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Persuading Sherlock Holmes. Chapters 1-3

June 20, 2015 12:22AM
Sherlock Holmes becomes intrigued with the smells of ozone and the cries of seagulls as he tries to unlock Jane Austen’s reasons for writing Persuasion, and also unravel a mystery of an Elliot family member living in Lyme Regis in 1902.

Most of the facts stated about the town of Lyme Regis in my story are common guide-book knowledge or public information, with no intention to intrude on copyright of local sources, county councils etc. Whilst not using any of his content in my own work, Peter W. Graham’s “Why Lyme Regis” provides interesting views as well as local history of the area. My Character , Jacob Williams, vicar of St Michael the Archangel church, actually existed at the time of Holmes and Watson’s visit from my own research, but his real name was the reverse, William Jacob, and I have used him only in a general way. The story, as ever, is but a product of my imagination.

O the chill breath a-blowing, and the salt on my lips,
From the seaport, and the roadstead, and the straining sails of ships!
O the sharp scent of the golden weed about the grey stone quay,
And the heart of me a-leaping at a smell of the sea!
Cicely Fox Smith..


Chapter One.

July, in London of the year 1902, was not exactly what one might have expected of a month normally regarded as high summer in England: It was cool and dull and certainly disappointing to Dr Watson as he surveyed the morning gloomily from the sitting room window of 221B Baker Street Marylebone in London. The temperature, despite the month, occasioned fires still being lit every day. Holmes had contended it was more like March than July, and Watson could not disagree. This morning was no exception and, deciding hot tea was necessary to raise spirits, he lit the gas ring and put the kettle to boil.Nothing in the newspapers did much to fill him with real joy, although there were odd items of interest. August would bring the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Westminster Abbey, and the end of May had seen the Treaty of Vereeniging between the South African Republic, the Orange Free State and the United Kingdom finally bring the Boer War to an end. Of interest nearer to home was the fact that the first British person to be convicted of a crime on fingerprint evidence was named as one Harry Jackson. Holmes’s view was that he didn’t need such evidence and he would have solved the crime regardless. Argument, Watson knew, would be completely pointless, so he kept his counsel and offered none.

Of late, Sherlock Holmes had satisfactorily solved another puzzling case and, since the weather was less than encouraging, was currently out on a visit to the local book store in search of indoor pleasure. Watson, indeed, had encouraged his companion to walk out and take some air. Almost anything was preferable to a day of classical concertos on that damned violin of his. Holmes’s desire for seeking out a particular book had begun two days previously. He had taken to reading the works of Jane Austen, and was currently perusing “Persuasion” a novel he had learned was published in 1818 a year after her death, and titled by her brother Henry. Holmes had expressed a wish to learn something of the locations in the stories, Bath and Lyme Regis, thus the bookshop visit. When He arrived back from his shopping he had acquired several books and, divesting himself of his caped topcoat, he held one out to Watson.

“A copy of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, old chap. I thought we might discuss the book as we go along! The weather isn’t really encouraging for walking so I thought we might broaden our minds with some reading.”

With little else in prospect right then, Watson had no real objection to the idea and took the book to his armchair. Holmes lit his pipe and did likewise and for a couple of hours, broken only by a serving of tea and biscuits and the half-hourly chimes of the mantle clock, they read on in companionable silence. At five o’clock, with official teatime imminent, a knocking was heard from below, assumed by both to be a delivery or message boy. Both were wrong as a tap on their door a few minutes later brought in Mrs Hudson. Her expression betrayed the fact that she was not wholly happy with the timing of the visitor coinciding with her home-baked potato pie being ready to serve for tea.

“Will Mr Holmes receive a Mr Jeremiah Elliot for an appointment?” she asked a trifle stiffly. Holmes, knowing the source of her displeasure was the hour, a constant source of ill-timed interruptions in her daily schedules, glanced at the mantle clock

“I shall make it a brief one” he announced diplomatically, and Mrs Hudson stepped aside and admitted an exceptionally well-dressed gentleman who Holmes estimated to be in his forties. Holmes smiled at the coincidence of Mr Elliot being the name of one of the characters in the book he was reading, well at least, Sir Walter Elliot was, if not Jeremiah. The visitor was tanned by the elements, causing Holmes to wonder if he had a sea-going background.

