The Adventure of the Dying Detective
by Sir Arthur
Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-
suffering woman. Not only was her first-floor flat invaded at
all hours by throngs of singular and often undesirable characters
but her remarkable lodger showed an eccentricity and irregularity
in his life which must have sorely tried her patience. His
incredible untidiness, his addiction to music at strange hours,
his occasional revolver practice within doors, his weird and
often malodorous scientific experiments, and the atmosphere of
violence and danger which hung around him made him the very worst
tenant in London. On the other hand, his payments were princely.
I have no doubt that the house might have been purchased at the
price which Holmes paid for his rooms during the years that I was
The landlady stood in the deepest awe of him and never dared to
interfere with him, however outrageous his proceedings might
seem. She was fond of him, too, for he had a remarkable
gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women. He disliked
and distrusted the sex, but he was always a chivalrous opponent.
Knowing how genuine was her regard for him, I listened earnestly
to her story when she came to my rooms in the second year of my
married life and told me of the sad condition to which my poor
friend was reduced.
"He's dying, Dr. Watson," said she. "For three days he has been
sinking, and I doubt if he will last the day. He would not let
me get a doctor. This morning when I saw his bones sticking out
of his face and his great bright eyes looking at me I could stand
no more of it. 'With your leave or without it, Mr. Holmes, I am
going for a doctor this very hour,' said I. 'Let it be Watson,
then,' said he. I wouldn't waste an hour in coming to him, sir,
or you may not see him alive."
I was horrified for I had heard nothing of his illness. I need
not say that I rushed for my coat and my hat. As we drove back I
asked for the details.
"There is little I can tell you, sir. He has been working at a
case down at Rotherhithe, in an alley near the river, and he has
brought this illness back with him. He took to his bed on
Wednesday afternoon and has never moved since. For these three
days neither food nor drink has passed his lips."
"Good God! Why did you not call in a doctor?"
"He wouldn't have it, sir. You know how masterful he is. I
didn't dare to disobey him. But he's not long for this world, as
you'll see for yourself the moment that you set eyes on him."
He was indeed a deplorable spectacle. In the dim light of a
foggy November day the sick room was a gloomy spot, but it was
that gaunt, wasted face staring at me from the bed which sent a
chill to my heart. His eyes had the brightness of fever, there
was a hectic flush upon either cheek, and dark crusts clung to
his lips; the thin hands upon the coverlet twitched incessantly,
his voice was croaking and spasmodic. He lay listlessly as I
entered the room, but the sight of me brought a gleam of
recognition to his eyes.
"Well, Watson, we seem to have fallen upon evil days," said he in
a feeble voice, but with something of his old carelessness of
"My dear fellow!" I cried, approaching him.
"Stand back! Stand right back!" said he with the sharp
imperiousness which I had associated only with moments of crisis.
"If you approach me, Watson, I shall order you out of the house."
"Because it is my desire. Is that not enough?"
Yes, Mrs. Hudson was right. He was more masterful than ever. It
was pitiful, however, to see his exhaustion.
"I only wished to help," I explained.
"Exactly! You will help best by doing what you are told."
He relaxed the austerity of his manner.
"You are not angry?" he asked, gasping for breath.
Poor devil, how could I be angry when I saw him lying in such a
plight before me?
"It's for your own sake, Watson," he croaked.
"For MY sake?"
"I know what is the matter with me. It is a coolie disease from
Sumatra--a thing that the Dutch know more about than we, though
they have made little of it up to date. One thing only is
certain. It is infallibly deadly, and it is horribly
He spoke now with a feverish energy, the long hands twitching and
jerking as he motioned me away.
"Contagious by touch, Watson--that's it, by touch. Keep your
distance and all is well."
"Good heavens, Holmes! Do you suppose that such a consideration
weighs with me of an instant? It would not affect me in the case
of a stranger. Do you imagine it would prevent me from doing my
duty to so old a friend?"
Again I advanced, but he repulsed me with a look of furious
"If you will stand there I will talk. If you do not you must
leave the room."
I have so deep a respect for the extraordinary qualities of
Holmes that I have always deferred to his wishes, even when I
least understood them. But now all my professional instincts
were aroused. Let him be my master elsewhere, I at least was his
in a sick room.
"Holmes," said I, "you are not yourself. A sick man is but a
child, and so I will treat you. Whether you like it or not, I
will examine your symptoms and treat you for them."
He looked at me with venomous eyes.
"If I am to have a doctor whether I will or not, let me at least
have someone in whom I have confidence," said he.
