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ADVENTURE III. A CASE OF IDENTITY

"My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side
of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely
stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We
would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere
commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window
hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the
roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the
strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the
wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and
leading to the most outré results, it would make all fiction with
its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and
unprofitable."

"And yet I am not convinced of it," I answered. "The cases which
come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and
vulgar enough. We have in our police reports realism pushed to
its extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed,
neither fascinating nor artistic."

"A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a
realistic effect," remarked Holmes. "This is wanting in the
police report, where more stress is laid, perhaps, upon the
platitudes of the magistrate than upon the details, which to an
observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter. Depend
upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."

I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite understand your thinking
so." I said. "Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser
and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout
three continents, you are brought in contact with all that is
strange and bizarre. But here"--I picked up the morning paper
from the ground--"let us put it to a practical test. Here is the
first heading upon which I come. 'A husband's cruelty to his
wife.' There is half a column of print, but I know without
reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to me. There is, of
course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the
bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of
writers could invent nothing more crude."


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