“Thank you indeed, for seeing me Mr Holmes. I hope to not keep you very long.”

“Please take a seat. This is my colleague, Doctor Watson, Mr Elliot. How may we be of service to you?.”

The man nodded smilingly and put a smart Gladstone bag and his rolled umbrella on the floor beside the chair. He was wearing a caped topcoat with a heavy collar, over a neat conservative navy-blue suit, with an ease that showed that as his everyday style of dress. The quality if his attire, though the style was a little on the old-fashioned side, made Holmes assume that the man was not without money.

“I am hoping you may be able to help me with a little family history, Mr Holmes. My family name is of great interest to me, but around the time of the Napoleonic wars we seem to have become a little, er, cloudy, shall we say? The truth is that our family, originally of Scottish heritage, had moved to France and only managed to escape with their very lives at the time of the French Revolution. All out family records were left behind and, when this was followed by the wars in Europe, everything was lost. We did have some family ties with a family of Dalrymples long ago but again this all very vague as both names are of Scottish origin. Being an avid reader, I have long been aware of the fact that Jane Austen wrote of both the Elliots and Dalrymples in her novel, “Persuasion” and I have often wondered if it was pure coincidence that she used those names?”

Holmes chuckled dryly and reached for his pipe.

“Forgive me interrupting you sir, but you must know that Jane Austen wrote fiction, and even if she knew of such families she surely would not use them in a published work!”

“Oh, assuredly so, but it just seems so coincidental that she also used Lyme Regis as a place visited in the novel and it seems we once had some distant connection with that place. I wondered perhaps if Miss Austen’s use of the names came from something she had heard. I have heard vague mention of the Damrymples of old being involved in certain, less than lawful activities appertaining to the English Chanel and Lyme is…….”

Holmes sighed, and shook his head. He smiled good-naturedly, his reading knowledge fresh in his mind.

“Jane Austen went to Lyme on holiday with her family. Like other seaside resorts it was a popular venue for good old Mrs Bennet’s “spot of sea-bathing”. She also went to Bath and other places. She wrote of what she knew and, I believe, despite opinions to the contrary, whom she knew. I am almost sure that would not include using their given names. She might, for instance, have known someone in the clergy who was pompous and foolish. He would not be called William Collins in reality if he did exist, I am almost certain.! If you will forgive me stating this without disrespect, Sir Walter Elliot of the novel is not a character I would wish to be related to. He is rather stupid, exceedingly vain about his appearance and regardless of reality in his financial matters. Of the family members, only Anne Elliot comes across as genuine. The rest, quite frankly are shallow and without much sense. It is also known that political figures were sometimes, no often, targets in Jane Austen’s works, though obviously not by their real names.. ”

Mr Elliot rose to his feet with a resigned sigh. He raised a hand to Holmes and smiled.

“Just as I expected, Mr Holmes. I will trouble you no further, but I ask that if you should come across anything related, then please contact me. So far I have done nothing but hit blank walls in my search for family ties. If you should wonder why I came here, I was in the bookshop when you purchased your works on Austen, Lyme and Bath. I asked the young lady for your name from the bill of sale. When she told me you were a well-known detective, well, I did hesitate in coming but decided I had little to lose…”

Holmes returned the smile. “I know. I was aware of your interest and saw you come out and take a cab. I am truly sorry I can be of no real assistance to you!”

He showed Mr Elliot to the front door, his mind already on hot potato pie, peas and red cabbage. Perhaps that was the reason he did not notice right then that his visitor had left no address to be contacted at.

----------------------------------------------

The following morning brought a complete surprise for Watson. Returning from his morning stroll he found Holmes perusing railway time-tables. Seeing his enquiring look, Holmes clapped his hands together enthusiastically and grinned.

