illustration of Sherlock Holmes in profile surrounded by various items from his many mysteries

The Best of Sherlock Holmes

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Student Question

What does Holmes deduce from observing Miss Sutherland on the street?

Expert Answers

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Before Miss Sutherland finally plucks up the courage to knock at Sherlock Holmes' door, she stands nervously on the pavement outside, her body oscillating back and forth. From his vantage point by the window Holmes keenly observes the young lady, and, as is his wont, makes a number of deductions, all of which turn out to be spot on, as usual.

First of all, he deduces that Miss Sutherland has come concerning an affaire de coeur, an affair of the heart. That would explain why she's been nervously oscillating on the pavement outside. The young lady clearly wants advice, but as it's such a delicate, personal matter, she's getting cold feet about it. She's not entirely sure that obtaining Holmes' assistance is the right thing to do. Hence her hesitation before knocking on Holmes' door.

Holmes' vast experience of human nature has taught him that wronged women are so desperate for revenge that they practically break the bell wire when they call round to see him. But Miss Sutherland's oscillations on the pavement outside—moving back and forth nervously—clearly indicate that she doesn't fall into this category. Though this is undoubtedly a matter of the heart, Holmes deduces that Miss Sutherland is perplexed or grieved rather than angry.

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