June 9, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Another Study in Scarlet

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PORTLAND, Maine / TimeGoesBy / Elder Storytelling Place / June 9, 2010

By Peter Tibbles
Melbourne, Australia


Peter Tibbles writes the
Time Goes By Elder Music column
that appears on Sundays.


My name is Georges Lestrade. I take up my pen as I approach the twilight of my life in an endeavour to record history as it really was.

I was a police inspector at Scotland Yard for many years but have long retired from that position. I realise that this missive might not reach the light of day and, even if it does, will be dismissed as the ravings of a bitter old man. However, I would like to record the truth for history's sake.

I met Mrs. Hudson the day I visited a certain Dr. Watson for a minor complaint as my own doctor was away that day. After my consultation, she asked if she could speak with me. She enquired if we could meet to talk about police work and such. I was intrigued by her proposal so we arranged a mutually satisfactory day.

Martha Hudson turned out to be an intelligent lady whose enquiring mind was obvious from our first meeting. She asked about police investigations and other such matters. I told her in general outline but she wished for more detail. I said that I could not comment about cases upon which I was working but I could tell her of those already solved. She readily agreed and we discussed these at length.

For some time I heard nothing from this good lady until one day I received a letter asking if we could meet again. She brought along a couple of manuscripts and asked if I would read them and comment on their contents. Fascinated by this request, I readily agreed.

I took them home, read them and found she had fashioned some interesting tales based on my cases combining several into a single, entertaining whole. I was made out to be a detective of exemplary skills. I was quite taken aback by this. Upon finishing reading, I wrote her a note asking if we could discuss these stories.

I told her that, although flattered by her characterisation of me, I would prefer my role to be less prominent as I was then still working as a policeman. She was somewhat perplexed that I would wish to downgrade myself in this way, but agreed to change the text.

When we next met, with her revised stories, I found that she had fashioned a tale supposedly written by John Watson, the doctor I had met briefly. I remarked that it was an interesting conceit and she laughed and said it amused her as the good doctor was admirable in many ways, but not noted for his intelligence.

She had made another person the hero of the stories. I asked if this person was fictional or, as with Watson and me, based on someone real. She replied that indeed he was a real person but so unlike the character she wrote as to be unrecognisable.

He was a beekeeper by trade and it seems that this person's brother had recommended his care to the doctor in an endeavour to cure him of his addiction to cocaine and laudanum. Dr. Watson had taken him in and provided a room for him at his lodgings in Baker Street and was doing his best with the treatment. Martha reported that the brother paid exceptionally well for this special treatment.

She said that Mr. Holmes was quite unresponsive to his attempted cure and did his utmost to acquire drugs surreptitiously. He was apparently quite successful at this as he had a devious mind. She said that it was obvious when he was not successful as he would spend the day playing the violin. He was a very poor musician, she remarked.

I was greatly amused by these new versions of the tales and suggested that she might publish them. Martha replied that she was happy that I liked them and thought she might do such a thing but raised doubts about this as she was a woman.

Somewhat later, Martha informed me that she had met a friend of the doctor who was willing to publish the stories under his own name for a percentage of whatever emoluments might eventuate. Mr. Doyle, it seems, had already published stories with The Strand magazine so any more from him would be readily accepted. The doctor was perhaps not as good as he seemed as he also demanded a percentage as well for using his name.

These turned out to be very successful and she was pressed to write some more. We met and discussed other cases that were turned into stories. After a while, she began making up cases that amused me considerably. Eventually she tired of her creation and killed him.

Alas, the public would have none of this and his resurrection was contrived to feed their desire for this rather silly hero. Martha retired on the proceeds. Her share of the proceeds, I should say, as Dr. Watson and Mr. Doyle gained rather more than they deserved from this endeavour.
 
© 2010 Ronni Bennett