“How do you fancy a trip to the seaside Watson? Oh, I’m not advocating sea-bathing of course, but I have a sudden urge for salt and sea-spray and some bracing walks by the pebbled shore. Reading of Lyme Regis has made me desire a small vacation by the sea. What say you, for we have worked hard enough of late? A sally or two along the Cobb where Jane Austen once trod, sea brezzes and some freshly caught fried cod for dinner, appeals mightily to me. Are you in agreement? ”

Watson needed only a moment before he acceded to Holmes’s request. They would spend the day packing, taking care of imminent matters and making travel arrangements, and leave early next morning: By train from London to Axminster, and then by carriage for the six miles or so on to Lyme. Thus it was arranged. Watson dined that evening with a lady of his acquaintance and Holmes reclined by the fire and lost himself in his books.

With some six hours or so of a train ride across the countryside, it was not too long before, morning newspapers perused and exchanged, conversation turned to their destination and Jane Austen’s book that had occasioned the trip. Watson had questions, Holmes, quite far ahead in the reading gave his views as answers.

“Why do you think Austen made this Walter Elliot fellow such an obviously foolish man, Holmes? I mean, who would be so vain as to have a bedroom full of mirrors and put stuff on his face? His whole actions were those of a buffoon of a man. In Pride and Prejudice the heroine, just like this Anne Elliot character, seemed strangely normal and sensible but surrounded by foolish folk. Is it an Austen trend?”

“Oh, I believe so Watson. I find old Sir Walter a splendidly entertaining chap. I rather think that Jane Austen took much pleasure in satire and wit rather than the obvious straight story telling. She made caricatures of some of her characters and if you study the tales, those characters are actually what make the situations so enjoyable. I prefer to believe that she actually knew some people as foolish as the Baron of buffoonery and co, or at least tending that way, and used them as models for her tales. She likes to poke fun at the aristocracy not even falling short of royalty. She also makes some of the females, indeed quite a few of them, just as empty headed and nonsensical as the males. I think she took core characters and let life in all its facets flow around them. Few people in life have the sun shine on them all the time, or are exempt from the mundane”

Watson nodded, then remembered a question he had forgotten to ask in the hurried decision for the vacation.

“So why choose Lyme and not Bath for a visit, Holmes? Surely there is much more going on in Bath than at a coastal seaside resort, a place admittedly, I’ve never been to?”

“Much more of what exactly, Watson? Bath has admirable architecture, some pretty locations, fancy shops and hordes of lemmings strolling aimlessly around hoping to see someone to wave at, or get invited to tea or a puppet show or take the spa waters for gout. I also have no desire to listen to some would be string quartet members sawing the catgut into surrender in the name of some German musician chap I have never heard of. No, Watson, I tire of cities. We live in our country’s capital and share its fog and crowds oft times enough. Give me the fresh ozone blowing in from the Channel any time. I brought my spyglass along to watch the ships sail by. Splendid idea, think you not? ”

Holmes nodded and took refuge in his book for a while, even sketching Holmes reading his newspaper, in his sketch-book journal.. Somewhere along the way the rattle of the rails and sway of the carriages lulled him off to sleep. Holmes awakened him as they were approaching the end of the line. The climate at Axminster was somewhat brighter and warmer than that they had left in London and soon they were on the platform with their bags and looking around for a carriage. Only one vehicle stood by the platform and the driver walked over to them. He wore a brightly, checked weather coat and a light grey bowler hat, tilted at a rakish angle, which he raised in their direction.

“Gentlemen, good afternoon. My master is bound for Lyme, and if by chance that is also your own destination, he invites you to share his carriage!”

Holmes and Watson exchanged glances and both smiled at such a stroke of luck. Holmes nodded his thanks and they picked up their luggage.

“Excellent. We would be delighted to accept such a kind offer, for indeed we are bound for Lyme Regis. We are strangers there and have booked no place to stay as yet, but perhaps your master may recommend a decent hotel to us?”

The pair walked across to the carriage and the driver held the door for them to enter. When they were seated and the bags stowed inside, the gentlemen opposite raised his hat and smiled. Holmes could hardly contain his surprise when he found Jeremiah Elliot smiling warmly at them.


