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A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

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This etext is prepared directly from an 1887 edition,
and care has been taken to duplicate the original exactly,
including typographical and punctuation vagaries.
Additions to the text include adding the underscore character (_)
to indicate italics, and textual end-notes in curly braces ({}).
Thanks to Randolph Cox for providing the book for etexting.
Etext prepared by Roger Squires rsquires@unm.edu





(_Being a reprint from the reminiscences of_ JOHN H. WATSON, M.D.,
_late of the Army Medical Department._) {2}



IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine
of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go
through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.
Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached
to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon.
The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before
I could join it, the second Afghan war had broken out.
On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced
through the passes, and was already deep in the enemy's
country. I followed, however, with many other officers
who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded
in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment,
and at once entered upon my new duties.

The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for
me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed
from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I
served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on
the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and
grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the
hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the
devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw
me across a pack-horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely
to the British lines.

Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which
I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded
sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawar. Here I rallied,
and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about
the wards, and even to bask a little upon the verandah,
when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our
Indian possessions. For months my life was despaired of,
and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent,
I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined
that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England.
I was dispatched, accordingly, in the troopship "Orontes,"
and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health
irretrievably ruined, but with permission from a paternal
government to spend the next nine months in attempting to
improve it.

I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as
free as air -- or as free as an income of eleven shillings
and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such
circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great
cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire
are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a
private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless,
meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had,
considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming did the
state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must
either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the
country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my
style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began
by making up my mind to leave the hotel, and to take up my
quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.

On the very day that I had come to this conclusion,
I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when some one tapped me
on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized young Stamford,
who had been a dresser under me at Barts. The sight of a
friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant
thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never
been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with
enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to
see me. In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with
me at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.

"Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?"
he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through
the crowded London streets. "You are as thin as a lath
and as brown as a nut."

I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly
concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.

"Poor devil!" he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened
to my misfortunes. "What are you up to now?"

"Looking for lodgings." {3} I answered. "Trying to solve the
problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms
at a reasonable price."

"That's a strange thing," remarked my companion; "you are
the second man to-day that has used that expression to me."

"And who was the first?" I asked.

"A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the
hospital. He was bemoaning himself this morning because he
could not get someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms
which he had found, and which were too much for his purse."

"By Jove!" I cried, "if he really wants someone to share the
rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should
prefer having a partner to being alone."

Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass.
"You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet," he said; "perhaps you would
not care for him as a constant companion."

"Why, what is there against him?"

"Oh, I didn't say there was anything against him. He is a
little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches
of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."

"A medical student, I suppose?" said I.

"No -- I have no idea what he intends to go in for.
I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class
chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out any
systematic medical classes. His studies are very desultory
and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way
knowledge which would astonish his professors."

"Did you never ask him what he was going in for?" I asked.

"No; he is not a man that it is easy to draw out, though he
can be communicative enough when the fancy seizes him."

"I should like to meet him," I said. "If I am to lodge with
anyone, I should prefer a man of studious and quiet habits.
I am not strong enough yet to stand much noise or excitement.
I had enough of both in Afghanistan to last me for the
remainder of my natural existence. How could I meet this
friend of yours?"

"He is sure to be at the laboratory," returned my companion.
"He either avoids the place for weeks, or else he works there
from morning to night. If you like, we shall drive round
together after luncheon."

"Certainly," I answered, and the conversation drifted away
into other channels.

As we made our way to the hospital after leaving the Holborn,
Stamford gave me a few more particulars about the gentleman
whom I proposed to take as a fellow-lodger.

"You mustn't blame me if you don't get on with him," he said;
"I know nothing more of him than I have learned from meeting
him occasionally in the laboratory. You proposed this
arrangement, so you must not hold me responsible."

"If we don't get on it will be easy to part company," I answered.
"It seems to me, Stamford," I added, looking hard at my companion,
"that you have some reason for washing your hands of the matter.
Is this fellow's temper so formidable, or what is it?
Don't be mealy-mouthed about it."

"It is not easy to express the inexpressible," he answered
with a laugh. "Holmes is a little too scientific for my
tastes -- it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine
his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable
alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply
out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea
of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would
take it himself with the same readiness. He appears to have
a passion for definite and exact knowledge."

"Very right too."

"Yes, but it may be pushed to excess. When it comes to
beating the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick,
it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape."

"Beating the subjects!"

"Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death.
I saw him at it with my own eyes."

"And yet you say he is not a medical student?"

"No. Heaven knows what the objects of his studies are.
But here we are, and you must form your own impressions about
him." As he spoke, we turned down a narrow lane and passed
through a small side-door, which opened into a wing of the
great hospital. It was familiar ground to me, and I needed
no guiding as we ascended the bleak stone staircase and made
our way down the long corridor with its vista of whitewashed
wall and dun-coloured doors. Near the further end a low
arched passage branched away from it and led to the chemical

This was a lofty chamber, lined and littered with countless
bottles. Broad, low tables were scattered about, which
bristled with retorts, test-tubes, and little Bunsen lamps,
with their blue flickering flames. There was only one
student in the room, who was bending over a distant table
absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced
round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure.
"I've found it! I've found it," he shouted to my companion,
running towards us with a test-tube in his hand. "I have
found a re-agent which is precipitated by hoemoglobin, {4}
and by nothing else." Had he discovered a gold mine, greater
delight could not have shone upon his features.

"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, introducing us.

"How are you?" he said cordially, gripping my hand with a
strength for which I should hardly have given him credit.
"You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."

"How on earth did you know that?" I asked in astonishment.

"Never mind," said he, chuckling to himself. "The question
now is about hoemoglobin. No doubt you see the significance
of this discovery of mine?"

"It is interesting, chemically, no doubt," I answered,
"but practically ----"

"Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal discovery
for years. Don't you see that it gives us an infallible test
for blood stains. Come over here now!" He seized me by the
coat-sleeve in his eagerness, and drew me over to the table
at which he had been working. "Let us have some fresh blood,"
he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger, and drawing off
the resulting drop of blood in a chemical pipette. "Now, I add
this small quantity of blood to a litre of water. You perceive
that the resulting mixture has the appearance of pure water.
The proportion of blood cannot be more than one in a million.
I have no doubt, however, that we shall be able to obtain the
characteristic reaction." As he spoke, he threw into the vessel
a few white crystals, and then added some drops of a transparent
fluid. In an instant the contents assumed a dull mahogany colour,
and a brownish dust was precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar.

"Ha! ha!" he cried, clapping his hands, and looking as delighted
as a child with a new toy. "What do you think of that?"

"It seems to be a very delicate test," I remarked.

"Beautiful! beautiful! The old Guiacum test was very clumsy
and uncertain. So is the microscopic examination for blood
corpuscles. The latter is valueless if the stains are a few
hours old. Now, this appears to act as well whether the
blood is old or new. Had this test been invented, there are
hundreds of men now walking the earth who would long ago have
paid the penalty of their crimes."

"Indeed!" I murmured.

"Criminal cases are continually hinging upon that one point.
A man is suspected of a crime months perhaps after it has
been committed. His linen or clothes are examined, and
brownish stains discovered upon them. Are they blood stains,
or mud stains, or rust stains, or fruit stains, or what are
they? That is a question which has puzzled many an expert,
and why? Because there was no reliable test. Now we have
the Sherlock Holmes' test, and there will no longer be any

His eyes fairly glittered as he spoke, and he put his hand
over his heart and bowed as if to some applauding crowd
conjured up by his imagination.

"You are to be congratulated," I remarked, considerably
surprised at his enthusiasm.

"There was the case of Von Bischoff at Frankfort last year.
He would certainly have been hung had this test been in
existence. Then there was Mason of Bradford, and the
notorious Muller, and Lefevre of Montpellier, and Samson of
new Orleans. I could name a score of cases in which it would
have been decisive."

"You seem to be a walking calendar of crime," said Stamford
with a laugh. "You might start a paper on those lines.
Call it the `Police News of the Past.'"

