A Sherlock Holmes fanfic: The case of the unexpected letter
This was a fanfic I wrote long ago but I must apologize in advance to my readers. I am not, nor ever have been very bright when it comes to deductions but that does not stop me from being completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and this fanfiction piece like many others before it, was inevitable. The technique, the deduction are all very weak but here it is, the concept makes up for it a little, or so I should hope. Please do read if you care to excuse me and have a lovely day, dear friends!
One evening, my companion arrived in a grim humour, and shutting the door noisily behind him, slumped into the nearest armchair. He seemed to be quite exhausted, his disheveled clothes, his ragged breathing and general state of excitement seemed to bear witness to that. Yet, I was conscious of a deep secretiveness in the man, which from long familiarity, had taught me that his company was not to be intruded upon at the present. I remained silent for sometime but seeing that he neither gave an explanation nor seemed to expect questions on my part, I broke the silence.
"What in the name of Heavens have you been doing?" I asked him at last.
"It is quite out of our hands, Watson" he told me.
"What, Holmes?" I asked him, the exasperation in my voice, hardly refraining from entering my tone.
"It's no use" he said with that amusing mixture of disappointment and inscrutability. He was in a very mischievous mood despite his worn out state. I knew by long experience that it was useless to try to coax anything out of him. So I resigned myself to vaguely scanning over the newspaper.
"Would you like a drink?" I asked him at last, having assured myself that his state was a result of exhaustion rather than any real illness.
"Make it as stiff as you can" he threw readily. I poured out some brandy and handed it to him. He drank eagerly and his colour seemed to come back to him.
"Has ever a man been so tried?" he declared unhappily. I regarded him with a half smile and curiousity.
"I have been to the post-office and been at the heel of the Yard all day long. A bull-dog could not have shown such pertinacity. Yet, look where it has lead me. All in vain" he cried out.
"Is it a case?" I ventured.
"You may call it that! Or you may call it a remarkable lack of discretion and common sense on my part. This institution will not survive Watson, if my reputation starts getting torn to shreds by cases like this".
"It can't be that bad. Perhaps you need more data".
"My blushes, Watson. You have assumed your bedside manner, I did not think the matter was as grave as that" he said and I found myself smiling. My companion had a peculiar way about him which he was resolved to have if nothing else. If he meant me to hear anything that night, I knew he would come round to it after he had exhausted his store of preamble. Holmes was not irritable tonight, rather he liked to be able to irritate someone else.
I waited patiently and went back to my newspaper. In two minutes, Holmes sprung out of his chair and snatched the newspaper from my very hands and threw it onto the floor. Then he drew up his chair until his knees were touching mine and with his usual mastery, he commanded my attention with his steady, absorbed gaze.
"Alright, Watson. Here it is. See if you can shed light where all is dark to me. On May 5th, Monsieur Pierre Defarge came to see me. You might have seen him on his way out".
"A tall, nervous, agitated Frenchman with the high-pitched voice".
"Quite so! He was almost hysteric with fear when he first sought my interview and he laid out an interesting case, as you will see for yourself. M. Defarge owns a rather large bookstore in the very center of our great city. You might have passed it on your rounds by the East side. Now, Monsieur is a widower with no living relation. Or so he thought, until two years ago, his old flame decided to write to him. Rather to your tastes, is it not, Watson?" he asked, half mocking me for my fascination for the romantic.
"Here is her letter, quite eloquent I assure you. None of your garden variety love letters. Nothing with the usual declarations of love forever or until death do us part. A practical, convincing account that states clearly that the lady is still alive and wishes to resume relations with our widowed client. Now, what do you think should be his response to this?" Holmes asked me, with a shrewd glance at me.
"Why, he should be delighted, I should hope, to receive a letter from his former lady love".
"Ah! But our client is convinced that this letter is a hoax and he can't decide whether he should be frustrated or crushed at this realization".
"Whatever makes him think the letter is false".
"In his own words "Il n'est pas juste". Monsieur is convinced that the relationship was unsuccessful due to practical reasons. Her father did not approve and she had more eligible suitors. He believes that she must, most probably, have married one of them".
"Is that all?"
"The lady's handwriting, he says, is a forgery".
"Well, that can be easily verified by comparing one of her earlier missives with this one".
"He has done so and found them match perfectly".
"The wording, the vocabulary, the formations of phrases all seem to suggest forgery".
"But that's improbable".
"Besides, Monsieur feels it may be a ruse to get at his money".
"Monsieur, as you see, is quite given to nervous agitations. His heart hasn't been good, according to the accounts of his doctors. He doesn't expect to live to see the next decade and he is convinced that some manipulative forger is after him".
"Why doesn't he ask to see her?"
"You will find the answer when you read the document. He wants our advice on either renewing or severing all connections with the lady. Ah! I see it now. You are contemptuous of this case, are you not Watson? I suspect that there is something more in this than the simple plans of a scheming, romantic forger. But here is the letter, you may see for yourself" he said and threw it across to me.
I have learned lately about the decease of your wife. My deep condolences. However, I cannot help wondering whether it might not be better for both of us to put our past behind us and renew relations. If I remember correct, you were once interested in me. I may not be as young, or as pretty, if I may use that liberal term that you used to ascribe to me, but I am still your very own Anna. This letter may sound strange to you and believe me, this comes to you under strange circumstance. But my regards for you remain the same so I hope you will not wonder at my audacity in writing to you after so long. I have up till now remained unmarried and should you wish to renew acquaintance, it would be an unimaginable delight to me. Write back soon, conveying your thoughts on this proposition. I clearly tell you that you may writing negating my proposition or engage in it, quite as you wish. But I only ask one thing of you. Under no circumstances are you to ask to see me. I beg that you will not ask any more questions about this wish of mine. And believe me to be,
"It seems to be a very clear missive" I remarked.
