from Dr J Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Second instalment of my notes from our recent adventure:
Seated in the library, we each took to our own brands of tobacco and puffed away for a few minutes in comparative silence. Wheatley, having first changed into a rather ghastly pair of sandals, began to tell us about his ‘problem’…
“Following the first visit from the fellow calling himself Duke de Richleau,” explained our host, “he turned up again at my club. However, this time, I noticed something rather odd about him: during our first meeting, we had been standing in the darkened hallway (I had no intentions of allowing the man into my house), and so I could not clearly see his face. On the second occasion, I deliberately led him into the club toilets – partly so that I would have a witness (Chapman, the attendant) and because the lighting in there is quite bright and I was certain I would be able to have a good look at him.
“Immediately, he saw my motive and moved into the darkest corner of the room (which wasn’t terribly dark at all) and turned his face away. I moved towards him and began to question him closely, to which the fellow muttered various excuses and moved around so that I was not able to face him. After a moment, I grabbed his shoulders and demanded that he make his intentions plain. At this, he faced me and I saw with horror that his features represented the very characteristics, which I myself had imagined when I first described Duke de Richleau.
“I must have turned pale, for the attendant rushed forward and began mopping my brow and asking if I was alright. I pushed him away and turned to the imposter, demanding that he tell me who he was.
“I cannot say exactly what the fellow told me, but I was dimly aware of being told all the small facts I had worked out for myself when I created the character of The Duke. But further, the very facts which I use as a kind of ‘back-story’ in my books but…” And here he stopped and stared for a moment into the fire. Then looking up, he focused on Holmes and said, “The facts which I never write down, never discuss with anyone and which I never include in any of my books. Mr Holmes…” At this point Wheatley was visibly shaking. “Mr Holmes, this man appeared to know my innermost thoughts.”
Holmes puffed his pipe and made one or two ‘hmm’ sounds, but said nothing. Wheatley leaned forwards, eager to hear my companion’s opinion, but Holmes already had his eye on the bottle of port which stood nearby on the mantelshelf. “May I?” He asked, and before Wheatley could reply, Holmes had poured three large glasses of port (the largest for himself) and proposed a toast, “To The Duke…and all who sail in him.” And with that, he quaffed his drink and helped himself to another.
At some point in the evening, I swapped my own glass for one of blackcurrant cordial, since it was obvious my companion was quickly becoming inebriated. Wheatley too, was well on the way to drunken oblivion and became rather irritated at Holmes at his lack of response to the story.
When Homes finally blacked out, I decided we had outlived our welcome and with the help of Wheatley’s manservant, managed to get my friend into a Hansome.
To be continued.