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Deep Into The Crux of “The Exile”
I am about 2/3s of the way through “The Exile”…the story of Kitty Bennet’s experiences after her trip through the Wardrobe. Here we find Lord Henry Fitzwilliam, now Earl of Matlock for 11 months, as he strives to find the missing Kitty Bennet. She had been last seen in Harrods on July 4th where she had been unexpectedly met by Junius Winters (yes…”W”s are generally bad). A letter had been left in Kitty’s chambers which indicated that she had, on the spur of the moment, traveled to the South of France. Henry has come to 221B Baker Street to consult with the most noted detective of the day. Please remember that I am a believer that the act of writing fiction (World as Myth) creates reality. Thus, when Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes stories, the detective was inserted in the reality into which Kitty, Henry and the rest are thrust. I also believe that as Doyle never explained why Professor Moriarty decided to kill Homes in “The Final Problem.” The crux of The Exile (I’m not tellin’…wait until May!) offers a logical explanation. I do hope you enjoy this fix. BTW…you may find that reading Book 1 of the Bennet Wardrobe Series “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey” useful as you prepare for “The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque.”
April 7, 2017
12:48 AM
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Chapter XXI

221B Baker Street, London, July 6, 1891[i]

Watson rested in his armchair, the Times spread across his lap as watched his friend act like a caged tiger at the Tower menagerie, pacing back and forth across the parlor of the flat at 221B Baker Street. First, Holmes would prowl to the mantle over the cold grate to inspect some flecks of tobacco that had escaped the worn Persian slipper, using a long tightly manicured forefinger to trace aimless circles in imaginary dust. Then he would drift over to his work table where he would desultorily sift through ancient letters and telegrams, snorting in disgust when none of them appealed any more to him now than they had the twenty-odd times he had previously stared at their words.

Since Watson had wed over a year prior, these moments of observed impatience and boredom had necessarily become less frequent. While his Mary and the consulting room in Kensington occupied the greater part of his day, most mornings none-the-less found Watson greeting Mrs. Hudson and then climbing the stairs to 221B in time to hand Holmes the early post and to share a late breakfast.

This particular morning had been comfortably cooler than the past few thanks to a series of brisk showers that had washed away the accumulated heat of the great city. The sky was clearing. The mid-morning sun brightened the cluttered rooms that made up, as Lestrade sarcastically had put it, “the den of lost causes.” Holmes would have none of the Sergeant’s needling, frequently reminding him that the rooms at 221B were “the hall of Scotland Yard’s lost cases.”

Suddenly the detective’s perambulations were arrested as he pushed aside the summer drapes to peer down into the crowds of Baker Street. His deeply set dark eyes focused intently down his aquiline nose, a sudden squint wrinkling his high forehead. Suddenly spinning away from the portal, he strode resolutely back to his long-empty wing back. Throwing himself into the seat, he stretched his lanky frame like a feline having awakened from a pleasing nap. Then he reached into the pocket of his mouse-colored robe and extracted a silver cigarette case. Opening it, he pulled one long white tube, closed the case and tapped the cigarette to settle its Turkish contents. Having lit it with a wooden match, he took one very long pull and exhaled a giant cloud of aromatic smoke.

Holmes spoke for the first time in nearly 30 minutes.

“We are going to have an important visitor in a few moments. There is no question that we are to be sent on a great quest.”

Watson looked up from his newspaper and replied, somewhat skeptically, “Really? Great? Knowing you as I do, you saw something in the street just now to lead you to that conclusion. Pray, dear Holmes, enlighten me.”

“Now, Watson, I understand that you are justifiably doubtful about my sudden change of mood. I urge you, though, to reserve your judgment and also to recollect your disbelief after our guest departs.”

At that pronouncement, Mrs. Hudson gently tapped on the door and entered into the parlor. She handed a calling card to Holmes. Then she surveyed the cluttered rooms, shrugged and rolled her eyes. Gathering the breakfast dishes, she looked back at her star lodger who gave her a brisk nod.

Opening the door and stepping onto the upper landing, she called down the stairwell, “Mr. Holmes is in. Please come up, my Lord.”

Holmes and Watson both stood to greet a peer of the realm. Holmes handed Watson the card. Reading it, the doctor raised his eyebrows in surprise at seeing the name of one of the wealthiest men in the world, someone who certainly would have been justified in expecting Sherlock Holmes to attend him rather than the other way around.

A youngish man who was taller than average, with steel grey eyes and light brown hair, walked into the parlor. He was slightly winded from the climb up the narrow flight of stairs. His serious mien bespoke of a resolute nature. Yet, it was also clear that he was a man with a conundrum he could not manage without special assistance. He gravely nodded as introductions were completed and settled back onto the horsehair sofa. Holmes and Watson returned to their respective chairs. Watson pulled out a notebook and a pencil while Holmes continued to smoke his cigarette.

Finally Holmes opened the conference, “Lord Fitzwilliam, I understand that you have a concern which you believe may be resolved by an application of my methods.

“However, as Dr. Watson will attest, I do have my own conceits which allow me some amusement. I do hope you will indulge me, if only for a moment. I tell you this where I might otherwise have toyed with your sensibilities because I find you to be a man unusual for your class.

“You, sir, are one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom. Of course, that is no mystery. One only need visit those thick-fingered, narrow-eyed men who inhabit the precincts of the City and drop the words Bennet Family Trust to inspire a sharp intake of breath and a glimmer of envy. And, since you are even now the Managing Director of the Trust, one need not be a financier to apprehend your wealth.

“Yet, that is not why I find you intriguing.

