quivering fingers as agile and restless as the antennae of an insect.
Holmes was silent, but his little darting glances showed me the interest which he took in our curious companion.
'I presume, sir,' said he at last, 'that it was not merely for the purpose of examining my skull that you have done me the honour to call here last night and again to-day?'
'No, sir, no; though I am happy to have had the opportunity of doing that as well. I came to you, Mr Holmes, because I recognise that I am myself an unpractical man, and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognising, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe--'
'Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?' asked Holmes, with some asperity.
'To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertilion* must always appeal strongly.'
'Then had you not better consult him?'
'I said, sir, to the precisely scientific mind. But as a practical man of affairs it is acknowledged that you stand alone. I trust, sir, that I have not inadvertently----'
'Just a little,' said Holmes. 'I think, Dr Mortimer, you would do wisely if without more ado you would kindly tell me plainly what the exact nature of the problem is in which you demand my assistance.'
'I HAVE in my pocket a manuscript,' said Dr James Mortimer.
'I observed it as you entered the room,' said Holmes.
'It is an old manuscript.'