Tuesday, August 20, 2019

When Baker Street was silent but for the puff of a cigar

There is something very dull at the start of "The Six Napoleons." Interesting to such a fan of Holmes that the minutiae matters, but quite mundane when fully played out in one's head.

"It was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, to look in upon us of an evening," Watson writes. Okay, no Netflix, America's Got Talent, AO3, Facebook . . . name your poison . . . looking in on someone was probably a major form of entertainment. So let's get to the details of what the residents of 221B got on "Lestrade Tonight."

"On this particular evening Lestrade had spoken of the weather and the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puffing thoughtfully at his cigar."

Like I said, they couldn't exactly discuss this week's Game of Thrones. Politics probably went nowhere as a topic of discussion, since Mycroft Holmes was not someone easily spoken of. Lestrade is sitting with two of the most interesting people he knows (and he knows cops), and is doing most of the talking, about the June climate in London, and what he read earlier in the day. Holmes and Watson aren't talking, which is interesting.

Once silence falls, Holmes asks Lestrade about what he always wants to hear about from Lestrade: Crime. The one thing Lestrade has to tell, curiously enough, is described with "But in my opinion, it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours."

Lestrade seems to be paying special attention to Watson, like he feels the doctor has been especially silent during the preceding parts of the visit. Holmes has spoken, we know that at least. But Lestrade seems to be drawing Watson out.

Have Holmes and Watson been fighting, with Watson the aggrieved partner in the dispute?

When one considers the usual way Watson starts a case, writing about Sherlock Holmes, and the way he begins this one by writing about Lestrade, one starts to suspect that even the memory of that evening that "Six Napoleons" began is still pushing his buttons. Is this our usually patient Watson on the verge of what Holmes called deserting him for a wife?

Sometimes the spaces where silence lives speaks as much as a whole conversation, and I can't help wonder about that opening to "Six Napoleons," the story we'll be discussing Thursday night at the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, starting at 6:30.  And if past discussions are any measure, we'll be wondering about a few other points as well.

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