Chapter Two.

“Mr Holmes, Doctor Watson, what an amazing coincidence, and what a pleasure to see you here heading for Lyme!”

Jeremiah Elliot leaned forward and shook both men’s hands. Holmes gave a quizzical smile and unbuttoned his topcoat. The late afternoon sun was still pleasantly warm.

“Coincidence indeed, Mr Elliot. We are here for a short vacation on the coast and some sea air, admittedly prompted by Jane Austen. What brings your good self so far from the city of London?

Elliot smiled again, raised his hands in partial surrender and shrugged.

“My own reason is simple, Mr Holmes; I live here, or at least I have a cottage here and spend quite some time on the coast whenever I can. My lungs need some fresh sea-air quite frequently, or so I tell myself. I confess I have been meeting the London train for the last two days since we met, for judging by the books you purchased it was a pure hope on my part that you might find yourself here. You would not need a guide to Lyme Regis or Bath just to read a Jane Austen book. As I say, I hoped you might choose Lyme. Had you waited another year you could have travelled direct London to Lyme, for we are having a splendid aqueduct constructed to put us on the railway route if it should ever be finished on time. That will open next August. But then again, if you had, we may never have met. Fortune was kind. I am sure that you will wish the comforts of a hotel and there are several on and around the harbour, where I shall set you down. I am almost sure that somewhere with a view of the Cobb will be a requisite for you. I am also aware that you will probably both prefer to be left to wander in peace, but when you are settled in, perhaps tomorrow evening, we may dine and converse at my house, for I have a small proposition to put to you. But, enough of that for now; you will no doubt need to stretch your legs after your journey. Very shortly we will be in sight of the sea, ever a pleasure to look forward to, is it not?”.

“Indeed it is. We shall take a stroll by the seashore directly after booking into a hotel, then, I think, a hearty meal and an early night, It has been somewhat of a long day cooped up in a train and some sea air will be most welcome. If I am not mistaken the smell of the briny is approaching rapidly and there are seagulls a plenty in sight already. May I lower the window, the better to take it all in?”

Some thirty minute after Jeremiah Elliot’s coach had left them at a small but comfortable hotel overlooking the harbour front itself, Holmes and Watson, bags unpacked and topcoats left behind, were setting off to stroll in the ozone. The sea indeed had a unique fragrance of brine and fish that made both take deep satisfying breaths. The air was filled with the harsh cries of seagulls wheeling overhead, waiting, alert and hovering ready to plummet down on any waste sprats the fisherwomen tossed into the waters from their sortings on the inner harbour wall, or the fishermen threw overboard from the boats. The sea itself was in temperate mood, rolling in on long gentle swells rather than crashing in as it would on a windier day. Across the harbour the curved barrier wall around the Cobb absorbed the waves with ease whilst the moored sailboats on the inner harbour just rolled gently on the placid water. Holmes and Watson ambled slowly around the inner harbour. The outer barrier top walk, jutting out towards the open sea, scene of Louisa Musgrove’s renowned fall in the Persuasion tale, could well wait until the morrow for Holmes. Watson had some catching up to do in his reading. After a glass of fresh milk , some biscuits, and a pipe of tobacco, the pair retired contentedly to bed, windows open in the warm night and the hypnotic, lazy roll and splash of the waves to hasten their slumbers..

Though it was barely past eight o’clock the following morning, the smell of cooking greeted Holmes and Watson as they descended from their rooms, and a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and fried bread, with a glass of orange juice and a pot of hot tea to finish was very welcome indeed to both. The morning held promise of a fine day and the pair were soon abroad in search of a newspaper and the first pipe of the day. They elected to sit on a couple of empty barrels looking out to sea with the sun, already well-risen on their left, turning the sea into a golden mirror. Watson had his small knapsack with his journal and Holmes had the local guide in his pocket and had brought along his spy-glass. He trained the latter on a lone sailing ship crossing the horizon and possibly bound for a French port. Watson perused The Times and puffed contentedly on his briar pipe. They spent some fifteen leisurely minutes in this fashion before Holmes rose to his feet and stretched his arms widely. In front of them a couple of fishing boats were already returning with the morning’s labour completed, and people were out along the quayside mending nets and preparing to unload the catch when the boats docked with their catches of herring, cod, mackerel and whatever other marine life their nets had dredged from the deep.

