"Well, it's not too bad," Watson scrutinized the cast, "could have been thicker, though."
Lachlan sighed in exasperation, his arm outstretched.
"Pierce is a qualified physician, Doctor."
Watson glared at the seaman.
"Yes, I met him briefly. Far too young if you ask me."
I snorted. "No younger than you where when you went to Afghanistan."
Watson was busy digging in his bag and did not bother to meet my gaze.
"Younger in other ways, then…roll up your sleeve, Lachlan."
The midshipman scowled.
"It's not necessary Doctor, I'm used to such thin…" he trailed off at Watson's look and pulled up his sleeve clumsily with his left hand. Watson smoothly inserted the syringe.
"It's just a mild dose of morphine - enough to take the edge off."
He repacked his bag and moved to pull on his jacket. His hands shook slightly and I took it from him, holding it out so that he could slip it on more easily.
He nodded his thanks and I moved to pick up his bag along with several other pieces of luggage before he could get to them.
"Holmes…can I at least…"
"No." I said sternly, "just concentrate on keeping your feet, Watson. Four days of rest does not mean you are recovered."
During the four days since Watson had regained consciousness I had kept what he had called an 'annoyingly close eye' on him. I could not help it, for I still shuddered even as I thought of the terrible stillness that had settled over him that last day.
Had I not discovered Brown, there would have been no recovery, no help from any quarter. Even my telegram to Ainstree had been intercepted by Smith's man in the telegraph office, who was now under lock and key with the sailors in the brig for his part in the drama.
Lachlan grinned at my friend's frown and slung his own bag over his one good shoulder, picking up the remainder of our luggage himself with his good hand.
"We'd better be gettin' up to the deck gents."
"How did your meeting with the captain go?" Watson asked.
The midshipman looked over his shoulder on the way out of the cabin.
My friend looked chagrined and Lachlan nodded.
"He wasn't too pleased to discover that I was, as he put it, Mr. Holmes's 'agent' – not only canceled my contract but threatened to have my rank stripped. Gave me a stern lecture on attending to duty and keeping out of others' affairs. He seemed to forget that this whole thing should have been his affair. As it is I won't be findin' any jobs with any prestigious lines."
"If it helps, Lachlan, then I don't intend…" Watson began but the sailor cut him to the chase.
"Oh, publish as you like, Doctor, and welcome, your stories are not the only method of communication. Word of this will get out, not only in Britain and the Lansing line but in every port from here to Australia. Smith was not unknown in the 'uncivilized world'."
We had made our way up to the deck by this time and I was pleased to see that Watson had managed the feat without my help, though he was somewhat slower than usual.
He was still thin and rather sallow from his ordeal but rest and food, not to mention fresh air and water, had returned a measure of his strength.
The storm had abated a two nights ago and the sun was shining as brightly as though nothing had ever occurred.
"What will you do now?" I asked the midshipman as we made our way toward the ramp where other passengers were leaving the ship.
Lachlan looked out at the unfamiliar port and the harsh surrounding land of the African coast.
"To be quite honest, I am getting rather tired of being solely a seaman. I have sailed past a great many countries that I have been wantin' to see for some time. When I brought this case to your attention I wasn't certain what I was to do."
He smiled, his blue eyes twinkling.
"I'm thinkin' I might go and see a few of those places. Perhaps I'll find somethin' else of interest to do."
"Just like that?" I said with a slight laugh.
"I don't see why not…you did." Watson said with a smile.
"Yes, but I was being lent money from Mycroft….one has to live."
"And there are ways of earning a living," Lachlan said. "Especially if you plan on seein' these places to the fullest."
The midshipman tore his eyes away from the strange coast.
"And what about you gents?"
"Back to Baker Street," I said, "I can keep a closer eye on Watson there. He describes me as a terrible patient but he is in reality far worse."
Watson shot a glare at me, though the corners of his mouth twitched.
"I'll give it three days, Holmes…three days of monotony and then you won't be able to stand it. You shall drag me off on some other case that is just as likely to get us killed."
Lachlan chuckled, "I hope not, seein' as I won't be around to keep an eye on you gents."
Watson gave the seaman one of his warmest and most genuine smiles.
"I must say, Lachlan, I'll feel rather vulnerable without you to watch our backs."
Lachlan returned the smile and grasped Watson's hand.
"Don't worry about it, Doctor, that's your place at Mr. Holmes's back, and you know how to fill it better than anyone else. It has been a pleasure knowin' and workin' with an honorable man such as yourself, and a greater-hearted cove I've yet to meet."
My dear Watson flushed at the compliment.
