Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and hi_ypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervou_ingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff.
For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm an_rist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, h_hrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back int_he velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.
Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but custo_ad not reconciled my mind to it. On the contrary, from day to day I ha_ecome more irritable at the sight, and my conscience swelled nightly withi_e at the thought that I had lacked the courage to protest. Again and again _ad registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject; but ther_as that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion which made him the las_an with whom one would care to take anything approaching to a liberty. Hi_reat powers, his masterly manner, and the experience which I had had of hi_any extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossin_im.
Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken with m_unch or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme deliberation o_is manner, I suddenly felt that I could hold out no longer.
"Which is it to-day," I asked, "morphine or cocaine?"
He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he ha_pened.
"It is cocaine," he said, "a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to tr_t?"
"No, indeed," I answered brusquely. "My constitution has not got over th_fghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it."
He smiled at my vehemence. "Perhaps you are right, Watson," he said. "_uppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, s_ranscendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondar_ction is a matter of small moment."
"But consider!" I said earnestly. "Count the cost! Your brain may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process whic_nvolves increased tissue-change and may at least leave a permanent weakness.
You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon you. Surely the game is hardl_orth the candle. Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the los_f those great powers with which you have been endowed? Remember that I spea_ot only as one comrade to another but as a medical man to one for whos_onstitution he is to some extent answerable."
He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his finger-tips together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish fo_onversation.
"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I a_n my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants.
But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. Tha_s why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for _m the only one in the world."
"The only unofficial detective?" I said, raising my eyebrows.
"The only unofficial consulting detective," he answered. "I am the last an_ighest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson, or Lestrade, or Athelne_ones are out of their depths — which, by the way, is their normal state — th_atter is laid before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce _pecialist's opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My name figures in n_ewspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my peculia_owers, is my highest reward. But you have yourself had some experience of m_ethods of work in the Jefferson Hope case."
"Yes, indeed," said I cordially. "I was never so struck by anything in m_ife. I even embodied it in a small brochure, with the somewhat fantasti_itle of 'A Study in Scarlet.' "
He shook his head sadly.
"I glanced over it," said he. "Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it.
Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in th_ame cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it wit_omanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-stor_r an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid."
"But the romance was there," I remonstrated. "I could not tamper with th_acts."
"Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportio_hould be observed in treating them. The only point in the case which deserve_ention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by whic_ succeeded in unravelling it."
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been specially designed t_lease him. I confess, too, that I was irritated by the egotism which seeme_o demand that every line of my pamphlet should be devoted to his own specia_oings. More than once during the years that I had lived with him in Bake_treet I had observed that a small vanity underlay my companion's quiet an_idactic manner. I made no remark however, but sat nursing my wounded leg. _ad had a Jezaii bullet through it some time before, and though it did no_revent me from walking it ached wearily at every change of the weather.
"My practice has extended recently to the Continent," said Holmes after _hile, filling up his old brier-root pipe. "I was consulted last week b_rancois le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come rather to the fron_ately in the French detective service. He has all the Celtic power of quic_ntuition but he is deficient in the wide range of exact knowledge which i_ssential to the higher developments of his art. The case was concerned with _ill and possessed some features of interest. I was able to refer him to tw_arallel cases, the one at Riga in 1857, and the other at St. Louis in 1871, which have suggested to him the true solution. Here is the letter which I ha_his morning acknowledging my assistance."
He tossed over, as he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper. I glance_y eyes down it, catching a profusion of notes of admiration, with stra_agnifiques, coup-de-maitres and tours-de-force, all testifying to the arden_dmiration of the Frenchman.
"He speaks as a pupil to his master," said I.
"Oh, he rates my assistance too highly," said Sherlock Holmes lightly. "He ha_onsiderable gifts himself. He possesses two out of the three qualitie_ecessary for the ideal detective. He has the power of observation and that o_eduction. He is only wanting in knowledge, and that may come in time. He i_ow translating my small works into French."
"Oh, didn't you know?" he cried, laughing. "Yes, I have been guilty of severa_onographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one
'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos.' In it _numerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a poin_hich is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which is sometimes o_upreme importance as a clue. If you can say definitely, for example, tha_ome murder had been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, i_bviously narrows your field of search. To the trained eye there is as muc_ifference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff o_ird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato."
"You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae," I remarked.
"I appreciate their importance. Here is my monograph upon the tracing o_ootsteps, with some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris as a preserve_f impresses. Here, too, is a curious little work upon the influence of _rade upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the hands of slaters, sailors, cork-cutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers. That is _atter of great practical interest to the scientific detective — especially i_ases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the antecedents of criminals. Bu_ weary you with my hobby."
"Not at all," I answered earnestly. "It is of the greatest interest to me, especially since I have had the opportunity of observing your practica_pplication of it. But you spoke just now of observation and deduction. Surel_he one to some extent implies the other."
"Why, hardly," he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his armchair an_ending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. "For example, observation show_e that you have been to the Wigmore Street Post-Office this morning, bu_eduction lets me know that when there you dispatched a telegram."
"Right!" said I. "Right on both points! But I confess that I don't see how yo_rrived at it. It was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I have mentioned i_o no one."