"Then you have none in me?"
"In your friendship, certainly. But facts are facts, Watson,
and, after all, you are only a general practitioner with very
limited experience and mediocre qualifications. It is painful to
have to say these things, but you leave me no choice."
I was bitterly hurt.
"Such a remark is unworthy of you, Holmes. It shows me very
clearly the state of your own nerves. But if you have no
confidence in me I would not intrude my services. Let me bring
Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose Fisher, or any of the best men in
London. But someone you MUST have, and that is final. If you
think that I am going to stand here and see you die without
either helping you myself or bringing anyone else to help you,
then you have mistaken your man."
"You mean well, Watson," said the sick man with something between
a sob and a groan. "Shall I demonstrate your own ignorance?
What do you know, pray, of Tapanuli fever? What do you know of
the black Formosa corruption?"
"I have never heard of either."
"There are many problems of disease, many strange pathological
possibilities, in the East, Watson." He paused after each
sentence to collect his failing strength. "I have learned so
much during some recent researches which have a medico-criminal
aspect. It was in the course of them that I contracted this
complaint. You can do nothing."
"Possibly not. But I happen to know that Dr. Ainstree, the
greatest living authority upon tropical disease, is now in
London. All remonstrance is useless, Holmes, I am going this
instant to fetch him." I turned resolutely to the door.
Never have I had such a shock! In an instant, with a tiger-
spring, the dying man had intercepted me. I heard the sharp snap
of a twisted key. The next moment he had staggered back to his
bed, exhausted and panting after his one tremendous outflame of
"You won't take the key from be by force, Watson, I've got you,
my friend. Here you are, and here you will stay until I will
otherwise. But I'll humour you." (All this in little gasps,
with terrible struggles for breath between.) "You've only my own
good at heart. Of course I know that very well. You shall have
your way, but give me time to get my strength. Not now, Watson,
not now. It's four o'clock. At six you can go."
"This is insanity, Holmes."
"Only two hours, Watson. I promise you will go at six. Are you
content to wait?"
"I seem to have no choice."
"None in the world, Watson. Thank you, I need no help in
arranging the clothes. You will please keep your distance. Now,
Watson, there is one other condition that I would make. You will
seek help, not from the man you mention, but from the one that I
"By all means."
"The first three sensible words that you have uttered since you
entered this room, Watson. You will find some books over there.
I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it
pours electricity into a non-conductor? At six, Watson, we
resume our conversation."
But it was destined to be resumed long before that hour, and in
circumstances which gave me a shock hardly second to that caused
by his spring to the door. I had stood for some minutes looking
at the silent figure in the bed. His face was almost covered by
the clothes and he appeared to be asleep. Then, unable to settle
down to reading, I walked slowly round the room, examining the
pictures of celebrated criminals with which every wall was
adorned. Finally, in my aimless perambulation, I came to the
mantelpiece. A litter of pipes, tobacco-pouches, syringes,
penknives, revolver-cartridges, and other debris was scattered
over it. In the midst of these was a small black and white ivory
box with a sliding lid. It was a neat little thing, and I had
stretched out my hand to examine it more closely when
It was a dreadful cry that he gave--a yell which might have been
heard down the street. My skin went cold and my hair bristled at
that horrible scream. As I turned I caught a glimpse of a
convulsed face and frantic eyes. I stood paralyzed, with the
little box in my hand.
"Put it down! Down, this instant, Watson--this instant, I say!"
His head sank back upon the pillow and he gave a deep sigh of
relief as I replaced the box upon the mantelpiece. "I hate to
have my things touched, Watson. You know that I hate it. You
fidget me beyond endurance. You, a doctor--you are enough to
drive a patient into an asylum. Sit down, man, and let me have
The incident left a most unpleasant impression upon my mind. The
violent and causeless excitement, followed by this brutality of
speech, so far removed from his usual suavity, showed me how deep
was the disorganization of his mind. Of all ruins, that of a
noble mind is the most deplorable. I sat in silent dejection
until the stipulated time had passed. He seemed to have been
watching the clock as well as I, for it was hardly six before he
began to talk with the same feverish animation as before.
"Now, Watson," said he. "Have you any change in your pocket?"
"A good deal."
"How many half-crowns?"
"I have five."
"Ah, too few! Too few! How very unfortunate, Watson! However,
such as they are you can put them in your watchpocket. And all
the rest of your money in your left trouser pocket. Thank you.
It will balance you so much better like that."
