and the


of BLY






For Gwendoline Monica Serrell

13 February–19 April 1911

“White flowers their mourners are, Nature their passing bell.”

—John Clare, Graves of Infants



The Case of a Boy’s Honour


The Case of the Ghosts at Bly


Sherlock Holmes the Actor


The Case of the Matinee Idol


The Case of a

Boy’s Honour


Those of my readers who have followed Holmes and me through our investigations of “The Case of the Greek Key” and “The Case of the Zimmermann Telegram” will know of our friendship with Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fisher. At a glance, he and Holmes were quite unlike. Holmes was a private man with a fame he would gladly have avoided. Fisher was a public figure. He was in the limelight as the creator of a modern Royal Navy in the years preceding the war of 1914–1918. Before that, he had supported the building of HMS Dreadnaught and her sister battleships when Germany had not laid a single keel of such a titan. His foresight ensured Britain’s supremacy at sea during the dangerous decade to come.

Not everyone admired Sir John Fisher. A man cannot uproot and reform the Committee for Imperial Defence without making enemies. Government officials do not like abrupt demands for “a modern navy in a modern world.” Few are comfortable with a naval policy of “Hit first, hit hard, and keep on hitting.” To Mr Asquith’s cabinet this was very close to Fisher’s advice to King Edward, that the Royal Navy should sink the Kaiser’s High Seas Fleet at its moorings in Kiel Harbour without a declaration of war—and offer generous terms among the ruins.

Holmes and Fisher certainly shared the character of a troublemaker. Each was unconventional and unpredictable. Fisher vexed and irritated the politicians and Admiralty officials as surely as Holmes got under the skin of Scotland Yard. The two men recognised this quality in one another and built a comradeship upon it.

On a May morning in 1913 my friend opened an envelope at breakfast and informed me that his elder brother Mycroft was bringing Jackie Fisher to tea that afternoon at three o’clock.

“I daresay, Watson, it is a friendly call at short notice. It is not necessary that you should stay in if you have already made other arrangements. Needless to say, you would confer a favour upon me by being here.”

When Fisher and Mycroft Holmes came to Baker Street together at short notice, you could be sure that it was something more than a friendly call.

“I should not miss it for the world,” I said cheerfully.

He seemed relieved.

“There must be buttered muffins,” he said presently, dangling a pipe spill absent-mindedly, “I shall go and inform Mrs Hudson. Brother Mycroft is partial to muffins, especially when served with strawberry jam.”

As he went out, I returned to the county cricket in The Times. The May weather in England had been atrocious. On several days the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten on our windows from breakfast until supper. “Rain stopped play” appeared against almost two-thirds of the batting scores. I had no idea as I scanned the list of abandoned matches how important this recent weather would be to us during the next few days. Happily, since the previous evening, an improvement had set in. A strong morning sun now warmed the pedestrians and shopkeepers in the street below us. Surely we might hope for something better at last.

A few minutes after three o’clock that afternoon the hollow hoof-beats of a carriage, from the direction of the Regent’s Park, slowed and stopped.

“Every eighth hoof-beat cries for a new shoe,” said Holmes, sitting with his eyelids closed and the tips of his fingers touching lightly together. “Therefore it is a carriage and pair. Mycroft does not care to be seen driving in a single-horse cab. No other visitor to these premises would go to the expense of a pair. I deduce that our guests

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