"I've been believing in something so distant [...]
And I've been denying this hopelessness in me [...]
As much as I'd like the past not to exist
It still does~"
26th of May, 1891
A few days after Watson's departure I slowly felt a kind of depression coming over me. My mind had been befallen by an infernal lethargy that was caused by my house being all empty again, and I spent my days with worrying and otherwise passing the time as good as possible. As I sat down for lunch, I decided that I needed distraction as much as I needed comfort. So what was I about to do? An idea came to my mind: I could visit some relatives of mine who lived in Florence and, in doing so, also get to see something else but our English weather once in a while. I would pack my things and depart the very evening after sending a quick telegram to inform of my arrival. They had, in the past, often invited me to come before but I had never again found the time to travel to the Continent after I had gone to England ages ago and had been living in London since. I planned to stay for a week and to return on Monday, 1st of June. After checking the schedule I gathered my things and headed off to catch the train departing 8 pm. Sitting in an otherwise empty compartment, I watched the station disappear behind me and somehow felt both relief and excitement at the sight. I had never before been to Florence, and so my joy and anticipation were even higher than I had expected. During my life in Germany, my parents had often traveled to various places, and as far as I could recall I had always enjoyed it when they took me along. I had moved to England after I turned 17. Both my mother and father had died in an accident, and since I hardly had any family left but in Italy and England there hadn't been many places left where I should have gone.
Now I was sitting in the train, preparing for a long and probably a little tiresome journey. I hoped that my relatives would soon receive the telegram and that they wouldn't mind my head-over-heels decision of finally visiting them. Even if they would- I was pretty sure that I would find somewhere else to stay. In almost complete darkness, I reached the ferry. Fortunately I managed to find an inn where I could stay for the night, and I planned to take the earliest ferry the other day. After a night of unquiet and little sleeping, I set off at 9 am. During the channel crossing the sea was unusually quiet, so I slept while I was on my way to Europe. Another tiresome trip by train later, I finally found myself in Florence. First thing to do was to figure out where exactly my relatives lived. Luckily my parents had taught me the Italian language, so that would not be very difficult. Or at least I had thought so! After two hours of being sent to one place and from there off to another, and finally arriving at the spot where I had started, I made one last attempt to find out about my relatives. I should have thought of asking at the town hall earlier!
I wanted to know whether there was anybody by the name of 'Visconti', the Italian branch of my family, living in Florence at all. "Scusa, Signorina. I am afraid that I know nothing of a family here by that name.", the friendly civil servant answered to my inquiring. "Grazie", I mumbled, shrugged to myself, and left the building. Now- what was I supposed to do? I needed to find a boarding-house or something... Luckily I did not bring too much luggage! My further quest didn't take long until I figured out that due to my ignorance of Florence, I now was helplessly lost in the city. I did not know what to do, but sat down on a bench beside a huge, old brick-lined house in a small alley and out of feeling misplaced and inapt, started to cry silently. Suddenly a voice interrupted my misery: "Are you alright, milady?" In contrast to the civil servant's rather broken English, the voice which had just spoken to me lacked any foreign accent. I lifted my face from the handkerchief I had buried it in, and looked into the grey eyes of a man smiling at me in a worried but friendly way. "I see you're a fellow countrywoman?" He asked. "From London, yes." I replied, astonished and wondering how he knew. "Well, that is curious indeed.", the man smiled, "That is just where I come from. Pray, can I be somehow of assistance to you?" I rose to my feet and cast a look over him: He was dressed in a slightly worn out black coat, and a matching black suit. Under the brim of his hat I could see brown hair, he wore a slight moustache, and carried an English newspaper under his arm. "Thank you, Mister..." I stopped. "Oh, I'm sorry. I almost forgot. Crane, Jeremy Crane." He held out his hand, and I shook it as I introduced myself: "Rebecca Hudson." He nodded: "So, you got lost?" "Indeed.", I sighed, suddenly feeling a bit embarrassed to admit it. "Where is it you stay?", he straightforwardly asked, but I shook my head, feeling even more embarrassed now. "Oh, you haven't found anything yet? I could show you the boarding-house where I currently have rent a room- if you like." Gladly I agreed to the offer of this kind gentleman. He pulled out a pocket watch and after a short glance at it, he said: "I know a nice café around here, and if you feel like, you could just accompany me there?" I had no objection to that, and so we set off. "A nice person, this Mr. Crane...", I thought. "I hope asking you to join me wasn't too much a liberty.", he suddenly said as we passed a huge statue beside a church. "But I'd say I was simply pleased about the fact that I have chanced to meet a lady from my hometown in this beautiful yet foreign land." I looked at him, about to ask why he thought he might have been too straightforward, when he already answered my question before I had even said one word: "You were so silent in the last few minutes." I decided to try starting a conversation, then: "Well, so... What was it that brought you to Florence, Mr. Crane? Something like a business trip or..." He laughed merrily: "No, no: I'm on holiday. What about you?"- "Me? On holiday as well. You see, sometimes one needs a hiatus from all the fog and rain in good old England..."
To some extent, this answer included the real reason why I had come here. I did not think it necessary to tell him about my loss though- I had just met him, after all.
We had soon reached our destination: the café was located in a charming little sideway close to the cathedral, and it commanded a beautiful sight at the Italian streets pulsing with life. We sat down and he ordered two cups of coffee. Mr. Crane then unfolded- after asking me whether I'd mind- the newspaper he had brought and started to read. As I averted my eyes from watching the busy street life for a moment, I casually glanced over the page. I spotted a headline printed in huge letters, announcing an article that filled almost the whole page:
"WORLD FAMOUS DETECTIVE DEAD- TRAGEDY IN SWITZERLAND"
My heart turned to lead in my chest upon my reading this line.
But now the coffee was served and as Mr. Crane put his newspaper away he addressed me in a worried tone: "You look quite pale all of a sudden, what is the matter?" I pointed at the newspaper. He flapped through the pages, and I showed the headline to him. "Oh, yes. I have read about this already. Quite a tragedy, no?" I tried not to burst into tears again as I nodded. He continued, obviously reading my reaction correctly: "Did you maybe know him? I mean, in person?" My hands tensely clenched in my lap as I answered in a low voice: "Yes, I did. Well, I am- uhm, I was- Mr. Holmes' landlady." Mr. Crane looked at me. "What a coincidence. I'm sorry for your loss." I nodded my thanks, and was truly happy as our conversation turned to different subjects. We had quite a charming time anyway, and afterwards Mr. Crane led me to the boarding house he had mentioned. I rent a room there, and was glad that I finally had found a place to stay. In the evening Mr. Crane even came by to say goodnight, and standing in the doorway to my room, he proposed that we could do a sightseeing tour tomorrow if I liked. Of course I did. He was so kind to me, and somehow I felt like I could tell him everything- just like we had known each other for years. Naturally, this was not the case. I had never met him before in England, but still- I couldn't help that he constantly reminded me of someone. Maybe that was why I felt so comfortable in his company.
This night, for the first time since their fateful departure to Switzerland, I fell asleep with a smile upon my lips.