[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Adventure of the Druids of Lanyon Dolmen
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] morelindo
Author: [livejournal.com profile] tripleransom
Rating: PG
Character(s): Holmes, Watson, OCs
Warnings: Mention of drug use
Length: 5,500 words
Summary: Holmes and Watson head off to Cornwall to investigate a case that may have supernatural elements.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of 'em. Don't I wish.
A/N: This fic was inspired by a wonderfully evocative pencil sketch produced by [livejournal.com profile] lynndyre for the spring, 2014 [livejournal.com profile] acd_holmesfest. I was so taken with it that I asked for permission to write a story for it. When I saw that my idea would fit in with my recipient's request, this was the result. [livejournal.com profile] morelindo, I hope you like it and [livejournal.com profile] lynndyre, I hope I have done justice to your artwork.
Lanyon Dolmen is a real monument in Cornwall, but I have played a bit fast and loose with its geography and its history. Consult the site http://www.stonepages.com/england/chunquoit.html for some references to the topography and surrounding landscape.

It was one of those dreary days in the depths of winter when the days grew ever shorter and it seemed that all of London would be enveloped in a sort of dreary freezing fog for the foreseeable future. The weather caused my old wounds to ache abominably and had kept me from venturing far from our sitting-room fire for several days.

The post had just come and I looked up from my sea-novel when Sherlock Holmes languidly tossed a letter into my lap with a flourish of his elegant hand. "What do you think of that, my dear boy?" he enquired.

Scanning the letter, I replied, "Someone wishes you to look into a person defacing a stone-age site in Cornwall?"

"Indeed," he said "A woman, writing in haste, with an execrable pen. But a woman of strong character and deep conviction."

"Some maiden lady," I ventured, "who takes umbrage at graffiti scrawled on a local landmark."

"A local schoolteacher, outraged because the local youths are defacing a prehistoric monument with their scribblings? Possibly, but I think there may be more to it all than that. The letter is headed The Vicarage, Morvah, which implies that there must be a bit more depth to the matter."

At this moment, my friend's deductions were interrupted by the ringing of the bell. A moment later, Mrs Hudson brought up a telegram. Tearing it open, Holmes frowned. "As I thought, there is rather more to this matter than schoolboy mischief." He passed the telegram to me. For God's sake, come at once, it read. My daughter has disappeared.

"Well, Watson, it looks as if we should make haste to Cornwall," said Holmes as he disappeared into his room with a swirl of his dressing gown. I hastily decamped to pack. Within the hour we were rattling down to the train station and bound for Cornwall. Holmes kept his nose in a guide book An Account of Primitive Man in Cornwall which he had purchased at the station, leaving me free to gaze out the window as the dreary fog gradually lightened, bring with it a considerable lightening of my spirits as well, until at last I dropped off to sleep.

When we arrived in Cornwall, the air was cold, but clear. The wind was bracing but I found it a welcome change from the dreariness we had left behind in London. I spied a tall woman making her way across the platform towards us. She had a pale, intelligent face, rather more handsome than strictly beautiful and a frank, open manner. "Mr Holmes?" she said, extending her hand, "and you must be Doctor Watson! Welcome! I am Miss Morgaine Sawyer. I brought the dog-cart to meet you."

Just then a man stepped up behind her, taking her by the arm possessively. "Halloa, Morgaine," he said. "Fetching our friends are you? Aidenn Williams," he introduced himself with a toothy smile. "Here to look into the mystery of the missing girl, are you? I suspect there is not much mystery to it. It is my belief that she has merely run away with her lover, who also seems to be conveniently missing. But of course the great detective must form his own opinion of that." The words were affable, but the look he gave us was sharp and penetrating.

"I'm sure I shall," murmured Holmes blandly, shaking the proffered hand.

The girl smiled too but I had caught the look of annoyance – or was it something more – that flashed in her eyes. "I'll drive, my dear" Williams continued to her, at the same time ushering us all across the platform, "Morgaine here can point out points of interest as we go." Holmes made no demur at being treated like some ordinary tourist and Williams' manner grew more expansive.

