Sherlock Holmes took his bottle
from the corner of the mantel-
piece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.
With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate
needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his
eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all
dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he
thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and
sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of
Three times a day for many
months I had witnessed this performance,
but custom had not reconciled
my mind to it. On the contrary,
from day to day I had become
more irritable at the sight,
and my conscience swelled nightly
within me at the thought that
I had lacked the courage to protest.
Again and again I had registered
a vow that I should deliver my
soul upon the subject; but there
was that in the cool, nonchalant
air of my companion which made
him the last man with whom one
would care to take anything approaching
to a liberty. His great powers,
his masterly manner, and the
experience which I had had of
his many extraor- dinary qualities,
all made me diffident and backward
in crossing him.
Yet upon that afternoon, whether
it was the Beaune which I had
taken with my lunch or the additional
exasperation produced by the
extreme deliberation of his manner,
I suddenly felt that I could
hold out no longer.
"Which is it to-day," I asked, "morphine
He raised his eyes languidly
from the old black-letter volume
which he had opened.
"It is cocaine," he said, "a
seven-per-cent solution. Would
you care to try it?"
"No, indeed," I answered brusquely. "My
constitution has not got over
the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot
afford to throw any extra strain
smiled at my
you are right, Wat- son," he
said. "I suppose that its influence
is physically a bad one. I find
it, however, so transcendently
stimulating and clarify- ing
to the mind that its secondary
action 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 which involves
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 hardly worth the candle. Why
should you, for a mere passing
pleasure, risk the loss of those
great powers with which you have
been endowed? Remember that I
speak not only as one comrade
to another but as a medical man
to one for whose constitution
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 for
"My mind," he said, "rebels
at stagnation. Give me prob-
lems, give me work, give me the
most abstruse cryptogram, or
the most intricate analysis,
and I am in my own proper atmo-
sphere. I can dispense then with
artificial stimulants. But I
abhor the dull routine of existence.
I crave for mental exaltation.
That is why I have chosen my
own particular profession, or
rather created it, for I am 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 and highest court of
appeal in detection. When Greg-
son, or Lestrade, or Athelney
Jones are out of their depths
-- which, by the way, is their
normal state -- the matter is
laid before me. I examine the
data, as an expert, and pronounce
a specialist's opinion. I claim
no credit in such cases. My name
figures in no newspaper. The
work itself, the pleasure of
finding a field for my peculiar
powers, is my highest reward.
But you have yourself had some
experience of my methods of work
in the Jefferson Hope case."
"Yes, indeed," said I cordially. "I
was never so struck by anything
in my life. I even embodied it
in a small brochure, with the
somewhat fantastic title 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 the same cold and
unemotional manner. You have
attempted to tinge it with romanticism,
which produces much the same
effect as if you worked a love-story
or an elopement into the fifth
proposition of Euclid."
"But the romance was there," I
remonstrated. "I could not tamper
with the facts."
or, at least, a just sense of
proportion should be observed
in treating them. The only point
in the case which deserved mention
was the curious analytical reasoning
from effects to causes, by which
I succeeded in unrav- elling
I was annoyed at this criticism
of a work which had been specially
designed to please him. I confess,
too, that I was irritated by
the egotism which seemed to demand
that every line of my pamphlet
should be devoted to his own
special doings. More than once
during the years that I had lived
with him in Baker Street I had
observed that a small vanity
underlay my companion's quiet
and didactic manner. I made no
remark however, but sat nursing
my wounded leg. I had had a Jezaii
bullet through it some time before,
and though it did not prevent
me from walking it ached wearily
at every change of the weather.
"My practice has extended recently
to the Continent," said Holmes
after a while, filling up his
old brier-root pipe. "I was consulted
last week by Francois le Villard,
who, as you probably know, has
come rather to the front lately
in the French detective service.
He has all the Celtic power of
quick intuition but he is deficient
in the wide range of exact knowledge
which is essential to the higher
developments of his art. The
case was concerned with a will
and possessed some features of
interest. I was able to refer
him to two parallel 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 had this morning acknowledging
He tossed over, as he spoke,
a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper.
