-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
Robert Perret brought up this particular little gem of a line today, pointing out what a gatekeeper Sherlock Holmes is about that big rodent. Holmes quickly changes the subject to vampires the minute it comes up and makes Watson pulled down a book to look up "vampires," even though Holmes plainly knows what they are, as he refers to them being "a Grimms' fairy tale."
Why the distraction? Why not just tell Watson? By the time of "Sussex Vampire," Watson has surely been privy to England's greatest state secrets among Holmes's cases already. And if Watson was editing it out of the story, why even include the line at the end of the letter that requires Holmes to remark on the name "Matilda Briggs." No, Sherlock Holmes has a secret, and he's plainly keeping it from even his most trusted friend.
So now our question becomes, why so secret?
"We have not forgotten your successful action in the case of Matilda Briggs," E.J.C. of the law firm Morrison, Morrison, and Dodd writes. Even "E.J.C." seems to want to keep his full name a secret. But why? What action could Holmes have taken that he wouldn't want Watson to know about? Time to spin some theories!
Sherlock Holmes was lying and Matilda Briggs was the name of a young woman. I mean, the first words out of his mouth after reading the letter are "Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson," before Watson even says a peep. Did Watson's eyes light up in a "Oooooo, Sherlock might have had a girlfriend!" teenage gossip way? Or was "young" Holmes overplaying his hand a little bit, because it was a young woman. And Holmes pulled an "Agatha" on her, getting engaged while in disguise, and maybe even going further with Matilda and pulling a Hatty Doran on the wedding day. Holmes definitely wouldn't want to tell Watson he bailed on an actual marriage. Maybe Sherlock Holmes was the actual "giant rat of Sumatra."
Whoa, I like that Theory One way too much. I should stop here. But let's go on . . . what else is the world not prepared for? Holmes quickly turns to the supernatural subject of vampires and dismisses it with "No ghosts need apply." Was Matilda Briggs a ghost story? Was that why E.J.C. sought Holmes out for vampire dealings, as he'd already dealt with a ghost for Morrison, Morrison, and Dodd? But Watson wrote a whole novel about Holmes's successful action against a demonic hound, so the world would probably be okay with that. Unless Holmes himself served as John Constantine in the matter and actually performed some hoodoo. "You're a wizard, Sherry!"
Rats are gross. A great big rat is probably the grossest of all. The world is not prepared for something involving a whole lot of rat feces on any given day. 'Nuff said.
Holmes was using the word "ship" as slang for "relationship" way before anyone else, thus making it a ship called "Matiggs" or "Brilda," as the hidden love of Matilda and Briggs was not something the world could handle. Frank A. Briggs, the fifth governor of North Dakota, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, the progressive writer who spoke out for women, Native Americans, and other causes long before we tend to think of such activism existing. The mere thought of shipping her to a North Dakota politician is pretty nuts, so, yeah, world not prepared.
WHO THE HECK IS E.J.C.? Is he the whole reason for the dodge? Edward J. Cullen? You mean the Twilight novels are true, and Holmes was covering for those sparkle vampires all along? "Hey, Sherlock, somebody's about to expose us! Deal with it so I can keep going to high school and dating young girls, and not get found out, like Matilda Briggs almost did. Good job on that! Love, Edward J. Cullen, actual vampire." I suspect Matilda Briggs as being the mother of Edwards earlier Bella Swan.
Okay, if I've wandered onto Twilight turf, it's time to shut this theory session down. Logical synthesis is a rather tricky bit of the Holmes method, eliminating the impossible needs to come in quick, but I'll have to let you handle that part. Good luck!