Stage 2 (Apprentice): A Study in Scarlet, chapter 1

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Retold by An Bui

CHAPTER 1: Mr.Sherlock Holmes

In the year 1878, I completed the course required for the Doctor of Medicine degree, and joined the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon, just as the second Afghan war broke out. The campaign brought misfortune and disaster to me as I was struck on the shoulder at the fatal battle of Maiwand so I was sent back to England. I naturally moved towards London where I spent so much money that I soon realized that I had to look for less expensive accommodation(1). Fortunately, I found out through an old friend that a queer fellow called Sherlock Holmes was also looking for someone to share rooms with.

After lunch, we arrived at the laboratory at the furthest end of a passage in Bart’s, where Mr.Holmes was conducting some kind of research.


“I’ve found it, I’ve found it”, cried the person in the room, “I have found a liquid that is deposited in solid form by the red blood cell.” He would not have been any happier if he had discovered a gold mine.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes”, said Stamford, introducing us.

“How are you?” he said, gripping my hand with great strength. “You have been in Afghanistan, I believe.”

“How on earth did you know that?”

“Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself. “The question now is about the red blood cell. Don’t you see that the Sherlock Holmes’ method gives us an accurate test for blood stains?”


“We came here on business,” said Stamford, “My friend here wants to have a flat mate, and I thought I had better bring you together, as you have the same needs.”

Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea. “I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street, which I think would suit us. You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?”

“I always smoke myself,” I answered.

“That’s good enough. I also have chemicals about, get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days. What do you have to confess now? It’s good for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin living together.”

I laughed. “I keep a puppy, get up at strange hours, am extremely lazy and cannot stand arguments, those are the principal(2) ones.”

“That’s all right, I think we may consider the thing as settled – that is, if the rooms are agreeable to you.”

We met the next day to look at the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street. They included a couple of comfortable bedrooms and a large airy living room, cheerfully furnished. We at once closed the deal and moved things round to our new property(3).

Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with. He was quiet in his ways, and his habits were regular. Sometimes he spent his day at the laboratory, sometimes in the dissecting(4) rooms, and occasionally in long walks which took him to the lowest part of the City.

I grew more and more curious about his aims in life, as the weeks went by. In height he was rather over six feet, and so thin that he looked a lot taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin hawk-like nose made him look alert and decisive.

He was not studying medicine, or any course of reading which might gain him a degree in science, yet his depth in certain fields fairly astounded(5) me. However, his ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. He appeared to know nearly nothing of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics, and my surprise reached a climax(6) when I found that he was not aware that the Earth goes around the Sun!

“Now that I know it I shall do my best to forget it”, he said, with a smile. “You see, I consider that a man’s brain is like a little empty attic, and it is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic(7) walls. A skillful work man is very careful not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones. You may say that we go round the sun, but it would not make any difference to me or to my work if we went round the moon.”

I was on the point of asking him what that work might be, but I saw that the question would be unwelcomed.

During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had begun to think that my companion was as friendless as I was. Presently, however, there was one rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade. One day brought a fashionably dressed young girl, a grey-headed visitor looking like a Jew monger, an elderly woman and a railway porter in his velveteen uniform. Whenever any of these people appeared, Sherlock Holmes would ask for the use of the living room, and I would retire to my bedroom. “I have to use this room as a place of business,” he said, “and these people are my clients.”

It was upon the 4th of March that I woke up earlier than usual and found that Sherlock Holmes had not yet finished his breakfast. I picked up a magazine from the table and saw that one of the articles had a pencil mark at an ambitious heading, “The Book of Life,” and it attempted to show how much an observant(8) man might learn by an accurate and systematic examination of all that came in his way. “From a drop of water,” said the writer,”a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara. So all life is a great chain, and we can know its nature whenever we are shown a single link of it. Like all other arts, acquiring the Science of Deduction and Analysis requires a long and patient study, which teaches one where to look and what to look for. A man’s calling is plainly revealed by his finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, his boot, his trouser knees, his expression – by each of these things. In this way, a good observer can make out whatever information he wants.

“What  nonsense!” I cried, slapping the magazine down on the table, “I never read such rubbish in my life.”

“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

“This article,” I said, pointing at it as I sat down to my breakfast. “I see that you have read it since you have marked it. I don’t deny that it is smartly written but it is not at all practical.”

Sherlock Holmes said calmly. “I wrote the article myself.”


“Yes, the theories which I have expressed there might seem extremely inapplicable(9) to you, but they are so practical to me that I depend on them for a living.”

“And how?” I asked, involuntarily(10).

“Well, I suppose I am a consulting detective, the only one in the world. Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows lose their tracks they come to me for advice. They give me all the evidence(11) and I will set them straight.”

“And the other people?”

“They are mostly private clients who are in trouble about something and want a little counseling(12). I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I get my fee.”

“But you mean that you can undo some knots which other men can make nothing of without leaving your room?”

“Quite so, but then there are some complicated cases when I have to see things myself. You were surprised when I told you that you had come from Afghanistan on our first meeting.”

“You were told so, no doubt.”

“No, I knew you came from Afghanistan. The train of reasoning ran, ‘Here is an English army doctor. His face is dark so he has just come from the tropics. His exhausted face shows that he has been through sickness and hardship, and his left arm has been injured. So where could you find an English army doctor who has seen much hardship and got his arm wounded in the tropics? Clearly in Afghanistan.”

“You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe’s Dupin.” I said, smiling.

“In my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. His tricks are really showy and unnecessary. No man lives or has ever lived that has used the same amount of study and natural talent for the detection of crime which I have done.”

I felt rather offended at having my favourite character treated in such an arrogant(13) style. I thought it best to change the topic.

“I wonder what that fellow is looking for?” I asked, pointing to a plainly-dressed man who had a large blue envelope in his hand, and was clearly a messenger.

“You mean the retired sergeant of Marines,” said Sherlock Holmes.

“Brag and bounce!” thought I to myself. “He knows that I cannot verify his guess.”

The thought had hardly passed through my mind when we heard a loud knock, a deep voice below, and heavy steps on the stairs.

“For Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” he said, handing my friend the letter.

“May I ask, my lad,” I said, in the most ordinary voice, “what your trade(14) may be?”

“Commissionaire, sir,” he said, firmly.

“And you were?” I asked.

“A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry, sir. No answer? Right, sir.”

He clicked his heels together, raised his hand in a salute, and was gone.




  1. Accommodation: a room, group of rooms, or building in which someone may live or stay.
  2. Principal: first in order of importance; main.
  3. Property: a thing or things belonging to someone.
  4. Dissect: cut up (a body, part, or plant) in order to study its internal parts.
  5. Astound: shock or greatly surprise.
  6. Elastic: stretchable
  7. Climax: a peak, a height.
  8. Observant: quick to notice things.
  9. Inapplicable: not suitable or proper.
  10. Involuntarily: doing something without conscious control or will.
  11. Evidence: the available body of facts or information showing whether a position is true or valid.
  12. Counseling: advice.
  13. Arrogant: having an enlarged sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
  14. Trade (old-fashioned): way of life, habitual practice.


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