"It is simplicity itself," he remarked, chuckling at my surprise — "s_bsurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve t_efine the limits of observation and of deduction. Observation tells me tha_ou have a little reddish mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite th_igmore Street Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown up som_arth, which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid treading in i_n entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint which is found, as fa_s I know, nowhere else in the neighbourhood. So much is observation. The res_s deduction."
"How, then, did you deduce the telegram?"
"Why, of course I knew that you had not written a letter, since I sat opposit_o you all morning. I see also in your open desk there that you have a shee_f stamps and a thick bundle of postcards. What could you go into the post- office for, then, but to send a wire? Eliminate all other factors, and the on_hich remains must be the truth."
"In this case it certainly is so," I replied after a little thought. "Th_hing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. Would you think m_mpertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?"
"On the contrary," he answered, "it would prevent me from taking a second dos_f cocaine. I should be delighted to look into any problem which you migh_ubmit to me."
"I have heard you say it is difficult for a man to have any object in dail_se without leaving the impress of his individuality upon it in such a wa_hat a trained observer might read it. Now, I have here a watch which ha_ecently come into my possession. Would you have the kindness to let me hav_n opinion upon the character or habits of the late owner?"
I handed him over the watch with some slight feeling of amusement in my heart, for the test was, as I thought, an impossible one, and I intended it as _esson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which he occasionally assumed. H_alanced the watch in his hand, gazed hard at the dial, opened the back, an_xamined the works, first with his naked eyes and then with a powerful conve_ens. I could hardly keep from smiling at his crestfallen face when he finall_napped the case to and handed it back.
"There are hardly any data," he remarked. "The watch has been recentl_leaned, which robs me of my most suggestive facts. "
"You are right," I answered. "It was cleaned before being sent to me."
In my heart I accused my companion of putting forward a most lame and impoten_xcuse to cover his failure. What data could he expect from an uncleane_atch?
"Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely barren," h_bserved, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-lustre eyes. "Subject t_our correction, I should judge that the watch belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it from your father."
"That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W. upon the back?"
"Quite so. The W. suggests your own name. The date of the watch is nearl_ifty years back, and the initials are as old as the watch: so it was made fo_he last generation. Jewellery usually descends to the eldest son, and he i_ost likely to have the same name as the father. Your father has, if _emember right, been dead many years. It has, therefore, been in the hands o_our eldest brother."
"Right, so far," said I. "Anything else?"
"He was a man of untidy habits — very untidy and careless. He was left wit_ood prospects, but he threw away his chances, lived for some time in povert_ith occasional short intervals of prosperity, and finally, taking to drink, he died. That is all I can gather."
I sprang from my chair and limped impatiently about the room with considerabl_itterness in my heart.
"This is unworthy of you, Holmes," I said. "I could not have believed that yo_ould have descended to this. You have made inquiries into the history of m_nhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this knowledge in some fancifu_ay. You cannot expect me to believe that you have read all this from his ol_atch! It is unkind and, to speak plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it."
"My dear doctor," said he kindly, "pray accept my apologies. Viewing th_atter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten how personal and painful _hing it might be to you. I assure you, however, that I never even knew tha_ou had a brother until you handed me the watch."
"Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get these facts? The_re absolutely correct in every particular."
"Ah, that is good luck. I could only say what was the balance of probability.
I did not at all expect to be so accurate."
"But it was not mere guesswork?"
"No, no: I never guess. It is a shocking habit — destructive to the logica_aculty. What seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow m_rain of thought or observe the small facts upon which large inferences ma_epend. For example, I began by stating that your brother was careless. Whe_ou observe the lower part of that watch-case you notice that it is not onl_inted in two places but it is cut and marked all over from the habit o_eeping other hard objects, such as coins or keys, in the same pocket. Surel_t is no great feat to assume that a man who treats a fifty-guinea watch s_avalierly must be a careless man. Neither is it a very far-fetched inferenc_hat a man who inherits one article of such value is pretty well provided fo_n other respects."
I nodded to show that I followed his reasoning.
"It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a watch, t_cratch the numbers of the ticket with a pinpoint upon the inside of the case.
It is more handy than a label as there is no risk of the number being lost o_ransposed. There are no less than four such numbers visible to my lens on th_nside of this case. Inference — that your brother was often at low water.
Secondary inference — that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he coul_ot have redeemed the pledge. Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which contains the keyhole. Look at the thousands of scratches all round th_ole — marks where the key has slipped. What sober man's key could have score_hose grooves? But you will never see a drunkard's watch without them. H_inds it at night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady hand. Where i_he mystery in all this?"
"It is as clear as daylight," I answered. "I regret the injustice which I di_ou. I should have had more faith in your marvellous faculty. May I as_hether you have any professional inquiry on foot at present?"
"None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brainwork. What else is ther_o live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drift_cross the dun-coloured houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic an_aterial? What is the use of having powers, Doctor, when one has no field upo_hich to exert them? Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and n_ualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth."
I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade when, with a crisp knock, ou_andlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.
"A young lady for you, sir," she said, addressing my companion.
"Miss Mary Morstan," he read. "Hum! I have no recollection of the name. As_he young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson. Don't go, Doctor. I should prefer tha_ou remain."