I'm using the Baring-Gould timeline for 1902, in which LADY takes place between July 1 and July 18 of 1902. It was too convenient to pass up.
"What would you say to a trip a Lausanne, Watson?"
I looked up, instantly on my guard despite myself. The last time Holmes had made that proposition I had found myself sent across Switzerland and France following a cold trail, been throttled by a great brute of a man, had my best efforts criticized, and in the end an innocent woman nearly perished while the villains escaped justice.
"I would say it is a remarkable coincidence that you have two cases within a month that require a trip to Lausanne."
Holmes smiled. "There is coincidence and then there is improbability. Rest assured, there are no more drifting and friendless women who have vanished from that charming place that I am aware of."
"I am glad to hear it. What sort of case is it?"
"No case of any kind."
"No case," I repeated incredulously. "Then whatever is it?"
"A holiday." It might have been my imagination but he seemed somewhat fidgety as he filled his pipe, tamped it, and lit it.
My consternation only grew at this disclosure. "A holiday, Holmes? You? Or, should I say, a holiday you were not browbeaten into taking?"
"And why not? I am a mere mortal, after all, and there does exist a precedent of my taking holidays without my physician having first insisted that I do so."
"I don't know that your jaunts into academia can rightly be termed 'holidays,' Holmes."
He made an impatient gesture. "Call them what you will then. You still have yet to answer my question."
"What would I say about a trip to Lausanne, you mean. I would say no."
As much as he had surprised me, I think I returned the favor with interest. Why my declination surprised him so badly, though, I could not fathom. As was customary for him, Holmes quickly recovered his composure.
"May I ask exactly what it is in my proposal that you object to?" he asked with a fine show of aloofness.
I hesitated. How could I give voice to my concerns that were nebulous even to me? I had never seen Holmes behave thusly and it disquieted me to no end. "Well, I have no real desire to return there so soon after that case."
"Yes, I suppose familiarity breeds contempt that is not relieved by a fortnight of absence. Fortunately that is easily assuaged. If not Lausanne, then what say you to Lavey les Baines?"
I could not suppress a laugh. "Really, Holmes! Hot springs at the beginning of August?"
The signs of offense were subtle but unmistakable. A brief tightening around the lips, a miniscule crinkling of the eyes. "Why not?" he retorted. "Is it really so different than visiting the Turkish baths as you did last month?"
I stammered a reply that it was not the same thing, all eloquence derailed by a sudden suspicion as to what this was all about. I had been perfectly candid as to the reason for my visit to the Turkish baths without Holmes. Perhaps this holiday was along the same lines for him.
Meanwhile my friend took advantage of my tongue-tied state to speculate that August was the perfect time to visit the hot springs because it seemed so counterintuitive. Quite sure that I understood, I laughingly acquiesced. That following Friday we arrived.
To our consternation, it seemed the whole of the Continent agreed with Holmes's reasoning and had turned out in droves to enjoy the springs. The hotel we checked in to, fine as it was, was filled to capacity and the staff and attendees hard-pressed to keep order among the chaos. I could not blame them but the overbearing attitude they assumed did grate upon one's nerves.
I was not disappointed for myself so much as I was for Holmes, who as far as I could tell had suggested this holiday for a change of atmosphere. Within the first five minutes of arriving he managed to insult the desk clerk and offend that poor man's supervisor to boot.
Unfortunately it was no better when we were informed of the strict rules in place concerning the use of the hot springs and swimming ponds. Swimming was strictly prohibited before eight a.m. and after eight p.m. Guests were to stay with the designated boundaries of the pools and never to venture out without supervision of some sort. I could appreciate the need for safety, especially with the throngs of people everywhere. That did not mean I had to like them. Especially when said rules were the reason one could scarcely move in the water for the crowds.
I am sorry to say Holmes was in a black mood for the next five days. That is, he behaved foully to all except me. This was even more peculiar than his sudden and unexplained desire to take a holiday. I had never seen him censor his black fits around me and I could not help but wonder why.
Thursday night, the night before our departure, Holmes suddenly barged into my room in his swimwear and a light cotton dressing gown, tossed a bath towel at me and told me I had five minutes to get ready to swim. Then, as abruptly as he had entered, he was gone.
