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The Silver Blaze. M and F. More Holmes

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" What do you make of this, Watson?" asked Sherlock Holmes, extending a large white handkerchief in my direction. I took it and examined it closely, detecting a familiar scent. I sniffed the cloth and inhaled deeply.

"It is impregnated with a tincture of eucalyptus and laudanum." I remarked, " a specific I often prescribe for those suffering a particularly sneezy cold, though for me..." I had to break off, as a pronounced tickle in my nose had brought me to the very brink of a powerful sneeze. "... a certain diathesis towrds repeated sternutation is preciptated, with the in...Haah...inevitable ....HAHSHOOOM! result of a...Haah... HAHSHOOM! sneezing fit". As I held the hankie before my face, it seemed natural to sneeze into it. Holmes watched with unusual acuity. Yet a further sneeze was coming . "HAH SHOOOOOOOOM!!" I exploded into the cloth and continued wit a loud blow of the nose.

"Bless you, Watson, added my friend. "But what do you conclude about the hankie, dropped, I may add, by a client who called in my absence?"

"Well, "I began," it is a somewhat large linen handkerchief of plain white, suitable for the manly outpourings of a vigorous man such as myself; my own masculine blow has scarcely dampened it; the dainty sneeze of a lady would hardly need such a huge vessel. And use of this medical solution proclaims the medical man. And see here , the monogram RHH. This is a medical hankie issued, I fancy, by the Royal Hertfordshire Hospital. The client, then is a vigorous country doctor, up for the day from his rural base, seeking to disguise the rank miasma of the Great Wen with an unguent from the British pharmacopoeia."

"Bravo, Watson!. Yet I fear these admirable conclusions are wide of the mark. Our client is clearly an attractive and fashionable young lady, an expert seamstress who cares particularly for her linen, of Eastern European origin but now resident near Camberwell, who suffers both from hay fever and, at present, a heavy cold made sneezier by her allergy".

But Holmes this is marvellous," I remarked dutifully.

"It is elementary. " Holmes then paused oddly, before adding ; "My dear Watson, the study of the handkerchief is a fascinating one, on which you may care to read a small monograph I have written. A large white hankie does not bespeak the man; you yourself bear a square of coloured silk. And mark, this has a border of lace, a feminine affectaion. Lace of a slightly different hue, added after manufacture. Fine work, but of unusual design, with fruits apparently square. Not the work of a professional seamstress; the owner herself has added it. She has a special care for her person and clothes, especially the hankies. Who boils your hankies? Not your wife?"

"Of course not.; it is the province otf the woman for the rough."

"Yet this lady has her hankie laundered and starched, for here, see. is the laundry mark of a smalll Russian laundry in the Camberwell New Road, hard by the Orthodox church. I have written a small monograph on London laundrymarks. And, Watson, monograms, by their nature, are hard to disentangle, and often can be read from both sides of the cloth."

"Have you by chance written a small monogram on monographs?"

"Monograph on monograms.; I have. Its precise meaning I leave Mrs Christie to explain; but viewed from the rear, where the stitches are raised, it is clearly in the Cyrillic alphabet; the letter " Ya" seems to us a reversed R,."

"But the size, the hay fever?"

"The lady needs a large hankie for frequent sneezing fites.; they are violent and messy, since in the area unsullied by your own efforts appears a silver blaze; a diamond-shaped area where the shiny outpouring of mucus has been deposited by a particularly enormous sneeze. And here, if I am not mistaken, is our client".

He gestured to the window, whence I heard ove r the noise of Baker Street a soprano sound;

"Aah-Aah-TISHooo! A-A-Aaah-TISHooooo! Aaah!....Aaaah!....ATCHOOOOOHH!"

"You see, the lady sneezes withuncovred mouth, having lost her hankie; her sneezes, caised both by cold and hay fever, are in huge, uncontrollable fits. I have written a large monograph on diffrent kinds of sneezes, having studied them avidly from my youth up."

From without came the muffled sound of sneezing from below us on the stair;

"Atisssh-oo, Atisssh-oo." Then on our level ; Aaah TISH oooooo...Aaah....Ahhh...TISHOOOOOH!"

A knock came at the door, and Mrs Hudson flung it open. Beside her stood a young person, pale of skin and with fine pale hair curled on her markedly dolichocephalic brow, save for her finely graven nostrils. which were pink at the edges, which quivered in and out at intervals with sneeziness. "Aaaah....Aaaah..." she gasped.

"A young lady to see you, sir, "said Mrs Hudson.

AAAAAAHTCHOOOOOOH!" sneezed the lady. Holmes and I sprang to our feet, Holmes striding forward with the lost handkerchief.

"Bless you, your Highness," he said. "Here is the hankie you have been fumbling for in your reticule these pasttwo hours."

"Thank you, Mr Holmes," she replied, setting it to her flaring nostrils. "For this relief much thanks".

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