Chapter Nine: Epilogue
Arthur Wendell Thurlow's funeral occurred a little over a week after his death, taking place the day after his wife's to allow for the arrival of more prominent personages from England and abroad.
The carriage accident that Lord Fairfax had trumpeted was indeed reported in all the major papers the day after their death, the accident having occurred somewhere around Charing Cross Road in the early hours of the morning with very few witnesses to testify to the 'man' who spooked their horses and caused the cab to ultimately overturn. The cabbie, however, was miraculously unhurt.
The turnout for the affair was large, with attendees ranging from workers in his employ through charity workers, business colleagues and admirers, those who benefited from his charitable largesse and those in the arts, including some rather prominent actors and artists of the time to whom his foundation had given money or aid in one way or another. In addition though, and no doubt to what would have been his amusement, there was a great number of London's High Society in attendance, including (in a show of great gall) Lord Fairfax himself...all of them suddenly sorrowful and well-speaking of the man.
At their head were the Pembridges, Alice Thurlow's family, there in great numbers, and no doubt gratified to see the turn for the better their kinswoman had taken...just in time, they very likely hoped, to influence her daughter in spreading some of the money she had inherited from her father their way. For it emerged that A.W. Thurlow had not just left her his sons and the stipend he had offered to her in his will, but also made her trustee of the boys' inheritance until their coming of age, and for herself the sum of five hundred thousand pounds.
Helen Thurlow was now a very wealthy young woman in her own right.
The family, as usual, led the way to the cemetery behind the horse drawn hearse, its black horses bedecked with black plumage as the solemn procession made its way to St. Marylebone Cemetery, with Miss Thurlow, her two brothers, and Mrs. Thurlow at the forefront until they reached the graveside.
The service was swift and to the point, not unlike the man they were burying, and all through, Miss Thurlow remained stoic if sad, most probably for the benefit of her two brothers, who having to bury both parents in the space of twenty-four hours, were, needless to say, fragile and pale.
Both boys were ashen as they stood by their father's graveside, their hands clinging to one another, their eyes red rimmed as they tried not allow their tears to fall, without success. The twin seven year olds, their worlds turned upside down as they faced a future neither of them were sure of, watched their father, whom they knew nothing more of save that he loved them and they loved him, be lowered into the earth.
Their sister held a hand on each shoulder to try and give them strength, but the tears streaked down their faces regardless as they reached down to throw flowers, dirt, and a copy of their beloved Treasure Island onto the mahogany box below.
Their tears were joined by those of their sister's mother. Mrs. Alice Thurlow, whose rehabilitation had begun that night with her erstwhile husband's confession and execution, had it seemed grown a little more lucid each day, and now had reached the point where she was more than aware of the enormity of what had happened and the final departure from her life of the man who had given her such great pain and misery, but who had remained, until the end, the love of her life.
I suppose I would have learned more of how they were coping if we had attended the gathering of family and close friends we were invited to after the service concluded...but Holmes declined the offer when the funeral usher had issued the invitation on the family's behalf, and nor was I surprised at that, as he had increasingly blamed himself for what had happened, feeling he had not been swift enough in reaching the conclusion that would have stopped the carnage.
We returned home to Baker Street in virtual silence, and he didn't speak again until after Mrs. Hudson brought us some tea and sandwiches.
I stood from my chair and, moving slowly over to the table, began to pour out the tea for us both. Crossing back over to him, I handed him his cup and sighed. "Holmes, old man, you must stop blaming yourself. You solved the case and saved Miss Thurlow. You must not forget the good you have done in all this," I reminded him.
"Good? Solved?" He took the tea and promptly put it down again. "Please, Watson, spare me such exaggerations...I stumbled across the solution far too late for any good to come of it. I handed three children money, stocks, and shares in place of their father. And for their father, our actual client...I gave him not safety, but a place in the cold ground...I failed utterly!" he exclaimed, looking away in disgust.
Shaking my head and, resigning myself to the fact that he was due to head into one of his 'black moods' again, I moved back to retrieve my cup and a small plate of sandwiches, before resuming my seat. "You did save Miss Thurlow, however, and I know she is grateful for that."
