Mrs. Mary Watson, wife of Dr. John Watson of literary fame, was an irrepressible diarist who recorded the events of her life with scrupulous regularity from age twenty until her death in 1913. Whispers about these chronicles have passed through Sherlockian circles for decades, but until recently Mrs. Watson's journals have remained in the hands of private collectors who chose not to have their contents published, or even to verify claims of their existence. In September 2007, however, three volumes purporting to come from Mary's pen arrived at Sotheby's. The Sherlockian world waited in breathless anticipation during the process of authentication, and the firestorm of enthusiasm when the journals were pronounced genuine was of such an extent as later generations of scholars may hardly be able to credit. The disappointment when two of the journals were purchased by private individuals and passed once again out of reach of everyday Sherlockians was similarly profound, but a single volume, detailing the years 1894-1896, came into the hands of Cambridge University. Long months of preservation, copying, annotation and study have seemed, for those not lucky enough to be granted direct access, to crawl, but the presses have finally begun to churn, and Observations and Deductions: The Journals of Mrs. Mary Watson (Cambridge University Press, hardback, $24.95 US) is due to arrive at bookstores worldwide on November 18, 2009. The following tantalizing excerpt is the first direct glimpse which the public has ever been afforded into the mind of this remarkable woman-- and will no doubt only whet appetites for the larger work which is to follow.
May 5, 1894
I shall never forgive him. It is my duty as a wife and a Christian and as, I should once have liked to think, a friend, but I do not care. I shall not, I cannot forgive him, ever, for what he did to John.
I will not deny that I am glad that he is back. The change is in every single bit of John, from the way he opens his eyes in the morning to the tone of his voice to the tread of his feet, and his joy is beautiful to see. Nor am I displeased on my own behalf. I have written here, so many times, of missing him, of the way the world seemed to lose so much of its vitality without that incandescent mind illuminating it. And to know, particularly, that he did not die in such a gruesome way is a relief beyond expression. It horrified me down to my soul to think of that great man, martyred in the service of a world that had gone on without him, lying unburied somewhere, his mortal remains being slowly nibbled away by fishes or rent to shreds by carrion crows. The images broke my heart and haunted my nightmares, but I have never said a word. It would have been appallingly selfish of me to do so, after all. The sufferings I witnessed--three years of sufferings, which no miraculous rebirths can erase--were far worse than those I endured.
I can still see John's face on the day when he returned from Switzerland. He did not cable in advance, as I should have expected him to do, and so I was not there to meet him at the station. Just then, in that state of utter shock, I am not sure that he remembered that I existed at all. The first sign I had of his return was the door swinging shut when he entered, and when I came into the hall it was to find him and staring at the hat-stand, his hand clenching on the battered brim between his own fingers. A woman who had never met him before should have known instantly that all was not well with him; to me, the signs were as clear as a scream of agony.
"An empty peg," he whispered. "God in heaven, I..." His arm went across his middle, his hand clutching at the fabric of his jacket, and he bent-- not quite doubling over, but bowing beneath the weight of it. He stumbled, and I caught at his other arm.
He looked at me for the first time, then. "Mary," he whispered. We sank onto the stairs, though whether I led him or he me I cannot say. "Mary." His hands grasped at my arms, touched my shoulders, my face. He was reassuring himself, I realized at once, trying to make himself believe that I was truly there. And then he pulled me to him, clutching me close, his head buried in my shoulder. He did not weep, but his breath came in sobs, and he shook.
I suspected before he told me, though I fought not to believe it. I wanted, desperately, to ask him what was wrong, but that could only have made it worse. And so I simply allowed him to hold me, in a grip that was painfully tight, and which slackened suddenly, in an instant. I pulled away just in time to see his eyes roll back in his skull.
The next few minutes were a blur. Somehow I managed to stop us both tumbling down the steps while Marianne ran for Dr. Anstruther, and then John was being carried upstairs, stirring feebly every now and then. Exhaustion, dehydration, inanition, the doctor said, and all of them deeper than the physical, I already knew. Broth, brandy, sleep, the doctor said, and a deeper variety of sustenance, I already knew.
