Holmes' mentions of family never had gone past the vaguest details. He had mentioned that his ancestors were country squires and that he was related to Verner, but little more could I ever get from him. He did not even mention to me that he had a brother until we had known each other for quite a long time. On the subject of his parents he was entirely mute, choosing to brush off my questions like so much dust. It was thus with some shock that, one Thursday afternoon, Holmes looked up from his pipe and told me that he was going to visit these mysterious persons.
Frankly, I was shocked. After the repeated dismissals of my inquiries and Holmes' obstinacy on the subject, I had begun to think of the man who sat across from me as not having parents, or at least not having ones whom he would visit.
"They live in Oxford," he stated simply. "About half an hour by train. I am scheduled to meet with them this Saturday and then spend the night. I would be most obliged if you could come with me."
"I'd be honored," said I, now doubly surprised by this invitation.
"Excellent, Watson! I shall send a telegram immediately."
And with that, it was arranged that I should meet Holmes' parents. I could scarcely sleep the next few nights now that I was to be admitted into this most secretive of clubs. Holmes himself seemed anxious as well, going about our rooms like a dog on a scattered scent. As he had no pressing cases at the time, he had just concluded an important forgery case for the Duke of Warrick, he was in the most tempestuous of spirits. All hours of the day and night I heard him scraping away at his violin and in the short period between Thursday and Saturday he managed to conduct two experiments that resulted in Mrs. Hudson airing out the study. I found myself wishing Saturday would come sooner not only out of my curiosity, but also to escape the stench of sulphuric acid and methane from Holmes' repeated experiments.
In my frustration, I found myself cleaning my desk, sorting through some of the case histories which had accumulated during the intense activity of the last few weeks. Holmes had left an essay of some length entitled "Poetry in Scotland" which had become practically engrained into the wood itself from the time I had accidently spilt some whiskey on my desk. As I worked away at it with a penknife, I studied what little I could see through the stains. The first name of the author was clearly visible along with the words "University of Ox—." The last name was almost entirely obscured so that I could only make out that it began with an "H" and nothing more. I thought back to before the article's unfortunate dousing. I had glanced through it when first I discovered it and found it to be an ordinary literary essay, noting with some amusement that Carlisle was mentioned as one of the significant poets. But that still left the mystery of why Holmes had placed it on my desk. Other than as proof that he did know the famous poet's name, I could think of no reason why Holmes would have gone to any effort to show it to me. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that Holmes had read my relation of our first case together and now sought to prove to me that he was not entirely ignorant in regards to literature.
This theory of mine seemed to be proven by Holmes' own remarks on the train.
"You were mistaken, Watson," he said as the train left King's Cross station. "When you said that my knowledge of literature is non-existent. While it is true that I do not keep up with the more modern writers, I do have some knowledge of the classics and particularly of Shakespeare."
"Shakespeare?" said I, scarcely believing my ears. "Really, Holmes, what could you know about Shakespeare? I thought you kept your mind free of any trivial details, like an organized attic."
He looked at me through his eyelashes, a small smile on his lips. "I could hardly help but store some furniture from my father's profession," said he.
Suddenly, the pieces fell into place. "Your father is a professor at Oxford? An English professor?"
"Very good, Watson," he said. "Though hardly the time I would have expected from a seasoned raissoneur. It has been five days since I put that instructive, if somewhat fanciful, essay on your desk with my father's name on it, yet only now do you put the incidents together. You see what I mean when I say that 'you see but you do not observe.'"
Indeed, I did feel somewhat foolish upon discovering that Holmes had arranged the whole thing.
"That article, then, was your father's work?" I said, now heartily regretting that I had treated it so ill.
He nodded. "Written some years ago if I recall. He has hardly been up to scientific standards with his publishing."
With that, he turned his gaze to the quickly passing houses that sped past the window as we left London.
For the next fifteen minutes, Holmes retained the utter silence which I was used to receiving on the subject of his parentage. My repeated questions on the topic got me nowhere and indeed seemed to be losing me ground rather than gaining it. Finally, when I had begun to think that my friend was going to endure the whole train ride in silence, he turned to me and said, "It is a curious thing, Watson, the way that art in the blood manifests itself. In one generation, it can be seen through the study of the written word and then in the next through acute reasoning and deduction. No two manifestations ever seem to be in complete agreement with one another. Rather, this curious impulse of the blood is deemed better or worse by those who have very little to do with it based on how the owner chooses to employ it. In this fashion, painters have been ridiculed by writers, engineers by cooks, and musicians by mathematicians." He stared out the window for a moment before adding, "It is a fascinating study, Watson, but one that I am not sure I wish to pursue."
I wonder if anyone will catch the "misused" word Holmes uses? The actual definition is quite different from what it sounds like, though it is accurate enough in regards to its subject.
Reviews appreciated as always.