April is a capricious month, sometimes kind, more often
the year 1894 she saw fit to play the latter role--stubbornly
withholding the graces of Persephone from Doctor Samuel Johnson's city
on the Thames--instead deferring the former to her younger sister,
May--or conceivably, even unto June.
The sole occupant of the sitting room of 221b had not troubled to feed
the fireplace grate for many hours, and so the comforts inside fell
commensurate with the steady progression of the night-time and the
temperature without. The environs concerned him little as he
of late enjoyed far meaner conditions in Tibet and in Khartoum with
gratitude. The few corporeal luxuries remaining to him as
loomed near were the plush of the mouse-coloured dressing-gown crushed
against his skin and the hot glow of the bowl of the oily clay pipe
that warmed his hand. That he took care to feed on a continual basis,
at great expense to the supply of shag he had carried on his person,
for that in the Persian slipper had years since deteriorated to an
inutile state. That would be the first issue he addressed
the shops opened in the morn.
In the other room, the doctor slept, sated, tranquil and--if Sherlock
Holmes were even a hundredth of the judge of the emotive as he were of
the objective--he must conclude "happy".
separated three hours ago; no, now it was nearer on four. The
upon his arm where, by rights, a night-shirt should have lain had taken
Holmes aback as he edged from their bed, for he had lain quietly and
observed in Watson the ineluctable transition from completion to
sedation to the torporific somnolence so wont to overtake even the most
vigorous of men who have recently so indulged. Holmes had not
stirred from their bed until he perceived Watson to be deep asleep;
then he moved only with his most stealthy grace.
Either Watson had been honing his skills of misdirection during his
hiatus, or Holmes had underestimated the extent of the potential
accomplishments attributable to the strength of the affections of one
man for another.
"Where are you going?" the sleep-riddled voice had asked.
"Away with my thoughts." Holmes slid bare feet into
slippers. "They call particularly loudly to-night and need
disturb you as well as me."
A gentle chuckle rose from the sheets. "Surely, Holmes, you
Over the past three years, a great many things have disturbed me
intensely. Nothing concerning your return will be counted
"Then you leave me no choice than to confess my weakness and cast
myself upon the mercy of your discretion. You are an insuperable
distraction to them, even if the converse does not prove an issue."
"I shan't apologise for that." Watson's voice was so very
Holmes had turned back to the bed, and they had kissed with the merest
echo of the kisses shared minutes before.
"I shall look forward to testing my powers of distraction later," were
the words that Watson voiced when they finally broke apart.
eyes, however, held the selfsame thought, but posed in the form of a
question he would never presume to ask: are you leaving me
From the earliest days of their association, Watson had--by
necessity--accommodated himself to Holmes's quirks and singularities,
including this ineluctable, unwritten rule. Holmes would
questions on his actions only as a retrospective. To receive
bounty of Holmes's companionship was to concede implicit reliance upon
his judgement. It was a relationship Watson had appraised as
than equitable for thirteen years. Not
Holmes had kissed him once more before pulling away. Watson
curled their sheets more tightly about himself to resume the easy sleep
of the inculpable as Holmes donned the tattered old dressing gown and
shut the bedroom door behind him.
Holmes smoked alone with his thoughts as the last of the coal died away
and the clock ticked on. Watson is a foolhardy man.
gives his heart so freely, so utterly without reserve. It is
engraved invitation to loss and grief; Holmes would never be so foolish
And yet, he had walked away from such unbounded trust and
loyalty. Holmes's own unremitting perspicacity would not
him to avoid the inherent irony. Whom did that make more the
The bedroom door opened. "A three pipe problem?" Having no
clothing aside from that which he had worn within his erstwhile
lodgings, Watson had appropriated Holmes's purple dressing
It was stained with assorted chemicals, long in the sleeve, long in the
leg, narrow in the shoulder, and worn in the elbows, yet it seemed more
suitable on him this night than any Savile row tweed might
"Not a difficult one, but rife with features of interest."
Holmes laid his pipe aside.
"I am glad to hear it." The caneback chair sighed its familiar creak as
Watson settled himself within it. The folds of the purple
robe fell--in a manner unlikely attributable to chance alone--into a
most precarious arrangement.
"Do you foresee any chance I could interest you in returning to our
bed?" Watson gapped his knees a few inches apart, inducing
front of the dressing gown to yield still more to bare skin.
Holmes waved him off. "Sleep is a thing of the
has had plenty on the voyage from the Continent. London has
suffered sorely for my absence and needs my brain--our brains," he
cocked Watson a nod in acknowledgement, "alert and ready, are we to
set things right." While Holmes's sallow skin and jutting
may have told tale of recent unhealthy days, his grey eyes lit with all
the renowned vim as he gave the prospect voice.
Watson stood and wrapped the robe around his legs. "Well, if
brain is to be at the ready, then this body does require
It hasn't been allowed much so far to-night; I shall see you in the
"Capital idea," said Holmes. "For if I were you, I shouldn't count on
much sleep this coming night either."
"Have we a case?" Watson's head started up. He caught his eye
"Not a one." Holmes recovered his pipe and wrapped his lips
around it purposefully. He shot a pointed look over the bowl
they laughed in unison.
Eyes still twinkling, Watson stepped toward the leather
arm-chair. "If I haven't told you this before, it is very
have you back; I missed you very much." The softness the
of Watson's hand upon Holmes's cheek was lessened somewhat by a crop of
stubble badly overdue for its destined meeting with soap and blade, yet
the feeling behind it was unaffected, as was the tender brush of thumb
across parted lips. "I'll see you later, then."
retreated back to bed.
"It is happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust." So
spake Dr. Johnson more than one hundred years ago. It is most
fortunate that Boswell saw to it that such words of wisdom shall not
fade from the remembrance of the Earth. To be
unaware of a
truth is no failure of mortal man, but a transient situation that all
face daily on the changing journey from cradle to grave.
to be made aware of a great truth, yet subsequently fail to act, now
that is the mark of a fool...or a coward.
Sherlock Holmes has been many things, but no one could veritably title
him either of those. Holmes abandoned his pipe and
once--to follow Watson's lead. It surprised him how
was to do.