"I have been making a fool of myself," he gasped.
"Not at all. Drink this." I dashed some brandy into
and the color began to come back to his bloodless cheeks.
"That's better!" said he. "And now, Doctor, perhaps
kindly attend to my thumb, or rather to the place where my thumb
used to be."
He unwound the handkerchief and held out his hand. It gave even
my hardened nerves a shudder to look at it. There were four
protruding fingers and a horrid red, spongy surface where the
thumb should have been. It had been hacked or torn right out from
"Good heavens!" I cried, "this is a terrible injury.
It must have
"Yes, it did. I fainted when it was done, and I think that
have been senseless for a long time. When I came to I found that
it was still bleeding, so I tied one end of my handkerchief very
tightly round the wrist and braced it up with a twig."
"Excellent! You should have been a surgeon."
"It is a question of hydraulics, you see, and came within
"This has been done," said I, examining the wound,
"by a very
heavy and sharp instrument."
"A thing like a cleaver," said he.
"An accident, I presume?"
"By no means."
"What! a murderous attack?"
"Very murderous indeed."
"You horrify me."
I sponged the wound, cleaned it, dressed it, and finally covered
it over with cotton wadding and carbolized bandages. He lay back
without wincing, though he bit his lip from time to time.
"How is that?" I asked when I had finished.
"Capital! Between your brandy and your bandage, I feel a
I was very weak, but I have had a good deal to go through."
"Perhaps you had better not speak of the matter. It is evidently
trying to your nerves."
"Oh, no, not now. I shall have to tell my tale to the police;
but, between ourselves, if it were not for the convincing
evidence of this wound of mine, I should be surprised if they
believed my statement, for it is a very extraordinary one, and
have not much in the way of proof with which to back it up; and,
even if they believe me, the clews which I can give them are so
vague that it is a question whether justice will be done."
"Ha!" cried I, "if it is anything in the nature
of a problem
which you desire to see solved, I should strongly recommend you
to come to my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, before you go to the
"Oh, I have heard of that fellow," answered my visitor,
should be very glad if he would take the matter up, though of
course I must use the official police as well. Would you give
an introduction to him?"
"I'll do better. I'll take you round to him myself."
"I should be immensely obliged to you."
"We'll call a cab and go together. We shall just be in time
have a little breakfast with him. Do you feel equal to it?"
"Yes; I shall not feel easy until I have told my story."
"Then my servant will call a cab, and I shall be with you
instant." I rushed upstairs, explained the matter shortly
wife, and in five minutes was inside a hansom, driving with my
new acquaintance to Baker Street.
Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his
sittingroom in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of
Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed
of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day
before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the
mantelpiece. He received us in his quietly genial fashion,
ordered fresh rashers and eggs, and joined us in a hearty meal.
When it was concluded he settled our new acquaintance upon the
sofa, placed a pillow beneath his head, and laid a glass of
brandy and water within his reach.
"It is easy to see that your experience has been no common
Mr. Hatherley," said he. "Pray, lie down there and make
absolutely at home. Tell us what you can, but stop when you are
tired and keep up your strength with a little stimulant."
"Thank you," said my patient. "but I have felt
another man since
the doctor bandaged me, and I think that your breakfast has
completed the cure. I shall take up as little of your valuable
time as possible, so I shall start at once upon my peculiar
Holmes sat in his big armchair with the weary, heavy-lidded
expression which veiled his keen and eager nature, while I sat
opposite to him, and we listened in silence to the strange story
which our visitor detailed to us.
"You must know," said he, "that I am an orphan
and a bachelor,
residing alone in lodgings in London. By profession I am a
hydraulic engineer, and I have had considerable experience of
work during the seven years that I was apprenticed to Venner &
Matheson, the well-known firm, of Greenwich. Two years ago,
having served my time, and having also come into a fair sum of
money through my poor father's death, I determined to start in
business for myself and took professional chambers in Victoria
"I suppose that everyone finds his first independent start
business a dreary experience. To me it has been exceptionally
During two years I have had three consultations and one small
job, and that is absolutely all that my profession has brought
me. My gross takings amount to 27 pounds 10s. Every day, from
nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, I waited in my
little den, until at last my heart began to sink, and I came to
believe that I should never have any practice at all.
"Yesterday, however, just as I was thinking of leaving the
office, my clerk entered to say there was a gentleman waiting
wished to see me upon business. He brought up a card, too, with
the name of 'Colonel Lysander Stark' engraved upon it. Close at
his heels came the colonel himself, a man rather over the middle
size, but of an exceeding thinness. I do not think that I have
ever seen so thin a man. His whole face sharpened away into nose
and chin, and the skin of his cheeks was drawn quite tense over
his outstanding bones. Yet this emaciation seemed to be his
natural habit, and due to no disease, for his eye was bright,
step brisk, and his bearing assured. He was plainly but neatly
dressed, and his age, I should judge, would be nearer forty than
"'Mr. Hatherley?' said he, with something of a German accent.
'You have been recommended to me, Mr. Hatherley, as being a man
who is not only proficient in his profession but is also discreet
and capable of preserving a secret.'
"I bowed, feeling as flattered as any young man would at
address. 'May I ask who it was who gave me so good a character?'
"'Well, perhaps it is better that I should not tell you
at this moment. I have it from the same source that you are both
an orphan and a bachelor and are residing alone in London.'
"'That is quite correct,' I answered; 'but you will excuse
I say that I cannot see how all this bears upon my professional
qualifications. I understand that it was on a professional matter
that you wished to speak to me?'
"'Undoubtedly so. But you will find that all I say is really
the point. I have a professional commission for you, but absolute
secrecy is quite essential--absolute secrecy, you understand,
of course we may expect that more from a man who is alone than
from one who lives in the bosom of his family.'
"'If I promise to keep a secret,' said I, 'you may absolutely
depend upon my doing so.'
"He looked very hard at me as I spoke, and it seemed to
me that I
had never seen so suspicious and questioning an eye.
"'Do you promise, then?' said he at last.
"'Yes, I promise.'
"'Absolute and complete silence before, during, and after?
reference to the matter at all, either in word or writing?'
"'I have already given you my word.'
"'Very good.' He suddenly sprang up, and darting like lightning
across the room he flung open the door. The passage outside was