Once upon a time, I placed the date that "The Adventure of the Second Stain" begins as July, 19, 1887. Not too unreasonable, as others place it in the 1880s and Ernest Bloomfield Ziesler, the king of Sherlockian chronology, put it in July of 1889. Now, due to this "Summer of Sherlock" tour we've been taking, I am totally doubting myself for two major reasons, and one of them isn't happy. Not happy at all.
For the Prime Minister of all Great Britain comes to 221B Baker Street in this story.
The frelkin' Prime Minister.
When I was a younger American, reading this story, I don't think I ever fully felt the weight of that. "He's a political minister, and Watson keeps calling him 'the Premiere' -- some English goverment guy, you know how much pomp and circumstance they have over there!" First impressions have a way of sticking with you later on, even if you were very young when you first made them, even if (as science now tells us) your brain hadn't finished growing, even if you were decades from seeing Love Actually and the shock value that the Prime Minister showing up at your house actually has.
During later reads of this story, I focused on this detail or that, but still glossed over the Prime Minister part. And boy, was I missing the boat on this story.
The frelkin' Prime Minister.
If the Prime Minister of all of the British Empire comes to 221B Baker Street to personally seek out the help of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, it means two things.
1.) Sherlock Holmes is a lot more famous, with a lot more respect in high levels of government, and a much better known track record than he had anywhere in the 1880s.
. . . and . . .
2.) Mycroft Holmes is dead.
Remember the "Summer of Sherlock" discussion of "Greek Interpreter," when I first posited that Mycroft Holmes was dead by the 1903 events of "The Dying Detective" because Watson didn't even think to inform brother Mycroft that Sherlock was dying? Well, what's your first thought when the Prime Minister completely ignores the smarter Holmes brother with a government office and heads straight for the younger one?
And if you read "The Adventure of the Second Stain" with an eye to Sherlock's words and actions, they belong to a man who knows he's the only resort the Prime Minister has in this affair. Not to a man whose elder brother would be invaluable in a case involving spies and international affairs.
As much as we chide pastiches for always dragging Mycroft into the story, here's a tale that Mycroft belongs in, a tale where his absence is very notable. And not because the Prime Minister decided to visit a start-up young consulting detective who just hadn't happened to tell his partner about his brother yet in the 1880s. No, the combination of Holmes's acceptance by the P.M. as well as there being no question about Watson listening in (Remember those earlier days when Sherlock had to tell clients they could trust Watson?) on state secrets of the highest level puts this case at a much later time.
A time after Mycroft's death.
On a side note, we've been having "autumn evenings" this past July week, here in midwest America, so life is definitely mimicking art, weather wise. The nice weather takes a little of the sting that the loss of Mycroft and questions about my personal Sherlock chronology that the Summer of Sherlock have brought up, but not much.
Frelkin' Prime Minister.