‘Exactly You will help best by doing what you are told.’

‘Certainly, Holmes.’

He relaxed the austerity of his manner.

‘You are not angry?’ he asked, gasping for breath.

Poor devil, how could I be angry when I saw him lying in such a plight before me?

‘It’s for your own sake, Watson,’ he croaked.

‘For my sake?’

‘I know what is the matter with me. It is a Coolie disease from Sumatra—a thing that the Dutch know more about than we, though they have made little of it up to date. One thing only is certain. It is infallibly deadly and it is horribly contagious.’

He spoke now with a feverish energy, the long hands twitching and jerking as he motioned me away.

‘Contagious by touch, Watson—that’s it, by touch. Keep your distance and all is well.’

‘Good heavens, Holmes, do you suppose that such a consideration weighs with me for an instant? It would not affect me in the case of a stranger. Do you imagine it would prevent me from doing my duty to so old a friend?’

Again I advanced, but he repulsed me with a look of furious anger.

‘If you will stand there I will talk. If you do not you must leave the room.’

I have so deep a respect for the extraordinary qualities of Holmes that I have always deferred to his wishes even when I least understood them. But now all my professional instincts were aroused. Let him be my master elsewhere, I at least was his in a sick-room.

‘Holmes,’ said I, ‘you are not yourself. A sick man is but a child and so I will treat you. Whether you like it or not, I will examine your symptoms and treat you for them.’

He looked at me with venomous eyes.

‘If I am to have a doctor whether I will or not, let me at least have something in which I have confidence,’ said he.

‘Then you have none in me?’

‘In your friendship certainly. But facts are facts, Watson, and after all you are only a general practitioner with very limited experience and mediocre qualifications. It is painful to have to say these things but you leave me no choice.’

I was bitterly hurt.

‘Such a remark is unworthy of you, Holmes. It shows me very clearly the state of your own nerves. But if you have no confidence in me I would not intrude my services. Let me bring Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose Fisher or any of the best men in London. But someone you must have, and that is final. If you think that I am going to stand here and see you die without either helping you myself or bringing anyone else to help you, then you have mistaken your man.’

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