"Too clear, or so our client feels. 'His Anna' as the writer calls herself, was a giddy schoolgirl of nineteen with scarce any wits to write a well-worded letter, let alone such a practical one. She was quite the country belle, it seems, with a spirited mettle and calculative view on the other hand. This may appear a trifle to you, Watson, from your disinterested countenance, but this is a life or death matter for our client. He is still very much in love with 'His Anna'" ended Holmes and relapsed into his former silence, putting his fingertips together and gazing vaguely at the wall opposite him. But he came out of his reverie in a very short time.
"Well, Watson! What do you make of it? Should our client reply or not".
"It is best left up to him, I think, Holmes".
"Capital answer, Watson. Very diplomatically answered, however, I cannot answer so flippantly as I expect to be paid for my counsel. But consider, Watson. Our client writes back stating he wishes to continue his charming love affair and letters come from the other quarter, both soothing and exciting him to that stage of hysteria which you saw him exhibit on his first meeting. He dies approximately in ten years and his money goes to the forger, the fraud or the sincere lover. Where is the harm in all this? Where is the room or need for interference of a detective. I think I shall advise our client to give the green signal" ended Holmes decisively. I have often been struck at the coldness and indifference my friend exhibits when it comes to matters of the heart, but despite my own misgivings, I knew that what he said was quite right. Sometimes, anticipation is better than realization. How could it harm M. Defarge to allow himself joy and companionship, even imaginary ones, in his last years. I nodded assent and the matter was settled. Nothing could have prepared us for the news that was to reach us the next month.
Our client burst into our lodging an early Tuesday morning and announced hysterically that he was to be married. Holmes could not keep the laughter out of his voice when he congratulated the ecstatic bridegroom. For my part, I too kept up as composed a face as I could muster and heartily applauded him for tying the knot.
Our uninvited visitor threw himself into a chair and began to squeal out his thanks. "You were right, Mr. Holmes. And to think I might have given up on Anna, my own Anna! She is quite unchanged, sir. You were very right" he repeated.
"Sacre bleu, she is quite the same. A bit more tender and soft-spoken perhaps but she is still Anna. But Mr. Holmes-" said our visitor with a sudden start.
"Yes, sir?" asked Holmes.
"She is unmistakably Anna. She has the same shade of hair, she has the same volume to her lips, the very same pale cheeks and rounded shoulders but-"
"Yes?" said Holmes managing a short bark of laughter with his question.
Our visitor, unheeding, went on with his own exciting news. "Her voice is rather strange. No doubt, she is older now, more mature in years but I did not expect her voice to change".
"Is it? How changed, may I ask?"
"She sounds basal. She does not laugh as much".
To my immense surprise and to our client's great annoyance, Holmes burst out laughing.
"Well, that is what you may expect when you have married your Anna's sister, sir?"
"What do you mean?" our client squealed out.
"I ask you to kindly calm down. Watson, if you will be so good, pour our visitor some mild sedative while I deliver my newfound discoveries". Our client stared helplessly from one of us to the others while Holmes, making desperate efforts to control his laughter, shifted himself excitably in his chair as he told our M. Defarge everything.
"You see sir, I was convinced from the first that the document was partly a forgery. It was indeed written by your own Anna, but your Anna was in fact, married and settled quite comfortably. In your narrative, you told me Anna had a sister-"
"No, I did not" exclaimed our client.
"Well, I deduced it for myself. Your Anna was quite the coquette, as I understand from your statements. Now, you were an accomplished youth with a ready business even at the time of your courtship, you are not given to drink or gambling. Yet, you told me that Anna's father protested your alliance though she was over nineteen years of age. You also gave me to understand that Anna had several suitors but she had not decided on one. Now, what could be causing 'your Anna' to have many suitors and not be able to choose one among them. Obviously an older sister. The father wanted you to marry the older sister and not charming, pretty Anna as was the case with Shakespeare's Kate and Bianca. She could not marry until her sister was and you did not desire to wait so long. Do you follow?"
Our visitor gaped in reply but it was clear from his expression that Holmes had been right in his deductions so far.
"The rest, you can make out for yourself. 'Your Anna' married and settled down comfortably once the father saw that it was futile to make her wait on account of the older sister. Now, the author of the letters could one have one reason for not wishing you to see her until you were convinced that she was really Anna. The handwriting convinced you and after a couple of weeks of charming correspondence through letters, you were assured beyond all doubt that the writer was indeed, Anna. You met her, the colour of her hair, the pallor of her cheeks, the familiar shape were certainly resembling your lady love. Only a sibling could pass themselves off as their other sibling and so you ended up marrying your Anna's sister" finished Holmes at last.
"But why did you not tell me?" cried out our Visitor despairingly.
"Come now, the situation is not all that bad. You can still get your spouse for impersonation but I believe you to be too much of a gentleman to do that. The moment you told me that the letters were graver than your lover ever was, I was convinced that someone was dictating to Anna to send letters I her name. I expect Anna complied for her sister's sake".
"You knew all. Why, why did you not-?"
"Because you would not have believed me. I could see from the telltale signs, dear sir, that you were lost beyond reclaim. You were prepared to take the highest risks in the hope of reuniting with your lover again, were you not?"
In reply, M. Defarge sighed and with a sudden movement, left the room as flamboyantly as he had entered.