This was raving insanity. He shuddered, and again made a sound
between a cough and a sob.
"You will now light the gas, Watson, but you will be very careful
that not for one instant shall it be more than half on. I
implore you to be careful, Watson. Thank you, that is excellent.
No, you need not draw the blind. Now you will have the kindness
to place some letters and papers upon this table within my reach.
Thank you. Now some of that litter from the mantelpiece.
Excellent, Watson! There is a sugar-tongs there. Kindly raise
that small ivory box with its assistance. Place it here among
the papers. Good! You can now go and fetch Mr. Culverton Smith,
of 13 Lower Burke Street."
To tell the truth, my desire to fetch a doctor had somewhat
weakened, for poor Holmes was so obviously delirious that it
seemed dangerous to leave him. However, he was as eager now to
consult the person named as he had been obstinate in refusing.
"I never heard the name," said I.
"Possibly not, my good Watson. It may surprise you to know that
the man upon earth who is best versed in this disease is not a
medical man, but a planter. Mr. Culverton Smith is a well-known
resident of Sumatra, now visiting London. An outbreak of the
disease upon his plantation, which was distant from medical aid,
caused him to study it himself, with some rather far-reaching
consequences. He is a very methodical person, and I did not
desire you to start before six, because I was well aware that you
would not find him in his study. If you could persuade him to
come here and give us the benefit of his unique experience of
this disease, the investigation of which has been his dearest
hobby, I cannot doubt that he could help me."
I gave Holmes's remarks as a consecutive whole and will not
attempt to indicate how they were interrupted by gaspings for
breath and those clutchings of his hands which indicated the pain
from which he was suffering. His appearance had changed for the
worse during the few hours that I had been with him. Those
hectic spots were more pronounced, the eyes shone more brightly
out of darker hollows, and a cold sweat glimmered upon his brow.
He still retained, however, the jaunty gallantry of his speech.
To the last gasp he would always be the master.
"You will tell him exactly how you have left me," said he. "You
will convey the very impression which is in your own mind--a
dying man--a dying and delirious man. Indeed, I cannot think why
the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so
prolific the creatures seem. Ah, I am wondering! Strange how
the brain controls the brain! What was I saying, Watson?"
"My directions for Mr. Culverton Smith."
"Ah, yes, I remember. My life depends upon it. Plead with him,
Watson. There is no good feeling between us. His nephew,
Watson--I had suspicions of foul play and I allowed him to see
it. The boy died horribly. He has a grudge against me. You
will soften him, Watson. Beg him, pray him, get him here by any
means. He can save me--only he!"
"I will bring him in a cab, if I have to carry him down to it."
"You will do nothing of the sort. You will persuade him to come.
And then you will return in front of him. Make any excuse so as
not to come with him. Don't forget, Watson. You won't fail me.
You never did fail me. No doubt there are natural enemies which
limit the increase of the creatures. You and I, Watson, we have
done our part. Shall the world, then, be overrun by oysters?
No, no; horrible! You'll convey all that is in your mind."
I left him full of the image of this magnificent intellect
babbling like a foolish child. He had handed me the key, and
with a happy thought I took it with me lest he should lock
himself in. Mrs. Hudson was waiting, trembling and weeping, in
the passage. Behind me as I passed from the flat I heard
Holmes's high, thin voice in some delirious chant. Below, as I
stood whistling for a cab, a man came on me through the fog.
"How is Mr. Holmes, sir?" he asked.
It was an old acquaintance, Inspector Morton, of Scotland Yard,
dressed in unofficial tweeds.
"He is very ill," I answered.
He looked at me in a most singular fashion. Had it not been too
fiendish, I could have imagined that the gleam of the fanlight
showed exultation in his face.
"I heard some rumour of it," said he.
The cab had driven up, and I left him.
Lower Burke Street proved to be a line of fine houses lying in
the vague borderland between Notting Hill and Kensington. The
particular one at which my cabman pulled up had an air of smug
and demure respectability in its old-fashioned iron railings, its
massive folding-door, and its shining brasswork. All was in
keeping with a solemn butler who appeared framed in the pink
radiance of a tinted electrical light behind him.
"Yes, Mr. Culverton Smith is in. Dr. Watson! Very good, sir, I
will take up your card."
My humble name and title did not appear to impress Mr. Culverton
Smith. Through the half-open door I heard a high, petulant,
"Who is this person? What does he want? Dear me, Staples, how
often have I said that I am not to be disturbed in my hours of
There came a gentle flow of soothing explanation from the butler.
