Good-night Mister Sherlock Holmes

February 28, 2009

Holmes, Holmes, Holmes…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mark Loper @ 12:32 pm
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I will start by reiterating that Sherlock Holmes is my favorite literary character and, to quote our friend, Dr. Watson, Holmes is “the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.”  Further, The Adventure of the Speckled Band is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories but he makes an error so un-Holmes-like, I have to bring it to light. 

In this offering, Holmes is masterful.  He listens to the narrative of Miss Stoner, visits Stoke Moran, and has all but solved the case needing only to spend the night in Miss Stoner’s room to verify his conclusions and simultaneously “drive away the dangers that threaten” her. 

“I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have already made up your mind,” said Miss Stoner, laying her hand upon my companion’s sleeve. 

“Perhaps I have.” 

Then, for pity’s sake, tell me what was the cause of my sister’s death.” 

“I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I speak.” 

“You can at least tell me whether my own thought is correct, and if she died from some sudden fright.” 

“No, I do not think so. I think that there was probably some more tangible cause. And now, Miss Stoner, we must leave you for if Dr. Roylott returned and saw us, our journey would be in vain. Good-bye, and be brave, for if you will do what I have told you may rest assured that we shall soon drive away the dangers that threaten you.” 

Classic Holmes, right?  Yes, but when Holmes and Watson later enter Miss Stoner’s room, Holmes gives Watson detailed instructions on what part he (Watson) is to play and what he should expect.  

… after following Holmes’s example and slipping off my shoes, I found myself inside the bedroom. My companion noiselessly closed the shutters, moved the lamp onto the table, and cast his eyes round the room. All was as we had seen it in the daytime. Then creeping up to me and making a trumpet of his hand, he whispered into my ear again so gently that it was all that I could do to distinguish the words: 

“The least sound would be fatal to our plans.”  I nodded to show that I had heard.  “We must sit without light. He would see it through the ventilator.”  I nodded again.  “Do not go asleep; your very life may depend upon it. Have your pistol ready in case we should need it. I will sit on the side of the bed, and you in that chair.” 

Holmes specifically makes the point that the least sound would be fatal to their plans and goes on to impress upon Watson the extreme danger of the situation.  My question is, why would Holmes not have given this critical instruction to Watson while they were sitting in the relaxed comfort of the Crown Inn?

Holmes had already been in Miss Stoner’s room and knows the exact layout.  He already knows the extreme danger of the situation.  He knows all this before he takes possession of the bedroom yet only then does he give Watson instructions?  This is not the Holmes I know.

Otherwise the story is Holmes and Watson at their zenith.  I say Holmes and Watson because the scene in the sitting-room at the Crown Inn before they begin their vigil is one of the warmest and intimate you are likely to read between these two: 

“Do you know, Watson,” said Holmes as we sat together in the gathering darkness, “I have really some scruples as to taking you to-night. There is a distinct element of danger.” 

“Can I be of assistance?” 

“Your presence might be invaluable.” 

“Then I shall certainly come.” 

“It is very kind of you.” 

It is typically understated but as sincere and heart-felt as any between two men waiting to enter harm’s way.

God Bless you both.

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