I'm Watson in the Air

I’m Watson In The Air

By Paul Bunday

“My dear fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes, as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings one Christmas Eve, “life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plans, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outré results. It would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”

“And yet I am not convinced of it,” I answered.

“Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”

I smiled and shook my head. “I can quite understand your thinking so.” I said. “Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you are brought in contact with all that is strange and bizarre. But here”—I picked up the morning paper from the ground—”let us put it to a practical test. Here is the first heading upon which I come…. ‘

“No, not right now old man, I’m shagged,’ yawned Holmes. ‘I can’t really be arsed right now. I’m afraid it’ll have to wait till morning.” With that he extinguished his pipe and retired to his room. Merry Christmas Holmes!

It was bitterly cold and frosty the next morning that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face and told me at a glance that something was up.

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

“But Holmes its Christmas day!” I protested. Ten minutes later we were both in the sitting room. Holmes in his heavy coat and I the same, The first faint winter’s dawn was beginning to appear through the open bow windows and the air was most bitter.

‘Holmes, what is it?’

‘It’s a bay window.’

“Bay window or bow window?’

‘No matter. Take my arm.’ He said impatiently, “Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London. I’ll show you something that’ll make you change your mind.” I gripped my friends arm tight. To my surprise Holmes suddenly leapt into the void taking me with him. My heart leapt as we plummeted into darkness, the frozen pavement below seeming to rise to meet us. Suddenly inexplicably our descent was arrested and we seemed to float in mid-air.

“Good Heavens!” I ejaculated. “We’re walking in the air!”

Kicking his legs as if swimming, we were suddenly cast forward into the London night, soaring, rocketing high over rooftops, diving down low through the alleys. We could dimly see the occasional figure of an early workman as we passed, blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek. It wasn’t long before we had left the capital and were gliding over frosted fields, the dots of scattered farm animals, the sharp pointed peaks of trees and beyond them the silvery glint of the far-off sea.

To my amazement, Holmes began to sing:

“We're walking in the air

We're floating in the moonlit sky

The people far below are sleeping as we fly

I'm holding very tight

I'm riding in the midnight blue

I'm finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world

The villages go by like trees

The rivers and the hills

The forests and the streams

Children gaze open mouth

Taken by surprise

Nobody down below believes their eyes

We're surfing in the air

We're swimming in the frozen sky

We're drifting over icy

Mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep

Arousing of a mighty monster from its sleep

We're walking in the air

We're floating in the midnight sky

And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly!…”

Without realising it we had soon returned to the capital and were presently hovering over the roof of a ramshackle building, a very dirty place, dismal and dreary. There was a garret window with rusty bars outside, which had no shutter. We dropped down to peer through the soot stained glass. The rooms upstairs were black with neglect and dust. The only light which was admitted stealing its way in which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with strange shadows. Amongst these shadows were the forms of sleeping children, lying rough on the bare wooden floors dozens of them, huddled against the cold.

‘Holmes,’ said I, ‘who on earth can possibly live here?’

‘In our heart of hearts, Watson we know very well who might live here.’

No sooner had he uttered those words than we were once more returned to the familiar sight of Baker Street. We circled around, high above, for now the reason unapparent to me. Before long, the ragged form of a small boy rounded the corner, dragging his feet through the snow towards us. The swirling flurry cleared enough to see the urchins face.

“What’s to-day?” cried Holmes, calling downward to Wiggins.

“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

“What’s to-day, my young fellow?” said Holmes.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Holmes to himself. “Hallo, my fine fellow!”

“Hallo!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Holmes inquired.

“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Holmes. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Holmes. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied Wiggins.

“Is it?” said Holmes. “Go and buy it.”

“Walk-er!” exclaimed the boy.

“No, no,” said Holmes, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

The boy was off like a shot..

It was a Christmas Day to remember. Courtesy of Mrs Hudson, the rank and file of the Baker Street Irregulars had a feast like never before. Enough to feed an army. For an army it was. One that we had great cause to be grateful for. And Holmes?

He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Wiggins, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Wiggins was wont to observe, God bless Us, Every One!