"Well, I won't see him, Staples. I can't have my work
interrupted like this. I am not at home. Say so. Tell him to
come in the morning if he really must see me."
Again the gentle murmur.
"Well, well, give him that message. He can come in the morning,
or he can stay away. My work must not be hindered."
I thought of Holmes tossing upon his bed of sickness and counting
the minutes, perhaps, until I could bring help to him. It was
not a time to stand upon ceremony. His life depended upon my
promptness. Before the apologetic butler had delivered his
message I had pushed past him and was in the room.
With a shrill cry of anger a man rose from a reclining chair
beside the fire. I saw a great yellow face, coarse-grained and
greasy, with heavy, double-chin, and two sullen, menacing gray
eyes which glared at me from under tufted and sandy brows. A
high bald head had a small velvet smoking-cap poised coquettishly
upon one side of its pink curve. The skull was of enormous
capacity, and yet as I looked down I saw to my amazement that the
figure of the man was small and frail, twisted in the shoulders
and back like one who has suffered from rickets in his childhood.
"What's this?" he cried in a high, screaming voice. "What is the
meaning of this intrusion? Didn't I send you word that I would
see you to-morrow morning?"
"I am sorry," said I, "but the matter cannot be delayed. Mr.
The mention of my friend's name had an extraordinary effect upon
the little man. The look of anger passed in an instant from his
face. His features became tense and alert.
"Have you come from Holmes?" he asked.
"I have just left him."
"What about Holmes? How is he?"
"He is desperately ill. That is why I have come."
The man motioned me to a chair, and turned to resume his own. As
he did so I caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror over the
mantelpiece. I could have sworn that it was set in a malicious
and abominable smile. Yet I persuaded myself that it must have
been some nervous contraction which I had surprised, for he
turned to me an instant later with genuine concern upon his
"I am sorry to hear this," said he. "I only know Mr. Holmes
through some business dealings which we have had, but I have
every respect for his talents and his character. He is an
amateur of crime, as I am of disease. For him the villain, for
me the microbe. There are my prisons," he continued, pointing to
a row of bottles and jars which stood upon a side table. "Among
those gelatine cultivations some of the very worst offenders in
the world are now doing time."
"It was on account of your special knowledge that Mr. Holmes
desired to see you. He has a high opinion of you and thought
that you were the one man in London who could help him."
The little man started, and the jaunty smoking-cap slid to the
"Why?" he asked. "Why should Mr. Homes think that I could help
him in his trouble?"
"Because of your knowledge of Eastern diseases."
"But why should he think that this disease which he has
contracted is Eastern?"
"Because, in some professional inquiry, he has been working among
Chinese sailors down in the docks."
Mr. Culverton Smith smiled pleasantly and picked up his smoking-
"Oh, that's it--is it?" said he. "I trust the matter is not so
grave as you suppose. How long has he been ill?"
"About three days."
"Is he delirious?"
"Tut, tut! This sounds serious. It would be inhuman not to
answer his call. I very much resent any interruption to my work,
Dr. Watson, but this case is certainly exceptional. I will come
with you at once."
I remembered Holmes's injunction.
"I have another appointment," said I.
"Very good. I will go alone. I have a note of Mr. Holmes's
address. You can rely upon my being there within half an hour at
It was with a sinking heart that I reentered Holmes's bedroom.
For all that I knew the worst might have happened in my absence.
To my enormous relief, he had improved greatly in the interval.
His appearance was as ghastly as ever, but all trace of delirium
had left him and he spoke in a feeble voice, it is true, but with
even more than his usual crispness and lucidity.
"Well, did you see him, Watson?"
"Yes; he is coming."
"Admirable, Watson! Admirable! You are the best of messengers."
"He wished to return with me."
"That would never do, Watson. That would be obviously
impossible. Did he ask what ailed me?"
"I told him about the Chinese in the East End."
"Exactly! Well, Watson, you have done all that a good friend
could. You can now disappear from the scene."
"I must wait and hear his opinion, Holmes."
"Of course you must. But I have reasons to suppose that this
opinion would be very much more frank and valuable if he imagines
that we are alone. There is just room behind the head of my bed,
"My dear Holmes!"
