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A Blow for Tolerance

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Dear Readers,

Many people have expressed to me their concern that I live in Bedlam; the unusual nature of my lodgers’ activities

Dr. John Watson, despite appearances, is not a patient man. He is a civil man, certainly, which may be occasion for misunderstanding. He is a compassionate man, usually, as per the dictates of his profession. It may even be said that he is a tolerant man, though largely when it comes to the vagaries of his partner, Sherlock Holmes.

That is, as long as there is no gross breach of the common conventions of civilized life, and, to his credit, “civilized” is rather widely interpreted in their household—corpses in the bathtub, for example, are acceptable, as are fresh human organs and dangerous chemical compounds. As Sherlock Holmes says, in his more jovial moods, proper containment is the key to a peaceful home. However, Sherlock Holmes also frequently values interesting specimens over proper containment, and then, the key to a peaceful home becomes something else entirely.

To be fair, three dead geese on one’s freshly made bed are certainly a gross breach of the common conventions of civilized life. That they are wrapped in one’s best cravats is simply insult to injury (I laundered those cravats, and I felt quite the same as the doctor did, for the moment).

One might think that Sherlock might have the grace to look shamefaced, or perhaps to apologize, even perfunctorily. Sometimes, indeed, he does. But other times, as you shall see, Sherlock is simply coolly provoking, and John’s patience reaches its limits.

In this case, it was rather felicitous, as, in quite an unorthodox way, John was still able to restore harmony to their home. For your benefit, I include a verbatim account of their conflict and its resolution.

I do not say you ought to adopt these methods of household management, but thought perhaps it might be instructive for some.

With much love,

Martha Hudson


A Blow for Tolerance

“I won’t have it!”

“You’re having it, aren’t you?”

“I’m not! I am informing you, at this very moment, that I am not having it!”

“At a very loud volume, yes.  And they are still on your bed, where they will remain for the next…thirty minutes.”

“Proper containment, Sherlock!”

“The cravats cover the worst of the damage.”

My cravats!”

“No great loss. Besides, Mycroft’s already sent an undersecretary to purchase new ones.”

“It was my shoes last week. When will you bloody learn to bloody leave my things alone?”

“I don’t know what you’re fussing about. The replacements are much nicer. Square toes in the year of Our Lord 1892!”

“That. Is not. The point.”

“Are you gritting your teeth? Fascinating. You ought to let me measure your tooth enamel.”

“I will not. Remove those geese from my bed immediately.”

“Thirty minutes.”




“You cannot compel me, and I will not do it. Shall we ring for tea instead?”

“I cannot compel you?”

“There is no evidence to demonstrate that you can.”


[Landlady’ Note: This account was heard while I was dusting the landing in the anticipation of being called to produce tea.]

“So, tea?”

“I ought to whip you instead.”

 “Whip me? Like a schoolboy?”

“If you act like a schoolboy, why not take the consequences? The rod was clearly applied inefficiently and insufficiently to your arse as a child.”

“Are you—a doctor, a man of science—suggesting that corporal punishment would have affected my psyche and thus changed my behaviour?”

“I am stating that corporal punishment would likely have made you better-behaved, certainly.”


“You think so?”

“I do.”

“Then perhaps we should wager? I am certain that a whipping would put you in a significantly more tractable frame of mind, even now.”

“I am almost offended that you think me so weak.”

“Everyone has chinks in their armour, even you.”

“And mine is my arse.”

“In a manner of speaking. I’ll fetch my cane.”

“Your … rattan cane?”

“Yes. Will you be ready?”

“My dear Watson, my weakness will be on full display.”


[Landlady’s Note: At this moment, I had to abandon my post, as John came out to fetch his cane. He was, to my eye, inordinately flushed. I caught no glimpse from the sitting room of 221b beyond a flutter of black suiting—disappointing, to be sure, as I would have liked to give you the complete details of the encounter. As it was, I only returned to the landing once the first crack had sounded.]

“All right, Sherlock?”

“Barely shaken—but then you are not using your entire strength.”

“I’m warming up.”

“Do get on with it.”

“I will take my time if I choose.”


“Sting a bit, did it?”

“Still not at full force.”

“You won’t manipulate me into hurting you.”

“And yet I have done.”

[Landlady’s Note: The sound of the next blow reverberated through the house, and Sherlock’s muffled gasp followed it. There was silence for a moment, and then Sherlock’s voice again, very low.]


“Sherlock, are you sure?”


“Brace yourself.”



“Again. Ah!”

“Are you quite all right?”


“I must see you. Show me your face.”

“I dare no—oh. Please.”

“You are quite flushed. Your pulse is…elevated.”

“As is yours, doctor…dear.”

“Is that…are you…”

“You have substantially improved my mood.”

“Have I?”

“Let me… that is, may I…show you?”

[Landlady’s Note: From this exclamation followed a brief silence once more, and what might have filled it can only be imagined.]

“What fools we have been! But at least now I know how to soften your intransigeance.”

“And yet I fear, John, that you have lost your wager.”

“You do not feel manifestly worse, I can tell.”

“My feelings are of no importance.”

“I beg to differ.”

“My dear man!”

 “But do tell me, Sherlock, exactly how I have lost my wager.”

“It is thirty minutes on the clock since we began this little…discussion.”

“Some of the finest moments of my life thus far, I must say.”

“Indeed. But now my experiment with the geese is concluded, and so I will happily remove them from your bed. As promised.”

“You …ruddy bastard!”