Some geographical context might be helpful. The scene of the crime is the North Kent Marshes:
“A shocking tragedy has come to light in a meadow about a mile from Dartford. About two o’clock this morning, a rural constable observed a rick on fire out on the marshes near the creek.”
R. Austin Freeman (1924). ‘The Funeral Pyre’. In The Blue Scarab, pp. 238–239....
Competitive walking, known as ‘pedestrianism’, was the forerunner of today’s walking races.
Pedestrianism was a 19th-century form of competitive walking, often professional and funded by wagering, from which the modern sport of racewalking developed.
Fingerprinting was still a relatively new and "cutting edge" technique:
1901 - Sir Edward Henry, an Inspector General of Police in Bengal, India, develops the first system of classifying
fingerprints. ... This system of classifying fingerprints was first adopted as the official
system in England, and eventually spread throughout.
Thus, the police ...
There is no more connection between a livery stable and a boat than there is a Pastrycook’s and a boat.
The mariner is mocking the Inspector sarcastically, by suggesting businesses that have nothing to do with boats, because he thinks the Inspector’s question is ridiculous.
The Thorndyke stories are set in the early 20th century (contemporaneous with the author).
At this time, "precious" was used as a magnifier as described in the earlier answer (which I lack the rep to add context in comments to, hence the separate answer).
Additional negative meanings can be the current pretentious/fussy ("the lyrics were ...
The point that Thorndyke is making is that in order for a fingerprint to show that a particular person committed the crime, two things need to be established:
The print was left by that person.
Only the criminal could have left the print.
But often the only evidence presented is:
The print matches that person’s finger.
(3) goes some way towards ...
tram·ple 1 : TRAMPespecially : to tread heavily so as to bruise, crush, or injure
If someone is walking outside, their steps may crush vegetation or otherwise cause damage to the ground. This is especially likely if someone is not merely walking casually, but is engaged in a struggle. And if that struggle ...
Isleworth is described as an "unlikely neighbourhood" because Dr. Thorndyke would not have expected of men of such means to live there. According to Wikipedia, Isleworth during Georgian and Victorian times had attracted many "aristocrats and high achievers" who built "many mansions and large houses". From this perspective, it ...
It’s clear from the context that the “tips” were on the underside of the boots:
In the shady hollows, the soft loam bore prints of many feet, and among them we could distinguish one with an iron toe-tip, but it was nearly obliterated by another studded with hob-nails. […] And here we both halted abruptly, for in the damp ground were the clear imprints of a ...
They are sailing on a navigable river, the river has twists and turns through the landscape. This means that the pursuers cannot always see the river itself, but when the barge’s sails are not screened from their view by landform or vegetation they see them across the intervening land.
As to the ‘then it’ll turn’ section: I looked up the ‘Whitaker channel’ ...
‘On the top of the spring tide’ refers to the timing of when they got their boar stuck in the mud, which in turn affects where it got stuck.
A ‘Spring Tide’ is
A tide of maximum amplitude after new and full moon, when the forces of the sun and moon act in the same direction
i.e. it is one of the two highest tides in a month. To get stuck in the mud on the ...
I don't know if it was common, but I suspect that it has happened. Let me point to my favourite occurence.
The Vajdahunyad Castle in the Budapest City Park is a modern castle built shortly before 1896, imitating the style of mediaeval castles of Hunyadi. It was first built as a hasty wooden structure so that it may be ready for the Millenium celebrations ...
As surmised in the question, “leading” refers to the strips of lead that were used by hand typesetters to add space between lines of text, and “heavy leading” means wider spacing between lines:
If the type face is thin, if the individual letters are closely spaced in the words, or if the leading between the lines is very slight, the spacing between words ...
A ‘ship’s figure’ is a carved figurehead. Its expression cannot change so there is nothing to be gained or learned from watching it, as it will always look the same. It profits an observer nothing to watch it.
Therefore the Inspector’s face is as unchanging as a carved figurehead and the two officers can learn nothing from staring at the Inspector’s face.
To be on your dignity is to act in a very formal manner, in order to
to demand to be shown the respect that you think you deserve:
So, Mr. Wardale is being demanding because Mr. Macauley's language is so objectionable (despite the provocation) that it shows too much disrespect. (Into the logic of that we shall not delve.)
As a Commissioner, being on his ...