‘I perceive, gentlemen,’ said Mr Sherlock Holmes, ‘that you are at present afflicted by an extraordinary novelty.’

The handsomer of our visitors asked in amazement how he knew this, but the big one only scowled.

‘You forget that you wear a ring on your fourth finger,’ replied Mr Holmes calmly.

I was about to jump to the ceiling when the big brute interposed.

‘That Tommy-rot is all very well for the public, Holmes,’ said he, ‘but you can drop it before me. And, Watson, if you go up to the ceiling again I shall make you stay there.’

Here I observed a curious phenomenon. My friend Sherlock Holmes shrank. He became small before my eyes. I looked longingly at the ceiling, but dared not.

‘Let us cut the first four pages,’ said the big man, ‘and proceed to business. I want to know why—’

‘Allow me,’ said Mr Holmes, with some of his old courage. ‘You want to know why the public does not go to your opera.’

‘Exactly,’ said the other ironically, ‘as you perceive by my shirt stud.’ He added more gravely, ‘And as you can only find out in one way I must insist on your witnessing an entire performance of the piece.’

It was an anxious moment for me. I shuddered, for I knew that if Holmes went I should have to go with him. But my friend had a heart of gold. ‘Never,’ he cried fiercely, ‘I will do anything for you save that.’

‘Your continued existence depends on it,’ said the big man menacingly.

‘I would rather melt into air,’ replied Holmes, proudly taking another chair. ‘But I can tell you why the public don’t go to your piece without sitting the thing out myself.’


‘Because,’ replied Holmes calmly, ‘they prefer to stay away.’

A dead silence followed that extraordinary remark. For a moment the two intruders gazed with awe upon the man who had unravelled their mystery so wonderfully. Then drawing their knives—

Holmes grew less and less, until nothing was left save a ring of smoke which slowly circled to the ceiling.

The last words of great men are often noteworthy. These were the last words of Sherlock Holmes: ‘Fool, fool! I have kept you in luxury for years. By my help you have ridden extensively in cabs, where no author was ever seen before. Henceforth you will ride in buses!

The brute sunk into a chair aghast.

The other author did not turn a hair.

To A. Conan Doyle.
from his friend
J. M. Barrie.

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