“Come Watson, let us stroll along this famous wall and see the scene of literary history”

Holmes lit his pipe and waited as Watson folded and pocketed his newspaper. The pair turned left and set out along the Cobb wall. In a short time they had reached the place where steps, one of three sets, descended to the lower and sheltered level of the stone promenade on the landward side. Holmes eyed the steep and somewhat narrow steps, some ten in number, that angled in towards the stone wall, and looked quizzically across at Watson.

“Dammit Watson, it is certainly more sheltered from the wind down there, but hardly a place for playing silly games. These steps are no more than a couple of feet wide and not even level. I wonder if Jane Austen actually did jump about herself on these as well as using them in her tale? I would imagine, age wise she would have more sense”

“I don’t know, Holmes, I should well imagine it possible, but you wouldn’t catch me hopping about anywhere near them on a wet and windy day, that’s for sure. If some silly girl hit her head on this stuff it is a wonder she didn’t crack her skull wide open.!”

Watson shivered at the thought then realised Holmes was going to walk down the steps. With a shrug he kept his hand on the wall and his eyes inward and gingerly followed. Holmes watched him descend and smiled widely.

“Do you know Watson, that in 1867 Alfred Lord Tennyson, the poet, another of those Baron chaps, came to Lyme and wanted to see the spot where Jane Austen’s fictitious young lady fell, and here we are doing the same thing. Did it strike home to him that Jane Austen herself had probably been in the very same spot? She certainly made an impact on people writing about it. She was actually here in eighteen o’three and four, and they must have had some social life because she went to assemblies with her mother and father”

It was indeed noticeably quieter and more sheltered on the inner side of the Cobb wall and Watson had to shake his head and stop imagining young ladies in muslin dresses skipping along the harbour edge. The view back to the landward side across the harbour was tranquil and picturesque with boats moored in the bay and the rising, dark hills as a backdrop. Holmes too found it easy to imagine little had changed geographically in the hundred years or so since Jane Austen may have had holidays as a young woman in the very spots they were walking now. He waved to Watson to ascend back to the high wall from where they had an uninterrupted view across the channel. The breeze blew spray against the base of the Cobb wall on the sea side and Holmes realized he was actually seeing the same view, seawards, totally unchanged, that Jane Austen and her family would have seen. It was somehow a rather strange feeling. The pair climbed back up and walked around the wall and back to their lodgings above the harbour. He knew it would pass, but at that moment he was left with an odd feeling of being unable to separate fact from fiction.

Lunch was the aforementioned fried cod with fried sliced potatoes and well steeped peas. The restaurant overlooked the harbour and, since the weather was clement, several tables were located outside in the open air. Holmes and Watson elected to use one of these and both declared the lunch, with added salt and vinegar, to be delicious. On finishing they retired to a seaside bar and took a flagon of beer whilst smoking a pipe of tobacco. They agreed unanimously that the day thus far had been an excellent start to their vocation. A stroll around the town and identifying various locations on a map Holmes bought at a seafront souvenir shop, made their first afternoon both pleasant and interesting. Watson sketched seagulls and a sail boat moored in the harbour. At seven o’clock, refreshed and changed they made their way to the location of Jeremiah Elliot’s cottage overlooking the harbour.

Chapter Three.

