July 16th, 1890
When I was but a wee pup, I kept a journal of my day-to-day experiences. A balm for the soul, of course, but one's childhood joys and distresses hardly make for interesting reading, so I eventually abandoned the practice as my schooling began to consume more and more of my energies. And of course, when one is on campaign in Afghanistan, one has so little time for indulgent pleasures.
Since I have a little more time to myself these days, I thought I should perhaps keep a journal again -- as a record of my adventures, of course. Indeed, I think that I shall eventually prepare them for publication.
Let us start with the most recent events.
I have already described, in some detail, the defeat of the nefarious Professor Ratigan by my most esteemed companion Mr Basil of Baker Street. He is known as the greatest detective in all mousedom, and the public could not be more correct in its estimation of my friend. After foiling the schemes and toppling the empire of this century's greatest criminal mind, we received word today that all of us -- Mr Basil, Mr Flaversham, and myself -- are to be knighted! Delightful, simply delightful. (I imagine, of course, that there shall be some medal in the matter for little Olivia Flaversham, who displayed an extraordinary amount of courage in the face of terrible adversity.)
But, of course, topple the emperor, and the dregs of the empire remain. A young lady by the name of Cecilia Beechworth arrived on the doorstep today in quite a state of distress. A very fetching young mouse, if I do say so myself, and rather in a spot of trouble. Basil cut straight to the heart of the matter -- she was concerned with the loss of some jewels, priceless family heirlooms that she believed to have been stolen. Once we had heard the young lady's story and sent her on her way, Basil immediately confided in me that he recognized the unmistakable mark of Ratigan's gang.
"But, Basil," I said, "Professor Ratigan's been dead for nearly a week! He fell from the face of Big Ben! There isn't a rat alive who could live through that fall."
"I am not suggesting Professor Ratigan is alive, Doctor," Basil said, pacing back and forth in front of the fire. "I am suggesting that his sudden demise might have left a vacancy that many of his associates would be eager to fill. Criminals are not noted for their sense of loyalty. Now, if you'll excuse me, I wish to be alone. I must think."
"Oh, but Basil," I said, "we promised to discuss the contract with Mrs Judson--"
"No, no, there's nothing for it. Duty calls. Mrs Judson will have to wait."
Basil, being the sort of fellow that he is, would not be dissuaded, and remained smoking his pipe in the corner armchair until I retired for the night.
July 17th, 1890, v. early
When Basil snaps out of his little trance, or whatever it is he calls it, I need to have a word with him regarding his regrettable habit of playing the violin at ungodly hours.
July 17th, 1890
Basil came to breakfast with that particular look in his eye -- the look that says he's on to something.
"Don't worry your head about it, Doctor," he said when I questioned him on the subject. "We shall have this little mystery wrapped up within a day or so. I want you to pay a call on this Miss Beechworth and bring her this letter -- it will explain my thoughts on the matter quite thoroughly. And, if you would, take special note of the jewelry the young lady is wearing when you meet her."
"What about you?" I said. Basil was already gathering his hat and coat.
"I have business elsewhere. Good day, Doctor." And with that, he swept out the door and vanished into the fog.
Miss Beechworth, as it turned out, lived underneath a greengrocer near Tottenham Court -- a very fine place for a mouse to set up residence, if I may say so. Her household was a clean and pleasant one, the sort of flat that a young woman with neither a husband nor a father would keep.
"Oh, I am so very glad you came, Doctor," she said, clasping her paws in earnest anticipation when she saw me on the doorstep. "Have you any news?"
I handed her Basil's letter, which she opened and read with gusto. The contents seemed to please her. "Won't you come in, Doctor?" she said, gesturing inside. "I've just put the kettle on."
How could I possibly refuse such an invitation! Of course, I followed her inside. A delightful girl. A most delightful girl. We talked a great deal about the history of her missing ring -- a last memento from her mother, she said. Dreadful! Really, any mouse who would relieve a young lady of such a treasured heirloom must have a heart as black as Professor Ratigan himself!
(Awfully maudlin, aren't you, Doctor? How would the thief have known the ring had sentimental value to Miss Beechworth? B., 18.07.90, 3:34 a.m.)
