"Mrs. Hudson", cried Sherlock Holmes to his landlady, "pray ask the Doctor to step upstairs directly. There is a matter of some small interest to be observed in the street".
The Doctor was stowing his wet boots in the hallway, for he had recently returned and it had long since come on to rain as well as to blow, but Mrs. Hudson's whispered entreaty sent him quickly up the broad stairway with a look of inquiry on his face.
"There, together on the corner," murmured Sherlock, with a nod of his aquiline head. "What do you make of them?"
The Doctor's spirits fell a little, for he was accustomed to feeling deficient in acuity when put to the test by his friend. He gazed forlornly at the two men who stood together in the rain, casting about for their destination. Then, divining that the burlier of the two wore a dark broadcloth coat trimmed with worn gold braid, he cried out with relief "But one of them is a Navy officer!".
"Bravo, Doctor! We will make an Inspector of you yet. A Navy captain, or rather, a Commander. And the other?"
The Doctor looked thoughtfully at the second man, a short, sallow, wary, reticent figure, then flinched back behind the curtain as the fellow's astoundingly saurian eye suddenly picked out his presence at the window. "I cannot say", he said. "I cannot say at all".
"Indeed, Watson. A most unusual individual. Aside from the obvious points that he is a Hibernian who has spent many years in Italy, or perhaps Spain, that he is a deadly shot, and a great lover of animals, I can barely apprehend his character. Were he not in good company, I should call him at a glance the third most dangerous man in London. But we shall soon learn more, as they are coming to our door."
The young Captain, a massive but benevolent figure, and his reticent friend entered a moment later, shaking off raindrops. "Gentlemen," cried he, "may I name my particular friend Dr. Maturin? And I…."
"Now, sir" said Sherlock, with an unusual gentleness. "There is no need for an introduction. You are Captain Aubrey, taker of the Cacafuego and a hero of his country. Give you joy of your victory and your certain promotion."
At this, the Captain for a moment looked a little downcast. But then a curious smile began to wander around his lips. "And I, sir, would know you anywhere too. For there is no face like Holmes' ! Oh ha, ha, ha, ha, ha……..that is to say, I beg your pardon".
"Indeed," said Sherlock, with a trifle of reserve. "Indeed. But pray greet my own friend and colleague Dr. Watson, late of the Army, and then tell us what storm of life has driven you to our humble harbor".
© 2005 Kieran Geoghegan