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The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Arthur Conan Doyle

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 Mr. Sherlock Holmes

  • Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upo_hose not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at th_reakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick which ou_isitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece o_ood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a "Penang lawyer." Jus_nder the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch across. "To Jame_ortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.," was engraved upon it, with the date "1884." It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned famil_ractitioner used to carry—dignified, solid, and reassuring.
  • "Well, Watson, what do you make of it?"
  • Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of m_ccupation.
  • "How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back o_our head."
  • "I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in front of me,"
  • said he. "But, tell me, Watson, what do you make of our visitor's stick? Sinc_e have been so unfortunate as to miss him and have no notion of his errand, this accidental souvenir becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruc_he man by an examination of it."
  • "I think," said I, following as far as I could the methods of my companion,
  • "that Dr. Mortimer is a successful, elderly medical man, well-esteemed sinc_hose who know him give him this mark of their appreciation."
  • "Good!" said Holmes. "Excellent!"
  • "I think also that the probability is in favour of his being a countr_ractitioner who does a great deal of his visiting on foot."
  • "Why so?"
  • "Because this stick, though originally a very handsome one has been so knocke_bout that I can hardly imagine a town practitioner carrying it. The thick- iron ferrule is worn down, so it is evident that he has done a great amount o_alking with it."
  • "Perfectly sound!" said Holmes.
  • "And then again, there is the 'friends of the C.C.H.' I should guess that t_e the Something Hunt, the local hunt to whose members he has possibly give_ome surgical assistance, and which has made him a small presentation i_eturn."
  • "Really, Watson, you excel yourself," said Holmes, pushing back his chair an_ighting a cigarette. "I am bound to say that in all the accounts which yo_ave been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habituall_nderrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have _emarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am ver_uch in your debt."
  • He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me kee_leasure, for I had often been piqued by his indifference to my admiration an_o the attempts which I had made to give publicity to his methods. I wa_roud, too, to think that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in _ay which earned his approval. He now took the stick from my hands an_xamined it for a few minutes with his naked eyes. Then with an expression o_nterest he laid down his cigarette, and carrying the cane to the window, h_ooked over it again with a convex lens.
  • "Interesting, though elementary," said he as he returned to his favourit_orner of the settee. "There are certainly one or two indications upon th_tick. It gives us the basis for several deductions."
  • "Has anything escaped me?" I asked with some self-importance. "I trust tha_here is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?"
  • "I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous.
  • When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting you_allacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you ar_ntirely wrong in this instance. The man is certainly a country practitioner.
  • And he walks a good deal."
  • "Then I was right."
  • "To that extent."
  • "But that was all."
  • "No, no, my dear Watson, not all—by no means all. I would suggest, fo_xample, that a presentation to a doctor is more likely to come from _ospital than from a hunt, and that when the initials 'C.C.' are placed befor_hat hospital the words 'Charing Cross' very naturally suggest themselves."
  • "You may be right."
  • "The probability lies in that direction. And if we take this as a workin_ypothesis we have a fresh basis from which to start our construction of thi_nknown visitor."
  • "Well, then, supposing that 'C.C.H.' does stand for 'Charing Cross Hospital,'
  • what further inferences may we draw?"
  • "Do none suggest themselves? You know my methods. Apply them!"
  • "I can only think of the obvious conclusion that the man has practised in tow_efore going to the country."
  • "I think that we might venture a little farther than this. Look at it in thi_ight. On what occasion would it be most probable that such a presentatio_ould be made? When would his friends unite to give him a pledge of their goo_ill? Obviously at the moment when Dr. Mortimer withdrew from the service o_he hospital in order to start a practice for himself. We know there has bee_ presentation. We believe there has been a change from a town hospital to _ountry practice. Is it, then, stretching our inference too far to say tha_he presentation was on the occasion of the change?"
  • "It certainly seems probable."
  • "Now, you will observe that he could not have been on the staff of th_ospital, since only a man well-established in a London practice could hol_uch a position, and such a one would not drift into the country. What was he, then? If he was in the hospital and yet not on the staff he could only hav_een a house-surgeon or a house-physician—little more than a senior student.
  • And he left five years ago—the date is on the stick. So your grave, middle- aged family practitioner vanishes into thin air, my dear Watson, and ther_merges a young fellow under thirty, amiable, unambitious, absent-minded, an_he possessor of a favourite dog, which I should describe roughly as bein_arger than a terrier and smaller than a mastiff."
  • I laughed incredulously as Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his settee and ble_ittle wavering rings of smoke up to the ceiling.
  • "As to the latter part, I have no means of checking you," said I, "but a_east it is not difficult to find out a few particulars about the man's ag_nd professional career." From my small medical shelf I took down the Medica_irectory and turned up the name. There were several Mortimers, but only on_ho could be our visitor. I read his record aloud.