"Very interesting reading it might be made, too," remarked
Sherlock Holmes, sticking a small piece of plaster over the
prick on his finger. "I have to be careful," he continued,
turning to me with a smile, "for I dabble with poisons a good
deal." He held out his hand as he spoke, and I noticed that
it was all mottled over with similar pieces of plaster, and
discoloured with strong acids.

"We came here on business," said Stamford, sitting down on a
high three-legged stool, and pushing another one in my direction
with his foot. "My friend here wants to take diggings, and as
you were complaining that you could get no one to go halves with
you, I thought that I had better bring you together."

Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his
rooms with me. "I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,"
he said, "which would suit us down to the ground. You don't
mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?"

"I always smoke `ship's' myself," I answered.

"That's good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and
occasionally do experiments. Would that annoy you?"

"By no means."

"Let me see -- what are my other shortcomings. I get in the
dumps at times, and don't open my mouth for days on end.
You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone,
and I'll soon be right. What have you to confess now? It's
just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another
before they begin to live together."

I laughed at this cross-examination. "I keep a bull pup,"
I said, "and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken,
and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely
lazy. I have another set of vices when I'm well, but those
are the principal ones at present."

"Do you include violin-playing in your category of rows?"
he asked, anxiously.

"It depends on the player," I answered. "A well-played violin
is a treat for the gods -- a badly-played one ----"

"Oh, that's all right," he cried, with a merry laugh.
"I think we may consider the thing as settled -- that is,
if the rooms are agreeable to you."

"When shall we see them?"

"Call for me here at noon to-morrow, and we'll go together
and settle everything," he answered.

"All right -- noon exactly," said I, shaking his hand.

We left him working among his chemicals, and we walked
together towards my hotel.

"By the way," I asked suddenly, stopping and turning upon
Stamford, "how the deuce did he know that I had come from

My companion smiled an enigmatical smile. "That's just his
little peculiarity," he said. "A good many people have
wanted to know how he finds things out."

"Oh! a mystery is it?" I cried, rubbing my hands.
"This is very piquant. I am much obliged to you for bringing
us together. `The proper study of mankind is man,' you know."

"You must study him, then," Stamford said, as he bade me good-bye.
"You'll find him a knotty problem, though. I'll wager he learns
more about you than you about him. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," I answered, and strolled on to my hotel,
considerably interested in my new acquaintance.



WE met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms
at No. 221B, {5} Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our
meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms
and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished,
and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every
way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem
when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon
the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very
evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the
following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several
boxes and portmanteaus. For a day or two we were busily
employed in unpacking and laying out our property to the best
advantage. That done, we gradually began to settle down and
to accommodate ourselves to our new surroundings.

Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with.
He was quiet in his ways, and his habits were regular.
It was rare for him to be up after ten at night, and he had
invariably breakfasted and gone out before I rose in the
morning. Sometimes he spent his day at the chemical
laboratory, sometimes in the dissecting-rooms, and
occasionally in long walks, which appeared to take him into
the lowest portions of the City. Nothing could exceed his
energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again
a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie
upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or
moving a muscle from morning to night. On these occasions
I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes,
that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use
of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of
his whole life forbidden such a notion.

As the weeks went by, my interest in him and my curiosity
as to his aims in life, gradually deepened and increased.
His very person and appearance were such as to strike the
attention of the most casual observer. In height he was
rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed
to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing,
save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded;
and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air
of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence
and squareness which mark the man of determination. His hands
were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals,
yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch,
as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him
manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments.

The reader may set me down as a hopeless busybody,
when I confess how much this man stimulated my curiosity,
and how often I endeavoured to break through the reticence
which he showed on all that concerned himself. Before
pronouncing judgment, however, be it remembered, how objectless
was my life, and how little there was to engage my attention.
My health forbade me from venturing out unless the weather
was exceptionally genial, and I had no friends who would call
upon me and break the monotony of my daily existence.
Under these circumstances, I eagerly hailed the little mystery
which hung around my companion, and spent much of my time in
endeavouring to unravel it.

He was not studying medicine. He had himself, in reply
to a question, confirmed Stamford's opinion upon that point.
Neither did he appear to have pursued any course of reading
which might fit him for a degree in science or any other
recognized portal which would give him an entrance into the
learned world. Yet his zeal for certain studies was
remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so
extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have
fairly astounded me. Surely no man would work so hard or
attain such precise information unless he had some definite
end in view. Desultory readers are seldom remarkable for the
exactness of their learning. No man burdens his mind with
small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so.

His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.
Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared
to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle,
he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had
done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found
incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory
and of the composition of the Solar System. That any
civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not
be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to
be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly
realize it.

"You appear to be astonished," he said, smiling at my
expression of surprise. "Now that I do know it I shall do my
best to forget it."

"To forget it!"

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain
originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to
stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in
all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that
the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out,
or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that
he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the
skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes
into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools
which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has
a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.
It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic
walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes
a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something
that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore,
not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

"But the Solar System!" I protested.

"What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently;
"you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it
would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."

I was on the point of asking him what that work might be,
but something in his manner showed me that the question would
be an unwelcome one. I pondered over our short conversation,
however, and endeavoured to draw my deductions from it.
He said that he would acquire no knowledge which did not bear
upon his object. Therefore all the knowledge which he
possessed was such as would be useful to him. I enumerated
in my own mind all the various points upon which he had shown
me that he was exceptionally well-informed. I even took a
pencil and jotted them down. I could not help smiling at the
document when I had completed it. It ran in this way --

SHERLOCK HOLMES -- his limits.

1. Knowledge of Literature. -- Nil.
2. Philosophy. -- Nil.
3. Astronomy. -- Nil.
4. Politics. -- Feeble.
5. Botany. -- Variable. Well up in belladonna,
opium, and poisons generally.
Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Geology. -- Practical, but limited.
Tells at a glance different soils
from each other. After walks has
shown me splashes upon his trousers,
and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London
he had received them.
7. Chemistry. -- Profound.
8. Anatomy. -- Accurate, but unsystematic.
9. Sensational Literature. -- Immense. He appears
to know every detail of every horror
perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

When I had got so far in my list I threw it into the fire in
despair. "If I can only find what the fellow is driving at
by reconciling all these accomplishments, and discovering a
calling which needs them all," I said to myself, "I may as
well give up the attempt at once."

I see that I have alluded above to his powers upon the violin.
These were very remarkable, but as eccentric as all his other
accomplishments. That he could play pieces, and difficult pieces,
I knew well, because at my request he has played me some of
Mendelssohn's Lieder, and other favourites.
When left to himself, however, he would seldom produce any
music or attempt any recognized air. Leaning back in his
arm-chair of an evening, he would close his eyes and scrape
carelessly at the fiddle which was thrown across his knee.
Sometimes the chords were sonorous and melancholy.
Occasionally they were fantastic and cheerful. Clearly they
reflected the thoughts which possessed him, but whether the
music aided those thoughts, or whether the playing was simply
the result of a whim or fancy was more than I could determine.
I might have rebelled against these exasperating solos had it
not been that he usually terminated them by playing in quick
succession a whole series of my favourite airs as a slight
compensation for the trial upon my patience.

During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had
begun to think that my companion was as friendless a man as
I was myself. Presently, however, I found that he had many
acquaintances, and those in the most different classes of
society. There was one little sallow rat-faced, dark-eyed
fellow who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade, and who came
three or four times in a single week. One morning a young
girl called, fashionably dressed, and stayed for half an hour
or more. The same afternoon brought a grey-headed, seedy
visitor, looking like a Jew pedlar, who appeared to me to be
much excited, and who was closely followed by a slip-shod
elderly woman. On another occasion an old white-haired
gentleman had an interview with my companion; and on another
a railway porter in his velveteen uniform. When any of these
nondescript individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes
used to beg for the use of the sitting-room, and I would
retire to my bed-room. He always apologized to me for
putting me to this inconvenience. "I have to use this room
as a place of business," he said, "and these people are my
clients." Again I had an opportunity of asking him a point
blank question, and again my delicacy prevented me from
forcing another man to confide in me. I imagined at the time
that he had some strong reason for not alluding to it, but he
soon dispelled the idea by coming round to the subject of his
own accord.

