[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: The Case of the Rose by Another Name
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] winryweiss
Author: [livejournal.com profile] hiddenlacuna
Rating: General
Characters, including any pairing(s): Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson
Words: 2076
Warnings, if any: None
Summary: Dr. Watson is called to attend to Holmes, who has a terrible cold after a case. Holmes recounts the case that led him to become ill. Pretty much a Victorian Shaggy Dog story.

As any writer knows, there are some stories which simply are not fit to be published for one reason or another. Although my friendship with Sherlock Holmes certainly gave me an embarrassment of riches with regard to what I was able to share with the public, there remains the occasional anecdote perhaps better left as a private joke instead of aired for the public to see. The following tale, which I record purely for my own amusement, is one of those.

It was during my happy and all too brief marriage to my dearest Mary, God rest her soul, that my little tale took place. I had not been seeing as much of Holmes of late as had been my bachelor’s habit. I had found more than enough, between my growing medical practice and my happy domestic sphere, to keep me diverted and unavailable to accompany Holmes on his mad dashes around London as he rooted out the criminal element like a pig after black truffles. In truth, I scarcely had time to miss my adventures with my old friend, although I confess that there were times when, late at night and alone with my thoughts and a glass of brandy in front of the fire, I wondered what he might be doing at that moment.

However, one evening as I was finishing my notes on the day's patients and preparing to leave my surgery in anticipation of one of Mary's fine dinners, there came a pounding on the outer door of my practice. Expecting a medical emergency of some kind, I hastily packed my doctor's bag and hurried to the door to greet my urgent caller and discover what was the matter. It was a messenger with a note from my previous landlady, Mrs. Hudson, insisting that I come and ply my trade upon Holmes, lest she be tempted to drown him in the washbasin just to get some peace.

I sent word to Mary that I would be delayed and gave my regrets that I would not see her that evening, then caught the first available hansom to Baker Street. I was not certain what to expect, but on my arrival I found a miserable Holmes curled up in his chair as close to the fire as possible and sneezing with alarming regularity.

"My dear Holmes," I cried, "what on earth have you been doing?" I rushed to his side to take his pulse, assess the pallor and clamminess of his skin, and palpate the swollen glands under his jaw. He did not seem to be in any immediate danger, but he was certainly suffering from one of the worst colds I had ever seen in my medical career.

"Piffle, Watson. It is the mildest complaint I have had in my..." he said, before dissolving into another sneezing fit. Instructing Mrs. Hudson to bring provisions for my patient, I set about my task. Between bouts of sneezing and the occasional coughing jag, which I will omit for brevity's sake, this was the tale he told me.

"I have been posing as a hansom driver for a fortnight now in aid of a most interesting case. My services had been engaged by the youngest daughter of the late Earl of Rosson, who had noticed that her mother had begun to exhibit some very queer behaviour indeed and was worried that she might be no longer entirely compos mentis. Naturally, she wanted to be certain before bringing a doctor in to consult, since if she had been wrong she would surely have been disowned. Lady Catherine Rosson is rather known for having a quick and cutting tempter, if you recall, Watson. Thank you, I don't want any broth right now.

"The Lady had been for some weeks leaving the house on her usual social calendar of balls, dinners, operas, concerts, and the like. But she had developed a curious quirk - nearly every time she went out, twenty minutes after leaving for the evening, she would return to her house, claiming to have forgotten an item of jewellery, spend no more than two minutes in locating it, and then be off on her way again. Her lady's maid was sick with worry that she would be given notice for her failure to ensure her mistress' outfit was complete, but in the morning Lady Rosson would be no more displeased with her service than usual.

"I watched the house for three evenings together until I was sure of the pattern. Lady Rosson would indeed leave as scheduled for her event, and would then return a short time later for a brief visit. You might be wondering at this point, Watson, whether the Lady was expecting to surprise her maid in idleness, impropriety, or theft, but the truth of the thing was far more devious. Oh, if you insist, but only so that you will stop trying to force it upon me.

"I had noticed, of course, that the cab in which Lady Rosson left her house the first time was not the same cab by which she made her brief return. Now, clearly a lady would have no reason to send a perfectly good cab away to hire a new one each time, if for no other reason than that she would have to waste time standing about on street corners, hailing her own transportation. Unthinkable! On the third night, I followed this second cab to its destination - not, as the Lady's plans had been, to the Opera, but to a small but well-appointed home about ten minutes away in Cheapside. I watched Lady Rosson disappear inside, but she did not emerge again that night or indeed the next morning.