July 18th, 1890
Good heavens, Basil! Don't you know how rude it is to read another fellow's journal without his permission?
(You told me this morning it was intended for publication. Ergo, this journal is a manuscript and open for scrutiny. B. 18.07.90, 11:23 a.m.
P.S. If you honestly don't want me to read it, you really ought to find a better hiding place for it.)
Basil, if you're still reading this, you shall have your chance to annotate when I've completed a case file, but not now. I'm moving the book.
(Found it. B. 19.07.90, 12:04 a.m.)
July 19th, 1890
Perhaps I shall leave that in, lest the future reader think that living with one of the greatest minds in mousedom is without trial.
I have arranged a time to meet with Miss Beechworth -- to ascertain a few stray facts about the case, of course, though I cannot deny that I am hardly averse to the prospect of spending the afternoon in her company. She really is a charming girl.
First, though, I must find a place to hide this wretched book.
July 21st, 1890
Dear me -- a gap in my narrative. I seem to have skipped a day. Very little eventful has happened in the case, but I have at last managed to wrangle a deduction or two out of Basil. He is not usually quite so taciturn about his reasoning, so I was beginning to grow concerned.
"Someone forced the window to her house, yet took only that ring -- leaving the rest of Miss Beechworth's jewels and finery completely untouched," Basil said, pacing back and forth. "The thief, Doctor Dawson, need that ring and that ring only. Now, tell me -- what sort of ring is it that could be more valuable in its function than its form -- what sort of ring would a criminal be loathe to sell?"
Basil loved to test me like this -- it was his way of showing off his intellect and making absolutely certain his reasoning was sound.
"I'm not sure," I said. "I'm not a jeweler."
"Remember how Miss Beechworth described the ring. One single semi-precious stone, blue in color, very ornate and quite large in proportion to the ring itself, which is silver."
"Why, that could describe any ring a fashionable young lady might wear --"
"Think, Dawson, think! What jewelry was Miss Beechworth wearing when you saw her yesterday?"
"A gold filigree brooch, a cameo necklace, and a lady's pocketwatch. Why?"
"So, she possesses a gold filigree brooch -- that would clearly be worth more on the open market than a silver ring with a common stone, and less likely to be traced back to its owner. Why would a thief take a ring of obviously lesser value than the gold brooch lying just beside it on Miss Beechworth's dressing table?"
"...if it had some property that attracted him," I said, though I had no idea what sort of property this might be. Thieves are not known for their aesthetic sensibilities.
"Exactly! And what sort of ring is it that serves a very definite purpose and usually consists of a large, carved semi-precious stone?"
"...a signet ring! Yes, by Jove, you're right!" I exclaimed, pleased to be following my friend's leaps of logic. "I say, you're on to something!"
"I did some checking at the hall of records -- Miss Beechworth's mother married into the Beechworth family. Her maiden name is Westingford. And a Lord Arthur Westingford, our Miss Beechworth's grandfather, had a page of his will destroyed in a small cooking fire shortly after his death. Since all of his legal property was disposed of in the remaining will, those around him thought it best to simply go by what was left. However, the fact of the missing page was noted in the record of the will."
"But, Basil," I began, "what has this got to do with the theft of the ring?"
"That is precisely what we need to find out, Doctor Dawson. And quickly." He seized a dusty bowler hat and set it down between his ears, which were perked up in anticipation. "I am going to speak with a rough crowd, as it were. Send a telegram to Miss Beechworth and get a full description of the picture on the ring. I have a theory -- no, not a theory. A mere inkling. But we shall see," he said, and swooped out of the door.
The lady's response was prompt. The carving on the ring depicted minnow leaping diagonally across a stylized line of waves. I have placed the lady's correspondence on Basil's desk. I do hope he is satisfied.
(Your hiding place was clever, Doctor, but next time you may want to avoid sweeping the hearth after you step on it to wipe away your footprints. You haven't swept the hearth since you moved in and it was painfully obvious you'd only done so to conceal your tracks. B. 08.22.90, 1:55 a. m.
P.S., Thank you for the telegram. It
was most instructive.
