survive on much less than Ł60 Mr Holmes. But as long as I live at home I don’t want to spend their money, so I give all the money to my family. Of course it is only until I get married.”
“I understand your position very well,” said Holmes. “By the way, this is my friend, Dr Watson, and you can say anything in front of him. Please could you tell us now about your connection with Mr Hosmer Angel.”
Miss Sutherland turned red. “I met him first at plumbers’ ball,” she said. “When my father was alive they sent us the tickets and then when he died they sent them to my mother. Mr Windibank didn’t want us to go. He never wanted us to go anywhere. But this time I decided that I would go anyway. We argued. My father said that these people were not good for us. Then he said that I had no dress to go there, but it wasn’t true I had a purple dress which I hardly ever use. In the end he went off to France on a business trip and me and my mother we went to the ball. And I met Mr Hosmer Angel there.”
“I suppose,” said Holmes, “the Mr. Windibank was very angry when he came back from France and found out that you were at the ball.”
“No, he was very good about it. He laughed and said that women always do what they want.”
“I see. So you met a man called Mr Hosmer Angel at the plumbers’ ball.”
“Yes, sir. I met him that night and he came to our house the next day to ask if we got home safely. And after that we met twice for walks. But when my father came back home, and Mr Hosmer Angel could not come to our house any more.”
“Well, you know, my father didn’t want me to have a boyfriend. He said that a woman should be happy in her own family. But I don’t have my own family yet!”
“What about Mr Hosmer Angel? Did he try to see you?” Sherlock Holmes asked.
“Well, my father was going to France again a week later, and Hosmer wrote and said that it would be better to see each other only when he was away. So we wrote letters every day. I always to took them before my father could see them.”
“Did you get engaged?”
“Oh yes, Mr Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk. Hosmer Angel was working in an office in Leadenhall Street and…”
“Do you know the name of the office?”
“That’s the worst, Mr Holmes, I don’t.”
“Where did he live?” Sherlock Holmes asked.
“He slept in the office.”
“And you don’t know the address?”
“No, the only thing I know is that it was Leadenhall Street.”
“Where did you send his letters then?”
“I sent them to Leadenhall Street Post Office. They left them and the post office until Hosmer Angel came and asked for them. He said that if they were sent to his office everyone would laugh at him. So I suggested that they would typewrite them like he did and then noone would know that the letters came from a woman, but the he said that when I wrote them by hand they seemed more personal. That just shows how he loved me, Mr Holmes.”
“Yes, it is very interesting,” said Holmes. “I always say that these little things are the most important. Can you remember any other details about Mr. Hosmer Angel?”
“He was very shy. We always walked in the evening because he didn’t want people to see us. His voice was very weak because when he was young he had some problems with it. He was always dressed very well but his eyes were bad and he always wore sunglasses.”
“Well, and what happened when Mr Windibank, your stepfather, went back to France.”
“Mr Hosmer Angel came to our house again and said that we should get married before my father came back. He was really serious about that. He made me promise with my hands on the Bible, that I should never look at any of the man if anything happened to him. My mother said that it was normal to make this promise because it showed my love. My mother liked Hosmer very much. Then we talked about the wedding. They wanted to have the wedding in a week. When I asked about my father they both said there we would tell him only when he came back from France after the wedding. I didn’t like that Mr Holmes. That was why I wrote to my father to Bordeaux where his company has its French offices, but the letter came back on the morning of the wedding.”
“So your father didn’t read the letter?”
“Yes, Mr Holmes. He started his journey home before the letter arrived.”
“Bad luck. So you had the wedding on Friday. Did you have it in a church?”
“Yes, sir, but it was a very quiet wedding. We planned to get married in St Saviour’s Church near King’s Cross and then to have breakfast in the St. Pancras Hotel. Hosmer came for us in a carriage. We sat down and he took another carriage. We got to the church first but when his carriage arrived he didn’t get out. When the driver looked into the carriage there was no one there. But he said that he saw him getting in the carriage. That was last Friday and I haven’t heard from Hosmer Angel since. Please help me.”
“It was very embarrassing for you, wasn’t it.”
“Not really, Mr Holmes. Hosmer Angel was too good to leave me. Something terrible had to happen to him. In fact all the morning he was telling me that I mustn’t marry any other man if anything bad happened to him. He repeated this to me all the time. It seemed strange at the time but when I see what happened, it suddenly makes sense.”