I glanced my eyes down it, catching
a profusion of notes of admiration,
with stray magnifiques, coup-de-maitres
and tours-de-force, all testifying
to the ardent admiration of the
"He speaks as a pupil to his
master," said I.
"Oh, he rates my assistance
too highly," said Sherlock Holmes
lightly. "He has coosiderable
gifts himself. He possesses two
out of the three qualities necessary
for the ideal detective. He has
the power of observation and
that of deduction. He is only
wanting in knowledge, and that
may come in time. He is now translating
my small works into French."
"Oh, didn't you know?" he cried,
laughing. "Yes, I have been guilty
of several monographs. They are
all upon technical subjects.
Here, for example, is one 'Upon
the Distinction be- tween the
Ashes of the Various Tobaccos.'
In it I enumerate a hundred and
forty forms of cigar, cigarette,
and pipe tobacco, with coloured
plates illustrating the difference
in the ash. It is a point which
is continually turning up in
criminal trials, and which is
sometimes of supreme importance
as a clue. If you can say definitely,
for example, that some murder
had been done by a man who was
smoking an Indian lunkah, it
obviously narrows your field
of search. To the trained eye
there is as much differ- ence
between the black ash of a Trichinopoly
and the white fluff of bird's-eye
as there is between a cabbage
and a potato."
"You have an extraordinary
genius for minutiae," I remarked.
Here is my monograph upon the
tracing of footsteps, with some
remarks upon the uses of plaster
of Paris as a preserver of impresses.
Here, too, is a curious little
work upon the influence of a
trade upon the form of the hand,
with lithotypes of the hands
of slaters, sailors, cork- cutters,
compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers.
That is a matter of great practical
interest to the scientific detective
-- especially in cases of unclaimed
bodies, or in discovering the
antecedents of criminals. But
I 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 practical application of
it. But you spoke just now of
observation and deduction. Surely
the one to some extent implies
"Why, hardly," he answered,
leaning back luxuriously in his
armchair and sending up thick
blue wreaths from his pipe. "For
example, observation shows me
that you have been to the Wigmore
Street Post-Office this morning,
but deduction lets me know that
when there you dispatched a telegram."
"Right!" said I. "Right
on both points!
But I confess
I don't see how you arrived at
it. It was a sudden impulse upon
my part, and I have mentioned
it to no one."
"It is simplicity itself," he
remarked, chuckling at my surprise
-- "so absurdly simple that an
explanation is superfluous; and
yet it may serve to define the
limits of observation and of
deduction. Observation tells
me that you have a little reddish
mould adhering to your instep.
Just opposite the Wigmore Street
Office they have taken up the
pavement and thrown up some earth,
which lies in such a way that
it is difficult to avoid treading
in it in entering. The earth
is of this peculiar reddish tint
which is found, as far as I know,
nowhere else in the neigh- bourhood.
So much is observation. The rest
then, did you
of course I
knew that you
had not written
since I sat opposite to you all
morning. I see also in your open
desk there that you have a sheet
of 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 one
which remains must be the truth."
"In this case it certainly
is so," I replied after a little
thought. "The thing, however,
is, as you say, of the simplest.
Would you think me impertinent
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 dose of cocaine. I should
be delighted to look into any
problem which you might submit
you say it
for a man to
object in daily use without leaving
the impress of his individual-
ity upon it in such a way that
a trained observer might read
it. Now, I have here a watch
which has recently come into
my possession. Would you have
the kindness to let me have an
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 a lesson
against the some- what dogmatic
tone which he occasionally assumed.
He balanced the watch in his
hand, gazed hard at the dial,
opened the back, and examined
the works, first with his naked
eyes and then with a powerful
convex lens. I could hardly keep
from smiling at his crestfallen
face when he finally snapped
the case to and handed it back.