"I could say the same, Lachlan."
The midshipman turned to me.
"You watch out for both of ye, Mr. Holmes – the world isn't ready to do without you two."
"And yourself, Midshipman," I returned, grasping the calloused hand. "You are an invaluable companion. I owe you my thanks…" I glanced at Watson who flushed again, "…for a great many things."
His blue eyes twinkled "T'was no trouble."
"We will see you at Baker Street sometime?" Watson insisted.
Lachlan nodded. "Aye, you will."
The crowd began to move at this point and we descended the ramp to the bustling street. One of the stewards hailed a cab for us and I began to hand our luggage up to the driver, Lachlan handed the rest of our bags over to me and swung his own more firmly over his shoulder.
Then he turned to face us, and though the world continued to move around us I felt an odd moment of stillness settle over our small group. As though this was an instant to be marked and remembered.
A point of departure.
"You won't come to the hotel with us?" Watson asked, though his sober face revealed he already knew the answer.
Lachlan shook his head, his smile a little sad now.
"I have a feelin' I've got my own story to live, Doctor."
Watson nodded knowingly.
"Don't forget to write it down."
"I'll keep you informed."
He clasped both our hands warmly.
"Goodbye," Watson said regretfully.
"Good luck…and remember what I said."
I smiled. "Vows made in storms."
The midshipman looked at me, startled, his blond brows furrowed. Then his weathered face broke once again into a smile.
And then William Lachlan, former Midshipman, touched his hand to his hat in a gesture of respect reserved for superiour officers and captains. His blue eyes twinkled as he met our gazes one last time, and then he turned and disappeared into the crowd.
"From every kind of
Obedience I expect;
I'm the Emperor of Japan —"
"I shall not tell you again, Watson! Why the deuce did I ever agree to this?"
"It is entirely your own fault!"
I grinned at Sherlock Holmes's exasperated face as we exited the theatre into our waiting cab.
"Yes, your fault," I replied as he rapped on the roof with his stick and the cab clopped slowly away.
"How so?" he demanded.
I turned to face him in the cab and let my eyes twinkle.
"You shouldn't have promised me you would take me."
"When did I do that?" he spluttered.
"One of those nights I had a fever on board the Friesland, Holmes – I distinctly remember your telling me if I would 'just hang on, old chap', you would take me to see any operetta I wanted to," I told him smugly, settling back in the cab.
I heard an embarrassed growl.
"Sooo, next time I want to see –"
"Don't push me, Watson!"
I snickered at the desperation in his tone.
"I do have to admit I was less than thrilled with the Mikado," I admitted.
"Even your romantic tastes were sickened at the names 'Yum-Yum', 'Pooh-Bah', and 'Pish-Tush'? Really, Watson, I would have thought your sentiments would have been in paradise!"
Now it was my turn to growl.
"Why the devil did you have to pick that nauseating atrocity!" he moaned, slumping down in his seat.
"Well how was I to know it was going to be less than stunning?"
Holmes growled something unintelligible and we sat in silence for several minutes, watching the scenery of our London go by around us. Finally he broke the silence a trifle hesitantly.
"Did you really remember my saying that?"
I glanced over at him.
"Yes. Though I am a trifle puzzled as to how that came up in conversation that night," I replied with a grin.
Holmes snickered in a very undignified fashion and leant back with a wicked smirk.
"That particular night you were singing at the top of your voice, Watson, 'Pour, O pour the pirate sherry,' and so on – really, I had no idea you had such a good memory for romantic comic operetta songs. "
I felt my face flush bright red.
"You're not serious," I said in dismay, hoping it were true.
"Oh, very serious. I heard three renditions of that particular song, two choruses of 'A policeman's lot is not a happy one', and a full-bodied verse of –"
"I am sorry I asked," I said hastily, feeling the blush deepen.
"Yes, well, I am sorry I promised to take you to see yet another one," he muttered, leaning out of the cab to stare rather rudely at some passerby.
"What are you staring at?"
"I am not staring, I am observing, Watson. And do not think you can change the subject so easily."
"I wasn't trying to change the subject!"
"As you wish, Watson."
"You are so infuriating sometimes!"
"I know," he replied mischievously, glancing at me with a self-satisfied smirk.
I held the glance with an icy glare, trying not to laugh as he raised his eyebrows at me. I was rather unsuccessful, and we both started to snicker and then laugh outright as we turned onto Baker Street.
We had arrived back in London only two days ago, after a arduous return trip from the African port where we had gotten off the Friesland, and in the amount of time it had taken to get back I had made a complete recovery, much to both our relief. Now the only reminder of our horrific journey on the steamer was our memories, nothing more tangible.