It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason to remember,
that I rose somewhat earlier than usual, and found that Sherlock
Holmes had not yet finished his breakfast. The landlady had
become so accustomed to my late habits that my place had not been
laid nor my coffee prepared. With the unreasonable petulance
of mankind I rang the bell and gave a curt intimation that I was
ready. Then I picked up a magazine from the table and attempted
to while away the time with it, while my companion munched
silently at his toast. One of the articles had a pencil mark
at the heading, and I naturally began to run my eye through it.

Its somewhat ambitious title was "The Book of Life," and it
attempted to show how much an observant man might learn by an
accurate and systematic examination of all that came in his
way. It struck me as being a remarkable mixture of
shrewdness and of absurdity. The reasoning was close and
intense, but the deductions appeared to me to be far-fetched
and exaggerated. The writer claimed by a momentary expression,
a twitch of a muscle or a glance of an eye, to fathom a man's
inmost thoughts. Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility
in the case of one trained to observation and analysis.
His conclusions were as infallible as so many propositions
of Euclid. So startling would his results appear to the
uninitiated that until they learned the processes by which he had
arrived at them they might well consider him as a necromancer.

"From a drop of water," said the writer, "a logician could
infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without
having seen or heard of one or the other. So all life is
a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are
shown a single link of it. Like all other arts, the Science
of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired
by long and patient study nor is life long enough to allow
any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it.
Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the
matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the
enquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.
Let him, on meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to
distinguish the history of the man, and the trade or
profession to which he belongs. Puerile as such an exercise
may seem, it sharpens the faculties of observation, and
teaches one where to look and what to look for. By a man's
finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser
knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his
expression, by his shirt cuffs -- by each of these things a
man's calling is plainly revealed. That all united should
fail to enlighten the competent enquirer in any case is
almost inconceivable."

"What ineffable twaddle!" I cried, slapping the magazine down
on the table, "I never read such rubbish in my life."

"What is it?" asked Sherlock Holmes.

"Why, this article," I said, pointing at it with my egg spoon
as I sat down to my breakfast. "I see that you have read it
since you have marked it. I don't deny that it is smartly
written. It irritates me though. It is evidently the theory
of some arm-chair lounger who evolves all these neat little
paradoxes in the seclusion of his own study. It is not
practical. I should like to see him clapped down in a third
class carriage on the Underground, and asked to give the
trades of all his fellow-travellers. I would lay a thousand
to one against him."

"You would lose your money," Sherlock Holmes remarked calmly.
"As for the article I wrote it myself."


"Yes, I have a turn both for observation and for deduction.
The theories which I have expressed there, and which appear
to you to be so chimerical are really extremely practical --
so practical that I depend upon them for my bread and cheese."

"And how?" I asked involuntarily.

"Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one
in the world. I'm a consulting detective, if you can
understand what that is. Here in London we have lots of
Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these
fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put
them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before
me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of
the history of crime, to set them straight. There is a
strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all
the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if
you can't unravel the thousand and first. Lestrade is a
well-known detective. He got himself into a fog recently
over a forgery case, and that was what brought him here."

"And these other people?"

"They are mostly sent on by private inquiry agencies.
They are all people who are in trouble about something,
and want a little enlightening. I listen to their story,
they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee."

"But do you mean to say," I said, "that without leaving your
room you can unravel some knot which other men can make nothing
of, although they have seen every detail for themselves?"

"Quite so. I have a kind of intuition that way.
Now and again a case turns up which is a little more complex.
Then I have to bustle about and see things with my own eyes.
You see I have a lot of special knowledge which I apply to
the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.
Those rules of deduction laid down in that article which
aroused your scorn, are invaluable to me in practical work.
Observation with me is second nature. You appeared to be
surprised when I told you, on our first meeting, that you had
come from Afghanistan."

"You were told, no doubt."

"Nothing of the sort. I _knew_ you came from Afghanistan.
From long habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through
my mind, that I arrived at the conclusion without being
conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps,
however. The train of reasoning ran, `Here is a gentleman of
a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly
an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics,
for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his
skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and
sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has
been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner.
Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen
much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.'
The whole train of thought did not occupy a second. I then
remarked that you came from Afghanistan, and you were astonished."

"It is simple enough as you explain it," I said, smiling.
"You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe's Dupin. I had no idea
that such individuals did exist outside of stories."

Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. "No doubt you think
that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,"
he observed. "Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior
fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends'
thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's
silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some
analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such
a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine."

"Have you read Gaboriau's works?" I asked.
"Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?"

Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. "Lecoq was a miserable
bungler," he said, in an angry voice; "he had only one thing
to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me
positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown
prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq
took six months or so. It might be made a text-book for
detectives to teach them what to avoid."

I felt rather indignant at having two characters whom I had
admired treated in this cavalier style. I walked over to the
window, and stood looking out into the busy street.
"This fellow may be very clever," I said to myself, "but he
is certainly very conceited."

"There are no crimes and no criminals in these days," he said,
querulously. "What is the use of having brains in our
profession. I know well that I have it in me to make my name
famous. No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the
same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection
of crime which I have done. And what is the result? There
is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villany
with a motive so transparent that even a Scotland Yard
official can see through it."

I was still annoyed at his bumptious style of conversation.
I thought it best to change the topic.

"I wonder what that fellow is looking for?" I asked, pointing
to a stalwart, plainly-dressed individual who was walking
slowly down the other side of the street, looking anxiously
at the numbers. He had a large blue envelope in his hand,
and was evidently the bearer of a message.

"You mean the retired sergeant of Marines," said Sherlock Holmes.

"Brag and bounce!" thought I to myself. "He knows that I
cannot verify his guess."

The thought had hardly passed through my mind when the man
whom we were watching caught sight of the number on our door,
and ran rapidly across the roadway. We heard a loud knock,
a deep voice below, and heavy steps ascending the stair.

"For Mr. Sherlock Holmes," he said, stepping into the room
and handing my friend the letter.

Here was an opportunity of taking the conceit out of him.
He little thought of this when he made that random shot.
"May I ask, my lad," I said, in the blandest voice,
"what your trade may be?"

"Commissionaire, sir," he said, gruffly.
"Uniform away for repairs."

"And you were?" I asked, with a slightly malicious glance
at my companion.

"A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry, sir.
No answer? Right, sir."

He clicked his heels together, raised his hand in a salute,
and was gone.



I CONFESS that I was considerably startled by this fresh
proof of the practical nature of my companion's theories.
My respect for his powers of analysis increased wondrously.
There still remained some lurking suspicion in my mind,
however, that the whole thing was a pre-arranged episode,
intended to dazzle me, though what earthly object he could
have in taking me in was past my comprehension.
When I looked at him he had finished reading the note,
and his eyes had assumed the vacant, lack-lustre expression
which showed mental abstraction.

"How in the world did you deduce that?" I asked.

"Deduce what?" said he, petulantly.

"Why, that he was a retired sergeant of Marines."

"I have no time for trifles," he answered, brusquely;
then with a smile, "Excuse my rudeness. You broke the thread
of my thoughts; but perhaps it is as well. So you actually were
not able to see that that man was a sergeant of Marines?"

"No, indeed."

"It was easier to know it than to explain why I knew it.
If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might
find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact.
Even across the street I could see a great blue anchor
tattooed on the back of the fellow's hand. That smacked of
the sea. He had a military carriage, however, and regulation
side whiskers. There we have the marine. He was a man with
some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command.
You must have observed the way in which he held his head and
swung his cane. A steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too,
on the face of him -- all facts which led me to believe that
he had been a sergeant."

"Wonderful!" I ejaculated.

"Commonplace," said Holmes, though I thought from his
expression that he was pleased at my evident surprise and
admiration. "I said just now that there were no criminals.
It appears that I am wrong -- look at this!" He threw me
over the note which the commissionaire had brought." {7}

"Why," I cried, as I cast my eye over it, "this is terrible!"

"It does seem to be a little out of the common," he remarked,
calmly. "Would you mind reading it to me aloud?"

