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  A Study In Scarlet

  by Arthur Conan Doyle

  April, 1995 [Etext #244]

  **The Project Gutenberg Etext of A Study In Scarlet, by Doyle**

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  A STUDY IN SCARLET.

  By A. CONAN DOYLE

  {1}

  A STUDY IN SCARLET.

  PART I.

  (_Being a reprint from the reminiscences of_ JOHN H. WATSON, M.D.,

  _late of the Army Medical Department._) {2}

  CHAPTER I.

  MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES.

  IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine

  of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go

  through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.

  Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached

  to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon.

  The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before

  I could join it, the second Afghan war had broken out.

  On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced

  through the passes, and was already deep in the enemy's

  country. I followed, however, with many other officers

  who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded

  in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment,

  and at once entered upon my new duties.

  The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for

  me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed

  from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I

  served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on

  the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and

  grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the

  hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the

  devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw

  me across a pack-horse, and succeeded in bringing me safely

  to the British lines.

  Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which

  I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded

  sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawar. Here I rallied,

  and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about

  the wards, and even to bask a little upon the verandah,

  when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our

  Indian possessions. For months my life was despaired of,

  and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent,

  I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined

  that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England.

  I was dispatched, accordingly, in the troopship "Orontes,"

  and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty, with my health

  irr
etrievably ruined, but with permission from a paternal

  government to spend the next nine months in attempting to

  improve it.

  I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as

  free as air -- or as free as an income of eleven shillings

  and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such

  circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great

  cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire

  are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a

  private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless,

  meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had,

  considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming did the

  state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must

  either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the

  country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my

  style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began

  by making up my mind to leave the hotel, and to take up my

  quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.

  On the very day that I had come to this conclusion,

  I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when some one tapped me

  on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized young Stamford,

  who had been a dresser under me at Barts. The sight of a

  friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant

  thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never

  been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with

  enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to

  see me. In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with

  me at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.

  "Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?"

  he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through

  the crowded London streets. "You are as thin as a lath

  and as brown as a nut."

  I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly

  concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.

  "Poor devil!" he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened

  to my misfortunes. "What are you up to now?"

  "Looking for lodgings." {3} I answered. "Trying to solve the

  problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms

  at a reasonable price."

  "That's a strange thing," remarked my companion; "you are

  the second man to-day that has used that expression to me."

  "And who was the first?" I asked.

  "A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the

  hospital. He was bemoaning himself this morning because he

  could not get someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms

  which he had found, and which were too much for his purse."

  "By Jove!" I cried, "if he really wants someone to share the

  rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should

  prefer having a partner to being alone."

  Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass.

  "You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet," he said; "perhaps you would

  not care for him as a constant companion."

  "Why, what is there against him?"

  "Oh, I didn't say there was anything against him. He is a

  little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches

  of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."

  "A medical student, I suppose?" said I.

  "No -- I have no idea what he intends to go in for.

  I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class

  chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out any

  systematic medical classes. His studies are very desultory

  and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way

  knowledge which would astonish his professors."