Solution Cocaine Hydrochlorate (Cocaine muriate) (Pure) 4 Per Cent Robinson, Apothecary, Masonic Temple, Memphis, Tenn.

Sherlock Holmes took the bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morroco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable punture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

‘Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it. On the contrary, from day to day I had become more irritable at the sight, and my conscience swelled nightly within me at the thought that I had lacked the courage to protest. Again and again I had registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject; but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion which made him the last man with whom one would care to take anything approaching to a liberty. His great powers, his masterly manner, and the experience which I had had of his many extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossing him.

‘Which is it today,’ I asked, ‘morphia or cocaine”

‘He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened.

‘It is cocaine,’ he said, ‘a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it”

‘No, indeed,’ I answered brusquely. ‘My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it.’

‘He smiled at my vehemence. ‘Perhaps you are right, Watson,’ he said. ‘I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is of a small moment.’

”But consider!’ I said earnestly. ‘Count the cost! Your brain may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process which involves increased tissue-change and may at least leave a permanent weakness. You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon you. Surely the game is hardly worth the candle. Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed’ Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent answerable.’

‘He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his fingertips together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish for conversation.

”My mind,’ he said, ‘rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four, 1889