“You, Lord Fitzwilliam are remarkably modest for one who can lunch with Rosebery[ii] and dine with Blandford.[iii] Other men of your circle would have summoned me to their club or, perhaps, in your case, your office. However, you come to me.

“And, you are not ashamed to be seen meeting with a consulting detective. Where others would seek to obscure the contact, you arrive in your personal equipage. While Baker Street is no mean neighborhood, the shining lacquer of your coach and your not insignificant coat of arms are out-of-place along our thoroughfare.

“This, of course, leads me to conclude that you are engaged on personal business rather than a professional problem, and you do not wish to discuss the situation in front of those not of the family. But, I also sense that you believe nefarious motives lie behind your difficulty and want to send a message to those who may be keeping themselves aware of your movements.

“Before you begin to relate your tale, please be assured that all matters spoken of in this room will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. All that I ask is that you be entirely truthful with me and do not leave out any detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Henry grimly smiled having already been assured by several friends in Government that, while Holmes could not resist playing to his audience, he could be counted upon to act with the utmost discretion. Fitzwilliam also knew that Holmes had a reputation for success that had often led Scotland Yard to bring him in to find answers where none seemed in the offing. With those bits buoying his otherwise sagging spirits, Fitzwilliam carefully recounted the events since the afternoon of the fourth; Kitty’s sudden headache, her departure from Matlock House to, apparently, a shopping excursion at Harrods in Brompton Road, the note found in her chambers after her failure to return home, the search of the house and grounds, the delivery from Harrods, the confirmation from Mme de Secondat that her daughter had no knowledge of any plans for Kitty to visit their villa, and the utterly cold trail at Dover, Cherbourg, Paris and Macon.

At Holmes’ request, Henry handed the letter across to him.

“My sister argues that this correspondence could not have been composed by Miss Bennet as there is nothing that would indicate that she was writing to her most intimate friend in the world.

“She especially noted the formal nature of the reference to the villa in the south of France. Lady Eleanor argued that the phrase “Hermione de Secondat’s villa on the Côte d’Azur” was written to direct seekers to a specific location where Miss Bennet ultimately would not be found. Ellie said that Kitty would have referred to “Boots’ summer place” rather than something so stilted.”

Holmes nodded in agreement, “Lady Eleanor strikes me a an uncommonly wise woman. That is precisely my conclusion. The letter was supplied as a misdirection to delay a more successful search.”

Then he abruptly stood and went over to his worktable where he lifted a large magnifying glass through which he scrutinized the offending missive.

“A question, Lord Fitzwilliam. What does Miss Bennet use as a writing device? What type of pen does she favor?”

Fitzwilliam paused, pondering, and then replied, “She recently received one of Waterman’s new fountain pens…the one with the refillable reservoir.”

Again, the silence lengthened into minutes in the room as the detective perused the letter. Suddenly, Holmes launched into a flurry of activity. Turning to the shelves lining the wall, he began rifling through stack of papers until he found several tied together with a carmine ribbon. Pulling one free, he compared it to the letter of the fourth. Then he grabbed a blank sheet of foolscap and after rummaging through the work space found a pencil sharp enough to compose a note.

He strode over to the door as he folded the paper. Pulling it open, he called down the stairs, “Mrs. Hudson. Find one of the Baker Street Irregulars and give him this note to deliver to Lestrade. Promise him tuppence.”

That part of his mission accomplished, Holmes returned to his seat and explained himself.

“A fountain pen like the Waterman carries enough ink to compose more than one letter of this length. This particular item is one of the cleverest forgeries I have seen—certainly in the last five years. Watson, do you recall the contretemps over Lackworth Codicil?

“After I looked into the matter, Lord Fitzwilliam, I discovered that a supposed handwritten codicil to Sir Maurice Lackworth’s will which shifted beneficiaries from his children to an utterly fraudulent charity was a rank fabrication. However, we could never pin the deed on the ultimate mastermind rather having to be content for Her Majesty’s Court to try the craftsman responsible and send him away for a five-year sojourn at Wandsworth.

“These old hands rarely change technique ones they have perfected their methods. This letter, for particular instance, was produced using an old-style steel nib dipped in Wagner’s anthraces writing ink.[iv] While the hand was undeniably that of a master, there is always an unavoidable thickening of the script when a freshly-dipped nib is returned to continue writing…often in mid-sentence.

“The same items used to forge the Lackworth Codicil!

“Watson, would you be surprised to know that old Hoskins was turned out of Wandsworth just six weeks ago? That note I just sent implored Lestrade to bring in Hoskins for a session at the Yard. I doubt if he will be able to add much, but there may be a few crumbs of interest.”

 

 

[i] Informed readers of this work may realize that there has been some adjustment of key dates which had originally been suggested by A.C. Doyle and his amanuensis John Watson. In The Final Problem, the tragedy of Moriarty and Holmes at Reichenbach Falls likely occurred on or about May 5, 1891 (newspaper reports were published on the 6th and 7th). The matters described in this current work, The Exile, offer added information that explains the sudden and urgent motivation behind Moriarty’s multiple attempts on Holmes’ life (where he had preferred to leave Homes alone) and his subsequent pursuit of the great detective across France to Switzerland as described in the aforementioned story. Watson neither reported the meeting with Henry Fitzwilliam nor the conundrum he had set before Holmes, preferring to consign his notes to the tin dispatch box held at Cox and Company in Charing Cross.

[ii] Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), Prime Minister 1894-95.

[iii] Charles Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford. He succeeded his father as the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1892.

[iv] See https://www.pelikan.com/pulse/Pulsar/en_US_INTL.CMS.displayCMS.91650./from-dinte-to-4001 for more information.