A little later, he drew the dog cart up and pointed across the plain to an imposing heap of rock in the distance. "That mound yonder is Lanyon Dolmen," he said. "The whole of Cornwall is dotted with the works of Prehistoric man; places of burial and worship since time immemorial. All of them are places of immense power, but the great Dolmen yonder is one of the most sacred. The first sunrise of midwinter shines through the gateway to the chamber and illuminates the altar stone within, signifying the return of light and warmth to the land. We Druids will celebrate the midwinter festival there tomorrow at sunrise as our ancestors did before us." The girl nodded at his words, but I saw Holmes look sharply at her as she did so.

Williams gazed at the Dolmen in the distance for a moment longer, then seeming to recollect himself, drove on. He continued to expand on local sights as if we had come for nothing more than a holiday visit until we reached the inn, then pointed out the direction of the Vicarage to us and drove taking the lady with him, leaving us no chance to speak to Miss Morgaine alone.

When we had taken our things to the inn, Holmes informed me that he would visit the Vicar and asked me to stay in the inn to gather any information I could glean about the vanished girl and about Williams. "Williams?" I asked in surprise, "surely you don't think he had any hand in her disappearance. It seems plain that she has run off to Scotland with her lover and that they will reappear in a few days."

"Perhaps so," Holmes replied with a little smile, "but all the same, I would like to hear what the locals have to say about the matter. Just keep your ear to the ground, Watson."

Within the hour Holmes returned. I had had little chance to engage the locals in conversation, but he seemed pleased at the results of his interview with the Vicar. As we entered our room, Holmes's gaze fell upon a small packet of folded paper, which had evidently been pushed under the door. He pounced upon it and read it in silence, then handed it to me. "What do you make of that, Watson? Do you still think the girl has simply run off? Just read that out, will you?" he continued, crossing to the window to glance out at the street below.

Squinting at the hurried scrawl, I read the note aloud: The ceremony is set for sunset to-night, not tomorrow. Search the cavern if you want to save the girl. Williams is mad. Trust no one in town. Come armed. The fate of the world may depend upon you.

"It seems unnecessarily melodramatic." I said.

"Perhaps," Holmes replied. "It was obviously written in great haste and under the influence of some strong emotion. Of course, you recognise the hand-writing as the same as on the note sent to Baker Street. The lady has most likely risked her life to send us this warning." He glanced at his watch. "Nearly half one. We must hurry if we are to be at the Dolmen in time, as it is several miles. I fear we cannot afford to draw attention by hiring a horse and trap, so we have a stiff walk ahead of us, which I hope will not trouble your leg overmuch. Seeing my curiosity, he continued, "I will tell you about my conversation with the Vicar as we go."

Letting ourselves out of the inn, we set off in the opposite direction from the Dolmen, as if on a stroll, ducking behind a hedge and doubling back as soon as Holmes had satisfied himself that we were not being followed.

As we made our way cautiously towards the Dolmen, Holmes relayed the information he had gained from the Vicar. "It seems that this village, as well as the great Dolmen, has a long history of association with those curious persons known as Druids. Miss Morgaine has long been the High Druidess, inheriting the position upon the death of her mother. She has always been careful not to trespass upon the Vicar's religious grounds and he, being of a tolerant and enlightened nature, has been content to co-exist with her, neither opposing the others' beliefs. Thus, they have always been allies, rather than opponents."

"The village folk hereabouts hold Miss Morgaine in high regard for her wisdom and her ways with herbal simples and other remedies. In addition, many of the folk hereabouts hold to the ancient ways and celebrate – discreetly, to be sure - the great festivals of the Celtic year. The Vicar is something of an antiquarian also and wisely has not tried to root out the cherished beliefs of his flock, seeing instead, for example, that the Christmas season is rooted deeply in the Pagan Yule, the midwinter festival which celebrates the triumph of the Green Man and the beginning of the return to warmth and light."

"Or Herne the Hunter," I blurted, delving deep into my boyhood to come up with the name.

"Just so," Holmes blinked at me. "Or the beginning of Persephone's journey up from the underworld to the Greeks. In any case, the connection with Christian belief is obvious. The Vicar has chosen not to quarrel with Miss Morgaine about the origin of the tradition."

"However, with the return to these parts of Aidenn Williams, this longstanding truce has been strained. Williams appeared several years ago, presenting himself as an Arch-Druid and implicitly subordinating Miss Morgaine to himself. At first she welcomed him and the knowledge he brought with him. It was even thought for a while that they might make a match of it. However, more lately it seems that there has been some falling-out between them. Why, the Vicar did not know, but he thinks that she is jealous of Williams's growing power. I was unable to determine just why he feels that, but it is a fact that must be docketed."