This is the letter which I read to him ----

"MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES, -- "There has been a bad
business during the night at 3, Lauriston Gardens, off the
Brixton Road. Our man on the beat saw a light there about
two in the morning, and as the house was an empty one,
suspected that something was amiss. He found the door open,
and in the front room, which is bare of furniture, discovered
the body of a gentleman, well dressed, and having cards in
his pocket bearing the name of `Enoch J. Drebber, Cleveland,
Ohio, U.S.A.' There had been no robbery, nor is there any
evidence as to how the man met his death. There are marks
of blood in the room, but there is no wound upon his person.
We are at a loss as to how he came into the empty house;
indeed, the whole affair is a puzzler. If you can come round
to the house any time before twelve, you will find me there.
I have left everything _in statu quo_ until I hear from you.
If you are unable to come I shall give you fuller details,
and would esteem it a great kindness if you would favour me
with your opinion. Yours faithfully, "TOBIAS GREGSON."

"Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland Yarders,"
my friend remarked; "he and Lestrade are the pick of a bad lot.
They are both quick and energetic, but conventional -- shockingly
so. They have their knives into one another, too. They are
as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There will be
some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent."

I was amazed at the calm way in which he rippled on.
"Surely there is not a moment to be lost," I cried,
"shall I go and order you a cab?"

"I'm not sure about whether I shall go. I am the most
incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather -- that is,
when the fit is on me, for I can be spry enough at times."

"Why, it is just such a chance as you have been longing for."

"My dear fellow, what does it matter to me.
Supposing I unravel the whole matter, you may be sure that
Gregson, Lestrade, and Co. will pocket all the credit.
That comes of being an unofficial personage."

"But he begs you to help him."

"Yes. He knows that I am his superior, and acknowledges it
to me; but he would cut his tongue out before he would own it
to any third person. However, we may as well go and have a
look. I shall work it out on my own hook. I may have a
laugh at them if I have nothing else. Come on!"

He hustled on his overcoat, and bustled about in a way that
showed that an energetic fit had superseded the apathetic one.

"Get your hat," he said.

"You wish me to come?"

"Yes, if you have nothing better to do." A minute later we
were both in a hansom, driving furiously for the Brixton Road.

It was a foggy, cloudy morning, and a dun-coloured veil hung
over the house-tops, looking like the reflection of the
mud-coloured streets beneath. My companion was in the best
of spirits, and prattled away about Cremona fiddles, and the
difference between a Stradivarius and an Amati. As for
myself, I was silent, for the dull weather and the melancholy
business upon which we were engaged, depressed my spirits.

"You don't seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,"
I said at last, interrupting Holmes' musical disquisition.

"No data yet," he answered. "It is a capital mistake to theorize
before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment."

"You will have your data soon," I remarked, pointing with
my finger; "this is the Brixton Road, and that is the house,
if I am not very much mistaken."

"So it is. Stop, driver, stop!" We were still a hundred yards
or so from it, but he insisted upon our alighting, and we
finished our journey upon foot.

Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an ill-omened and minatory look.
It was one of four which stood back some little way from the
street, two being occupied and two empty. The latter looked
out with three tiers of vacant melancholy windows, which were
blank and dreary, save that here and there a "To Let" card had
developed like a cataract upon the bleared panes. A small garden
sprinkled over with a scattered eruption of sickly plants
separated each of these houses from the street, and was traversed
by a narrow pathway, yellowish in colour, and consisting
apparently of a mixture of clay and of gravel. The whole place
was very sloppy from the rain which had fallen through the night.
The garden was bounded by a three-foot brick wall with a fringe
of wood rails upon the top, and against this wall was leaning a
stalwart police constable, surrounded by a small knot of loafers,
who craned their necks and strained their eyes in the vain hope
of catching some glimpse of the proceedings within.

I had imagined that Sherlock Holmes would at once have
hurried into the house and plunged into a study of the
mystery. Nothing appeared to be further from his intention.
With an air of nonchalance which, under the circumstances,
seemed to me to border upon affectation, he lounged up and
down the pavement, and gazed vacantly at the ground, the sky,
the opposite houses and the line of railings. Having
finished his scrutiny, he proceeded slowly down the path,
or rather down the fringe of grass which flanked the path,
keeping his eyes riveted upon the ground. Twice he stopped,
and once I saw him smile, and heard him utter an exclamation
of satisfaction. There were many marks of footsteps upon the
wet clayey soil, but since the police had been coming and
going over it, I was unable to see how my companion could
hope to learn anything from it. Still I had had such
extraordinary evidence of the quickness of his perceptive
faculties, that I had no doubt that he could see a great deal
which was hidden from me.

At the door of the house we were met by a tall, white-faced,
flaxen-haired man, with a notebook in his hand, who rushed
forward and wrung my companion's hand with effusion.
"It is indeed kind of you to come," he said, "I have had
everything left untouched."

"Except that!" my friend answered, pointing at the pathway.
"If a herd of buffaloes had passed along there could not be
a greater mess. No doubt, however, you had drawn your own
conclusions, Gregson, before you permitted this."

"I have had so much to do inside the house," the detective
said evasively. "My colleague, Mr. Lestrade, is here.
I had relied upon him to look after this."

Holmes glanced at me and raised his eyebrows sardonically.
"With two such men as yourself and Lestrade upon the ground,
there will not be much for a third party to find out," he said.

Gregson rubbed his hands in a self-satisfied way.
"I think we have done all that can be done," he answered;
"it's a queer case though, and I knew your taste for such things."

"You did not come here in a cab?" asked Sherlock Holmes.

"No, sir."

"Nor Lestrade?"

"No, sir."

"Then let us go and look at the room." With which
inconsequent remark he strode on into the house, followed by
Gregson, whose features expressed his astonishment.

A short passage, bare planked and dusty, led to the kitchen
and offices. Two doors opened out of it to the left and to
the right. One of these had obviously been closed for many
weeks. The other belonged to the dining-room, which was the
apartment in which the mysterious affair had occurred.
Holmes walked in, and I followed him with that subdued
feeling at my heart which the presence of death inspires.

It was a large square room, looking all the larger from the
absence of all furniture. A vulgar flaring paper adorned the
walls, but it was blotched in places with mildew, and here
and there great strips had become detached and hung down,
exposing the yellow plaster beneath. Opposite the door was
a showy fireplace, surmounted by a mantelpiece of imitation
white marble. On one corner of this was stuck the stump of
a red wax candle. The solitary window was so dirty that the
light was hazy and uncertain, giving a dull grey tinge to
everything, which was intensified by the thick layer of dust
which coated the whole apartment.

All these details I observed afterwards. At present my
attention was centred upon the single grim motionless figure
which lay stretched upon the boards, with vacant sightless
eyes staring up at the discoloured ceiling. It was that of a
man about forty-three or forty-four years of age, middle-sized,
broad shouldered, with crisp curling black hair, and a
short stubbly beard. He was dressed in a heavy broadcloth
frock coat and waistcoat, with light-coloured trousers, and
immaculate collar and cuffs. A top hat, well brushed and
trim, was placed upon the floor beside him. His hands were
clenched and his arms thrown abroad, while his lower limbs
were interlocked as though his death struggle had been a
grievous one. On his rigid face there stood an expression
of horror, and as it seemed to me, of hatred, such as I have
never seen upon human features. This malignant and terrible
contortion, combined with the low forehead, blunt nose, and
prognathous jaw gave the dead man a singularly simious and
ape-like appearance, which was increased by his writhing,
unnatural posture. I have seen death in many forms, but
never has it appeared to me in a more fearsome aspect than
in that dark grimy apartment, which looked out upon one of
the main arteries of suburban London.

Lestrade, lean and ferret-like as ever, was standing by the
doorway, and greeted my companion and myself.

"This case will make a stir, sir," he remarked.
"It beats anything I have seen, and I am no chicken."

"There is no clue?" said Gregson.

"None at all," chimed in Lestrade.

Sherlock Holmes approached the body, and, kneeling down,
examined it intently. "You are sure that there is no wound?"
he asked, pointing to numerous gouts and splashes of blood
which lay all round.

"Positive!" cried both detectives.

"Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second individual -- {8}
presumably the murderer, if murder has been committed.
It reminds me of the circumstances attendant on the death
of Van Jansen, in Utrecht, in the year '34. Do you remember
the case, Gregson?"

"No, sir."

