Composed and delivered by your humble servant, Brad Keefauver, for the Six Napoleons of Baltimore on Monday, December 14, 2020. On Zoom, amidst the Pandemic Times.
There are those ephemeral beings who come into our lives like a passing cloud or just maybe . . . a barge floating down river.
Now, I realize that I may be the first Sherlockian on the planet to ever use the imagery of a river barge in relation to New Jersey’s own Irene Adler, but one must factor in that I am a resident of Peoria, Illinois, a river town, and I have to use what metaphors I have at hand.
Here in Peoria, we sometimes find ourselves down on the river bank, and sometimes we find ourselves stopping to watch a barge slowly pushed downriver. Barges are enormous things, and when they’re passing through our lives they eclipse and predominate the whole of the river. Usually, there is just the one, filling up the scene in front of us, and for a time, that barge in front of us is the barge.
A barge headed down river, from up near Chicago, moving toward St. Louis and maybe on as far as New Orleans, hides most of itself beneath the surface of the river. The cargo, the barge’s inner truth, that keeps so much below the waterline and out of our sight, is not ours to know.
One never feels any emotion akin to love for a barge, watching it float down river. Usually a barge is being helped along by what is properly called a pusher boat, since it isn’t tugging like a tugboat, but pushing like a pusher boat. And if one ever tried considering a barge in the way that a pusher boat captain would, one would definitely be placing one’s self in a false position.
While Sherlock Holmes has pretended to be a boat captain on occasion, it was Godfrey Norton who is our pusher boat captain in this metaphor, only to be seen from a distance when hitched to his client, the larger figure of the tale whom he’s helping move to her next destination.
The river of life flows downstream, and a barge, even if it is the barge, as well as the pusher boat wedded to it, move on, out of our lives, leaving a clear view of the river once more. And life goes on.
So tonight, let us stand on the banks of that great river of lore we call the Canon, and take a moment to consider that veritable barge of a woman in the river of Sherlock Holmes’s life, the late Miss Irene Adler.