“Are you ready, Violet?”
“Just a moment! I’m coming!” Violet Hunter checked her reflection in the mirror and once again adjusted a comb in her long copper-colored hair. She grabbed her winter wrap and muff from the bed, then turned once more to look at her dormitory room. Who could have imagined that this would be her life now? She certainly couldn’t, and she’d been living it for four months! Just this spring, she was a struggling governess, tempted into accepting an offer which seemed too good to be true. Sherlock Holmes himself had advised her against it. But, headstrong as usual, she’d gone and taken it anyway, and fallen into the clutches of the most wicked family since the Penges.*
After Holmes and Dr. Watson had rescued her, she thought to find another governess position, but found that every situation she was offered sounded creepier than the last. She had almost given up on the idea of being a teacher of any kind when she received a letter from Alice Rucastle Fowler. Enclosed was a large cheque, to be used for her further education. Now she was a student at Girton–a woman’s college in Cambridge, and she had every intention of making her dreams come true! But that was after a holiday at the country home of her new friend, Isobel St. Simon. It had been such a surprise to find that Isobel’s family had its own Sherlock Holmes story to tell! They would surely be comparing notes at Christmas dinner.
The porter had already taken her trunk, and Isobel was calling again. Before she locked her dormitory room for the final time that year, Violet spared a wish for the man who had made her new, wonderful life possible.
“Merry Christmas, Sherlock Holmes.”
It can be entertaining to try to figure out why Sir Arthur mentions particular towns in his stories. Why, when it came time to pick a place, did that one come to mind? So it is with “Walsall,” a large market town in Staffordshire. With a little digging, I was able to come up with at least one reason–one of Conan Doyle’s friends (also a writer) was born there. Who was it?
Sherlockiana might be the publishing-est fandom ever. Ever since the Strand published “A Scandal in Bohemia,” there has been no shortage of magazines looking to print Holmesian material. The latest in that number is The Sherlock Holmes Magazine. Not to be confused with the older, now defunct periodical of the same name, this one is a glossy from the UK and covers all aspects of the Sherlockian world. Today’s prize is a year’s subscription–three issues. Here are the first three issues, so you can get an idea of what you’d be getting in the mail.
And speaking of mail, be sure to send your answer to the above question to me via blog entry, or message me on the Well-Read Sherlockian Facebook page!
Congratulations to Jim Bennett, winner of the Day 8 prize. Violet Smith’s ill-fated music post was near Farnham, in Surrey; coincidentally, the first person to play Holmes in a screen adaptation of “The Solitary Cyclist” was Eille Norwood, who would live, and eventually be buried in, Farnham.
*The Penge murder(s) occurred in 1877, when infant Thomas Staunton and his mother, Harriet Richardson, died of malnutrition and neglect after being imprisoned in a house in Kent. Harriet eventually died in a house in Penge, hence the name for the crime. Louis Staunton, Patrick Staunton, Elizabeth Staunton and Alice Rhodes were tried for Harriet’s murder in the fall of that year; all were found guilty and sentenced to hang. After a letter-writing campaign led by physicians who believed that the medical evidence left room for reasonable doubt, Alice Rhodes was pardoned. The other three saw their sentences commuted to life in prison, although only Patrick Staunton would die there. Elizabeth Staunton was released in 1883, and Louis Staunton was released in 1897; he emigrated to Australia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Harriet_Staunton.