"I bribed a particularly wretched-looking driver handsomely to let me take over his business for a week, and he was only too glad to accept in order to be out of the November weather for a few nights without loss of income. I had only to wait for the right night to confirm my suspicions. I had posted Wiggins outside Lady Rosson's residence with strict instructions to come and inform me the moment she left the house. I waited three nights at the reins of my cab without either hearing from Wiggins or seeing anyone stir from the Cheapside house. Watson, I am sure I have never seen half of these blankets before - where on earth is Mrs. Hudson producing them from?

"On the third night, my patience paid off. The first curious incident was that, while there had been neither messenger nor delivery to this house for any of the three previous nights, on this night there came a small boy who ran up to the house, knocked five times on the door, then ran off again. Moments after this display, Wiggins arrived to give me the news I was of course expecting - that Lady Rosson had just left her house for the evening, bound for a soirée at Lord Heatherby's.

"I saw the lady emerge from the house before me, look frantically around, and signal for a cab. I, naturally, was the closest, and picked the lady up. When I heard her give the address of the Rosson home, all of the facts fell neatly into place. I drove her immediately, not to her house, but to Scotland Yard. Surely, Watson, by now the solution to the riddle is as plain to you as it was to me?"

I sighed, and turned from where I had been building the fire to a roaring blaze. "I should imagine some sort of impropriety on the lady's part. Perhaps her social engagements were a cover for a blossoming romance with someone of lesser social standing?"

Holmes let out a barking laugh at my attempt at deduction, which quickly became a prolonged bout of the most violent coughing. When he had recovered his breath, he smiled. "But, Watson, how then was the lady able to be in two places at once? That would surely be a trick worth learning if it were possible!"

"Whatever the reason, Holmes, it surely cannot have required you to nearly catch your death of chill and damp." I passed him my handkerchief, for he had once again begun to sneeze, and all of his own were in a sodden clump at his feet.

"Ah, but it did!" he exclaimed, his eyes glowing with either triumph or fever. "By eliminating all other possibilities, I was able to definitively conclude that the mysterious return visits were not Lady Catherine Rosson herself, but her estranged twin sister, Margaret, gaining access to her house and jewels, and carrying off a piece at a time! Evidently there had been some argument over the division of pieces of their mother's estate, and Margaret had simply decided to set what she perceived as an injustice to rights. None of Lady Catherine's servants knew she had an identical sister, and they certainly wouldn't have questioned their mistress, lest they risk her notorious wrath. I put an end to the charade by delivering the unfortunate Margaret to the door of Scotland Yard and threatening to arrest her myself for theft and impersonation.

"She begged me for mercy, swore that she would never set foot in her sister's house again, and promised that she would bequeath all of her rightfully-owned jewels to Lady Catherine's daughters, as she herself has no children. I'm sure that it will not be long until they come into their rightful property, nor that Inspector Hopkins would have thanked me for bringing him an eighty-seven year old prisoner, so I returned her home, collected the purloined gems, and returned them to Lady Catherine's butler in the guise of a priest who had heard a poor soul's confession who wished to set his misdeeds to right. I suspect that if Lady Catherine had not noticed her jewels going missing, she will not notice them being returned, and I rather suspect that her household will come to the same conclusion. So, all's well that ends well, and I will be able to report to my client that her mother is perfectly lucid, and that I expect the odd behaviour to cease from here on out."

It was at this point that I let out a simply enormous sneeze. I am fairly certain that the pictures shook on the walls. Our eyes met.

My friend's eyes danced, even as he coughed into his fist. "Mrs Hudson!" he croaked, stamping his foot on the floor three times to summon her. When she appeared in the doorway, he motioned for her to stop at the threshold. "Don't come in, Mrs Hudson. I'm afraid that the little illness which has inconvenienced me has now affected Dr. Watson. I do hope your supply of blankets has not yet run out! Will you be so good as to send a message to Mrs Watson that we will need to quarantine her husband here at Baker Street until this illness has run its course?" She nodded and fled, shutting the door behind her. I glared at Holmes as another sneezing fit took me. "Well, Watson. It has often been said that misery loves company. What fine company you shall be!"

For the next three days, until we were quite recovered, the sitting room of Baker Street positively rang with the trumpeting nose-blows of two men in the grips of a terrible cold. We spent our days in bickering over trifles, games of chess, deductions of passerby seen through the window (which Holmes always won, or at least claimed to have done), and reminiscences of our favourite cases together. Of course, we disagreed on which case was the most interesting, or which of my little stories in the Strand ought to have received so much attention while others remained less popular. We were heartily sick of one another by the time we were well again. Indeed, I had never been so glad to go home to my Mary, and I include my own wedding day in that calculation. But now that the annoyances have faded with the years and I recall with a nostalgic eye the time shut up with my friend, I am certain that this brief period remains one of my most cherished episodes during my long friendship with Sherlock Holmes.

And that is why, between ourselves and privately, we refer to this incident as the Wars of the Noses.
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