“Yes, it does. So you think that something terrible happened to him?” Sherlock Holmes asked.
“Yes. I believe that he had a feeling that something terrible would happen – and then it happened.”
“And you have no idea what it could be?”
“One more question. How did your mother take it?”
“She was very angry and she said that I should never speak about it again.”
“And your father? Did you tell him?”
“Yes, and he believes that something terrible happened to Hosmer. Why else would he bring me to the doors of the church and then leave me. He had not borrowed any money or anything like this. Hosmer never took anything from me. But what happened? Why can’t you arrived to me? All it drives me mad. I can’t sleep at night.” She took a little handkerchief and started to cry.
“I will look into the case for you,” said Holmes, “and I am sure that I will find something. But I think that you should forget about Hosmer Angel, because I’m afraid he will not come back to your life.”
“Then you don’t think that they’ll see him again?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Then what happened to him?”
“I will find out as soon as I can. But could you give me a clear description of him and any letters which he sent you?”
“I put an advertisement in last Saturday’s newspaper,” she said. “Here it is and here I have four letters from him.”
“Thank you. And your address?”
“Number 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell.”
“And what is your father’s business address?”
“He works for Westhouse and Markbank, they sell wine and their address is Frenchurch Street.”
“Thank you. You told me everything I need to know. Please, once again, try to forget about Hosmer Angel. Do not let this accident affect your life.”
“You are very kind, Mr Holmes, but I cannot forget him. I will never look at any other man. I’ve will be ready if he ever comes back.”
Then she stood up and left. She promised to come back again whenever we might need her.
Sherlock Holmes sat quietly for a few minutes. Then he started smoking.
“Quite an interesting case,” he said. “There were several similar cases like this for example in Andover in 1877 and in in the Hague last year. It is an old idea but there are two details which are new to me.”
“But Sherlock, how did you know that she was a typewritist and that she was shortsighted?” I asked him.
“Elementary. If you had a look at her face you would see on her nose to marks from glasses. And then on her coat there were two lines near her elbows which suggested that she typed a lot.”
“And I didn’t notice that,” I said surprised. “But what about Hosmer Angel?”
“Let’s have a look at the description. Can you read it for me?” Sherlock Holmes asked me.
“On the morning of the 14th a gentleman named Hosmer Angel disappeared. He was about 5 feet seven, strongly built, black hair, sunglasses and a moustache. His voice was weak. He was wearing a black coat and a black waistcoat, gold watch, and grey trousers. He is known to be employed in an office in Leadenhall Street.”
“That’s enough,” said Holmes. Let’s have a look at the letters,” he continued. “There is nothing strange in them. There is absolutely no clue in them to Mr Angel. But there is one thing which is very interesting.”
“There are typewritten,” I said.
“Not only that, but they are not signed. The name is typewritten too. In fact, the fact that the letters are not signed is very important – I would say that it is all clear now.”
“My dear friend, I am surprised that you cannot see it. Now I will write two letters which will finish the problem. One will be to a firm in the city and the other to the young lady’s stepfather, Mr Windibank. I will ask him if he could meet us here at six o’clock tomorrow evening. And now we can do nothing, until we get the answers.”
So I left him that evening and I believed that the next evening I will see the solution. The next day I was really busy and I was able to come to Baker Street only a few minutes before six o’clock. When I came to Sherlock Holmes’ flat I found him alone sitting in an armchair. The smell in his flat told me that he was doing some chemical work before I came.
“Well, have you solved it?” I asked as I came in.
“Yes. It was the disulphate of baryta.”
“No, I mean the mystery!” I cried.
“Oh, that one! There was never any mystery in the case, though as I said yesterday, some of the details are very interesting. But I am afraid that there is no way to punish the bad man.“
“Who was he then and why did he leave Miss Sutherland?”
Before Holmes managed to answer my question we heard a knock on the door.
“This is the girl’s stepfather, Mr James Windibank,” said Holmes. “He wrote to me and said that he would be here at six. Come in!”
The man who entered was a middle sized man, about 30 years old, clean shaven, and he had a pair of big grey eyes. He sat to down and put his hat on the table.
“Good evening Mr James Windibank,” said Holmes. “I think that this typewritten letter, in which you made an appointment with me for six o’clock, is from youl?”
