A previously unpublished Sherlock Holmes short story, this marks a real change in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's attitude towards his creation. Written shortly before the sleuth's infamous death at Reichenbach Falls.
It was a rather humid evening in spring, the 24th of May if memory serves, that Holmes and I happened upon one of our more unusual cases. We had not long retired to the drawing room after a dinner of gammon and roasted parsnips and were each of us absorbed in our own pursuits. I was poring over a book of ornithology, studying the mating habits of the common tern, and Holmes was attempting to build a house of cards, his face a mere haze due to the smoke billowing from the tip of the opium pipe he'd been intermittently puffing on all evening. All of a sudden there was a flurry of commotion downstairs, one which by now I had come to recognise as the beginnings of a case, and I rose swiftly from my seat, ready to greet our visitor. Unfortunately, the draught caused by my sudden upheaval was enough to fell Holmes's card castle, and he glanced up at me sharply, a card still pinched betwixt thumb and forefinger.
"Watson, I'd been working on this for the better part of an hour. You realise your oafishness is matched only by your slow-wittedness? In other words, you are a primate."
He rose from his seat, keeping a stern eye on my hunched figure, and flung open the double doors which led onto the hallway. There stood the silent form of a young lady, keen of eye, and ample of breast. Doubtless Holmes observed this as well, for I observed his gaze drop down to the woman’s cleavage, before returning to her face. His lecherous side was almost as commonly displayed as his brilliant deductive reasoning. It was one of his few flaws, I hasten to add.
“Good evening, Mrs -
“Haversham” she replied in a voice as delicate as it was lyrical.
Holmes showed her to the seat he’d been occupying a moment before, brushing a few cards off it as she perched on the edge.
“Now, what appears to be the problem?” Holmes asked kindly.
At this, she threw her hands up and gave a wail of such desperation as to make my eyes water.
“Oh, it’s simply frightful! It’s my husband, you see, he’s been blighted by a most ghastly affliction. I came to you in particular because” - Here, she lowered her voice - “I suspect foul play at work.”
Holmes gave a small nod of understanding.
“Whereabouts is your house, Mrs Haversham?”
“Only a few minutes walk, but I ran all the way here, I was so frightened.”
Holmes rubbed her shoulder affectionately, raising his eyebrows at me as he did so.
“Well, I suppose you’d best take us to your other half if we’re to have any hope of unravelling this mystery at all. Watson, seeing as you’re a medical man, you should prove invaluable in this case.”
He helped Mrs Haversham to her feet, and she seemed to notice me for the first time. She gave an appreciative nod, and I returned a smile.
“Don’t worry, my dear, he may have the grubby appearance and boorish mannerisms of an ape in a suit, but his experience has proved indispensable in the past.”
Without further ado, we hastened from the building, Holmes throwing on his frock coat and deerstalker as is his wont, and I deftly flicking my bowler hat onto my head, before closing the double doors behind us.