Those attentive readers who have followed my accounts of the career of my esteemed friend Sherlock Holmes may, from time to time, have detected a degree of reticence - some correspondents have gone so far as to charge me with inconsistency - in the manner in which I speak of my late wife. It is only now that I am able to shed light on a murky and, indeed, painful part of my own history. It ill-becomes a man to confess to having, by his own conduct, thrust away from him she who should be the cherished of his bosom, his one ewe-lamb, whom he has sworn before God to love and to honour. However, if a man has acted the blackguard in such a manner, at least he should acknowledge his faults openly - at least, where doing so does not increase the pain to the wronged lady concerned, or risk jeopardising the security of the realm.
My friend has often observed and commented on - with too much cause, alas! - my inability to draw conclusions from the data presented to my notice. I should, perhaps, have inferred Mary's unhappiness from the increasing frequency of her visits to a parent whom she had in fact informed me at the outset of our acquaintance had died before Mary was of an age to commence school. But I believe I may be pardoned, given the stress and excitement of the events which culminated in Mary's accepting my hand, if minor family particulars had made no great impression on my mind. However, when in successive weeks my wife took leave of me to visit, in order, a) her father, Major Morstan, late of the 34th Bombay Infantry; b) her grandfather, Colonel Morstan, who did such signal service in quelling the late Mutiny in India; c) her great, great, great, great, great uncle, Ensign Morstan, who perished holding his section of the line at Plassey; and, finally, d) Sir Harold Edward Morstan, Alderman of the City of London and one of the original founding stockholders of the Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, it should have occurred to me that Mary was seeking to convey a message to me, and that message one such as no husband desires to hear from the lips of his bride.
I had intended to confront her with it on her return from her visit to Sir Harold, but Holmes's arrival and demand that I accompany him forthwith to the Continent intervened, and the whole world knows how broken was the man who crawled back to London following the awful events at the Reichenbach Falls.
I am now in a position to reveal that it was my unshakeable horror and depression over the supposed death of my friend which finally led Mary to take the irrevocable step of faking her own death in childbed (with, I am sorry to say, the active connivance of my friend's brother, which Mycroft Holmes only admitted to on his own deathbed many years later) and, assuming the persona of a minor scion of the Scottish aristocracy having the family name of Arbuthnot, retreating into espionage work in Chinese Turkmenistan, in which role she ably assisted her country's interests, until an unfortunate injury in the course of duty caused her to return to London to take up a more sedentary role in the training and direction of our active field agents in the region. Her outstanding contribution to the security of the Empire in that role has led to the singular honour - so I am told - of having the soubriquet under which she operated (the initial of her first name and, indeed, of the family name which she so unwisely, it now transpires, relinquished for the name of Watson) attached to the holder of that position in perpetuity.