Of all the tasks that my friend Sherlock Holmes had to solve, I only offered his attention to two, namely, the case when Mr. Haderly lost his thumb and the incident with the distraught Colonel Warbarton. The latter was a vast field of activity for a subtle and original observer, but the first was so peculiar and so dramatic in its details that it deserves to be stated in my notes, although it did not allow my friend to apply those deductive methods of thinking, thanks to which he repeatedly sought such remarkable results.
About this story, I remember, newspapers often wrote, but like all such events, squeezed into a newspaper column, it seemed much less exciting than when it was told by the participant of the events, and the action seemed to slowly unfold before our eyes, and we step by step penetrated into the mystery and approached the truth. At one time, the circumstances of this case made a deep impression on me, and the two years that have passed since then have not weakened this effect at all.
The events that I want to talk about happened in the summer of 1889, shortly after my marriage. I again took up medical practice and forever took leave of the apartment on Baker Street, although often visited Holmes and from time to time even persuaded to give up bohemian habits and often come to us. My practice was steadily growing, and since I lived near Paddington, among the patients I had several employees of this station. One of them, which I managed to cure from
One morning, about seven o’clock, I woke up, knocking on the door, our maid. She said that two men came from Paddington and are waiting for me in the office. I quickly dressed, knowing from experience that accidents on the railroad are rarely trivial, and ran down. From the reception room, tightly closing the door behind him, came out my old patient – conductor.
“He’s here,” he whispered, pointing to the door. – Everything is fine.
“Who?” I did not understand. By his whisper, one could have thought that he had locked in my office some extraordinary creature.
“A new patient,” he continued in a whisper. “I decided that I’d better bring him myself, then he will not escape.” He’s there, it’s all right. And it’s time for me. At me, the doctor, as well as at you, the duties.
And he left, my faithful admirer, without giving me even the opportunity to thank him.
I went into the waiting room; near the table sat a man. He was dressed in an inexpensive suit of multicolored tweed; his cap lay on my books. One hand was tied with a handkerchief entirely in blood stains. He was young, about twenty-five, no more, with an expressive, courageous face, but terribly pale and as if shaken by something-he was completely unable to control himself.
“I’m sorry to disturb you so early, Doctor,” he said, “but something serious has happened to me this night.” I arrived in London by the morning train, and when I started to find out in Paddington where to find a doctor, this kind person kindly escorted me to you. I gave my maid a card, but I see she left it on the table.
I took a card and read the name, occupation and address of my visitor: “Mr. Victor Heatherly, Hydraulic Engineer, Victoria Street, 16th (4th Floor)”.
“I’m very sorry to have kept you waiting,” I said, sitting down in the armchair by the desk. “You’ve been driving all night-the occupation itself is not fun.”
“Oh, I can not call this night boring,” he replied and laughed.
Leaning back in his chair, he was shaking with laughter, and in his laughter there was a high, ringing note. As a doctor, I did not like his laughter.
“Stop it!” Pull yourself together! I shouted and poured him water from the decanter.
But it did not help either. He mastered one of those hysterical fits that occur in strong natures, when the experiences are already behind. Finally, laughter tired him, and he calmed down a little.
“I’m being extremely stupid,” he gasped, breathless.
– Not at all. Drink this! – I poured some cognac into the water, and his pale cheeks turned pink.
“Thank you,” he said. “And now, doctor, be so kind as to look at my finger, or rather, the place where he once was.”
He took off his handkerchief and held out his hand. Even I, accustomed to these kinds of shows, shuddered. On the arm protruded only four fingers, and in place of the large was a terrible red swelling. The finger was torn off or chopped off the very base.
– Oh my God! I cried. “What a terrible wound!” Blood, probably, has leaked abundantly.
– Yes. After the blow, I fell into a faint and, probably, was unconscious for a very long time. When I woke up, I saw that the blood was still coming, then I tightly tied a handkerchief around my wrist and twisted the knot with a piece of wood.
– Excellent! You would have been a good surgeon.
– No, I just understand what has to do with hydraulics.
“The wound is applied with a heavy and sharp instrument,” I said, examining my hand.
“Similar to a butcher’s knife,” he added.
“Do not frighten me.”
I washed and processed the wound, and then wrapped my arm with cotton wool and bandaged bandages soaked in the box. He sat, leaning back in his chair, and never winced, though from time to time he bit his lips.
– Well, how? – Finished, I asked.
– Excellent! After your cognac and dressing, I was born again. I was very weak, because I had to experience a lot.