It was the fourth day of my trip to the tiny parcel of land that had once belonged to my maternal grandmother and had been ceded to me by a very old uncle who had just passed on.
It wasn't very much, an acre or so of tall grass graced by a dilapidated and abandoned cottage. But I was forced to travel far north to settle the matter and see what could be done with it, if anything.
I stayed at a nearby inn while the estate agent I hired wrangled with the rich neighbors on each side who were contesting my 'claim', trying to get them to settle. It was dull but busy business and my nerves were not in the best of shape as I settled into my dusty room, alone.
That's when Holmes' first letter arrived. It was hard to read so covered it was with spots of soot and it smelled of smoke.
Did you still need your anatomy book?
I stared at the letter. I should have been disbelieving but I'd lived with Holmes far too long to be surprised by anything anymore. At least regarding him.
Please cease and desist setting our rooms on fire. And yes, I need all my books, so please consider replacing it at your soonest convenience.
As I placed this necessarily curt missive in the box, I noticed that there was already yet another letter for me from Holmes in there, postmarked the same day as the first.
I sighed deeply as my nerves began to twitch within their sheaths. I limped back to my room to read it.
Realizing that I knew what your answer would be to my previous query, I replaced your book with a most illuminating text published by RF Burton based on the works of an ancient Indian sage named Vatsyayana. It's a manual of sorts and a private printing and while it may not be anatomically accurate on the whole, you do get a full view of the human body on many of its pages.
It's titled "The Kama Sutra". Have you come across it in your travels abroad?
I put in on your personal shelf, the one that you insist Mrs. Hudson is allowed to dust, although I'm fundamentally against her interference in our personal habits. Still that is your choice to have her looking through your things and as for your new book, perhaps we can peruse it together when you return home?
I'm not sure how long my mouth hung open or how long I sputtered while reading that letter. I picked up my pen, hardly knowing where to begin.
You are the most fiendish and depraved individual that any fellow lodger has had the misfortune of moving in with. I am gone but for a few days and already you've burned, sacked and pillaged my personal property not to mention my good name in the eyes of our landlady.
Take that book down and hide it immediately!
Now if you have any regard for me at all you will regain some of your sense, whatever there may be of it, and stop fooling about in such a destructive manner. If you must write to me, let it be a single retelling of how ordinary and peaceful your days are so as to give me no extra grief on top of the annoyances I'm already suffering through.
I managed to get that missive off in the post without trouble, but alas, it was mere hours later that a postcard was handed to me, a truly hideous engraving of a multitude of top hatted infants sitting bare-bottomed on chamber pots, the latest in a string of low-class popular fads for postcard subjects.
Beneath each one was written the name of a few of our compatriots - Lestrade, Gregson, Clarky and 'Nanny' evidencing a sense of humor that had regressed to the level of a six-year-old. The inn-keeper eyed me narrowly as I read it and I tried to laugh it off, but I could only manage a croak.
So humiliated was I that I took my supper in my room and began writing to my agent, begging him to accept any price for the land so I could retreat from here and get home to Baker Street, so better to beat the living daylights out of Holmes as soon as possible.
Perhaps if I ignore him, I thought the morning after the next when, alas, this missive arrived.
My dearest Watson,
How surprised and shocked I was to receive your letter, nearly red-hot with rage toward my own self! I must say my eyes were stinging by the end of it, but that could be due to the slight accident I had with the arsenic I was experimenting with. (Do you know it tastes like almonds? Most intriguing.)
A thousand apologies for upsetting you. You know that in your absence I'm not always at my most thoughtful, as I don't have you here to remind me of my little follies and foibles. Take for instance this morning when I confronted the Raschefold Gang on the docks, all six of them. The first five were hardly worth the battle but unfortunately the sixth one was armed with a very large knife (a serrated meat-cutting tool from the nearby slaughterhouse, I believe) and while I ducked nine times, on the tenth I fear he nicked his mark which wouldn't have happened if I'd had you there by my side, not only as a protector, but to warn me to turn left when I should, instead of right when I shouldn't.
Fortunately the bleeding was eventually put under control by the police surgeon who happened to also have some battle experience. You can hardly see the twenty-stitches he put in, so neat and small are they. (Although I dare say yours would have been even neater and smaller.)
I must end this letter now as I've suddenly grown tired and more than a bit dizzy. The words in front of me are lkjojlga ljafdhjadkfj ouerejfsm,vjkldjfowierklnv ...
Moments later, I traveled at top speed to the agent's home and told him to accept any amount of money they were willing to offer.
He agreed but I still had to be there for the signing over. Nearly tearing my hair out at this news, I returned to the inn and wrote back to Holmes, praying he might have survived long enough to read it.
If you are trying to frighten me out of my wits, you have succeeded. For the love of all that's good, why do you persist in tormenting me when I cannot help the circumstance of being apart from you? I shall be here no more than another day; there is a paper I need to sign and then I will be returning.
If you care even a little for me, dear Holmes, please attempt to preserve yourself for the next forty-eight hours. I can do no more than beg that of you, if indeed you are still alive to read these words.
Please, please take care of yourself.
Another two days passed. My agent left me a note that an offer came in and I was to sign the papers that afternoon and so be on my way. I was already packed when Holmes' next letter arrived.
My apologies, dear boy. Sometimes I become worried that once you've left my orbit you will have no desire to return. The snares I throw toward you to bind your more closely are most unfair, but they are made of love, if that is any consolation.
In short, I miss you. Forgive me my foolishness and I promise to wait meekly and patiently for your return whenever it may be. I hope and pray you are well and I shall not add to your annoyances further, at least at this juncture.
Be well, my best one.
PS: Although I was quite serious about perusing that book together once you've returned.
My grin at this missive was tremulous and relieved. Even more relieved was I when my agent arrived with the papers, exclaiming that we'd gotten much more than even he'd originally anticipated.
"And from a completely original source," he said as I quickly scrawled my name on the dotted line, my hat already on my head. "A Mr. S. Sherrinford, of London. He paid a good four times the asking price for it."
"Yes, yes," I said hurriedly and it wasn't until I was on the train back to Baker Street did the name ring a bell - it was Holmes' own name, as written in the old form. Mouth twitching, I started another letter, one I would deliver in person.
You are going to get it.
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