Chronicles of the Lost Years
A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
IT WILL come as a considerable shock to readers who know Sherlock Holmes only through my writings in The Strand magazine that my assertion that he was unique and certainly the most fascinating of subjects was fraudulent. There was another I knew as equally as fascinating an individual. Her name was Elizabeth Sigerson.
It would seem appropriate that these two highly individual people should meet, and indeed they did, in the spring of 1891, when Holmes was expending nearly all his energy in the final battle of wits with Moriarty.
Because of the omission of fact that I have given the public concerning my very singular friend Sherlock Holmes, I feel I should complete the record here, and if by some chance this memoir comes to light in a distant time, then so be it.
To begin at the beginning and include all the facts I must go back to the winter of the year 1891.
Winter of that year was unruly and unpredictable, and I cannot recall another season that was so out of character as that year's. Experts spoke of magnetic fluxes about the globe and the more common folk pondered the unusual arrays of temperature, weather, and the truly remarkable extremes. Record levels of snow would fall for two days, then unseasonable days of sunshine would turn the falls to floods.
The weather appeared to affect every person's temperament, and the number of crimes rose to a remarkably high level. Sherlock Holmes was kept extremely busy investigating a number of mysteries, and would often of an evening arrive at my fireplace to bemoan the sheer quantity of his work at this time, and its correspondingly poor quality. Always he remarked on the common underlying cause of each motivation.
"Always it is the weather that is blamed, Watson."
"Impossible! In every single circumstance?"
"No. I admit that the little puzzle I was asked to solve today was not a result of the weather, but the weather did cause me to become acquainted with it sooner than some person anticipated." He stretched his feet out to the fire.
"What puzzle was that?"
"A set of clothes found upon Dartmoor," he answered shortly.
I felt a small disappointment. "That seems a little ordinary," I ventured to remark. "Clothing is abandoned and lost every day."
"Not clothing like this," Holmes replied. He stood and removed a cloth bag from the hat rack and emptied the contents onto the table. I moved closer and examined the clothing, trying to utilise my powers of observation as Holmes did.
I fingered the items, separating them. A shirt. A pair of trousers, waistcoat and a jacket, collar and cuffs and their pins. All were cut in small proportions. On the shirt, waistcoat and jacket there was a small tear in correspondingly identical positions. It was obvious that whatever instrument had caused the tear had passed through the material of all three garments in one pass. It would have to have been exceedingly sharp.
Holmes was watching me, and I shrugged. "Perhaps the suit belongs to a youth. It is a peculiar size. Beyond that, I cannot guess."
"These clothes were made for a woman," he told me. He held up the trousers, displaying the length of leg. "The size of the waist is disproportionate to the leg for a man, but for a tall female, these would suit. The woman that owned these clothes was in her late twenties to early thirties, and a liberal thinker. Unmarried, red-headed, and neat. And if it were she who secreted them, she is forward planner, and in trouble of some sort. She is in hiding from some person or agency and these clothes would distinguish her too readily if found in her possession. My general impression is that she is highly intelligent, Watson, and uses her mind logically. A unique woman I would very much like to meet, but I am afraid that is out of the question."
I looked again at the clothes. "How on earth ...?"
Holmes smiled good naturedly and threw himself into the chair. "I had a slight advantage, Watson, for I saw where this cloth bag had been secreted, and well hidden it was, too. It was sheer unfortunate chance that they were discovered. They were buried out on the moor, beneath a stone that was well covered with snow. Whoever it was that buried them - and I strongly suspect that it was the owner of the clothes, for she would not be the sort to let them fall into a stranger's hands - she obviously intended that the clothes remain safely hidden under the snow, but the weather has undone her plans."
"But to conclude she is red headed and unmarried ..." I prompted him with disbelief tinging my voice.
He moved his hand toward the clothing. "I gave you a clue, Watson. I drew attention to the proportion of waist size to leg. The neatness of the waist indicates that she is young, and has had no children yet. A married woman's husband typically would not allow the frivolous activities indicated by these clothes, so she is unmarried. She is a liberal thinker and that is indicated by the styling of the clothes. Whatever their purpose, it would take a woman of rare talent to exploit them. Recall Irene Adler, if you will. She is neat, because the clothing has been cared for, and was neatly folded inside the bag. This also indicates they have not been entirely abandoned. She is a redhead, as several long strands of hair about the collar of the jacket indicates. That she is a forward planner is indicated by the removal of any identifying tags at the neck and waist of each garment, and their careful hiding place, which also indicates her desire to keep their owner's identity a mystery. She thought she might need to retrieve the garments one day, and did not throw them in the river or down the sewers. Hence my impression that she is intelligent and in trouble."
"And the logical thinking?" I asked, allowing my admiration to reveal itself upon my face.
"She has carefully obliterated any possible evidence I might have seen near the hiding place, and has managed to successfully disappear into the city and remain hidden for the two days I have been searching for her. The trail is cold now, and I won't find her without considerable effort." Holmes leaned back in the chair, stretching out his legs. "No, she is a very clever woman, Watson, who is hiding very successfully. It is a pity we will never have a chance to unravel the mystery, but my time is too limited."
It would have been the end of the affair. I was concentrating on my practice; there were many cases of the elderly, frail and infirm succumbing to the rigours of this peculiar winter, and I was busy.
For the greater part of January Holmes was in Europe, going about his mysterious affairs. Just as the winter deepened its hold in February, I received a new client. The lady's name meant nothing to me, so it was with something of a shock that I found myself facing a tall, red-headed woman. A quick glance at her left hand confirmed her status as an unmarried woman. Her complaint was minor and easily remedied, and throughout the short interview I found my mind engaged instead on wondering if she was Holmes' mystery lady.
Copyright Tracy Cooper-Posey © 1999
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