how it was
It was a Sunday, as I recall. Holmes kindly offered the extra soft bed as we arrived at Baker Street the previous night in a heavy mist seemingly coming up from the saturated ground. Mrs. Hudson had hot soup and a silver container of scalding black coffee ready for these cold bones, bless her sweet heart. Holmes did not eat, instead curled in his favorite chair in the dark, smoking and watching the smoke rise. I knew well enough not to interrupt his tortured thoughts, so I retired quietly.
In the morning I was awakened briefly by the repetitive creaking in the hallway from pacing footsteps upon the wooden floor. And then there was a sliver of candle light, the door bursting open.
I sat bolt upright, clearing cobwebs from my eyes and mouth.
'Holmes! What's wrong?'
'Bring your revolver!'
There I stood in my bedclothes at about half past seven, blue steel gun cocked, Holmes hiding out of sight at the window behind the curtain, fearful.
'Watson! They are after me.' He could barely speak now, a hopeless wisp of his former voice, chest heaving in and out, gesturing for me to come to the window.
I looked sleepy-eyed down into the blue morning mist. It was quiet, except a poultry wagon, with the insignia, Moriarty's Fine Poultry and Vegetables, had lost a wheel and had spilled its contents into the street. A happy, patient dog, tail wagging, was devouring the spilled contents. My friend looked deathly pale as I turned to him.
'Those chickens, Watson. Running across the street over and over and over again. They are after me. Mean devils!'
'Calm yourself, Holmes,' I pleaded kindly. 'There are no chickens. Sit over here, old fellow.'
Then it dawned on me. As Holmes was hunched over, shivering, I walked over to the desk. Yes, it was there. The dreaded empty syringe. I grabbed his arm for close inspection.
'Oh, my dear Holmes. My dear Holmes.'
This is how it was, occurring in various forms, in the darkest shadows of his life. The greatest man in London, I would like for it to be known, despite these shadows, was a rather splendid and fine fellow.
art by Adolphe Valette