Holmes hopped out of the cab as it pulled up in front of 221b and began to unlock our front door.
"Pay the driver, there's a good chap," he called impishly over his shoulder.
"Look, I bought the tickets to that infernal performance – you pay the cab!" he said pointedly, opening the door.
I shook my head and paid the cabbie, following him inside with a grin. We hung our hats and coats in the hall, and as we were ascending the stair Mrs. Hudson came bustling out from the back.
"Letter arrived for you gentlemen while you were out," she said, passing it up to me. I handed it to Holmes and wished her good night as we continued up the steps.
"Well, who is it from, Holmes?"
"I haven't opened it yet, Watson!"
"Well you still should be able to deduce something from the outside!"
"You are ridiculous," he snorted, throwing open the sitting room door.
"Yes, thank you."
I walked over to the sideboard and poured two glasses as Holmes ripped open the envelope and scanned the contents.
"It's a wire and a newspaper clipping from our Midshipman," he said at last, glancing up as I handed him one of the glasses and settled down in my armchair.
Holmes threw himself into his own chair opposite me and read the wire aloud.
TRUST YOU ARE WELL STOP HOPE THE DOCTOR IS BACK ON HIS FEET STOP LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT INSTALMENT IN THE STRAND STOP
DO KEEP YOURSELVES IN ONE PIECE STOP CANNOT BE THERE TO KEEP YOU OUT OF TROUBLE STOP HAVE DISCOVERED MATTER OF INTEREST HERE IN BOMBAY THAT MAY ENGAGE MY ENERGIES FOR SOME TIME STOP
WILL KEEP YOU INFORMED STOP
YOU MAY ENJOY ENCLOSED ARTICLE STOP AM BEING HOUNDED BY REPORTER STOP HAVE YOU ANY ADVICE STOP
Holmes broke unto a loud guffaw at the tone of the message, glanced over the article and tossed both over to me. I read it and joined him with a chuckle.
"Well, it sounds as if he is going to keep himself busy, and I certainly am glad to hear it," I said with a smile.
"As am I. We owe him a good deal, Watson – he deserves better than a low seaman's berth for the rest of his life," Holmes replied.
"Indeed," I agreed, sipping my port thoughtfully..
"A remarkable man, that Lachlan. He is destined to go far – mark my words, Watson, we shall be hearing more of him someday."
"I don't doubt it. The man would make an incredible writer; I should not be surprised if he took it up as a hobby," I said.
"That is all the English-speaking world needs. Two ridiculous purveyors of romantic fiction."
I merely grinned at him.
"By the by, what are you going to call this little adventure of ours?"
"The Adventure of the Dutch Steamship Friesland?"
I shook my head.
"Too long. Not evocative enough, either."
I took another drink, and my mind reverted back to our sailor friend.
"I believe I shall call it 'Vows Made in Storms', Holmes," I said slowly, glancing at him for approval.
"For once, Watson, I am inclined to agree with your choice," he returned thoughtfully, "what was that expression you both used so often?"
"Lachlan came up with it, actually, not I. Vows made in storms are not forgotten in port," I replied.
A small smile played round the corners of my friend's mouth, and I could see his quick mind revolving the saying and all its potential.
Truly, were it not for storms such as we had been through we would not have these quiet companionable evenings afterwards. I had seen an entirely new side of Sherlock Holmes in this case, a very welcome side, and I counted it well worth the suffering to have been allowed to see under his cold, proud nature in such a manner. We had weathered the worst storm yet, and Holmes had brought us safely into port.
We both remained silent and pensive for a moment, thinking deeply.
Then Holmes held his glass out towards me.
"To the storms, then?"
I returned his smile with one of my own, touching the rim of his glass with mine.
-Excerpt from an article in the Daily Yell, June 1894-
…Present at the incident was a Mr. William Lachlan of England, who, though he has no official affiliation with the magistrate or the officials of the Bombay area, was a great help in clearing up many of the difficulties at hand.
In particular was his personal encounter and struggle with the villain behind the murders and the original theft. Though sustaining minor injuries, including a newly damaged right hand, Mr. Lachlan was able to restrain and hold the culprit until the arrival of the police.
Mr. Lachlan has declined to give a personal interview despite the dogged requests and pursuits of our reporter Mr. Haight.
Mr. Haight is at this moment working on rediscovering the location of this elusive man and gaining more information on the Steamship Friesland affair, during which it is rumored Mr. Lachlan worked with the well-known detective Sherlock Holmes and his associate Dr. John Watson…