The walk to their host’s house was short but climbed steeply upwards and when reached, provided a quite breathtaking view over Lyme bay, and out to the distant horizon. From here, the sea gleamed dazzlingly in the lowering sun like a sheet of hammered brass. The cottage turned out to be two buildings renovated into one and was tastefully if simply furnished in keeping with its marine roots. A splendid scale model of H.M.S Bounty fully rigged for sea, stood on a deep window-sill flanked by two carved narwhal tusks. A John Speed map of the British Isles hung on the wall opposite to the window. With a local’s anticipation of a cooler evening, a cheery log fire burned brightly in the wide slate hearth, reflecting redly off the copper utensils hanging over the mantle. The room was lit by several lanterns and a couple of candles already, although the sun still had quite an amount of power left. . Elliot greeted them warmly and served them a glass of chilled , German Hockheimer wine from a wooden bucket, via the same servant who had met them at the station. He discussed on general topics until they had eaten and this was perfectly acceptable to all. If the visitors had been expecting seafood, the meal came as a total surprise. A large, freshly baked pork pie, served with sausages on mashed potatoes done with milk and butter and followed by treacle tart and custard, was rounded off with mature local cheese and cream crackers and a glass of claret. Both guests were effusive in their praise of the meal, much to Jeremiah Elliot’s delight. As Elliot’s man cleared away the meal remnants all three lit pipes and sat back to relax. Conversation stayed on the quality of the food for a few moments, then, Jeremiah Elliot cleared his throat and addressed Holmes directly:

“Mr Holmes, A man of your perceptive skills cannot be unaware that my delight at seeing you here was tempered somewhat with a measure of relief that my instincts had paid off. You could so easily have decided to visit Bath, or indeed postponed your trip until a later time altogether. I took a fifty-fifty gamble that reading Persuasion was more about the incidents at Lyme and one Elliot, than Bath and a whole family of them. Thus decided I awaited the daily train as much in hope as any real certainty. You certainly did not expect to see me here, I’ll warrant?”

Holmes turned a hand and nodded smilingly.

“No, admittedly, I did not. The fact that you have a home here certainly surprised me. I can only conclude your actions beyond that, and your aforementioned proposition, have some ties to your family records search, but what, I cannot even begin to imagine. One thing I can almost guarantee, at the risk of repetition, is that your name would not intentionally have any factual connection in a Jane Austen work of fiction. The lady seems very careful to me to confine her stories to people, places and events she knew There may well have been characters she based on those she had encountered or knew of, but certainly she would disguise them beyond easy recognition and most certainly never let their names bear any relation to public figures of note. I give the lady credit for more intelligence than that”.

“I have to agree with that, but I just cannot believe that it is pure coincidence that Elliots were in a story and were related to Dalrymples, two families connected to myself, and that Jane Austen took them and placed then here in Lyme, a place also connected to myself, just by pure good fortune, or indeed ill-fortune, whichever the case may be. My proposition is this Mr Holmes: You are here by your own choice on vacation, so spend one week here in Lyme, for which I will pay both your hotel bills and expenses for the two of you, and make some enquiries on my behalf. If you find no links, then nothing is lost and we can go our separate ways. What do you say, will you do it?”

Holmes regarded Elliot’s somewhat concerned expression, his own eyes narrowed in thought. He rubbed the side of his brow for several seconds then leaned forward.

Persuasion is very fresh in my mind. I have completed it in the last couple of days. It is basically a love story stretched over lost years and finally ending happily. That is the core of the story and all the rest if the happenings are events woven around it without really being of any real consequence. It is a almost a star-crossed lovers saga with demure Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth in the lovers roles. Anne apart, Jane Austen is mocking the Elliot family and only Mrs Russell comes out of it well. In my opinion, the Lyme excursion is but a way of adding interest and tying up loose ends. Louisa Musgrove is an obstacle in the way of Anne Elliot and Wentworth’s romance, so she has to be removed. Quite drastically, I’d say, but removed she is, and kept that way by a conveniently available broken-hearted ex-seaman. She could just have easily fallen off one of those damned paten things prancing around Bath. That is how I see it. Jane Austen knew Lyme, and probably well enough indeed, and based part of her tale on that, and using names of Scottish origins would be far less risky than using family names from tombstones in Westminster Abbey, say. My own reason for being here was caused by the attraction of the place rather than just the story. I could quite easily have imagined the story locations from my armchair at home. Lyme is a reality in an otherwise fictional tale and it was that I wished to see. So far I find it quite delightful. I fear that if I accept your offer it can only be to disappoint you in the end. I will, if you so wish, find out what I can, but I doubt it will be much. Persuasion, whilst enjoyable as a tale, is pure fiction!”