I found the cigarette case in his pocket as I tended to his suit, directing my energy to it as I could not to him while he lay in that insensible state, and the rattle of something inside it. I did not hesitate to read the letter. For long minutes I sat with it in my hand, wishing I could allow myself to feel the grief welling up in the space behind my lungs. But eventually I stood, and smoothed my skirts, and went off to send the necessary telegrams. By the time Mr. Mycroft Holmes and Inspector Lestrade had departed--the former took the news as impassively as always, but the latter was as white as a china doll, and coughed his way gratefully through the brandy I offered--John was awake, staring with unseeing eyes at the curtains. He looked at me as I entered, and then away again, struggling for his voice.
"Mary," he said hoarsely. "Mary, he..."
"I know," I said gently, sitting on the bed beside him. He nodded, desperately glad, I think, not to have to say the words. His hand found mine atop the coverlet, but otherwise he did not move. We neither of us did, for hours after that, until finally, long after the sun had set, his eyelids dragged themselves back down and he succumbed once more to sleep.
Only once I had him settled beneath the bedclothes, still and white as a marble statue, did I slip into the bedroom next door and weep until I could stand no more weeping.
For nearly a week, John barely spoke, barely moved, barely gave any indication of consciousness. He would eat when bidden, though he had no appetite and often forgot what he was about after only a bite or two. After that first night of utter exhaustion he slept fitfully, when he slept at all. And yet, on the morning of the funeral--which it had, somehow, fallen to me to arrange during those few moments when my presence was not required at John's side--I left him alone for no more than ten minutes, and returned to find him immaculately clad in a suit of the most unrelieved black, his attire and person neat as a pin, waiting for me. The eulogy he gave was unlike anything I have ever heard; grown men wept unashamedly, and so did I, and yet John delivered it with the utmost calm. Indeed, if there was a flaw in that magnificent piece of oration, it was that the emotions he spoke of did not reflect on his face, that nothing reflected on his face at all. And for months thereafter, he continued to slip away from me.
It was the little things, the sorts of injustices that would have impassioned him before but to which he now gave little or no thought. The petty wrongnesses of the world provoked no spark in him, and the spark that had been him began to go out. The man I had married, the one with the absolute commitment to justice and to good, was vanishing. He was never cruel, never angry, never violent, never rude, but bit by bit, he cared less and less for life, and there was nothing I could do to pull him back. Every once in a while, for a day or two, he did so of his own accord, coming spectacularly back to himself. At those times he would beg my forgiveness for the coolness which, to his true self, amounted almost to neglect. On those days there was no more loving man in England than my John, just the way he was when I knew him first, and I was the most fortunate woman on earth. But, inevitably, something would remind him-- a grey-eyed child in his consulting room, or a hook-nosed stranger on the street, or the sound of a violin. It would come back to him that the man who had made his life extraordinary was gone, and that he must learn to live as ordinary men do.
Who could be expected to shoulder such a burden? There is no one stronger than my John, and that strength kept him breathing. But there were so many days when living, for him, was no more than that, and nothing I could do, nothing I could say, could make it otherwise.
And now, after three years, he is back in London, pretending that he has never been away at all. With not an apology, not a single word of guilt, but that he did not know that John would be hurt. My God, how could he fail to know it, he who knows everything? Can he possibly not see how much pain he caused us all, and feel how much he might have saved us by a single word? And John, my John, believes it all, accepts it without a word of reproof or complaint, too caught up in the joy of having regained that which was lost to him to recall that it was ever lost at all. But I recall every moment, and I shall never, never forget.
He murdered my husband. That he has managed to resurrect John as well as himself is no excuse. Sherlock Holmes murdered John Watson in cold blood, and left him dead for three long years, and, though Holmes, though John, though the rest of the world may forget the enormity of his transgression, I shall not.
I shall never forgive him.