|The Hound of the Baskervilles|
MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES
MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES, who was usually very
late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night,
was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick
which our visitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of
wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a Penang lawyer. Just
under the head was a broad silver band, nearly an inch across. To James Mortimer,
M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H., was engraved upon it, with the date
1884. It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used
to carrydignified, solid, and reassuring.
Interesting, though elementary, said he as he returned to his favourite corner of the settee. There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.
Has anything escaped me? I asked with some self-importance. I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?
I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this instance. The man is certainly a country practitioner. And he walks a good deal.
Then I was right.
To that extent.
But that was all.
No, no, my dear Watson, not allby no means all. I would suggest, for example, that a presentation to a doctor is more likely to come from a hospital than from a hunt, and that when the initials C.C. are placed before that hospital the words Charing Cross very naturally suggest themselves.
You may be right.
The probability lies in that direction. And if we take this as a working hypothesis we have a fresh basis from which to start our construction of this unknown visitor.
Well, then, supposing that C.C.H. does stand for Charing Cross Hospital, what further inferences may we draw?
Do none suggest themselves? You know my methods. Apply them!
I can only think of the obvious conclusion that the man has practised in town before going to the country.
I think that we might venture a little farther than this. Look at it in this light. On what occasion would it be most probable that such a presentation would be made? When would his friends unite to give him a pledge of their good will? Obviously at the moment when Dr. Mortimer withdrew from the service of the hospital in order to start in practice for himself. We know there has been a presentation. We believe there has been a change from a town hospital to a country practice. Is it, then, stretching our inference too far to say that the presentation was on the occasion of the change?
It certainly seems probable.
Now, you will observe that he could not have been on the staff of the hospital, since only a man well-established in a London practice could hold such a position, and such a one would not drift into the country. What was he, then? If he was in the hospital and yet not on the staff he could only have been a house-surgeon or a house-physicianlittle more than a senior student. And he left five years agothe date is on the stick. So your grave, middle-aged family practitioner vanishes into  thin air, my dear Watson, and there emerges a young fellow under thirty, amiable, unambitious, absent-minded, and the possessor of a favourite dog, which I should describe roughly as being larger than a terrier and smaller than a mastiff.
I laughed incredulously as Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his settee and blew little wavering rings of smoke up to the ceiling.
As to the latter part, I have no means of checking you, said I, but at least it is not difficult to find out a few particulars about the mans age and professional career. From my small medical shelf I took down the Medical Directory and turned up the name. There were several Mortimers, but only one who could be our visitor. I read his record aloud.
No mention of that local hunt, Watson, said
Holmes with a mischievous smile, but a country doctor, as you very astutely
observed. I think that I am fairly justified in my inferences. As to the adjectives, I
said, if I remember right, amiable, unambitious, and absent-minded. It is my experience
that it is only an amiable man in this world who receives testimonials, only an
unambitious one who abandons a London career for the country, and only an absent-minded
one who leaves his stick and not his visiting-card after waiting an hour in your
The appearance of our visitor was a surprise to me, since I
had expected a typical country practitioner. He was a very tall, thin man, with a long
nose like a beak, which jutted out between two keen, gray eyes, set closely together and
sparkling brightly from behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. He was clad in a
professional but rather slovenly fashion, for his frock-coat was dingy and his trousers
frayed. Though young, his long back was already bowed, and he walked with a forward thrust
of his head and a general air of peering benevolence. As he entered  his eyes fell upon the stick in
Holmess hand, and he ran towards it with an exclamation of joy. I am so very
glad, said he. I was not sure whether I had left it here or in the Shipping
Office. I would not lose that stick for the world.
|David Soucek, 1998|