‘Well, I should put the original cost of the pipe at seven-and-sixpence. Now it has, you see, been twice mended: once in the wooden stem and once in the amber. Each of these mends, done, as you observe, with silver bands, must have cost more than the pipe did originally. The man must value the pipe highly when he prefers to patch it up rather than buy a new one with the same money.’

‘Anything else?’ I asked, for Holmes was turning the pipe about in his hand and staring at it in his peculiar, pensive way.

He held it up and tapped on it with his long, thin fore-finger as a professor might who was lecturing on a bone.

‘Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest,’ said he. ‘Nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces. The indications here, however, are neither very marked nor very important. The owner is obviously a muscular man, left-handed, with an excellent set of teeth, careless in his habits, and with no need to practise economy.’

My friend threw out the information in a very off-hand way, but I saw that he cocked his eye at me to see if I had followed his reasoning.

‘You think a man must be well-to-do if he smokes a seven-shilling pipe?’ said I.

‘This is Grosvenor mixture at eightpence an ounce,’ Holmes answered, knocking a little out on his palm. ‘As he might get an excellent smoke for half the price, he has no need to practise economy.’

‘And the other points?’

‘He has been in the habit of lighting his pipe at lamps and gas-jets. You can see that it is quite charred all down one side. Of course, a match could not have done that. Why should a man hold a match to the side of his pipe? But you cannot light it at a lamp without getting the bowl charred. And it is all on the right side of the pipe. From that I gather that he is a left-handed man. You hold your own pipe to the lamp, and see how naturally you, being right-handed, hold the left side to the flame. You might do it once the other way, but not as a constancy. This has always been held so. Then he has bitten through his amber. It takes a muscular, energetic fellow, and one with a good set of teeth to do that. But if I am not mistaken I hear him upon the stair, so we shall have something more interesting than his pipe to study.’

An instant later our door opened, and a tall young man entered the room. He was well but quietly dressed in a dark-grey suit, and carried a brown wide-awake in his hand. I should have put him at about thirty, though he was really some years older.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said he, with some embarrassment; ‘I suppose I should have knocked. Yes, of course I should have knocked. The fact is that I am a little upset, and you must put it all down to that.’ He passed his hand over his forehead like a man who is half dazed, and then fell, rather than sat, down upon a chair.

‘I can see that you have not slept for a night or two,’ said Holmes, in his easy, genial way. ‘That tries a man’s nerves more than work, and more even than pleasure. May I ask how I can help you?’

‘I wanted your advice, sir. I don’t know what to do, and my whole life seems to have gone to pieces.’

‘You wish to employ me as a consulting detective?’

‘Not that only. I want your opinion as a judicious man—as a man of the world. I want to know what I ought to do next. I hope to God you’ll be able to tell me.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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