"Seven!" I answered.
"Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more,
I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not
tell me that you intended to go into harness."
"Then, how do you know?"
"I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting
yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and
careless servant girl?"
"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much. You would certainly
have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true
that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful
mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine how you
deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has
given her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work it
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands
"It is simplicity itself," said he; "my eyes tell me that on the
inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it,
the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they
have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round
the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it.
Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile
weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting
specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a
gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black
mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge
on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted
his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce
him to be an active member of the medical profession."
I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his
process of deduction. "When I hear you give your reasons," I
remarked, "the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously
simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each
successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you
explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good
"Quite so," he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing
himself down into an armchair. "You see, but you do not observe.
The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen
the steps which lead up from the hall to this room."
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many? I don't know."
"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is
just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps,
because I have both seen and observed. By-the-way, since you are
interested in these little problems, and since you are good
enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you
may be interested in this." He threw over a sheet of thick,
pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon the table.
"It came by the last post," said he. "Read it aloud."
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.
"There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight
o'clock," it said, "a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a
matter of the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of
the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may
safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which
can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all
quarters received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do
not take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask."
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked. "What do you imagine that
"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before
one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit
theories, instead of theories to suit facts. But the note itself.
What do you deduce from it?"
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was
"The man who wrote it was presumably well to do," I remarked,
endeavouring to imitate my companion's processes. "Such paper
could not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly
strong and stiff."
"Peculiar--that is the very word," said Holmes. "It is not an
English paper at all. Hold it up to the light."
I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small "g," a "P," and a
large "G" with a small "t" woven into the texture of the paper.
"What do you make of that?" asked Holmes.
"The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather."