The Head And The Heart- A collection of Sherlock Holmes stories

A collection of stories about Sherlock Holmes, the well-known and well-loved detective, and his trusted friend and biographer Dr. Watson. "Reichenbach Feels" is set immediately after the unfortunate events of 'The Final Problem'. We follow the landlady of 221B, young Rebecca Hudson, on a quest to fill the void left behind by the untimely death of a lodger. In "A Case of Identity" a nightmare that has haunted our heroes becomes true: Professor Moriarty has finally outwitted them. And so we witness them planning a spectacular flight... "Both or None" depicts the best friendship in literature: Holmes and Watson have often saved each other's life- but what if nothing is safe, and no one is saved? Can one live without the other? Features two bonus stories: "Better Words Than These" describes what an impending war in the early 1900s might mean for a certain retired army surgeon, and his friend... In "The Fourth Wall" our heroes face the problem of an author vexed by his creations...

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31. I. 6. Not Just A White Lie

I had not been feeling too well of late. It looked like I only caught a cold, but no matter what my efforts were, it did not seem to get better quickly. Holmes was worried, and I assured him over and over again that this was unnecessary. But I knew better. This was more than just a case of influenza.

The other day I had returned home from a walk and out of a sudden drowsiness relapsed into a chair. Before I could even do anything, I felt my eyelids get so very heavy that I couldn't prevent them from automatically closing. I instantaneously fell asleep.

After some time, I felt something touching my face. At first I was convinced I had dreamt this, but when I realized what it was, I quickly opened my smarting eyes. Holmes was leaning over me, his hand caressing my cheek. He smiled at me, and said: "Awake at last, Watson?"
His smile abruptly faded when I quickly, and probably too fiercely, grabbed him by the wrist and said in a warning voice: "Don't touch me."

He looked hurt, and wanted to reply something: "But, Watson- I..."
My fingers now wrapped more gently around his, and I cut him off:
"Please don't get me wrong... Holmes, you know what I feel for you, but for now you'd better stay away from me. Certainly I caught some disease, and I don't want you to be infected."
My symptoms had over the days increased in distinctness, hence my caution. I was already very vaguely aware of the nature of my disease, though I hoped imploringly that my reason would deceive me.
The confusion disappeared from Holmes' face, but was replaced by an expression of taciturn sorrow.

At night I insisted on separate bedrooms, even if Holmes would protest ever so strongly.
"But what if something was wrong with you...!", he had argued. I had remained unyielding.
It was only for his own good.

Some minutes after he had retired to his old chamber and when I had just turned around to sleep, I became aware of a low and continuous sound, a scratching and rustling, as if something was being dragged over the floor. Nevertheless I was so tired that I was dozing off without caring any further about the occurrence when I again noticed an indistinct, even motion in the air. I opened my eyes, and had to suppress a disbelieving laugh.

Fast asleep, Holmes was laying on a mattress on the floor, placed only a few inches from my bed. So that had been the source of the dragging sound!
I quietly shook my head. "...you're so incorrigible...", I whispered, smiling at the huddled figure beneath me. Stroking the dark head upon the pillow in an absent-minded way, I fell asleep to the even sound of Holmes' breath.
_____________________________________________________


In the morning I awoke to the bustling noise rising up to our flat from Baker Street. Sleepily I gazed down at the floor and found that Holmes was already up and had returned his things to his room, meticulously leaving not one trace behind. If I had not seen him, I probably would never have known he had spent the night here.
In that moment the door opened and my friend, as good-humoured as if he were on a case, entered. "Good morning, Watson," he said cheerfully, "have you slept soundly? I did not want to wake you earlier than necessary."
I nodded, and replied slightly impishly: "And how was your night?", with a glance indicating the spot where the mattress had been, and so letting him know implicitly that I had noticed tonight's manoeuvre. Instead of answering, he smiled enigmatically and when I asked what time it was, he told me without having to glance at his watch that it was 10:30.
I almost jumped out of bed but instantly had to sit down on its edge again, for my knees felt weak and obviously I had moved too quickly for my state. Holmes of course noticed it and rushed to my side. "You really should see a doctor, you know.", he proposed, resting his hand on my leg. I shook my head, smiling. "I am one myself, am I not?"

He fell silent for some time, then I said: "Listen, I know you worry about me, but I'll be fine."
When there was no answer, I rose to go. After I had gotten ready, I felt somehow better, but when I glanced into the mirror I noticed how pale and worn out I looked. Whom was I still fooling?

Outside I heard Holmes rummaging around, humming a low tune. What he did not know was that I had long made my diagnosis. I had recognized the symptoms, and my prognosis was increasingly negative. Slowly, almost painfully slowly, my days were drawing near to an end.
Burying my head in my hands, I thought of Holmes. I could not tell him. Some day I would have to do so, I knew that well, but just could not yet.
The reason was that I wanted to spare him the sad news as long as I could. Despite my disease, we led a happy life. And I feared that this knowledge would replace the happiness with sorrow. I still kept my secret from him, but I myself had to face the truth:
I was dying.

This disease which affected me was hereditary; some members of my family had already fallen victim to it. All of my life I had been fearing this. Holmes did not know about it; but there also were many things I did never know about him or his family, so I always had thought this was alright. In most cases the first symptoms- very light ones though- appeared at the age of 35, then inevitably leading to an untimely death at approximately 40 years. Since I was 46 now, and no sign of it had ever been visible, I had stopped to be afraid. But now I felt the old anxiety well up again. Looking back, I realized that only a healthier lifestyle than that of some relatives of mine- for a moment I thought of my brother- had caused the delay in the outbreak. So here I was, finally having accomplished the goals in life which were important to me:
I had secured an income and a comfortable place to live, and my life was hardly ever boring.
I had a dear and most trusty friend at my side, and I was with the person whom I loved and who loved me- which, in my case, were one and the same.
In a nutshell, I was leading a happy life. But it seemed that Fate was not on my side.

Holmes' voice could still be heard humming a tune outside, and my heart clenched upon his light-hearted merriment. As heavily as my conscience sometimes reproached me, I just could not bring myself to tell Holmes. It would break his heart.

This was much more than a white lie.

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