July 22nd, 1890
I am going to have a talk with Basil on the subject of diaries. A very long talk.
Something is dreadfully bothersome about this whole affair of the ring and the will. How on earth would you manage to lose only one page of a document in a fire? It seems highly unlikely, to say the least. I shall have to bring this up with Basil -- of course, I suspect that he has already considered this imposing problem.
(Indeed, I have, Doctor. The reason only one page was destroyed in the fire is because it was not burned at all, but removed and secreted elsewhere. This is my hypothesis. I tracked down the lawyer who notarized the will and he said that page was incomprehensible to him. We are going to visit Miss Beechworth tomorrow -- you and I, together. B., 08.22.90, 4:13 p. m.)
Confound it, Basil!
July 23rd, 1890
How delightful! Miss Beechworth called on us before we could call on her.
She arrived at our doorstep looking quite as distressed as she did a week ago -- doubly so, if that is possible.
"Mister Basil!" she said, her dainty white paws clasped together in dismay. "Mister Basil, I've found the most curious thing!" From her dress she drew a common envelope, yellowed with age. "Mister Basil...Doctor...may I come in?"
"Yes, yes, of course," I said. Basil (most rudely, I thought) did not say anything, but slid aside to allow the lady to enter. "Dear me, Miss, you look as though you've seen a ghost!"
"I would rather I had, Doctor," she said, as I guided her past Basil's forest of glassware and towards the most comfortable armchair we possessed. "There has been...a stranger lurking about my flat as of late."
"When did this stranger begin to appear?" Basil interjected suddenly.
"Yesterday," Miss Beechworth replied.
"And why didn't you alert the Yard or come to see us before now?"
"Basil!" I said, horrified at my friend's unchivalrous behavior. "I really think --"
"It's quite all right, Doctor," she said, with an indulgent, understanding smile. "I am familiar with Mister Basil's methods. I did not call on you before because while I noticed the stranger about, I did not realize he was persistently lurking until this morning, when I went out to the post office and discovered the same man walking past my flat as had been there the night before, and in the morning when I left. That was when I realized that something was the matter. I came straight to you after that."
If this answer satisfied Basil, he said nothing. Instead, he reached for his pipe, struck a match on the table, and puffed at the stem for a moment.
"What was it you came to show us?" I prompted Miss Beechworth. Slowly, she unfolded the envelope clasped in her paws. It was a handmade envelope, so it came apart easily -- revealing that the interior was covered in neat handwriting.
"But...but what is it?" I asked, leaning in to get a better look at the document.
"The last letter from my grandfather -- or rather, the envelope in which it arrived. As for the writing --"
"It's the missing page of the will," Basil said matter-of-factly. "Just as I suspected. Let me see it." He practically snatched the document out of Miss Beechworth's paws and swooped over to his desk, where he examined it thoroughly with a magnifying glass.
"This says your grandfather leases the holder of the family crest his properties in Hyde Park. Did your grandfather have any properties in Hyde Park?"
"Why, no," the young lady said. Basil shook his head and dropped to the ground to root through a pile of papers on the floor.
"Did your grandfather fish, Miss Beechworth?"
"I don't believe he even owned a fishing rod, Mister Basil..." she said, clearly growing puzzled. For my part, I was dismayed by my friend's terribly rude behavior -- in the presence of a lady, no less, and one in such terrible trouble as well!
"Then it must be some sort of coded instruction." Basil's head reappeared from under his desk, and he held up a roll of paper. "Ah, here it is. Just a moment, and we shall have this mystery sorted out."
Basil unrolled the paper on the rug -- not even bothering with the table! -- revealing it to be a map of London. He ran his paws over the map until he had reached Hyde Park, clucking his tongue thoughtfully. "Was the head of your minnow jewel oriented down or up?" Basil said.
