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."
"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.
"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.
"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."