  • "Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital. Winner of the Jackson prize fo_omparative Pathology, with essay entitled 'Is Disease a Reversion?'
  • Corresponding member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of 'Som_reaks of Atavism' (Lancet 1882). 'Do We Progress?' (Journal of Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of Grimpen, Thorsley, and Hig_arrow."
  • "No mention of that local hunt, Watson," said Holmes with a mischievous smile,
  • "but a country doctor, as you very astutely observed. I think that I am fairl_ustified in my inferences. As to the adjectives, I said, if I remember right, amiable, unambitious, and absent-minded. It is my experience that it is onl_n amiable man in this world who receives testimonials, only an unambitiou_ne who abandons a London career for the country, and only an absent-minde_ne who leaves his stick and not his visiting-card after waiting an hour i_our room."
  • "And the dog?"
  • "Has been in the habit of carrying this stick behind his master. Being a heav_tick the dog has held it tightly by the middle, and the marks of his teet_re very plainly visible. The dog's jaw, as shown in the space between thes_arks, is too broad in my opinion for a terrier and not broad enough for _astiff. It may have been—yes, by Jove, it is a curly-haired spaniel."
  • He had risen and paced the room as he spoke. Now he halted in the recess o_he window. There was such a ring of conviction in his voice that I glanced u_n surprise.
  • "My dear fellow, how can you possibly be so sure of that?"
  • "For the very simple reason that I see the dog himself on our very door-step, and there is the ring of its owner. Don't move, I beg you, Watson. He is _rofessional brother of yours, and your presence may be of assistance to me.
  • Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon th_tair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good o_ll. What does Dr. James Mortimer, the man of science, ask of Sherlock Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!"
  • The appearance of our visitor was a surprise to me, since I had expected _ypical country practitioner. He was a very tall, thin man, with a long nos_ike a beak, which jutted out between two keen, gray eyes, set closel_ogether and sparkling brightly from behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. H_as clad in a professional but rather slovenly fashion, for his frock-coat wa_ingy and his trousers frayed. Though young, his long back was already bowed, and he walked with a forward thrust of his head and a general air of peerin_enevolence. As he entered his eyes fell upon the stick in Holmes's hand, an_e ran towards it with an exclamation of joy. "I am so very glad," said he. "_as not sure whether I had left it here or in the Shipping Office. I would no_ose that stick for the world."
  • "A presentation, I see," said Holmes.
  • "Yes, sir."
  • "From Charing Cross Hospital?"
  • "From one or two friends there on the occasion of my marriage."
  • "Dear, dear, that's bad!" said Holmes, shaking his head.
  • Dr. Mortimer blinked through his glasses in mild astonishment. "Why was i_ad?"
  • "Only that you have disarranged our little deductions. Your marriage, yo_ay?"
  • "Yes, sir. I married, and so left the hospital, and with it all hopes of _onsulting practice. It was necessary to make a home of my own."
  • "Come, come, we are not so far wrong, after all," said Holmes. "And now, Dr.
  • James Mortimer—"
  • "Mister, sir, Mister—a humble M.R.C.S."
  • "And a man of precise mind, evidently."
  • "A dabbler in science, Mr. Holmes, a picker up of shells on the shores of th_reat unknown ocean. I presume that it is Mr. Sherlock Holmes whom I a_ddressing and not—"
  • "No, this is my friend Dr. Watson."
  • "Glad to meet you, sir. I have heard your name mentioned in connection wit_hat of your friend. You interest me very much, Mr. Holmes. I had hardl_xpected so dolichocephalic a skull or such well-marked supra-orbita_evelopment. Would you have any objection to my running my finger along you_arietal fissure? A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention t_e fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull."
  • Sherlock Holmes waved our strange visitor into a chair. "You are an enthusias_n your line of thought, I perceive, sir, as I am in mine," said he. "_bserve from your forefinger that you make your own cigarettes. Have n_esitation in lighting one."
  • The man drew out paper and tobacco and twirled the one up in the other wit_urprising dexterity. He had long, quivering fingers as agile and restless a_he antennae of an insect.
  • Holmes was silent, but his little darting glances showed me the interest whic_e took in our curious companion. "I presume, sir," said he at last, "that i_as not merely for the purpose of examining my skull that you have done me th_onour to call here last night and again to-day?"
  • "No, sir, no; though I am happy to have had the opportunity of doing that a_ell. I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself a_npractical man and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious an_xtraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highes_xpert in Europe—"
  • "Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?" asked Holme_ith some asperity.
  • "To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon mus_lways appeal strongly."
  • "Then had you not better consult him?"
  • "I said, sir, to the precisely scientific mind. But as a practical man o_ffairs it is acknowledged that you stand alone. I trust, sir, that I have no_nadvertently—"
  • "Just a little," said Holmes. "I think, Dr. Mortimer, you would do wisely i_ithout more ado you would kindly tell me plainly what the exact nature of th_roblem is in which you demand my assistance."