"Down, but I don't see what that has to do with --"
"Aha! I have found it, then," Basil cried, stabbing a gloved finger at a particular area very near the a stream. "'The holder of the family crest receives his properties in Hyde Park, just west of the eldest oak tree, where he used to lay his catch after fishing and gaze across the stream'", Basil read from the will. "Now, the rest of the will is perfectly straightforward, and Lord Arthur showed no signs of senility. And Miss Beechworth's grandfather was, in his younger days, involved with a rum-running racket up on York street and drummed up a considerable sum of money from the proceedings. This money was not found among his effects at his death, and it was presumed spent, though he had abandoned his former lifestyle and was never known to be profligate. No, no, Doctor, don't protest," he said, as I rose from my chair with a cry of shock, "I'm sure the lady is already aware."
Miss Beechworth bowed her head; beneath her bonnet, even her pale ears drooped. "Yes, Mister Basil. I always suspected he had done something with the money. Buried it, perhaps. I didn't want to tell you, in case you would refuse to help the heir to a criminal's legacy."
There were tears beginning in Miss Beechworth's eyes -- I was quick to take her hand and murmur a few comforting words.
"Criminal's legacy or not, if my interpretation of the text and the lady's memory of the jewel is correct, I may have found your grandfather's buried fortune." Basil drew a red pencil from his pocket and scrawled a large X on the shore of the stream in Hyde Park. "Lay the catch out on the bank and gaze to the opposite shore. There, I'll wager. We'll start off with shovels tomorrow -- seizing the treasure should draw the jewel thieves out into the open. In the mean time, it is not safe for Miss Beechworth to return to her flat. I will speak with Mrs Judson -- she will be able to find proper accomodations for the lady here tonight."
"Oh, Mister Basil, you are a marvel!" the young lady exclaimed.
I escorted Miss Beechworth to her rooms, and made sure that she was well supplied with tea and scones and anything else she desired. She did not seem frightened in the least -- brave girl! -- and expressed her sincerest trust in our abilities and the eventual recovery of her precious ring.
"Doctor Dawson, you are a true gentleman," she said, before retiring. Imagine!
July 25th, 1890
Forgive me for the gap of two days...I have long been pondering where to begin with the events of the night Miss Beechworth stayed under our roof. There is so much to report -- so much to explain! So much to make one's head spin, even after the fact when the villain's hand is revealed at last. But I am leaping ahead of myself.
I went to sleep at my usual hour; Basil, of course, preferred to wear out the living room carpet with his pacing well into the wee hours of the night.
At some point I was awakened by someone gently shaking my shoulder.
"Basil, have you any idea what time it is?" I said, rubbing my eyes. But it was not Basil who had roused me from my sleep -- indeed, I was greeted by the white-furred face of Miss Beechworth, holding a taper to light the way. Her whiskers trembled and her eyes were wide with what seemed to be sincere terror. I fumbled my way out of bed as quickly as I could and seized my dressing gown from the bedside table.
"Miss Beechworth, this is most unusual --" I began, but she silenced me with a finger to her lips.
"Basil sent me to fetch you. Someone's in the house. He's tracking the fellow right now -- he said that you would be able to get me out of here safely."
I took Miss Beechworth's arm and lead her towards the door of my room. "Douse the light," I said, and she obediently snuffed the candle out with her fingertips. "Stand by the door and keep watch -- I've a pistol in the desk." The revolver is an unreliable, antique thing left over from our adventure with Professor Ratigan -- something Basil had advised me to keep close at hand, and in my short time with Basil I have learned that taking his advice is invariably the best course of action. With Miss Beechworth stationed by the door, I fumbled over to my writing desk and opened the top drawer.
It was only a moment's work to find the revolved laying among the pens and medical records; I seized the handle and drew it out of the drawer just in time to hear an awful, ear-splitting crash and a feminine cry of distress.
Quick as lightning, I whirled around, my paw trembling on the pistol's trigger. "Stop!" I cried, not knowing what else to say to the villain. "Or I'll shoot!"
"It's all right, Doctor," said a familiar voice -- the last voice I expected to hear at this moment! "I have an introduction to make." There was the sound of a match striking in the darkness, and the lamp by the door lit up to reveal Basil himself, pinning Miss Beechworth's arm behind her back and smiling in a self-satisfied way. Miss Beechworth wore a ferocious sneer that I would never have guessed her to possess. "Doctor Dawson, I would like you to meet Miss Elsie Barker, one of London's most notorious confidence artists and -- until very recently -- an associate of one Professor Ratigan, noted crime lord and villainous worm of the lowest degree."