"Read it up -- you really should. There is nothing new under
the sun. It has all been done before."

As he spoke, his nimble fingers were flying here, there,
and everywhere, feeling, pressing, unbuttoning, examining,
while his eyes wore the same far-away expression which I have
already remarked upon. So swiftly was the examination made,
that one would hardly have guessed the minuteness with which
it was conducted. Finally, he sniffed the dead man's lips,
and then glanced at the soles of his patent leather boots.

"He has not been moved at all?" he asked.

"No more than was necessary for the purposes of our examination."

"You can take him to the mortuary now," he said.
"There is nothing more to be learned."

Gregson had a stretcher and four men at hand. At his call
they entered the room, and the stranger was lifted and
carried out. As they raised him, a ring tinkled down and
rolled across the floor. Lestrade grabbed it up and stared
at it with mystified eyes.

"There's been a woman here," he cried. "It's a woman's

He held it out, as he spoke, upon the palm of his hand.
We all gathered round him and gazed at it. There could be no
doubt that that circlet of plain gold had once adorned the
finger of a bride.

"This complicates matters," said Gregson. "Heaven knows,
they were complicated enough before."

"You're sure it doesn't simplify them?" observed Holmes.
"There's nothing to be learned by staring at it.
What did you find in his pockets?"

"We have it all here," said Gregson, pointing to a litter
of objects upon one of the bottom steps of the stairs.
"A gold watch, No. 97163, by Barraud, of London. Gold Albert
chain, very heavy and solid. Gold ring, with masonic device.
Gold pin -- bull-dog's head, with rubies as eyes.
Russian leather card-case, with cards of Enoch J. Drebber
of Cleveland, corresponding with the E. J. D. upon the linen.
No purse, but loose money to the extent of seven pounds thirteen.
Pocket edition of Boccaccio's `Decameron,' with name of
Joseph Stangerson upon the fly-leaf. Two letters -- one
addressed to E. J. Drebber and one to Joseph Stangerson."

"At what address?"

"American Exchange, Strand -- to be left till called for.
They are both from the Guion Steamship Company, and refer to
the sailing of their boats from Liverpool. It is clear that
this unfortunate man was about to return to New York."

"Have you made any inquiries as to this man, Stangerson?"

"I did it at once, sir," said Gregson. "I have had advertisements
sent to all the newspapers, and one of my men has gone to the
American Exchange, but he has not returned yet."

"Have you sent to Cleveland?"

"We telegraphed this morning."

"How did you word your inquiries?"

"We simply detailed the circumstances, and said that we
should be glad of any information which could help us."

"You did not ask for particulars on any point which appeared
to you to be crucial?"

"I asked about Stangerson."

"Nothing else? Is there no circumstance on which this whole
case appears to hinge? Will you not telegraph again?"

"I have said all I have to say," said Gregson,
in an offended voice.

Sherlock Holmes chuckled to himself, and appeared to be about
to make some remark, when Lestrade, who had been in the front
room while we were holding this conversation in the hall,
reappeared upon the scene, rubbing his hands in a pompous and
self-satisfied manner.

"Mr. Gregson," he said, "I have just made a discovery of the
highest importance, and one which would have been overlooked
had I not made a careful examination of the walls."

The little man's eyes sparkled as he spoke, and he was
evidently in a state of suppressed exultation at having
scored a point against his colleague.

"Come here," he said, bustling back into the room,
the atmosphere of which felt clearer since the removal
of its ghastly inmate. "Now, stand there!"

He struck a match on his boot and held it up against the wall.

"Look at that!" he said, triumphantly.

I have remarked that the paper had fallen away in parts.
In this particular corner of the room a large piece had peeled
off, leaving a yellow square of coarse plastering. Across
this bare space there was scrawled in blood-red letters a
single word --


"What do you think of that?" cried the detective, with the
air of a showman exhibiting his show. "This was overlooked
because it was in the darkest corner of the room, and no one
thought of looking there. The murderer has written it with
his or her own blood. See this smear where it has trickled
down the wall! That disposes of the idea of suicide anyhow.
Why was that corner chosen to write it on? I will tell you.
See that candle on the mantelpiece. It was lit at the time,
and if it was lit this corner would be the brightest instead
of the darkest portion of the wall."

"And what does it mean now that you _have_ found it?" asked
Gregson in a depreciatory voice.

"Mean? Why, it means that the writer was going to put the
female name Rachel, but was disturbed before he or she had
time to finish. You mark my words, when this case comes to
be cleared up you will find that a woman named Rachel has
something to do with it. It's all very well for you to laugh,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You may be very smart and clever,
but the old hound is the best, when all is said and done."

"I really beg your pardon!" said my companion, who had
ruffled the little man's temper by bursting into an explosion
of laughter. "You certainly have the credit of being the
first of us to find this out, and, as you say, it bears every
mark of having been written by the other participant in last
night's mystery. I have not had time to examine this room
yet, but with your permission I shall do so now."

As he spoke, he whipped a tape measure and a large round
magnifying glass from his pocket. With these two implements
he trotted noiselessly about the room, sometimes stopping,
occasionally kneeling, and once lying flat upon his face.
So engrossed was he with his occupation that he appeared to
have forgotten our presence, for he chattered away to himself
under his breath the whole time, keeping up a running fire of
exclamations, groans, whistles, and little cries suggestive
of encouragement and of hope. As I watched him I was
irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded well-trained foxhound
as it dashes backwards and forwards through the covert,
whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost
scent. For twenty minutes or more he continued his
researches, measuring with the most exact care the distance
between marks which were entirely invisible to me, and
occasionally applying his tape to the walls in an equally
incomprehensible manner. In one place he gathered up very
carefully a little pile of grey dust from the floor, and
packed it away in an envelope. Finally, he examined with his
glass the word upon the wall, going over every letter of it
with the most minute exactness. This done, he appeared to be
satisfied, for he replaced his tape and his glass in his pocket.

"They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking
pains," he remarked with a smile. "It's a very bad
definition, but it does apply to detective work."

Gregson and Lestrade had watched the manoeuvres {9} of their
amateur companion with considerable curiosity and some
contempt. They evidently failed to appreciate the fact, which
I had begun to realize, that Sherlock Holmes' smallest actions
were all directed towards some definite and practical end.

"What do you think of it, sir?" they both asked.

"It would be robbing you of the credit of the case if I was
to presume to help you," remarked my friend. "You are doing
so well now that it would be a pity for anyone to interfere."
There was a world of sarcasm in his voice as he spoke.
"If you will let me know how your investigations go,"
he continued, "I shall be happy to give you any help I can.
In the meantime I should like to speak to the constable who
found the body. Can you give me his name and address?"

Lestrade glanced at his note-book. "John Rance," he said.
"He is off duty now. You will find him at 46, Audley Court,
Kennington Park Gate."

Holmes took a note of the address.

"Come along, Doctor," he said; "we shall go and look him up.
I'll tell you one thing which may help you in the case,"
he continued, turning to the two detectives. "There has been
murder done, and the murderer was a man. He was more than
six feet high, was in the prime of life, had small feet for
his height, wore coarse, square-toed boots and smoked a
Trichinopoly cigar. He came here with his victim in a
four-wheeled cab, which was drawn by a horse with three old shoes
and one new one on his off fore leg. In all probability the
murderer had a florid face, and the finger-nails of his right
hand were remarkably long. These are only a few indications,
but they may assist you."

Lestrade and Gregson glanced at each other with an incredulous

"If this man was murdered, how was it done?" asked the former.

"Poison," said Sherlock Holmes curtly, and strode off.
"One other thing, Lestrade," he added, turning round at the door:
"`Rache,' is the German for `revenge;' so don't lose your
time looking for Miss Rachel."

With which Parthian shot he walked away, leaving the two
rivals open-mouthed behind him.



IT was one o'clock when we left No. 3, Lauriston Gardens.
Sherlock Holmes led me to the nearest telegraph office,
whence he dispatched a long telegram. He then hailed a cab,
and ordered the driver to take us to the address given us by

"There is nothing like first hand evidence," he remarked;
"as a matter of fact, my mind is entirely made up upon the case,
but still we may as well learn all that is to be learned."

