Sunday, August 12, 2012
"Do you have a belief in ghosts, John?" Sherlock was setting his newspaper down and looked at me inquisitively.
"I'll tell you this, I certainly believe in other peoples strong convictions of their existence." I sat back in my chair, reminiscing.
"Is there a story in that statement?" He began packing his pipe, seemingly settled that I was going to tell him a story.
"Are you familiar with the 'dumb supper'?"
"Only just. I know it's some form of superstition. Please, do impart on me your wisdom." He began puffing the pipe as he brought the flame to the end.
"It's a ritual performed on All Hallows' Eve. Young ladies prepare a meal that they set out for an unnamed guest. They are to wait in silence for half an hour. If successful, at the stroke of midnight, she will see the ghost of her future husband. He will set down upon the meal and then vanish."
Sherlock smiled as he seemed to envision this futile ritual.
"My first year out of school, I get a message from a dear friend. He was urgent that I come to his home immediately. His sister, he said, was in hysterics. I dashed off and arrived in the cloak of night." I paused and added, "Mind you - I had never heard of this dumb supper ritual." Sherlock nodded and bade him to continue.
"I entered their home and called out the ladies name to no reply. Upon walking in the dining area, I see a delicious meal with a placard in front that said 'For the Gentleman.'"
"What did you think of this scene?"
"Well, what was I *supposed* to think? I sat down to the meal as I figured it was prepared for me! I hadn't eaten that evening in my rush to their home. Imagine my surprise when, after my first bite, the young lady who had been spying by a nearby doorway fainted! My bosom pal came from around the corner, he had set the whole thing up!"
After we had a laugh, Sherlock pressed on with his inquisition.
"That doesn't tell me whether or not you have a belief in the supernatural."
"I have an underlying conviction that ghosts have no existence but in people's own imagination." Sherlock seemed disappointed at this response. "However... my resolution has been put to the test."
"Another story for the evening?" Sherlock raised an eyebrow. I nodded and at this, he rose from his chair pouring two snifters of brandy. He handed one glass to me and he returned to his seat.
"It was the first day of my apprenticeship when I received my first lesson in anatomy. The assistant took me to the garret at the top of the house where I studied. Here I was shown a skeleton, the several bones being connected by wires. It lay in a long case, something like an old clock case. It was likely the skeleton of a criminal, perhaps a murderer who had been hung, for at that period these afforded almost the only supply of skeletons. I was told that these bones were now mere dried inorganic matter. After quick examination, the lid of the box was then closed and fastened by a clasp."
I took a sip of the brandy, savoring the flavor and feeling the heat of it as it made its way to my stomach.
"I had a bedroom to myself in this place. Feeling lonely, I left the door open on going to bed, that I might feel more in company with the rest of the family. I could not sleep, and when the house was still and I at rest, I distinctly heard the rattling of bones up in the garret; for the door had been left open, and was just at the top of the stairs which led down to the landing close by my chamber door. I dare not get out of bed and lock the door, for I might meet the skeleton walking into my room in his bones!" I paused, recalling the evening with perfect clarity.
"The rattling continued, with short intermission, all night. I got no sleep, of course. As soon as the morning broke, and I heard the servants about, I resolved to go up and investigate - expecting at least to find the skeleton sitting up in his bones. However, the case was fastened down as we had left it. But upon opening the lid... half a dozen wild kittens, which had been bred unnoticed amongst the lumber, scampered out at one of the ends, which had been broken in. The whole mystery was solved!"
Sherlock nodded, as if he had wordlessly guessed the conclusion to my story.
"Why do you inquire as to my belief in the supernatural, Sherlock?" I finally came to ask.
"Why else, my dear Watson... because we have a case!"
The above is something I wrote yesterday as I've been reading a lot of Sherlock lately. I hope this entertained someone out there.