Darkness had already fallen and it was well after eight; according to the rules we were technically banned from the springs and ponds. Puzzled, I donned my own suit and dressing gown. Then I stepped into the hall and was nearly accosted by Holmes.
"Follow me and keep close," he hissed into my ear. "And for heaven's sake, be silent." Thus warned, I allowed Holmes to lead me down the hallway and to the stairway used exclusively by the hotel staff. At this point my friend drew from his dressing gown pocket a miniscule pick, went to work on the lock, and within a minute or so the thing had sprung open.
From there he led us through a labyrinth of passageways until at last we found ourselves outside with only a nightly-barred gate between ourselves and the waters. The night was warm, even for August on the continent, and I could feel my clothing beginning to stick to my skin. The quarter moon gave just enough light for Holmes to pick that lock as well. "So, Watson," he whispered, more cheerful now than he had sounded all week, "what would you have first? Hot spring or cool pond?"
"Holmes, really, we shouldn't," I faltered.
"We are already here. And you cannot tell me you have not longed to have the facilities free from the crush of humanity," he pointed out. I hesitated but a moment longer.
"Let it be the pools then," I finally assented. "It is far too hot for anything else."
The temperature of the water made a delightful contrast to the heat of the air. I am not as accomplished a swimmer as Holmes but I know enough to stay afloat. And at one point I successfully surprised him by, very childishly I'll confess, squirting him with water from cupped hands. Laughingly I protested I had not done such a thing in years but naturally our relations degenerated into a water fight.
By the time we called an amicable truce, we had been in the pond for easily an hour and the temperature had cooled sufficiently that the hot springs looked appealing. Of course, they still smelled horribly of sulphur but one could grow accustomed to that. And, after the cold water, the warmth was even more relaxing.
Holmes settled in with a small sigh. "I am sorry you did not have a better time this week."
"I? But I thought this holiday was for your benefit."
He smiled in no little amusement. "Oh, really, Watson, it was not I who was complaining of feeling old last month. Nor is it I who has a birthday today."
I started so suddenly I knocked my hand against the rough wall of the spring's pool. "Do you mean to say this was for me?"
Holmes's smile grew broader. "Happy birthday, dear fellow."
I could not help but laugh at the deception. "Thank you, Holmes, very much. But I don't like to think of the trouble I caused you when I originally declined a trip to Lausanne."
"Think nothing of it." He waved a hand languidly, flinging water droplets about. "I had planned for that, as you may have noticed from my readily available alternative destinations. One must be prepared to humor the elderly after all." The twinkle in his eyes contradicted the insulting last sentence and I yielded to sudden impulse to resume the water fight.
Amidst the second round of splashings, however, Holmes suddenly held up a hand, posture rigid and straining. "Confound it!" he whispered fiercely. "Someone is coming. Get out, now!"
"Our towels. . . " I could see the white fabric glowing in the moonlight a few feet away.
"Leave them. And follow me, quickly!"
We clambered out, awkward in our haste, and I followed Holmes as best I could. We did not return the way we had come but rather by a meandering trail across the hotel grounds, taking care not to leave wet footprints. Behind us I could hear muttered voices and when I dared to turn around I saw the bobbing light of a single lantern. The side entrance Holmes led us to was locked and with a curse he recalled he had left his pick in his dressing gown, next to our towels. With another oath, we proceeded to encircle the entire building, pursuers following us the entire way, until at last we reached that staff door we had exited from. Holmes wrenched it open, pulled me inside, and silently closed the door, locking it behind us.
Without a word we made our way back up the stairs to our rooms, dripping all the way despite our efforts. Only when Holmes had closed the door to his room did we finally burst out laughing, seizing pillows to muffle the noise. After a long while our chuckles had dwindled and we were able to lower the pillows.
"It may be gratifying to you to know that your holiday has been a complete success," I gasped out.
"Indeed?" he retorted, equally as breathless.
"After tonight, I do not feel at all old. On the contrary, this is reminiscent of being six years old and caught in midst of naughtiness."
Upon the morrow, Holmes was chagrinned to find himself buttonhold by the staff, begging him to investigate the mystery of the moonlight bathers. He declined on the basis on lack of time and lack of evidence, and I fear to this day the identities of these two miscreants remains unknown.