"I fear there is no alternative, Watson. The room does not lend
itself to concealment, which is as well, as it is the less likely
to arouse suspicion. But just there, Watson, I fancy that it
could be done." Suddenly he sat up with a rigid intentness upon
his haggard face. "There are the wheels, Watson. Quick, man, if
you love me! And don't budge, whatever happens--whatever
happens, do you hear? Don't speak! Don't move! Just listen
with all your ears." Then in an instant his sudden access of
strength departed, and his masterful, purposeful talk droned away
into the low, vague murmurings of a semi-delirious man.
>From the hiding-place into which I had been so swiftly hustled I
heard the footfalls upon the stair, with the opening and the
closing of the bedroom door. Then, to my surprise, there came a
long silence, broken only by the heavy breathings and gaspings of
the sick man. I could imagine that our visitor was standing by
the bedside and looking down at the sufferer. At last that
strange hush was broken.
"Holmes!" he cried. "Holmes!" in the insistent tone of one who
awakens a sleeper. "Can't you hear me, Holmes?" There was a
rustling, as if he had shaken the sick man roughly by the
"Is that you, Mr. Smith?" Holmes whispered. "I hardly dared
hope that you would come."
The other laughed.
"I should imagine not," he said. "And yet, you see, I am here.
Coals of fire, Holmes--coals of fire!"
"It is very good of you--very noble of you. I appreciate your
Our visitor sniggered.
"You do. You are, fortunately, the only man in London who does.
Do you know what is the matter with you?"
"The same," said Holmes.
"Ah! You recognize the symptoms?"
"Only too well."
"Well, I shouldn't be surprised, Holmes. I shouldn't be
surprised if it WERE the same. A bad lookout for you if it is.
Poor Victor was a dead man on the fourth day--a strong, hearty
young fellow. It was certainly, as you said, very surprising
that he should have contracted and out-of-the-way Asiatic disease
in the heart of London--a disease, too, of which I had made such
a very special study. Singular coincidence, Holmes. Very smart
of you to notice it, but rather uncharitable to suggest that it
was cause and effect."
"I knew that you did it."
"Oh, you did, did you? Well, you couldn't prove it, anyhow. But
what do you think of yourself spreading reports about me like
that, and then crawling to me for help the moment you are in
trouble? What sort of a game is that--eh?"
I heard the rasping, laboured breathing of the sick man. "Give
me the water!" he gasped.
"You're precious near your end, my friend, but I don't want you
to go till I have had a word with you. That's why I give you
water. There, don't slop it about! That's right. Can you
understand what I say?"
"Do what you can for me. Let bygones be bygones," he whispered.
"I'll put the words out of my head--I swear I will. Only cure
me, and I'll forget it."
"Well, about Victor Savage's death. You as good as admitted just
now that you had done it. I'll forget it."
"You can forget it or remember it, just as you like. I don't see
you in the witnessbox. Quite another shaped box, my good Holmes,
I assure you. It matters nothing to me that you should know how
my nephew died. It's not him we are talking about. It's you."
"The fellow who came for me--I've forgotten his name--said that
you contracted it down in the East End among the sailors."
"I could only account for it so."
"You are proud of your brains, Holmes, are you not? Think
yourself smart, don't you? You came across someone who was
smarter this time. Now cast your mind back, Holmes. Can you
think of no other way you could have got this thing?"
"I can't think. My mind is gone. For heaven's sake help me!"
"Yes, I will help you. I'll help you to understand just where
you are and how you got there. I'd like you to know before you
"Give me something to ease my pain."
"Painful, is it? Yes, the coolies used to do some squealing
towards the end. Takes you as cramp, I fancy."
"Yes, yes; it is cramp."
"Well, you can hear what I say, anyhow. Listen now! Can you
remember any unusual incident in your life just about the time
your symptoms began?"
"No, no; nothing."
"I'm too ill to think."
"Well, then, I'll help you. Did anything come by post?"
"A box by chance?"
"I'm fainting--I'm gone!"
"Listen, Holmes!" There was a sound as if he was shaking the
dying man, and it was all that I could do to hold myself quiet in
my hiding-place. "You must hear me. You SHALL hear me. Do you
remember a box--an ivory box? It came on Wednesday. You opened
it--do you remember?"
"Yes, yes, I opened it. There was a sharp spring inside it.
"It was no joke, as you will find to your cost. You fool, you
would have it and you have got it. Who asked you to cross my
path? If you had left me alone I would not have hurt you."
"I remember," Holmes gasped. "The spring! It drew blood. This
box--this on the table."
"The very one, by George! And it may as well leave the room in
my pocket. There goes your last shred of evidence. But you have
the truth now, Holmes, and you can die with the knowledge that I
killed you. You knew too much of the fate of Victor Savage, so I
have sent you to share it. You are very near your end, Holmes.
