Sherlock Holmes’s brain needed to be permanently busy, otherwise it would gargle. The noise made by a brain gargling is one of the most painful things to hear, perhaps only comparable to the noise made by two members of parliament when they are crushed against each other. If this noise is accompanied by the continuous turning of the eye pupils and a convulsive movement of the whole body similar to that of a “rumba” dancer, you will understand that I, Dr John Watson, decided to invent a case only for appease my friend’s fasting brain. Who would have thought that what began as a purely invented case would eventually lead to the neutralization of an imminent attack on Queen Victoria herself.
But let’s take it bit by bit.
One morning my friend Holmes received a letter that I had written using the automatic writing system. That is: taking care to forge the handwriting, I had let my hand write at will without me being aware of the words I was producing. The result was as follows:
“My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes:
I am writing on behalf of my bedroom dresser, which is in danger of being execrated by a synod of Catholic bishops. Don’t ask me how I found out, because I don’t even know it myself. I only ask you to keep in mind that I have been locked in this room for three days squeezing lemons without stopping and I still have no idea who is going to drink all this lemonade.”
The fool in the corner”
As soon as Holmes read the letter, his eyes stopped turning on its orbits, his brain ceased to gargle and his body acquired again the calm that characterized it.
“My dear Watson (he told me), I bet this case will require all our insight and our logical reasoning.” And immediately he ran to the open window and began to shout at the street with all his might: “Help! Help!!” Upset by this unexpected reaction from my friend, I also ran to the window and slammed it shut. “Have you gone mad?!” I blurted out. “What do you intend to achieve by scandalizing the neighbourhood at such an early hour?”
“I try to attract the policeman in the corner” was his response.
“Because he is the author of the letter.”
“But the letter is signed by the fool in the corner, not the policeman in the corner”, I objected.
“Don’t be punctilious, Watson.”
“In any case, Holmes, I’ll get it. No need to disturb the neighbourhood.”
So I headed towards the corner of the street thinking how I could attract the policeman in question. On the way an idea occurred to me. It was not hard to convince the policeman to accompany me when I told him that a murder was being committed at No. 221B, Baker Street. And indeed, when we arrived, we found Holmes in a state of frenzy trying to drown our landlady by keeping her face submerged in the washbasin. Apparently, Mrs Hudson had brought the breakfast tray and had taken the opportunity to ask Holmes for the two months of rent we owed her.
The thing is that Holmes was transferred to the police station accused of attempted murder. Luckily, our old acquaintance Inspector Lestrade was present and cleared up the misunderstanding: Holmes had simply tried to wash Mrs. Hudson’s face, refractory to all kinds of body cleansing that she was. Then Holmes confronted the policeman who had arrested him with the letter he allegedly had written. As he refused to acknowledge the authorship, Holmes, stirred by a frenzy of excitement, tried to drown him in a washbasin. Lestrade and I prevented it at the last moment, but again the policeman wanted to incriminate Holmes of attempted murder. However, Lestrade convinced him that our friend was a cleaning fan and that he had simply tried to wash the policeman’s face.
Once this unfortunate misunderstanding was cleared up, my friend resumed the interrogation of the policeman. But since he was as elusive as before, Holmes dipped his face back into the basin forcing Lestrade and me to intervene again to stop further damage. Finally, under the continuous threat of the washbasin, the policeman acknowledged being the author of the letter and agreed to accompany us to his house to inspect his bedroom dresser.
As Holmes had suspected for the way in which “bedroom dresser” was written in the letter, the dresser’s drawers turned out to be full of liniment. And after several minutes with his head submerged in the washbasin (which Holmes had entrusted me to transport through the busy streets of London trying not to spill a single drop), the policeman finally confessed that, taking advantage of his capacity as a member of the law enforcement forces, he intended to sneak into Buckingham Palace to apply the liniment to her Majesty Queen Victoria by dint of continuous friction until leaving her with the looking of a herring.