"And how do you know that?" he snapped peevishly. "Neither of us has spoken a word to her since we left the house that night. She's gone from seamstress to being thrust into her father's funeral arrangements as well as those of a woman she despised, and trying to deal with God knows how many businessmen...not to mention the fact that it was her mother who saved her life, not I," he huffed, exaggerating greatly. Rising to his feet, he moved to his desk and sat down again, his hands thrumming on the flat surface, and gazing intently at the drawer in front of him, in which lay his own personal solution to his ills…the one I dreaded him turning to.
"Holmes," I said, my tone a bit more one of warning than I meant it to be, and decided to change tack. "Mrs. Thurlow's recovery seems to be also progressing," I commented, my brow furrowing as I remembered something. "What did she say to you by the way...that night?"
He continued to gaze at his desk with a frown, lost to the world. "Hmmm...what?"
I sighed, seeing my prediction playing accurate. "Mrs. Thurlow...the whisper? What did she say to you?" I repeated.
He blinked and threw a quick look back at me. "One of her usual garbled rhymes, if you must know, Watson," he replied indifferently, his eyes returning to the desk. "'Do not fall off the wall, never say nevermore.'"
I sipped on my tea, my eyebrow arching high. "That is indeed most unusual...but interesting. She mixed two different quotes together...wonder what it means?" I mused.
"Probably that I'm missing something," Holmes groused. "It seems to be a recurring theme."
"Do you think?" I asked, attempting to keep him talking. "The falling off the wall is from Humpty Dumpty...and 'nevermore' is from 'The Raven'..." I took a bite from one of the sandwiches on my plate. "Well, Humpty Dumpty is about pride...and never saying nevermore, could be about never saying never..." I sighed. "Or it could be complete gibberish..."
He turned around quite suddenly. "Which reminds me, Watson...on the subject of never...I must ask you not to write up this case and its nightmarish ending."
My eyes darted back to him, startled. "Never? Are you sure?" I asked, covering that I had already started the account the night previously and was almost finished. "Why not?"
Reaching to his side, he picked up an open telegram. "It is, Watson, a courtesy designed not just to save my face or the embarrassment to Thurlow's remaining family...but a formal request from Her Majesty's government in the interests of Imperial Security," he explained, a bitter edge to his tone as he tossed the telegram in my direction. "As signed by Lord Fairfax." He sighed with irritation. "Breach such a 'request,' Watson, and we run the risk of being accused of treason. No doubt Mr. Fagan and anyone else who witnessed the grisly outcome of that night has been similarly warned, or bribed, or both."
I caught the yellow paper in my hands, reading it over quickly and, with a disappointed sigh, nodded. "Very well, Holmes...I will do as you ask," I agreed, deciding to lock up my writings with the other cases that I had already consigned to paper before Holmes could tell me otherwise, cases that he did not wish to have the world know of yet.
"It is not my request, Watson," he reminded me, turning back around to his desk. "Though I don't deny I'm not grateful for the chance to conceal my inveterate bungling!" he snapped at himself, as his hands finally reached for and pulled open the drawer he had been staring at.
I stiffened in my chair and opened my mouth to berate him for his obvious intent, when there was a soft knock on the door. Still a bit irritated on how he abused his mind and body, I called out sharply, "Yes?"
The door opened slowly, and I was very surprised to see Miss Helen Thurlow step into the room. "Am I disturbing you?" she asked, her voice as soft as her knock, but strong.
Holmes closed the drawer and turned around. "Miss Thurlow," he said with some mild surprise, and rose to his feet. "What brings you here?"
I hurriedly stood as well and moved to show her to the couch, but she waved me away. "I have come to thank you, Mr. Holmes...Dr. Watson..." She gave me a small smile. "I should have come before now, but matters required my attention...and..." She paused, inhaling slowly to calm her nerves. "So please forgive my ungratefulness. I am very much indebted to you both for saving my life."
She reached into her small purse and pulled out several notes. "I also wished to settle my father's responsibilities with you...for your time, patience...and a cab ride, I believe?" She recounted her list with a tiny wry smile on her lips as she gazed levelly at Holmes.
My friend's face darkened at that. "I thank you, Miss Thurlow, for taking the time on such a day as this to deal with these matters, but you should not have left your guests...for there is nothing to settle. You and your father owe me nothing." He clasped his hands behind his back. "Nor do you owe me your thanks."
