1. CHAPTER I. MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES.
I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as
free as air -- or as free as an income of eleven shillings
and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such
circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great
cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire
are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a
private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless,
meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had,
considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming did the
state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must
either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the
country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my
style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began
by making up my mind to leave the hotel, and to take up my
quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.
On the very day that I had come to this conclusion,
I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when some one tapped me
on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized young Stamford,
who had been a dresser under me at Barts. The sight of a
friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant
thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never
been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with
enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to
see me. In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with
me at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.
"Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?"
he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through
the crowded London streets. "You are as thin as a lath
and as brown as a nut."
I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly
concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.
"Poor devil!" he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened
to my misfortunes. "What are you up to now?"
"Looking for lodgings," I answered. "Trying to solve the
problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms
at a reasonable price."