Remember that Sherlock Holmes series that got all James-Bond-y at the end and had that final adventure that wasn't like the stories that had made Sherlock so popular?
Of course you do! And what the heck was Conan Doyle thinking with "His Last Bow," anyway?
Well, it was the war, of course. The Great War, the War That Changed Everything, the War You Couldn't Ignore. That was the reason for Sherlock Holmes's last case diverging from the rest of his career. But did you ever stop to think of what that last story might have been, had it not been for the intervention of World War One? Did you ever suspect that Conan Doyle might have had a totally different plan in mind for Holmes and Watson getting together one last time to stand on the terrace?
Well, thanks to a tin dispatch box found in my cousin's mother-in-law's attic at the new Victorian house they just moved into after inheriting it from great aunt Violet, who lived far too long but kept a lot of old stuff in good shape, we may now have the answer: An unpublished version of "His Last Bow" entitled "The Adventure of the German Sportsman" which leaves out all the looming war business, keeps Holmes in England with a proper British accent and clean-shaven face, and contains a proper case. The tale is too long to present here, of course, and intellectual property rights still need to be settled and all that, but perhaps the final passages are enough to give a flavor of the ending Doyle had originally aimed for, pre-war.
"As to you, Watson," Holmes said, "you joining me with your old service. Stand with me here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk we shall have before Lestrade arrives."
"I think not, Holmes. The city is some distance away. But you seem very warm."
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such as wind as time blows on all men. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and we will one day wither before its blast."
His lip quivered and his hand trembled.
"I have a ring here, worth over five hundred pounds, that should be on someone's finger before someone makes off with it."
Well, that is all I dare reprint here, for fear of some legal thing or the other. But you get the gist. Odd how easily those two just will get all Victorian-emotional so easily. But, oh, what might have been, if not for that cursed war . . . .