“Yes, sir. I am afraid that I’m a little late. I’m sorry that Miss Sutherland has troubled to you about this little problem. I didn’t want her to come here, but she’s a little impulsive and sometimes she does what she wants. It was bad luck. And I believe it is a waste of money trying to find Hosmer Angel. I don’t believe he can be found.”
“You are wrong,” said Holmes quietly. “I believe that I will find Mr Hosmer Angel.”
Mr Windibank looked at Holmes quickly. “I am glad to hear that,” he said.
“Did you know that every typewriter is different? If they are not new all of them are different. Some letters are and not absolutely clear and some parts of some letters do not show. Did you notice that your typewriter has a little colour above every ‘e’ and a small defect in every ‘r’? There are 14 more things which it does but they are not so clear.”
“We write all our letters with this machine at the office, and the typewriter is a bit old,” Mr. Windibank .said
“And now I will show you a very interesting thing, Mr Windibank,” Holmes continued. “I have here 4 letters which where typewritten by the missing man. And in each case there is a little colour and above each ‘e’ and each ‘r’ has a little defect. Moreover there are all the 14 other things which I told you about.”
Mr Windebank stood up and picked up his hat.” I cannot waste my time on this stupid talk, Mr Holmes,” he said. “If you can catch Hosmer Angel then catch him and let me know.”
“Sure,” said Holmes and locked the door. “I have just caught him.”
“What! Where is he?” shouted Mr. Windibank.
“It was you Mr. Windibank. Please sit down and let us talk it over.”
Our visitor sat down again. “You cannot do anything. I didn’t commit any crime.”
“Yes, that is true, but it was a terrible and selfish trick. I will now tell you what happened. Please correct me, if I go wrong.”
The man seemed lost. Holmes sat more comfortably in his chair and started talking.
“You married a much older woman for her money. You had her money and you enjoyed the money of your daughter too, but only as long as she lived with you. It was quite a lot and you didn’t want to lose it. Your daughter is quite pretty and she has some money so, she should have no problem getting married. So you tried to prevent it. First you tried to keep her at home but then she wanted to go to the ball. So what did you do? You said that you went to France but in fact, with the help of your wife, you put on sunglasses and a moustache, started to whisper and went to the ball where you pretended that you were Mr. Hosmer Angel. And as your daughter cannot see very well she never recognised you.”
“It was a joke at first, but then it went too far,” our visitor added.
“But your daughter fell in love with Hosmer Angel. Moreover, your wife spoke so nicely about him too and the girl never realised that it all was a fraud. And you tried to push the matter as far as it would go. You went for walks with her, you got engaged but then it couldn’t go any further. You needed to end the matter in a strange way which would make sure that your daughter would never forget Hosmer Angel. So you made her promise on the Bible and spoke about the possibility that something terrible might happen to you. You wanted her to be so bound to Hosmer Angel and unsure of his fate, that she would never listen to any other man again. You sent her to the church and then you disappeared. It was a simple trick. You got in the carriage from one side and then went out by the other door.”
Our visitor got better again.
“It may be so, or it may not, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “But I didn’t break any law. And if you do not open the door right now I will call the police!”
“You are right. The law cannot touch you,” said Sherlock and unlocked the door. “But you should be punished for this. If I were a brother or a friend of your daughter I would beat you up. I should not do it, but …” Sherlock got really angry and it seemed that he will hit the man. But before he could do anything the man ran out of the room and down the stairs.
“The man will end up in prison one day. But the case was quite interesting.”
“Well, Sherlock, there are still some details which are not quite clear to me,” I said.
“It was very clear from the very beginning that Mr. Hosmer Angel was very strange. And there was only one man who profited from this. And that was the stepfather. Then there was the fact that the two men were never together. What was more, Hosmer always wore sunglasses and spoke strangely. I became absolutely sure that Hosmer and the stepfather were the same man when I saw that Hosmer’s signature was typewritten. You see, the stepfather’s handwriting was so familiar to the daughter that he couldn’t risk signing the letters.”
“And how did you verify these facts?”
“I sent a letter to Westhouse and Marbank and they told me that the stepfather was not in France at the time when he was supposed to be there.”
“And what about Miss Sutherland?” I asked Sherlock.
“If I tell her, she will not believe me. She will always believe that something terrible happened to Hosmer Angel. I cannot help her.”