"You amaze me, Holmes," said I. "Surely you are not as sure
as you pretend to be of all those particulars which you gave."

"There's no room for a mistake," he answered. "The very
first thing which I observed on arriving there was that a cab
had made two ruts with its wheels close to the curb. Now, up
to last night, we have had no rain for a week, so that those
wheels which left such a deep impression must have been there
during the night. There were the marks of the horse's hoofs,
too, the outline of one of which was far more clearly cut
than that of the other three, showing that that was a new
shoe. Since the cab was there after the rain began, and was
not there at any time during the morning -- I have Gregson's
word for that -- it follows that it must have been there
during the night, and, therefore, that it brought those two
individuals to the house."

"That seems simple enough," said I; "but how about the other
man's height?"

"Why, the height of a man, in nine cases out of ten,
can be told from the length of his stride. It is a simple
calculation enough, though there is no use my boring you with
figures. I had this fellow's stride both on the clay outside
and on the dust within. Then I had a way of checking my
calculation. When a man writes on a wall, his instinct leads
him to write about the level of his own eyes. Now that writing
was just over six feet from the ground. It was child's play."

"And his age?" I asked.

"Well, if a man can stride four and a-half feet without the
smallest effort, he can't be quite in the sere and yellow.
That was the breadth of a puddle on the garden walk which he
had evidently walked across. Patent-leather boots had gone
round, and Square-toes had hopped over. There is no mystery
about it at all. I am simply applying to ordinary life a few
of those precepts of observation and deduction which I
advocated in that article. Is there anything else that
puzzles you?"

"The finger nails and the Trichinopoly," I suggested.

"The writing on the wall was done with a man's forefinger
dipped in blood. My glass allowed me to observe that the
plaster was slightly scratched in doing it, which would not
have been the case if the man's nail had been trimmed.
I gathered up some scattered ash from the floor. It was dark
in colour and flakey -- such an ash as is only made by a
Trichinopoly. I have made a special study of cigar ashes --
in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject.
I flatter myself that I can distinguish at a glance the ash of
any known brand, either of cigar or of tobacco. It is just
in such details that the skilled detective differs from the
Gregson and Lestrade type."

"And the florid face?" I asked.

"Ah, that was a more daring shot, though I have no doubt that
I was right. You must not ask me that at the present state
of the affair."

I passed my hand over my brow. "My head is in a whirl,"
I remarked; "the more one thinks of it the more mysterious it
grows. How came these two men -- if there were two men --
into an empty house? What has become of the cabman who drove
them? How could one man compel another to take poison?
Where did the blood come from? What was the object of the
murderer, since robbery had no part in it? How came the
woman's ring there? Above all, why should the second man write
up the German word RACHE before decamping? I confess that I
cannot see any possible way of reconciling all these facts."

My companion smiled approvingly.

"You sum up the difficulties of the situation succinctly and
well," he said. "There is much that is still obscure, though
I have quite made up my mind on the main facts. As to poor
Lestrade's discovery it was simply a blind intended to put
the police upon a wrong track, by suggesting Socialism and
secret societies. It was not done by a German. The A, if
you noticed, was printed somewhat after the German fashion.
Now, a real German invariably prints in the Latin character,
so that we may safely say that this was not written by one,
but by a clumsy imitator who overdid his part. It was simply
a ruse to divert inquiry into a wrong channel. I'm not going
to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a
conjuror gets no credit when once he has explained his trick,
and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will
come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual
after all."

"I shall never do that," I answered; "you have brought
detection as near an exact science as it ever will be brought
in this world."

My companion flushed up with pleasure at my words, and the
earnest way in which I uttered them. I had already observed
that he was as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art
as any girl could be of her beauty.

"I'll tell you one other thing," he said. "Patent leathers {10}
and Square-toes came in the same cab, and they walked down
the pathway together as friendly as possible -- arm-in-arm,
in all probability. When they got inside they walked up and
down the room -- or rather, Patent-leathers stood still while
Square-toes walked up and down. I could read all that in the
dust; and I could read that as he walked he grew more and
more excited. That is shown by the increased length of his
strides. He was talking all the while, and working himself
up, no doubt, into a fury. Then the tragedy occurred.
I've told you all I know myself now, for the rest is mere
surmise and conjecture. We have a good working basis, however,
on which to start. We must hurry up, for I want to go to
Halle's concert to hear Norman Neruda this afternoon."

This conversation had occurred while our cab had been
threading its way through a long succession of dingy streets
and dreary by-ways. In the dingiest and dreariest of them
our driver suddenly came to a stand. "That's Audley Court
in there," he said, pointing to a narrow slit in the line of
dead-coloured brick. "You'll find me here when you come back."

Audley Court was not an attractive locality. The narrow
passage led us into a quadrangle paved with flags and lined
by sordid dwellings. We picked our way among groups of dirty
children, and through lines of discoloured linen, until we
came to Number 46, the door of which was decorated with a
small slip of brass on which the name Rance was engraved.
On enquiry we found that the constable was in bed, and we
were shown into a little front parlour to await his coming.

He appeared presently, looking a little irritable at being
disturbed in his slumbers. "I made my report at the office,"
he said.

Holmes took a half-sovereign from his pocket and played with
it pensively. "We thought that we should like to hear it all
from your own lips," he said.

"I shall be most happy to tell you anything I can," the
constable answered with his eyes upon the little golden disk.

"Just let us hear it all in your own way as it occurred."

Rance sat down on the horsehair sofa, and knitted his brows
as though determined not to omit anything in his narrative.

"I'll tell it ye from the beginning," he said. "My time is
from ten at night to six in the morning. At eleven there was
a fight at the `White Hart'; but bar that all was quiet
enough on the beat. At one o'clock it began to rain, and I
met Harry Murcher -- him who has the Holland Grove beat --
and we stood together at the corner of Henrietta Street a-talkin'.
Presently -- maybe about two or a little after -- I thought
I would take a look round and see that all was right
down the Brixton Road. It was precious dirty and lonely.
Not a soul did I meet all the way down, though a cab or two
went past me. I was a strollin' down, thinkin' between
ourselves how uncommon handy a four of gin hot would be,
when suddenly the glint of a light caught my eye in the window
of that same house. Now, I knew that them two houses in
Lauriston Gardens was empty on account of him that owns them
who won't have the drains seed to, though the very last
tenant what lived in one of them died o' typhoid fever.
I was knocked all in a heap therefore at seeing a light
in the window, and I suspected as something was wrong.
When I got to the door ----"

"You stopped, and then walked back to the garden gate,"
my companion interrupted. "What did you do that for?"

Rance gave a violent jump, and stared at Sherlock Holmes
with the utmost amazement upon his features.

"Why, that's true, sir," he said; "though how you come to
know it, Heaven only knows. Ye see, when I got up to the door
it was so still and so lonesome, that I thought I'd be none
the worse for some one with me. I ain't afeared of anything
on this side o' the grave; but I thought that maybe it was him
that died o' the typhoid inspecting the drains what killed him.
The thought gave me a kind o' turn, and I walked back to the
gate to see if I could see Murcher's lantern, but there
wasn't no sign of him nor of anyone else."

"There was no one in the street?"

"Not a livin' soul, sir, nor as much as a dog. Then I pulled
myself together and went back and pushed the door open. All
was quiet inside, so I went into the room where the light was
a-burnin'. There was a candle flickerin' on the mantelpiece
-- a red wax one -- and by its light I saw ----"

"Yes, I know all that you saw. You walked round the room
several times, and you knelt down by the body, and then you
walked through and tried the kitchen door, and then ----"

John Rance sprang to his feet with a frightened face and
suspicion in his eyes. "Where was you hid to see all that?"
he cried. "It seems to me that you knows a deal more than
you should."

Holmes laughed and threw his card across the table to the
constable. "Don't get arresting me for the murder," he said.
"I am one of the hounds and not the wolf; Mr. Gregson or
Mr. Lestrade will answer for that. Go on, though. What did
you do next?"

Rance resumed his seat, without however losing his mystified
expression. "I went back to the gate and sounded my whistle.
That brought Murcher and two more to the spot."

"Was the street empty then?"

"Well, it was, as far as anybody that could be of any good goes."

"What do you mean?"