I stared, open-mouthed, at the tableau before me, barely able to comprehend what Basil was saying. "But...but Basil," I managed, and faltered when I saw a knife laying at Miss Beechworth's feet.
"That was meant to be in your back, you besotted, gulpy pidgeon!" she snapped, while I gaped even wider. "The business's been in ruins since you jacks put Ratigan in lavender -- there's nothing like a bit of the old eye-for-an-eye when a meddling rozzer's snuffed out the greatest don who ever held a candle to the devil and reduced his fellows to ragged muck-snipes!"
Hearing the parlance of the criminal element pouring from the mouth of this dainty, fetching example of mousehood ranks very highly among the most unpleasant experiences of my life. Basil merely shook his head and tightened his grip on Miss Beechworth's -- or Miss Elsie Barker's -- wrist.
"Your scheme was well conceived -- indeed, your mystery was so compelling that it almost managed to blind me to your obvious intentions of foul play. I do not doubt that an ambush would have been waiting for us when we went to collect your 'buried treasure'. Well played, well played...but you would do well not to come waltzing in unannounced with important evidence clutched in your hand. It looks far too pat and terribly suspicious. Doctor, if you will kindly step into the street and fetch the nearest policeman to do the honor of arresting our fetching young villainess?"
"O-of course, Basil," I stammered, charging rather hastily for the door.
"You might want to leave the gun," Basil said dryly.
I abandoned it on the hall table. I believe it may still be there.
July 27th, 1890
Elsie Barker's trial will be forthcoming. I shall not be following any of the proceedings.
And yet, one thing still gnawed at the corners of my mind. When I had returned with the bobby patrolling Baker Street, Basil, naturally, was determined to have the last word with Miss Elsie Barker.
"It was all perfect," she snarled. "Someone must have gone nose on us. Who was it? Who squealed on us?"
"No one," Basil said, with a slight smile. "You made one fatal error. Think on it while awaiting your sentence for fraud, theft, and attempted murder."
This puzzling statement haunted me in the days immediately following the arrest of Elsie Barker. Basil, as was his habit, seemed determine to settle back into his usual routine -- his sleeplessness caught up with him, finally, and I often found him stretched out in his armchair in front of the fire, quite asleep. He picked up the violin again as well (although thankfully at a more sensible hour). But still I wondered...what was it that had given the villainess away in the end?
"I suppose you're wondering what I meant when I told her she had made one fatal error," Basil interjected quite suddenly over breakfast this morning. Basil was like this -- prone to answer unspoken questions and unvoiced thoughts, without any intervening conversational niceties. I nodded. "It's really very simple."
"I couldn't fathom it," I said, sipping my coffee. Basil smiled.
"Ah, that is only because you are not exercising your reason to its fullest. Now, the evidence itself fell at my feet in a manner that was surprisingly tidy. Suspicious, yes, but not enough to condemn the lady as an impostor. When we discovered the location of the buried treasure...ah, that was when I knew."
"The riddle was prettily done, but the answer was a foolish one. You see, it was directly on the bank of a stream that has a tendency to flood when the rain is heavy. This location worked well with the image of the fish that was supposedly the crest of the house of Lord Arthur Westingford, but if the treasure had actually been buried there so many years ago, it would have been exposed long ago by the continual flooding of the stream."
"Basil, you're a true wonder," I said, shaking my head in amazement. Basil's grin widened.
"Actually, my dear Dawson, once you look at it, it's really all quite--"
"Elementary," I finished for him, and Basil laughed with an honesty I had never seen.
So all has gone back to normal here at 221-1/2, Baker Street -- or at least, as normal as life with the Great Detective himself could possibly be. Basil has taken to watching the fellows in the apartment upstairs, though what fascination he finds in the clumsy goings-on of human beings I cannot begin to say. As for myself, I have resolved to tidy up the place a bit. The curtains, I think, shall have to go.
(I am of the opinion that the curtains are staying, Doctor. We shall discuss this in the morning. B., 08.28.90, 2:39 a. m.)