"There are hardly any data," he
remarked. "The watch has been
recently cleaned, which robs
me of my most suggestive facts. "
"You are right," I answered. "It
was cleaned before being sent
In my heart I accused my companion
of putting forward a most lame
and impotent excuse to cover
his failure. What data could
he expect from an uncleaned watch?
"Though unsatisfactory, my
research has not been entirely
barren," he observed, staring
up at the ceiling with dreamy,
lack-lustre eyes. "Subject to
your correction, I should judge
that the watch belonged to your
elder brother, who inherited
it from your father."
no doubt, from
the H. W. upon
so. The W.
own name. The
date of the
watch is nearly fifty years back,
and the initials are as old as
the watch: so it was made for
the last generation. Jewellery
usually descends to the eldest
son, and he is most likely to
have the same name as the father.
Your father has, if I remember
right, been dead many years.
It has, therefore, been in the
hands of your eldest brother."
"Right, so far," said I. "Anything
was a man of
-- very untidy and careless.
He was left with good prospects,
but he threw away his chances,
lived for some time in poverty
with 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 considerable bitterness
in my heart.
"This is unworthy of you, Holmes," I
said. "I could not have believed
that you would have descended
to this. You have made inquiries
into the history of my unhappy
brother, and you now pretend
to deduce this knowledge in some
fanciful way. You cannot expect
me to believe that you have read
all this from his old watch!
It is unkind and, to speak plainly,
has a touch of charlatanism in
"My dear doctor," said he kindly, "pray
accept my apolo- gies. Viewing
the matter as an abstract problem,
I had forgotten how personal
and painful a thing it might
be to you. I assure you, however,
that I never even knew that you
had a brother until you handed
me the watch."
how in the
name of all
that is wonderful did you get
these facts? They are absolutely
correct in every particular."
that is good
luck. I could
only say what was the balance
of probability. I did not at
all expect to be so accurate."
it was not
no: I never
guess. It is
habit -- destructive
to the logical faculty. What
seems strange to you is only
so because you do not follow
my train of thought or observe
the small facts upon which large
inferences may depend. For example,
I began by stating that your
brother was careless. When you
observe the lower part of that
watch-case you notice that it
is not only dinted in two places
but it is cut and marked all
over from the habit of keeping
other hard objects, such as coins
or keys, in the same pocket.
Surely it is no great feat to
assume that a man who treats
a fifty-guinea watch so cavalierly
must be a careless man. Nei-
ther is it a very far-fetched
inference that a man who inherits
one article of such value is
pretty well provided for in other
I nodded to show that I followed
is very customary
in England, when they take a
watch, to scratch the numbers
of the ticket with a pin- point
upon the inside of the case.
It is more handy than a label
as there is no risk of the number
being lost or transposed. There
are no less than four such numbers
visible to my lens on the inside
of this case. Inference -- that
your brother was often at low
water. Secondary inference --
that he had occasional bursts
of prosper- ity, or he could
not 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 the hole
-- marks where the key has slipped.
What sober man's key could have
scored those grooves? But you
will never see a drunkard's watch
without them. He winds it at
night, and he leaves these traces
of his unsteady hand. Where is
the mystery in all this?"
"It is as clear as daylight," I
answered. "I regret the injustice
which I did you. I should have
had more faith in your marvellous
faculty. May I ask whether you
have any professional inquiry
on foot at present?"
Hence the cocaine.
I cannot live
What else is there to 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 drifts
across the dun- coloured houses.
What could be more hopelessly
prosaic and material? What is
the use of having powers, Doctor,
when one has no field upon which
to exert them? Crime is commonplacc,
existence is commonplace, and
no qualities save those which
are commonplace have any function
I had opened my mouth to reply
to this tirade when, with a crisp
knock, our landlady entered,
bearing a card upon the brass
"A young lady for you, sir," she
said, addressing my companion.
"Miss Mary Morstan," he read. "Hum!
I have no recollec- tion of the
name. Ask the young lady to step
up, Mrs. Hudson. Don't go, Doctor.
I should prefer that you remain."