My esteemed friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was, to all intents and purposes, at the very zenith of his powers throughout the year of 1895. His cases were considerable, both in number and in growing reputation. He revelled in The Conundrum of the Clockwork Meerkat, and relished The Problem of the Fleet-Footed Butler. In fact, I hope some day to make my record of the two and of my friend's ingenious brain-work to bring the guilty to the bar.
And Holmes, as through a standing mist of trumpets and confetti, puffed out his chest and remained as immodest as he has always set to be.
It was to my surprise, therefore, that I returned home one autumn evening to find him curled up in his chair, fairly obscured and resembling no more than a tan and grey cloth-covered hump. A thin wraith of smoke curled out from a low point on his person. A slender hand poked forth above it and wiggled out a merry greeting.
“Holmes,” I said, “I admire how you remain able to contort yourself just so, but you are sitting in the dark. Whatever for? You are not, to the best of my knowledge, a Desmodus rufus.”
I strode across to light all of our lamps.
“I have been thinking,” he replied in a proud muffle through a mouthful of dressing-gown.
He uncurled from his tight ball and stretched his limbs and scratched his head.
“That is very good,” I told him. “Of what were you thinking?”
“Of bananas,” said he in a light, winsome tone. “Bananas and cymbals and haircuts. And sundials and papyrus. And I have also been wondering.”
“Why ever were you thinking about bananas?” I paused. “And what were you wondering?”
“As to how I shall be remembered in years to come, Watson. It concerns me.”
“Well, that is elementary,” I said, with a broad smile creeping onto my face. “As a grand lunatic, Holmes. You should know that by now. A clever one, yes,” I added – observing his crestfallen expression – “but a lunatic all the same.”
“Yes, well, that is how you so choose to depict me,” said he with a grumble, “and therefore your fault. You exaggerate, Watson. You hone in on the... details of, er, the things...” – and here my friend hesitated, to count off upon all of his fingers for a brief moment and then lifting his face to glare sternly – “... a lot,” he concluded.
“I do not exaggerate,” I said. I lit my pipe and took my chair directly opposite, my feet hot and aching from a long and tiring day. I picked up the morning's Times. “Shall I call down to Mrs. Hudson for some tea?”
When no answer was immediately forthcoming, I looked across from my paper. Holmes was still frowning, his eyes fixed to the vague middle distance above my right shoulder.
He snapped back into focus.
“I am not a lunatic,” he said. “I am... special.”
“Yes, you are most certainly that, my dear fellow.”
He curled his legs to the plush and wrapped his arms tight around.
“Tell me how I shall be remembered over a hundred years from now,” he said, eager and encouraging. “Go on, Watson.”
I sighed. “A hundred years! That is a very long time, Holmes.”
“Over a hundred,” he corrected. “Go on.”
I folded my arms, sucked my pipe and considered.
“You will be remembered as a genius,” I said cautiously.
This pleased my friend, for he emitted a small chirrup of delight.
“You will have many fond admirers,” I continued as I warmed to my theme. “They will have read my Strand reports, and they will know everything about you.”
Holmes shifted slightly. “Everything?”
“I think it quite probable.”
He flinched just a little.
“Watson,” said he, “if you ever mention my sock drawer in fuller detail, I shall not be held accountable for my actions.”
We stared hard at each other.
“Anyway,” I continued, averting my discomfort, “the great British public – and perhaps those beyond our fair isle – shall know a great deal about you. Whatever medium is popular at that time, even beyond the theatre – imagine! – will perhaps take you for their inspiration.”
“What do you mean?” said Sherlock Holmes.
“New stories might be written about you,” I said. “An actor might play you.”
Holmes appeared to lose control of all four limbs for one long moment. I watched in fascination as he flailed.
“Who?” he squeaked eventually.
“How on earth should I know, Holmes, for goodness sake? This is a hun-- over one hundred years from now. A popular actor of the day, shall we say, just for the sake of it.”
“A handsome one,” said Holmes.
I heard him huff.
I chuckled then to think of it.
“They might do very well for a while, but they would be certain to mess it all up,” I said, smiling, resigned. “Eventually, they might begin to write implausible scripts and leave great, gaping plot holes. And the characters – that is you, Holmes! And me! And perhaps other people we know! – might behave very oddly. No, I doubt very much that the writers could sustain their momentum.”
Holmes looked sad.
“But I would still be handsome,” he said with great finality.
I rolled my eyes towards him.
“How could you not be,” I reassured him – for he was currently more querulous princess than consulting detective. “The handsomest fellow alive! But playing you would drive any poor man insane. This actor would need to possess inner reserves of both courage and stamina. And he might still go doolally.”
“I'm not as bad as all that,” said Holmes with asperity. He ducked his chin to his chest and blew a soft serenade of fat raspberries. I found it difficult to ascertain if they were meant for me or not.
“It would be nice if you could write the thingummy-scripty-things,” my friend said, looking up. “That way, you'd get it right and you wouldn't make anyone angry.”
“I have absolutely no intention of living to one hundred and eighty,” I informed him.
“Never mind then,” said he. “Just as long as I am handsome. And just as long as whoever plays you has a lovely thick moustache, and just as long as the writers don't marry you to some mad and wretched female, it will be fine and quite all right.” He beamed. “I shall be remembered, Watson!”
“Yes,” I said – my face rigid with horror as the monologue grew – “I have no doubt that you will, Holmes! I have no doubt at all!”