Sherlock Holmes came out of the night with the first monsoon of summer, appearing at my door dirty, ragged and soaked to the bone. Pandey would have turned him away had he not met my gaze as I passed the hall. He said my name then, but I already knew his eyes.
As I bathed, clothed and fed him, he answered some of my anxious questions. Don't trouble myself, he was in perfect health. Yes, he knew he was officially dead. He preferred it to remain so. Where had he been: Tibet of all improbable places. Yes, he was sure he was entirely unharmed, he had simply been to long in leaving Lhasa, wrong time of year to attempt the pass, altogether too wet, not to mention cold. However, he had been observing a ceremony performed by the monks. The Tibetans had a...
Here he sank even further into his cushioned rattan chair, head lolling slightly to one side. He did not wake as Pandey and I carried him to my wife's room, stirring only when we deposited him in her bed. "...to see you, Trevor," he murmured and did not come to again for some time.
I glanced up from an old edition of The Strand as Holmes strolled into my study the following evening. He looked altogether haler, though even a loose, overly tucked and belted suit could not hide his unhealthy loss of weight. "You share Watson's love of romantic nonsense," he said instead of greeting me.
I turned back to my magazine and smiled.
He curled up, catlike, in the armchair across from me and continued, "Would you believe that my dearest friend wanted to publish more of those fanciful stories of his in that magazine? While I will admit that the publicity from his initial essays did not hurt my practice, that really would have been too much. Fortunately, I prevailed upon him to cease and desist."
I picked the issue I had just finished from the pile behind my chair and passed it to him.
Holmes took it from me and disdainfully examined the cover. "'The Adventure of the Silver Blaze' by Arthur Conan Doyle?" he exclaimed, voice rising with every syllable. He then called his best friend a name not commonly found in family-orientated publications.
"Perhaps," I suggested, "That masterful nature of yours has softened since I knew you. Doctor Watson certainly does not seem overly concerned by the possible consequences of challenging your wishes, even in your absence."
Holmes said something to the effect that he doubted Watson felt overly concerned about consequences, and flipped open the magazine. I eventually gave up on my own reading, as his acerbic comments, moans of dismay and general agitation made any kind of concentration impossible. He snatched up my magazine as soon as he finished his own, and proceeded to tear through all sixteen stories with a speed that would have astonished anyone who didn't know him.
"Surely," I said much later, as he dropped the last one on the unsteady pile that had grown beside his chair, "You cannot fault your friend for keeping up your reputation while you are away, even if your public thinks you're dead."
The former detective stood and stretched before responding."If the man wanted to memorialise me, he could have penned a tribute to the science of deduction," he said, "I have never desired this manner of deification, as Watson knows perfectly well." He turned away then. "I never wanted this," he repeated, and now I could hear the emotion in his voice and realised the terrible truth.
"He doesn't know you're alive, does he?" I asked softly, and Holmes shook his head mutely. I came up behind him then, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Holmes, you must write to him," I urged him, but he shook his head again. "Holmes..." I started again, but couldn't think of an argument he might accept. I let my hand drop helplessly.
We stood in silence for a long time. The wind had risen again, and the sound of rain on the shutters made me wish for the reassurance of a cheery fire. I almost pulled the bell to fetch the maid to build one, but did not want to shatter my friend's ruminations. I started slightly when he finally said, "In truth, I doubt that I will ever return to London, not as my old self, at least. The life of Sherlock Holmes, the world's first and finest consulting detective, reached it's natural conclusion with his destruction of Professor Moriarty."
I sighed and stepped away from him, returning to my armchair. "Perhaps you think you are being kind," I said, "But surely it's crueller to make him mourn you when you're alive, even if it is in some far corner of the earth."
He didn't answer me, and I eventually grew tired of waiting and rang for a fire.
I stayed up a while longer, bringing my accounts up to date and wishing my wife where there to help me as she had used to. When I rose in the morning, I found Holmes slumped over my desk, so soundly asleep that I was able to liberate the sheaf of papers he had written over night. Not feeling the least bit guilty, I read them over, finding a rather stilted account of his visit to Lhasa, written from the point of view of a fictitious Norwegian explorer. Poking through the waste basket, I discovered several drafts of his story, interspersed with a half-dozen, largely-blank sheets of paper, all starting with the words "My dear Watson." Shaking my head, I sat down to rewrite the Sigerson account, but left the letters uncompleted.