Dr Watson Remembers
In the year 1878 I became a doctor of medicine at the University of London, and then joined the Army as a surgeon. My first job was in Afghanistan, where I was shot in the shoulder. I went to hospital and started to recover, but then I became ill with a fever. For many months I was close to death, but finally I was strong enough to make the journey back to England.
My health was very weak and I had no friends or family in England. The Government gave me a small allowance for each day and with this money I lived well enough for a while in a hotel in London. But it soon became too expensive and I needed find somewhere cheaper to live. That how I met Mr Sherlock Holmes.
One day, I left the hotel and by chance I met a young man I knew called Stamford.
‘Why, you’re very thin and as brown as a nut, Watson. What have you been doing?’
We went to lunch together and I told him about my adventures and my current money problems.
‘I may be able to help you,’ said Stamford. ‘I know a man who needs someone to share some nice rooms he’s found. They’re too expensive for him on his own.’
‘I’m just the right man for him. When can I meet him?’ Stamford gave me a strange look. ‘You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,’ he said. ‘You might not get on with him.’
‘But why?’ I asked. I was extremely curious about him.
‘He’s a decent man,’ said Stamford, ‘but he has some strange ideas. He studies many different things; medicine, science, anatomy… but apparently with no reason.’
‘I’d still like to meet him,’ I said.
After lunch we went to meet Sherlock Holmes at the laboratory where he worked.
‘Dr Watson, Mr Sherlock Holmes,’ said Stamford, introducing us. ‘How are you?’ he said, shaking my hand firmly. ‘You’ve been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’
‘How did you know that?’ I asked in great surprise.
‘Never mind,’ he said laughing to himself.
‘We came here on business,’ interrupted Stamford. ‘My friend here needs somewhere to live and I know that you need someone to share your rooms.’
Mr Holmes seemed pleased.
‘I’ve seen some rooms in Baker Street,’ he said. ‘Do you mind the smell of tobacco?’
‘I’m a smoker myself,’ I answered.
‘That’s good. I also usually have chemicals about and sometimes do experiments. Would that be a problem for you?’
‘No,’ I replied.
‘Hmm… What about you? We need to know the worst things about each other before we can live together.’
‘I don’t like noise, and I get up at strange times, and I’m very lazy.’
‘Oh, that’s alright!’ he laughed. ‘Come to see the rooms tomorrow. I’ll meet you here at noon.’
On our way out, I suddenly remembered something.
‘How did he know that I’d been in Afghanistan?’ I asked.
Stamford smiled. ‘Many people want to know how he finds things out.’
‘Oh, a mystery is it? How very interesting!’ I left Stamford and walked to my hotel, intrigued by my new acquaintance.
The rooms were at 221B Baker Street; two comfortable bedrooms and a large sitting room. We moved in immediately. As the weeks passed, my curiosity and interest in Sherlock Holmes increased. Even his appearance was extraordinary; he was over six feet tall, but he was thin so he appeared to be taller. He studied all kinds of subjects; his knowledge was remarkable, but so was his ignorance. For example, he did not know that the Earth travelled around the sun. ‘But what do I care?’ he said. ‘If we go around the moon, it makes no difference to me or my work.’
‘But what was his work?’ I thought to myself.
During the first week we had no visitors and I thought that Holmes, like myself, had few friends. But soon I found that he had many acquaintances from all different classes of society. When these people came to visit, Holmes asked to use the sitting room and I went to my bedroom.
‘I have to use this room as a place of business,’ he explained, ‘and these people are my clients.’ Again, I wanted to ask him what his business was and soon my question was answered by Holmes himself.
While we were eating breakfast one morning, I was reading an article in a magazine. The article said that by looking carefully, a person could learn a lot from everyday details. The writer said that from an expression, a tiny movement or a look of an eye, one person could read another person’s thoughts. With a lot of study, one could learn to tell what happened in a person’s past. If you were good at observation, you could look carefully at their clothes and the way they looked. Then it would be easy to say what they did for a living.
I threw the magazine down. ‘What absolute rubbish!’ I exclaimed.
‘What is it?’ asked Sherlock Holmes.
‘This article!’ I replied. ‘It’s well written but it isn’t practical. I’d like to see the writer on a train on the Underground. Could he successfully guess the jobs of all the other travellers?’
‘I wrote that article,’ said Sherlock Holmes calmly.
‘Yes, I’m very good at observation and deduction. You could say it was my job, really.’
‘How? I don’t understand.’
‘Well, I suppose I’m unique. I’m a consulting detective. Here in London we have government detectives and private detectives. When they are confused, they come to me for help. They tell me all the details of the crime. By using my knowledge and skills, I can usually tell them what to do to solve it.’
‘But how can you explain a problem without leaving your room when other men who have seen every detail cannot?’
‘Sometimes I do have to see the evidence with my own eyes. To me observation comes naturally. You were surprised on our first meeting. How did I know that you came from Afghanistan?’
‘Somebody told you.’
‘Of course not. From your manner, I knew that you were an army doctor. Afghanistan is a hot place and your face was brown from the sun. This wasn’t your natural colour because your arms were white. Your face looked tired. This meant that you hadn’t been well during your stay in Afghanistan. Your left arm was injured because you held it in an unnatural way. Where could an English army doctor have been ill and wounded? Obviously in Afghanistan. All these details went quickly through my mind and led me to the correct conclusion.’
‘It’s very simple when you explain it,’ I said, smiling. I looked out of the window.
‘I wonder who that is,’ I said, pointing to the street, where a man was looking at the street numbers. He had a large envelope in his hand. Sherlock Holmes looked out.
‘You mean the retired sergeant of the Marines?’ he said.
‘Hmm, very clever,’ I thought to myself. ‘How do I know if he’s right?’ But soon I had the chance to find out; the man knocked on the door and came up the stairs.
‘For Mr Sherlock Holmes,’ he said, handing him the envelope.
‘Can I ask,’ I said to the man, ‘what it is that you do?’
‘I was a sergeant, sir, in the Marines. Is that all, sir?’
‘Sherlock Holmes was right again,’ I thought, as the man left the room. ‘Maybe he is as clever as he thinks he is.’
Meanwhile Sherlock Holmes was reading the letter. ‘Here,’ he said, giving it to me. ‘Look at this.’
‘But this is terrible!’ I exclaimed after reading it. ‘There’s been a murder!’