"I heard something of the sort at the inn as well, but what has all this to do with the vanished girl?" I asked.

"It is always a mistake to theorise in advance of one's data," Holmes replied soberly, "but the Yule festival was not always celebrated only with symbolic offerings of gaudy baubles hung from trees. Once, the Horned God was summoned with blood rites. In her note, Miss Morgaine says she fears for the girl's life and that Williams is mad. I think that she herself may be in danger also and that these may be very deep waters indeed."

By now we were nearing the field in which the rocky ridge stood, fronted by the great dolmen. Its enormous cap stone was curiously balanced on three uprights, while a fourth lay askew in the grass nearby. "According to my guide book, the stone fell during a storm early in this century," Holmes said "and was re-erected with money raised by public subscription several years later. It stands at the front of a natural cavern, enlarged and embellished by the labour of the original builders. It was originally associated most closely with the worship of the Moon Goddess, but it seems that Williams has co-opted it for his own purposes and has convinced his Druidic followers to go along with him."

"But to what end?" I asked. "What can Williams hope to gain by all of this?"

"That is at present unknown," Holmes replied, "but I hope we will shortly find out."

All the while, we had been approaching the dolmen with great care. At a signal from Holmes, we hid ourselves behind a rocky outcropping near the entrance. After peering about and seeing no one, cautiously we approached nearer and I drew my revolver. The overhanging stone framed a doorway that appeared to lead back into a cavern cut into the living rock of the hillside. In the low light of the midwinter afternoon sun, it was possible to see only a little way into its depths, where a single torch flickered. All was completely silent.

As we stepped gingerly beneath the stone and into the depths of the cavern, Holmes put his lips to my ear. "It looks deserted," he said. "We must be early enough that no-one has yet arrived." As my eyes adjusted to the gloom of the interior, I began to see more clearly. The cavern itself was broad, but not deep. A central hearth was laid for a fire and torches stood ready in brackets on the walls. Near the far wall was a great stone altar. Beside it, a passage opened, evidently leading further into the cavern. Everything appeared to be in readiness for some ceremony, as Miss Morgaine's note had said it would be.

"The girl must be concealed in there," said Holmes, as he struck a match and, gingerly skirting the altar, we entered the passage.

It opened after a little way into another chamber dimly lit, to my surprise, by a kind of fissure in the rock that led upwards to the open air. On the rough stone floor, a girl was lying, gagged and bound, her eyes widening in fear as we approached. Pocketing my gun, I rushed to her side and began to untie her bonds. As she shrank away from me, I gently reassured her that we were here to help. A quick examination showed that she was unharmed, suffering mostly from cold and fright.

Suddenly, a sound of low chanting rose from the outer chamber. As I continued to gently chafe the terrified girl's hands, Holmes rushed over to the fissure and looked upward. "We may be able to get her out this way, but it is too high for all of us to escape through it," he said. "Quickly!" Turning to the girl, he knelt beside her and taking both her hands in his in that soothing way which I had observed before that he could employ with women, he asked gently "Can you run?" At her nod, he continued, "We will lift you out through that fissure, You must run to the village and fetch help. Run as fast as you can to the Vicarage and do not stop for anyone else. We will hold the others off."

Working together, the two of us together were able to lift up the girl until she could get a purchase at the top of the fissure and watch as she wriggled up into the open air; but we were out of time. No sooner had she gained the open air than a band of white-robed Druids appeared at the entrance to our chamber. I had no time to draw my revolver before they overpowered us, as we were greatly outnumbered. As the final figure emerged into the chamber, he put back his hood. It was Aidenn Williams.

"The girl is gone, Exalted One" said one of the others. Shall we go after her?"

"No matter," replied Williams. "She will never make it to the village in time to stop the ceremony and after that, it won't matter. Mr Holmes and his dear Doctor seem to have provided us with an acceptable substitute. Bind them while we make ready for the ceremony."

They bound us hand and foot and I was roughly shoved down onto the stone floor, striking my head and then I knew only blackness.