The constable's features broadened into a grin. "I've seen
many a drunk chap in my time," he said, "but never anyone so
cryin' drunk as that cove. He was at the gate when I came
out, a-leanin' up agin the railings, and a-singin' at the
pitch o' his lungs about Columbine's New-fangled Banner, or
some such stuff. He couldn't stand, far less help."

"What sort of a man was he?" asked Sherlock Holmes.

John Rance appeared to be somewhat irritated at this digression.
"He was an uncommon drunk sort o' man," he said. "He'd ha'
found hisself in the station if we hadn't been so took up."

"His face -- his dress -- didn't you notice them?" Holmes
broke in impatiently.

"I should think I did notice them, seeing that I had to prop
him up -- me and Murcher between us. He was a long chap,
with a red face, the lower part muffled round ----"

"That will do," cried Holmes. "What became of him?"

"We'd enough to do without lookin' after him," the policeman
said, in an aggrieved voice. "I'll wager he found his way
home all right."

"How was he dressed?"

"A brown overcoat."

"Had he a whip in his hand?"

"A whip -- no."

"He must have left it behind," muttered my companion.
"You didn't happen to see or hear a cab after that?"


"There's a half-sovereign for you," my companion said,
standing up and taking his hat. "I am afraid, Rance, that
you will never rise in the force. That head of yours should
be for use as well as ornament. You might have gained your
sergeant's stripes last night. The man whom you held in your
hands is the man who holds the clue of this mystery, and whom
we are seeking. There is no use of arguing about it now;
I tell you that it is so. Come along, Doctor."

We started off for the cab together, leaving our informant
incredulous, but obviously uncomfortable.

"The blundering fool," Holmes said, bitterly, as we drove
back to our lodgings. "Just to think of his having such an
incomparable bit of good luck, and not taking advantage of it."

"I am rather in the dark still. It is true that the
description of this man tallies with your idea of the second
party in this mystery. But why should he come back to the
house after leaving it? That is not the way of criminals."

"The ring, man, the ring: that was what he came back for.
If we have no other way of catching him, we can always bait
our line with the ring. I shall have him, Doctor -- I'll lay
you two to one that I have him. I must thank you for it all.
I might not have gone but for you, and so have missed the
finest study I ever came across: a study in scarlet, eh?
Why shouldn't we use a little art jargon. There's the
scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein
of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and
expose every inch of it. And now for lunch, and then for
Norman Neruda. Her attack and her bowing are splendid.
What's that little thing of Chopin's she plays so
magnificently: Tra-la-la-lira-lira-lay."

Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound carolled
away like a lark while I meditated upon the many-sidedness
of the human mind.



OUR morning's exertions had been too much for my weak health,
and I was tired out in the afternoon. After Holmes'
departure for the concert, I lay down upon the sofa and
endeavoured to get a couple of hours' sleep. It was a
useless attempt. My mind had been too much excited by all
that had occurred, and the strangest fancies and surmises
crowded into it. Every time that I closed my eyes I saw
before me the distorted baboon-like countenance of the
murdered man. So sinister was the impression which that face
had produced upon me that I found it difficult to feel
anything but gratitude for him who had removed its owner from
the world. If ever human features bespoke vice of the most
malignant type, they were certainly those of Enoch J. Drebber,
of Cleveland. Still I recognized that justice must be done,
and that the depravity of the victim was no condonment {11} in
the eyes of the law.

The more I thought of it the more extraordinary did my
companion's hypothesis, that the man had been poisoned,
appear. I remembered how he had sniffed his lips, and had no
doubt that he had detected something which had given rise to
the idea. Then, again, if not poison, what had caused the
man's death, since there was neither wound nor marks of
strangulation? But, on the other hand, whose blood was that
which lay so thickly upon the floor? There were no signs of
a struggle, nor had the victim any weapon with which he might
have wounded an antagonist. As long as all these questions
were unsolved, I felt that sleep would be no easy matter,
either for Holmes or myself. His quiet self-confident manner
convinced me that he had already formed a theory which
explained all the facts, though what it was I could not for
an instant conjecture.

He was very late in returning -- so late, that I knew
that the concert could not have detained him all the time.
Dinner was on the table before he appeared.

"It was magnificent," he said, as he took his seat. "Do you
remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the
power of producing and appreciating it existed among the
human race long before the power of speech was arrived at.
Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it.
There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries
when the world was in its childhood."

"That's rather a broad idea," I remarked.

"One's ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to
interpret Nature," he answered. "What's the matter?
You're not looking quite yourself. This Brixton Road affair
has upset you."

"To tell the truth, it has," I said. "I ought to be more
case-hardened after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own
comrades hacked to pieces at Maiwand without losing my

"I can understand. There is a mystery about this which
stimulates the imagination; where there is no imagination
there is no horror. Have you seen the evening paper?"


"It gives a fairly good account of the affair. It does not
mention the fact that when the man was raised up, a woman's
wedding ring fell upon the floor. It is just as well it does not."


"Look at this advertisement," he answered. "I had one sent
to every paper this morning immediately after the affair."

He threw the paper across to me and I glanced at the place
indicated. It was the first announcement in the "Found" column.
"In Brixton Road, this morning," it ran, "a plain gold wedding
ring, found in the roadway between the `White Hart' Tavern
and Holland Grove. Apply Dr. Watson, 221B, Baker Street,
between eight and nine this evening."

"Excuse my using your name," he said. "If I used my own some
of these dunderheads would recognize it, and want to meddle
in the affair."

"That is all right," I answered. "But supposing anyone
applies, I have no ring."

"Oh yes, you have," said he, handing me one. "This will do
very well. It is almost a facsimile."

"And who do you expect will answer this advertisement."

"Why, the man in the brown coat -- our florid friend with the
square toes. If he does not come himself he will send an

"Would he not consider it as too dangerous?"

"Not at all. If my view of the case is correct, and I have
every reason to believe that it is, this man would rather
risk anything than lose the ring. According to my notion he
dropped it while stooping over Drebber's body, and did not
miss it at the time. After leaving the house he discovered
his loss and hurried back, but found the police already in
possession, owing to his own folly in leaving the candle
burning. He had to pretend to be drunk in order to allay the
suspicions which might have been aroused by his appearance at
the gate. Now put yourself in that man's place. On thinking
the matter over, it must have occurred to him that it was
possible that he had lost the ring in the road after leaving
the house. What would he do, then? He would eagerly look
out for the evening papers in the hope of seeing it among the
articles found. His eye, of course, would light upon this.
He would be overjoyed. Why should he fear a trap?
There would be no reason in his eyes why the finding of the
ring should be connected with the murder. He would come.
He will come. You shall see him within an hour?"

"And then?" I asked.

"Oh, you can leave me to deal with him then. Have you any arms?"

"I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges."

"You had better clean it and load it. He will be a desperate
man, and though I shall take him unawares, it is as well to
be ready for anything."

I went to my bedroom and followed his advice. When I
returned with the pistol the table had been cleared, and
Holmes was engaged in his favourite occupation of scraping
upon his violin.

"The plot thickens," he said, as I entered; "I have just had
an answer to my American telegram. My view of the case is
the correct one."

"And that is?" I asked eagerly.

"My fiddle would be the better for new strings," he remarked.
"Put your pistol in your pocket. When the fellow comes speak
to him in an ordinary way. Leave the rest to me.
Don't frighten him by looking at him too hard."

"It is eight o'clock now," I said, glancing at my watch.

"Yes. He will probably be here in a few minutes. Open the
door slightly. That will do. Now put the key on the inside.
Thank you! This is a queer old book I picked up at a stall
yesterday -- `De Jure inter Gentes' -- published in Latin at
Liege in the Lowlands, in 1642. Charles' head was still firm
on his shoulders when this little brown-backed volume was
struck off."

"Who is the printer?"

"Philippe de Croy, whoever he may have been. On the fly-leaf,
in very faded ink, is written `Ex libris Guliolmi Whyte.'
I wonder who William Whyte was. Some pragmatical seventeenth
century lawyer, I suppose. His writing has a legal twist
about it. Here comes our man, I think."

As he spoke there was a sharp ring at the bell. Sherlock Holmes
rose softly and moved his chair in the direction of the door.
We heard the servant pass along the hall, and the sharp click
of the latch as she opened it.

