Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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"My final shot was, I confess a very long one. It
struck me that so astute a man as Straker would not
undertake this delicate tendon-nicking without a
little practice. What could he practice on? My eyes
fell upon the sheep, and I asked a question which,
rather to my surprise, showed that my surmise was
"When I returned to London I called upon the milliner,
who had recognized Straker as an excellent customer of
the name of Derbyshire, who had a very dashing wife,
with a strong partiality for expensive dresses. I
have no doubt that this woman had plunged him over
head and ears in debt, and so led him into this
"You have explained all but one thing," cried the
Colonel. "Where was the horse?"
"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of your
neighbors. We must have an amnesty in that direction,
I think. This is Clapham Junction, if I am not
mistaken, and we shall be in Victoria in less than ten
minutes. If you care to smoke a cigar in our rooms,
Colonel, I shall be happy to give you any other
details which might interest you."
The Yellow Face
[In publishing these short sketches based upon the
numerous cases in which my companion's singular gifts
have made us the listeners to, and eventually the
actors in, some strange drama, it is only natural that
I should dwell rather upon his successes than upon his
failures. And this not so much for the sake of his
reputations--for, indeed, it was when he was at his
wits' end that his energy and his versatility were
most admirable--but because where he failed it
happened too often that no one else succeeded, and
that the tale was left forever without a conclusion.
Now and again, however, it chanced that even when he
erred, the truth was still discovered. I have noted
of some half-dozen cases of the kind the Adventure of
the Musgrave Ritual and that which I am about to
recount are the two which present the strongest
features of interest.]
Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took exercise for
exercise's sake. Few men were capable of greater
muscular effort, and he was undoubtedly one of the
finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen; but
he looked upon aimless bodily exertion as a waste of
energy, and he seldom bestirred himself save when
there was some professional object to be served. Then
he was absolutely untiring and indefatigable. That he
should have kept himself in training under such
circumstances is remarkable, but his diet was usually
of the sparest, and his habits were simple to the
verge of austerity. Save for the occasional use of
cocaine, he had no vices, and he only turned to the
drug as a protest against the monotony of existence
when cases were scanty and the papers uninteresting.
One day in early spring he had so fare relaxed as to
go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first
faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms,
and the sticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were just
beginning to burst into their five-fold leaves. For
two hours we rambled about together, in silence for
the most part, as befits two men who know each other
intimately. It was nearly five before we were back in
Baker Street once more.
"Beg pardon, sir," said our page-boy, as he opened the
door. "There's been a gentleman here asking for you,
Holmes glanced reproachfully at me. "So much for
afternoon walks!" said he. "Has this gentleman gone,
"Didn't you ask him in?"
"Yes, sir; he came in."
"How long did he wait?"
"Half an hour, sir. He was a very restless gentleman,
sir, a-walkin' and a-stampin' all the time he was
here. I was waitin' outside the door, sir, and I
could hear him. At last he out into the passage, and
he cries, 'Is that man never goin' to come?' Those
were his very words, sir. 'You'll only need to wait a
little longer,' says I. 'Then I'll wait in the open
air, for I feel half choked,' says he. 'I'll be back
before long.' And with that he ups and he outs, and
all I could say wouldn't hold him back."
"Well, well, you did you best," said Holmes, as we
walked into our room. "It's very annoying, though,
Watson. I was badly in need of a case, and this
looks, from the man's impatience, as if it were of
importance. Hullo! That's not your pipe on the table.
He must have left his behind him. A nice old brier
with a good long stem of what the tobacconists call
amber. I wonder how many real amber mouthpieces there
are in London? Some people think that a fly in it is
a sign. Well, he must have been disturbed in his mind
to leave a pipe behind him which he evidently values
"How do you know that he values it highly?" I asked.
"Well, I should put the original cost of the pipe at
seven and sixpence. Now it has, you see, been twice
mended, once in the wooden stem and once in the
amber. Each of these mends, done, as you observe,
with silver bands, must have cost more than the pipe
did originally. The man must value the pipe highly
when he prefers to patch it up rather than buy a new
one with the same money."
"Anything else?" I asked, for Holmes was turning the
pipe about in his hand, and staring at it in his
peculiar pensive way.
He held it up and tapped on it with his long, thin
fore-finger, as a professor might who was lecturing on
"Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest,"
said he. "Nothing has more individuality, save
perhaps watches and bootlaces. The indications here,
however, are neither very marked nor very important.
The owner is obviously a muscular man, left-handed,
with an excellent set of teeth, careless in his
habits, and with no need to practise economy."
My friend threw out the information in a very offhand
way, but I saw that he cocked his eye at me to see if
I had followed his reasoning.
"You think a man must be well-to-do if he smokes a
seven-shilling pipe," said I.
"This is Grosvenor mixture at eightpence an ounce,"
Holmes answered, knocking a little out on his palm.
"As he might get an excellent smoke for half the
price, he has no need to practise economy."
"And the other points?"
"He has been in the habit of lighting his pipe at
lamps and gas-jets. You can see that it is quite
charred all down one side. Of course a match could
not have done that. Why should a man hold a match to
the side of his pipe? But you cannot light it at a
lamp without getting the bowl charred. And it is all
on the right side of the pipe. From that I gather
that he is a left-handed man. You hold your own pipe
to the lamp, and see how naturally you, being
right-handed, hold the left side to the flame. You
might do it once the other way, but not as a
constancy. This has always been held so. Then he has
bitten through his amber. It takes a muscular,
energetic fellow, and one with a good set of teeth, to
do that. But if I am not mistaken I hear him upon the
stair, so we shall have something more interesting
than his pipe to study."
An instant later our door opened, and a tall young man
entered the room. He was well but quietly dressed in
a dark-gray suit, and carried a brown wide-awake in
his hand. I should have put him at about thirty,
though he was really some years older.
"I beg your pardon," said he, with some embarrassment;
"I suppose I should have knocked. Yes, of course I
should have knocked. The fact is that I am a little
upset, and you must put it all down to that." He
passed his hand over his forehead like a man who is
half dazed, and then fell rather than sat down upon a
"I can see that you have not slept for a night or
two," said Holmes, in his easy, genial way. "That
tries a man's nerves more than work, and more even
than pleasure. May I ask how I can help you?"
"I wanted your advice, sir. I don't know what to do
and my whole life seems to have gone to pieces."