When I reached for the box no-one cried out, and I opened the lid and a sharp spike shot out straight into my hand. Somewhat surprised at this, I cried out.
Holmes was at my side in an instant..
"Watson! What is it?" He knocked the box from my hand. "What have you done?"
"The box," I said, shocked by this sudden improvement in his health. "Holmes, what is going on? You ought to be in bed, and I ought to leave right now and fetch a doctor."
"Have you drawn blood?" he shouted. He grabbed my hand and examined it. For a second there was silence, and then...
"You idiot!" he roared at me. "You stupid, stupid fool!"
So shocked was I by this outburst that I did not reply, not even to defend myself.
"You idiot...you..." His anger quite suddenly left him. "I am not dying," he said. "But you soon may be. "
I gawped at him, because it was all I could do. I felt blood slowly dripping from my finger.
The anger had completely gone now. "Sit down," he said, and I did. "I am the fool, my friend, not you. What you have witnessed for the past few hours has been nothing but a complex deception. I was not dying, and and I have in my foolishness, my arrogance, caused you great harm."
The events were only just starting to catch up with me. "You're not dying?"
"No. I had a plan to draw in an enemy. This box contains a deadly virus, which he sent to me. The needle infects the...unfortunate man. It came to me that I might pretend to have opened it and been infected, and therefore lure this villain to his doom. He is a cruel man, you see, and he would come to look upon his work."
I considered this, but on looking at the blood still dripping from my finger, I admit that panic was rising. "And you felt it necessary too to decieve your friend?"
"Please believe me, my friend, I did not think for one second any harm would come to you."
"Why decieve me like that? When I heard you were dying, can you imagine what I felt?"
"I imagine it would be something very like what I am feeling now," he said softly, "seeing you about to suffer, by my hand."
My thoughts were swimming. "This box was sent to you?"
"Yes. By a Culverton Smith, who has reason to do me harm. I need not go into details now."
"Holmes, you must do something," I said. In every case we handle there is the possibility of death- a stray gunshot, a knife- but this was new, and this frightened me. "There is an an antidote? Please, tell me there's an antidote!" Although my panic at this was not very becoming, all composure had flown my mind. The idea of dying helpless in a bed struck me with the same terror with which it strikes all men.
"Yes, there is," he said. "This is an end to my deceptions, my dear fellow." There was a look on his face which I had never before seen. "I have led you to this. I have injected poison into your veins."
"You didn't know," I said, but I could say little else, because I was angry with him. His ridiculous taste for insane theatrics had put us in this position. And if one tells a man to wait patiently in a room for two hours, how can he not expect that man to examine any interesting trinkets left about the house? No, this was his doing, and as much as I did not wish to feel anger at my friend, I could not help it.
Sickness was coming over me.
"You are very angry," Holmes said.
"I will not ask how you managed to deduce that," I said, and collapsed on the bed. For several minutes I felt nothing, but when my senses returned I was lying down, the covers over me, proof indeed that I was a very ill man.
"Holmes," I said, for he was still in room, lifting up that fiendish box with tongs, "I am very angry, no doubt. We shall talk about this later. But I do not believe you will let me die."
"I will not," he said fiercely.
"Had I come by this due to natural causes," I said, aware that my voice seemed to be weakening, "I would no doubt send you away with a last message for my wife, and words too to you. But, as I said ..."
"You will not die. I will see to it," he said. With just a glance at me, and an expression of fury in his eyes, he left the room. Then straight away he returned.
"I apologize for my harsh words, my good fellow. When I saw what you had done...what I had allowed you to do...what I did...I could not help..." His eyes were almost pleading.
"Your apology is accepted. Go, Holmes. Please," I added.
He ran through the door. I lay in the bed and from the corridor I heard soft voices, and then a sharp, hard slap.
Clearly Holmes had told Mrs Hudson the whole story.