ADVENTURE IX. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER'S THUMB
Of all the problems which have been submitted to my friend, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, for solution during the years of our intimacy,
there were only two which I was the means of introducing to his
notice--that of Mr. Hatherley's thumb, and that of Colonel
Warburton's madness. Of these the latter may have afforded a
finer field for an acute and original observer, but the other
so strange in its inception and so dramatic in its details that
it may be the more worthy of being placed upon record, even if
gave my friend fewer openings for those deductive methods of
reasoning by which he achieved such remarkable results. The story
has, I believe, been told more than once in the newspapers, but,
like all such narratives, its effect is much less striking when
set forth en bloc in a single half-column of print than when the
facts slowly evolve before your own eyes, and the mystery clears
gradually away as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads
on to the complete truth. At the time the circumstances made a
deep impression upon me, and the lapse of two years has hardly
served to weaken the effect.
It was in the summer of '89, not long after my marriage, that
events occurred which I am now about to summarize. I had returned
to civil practice and had finally abandoned Holmes in his Baker
Street rooms, although I continually visited him and occasionally
even persuaded him to forgo his Bohemian habits so far as to come
and visit us. My practice had steadily increased, and as I
happened to live at no very great distance from Paddington
Station, I got a few patients from among the officials. One of
these, whom I had cured of a painful and lingering disease, was
never weary of ../advertising my virtues and of endeavoring to send
me on every sufferer over whom he might have any influence.
One morning, at a little before seven o'clock, I was awakened
the maid tapping at the door to announce that two men had come
from Paddington and were waiting in the consulting-room. I
dressed hurriedly, for I knew by experience that railway cases
were seldom trivial, and hastened downstairs. As I descended,
old ally, the guard, came out of the room and closed the door
tightly behind him.
"I've got him here," he whispered, jerking his thumb
shoulder; "he's all right."
"What is it, then?" I asked, for his manner suggested
that it was
some strange creature which he had caged up in my room.
"It's a new patient," he whispered. "I thought
I'd bring him
round myself; then he couldn't slip away. There he is, all safe
and sound. I must go now, Doctor; I have my dooties, just the
same as you." And off he went, this trusty tout, without
giving me time to thank him.
I entered my consulting-room and found a gentleman seated by
table. He was quietly dressed in a suit of heather tweed with
soft cloth cap which he had laid down upon my books. Round one
his hands he had a handkerchief wrapped, which was mottled all
over with bloodstains. He was young, not more than
five-and-twenty, I should say, with a strong, masculine face;
he was exceedingly pale and gave me the impression of a man who
was suffering from some strong agitation, which it took all his
strength of mind to control.
"I am sorry to knock you up so early, Doctor," said
he, "but I
have had a very serious accident during the night. I came in by
train this morning, and on inquiring at Paddington as to where
might find a doctor, a worthy fellow very kindly escorted me
here. I gave the maid a card, but I see that she has left it upon
I took it up and glanced at it. "Mr. Victor Hatherley, hydraulic
engineer, 16A. Victoria Street (3d floor)." That was the
style, and abode of my morning visitor. "I regret that I
kept you waiting," said I, sitting down in my library-chair.
are fresh from a night journey, I understand, which is in itself
a monotonous occupation."
"Oh, my night could not be called monotonous," said
laughed. He laughed very heartily, with a high, ringing note,
leaning back in his chair and shaking his sides. All my medical
instincts rose up against that laugh.
"Stop it!" I cried; "pull yourself together!"
and I poured out
some water from a caraffe.
It was useless, however. He was off in one of those hysterical
outbursts which come upon a strong nature when some great crisis
is over and gone. Presently he came to himself once more, very
weary and pale-looking.