I entered the sitting room of 221B quite late one morning. I had had a busy night, having returned from a difficult confinement just after midnight to find a message asking for my assistance elsewhere. Fortunately, the outcome of both cases had proved positive, and as a result I had slept well when I finally reached my bed, not waking until gone ten.
As I opened the door, I could hear Holmes speaking and looked around for the client. At first, I could not see anyone, but then I realised he was addressing a large, fluffy cat which was curled up in his armchair.
Holmes looked up as I entered and said, “Come in, Watson. Mrs Hudson said she would bring your breakfast up when she heard you moving, so I’ve no doubt she will be here shortly.”
I walked over and sat in my own armchair, facing the cat. “A new client?” I asked.
“Don’t be poetic, Watson,” Holmes replied. “This is clearly a cat.”
“And yet I am sure I heard you talking to it.”
“I was addressing a few remarks to her, but I did not expect her to respond.”
At that moment, Mrs Hudson entered, bearing my breakfast tray. “Ah,” she said, “the case of the ginger-furred league.”
“Thank you, Mrs Hudson, that will do,” Holmes said stiffly.
I just managed to keep a straight face, by concentrating hard on the plate of bacon and eggs our good landlady had brought up. I moved to the dining table and began to eat.
Once Mrs Hudson had returned downstairs, I said, “So, Holmes, what can you tell me about the cat?”
“I can tell you very little about the cat. I went out to post a letter first thing this morning, and when I opened the front door on my return the cat shot in and ran upstairs. I found her waiting by the door to 221B and as soon as that too was opened, she trotted over to my chair and settled down. I expect to meet her owner fairly soon.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“She is well cared for, so clearly not a stray, and yet is new to the neighbourhood, as Mrs Hudson did not recognise her. Therefore, her owner will miss her and start to look for her.”
“Shouldn’t you put up a sign, so the owner knows where to look?”
“I think we will see the owner once they enter our street. They may well be calling the cat, and will start knocking on doors, and at that point, we can inform them of the cat’s whereabouts. Although I admit I am curious as to why the cat chose this house to enter.”
I therefore returned to my breakfast to await developments. It was about half an hour later when Holmes drew my attention to something he could see from the window. A young woman was walking slowly along the pavement, accompanied by two small children. They seemed to be looking carefully into every basement they passed. We watched them walk past our front door, and I was about to ask Holmes whether I should go down to speak to them, when the two children suddenly darted back and the little boy ran up our steps and pushed something through our letter box. They then ran back to join the young woman.
“Aha!” said Holmes. He leapt up and ran downstairs, returning shortly with a note in his hands. He stood by the window and began to read:
Dear Mr Holmes,
We have just moved here from Kent and have lost our cat, who we love very much. Elsie, our nanny for the moment until we get a proper one, says you are far too important a detectif to worry about lost cats, but just in case you have ten minutes, please could you help us.
Arthur has drawn a picture to help you.
The picture was of a very round orange body, with a smaller round orange head, plus a tail.
Holmes stood up. “I shall go and tell my clients I have found their lost property. Could you let Mrs Hudson know about our expected visitors.”
Shortly afterwards, Holmes returned, two excited children with him. Elsie was trying to apologise for them troubling him, but he was paying no attention to her. He opened the door to 221B, and the children dashed in.
Instantly, the cat sat up and the two children ran to her. Mrs Hudson followed bearing a tray of drinks, whilst I carried the plate of biscuits which she had given me.
Mrs Hudson departed to find a suitable bag for Elsie to carry the cat home in, and all three of our visitors expressed their thanks to Holmes for finding the much-loved cat.
After they had left, I said to Holmes, “What I don’t understand is that you didn’t find the cat, the cat found you.”
“Clearly it is a cat of exceptional intelligence,” Holmes replied. “And, as I told the children, fluffy cats are always welcome here.”