Sherlock Holmes in Downing Street
Sherlock Holmes in Downing Street
I had seen nothing of Sherlock Holmes for many years, in fact not since he had turned his attention to politics. Naturally, it was an extremely pleasant surprise to receive his short note asking me to call on him at his new residence in Downing Street.
"Good day, Watson," he said. "Just come from a demonstration? Took part in the march to the Japanese embassy?"
"Holmes!" I cried, astounded.
"It's all very simple, Watson. On your left boot I see traces of mud just like those which I saw yesterday on the Japanese ambassador's spats. And sticking out of your pocket there is a "Daily Telegraph" with a three-column heading: "Aerial Slaughter in Canton." You probably were marching among the gasbags, shouting "Drive the Japanese murderers out of China!" Am I right, Watson?"
"For all the precious good your shouting did! Our amiable Britishers have somehow begun to lose their coolness a little too of-ten."
"But how can we keep cool, Holmes, when... Well, you can read it for yourself. Whole blocks in Canton have been blown to smithereens. Three thousand corpses. The Tunshan school wiped out. The Japanese planes do not spare even children."
"But who told you they were Japanese planes?"
"In dealing with any crime, Watson, the first thing is to thoroughly investigate the circumstances. Never be in a hurry to draw deductions. If British interests are affected, we shall try to protest. It appears that in Nanking a fragment of a bomb fell on the roof of our embassy — now that is something. One square yard of the roof of our embassy is undoubtedly more important than all your Tunshan schools. That school is not Oxford, you know, Watson."
A dreamy expression came into Holmes' eyes.
'Let Us Take Oxford'
"Let us take Oxford as a hypothetical case. Airplanes of unknown nationality bomb the university. What then? Why, we would make an investigation. Study fragments of the bombs. ... Make a chemical analysis of the explosives... and finally, the footprints..."
"Airplanes do not leave footprints, Holmes," I said with vicious pleasure.
"Well, something like that. Ashes from the pilot's cigar or the dropped butt... I think someone is knocking, Watson?"
I opened the door and in came Lestrade. To judge from his bewildered expression, it was obvious that Holmes' colleague had not become in any way more competent with his rise in the world.
"Well, Lestrade," Holmes smiled. "Ever since you took up foreign politics, your visits have never boded good. Well, what have you to say?"
"Mr. Holmes, I work under your direction," Lestrade retorted. "There's nothing much new. Details for the most part about mysterious bomb explosions in Paris, and the disappearance of General Miller..."
"That's nothing," Holmes yawned. "None of our business. Continue, Lestrade."
"Five new Italian divisions are ready for dispatch to the ports controlled by the Spanish insurgents."
"We don't interfere in Spanish affairs. Continue Lestrade."
"From Sept. 1 to Sept. 25. Mr. Holmes, six more British ships were attacked by pirates. The Stenmore was fired at on the day the Nyon Convention was signed."
"Is that official, Lestrade?"
"Unfortunately, it is, Mr. Holmes."
"I'll make a note of that."
"Holmes," I butted in, "when are you going to put a stop to this downright piracy of thy Italians?"
"Why of the Italians, Watson?" Holmes asked in astonishment. "In spite of all our efforts, we have not yet been able to establish the nationality of the pirate sub-marines. Continue, Lestrade."
A Japanese Air Raid
"During a Japanese air raid on Shanghai, the Astor, an English hotel, was destroyed."
"A fine hotel!" Holmes exclaimed, livening up. "I remember it well. What else, Lestrade?"
"The Jardine brewery was also destroyed."
"What were the losses?"
"About a million pounds. Mind you, all this refers only to the last two days, Mr. Holmes."
"We shall wait, Lestrade. It isn't worth while to disturb the Japanese ambassador. Is that all?"
"Unfortunately, it isn't. The Japanese continue to hold up British vessels. You recall, Mr. Holmes, that on Sept. 7 they held up tip British steamer Taishang. On Sept. 8 the Fushim was held up. On the ninth, a Japanese destroyer held up and searched the Tunhang and Tinyat, which were bound for Canton. And now, Mr. Holmes, they have gone so far as to search the war vessel St. Monaps."
"Trifles, Lestrade. Mr. Kawagoe has explained that all these actions are intended to foster mutual understanding and friendly collaboration between Britain and Japan."
At this point my nerves failed me.
"Holmes!" I yelled. "Can this be you, Holmes! Why the war in Shanghai is more than a blow at our prestige in China. Here, read for yourself," I said, thrusting the "Daily Telegraph" in his face." "The rich industrial district of Shanghai has been turn-ed into a funeral pile of British enterprises. Along with our prestige, millions and millions of pounds are being lost. Japanese planes are openly bombing our factories, our hotels, our ships, firing from machine guns at our ambassadors... "
Everything in Order
Holmes' faces was absolutely devoid of emotion, as becomes a British statesman.
"Show me the Hugessen folder, Lestrade."
He turned over a few pages and smiled in satisfaction.
"Of course, I'm sorry for poor Hugessen, but he has only himself to blame. It does no good to irritate Japan by being too — shall I say, inquisitive? And then, everything is in order, Watson. We demanded apologies, demanded that the guilty persons should be punished, demanded guarantees that there would be no repetition of the incident. All this has been promised to a certain extent."
"Mr. Holmes is perfectly satisfied with Japan's reply," said Lestrade.
I waved my hands.
"This is beyond my understanding, Holmes. To keep your tie, you give your greatcoat to the thief. Do you really think that aggression can be weakened by systematically making concessions to the aggressor?"
"You're only repeating what you have heard, Watson," Holmes said. "I have already heard that kind of talk in Geneva. The Russians have a very bad habit of calling things by their real names. They have not our experience of refined parliamentary debates."
He closed his eyes wearily.
"Tush, tush," whispered Lestrade. "Mr. Holmes is tired on account of concerning himself with peace so much. Mr. Holmes needs rest. Let's go, doctor,"
We left the room on tiptoes.
(From "Vechernaya Moskva," Moscow evening newspaper)