By Edgar W. Smith
First published in the Baker Street Journal for July 1955, reused here by permission.
It is Holmesworthy to speculate what our choice might be if some guardian angel, with his wings spread over Baker Street, were to make use the gift of a firm and intimate friendship with one—just one—of the personages in the Saga.
We are led to suspect, somehow, that not many of us would elect for the Master himself. He is too much a being apart, and paradoxically, too much at one with us, to make a physical propinquity altogether plausible; and, to be perfectly practical about it, we are none of us Watsons, after all: the sense of inferiority that would overwhelm us, compounded by the sardonic gibes that would often be our lot, would be more than most of us could comfortably put up with. Nor would we, of course, go to the other extreme of asking for an affinity with Professor Moriarty—he would, we must think, either burden us unduly with mathematical gibberish and excursions into the rarefied areas where energy equals mass in grams times the square of the speed of light in centimeters per second, or he would induct us into some of his more mundane machinations to the point that we might find ourselves inextricably entangled in the exiguous threads of the criminal webs he was weaving.
Mrs. Hudson would, perhaps, attract us: it must be warm and cozy in that ground-floor flat at 221B Baker Street (or was the ground floor numbered simply 221, with only the floor above distinguished by the supplementary designation?), and there would be good gossip and conciergic anecdote pertaining to the strange lodgers she harbored; but after a while this association, one thinks, would wear thin. Lestrade does not commend himself, nor do any of the other personae who wander on and off the stage, including even brother Mycroft. . . . No, it seems there could be only one inevitable and ineluctable candidate for the companionship to which we might aspire—and that one, it is hardly necessary to insist, would be John H. Watson himself.
What joys would lie before us if we could settle down on a long winter's evening, with the wind crying and sobbing like a child in the chimney, and the sea-coals blazing in the hearth, with that stout right hand of Sherlock Holmes sitting in the chair across! There would be no forced prattle—for we, like Watson, would have learned to cultivate that “grand gift of silence.” But after a while, we like to think, he would put down the fine sea story of Clark Russell's he was reading, and—a distant look coming into his eyes—he would murmur:
“I ought to tell you, some time, about the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the Island of Uffa. . . . I never had a chance to write it down, but it was one of Holmes's best cases, and it had some most peculiar features about it. You see the Grice Patersons were not a family, they were a group of speleologists; and the island wasn't an island in the sense of a body of land surrounded by water—if it had been, I'd have said on the Island of Uffa. . . . No, Uffa was a sort of enclave where the old Britons held out in caves for a great many years after the Roman came, and. . .”
And then the story would be told.
Let any who will have their other personages, high or low, whose intimate presence, day after day, would be too much or too little for us to bear. We, for all he is and for all he could give us, will take Watson.