At the beginning of the story Holmes tells Watson:
“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”
Jabez Wilson expresses considerable surprise because all of Holmes' deductions are correct. He wants to know how Holmes drew such accurate conclusions from his appearance.
Holmes explains that he knew Wilson had done manual labor because his right hand was noticeably larger than his left, showing that he had done considerable work with it. Wilson tells him he was ship's carpenter. Holmes could see that Wilson was wearing an arc-and-compass breastpin, showing he was a Freemason. The detective refused to explain how he knew Wilson used snuff because the signs of snuff on his waistcoat were too obvious. Wilson later takes a big pinch of snuff, showing he is a heavy user.
The fact that he has been in China is...
(The entire section contains 535 words.)