HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
AUTHUR CONAN DOYLE
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
carry--dignified solid and reassuring.
"Well Watson what do you make of it?"
Holmes was sitting with his back to me and I had given him no
sign of my occupation.
"How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in
the back of your head."
"I have at least a well-polished silver-plated coffee-pot in
front of me" said he. "But tell me Watson what do you make of
our visitor's stick? Since we have been so unfortunate as to miss
him and have no notion of his errand this accidental souvenir
becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruct the man by an
examination of it."
"I think" said I following as far as I could the methods of my
companion "that Dr. Mortimer is a successful elderly medical
man well-esteemed since those who know him give him this mark of
"Good!" said Holmes. "Excellent!"
"I think also that the probability is in favour of his being a
country practitioner who does a great deal of his visiting on
"Because this stick though originally a very handsome one has
been so knocked about that I can hardly imagine a town
practitioner carrying it. The thick-iron ferrule is worn down so
it is evident that he has done a great amount of walking with
"Perfectly sound!" said Holmes.
"And then again there is the 'friends of the C.C.H.' I should
guess that to be the Something Hunt the local hunt to whose
members he has possibly given some surgical assistance and which
has made him a small presentation in return."
"Really Watson you excel yourself" said Holmes pushing back
his chair and lighting a cigarette. "I am bound to say that in
all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own
small achievements you have habitually underrated your own
abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous but you
are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius
have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess my dear
fellow that I am very much in your debt."
He had never said as much before and I must admit that his words
gave me keen pleasure for I had often been piqued by his
indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had
made to give publicity to his methods. I was proud too to think
that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in a way
which earned his approval. He now took the stick from my hands
and examined it for a few minutes with his naked eyes. Then with
an expression of interest he laid down his cigarette and
carrying the cane to the window he looked over it again with a
"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
"Has anything escaped me?" I asked with some self-importance. "I
trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have
"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 all--by 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-physician--little more than a senior
student. And he left five years ago--the 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 man's 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.
"Mortimer James M.R.C.S. 1882 Grimpen Dartmoor
Devon. House-surgeon from 1882 to 1884 at Charing Cross
Hospital. Winner of the Jackson prize for Comparative Pathology
with essay entitled 'Is Disease a Reversion?' Corresponding
member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of 'Some
Freaks of Atavism' (Lancet 1882). 'Do We Progress?' (Journal of
Psychology March 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of