Elliot smiled widely and clapped his hands together.

“Splendid. I accept what you say on both counts. Your best will be good enough for me, and now I will reveal to you the reason for my persistence, possibly give you a starting point, at least to consider!”

Elliot stood up and crossed the floor to a cupboard in a corner of the room. He returned with an old and worn, leather-bound book, about the size of a personal missal, and handed it to Holmes, who’s eyes were immediately assessing details almost as he took it. It was titled “The Book of Common Prayer, according to the use of The Church of England” and was printed in London in 1734. He raised his eyes enquiringly to Elliot.

“There are two letters inside the cover. Please handle them carefully. The book came to me via a local bookshop, but I never knew its history beyond that. It was whilst I was moving up here that I found and read the letters inside the book whilst idly perusing the bookshop. I bought the book immediately but I am not sure the shop owner even knew the letters were there. That was about five years ago, and I have been searching in vain for their meaning ever since!”

Holmes opened the book and carefully removed the letters within it. He gently unfolded the first document, noticing immediately that it was written in a decent hand but that time had faded the ink somewhat in several places. The letter read:

This 14th of March, in the year of our Lord 1740
“Dear Miss Russell,

It is with the deepest regret that I must inform you of the death of my Ship’s Master, and your fiancé, Frederick Elliot, who was sadly washed overboard during a severe storm in the English Channel whilst returning from a voyage to France. Master Elliot was a fine seaman and skilled in his many duties. His possessions, including letters from yourself, which, be assured on my honour, no one but I have seen, and any outstanding monies, will be delivered to you in due course. We conducted a burial service aboard ship when the storm abated and six other fine men were also lost to the sea. May your beloved fiancé find eternal rest in the name of Almighty God..

Respectfully, Arthur Harville, Royal Navy Admiral of H.M.S Berwick.


The letter, like those of its time was a sheet, folded and sealed with wax. The name on the front fold was. .Anne Russell. Holmes pursed his lips in thought as he opened the second sheet. This was in a different hand and on paper, not parchment. The hand was clear and easily read. This too had been sealed and addressed to Anne Russell.

“My dearest, Darling Anne.

At last I return and we can finally be joined as one in matrimony. Eight long years we have been apart, firstly from foolishness, indecision and the interference of others, and then from the demands of my profession. All is complete and I now head for home with a vow never more to be parted from you. Our future is secure as a decent fortune has been made. In all those years I have never lost my love for you, or let hope die that one day we would be as one. That time is close, my darling Anne, and I pray the tide rushes me home to you on fleet wings.

Always and ever, your loving fiancé, Frederick Elliot.



Holmes thoughtfully passed the letters toWatson and carefully leafed through the old prayer book. Inside the front leaf was the name, Edwina Russell 1765, written in ink. He waited until Watson had read the letters, then folded both and put them back in the prayer book which he handed back to Jeremiah Elliot. The latter scrutinised Holmes’s face intently. Holmes appeared deep in thought and was silent for a full minute. Eventually, he sighed and let out a deep and somewhat agitated breath.

“I must take some time and think carefully on what this may mean. For that reason I prefer to say no more of it until I have done so. I sense several pipes of tobacco may be needed. Watson, would you record those names and dates in you notebook please”

After taking a final glass of wine and arranging to communicate in a couple of day’s time, Holmes and Watson thanked their host again and, bidding him goodnight took the easy walk back to their hotel. Surprisingly the streets were exceptionally well lit by gas lamps. Watson paused to light his pipe and looked quizzically at Holmes.

“I am not quite sure what to make of any of that Holmes . What on earth does it all mean?

Holmes raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders and gave a tight smile.

“At this moment, old friend, I really have not the faintest idea!”
SubjectAuthorPosted

Persuading Sherlock Holmes. Chapters 1-3

Jim G.MJune 20, 2015 12:22AM

Re: Persuading Sherlock Holmes. Chapters 1-3

ShannaGJune 20, 2015 08:19PM



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