Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike you that
I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or
giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly
whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely
obliged to you."
The Stock-Broker's Clerk
Shortly after my marriage I had bought a connection in
the Paddington district. Old Mr. Farquhar, from whom
I purchased it, had at one time an excellent general
practice; but his age, and an affliction of the nature
of St. Vitus's dance from which he suffered, had very
much thinned it. The public not unnaturally goes on
the principle that he who would heal others must
himself be whole, and looks askance at the curative
powers of the man whose own case is beyond the reach
of his drugs. Thus as my predecessor weakened his
practice declined, until when I purchased it from him
it had sunk from twelve hundred to little more than
three hundred a year. I had confidence, however, in
my own youth and energy, and was convinced that in a
very few years the concern would be as flourishing as
For three months after taking over the practice I was
kept very closely at work, and saw little of my friend
Sherlock Holmes, for I was too busy to visit Baker
Street, and he seldom went anywhere himself save upon
professional business. I was surprised, therefore,
when, one morning in June, as I sat reading the
British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a
ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat
strident tones of my old companion's voice.
"Ah, my dear Watson," said he, striding into the room,
"I am very delighted to see you! I trust that Mrs.
Watson has entirely recovered from all the little
excitements connected with our adventure of the Sign
"Thank you, we are both very well," said I, shaking
him warmly by the hand.
"And I hope, also," he continued, sitting down in the
rocking-chair, "that the cares of medical practice
have not entirely obliterated the interest which you
used to take in our little deductive problems."
"On the contrary," I answered, "it was only last night
that I was looking over my old notes, and classifying
some of our past results."
"I trust that you don't consider your collection
"Not at all. I should wish nothing better than to
have some more of such experiences."
"To-day, for example?"
"Yes, to-day, if you like."
"And as far off as Birmingham?"
"Certainly, if you wish it."
"And the practice?"
"I do my neighbor's when he goes. He is always ready
to work off the debt."
"Ha! Nothing could be better," said Holmes, leaning
back in his chair and looking keenly at me from under
his half closed lids. "I perceive that you have been
unwell lately. Summer colds are always a little
"I was confined to the house by a sever chill for
three days last week. I thought, however, that I had
cast off every trace of it."
"So you have. You look remarkably robust."
"How, then, did you know of it?"
"My dear fellow, you know my methods."
"You deduced it, then?"
"And from what?"
"From your slippers."
I glanced down at the new patent leathers which I was
wearing. "How on earth--" I began, but Holmes
answered my question before it was asked.
"Your slippers are new," he said. "You could not have
had them more than a few weeks. The soles which you
are at this moment presenting to me are slightly
scorched. For a moment I thought they might have got
wet and been burned in the drying. But near the instep
there is a small circular wafer of paper with the
shopman's hieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of course
have removed this. You had, then, been sitting with
our feet outstretched to the fire, which a man would
hardly do even in so wet a June as this if he were in
his full health."
Like all Holmes's reasoning the thing seemed
simplicity itself when it was once explained. He read
the thought upon my features, and his smile had a
tinge of bitterness.
"I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I
explain," said he. "Results without causes are much
more impressive. You are ready to come to Birmingham,
"Certainly. What is the case?"
"You shall hear it all in the train. My client is
outside in a four-wheeler. Can you come at once?"
"In an instant." I scribbled a note to my neighbor,
rushed upstairs to explain the matter to my wife, and
joined Holmes upon the door-step.
"Your neighbor is a doctor," said he, nodding at the
"Yes; he bought a practice as I did."
"An old-established one?"
"Just the same as mine. Both have been ever since the
houses were built."
"Ah! Then you got hold of the best of the two."
"I think I did. But how do you know?"
"By the steps, my boy. Yours are worn three inches
deeper than his. But this gentleman in the cab is my
client, Mr. Hall Pycroft. Allow me to introduce you
to him. Whip your horse up, cabby, for we have only
just time to catch our train."
The man whom I found myself facing was a well built,
fresh- complexioned young fellow, with a frank, honest
face and a slight, crisp, yellow mustache. He wore a
very shiny top hat and a neat suit of sober black,
which made him look what he was--a smart young City
man, of the class who have been labeled cockneys, but
who give us our crack volunteer regiments, and who
turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than any
body of men in these islands. His round, ruddy face
was naturally full of cheeriness, but the corners of
his mouth seemed to me to be pulled down in a
half-comical distress. It was not, however, until we
were all in a first-class carriage and well started
upon our journey to Birmingham that I was able to
learn what the trouble was which had driven him to
"We have a clear run here of seventy minutes," Holmes
remarked. "I want you, Mr. Hall Pycroft, to tell my
friend your very interesting experience exactly as you
have told it to me, or with more detail if possible.
It will be of use to me to hear the succession of
events again. It is a case, Watson, which may prove
to have something in it, or may prove to have nothing,
but which, at least, presents those unusual and outré
features which are as dear to you as they are to me.
Now, Mr. Pycroft, I shall not interrupt you again."
Our young companion looked at me with a twinkle in his
The worst of the story is, said he, that I show myself
up as such a confounded fool. Of course it may work
out all right, and I don't see that I could have done
otherwise; but if I have lost my crib and get nothing
in exchange I shall feel what a soft Johnnie I have
been. I'm not very good at telling a story, Dr.
Watson, but it is like this with me"
I used to have a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse's, of
Draper's Gardens, but they were let in early in the
spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you
remember, and came a nasty cropper. I had been with