When I awoke, I was lying awkwardly on the stone floor of the cavern, my hands numb and my leg cramping from my twisted position. Through the fissure, I could see that it was still daylight outside, so I judged that I had not been unconscious for long. Through the passage I could see the flickering light of fires and a sound of drums and low chanting. I managed to struggle into a sitting position and looked around to see Holmes in a similar predicament to my own. His eyes were closed and for a moment I thought he was unconscious. "Holmes!" I hissed cautiously.

He opened his eyes, and looked at me with evident relief. "Ah, Watson, I see you are with us again. When I couldn't rouse you, I was afraid you were badly injured," he said. "I only hope the girl got away."

At that moment, the light became brighter; evidently, someone was approaching. Through the opening came a dozen or so Druids carrying torches, Williams in the lead. He looked us over coldly, cocking his head. Then at his gesture, two of the others hauled me to my feet. He raised my chin with his hand, turning my head this way and that. "This one," he said, finally. At a word from him, the two holding me pulled my shirt and jacket down over my arms, baring my chest. He eyed me approvingly until my shirt slipped from my shoulder, exposing the scar from my old wound. "Oh," he said with a frown, "this one is a cripple. That won't do at all – he's useless to us." At a further sign, they shoved me back down to the floor. With my arms and ankles bound, I was not able to catch myself and fell heavily, causing me to grunt in pain.

"It will have to be the other one. Take his shirt off and make sure he's not scarred, too." They repeated the process with Homes, exposing his pale chest to the gaze of the leader. Holmes stood with his head up and lips firmly compressed as the leader ran a hand down his body, appraising him like a fine horse. "Yess," he breathed finally. This one is perfect, although the other has more blood in him." Gesturing to Holmes, he said "Fetch him." Then, glancing over to me, he ordered briefly, "Kill that one." At that, Holmes struggled wildly, but to no avail. Swiftly bundling one of the robes around and clapping a cloth over his face they dragged him away. To my horror, he had ceased to struggle and hung limply from their arms.

The Druid left behind with me pushed her hood back, revealing the pale face of Miss Morgaine. As she drew her knife and tangled her fingers in my hair, jerking my head back to expose my throat, I felt the sting of the knife blade against my skin and thought despairingly that this was it at last.

Williams turned away toward the main cavern, saying only "Get on with it. Then rejoin the ceremony – the hour is nearly upon us." as he paced after the Druids half-carrying Holmes towards the front of the cavern.

"Yes, Exalted One," she said, but as soon as he had gone, she let my hair go and began to apply her knife to my bonds. "Are you all right, Dr Watson? Are you armed?" she asked in a hurried whisper.

Fortunately, they had not thought to search me and my gun was still in my greatcoat pocket. At my nod, she continued, "We must stop Aidenn at all costs. He intends to call forth a demon which he believes will give him dominion over the world. As the last rays of the setting sun shine through the great dolmen and strike the altar, Aidenn will sacrifice your friend. His blood will be the catalyst without which the demon cannot manifest. The blood must not touch the altar!"

"While the drum beats, the celebrants will circle the cavern. As the moment approaches, they will all prostrate themselves. Then Aidenn will step forward and raise the knife. That is the instant when you will have a clear shot at him. Hesitate and all is lost. Can you do it? Not only the life of your friend, but the fate of the world may depend upon it. If you miss, I will attempt to slay Aidenn with my own knife, but I do not think I can succeed."

"You cannot think that he can really raise a demon," I gasped.

"I do not know," she replied with a frown. "I know that Aidenn is completely and utterly mad and that madmen often have great focus and strength of will. He has the knowledge and great power and he believes that he can do it. But whether or not he is successful in summoning the demon, I do know that your friend's life is forfeit if you do not act."

Her hand closed around mine, leading me forward cautiously as I stumbled behind her as best as I could, for I was stiff and cold. Once we had gained the main cavern, she pushed me down behind a boulder and whispered under cover of the chanting, "I dare not get you closer. You will have only one chance – do not miss." With that, she pressed my hand "I must go," she whispered. "Remember, do not let the blood touch the altar." Then she slipped away, leaving me alone. A moment later, I saw her discreetly join the ranks of chanting Druids as they paced around the fire in time to the incessant beat of the drum.

