Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mrs. Agatha Barker?

Every now and then, I like to look in on a housemaid named Agatha.

She's a fascinating study. While some ponder overmuch on the supposed one original Canon love of Sherlock's life, Irene Adler, one must also look at Irene's opposite number, the one woman in those same stories who fell in love with Sherlock.

Agatha did what no other woman had ever done, get the promise of wedded bliss from Sherlock Holmes. True, he was pretending to be a plumber named Escott, who vanished about the time Agatha lost her job when her employer died. But in the spring of 1904, when Watson's write-up entered the public record, Agatha was most likely a part of that reading public. And she had to know who had really asked for her hand in marriage.

Was she happily married to Holmes's "hated rival" and raising a family by then? And those words . . . "hated rival" . . . where were those words also spoken by Holmes not so long before Watson wrote up the Milverton business?

"You had not met Barker, Watson. He is my hated rival upon the Surrey shore. . . . His methods are irregular, no doubt, like my own."

Think about it for a minute. One detective was courting Milverton's maid to get an inside like on the blackmailer's household. Is it so unlikely another of Charles Augustus Milverton's victims didn't hire their own detective to see what could be done?

We're pretty sure Holmes's interest in Agatha faded with the case, just as it did with other women like Violet Hunter, to Watson's disappointment. But Barker's, if he was indeed Holmes's ongoing "hated rival?"

There's something about Agatha's story that always makes us to want to find a happy ending for her. Even when BBC Sherlock turned her into Janine, she got the Sussex cottage, complete with beehives, as recompense for Holmes's deception . . . his own retirement home, symbolically handed over as settlement. In the original Canon, could Agatha have been more of a Molly, and just found herself a replacement Sherlock, with a more permanent outcome?

It's a possibility. And possibilities are something Agatha was full of. No other woman ever made Sherlock Holmes exclaim, "Good heavens!" at her verbal charms, you know.

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