It took me several days to recover myself before I could speak to Mary about what had happened during our last moments of intimacy. I was shocked when she calmly suggested we invite Mr. Holmes into the bedroom with us, not merely for the fact that she was willing to accommodate my proclivities but because the thought of presenting this to Holmes was so laughably absurd. I had never, in fact, committed any such acts with him, and my unwitting revelation was a result of months of elaborate fantasies conjured in the privacy of my study.
Holmes himself had so often accused me of being overly fanciful in my retelling of his cases, and I daresay the habit was fast becoming my undoing, for the assistance of a tallow candle and the advanced technical use of my hand I could nearly imagine he was really there and loving me in the rigorous manner I had described for Mary.
I felt terrible, of course, mortified and guilty, even when I assured my wife that I had been unfaithful only in heart and not in deed. But Mary is no fool, nor is she given to hysterics, and when she told me that she’d rather we both be happy, I was so singularly grateful I almost forgot the hurdle that lay ahead. She was never coarse or angry about my gross indiscretion; in fact, during the past four weeks she had been spending so much time with her friend Mrs. Norton that she, too, seemed to undergo a kind of transformation. The two of them had become inseparable, having tea every day, performing charity work around the city, attending parlor concerts together, and she was emerging as a stronger, prouder version of herself.
I hoped I would fare half as well, for when I contacted Holmes and offered my assistance to him again, he was ever his brisk and business-like self. He did seem genuinely pleased to hear from me, and my return to the familiar comforts of our sitting room was met with a warm handshake and heartfelt smile. So happy was I to be in his company again that I decided to let him broach the subject of my sudden reappearance in order that I might enjoy the assurance of his friendship just a while longer. In the meantime, I continued to imagine how he would look sodding me blind. For better or worse, this lasted precisely one week.
“Watson,” he said, “your hat has not been brushed for five days, you have taken seventeen of Mrs. Hudson’s last twenty-one meals and the suitcase that sits in your old bedroom has a curious air of permanence about it. While it pains to pry into your domestic affairs, I do feel entitled to ask what has caused you to reclaim a bachelor’s habits.”
Slowly, and with a few stops and starts, I told him I was in love with someone else.
“Ah,” he said, raising an eyebrow, “and the name of this very fortunate lady is…?”
I looked him straight in the eye. “His name is Sherlock Holmes.”