I looked about the cavern. By now the torches had all been lit, but they seemed to yield more wreathing smoke than light. The central fire likewise burned sluggishly, yet the room was freezing cold. My eye was irresistibly drawn to the altar, and I caught my breath involuntarily. Holmes had been stripped and bound supine upon the altar, arms above his head and breast bared for the knife. He lay utterly still; at this distance, I could not even be sure that he still breathed. Williams stood impassive behind the altar, arms folded and eyes on the doorway, where the feeble rays of the lowering sun still shown faintly.

My hiding place had been well-chosen. Although it was clean across the cavern, I would indeed have a clear shot at Williams if the others knelt as she had said they would at the climactic moment. The range was long, but I calculated that it was not impossible. If only the infernal drumbeat would stop! And why was it so freezing cold, even with the fire? I shivered, fearing to move except to draw my overcoat more closely around me.

I crouched for what seemed like an eternity while the chanting continued and the smoke in the cavern grew ever thicker until it was difficult to breathe or even think. Suddenly, a square of light, red as blood, appeared on the floor. The setting sun of midwinter was beginning to shine through the dolmen at the entrance.

Miss Morgaine had said that the sacrifice would take place when the sun's rays struck the altar. As the shaft of light crept across the floor, the pacing stopped and an air of breathless anticipation filled the chamber, but I still did not have a clear shot.

Then Williams stepped forward, and began to chant an invocation in some unknown language. As the celebrants ceased their chanting and fell upon their faces, his voice grew more and more frenzied. Suddenly he shrieked aloud: "Veni, veni, veni!" as he raised the dagger high with both hands. In that moment, at last I saw my shot and, steadying my hand on the rock, I took it.

As the gunshot echoed 'round the cavern, time seemed to stop. For a instant, I thought with despair that I had missed. Then Williams staggered backward; the dagger fell from his hand, glittering as it tumbled toward the altar and my bound friend, only to glance harmlessly off the side of the stone to the floor. There was a moment of shocked silence. Then the remaining Druids rose as one and with wailing cries, made for the entrance, tripping over one another in their haste to be gone from the cave. Within seconds I found myself alone with my friend.

I rose and hurried to him as quickly as I could on my cramped limbs. Holmes's form stretched as it was, nude upon the altar, was a vision worthy of an El Greco, I thought, or perhaps one of the martyred saints in some Medieval painting. In the uncertain light I had a heart-stopping moment of fear when I could not tell if he breathed, but coming closer, I could see his chest rise and fall shallowly. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut, but at my touch they flew open, his gaze cloudy and unfocussed. "Watson?" he faltered. "Are we both dead, then?"

My heart was wrung with pity at his confused state. "No, no, dear boy," I managed. "It's all right." Unbidden, my hand caressed his cheek.

"Good old Watson," he murmured, reassured, his eyes closing again.

"We'll have you free in no time," I said, as I spied the Arch-Druid's knife where it had fallen beside the altar. As I bent to pick it up, my eye was caught by a thin trickle of blood which crept sluggishly, but with seeming intent, from his body toward the base of the altar. I stared at it for a moment, my mind clouded and my purpose quite lost, until I seemed to hear Miss Morgaine's words again: Do not let the blood touch the altar.

Coming back to myself, I scuffed the trail of blood away and retrieved the knife, shuddering at its keenness, thinking how close Holmes had come to a horrible death. My mind seemed clearer at once and I lost no time in cutting his bonds and helping him to sit up.

As he did so, legs dangling off the edge of the altar, he looked down at himself, confused. "Watson," he said, his brows furrowed. "Why am I naked?"

"Don't you remember?" I asked, "you've been drugged. Williams was going to sacrifice you to his pet demon in return for dominion over the world."

He shook his head. "I remember him telling the Druidess to kill you as they dragged me away and I thought – I thought that there was nothing left for me; after that – nothing, until just now."

I thought to myself that it was probably a mercy, even as I wondered how long his confused state would last, but I only said heartily, "You'll be fine as soon as we can get you out of this cave and into the air. You're safe now and Williams is dead." Reaching for the discarded robe on the ground, I wrapped it about Holmes's shivering form and led him, arms linked, his head resting on my shoulder, toward the entrance.

Once outside, despite the gravity of the situation, I paused to look about me in wonder. The sun had long since sunk below the horizon. In its place, the midwinter moon rode high and serene in the sky. In the profound stillness, a heavy frost had fallen and the moonlight glanced and shimmered on a thousand points of light which covered the sparkling ground like a veil of diamonds.

