The Meeting, a hundred years on
One hundred years ago, something happened. Something vastly important. An event that reverberated down the ages. If you’ve been following the Monday posts on this blog, you’ll know that two days and a hundred years ago, Miss Russell planned on taking a walk from her inherited home across the Sussex Downs to the Channel.
And we all know what happened next, on April 8, 1915, one hundred years ago today.
As Miss Mary Russell put it:
I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him….
It was a cool, sunny day in early April, and the book was by Virgil. I had set out at dawn from the silent farmhouse, chosen a different direction from my usual—in this case southeasterly, towards the sea—and had spent the intervening hours wrestling with Latin verbs, climbing unconsciously over stone walls, and unthinkingly circling hedgerows, and would probably not have noticed the sea until I stepped off one of the chalk cliffs into it.
As it was, my first awareness that there was another soul in the universe was when a male throat cleared itself loudly not four feet from me…
Or from HIS point of view:
After twelve years in Sussex, I was well accustomed to busybodies. Everyone in the county knew who I was, and although they took care to protect me from the intrusion of outsiders, they felt no compunction to offer the same protection from their own attentions. Stepping into the village shop for Mrs Hudson would bring a knowing wink and a heavy-handed jest about investigating the choices of soap powder. If I paused to examine an unfamiliar variety of shoe-print on the ground, a short time later I would look back to find a knot of villagers gazing down to see what had drawn my attention. One time, a casual remark to a passing farmer about the sky—that a storm would arrive by midnight—led to a near-panic throughout the Downland community, until the farmer’s wife had the sense to ring Mrs Hudson and ask if I’d actually intended to warn him that the Kaiser’s troops were lying offshore, waiting for dark.
Only the pub had proved safe ground: When an Englishman orders a pint, his privacy is sacrosanct.
Every so often, perhaps once a year, I would become aware of what is known as a “fan.” These were generally village lads with too much time on their hands and too many penny-dreadful novels on their shelves. Trial and error had shown that a terse lecture on personal rights coupled with a threat to speak to their fathers would send them on their way.
Now, it seemed, I had another one.
And thus, it begins…