The Adventure Of The Dying Detective





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

with him.



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

manner.



"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."



"But why?"



"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."



"Certainly, Holmes."



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

contagious."



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

anger.



"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

energy.



"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

choose."



"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

my rest!"



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?"



"Yes."



"Any silver?"



"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,

penetrating voice.



"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

study?"



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.

Sherlock Holmes--"



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

features.



"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

floor.



"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-

cap.



"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?"



"Occasionally."



"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

most."



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,

Watson."



"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

shoulder.



"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

special knowledge."



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?"



Holmes groaned.



"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."



"Forget what?"



"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."



"Yes, yes."



"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

die."



"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."



"Think again."



"I'm too ill to think."



"Well, then, I'll help you. Did anything come by post?"



"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.

Some joke--"



"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,

rasping tone.



"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

Morton appeared.



"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,"

he concluded.



"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

handiwork."



"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

no infection?"



"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."





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