Miss Morgaine sat on a rock just outside the cavern. Wordlessly, she held out Holmes's boots and pointed to the flickering lights approaching from the direction of the village.

I took in deep lungfuls of the bracing air and it seemed to clear my head a little. Holmes did the same and in a few moments he seemed more himself, though he had to clench his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering.

"Now tell me, Miss Morgaine," he began, "before the others arrive, what kind of hold did Williams have on you? I perceive that you were not a willing participant in all this."

"You are right," she replied. "At first I welcomed Aiden when he arrived here from America, with his knowledge and the herbal lore he learned from the Red Indians there. I was charmed by both his learning and his person. Later, when I began to see a sinister purpose behind his manner, it was too late. He gave it out that I was a woman scorned and jealous of his power, thus discrediting me and ensuring that no-one would listen to anything I could say against him. In that way, he forced me to cooperate with him, but when I saw that he had become obsessed with raising the demon, I could no longer hold my tongue and watch the altar of the Goddess polluted with a blood sacrifice, in the death of that innocent girl. So I wrote to you in desperation, hoping that you would believe me. Somehow Aidenn discovered my plans and prevented me from speaking to you when you arrived. Thank God that you found the note I was able to slip under your door and arrived in time to put a stop to this monstrous perversion."

The next day, when we I judged Holmes so far recovered as to travel, we returned to Baker Street. Even before our bags were set down, Holmes reached eagerly for his index, flipping through the pages until he found the entry he sought. With a little sigh of satisfaction, he handed me the 'W' volume. "I have found our man," he said. "Had I not been drugged, I would have remembered sooner. Although I never met the man, I first became aware of Aidenn Williams – or just plain 'James' Williams as he was then known – over the shocking affair of Sir Horatio Pemberley's dog back in '85. In the end, Sir Horatio declined to bring charges and the whole matter blew over when Williams decamped for America, where as Miss Morgaine told us, he spent some time among the Red Indians of the Southwestern United States. The medicine men there use a plant or fungus which is native to the area in their ceremonies. They ingest or smoke the substance which they believe invokes a being who guides them through the underworld in their search for enlightenment. Undoubtedly, it was there that Williams acquired a supply of this substance."

"Which must be what he used to drug you, Holmes, as well as his followers," I broke in.

"Exactly,Watson. It was this substance which induced them to follow him blindly. It is known to induce hallucinations of the most potent and disturbing character. If he used it regularly, he may have even come to believe his own doctrine."

Holmes gave a little sigh of satisfaction. "A search of the cavern revealed a supply of the drugs Williams used on his followers and upon himself as well. It's a good days' work we have done, Watson."

"Considering that you were almost killed and I am only a useless cripple," I remarked bitterly, for Williams's words still rankled.

"Oh, never think that, my dear boy," said Holmes, leaning forward and placing his pale hand on mine. "But I am very glad that Williams thought you so. I could not have made the shot that you did. You were able to drop Willliams cleanly from clear across the cavern. You saved my life, my boy," he continued, gazing earnestly at me.

The moment seemed uncomfortably charged with emotion between us, so after holding his gaze briefly, I confess that I blushed and dropped my eyes as a vision of his pale body, bound supine upon the altar rose before my eyes. Enough to tempt a demon indeed, let alone a lesser man like myself. Aloud I only said, "I am here to be used, as always, Holmes. Why, if Miss Morgaine is to be believed, perhaps I even saved the world!"

"Tut, man," snapped Holmes. You are a man of science and this is the nineteenth century. Do not tell me that you believe that madman actually had the power to summon a demon to do his bidding? No, it was all merely the ravings of a mind disordered by ingestion of his own drugs."

Aloud, I agreed with Holmes. His rational mind would allow for no other explanation. Privately, I was not so sure. I shuddered inwardly whenever I thought of the stealthy way that sluggish trickle of blood had crept with seeming purpose towards the altar. However, back at home, with the sun shining outside and the streets filled with the bustle of the coming holidays, it all seemed far away.

"I don't think you will be regaling your readers of the Stand Magazine with this tale, Watson," said Holmes, breaking in on my thoughts. "Let us ring for tea and see if the morning's post has brought us any of those interesting little puzzles that serve to break up the tedium of life."
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