I cleaned yesterday. I hung pictures. I listened to the wind throw a three year old’s temper tantrum — whines, moans, gusts, sighs. I curled up and read and read and read, with my dog next to me. He was feeling uneasy yesterday — the wind had him on alert and he didn’t like it, didn’t like the house creaking and the snow falling from the roof. He needed lots of reassurance and pets and cuddles, so I let him on the bed. He’s pretty big. And as he sleeps, he spreads out, so I was being kicked in the side by his stupid big paws and his stupid sharp claws digging in. If he wasn’t so cute…
I’m on the last 200 pages of Sherlock Holmes, flying through. I am overjoyed with the second half of this book because here’s Sherlock Holmes, the little shit, in all his glory. He’s snarky and constantly throwing passive aggressive comments at people whose heads they completely go over (and at Watson, whose head it doesn’t go over but who has a fondness for Holmes that overcomes the exasperation). It makes me think a bit of Lord Rust in the Discworld novels. Lord Rust is the consummate snob. He’s from a long line of Rusts, and his view of the world is very narrow. People who don’t fit in are erased from his personal existence, except when they can’t be (like in the case of Vimes) in which case he grudgingly allows them existence, if not patience. So many of the people Holmes deals with start off by ignoring or belittling him, especially the officials. You can tell he takes a real delight in this, accepts the barbs with mostly good grace because he knows that they’ll be lost in admiration for him in the end. But he can’t resist making fun of them, right to their faces, because he CAN. He kinda says the types of things that I think, only I’m not passive aggressive in the privacy of my own head.
Here’s some of my favorite moments in this read through, including a couple that made me actually laugh out loud.
And yet, without a harshness which was foreign to his nature, it was impossible to refuse to listen to the story of the young and beautiful woman… (The Solitary Cyclist)
Aw, you big softy.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report which I was able to present to him that evening, but it did not elicit that word of curt praise which I had hoped for and should have valued. On the contrary, his austere face was even more severe than usual as he commented upon the things that I had done and the things that I had not.
‘Your hiding place, my dear Watson, was very faulty…’ (The Solitary Cyclist)
Watson was so proud of himself, and Holmes shot him down, stone-cold.
Re: some footprints which Hopkins swore didn’t exist:
‘My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature.’ (Black Peter)
Poor Hopkins, by the way, winced at Holmes’ ironical comments.
Watson indulges in some of the lyrical writing so despised by Holmes:
It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded? (Black Peter)
I enjoyed imagining Holmes reading this with SUCH an expression of disgust on his face.
Upon producing the black pearl of the Borgias in a theatrical manner:
Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both broke at clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of color sprang to Holmes’s pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend. (The Six Napoleans)
You big softy, part 2.
Hopkins doesn’t pick up on what interests Holmes in a trio of wine glasses. Holmes has some snark.
‘And yet, you must admit, that the three glasses are very remarkable, Hopkins. What? You see nothing remarkable? Well, well, let it pass. Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand…’ (The Abbey Grange)
Holmes doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who ought to know better doubting him.
Watson is on the moors on the trail of the Hound of the Baskervilles, and muses in his diary:
All day to-day the rain poured down, rustling on the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. (Hound of the Baskervilles)
So speaking of big softies. Said convict was a notorious and heartless murderer, but Watson’s soft heart can’t help but feel for him alone on the moor.
Holmes turns sarcasm on Watson, who has wondered why someone sent a cipher without also sending the key along with it.
‘Your native shrewdness, my dear Watson, that innate cunning which is the delight of your friends, would surely prevent you from inclosing cipher and message in the same envelope.’ (The Valley of Fear)
And, my favorite moment thus far:
It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance.
‘Well, Holmes,’ I murmured, ‘have you found anything out?’
He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. Then the tall, lean figure inclined towards me. ‘I say, Watson,’ he whispered, ‘would you be afraid to sleep in the same room with a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?’
‘Not in the least,’ I answered in astonishment.
‘Ah, that’s lucky,’ he said, and not another word would he utter that night. (The Valley of Fear)
Really, it’s a bit of a wonder that Watson never did any remarkable act of violence at Holmes. This was the perfect book for a stormy day.
My box of books has arrived, to my joy, and I have a to read pile that looks a bit precarious on the corner of my desk. I left work an hour early to exercise the poor pup who had been home alone all day, and we walked in the woods. Walking through snowy woods sounds lovely (thanks, Mr. Frost) (I KNOW, I know, the poem was about suicide, whatever) but in reality it is a pain in the calves and both Baxter and I feel a bit wiped out as a result. So, chores, Civ, and an early night.