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The “Elementary” Years (1908-1911)

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1908

Despite the care and love of the greatest man in the whole wide world, nothing could stop me from feeling at times just plain old. The first powered flight had taken place in the United States shortly before our retirement, and the year of my son Benjamin's case had seen the British Army's first powered airship, heralding a new age of war that would now take to the skies. As with the fuss over eugenics which I mentioned elsewhere, I increasingly felt that technology was a mixed blessing, and that mankind might come to rue inventing some things sooner rather than later. And I still reserved a special dislike for those ghastly 'automobiles', although my son clearly loved the metal death-traps!

Over one hundred and forty medals, more than fifty of them gold, marked the Olympic Games being held in London that year. We had received an invitation but did not go; I found that I increasingly disliked crowds, preferring the quiet of our cottage. Well, the quiet when Sherlock was not making me scream, that was! The knowing look that I got from the vicar one particular Sunday was mortifying, especially when he mentioned how much he enjoyed 'the peace and quiet of walking in the country'! Nor did I attend the first-ever Ideal Home Exhibition in the capital that same year. My home was ideal enough, provided it had a Sherlock in it.

That summer also saw yet another European crisis. The year before, France and Great Britain had signed an entente with Tsarist Russia, which nearly had dire consequences at this time. Readers may remember our 'Turkish' adventure from Montague Street back in 'Seventy-Eight (thirty years ago, worse luck!), and after that time a most curious arrangement was effected in the Balkans whereby the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina remained the property of the Ottoman Empire but were administered by the Austrians. The small, independent nation of Serbia coveted these areas as many Serbs lived there so, fearful of efforts to prize them away, Vienna now went and annexed them. The Serbs protested to the Russians, but the latter were not prepared for a full-scale European war, so a crisis was once more averted. For now.

Back to domestic matters, and although I made a point not to interfere in other people's lives as a rule, I had kept an eye out for our friend Victor Henriksen's grandson Virbius, whose physical prowess (ahem!) had brought us our penultimate case in Baker Street. I knew that he had just finished training to be a doctor, but suspected – correctly, as it turned out – that his skin colour might make gaining a foothold in his chosen profession more difficult than it should have done. Sherlock helped monitor him for me and told me that this was indeed the case, so we arranged for Lady Merioneth, patroness of one of the most prestigious surgeries in the West End, to see the picture he and his friend Mr. West had done as “Gladiators At The Baths”. And yes, some blue-eyed bastard insisted on getting a copy of the picture 'for research purposes', and I can honestly say that it left nothing whatsoever to the imagination!

Virbius had a job offer that same evening. He also had a second offer from Lady Merioneth – yes, the Lady Merioneth that was married with five children! - that extended to his friend and six more paintings – on condition that Her Ladyship could 'sit in' whilst they were being done! Honestly, the nobility these days!

Well, it was good money.