CHAPTER I

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CHAPTER I. MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES. 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
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  CHAPTER I. MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES. IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University ofLondon, andproceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in thearmy. Havingcompleted my studies there, I was duly attached to the Fifth NorthumberlandFusiliers as AssistantSurgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I couldjoin it, the secondAfghan war had broken out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corpshad advanced throughthe passes, and was already deep in the enemy's country. I followed,however, with many otherofficers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded inreaching 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 hadnothing but misfortuneand disaster. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires,with whom I servedat the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezailbullet, which shatteredthe bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into thehands of the murderousGhazis had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Murray, myorderly, who threw meacross a pack-horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely to the Britishlines.Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I hadundergone, I was removed,with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawar.Here I rallied, and hadalready improved so far as to be able to walk about the wards, and even tobask a little upon theverandah, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indianpossessions. Formonths my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself andbecame convalescent, Iwas so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a dayshould be lost insending me back to England. I was dispatched, accordingly, in the  troopship Orontes, andlanded a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health irretrievably ruined,but with permissionfrom a paternal government to spend the next nine months in attempting toimprove it.I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air — or asfree as an incomeof eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under suchcircumstances, Inaturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all theloungers and idlers of theEmpire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a privatehotel in the Strand,leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money asI had, considerablymore freely than I ought. So alarming did the state of my finances become,that I soon realized thatI must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, orthat I must make acomplete alteration in my style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, Ibegan by making up mymind to leave the hotel, and to take up my quarters in some less pretentiousand less expensivedomicile.On the very day that I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at theCriterion Bar, whensome one tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized youngStamford, who hadbeen a dresser under me at Barts. The sight of a friendly face in the greatwilderness of London isa pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had neverbeen a particular crony ofmine, but now I hailed him with enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared tobe delighted to seeme. In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with me at theHolborn, and we started offtogether in a hansom. Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson? he asked inundisguised wonder, as werattled through the crowded London streets. You are as thin as a lath andas brown as a nut. I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly concluded it by  the time that wereached our destination. Poor devil! he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened to mymisfortunes. What are youup to now? Looking for lodgings. 3 I answered. Trying to solve the problem as towhether it is possible toget comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. That's a strange thing, remarked my companion; you are the second manto-day that hasused that expression to me. And who was the first? I asked. A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital. Hewas bemoaninghimself this morning because he could not get someone to go halves withhim in some nice roomswhich 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 theexpense, I am the veryman for him. I should prefer having a partner to being alone. Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass. Youdon't know SherlockHolmes yet, he said; perhaps you would not care for him as a constantcompanion. Why, what is there against him? Oh, I didn't say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in hisideas — an enthusiast insome 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 inanatomy, and he is afirst-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out anysystematic medical classes.His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot ofout-of-the wayknowledge 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 becommunicative enough whenthe fancy seizes him. I should like to meet him, I said. If I am to lodge with anyone, I shouldprefer a man of studious  and quiet habits. I am not strong enough yet to stand much noise orexcitement. I had enough ofboth in Afghanistan to last me for the remainder of my natural existence.How could I meet thisfriend of yours? He is sure to be at the laboratory, returned my companion. He eitheravoids the place forweeks, or else he works there from morning to night. If you like, we shalldrive round together afterluncheon. Certainly, I answered, and the conversation drifted away into otherchannels.As we made our way to the hospital after leaving the Holborn, Stamfordgave me a few moreparticulars 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 knownothing more of him than Ihave learned from meeting him occasionally in the laboratory. You proposedthis arrangement, soyou must not hold me responsible. If we don't get on it will be easy to part company, I answered. It seems tome, Stamford, Iadded, looking hard at my companion, that you have some reason forwashing your hands of thematter. 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 tooscientific for my tastes — it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I couldimagine his giving a friend alittle pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, youunderstand, but simply outof a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To dohim justice, I think thathe would take it himself with the same readiness. He appears to have apassion for definite andexact knowledge. Very right too. Yes, but it may be pushed to excess. When it comes to beating thesubjects in the dissectingroomswith a stick, it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape. Beating the subjects!
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