She crossed over to him and placed the money on his desk. "It was no trouble, I assure you, Mr. Holmes. And yes...I do. For you see, you not only saved my life, but gave me one back as well. More than one actually..." She looked up into his eyes with utter sincerity. "Yes...I lost my father, but before he departed this earth, you gave him back to me. For two perfect days, I got to have the man who loved me back into my life...I got a chance to resolve old hurts, and it opened the door to a new relationship. For two days, I had a father again, and that means more to me than you could possibly know. You also gave me my brothers, and them a sister...and my mother, if not for your advice and encouragement, I would never had allowed my father and her to speak...and she would not only have not had her answers and chance to heal...but I would never have had my mother return to me as well. You have given me my family, Mr. Holmes...and a future, and I am grateful beyond words."
He gazed steadily at her, his dark demeanour fluctuating somewhat at her words, but a moment later, he picked up the money and handed it back to her. "I am gratified that you have found all these things to be true, Miss Thurlow. I am pleased you have found a silver lining in this for you and your family. But the fact remains, your father hired me to unmask his attacker and keep him safe. One of which I failed to do in time, resulting in the complete failure of the other." He shook his head adamantly. "I failed, Miss Thurlow...I ask that you please take this back so as not to compound my failure with the taking of money under false pretences."
She shook her head and closed his fingers around the bills. "They are not false pretences. He hired you to unmask the villain and protect himself and his family. You are not invincible, Mr. Holmes, and you do have expenses, and I will not hear of taking back a penny. You did your job, and gave back more than just lives. Besides, it was not you that allowed all this to take place...I am loyal to England, but what has occurred at the highest levels has left me with nothing but disgust. No...you are not to blame for my father's or my step-mother's deaths...and if you do not take this small token, you will be insulting me greatly," she finished, quirking an eyebrow, and using a tone that in its firmness, I could tell, meant that it was useless to argue with her further.
Holmes stiffened somewhat at her touch before moving away and putting the money on the desk. "It is unseemly to dispute such a matter," he relented quietly. "I shall take it so as not to offend you, but it shall not be kept."
She nodded and gave him an understanding smile. "It is, of course, yours to do with as you wish," she replied, watching him closely before laying her hand again on his arm. "Thank you," she voiced again with utter gratefulness and sincerity before stepping back, her hand dropping to her side, as she turned to me. "And to you, Dr. Watson, we are all indebted to you as well."
I shook my head emphatically. "No thanks are necessary, Miss Thurlow," I assured her, feeling much as my friend did that we did not do much at all, though I had tried to convince him otherwise.
"Nevertheless...but I will trouble you both no more," she said with a tiny smile and headed for the door, turning as her fingers touched the knob. "Good day to you both." And with an incline of her auburn head, she bade us farewell and left.
Holmes sank back down into his chair by his desk and eyed the money she had left there. "A most resilient and forthright young woman, Watson," he commented thoughtfully.
I nodded in agreement, as I too lowered myself into my seat, my eyes reluctantly shifting from the door. "Indeed...I have never seen anyone win an argument with you before," I replied almost in spite of myself, shaking my head as I turned back to him.
"Really, Watson," he huffed with a frown, "you do say the most ridiculous things. I merely acceded to her request to avoid an uncouth argument over money and to avoid insulting her."
I forcibly kept from rolling my eyes at his remark, and instead mused, as he rose to his feet, "I wonder if we will ever cross paths with her again?"
"Doubtful, Watson," he replied, reaching for the case by his desk. "Very doubtful."
Opening the case, he took out his violin, gazing at it thoughtfully as he tested it, and slowly relaxing. "Now...a little Haydn, I believe," he pronounced quietly a little before the soft strains of The Serenade filled the rooms of Baker Street.
The last Authors' Notes: This concludes The Forfeit Daughter...and wow...what a ride it has been! Thank you all for your reading and enjoyment...your kind words have filled us with a deep gratitude. Now...here is where we have been sneaky. This story can be a stand alone...or...you can tune back in with us in a few weeks for An Unforseen Occurance. Yup...this was written as a launching board to a much bigger tale. Some characters may be returning...some won't. However, we will be leaving Watson's perspective and switching to the third person to explore the perspectives of others...including Holmes. We hope that you will enjoy it when it rolls out (though give me a week or two...I'm way behind on my editing for a Severus Snape fic we have up elsewhere). Again...thank you all, and please feel free to review! Tea and scones...Aeryn (of aerynfire)
Addendum: As of January 7th, 2006 the refit of this story is now complete. I'd like to give a huge shout out to our beta, D'arcy (aka Savageland), for going through this story and giving it a through grammar and beta read. She really rocks our socks. :D