The Sign of the Four
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Science of Deduction
Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-
piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.
With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate
needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff.
For some little
time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and
wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.
Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny
piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long
sigh of satisfaction.
Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this
performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it.
contrary, from day to day I had become more irritable at the
sight, and my conscience swelled nightly within me at the thought
that I had lacked the courage to protest.
Again and again I had
registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject,
but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion
which made him the last man with whom one would care to take
anything approaching to a liberty.
His great powers, his
masterly manner, and the experience which I had had of his many
extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in
Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had
taken with my lunch, or the additional exasperation produced by
the extreme deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I
could hold out no longer.
"Which is it to-day?" I asked,--"morphine or cocaine?"
He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume
which he had opened.
"It is cocaine," he said,--"a seven-per-
Would you care to try it?"
"No, indeed," I answered, brusquely.
"My constitution has not
got over the Afghan campaign yet.
I cannot afford to throw any
extra strain upon it."
He smiled at my vehemence.
"Perhaps you are right, Watson," he
"I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one.
find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to
the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment."
"But consider!" I said, earnestly.
"Count the cost!
may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological
and morbid process, which involves increased tissue-change and
may at last leave a permanent weakness.
You know, too, what a
black reaction comes upon you.
Surely the game is hardly worth
Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk
the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed?
Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another, but as
a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent
He did not seem offended.
On the contrary, he put his finger-
tips together and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair,
like one who has a relish for conversation.
"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation.