Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hound, Chapter Five: The Northumberland Fussy-leers.

No trip is complete without a little time enjoying fine hotel accommodations, and chapter five of The Hound of the Baskervilles is up to the task! The Northumberland Hotel is a smallish place -- only three new guests seem to have checked in in roughly a twenty-four hour period between about noon Tuesday and noon Wednesday. It's not like the Queen's Jubilee was happening or anything, of course.

Here is some odd historical trivia for you, though . . . about a week ago from the day this case began, Nintendo was founded in Japan. The company name roughly means "leave luck to heaven," which sounds like a philosophy Sherlock Holmes might have voiced on his way to deal with a hound from hell. I mainly mention it to torment you with the thoughts of stocks you wish you could buy while you're here. (It's the world's largest video game company in 2013, for you bookish sorts.)

But I digress. Where were we? Ah, the poor German waiter who's been running around the hotel looking for Sir Henry's missing boot . . . and his other missing boot. Seems silly, enough, but it seriously troubles Sherlock Holmes, and one can see why.

"I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in London, and amid the millions of this great city it is difficult to discover who these people are or what their object can be. If their intentions are evil they might do you a mischief, and we should be powerless to prevent it," he says.

Two years ago, at this very time of year, Sherlock Holmes had another client who was being dogged in London, a man by the name of John Openshaw. And amid the millions filling the city, Openshaw was killed the very night he came to Holmes for help. You don't forget a thing like that, and Holmes's worries about Sir Henry are evidence he hasn't forgotten.

But Holmes is on top of this case, despite his talk of a blackmail case he's working on. Was the blackmailer he speaks of Milverton? Well, no spoilers, but it might well have been the thought of Milverton, the king of London blackmail Holmes would face sometime in the next two years. He had to become aware of C.A.M. at some point, and it may just have been around this time.

It's interesting that Holmes is so much in his own head as we spend time in Sir Henry's private sitting room at the Northumberland Hotel that he doesn't notice the brown boot under the cabinet. Sir Henry sees it, as they all rise to depart, but not Sherlock Holmes. As much as people like to claim Sherlock Holmes is infallible (or thinks he is), the Sherlock Holmes we're spending time with in The Hound of the Baskervilles is nothing like that stereotype bad writers try to force him into. He makes little mistakes. In the last chapter, he got all, "Halloa! Halloa! What's this?" and then found nothing.

And Watson laughs at him, more than once. Not with him. At him. Just you wait.

After our little hotel time, it's back to Baker Street, pipes being smoked and quiet thought. Supper is served "late into the evening" at 221B, apparently, and I don't know if that's normal, or Mrs. Hudson is just waiting for us to leave. Telegrams show up, and then the fellow I've been waiting for all chapter: Mr. John Clayton of number 3 Turpey Street, the Borough, who drives a cab out of Shipley's Yard near Waterloo Station. Sorry about all that detail, but after bi-monthly recitations of those facts for twenty-five years at local scion society meetings of Peoria's "Hansoms of John Clayton" during our Clayton Ritual, I can hardly hold them in.

Anyway, does Clayton look like the grandfather of Tarzan of the apes? There are those who claim that's the case. (And no saying he looks a little like a monkey, the man is standing right here!) He's a very proud man for a cab-driver, tracking down the single complaint he's ever had with the tenacity of the paperboy from the movie Better Off Dead. And he has the unique distinction of being the one person in the Canon who has met Sherlock Holmes, but thinks someone else he met is Sherlock Holmes. A curious fellow, all around, and very amusing to Dr. Watson.

For even after he leaves, and Sherlock Holmes starts telling his worries to Dr. Watson, saying he's been checkmated and how he's not of an easy mind about sending Watson to Devonshire, saying, "It's an ugly business and the more I see of it, the less I like it." -- well, what is Watson doing?

He's laughing at Sherlock Holmes. World's greatest detective, seriously worried about his best friend's safety, and Dr. Watson is laughing.

We're all having fun in this story.

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