SHERLOCK HOLMES was in a melancholy and philosophic mood that morning. His alert practical nature was subject to such reactions.
'Did you see him?' he asked.
'You mean the old fellow who has just gone out?'
'Yes, I met him at the door.'
'What did you think of him?'
'A pathetic, futile, broken creature.'
'Exactly, Watson. Pathetic and futile. But is not all life pathetic and futile? Is not his story a microcosm of the whole? We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a shadow--misery.'
'Is he one of your clients?'
'Well, I suppose I may call him so. He has been sent on by the Yard. Just as medical men occasionally send their incurables to a quack. They argue that they can do nothing more, and that whatever happens the patient can be no worse than he is.'
'What is the matter?'
Holmes took a rather soiled card from the table. ' Josiah Amberley. He says he was junior partner of Brickfall and Amberley, who are manufacturers of artistic materials. You will see their names upon paint-boxes. He made his little pile, retired from business at the age of sixty-one, bought a house at Lewisham* and settled down to rest after a life of ceaseless grind. One would think his future was tolerably assured.'
Holmes glanced over some notes which he had scribbled upon the back of an envelope.
'Retired in 1896, Watson. Early in 1897 he married a woman twenty years younger than himself--a good-looking