Friday, 21 December 2007

Missed tick Mary

Scene 1 Baker St.

Holmes put down his violin to read a telegram urgently delivered to his lodgings in Baker Street.

“Please be at the Black Swan Hotel at Bethlehem at 4 am, Do come! I am at my wit's end. Mary."

Watson I should be most happy to go down with you if I should not be in the way, 
H. My dear Watson, you would confer a great favour upon me by coming. And I think that your time will not be misspent, for there are points about the case which promise to make it an
absolutely unique one. You would oblige me by bringing with you your very excellent field-glasses.

We should of course fly Virgin – but I understand your phobia of aeroplanes. According to my Bradshaw there is a natalstar camel train leaving the brand new St Pancras at 11am.

That will do very nicely. Then perhaps I had better postpone my perfecting of this scale in D as we may need to be at our best in the morning. You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary that for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.

A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting.

Quite an interesting study, that maiden, I found her more interesting than her little problem, which, by the way, is rather a trite one. Old as is the idea, however, there were one or two details which were new to me. But the maiden herself was most instructive.

You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible to me,

Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. Now, what did you gather from that woman's appearance? Describe it.

Well, she had a slate-coloured, broad-brimmed straw hat. Her dress was blue with a little purple plush at the neck and sleeves. Her sandals I didn't observe. She had small round, hanging, gold earrings, and a general air of being fairly well-to-do in a vulgar, comfortable, easy-going way.

Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.

'Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully. You have really done very well indeed. It is true that you have missed everything of importance, but you have hit upon the method, and you have a quick eye for colour. Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. My first glance is always at a woman's sleeve. In a man it is perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser.

So what have you deduced so far that would explain her extraordinary predicament?

I have devised seven separate explanations, each of which would cover the facts as far as we know them. But which of these is correct can only be determined by the fresh information which we shall no doubt find waiting for us.

And none of them involves her theory of the wholly impossible intervention of Almighty God himself?

If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.' My dear fellow, life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generation, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.

Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you are brought in contact with all that is strange and bizarre. But here -- let us put it to a practical test. What is the first heading upon which I come in my newspaper? All hotels full in Bethlehem.

Then it looks as if we’ll be camping out Watson.

Scene 2 in the Bethlehem campsite

Watson, look up and tell me what you see.

I see a fantastic panorama of countless stars. With one gigantic star brighter than all the others dominating the sky.

And what does that tell you?

Astronomically, it suggests to me that if there are billions of other galaxies that have roughly similar stellar population densities as represented by my view, that, potentially, trillions of planets may be associated with such a galactic and, therefore, stellar population. Allowing for similar chemical distribution throughout the cosmos it may be reasonably implied that life-and possibly intelligent life-may well fill the universe.

Also, being a believer, theologically, it tells me that the vastness of space may be yet another suggestion of the greatness of God and that we are small and insignificant.

Meteorologically, the blackness of the sky and the crispness of the stellar images tells me that there is low humidity and stable air and therefore we are most likely to enjoy a beautiful day tomorrow.

Why? - What does it tell you, Mr. Holmes?

Someone stole our tent.

But listen, Holmes! Can you not hear celestial music of the highest order?

Upon my word you are right Watson. And the accompanying baaing of the sheep and the baying of the hounds is perfectly tuned to the Delian mode. Extraordinary. Watson focus your field glasses on that light just above the horizon over on the hills the other side of Bethlehem. It appeared just 5 seconds before the music began. Taking the speed of light to be 299 792 458 m/s and the speed of sound to be 340.29 m/s it would be apparent that the phenomenon is taking place in the shepherds’ fields just 1,700 metres distant from this very camp site.

Holmes - How brilliant – tonight you have excelled yourself in the logical art of deduction. Behold there in humble silhouette against that radiant horizon stands our tent. How can you have known that the disappearance of our tent was connected to the mysterious heavenly phenomena above those distant fields? And lo those craven shepherds cowering beside our tent have come under the awesome judgment of God himself. Holmes these events are of such portent that I fear I shall have to return to Baker Street on the next available camel train.

Courage Watson. Since you chose the dour drudgery of matrimony you seem to have lost the stomach for a good adventure. We must make our way over there immediately and confront those dastardly shepherds with their heinous crime.

Scene 3 Back at Baker St

How utterly amazing my dear Holmes. I was the one that Miss Mary had need of not you.

Yes and because we went haring off after those felons you missed the sublime opportunity to deliver into this world of woe the Son of God.

When I think of all the patients I have toiled with over the years. The night calls I have conscientiously answered, the cases I have referred to the sainted hospitals of our fog ridden metropolis: and then this opportunity of an eternity arises and I am found to be more concerned with property than souls.

But at least we were able to give Miss Mary our tent – much better than having to sleep with cows and donkeys. As a result of our thoughtful generosity the little Jesus will have an upbringing immune from the risks of mad cow disease, foot and mouth and bird flu.

But it was all your fault Holmes – despite all your attention to the details of sleeves and trouser legs you never adjusted your treasured timepiece to Bethlehem time. So when we got there the child had already been born. Those cunning shepherds got there before us – and who knows if he had read the stars aright and not gone to Jerusalem even the murderous Moriarty would have got there before us. So what do you make of it all now Holmes?

I still cannot fully comprehend that Miss Mary … no sister of mine would ever have accepted such a situation.

And had it been my betrothed, Holmes, she would have ended the day even more stoned than you.

I will brook no more lectures from you on that subject Watson! But so much still remains unexplained. (impatiently) Data! data! data! I can't make bricks without clay.

At last a mystery too deep even for you Holmes – sometimes God’s doings humble us all.

The mystery of what it is to be truly human Watson is not one for either you or even me to fathom.
Draw your chair up and hand me my violin, for the only problem we have still to solve
is how to while away these bleak winter evenings."

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