I will sit here and I will watch you die."
Holmes's voice had sunk to an almost inaudible whisper.
"What is that?" said Smith. "Turn up the gas? Ah, the shadows
begin to fall, do they? Yes, I will turn it up, that I may see
you the better." He crossed the room and the light suddenly
brightened. "Is there any other little service that I can do
you, my friend?"
"A match and a cigarette."
I nearly called out in my joy and my amazement. He was speaking
in his natural voice--a little weak, perhaps, but the very voice
I knew. There was a long pause, and I felt that Culverton Smith
was standing in silent amazement looking down at his companion.
"What's the meaning of this?" I heard him say at last in a dry,
"The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it," said
Holmes. "I give you my word that for three days I have tasted
neither food nor drink until you were good enough to pour me out
that glass of water. But it is the tobacco which I find most
irksome. Ah, here ARE some cigarettes." I heard the striking of
a match. "That is very much better. Halloa! halloa! Do I hear
the step of a friend?"
There were footfalls outside, the door opened, and Inspector
"All is in order and this is your man," said Holmes.
The officer gave the usual cautions.
"I arrest you on the charge of the murder of one Victor Savage,"
"And you might add of the attempted murder of one Sherlock
Holmes," remarked my friend with a chuckle. "To save an invalid
trouble, Inspector, Mr. Culverton Smith was good enough to give
our signal by turning up the gas. By the way, the prisoner has a
small box in the right-hand pocket of his coat which it would be
as well to remove. Thank you. I would handle it gingerly if I
were you. Put it down here. It may play its part in the trial."
There was a sudden rush and a scuffle, followed by the clash of
iron and a cry of pain.
"You'll only get yourself hurt," said the inspector. "Stand
still, will you?" There was the click of the closing handcuffs.
"A nice trap!" cried the high, snarling voice. "It will bring
YOU into the dock, Holmes, not me. He asked me to come here to
cure him. I was sorry for him and I came. Now he will pretend,
no doubt, that I have said anything which he may invent which
will corroborate his insane suspicions. You can lie as you like,
Holmes. My word is always as good as yours."
"Good heavens!" cried Holmes. "I had totally forgotten him. My
dear Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies. To think that I
should have overlooked you! I need not introduce you to Mr.
Culverton Smith, since I understand that you met somewhat earlier
in the evening. Have you the cab below? I will follow you when I
am dressed, for I may be of some use at the station.
"I never needed it more," said Holmes as he refreshed himself
with a glass of claret and some biscuits in the intervals of his
toilet. "However, as you know, my habits are irregular, and such
a feat means less to me than to most men. It was very essential
that I should impress Mrs. Hudson with the reality of my
condition, since she was to convey it to you, and you in turn to
him. You won't be offended, Watson? You will realize that among
your many talents dissimulation finds no place, and that if you
had shared my secret you would never have been able to impress
Smith with the urgent necessity of his presence, which was the
vital point of the whole scheme. Knowing his vindictive nature,
I was perfectly certain that he would come to look upon his
"But your appearance, Holmes--your ghastly face?"
"Three days of absolute fast does not improve one's beauty,
Watson. For the rest, there is nothing which a sponge may not
cure. With vaseline upon one's forehead, belladonna in one's
eyes, rouge over the cheek-bones, and crusts of beeswax round
one's lips, a very satisfying effect can be produced.
Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of
writing a monograph. A little occasional talk about half-crowns,
oysters, or any other extraneous subject produces a pleasing
effect of delirium."
"But why would you not let me near you, since there was in truth
"Can you ask, my dear Watson? Do you imagine that I have no
respect for your medical talents? Could I fancy that your astute
judgment would pass a dying man who, however weak, had no rise of
pulse or temperature? At four yards, I could deceive you. If I
failed to do so, who would bring my Smith within my grasp? No,
Watson, I would not touch that box. You can just see if you look
at it sideways where the sharp spring like a viper's tooth
emerges as you open it. I dare say it was by some such device
that poor Savage, who stood between this monster and a reversion,
was done to death. My correspondence, however, is, as you know,
a varied one, and I am somewhat upon my guard against any
packages which reach me. It was clear to me, however, that by
pretending that he had really succeeded in his design I might
surprise a confession. That pretence I have carried out with the
thoroughness of the true artist. Thank you, Watson, you must
help me on with my coat. When we have finished at the police-
station I think that something nutritious at Simpson's would not
be out of place."