"Does Dr. Watson live here?" asked a clear but rather harsh
voice. We could not hear the servant's reply, but the door
closed, and some one began to ascend the stairs.
The footfall was an uncertain and shuffling one. A look of
surprise passed over the face of my companion as he listened
to it. It came slowly along the passage, and there was a
feeble tap at the door.

"Come in," I cried.

At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we
expected, a very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the
apartment. She appeared to be dazzled by the sudden blaze of
light, and after dropping a curtsey, she stood blinking at us
with her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket with nervous,
shaky fingers. I glanced at my companion, and his face had
assumed such a disconsolate expression that it was all I could
do to keep my countenance.

The old crone drew out an evening paper, and pointed at our
advertisement. "It's this as has brought me, good gentlemen,"
she said, dropping another curtsey; "a gold wedding ring in the
Brixton Road. It belongs to my girl Sally, as was married only
this time twelvemonth, which her husband is steward aboard
a Union boat, and what he'd say if he come 'ome and found her
without her ring is more than I can think, he being short enough
at the best o' times, but more especially when he has the drink.
If it please you, she went to the circus last night along with ----"

"Is that her ring?" I asked.

"The Lord be thanked!" cried the old woman; "Sally will be a
glad woman this night. That's the ring."

"And what may your address be?" I inquired, taking up a pencil.

"13, Duncan Street, Houndsditch. A weary way from here."

"The Brixton Road does not lie between any circus and
Houndsditch," said Sherlock Holmes sharply.

The old woman faced round and looked keenly at him from her little
red-rimmed eyes. "The gentleman asked me for _my_ address," she
said. "Sally lives in lodgings at 3, Mayfield Place, Peckham."

"And your name is ----?"

"My name is Sawyer -- her's is Dennis, which Tom Dennis married
her -- and a smart, clean lad, too, as long as he's at sea,
and no steward in the company more thought of; but when on shore,
what with the women and what with liquor shops ----"

"Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer," I interrupted, in obedience
to a sign from my companion; "it clearly belongs to your daughter,
and I am glad to be able to restore it to the rightful owner."

With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude
the old crone packed it away in her pocket, and shuffled off
down the stairs. Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet the
moment that she was gone and rushed into his room.
He returned in a few seconds enveloped in an ulster and a
cravat. "I'll follow her," he said, hurriedly; "she must be
an accomplice, and will lead me to him. Wait up for me."
The hall door had hardly slammed behind our visitor before
Holmes had descended the stair. Looking through the window
I could see her walking feebly along the other side, while her
pursuer dogged her some little distance behind. "Either his
whole theory is incorrect," I thought to myself, "or else he
will be led now to the heart of the mystery." There was no
need for him to ask me to wait up for him, for I felt that
sleep was impossible until I heard the result of his adventure.

It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no idea how
long he might be, but I sat stolidly puffing at my pipe and
skipping over the pages of Henri Murger's "Vie de Boheme." {12}
Ten o'clock passed, and I heard the footsteps of the maid as
they pattered off to bed. Eleven, and the more stately tread
of the landlady passed my door, bound for the same destination.
It was close upon twelve before I heard the sharp sound of his
latch-key. The instant he entered I saw by his face that he
had not been successful. Amusement and chagrin seemed to be
struggling for the mastery, until the former suddenly carried
the day, and he burst into a hearty laugh.

"I wouldn't have the Scotland Yarders know it for the world,"
he cried, dropping into his chair; "I have chaffed them so
much that they would never have let me hear the end of it.
I can afford to laugh, because I know that I will be even with
them in the long run."

"What is it then?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't mind telling a story against myself. That
creature had gone a little way when she began to limp and
show every sign of being foot-sore. Presently she came to a
halt, and hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. I managed
to be close to her so as to hear the address, but I need not
have been so anxious, for she sang it out loud enough to be
heard at the other side of the street, `Drive to 13, Duncan
Street, Houndsditch,' she cried. This begins to look
genuine, I thought, and having seen her safely inside,
I perched myself behind. That's an art which every detective
should be an expert at. Well, away we rattled, and never
drew rein until we reached the street in question. I hopped
off before we came to the door, and strolled down the street
in an easy, lounging way. I saw the cab pull up. The driver
jumped down, and I saw him open the door and stand
expectantly. Nothing came out though. When I reached him he
was groping about frantically in the empty cab, and giving
vent to the finest assorted collection of oaths that ever
I listened to. There was no sign or trace of his passenger,
and I fear it will be some time before he gets his fare.
On inquiring at Number 13 we found that the house belonged to
a respectable paperhanger, named Keswick, and that no one of
the name either of Sawyer or Dennis had ever been heard of

"You don't mean to say," I cried, in amazement, "that that
tottering, feeble old woman was able to get out of the cab
while it was in motion, without either you or the driver
seeing her?"

"Old woman be damned!" said Sherlock Holmes, sharply.
"We were the old women to be so taken in. It must have been
a young man, and an active one, too, besides being an
incomparable actor. The get-up was inimitable. He saw that
he was followed, no doubt, and used this means of giving me
the slip. It shows that the man we are after is not as
lonely as I imagined he was, but has friends who are ready to
risk something for him. Now, Doctor, you are looking done-up.
Take my advice and turn in."

I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed his injunction.
I left Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long
into the watches of the night I heard the low, melancholy
wailings of his violin, and knew that he was still pondering
over the strange problem which he had set himself to unravel.



THE papers next day were full of the "Brixton Mystery,"
as they termed it. Each had a long account of the affair,
and some had leaders upon it in addition. There was some
information in them which was new to me. I still retain in
my scrap-book numerous clippings and extracts bearing upon
the case. Here is a condensation of a few of them:--

The _Daily Telegraph_ remarked that in the history of crime
there had seldom been a tragedy which presented stranger
features. The German name of the victim, the absence of
all other motive, and the sinister inscription on the wall,
all pointed to its perpetration by political refugees and
revolutionists. The Socialists had many branches in America,
and the deceased had, no doubt, infringed their unwritten
laws, and been tracked down by them. After alluding airily
to the Vehmgericht, aqua tofana, Carbonari, the Marchioness
de Brinvilliers, the Darwinian theory, the principles of
Malthus, and the Ratcliff Highway murders, the article
concluded by admonishing the Government and advocating
a closer watch over foreigners in England.

The _Standard_ commented upon the fact that lawless outrages
of the sort usually occurred under a Liberal Administration.
They arose from the unsettling of the minds of the masses,
and the consequent weakening of all authority. The deceased
was an American gentleman who had been residing for some
weeks in the Metropolis. He had stayed at the boarding-house
of Madame Charpentier, in Torquay Terrace, Camberwell.
He was accompanied in his travels by his private secretary,
Mr. Joseph Stangerson. The two bade adieu to their landlady
upon Tuesday, the 4th inst., and departed to Euston Station
with the avowed intention of catching the Liverpool express.
They were afterwards seen together upon the platform.
Nothing more is known of them until Mr. Drebber's body was,
as recorded, discovered in an empty house in the Brixton Road,
many miles from Euston. How he came there, or how he met his
fate, are questions which are still involved in mystery.
Nothing is known of the whereabouts of Stangerson. We are
glad to learn that Mr. Lestrade and Mr. Gregson, of Scotland
Yard, are both engaged upon the case, and it is confidently
anticipated that these well-known officers will speedily
throw light upon the matter.

The _Daily News_ observed that there was no doubt as to the
crime being a political one. The despotism and hatred of
Liberalism which animated the Continental Governments had had
the effect of driving to our shores a number of men who might
have made excellent citizens were they not soured by the
recollection of all that they had undergone. Among these men
there was a stringent code of honour, any infringement of
which was punished by death. Every effort should be made to
find the secretary, Stangerson, and to ascertain some
particulars of the habits of the deceased. A great step had
been gained by the discovery of the address of the house at
which he had boarded -- a result which was entirely due to
the acuteness and energy of Mr. Gregson of Scotland Yard.

Sherlock Holmes and I read these notices over together at
breakfast, and they appeared to afford him considerable

"I told you that, whatever happened, Lestrade and Gregson

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