“Ah, well, there is no great mystery in that. But you will know all about it soon enough. How sweet the morning air is! See how that one little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo. Now the red rim of the sun pushes itself over the London cloud-bank. It shines on a good many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on a stranger errand than you and I. How small we feel with our petty ambitions and strivings in the presence of the great elemental forces of nature! Are you well up in your Jean Paul?”
“Fairly so. I worked back to him through Carlyle.”
“That was like following the brook to the parent lake. He makes one curious but profound remark. It is that the chief proof of man’s real greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. It argues, you see, a power of comparison and of appreciation which is in itself a proof of nobility. There is much food for thought in Richter. You have not a pistol, have you?”
Holmes and Watson talking while they’re out walking with a dog (Toby!) in The Sign of Four.
Usually when Holmes and Watson are talking about things unrelated to a case, Watson makes it brief or just gives a decription, rather than quoting Holmes directly (“we sat for an hour over a bottle of claret while he told me anecdote after anecdote”; “For three hours we strolled about together…His characteristic talk, with its keen observance of detail and subtle power of inference held me amused and enthralled.”) I like this part because we get to see a more lengthy passage than usual of what this “characteristic talk” which keeps Watson “amused and enthralled” sounds like. Apparently it’s Holmes suddenly changing the topic away from crime mid-conversation to say that the clouds look like flamingos, that he feels small, and to ask Watson what he’s been reading lately.