Sherlock Holmes and the German Ocean the Third Instalment

The story so far. It is the morning of Christmas Day 1906. The previous day, a mysterious and beautiful young lady - believed to be a princess of the royal family of Bohemia - had called at Holmes's rooms and 22B Baker St London. She had been staying at Captain Vernon Wentworth's new hotel on Tiffany Corner, Aldeburgh, where here jewellery had been stolen from a locked room. Holmes announced he would stay in London. Meanwhile Dr Watson was dispatched to Aldeburgh and had found lodgings at the Cross Hotel, a mean establishment frequented by local fishermen smugglers, footpads and wreckers.

The thief was to be found among the townsfolk, so surmised Dr Watson. With these thoughts in mind and the solution to the crime seemingly within his grasp, Dr Watson made his way to the windswept beach where a crowd was assembling and the traditional Christmas Day swim was about to take place.

Dr Watson continues the story....

While I soon learned that the Christmas Day swim was a traditional event with a long history, I was also suprised to find that it was not without controversy. The curate of St Peter and St Paul's Anglican Church, The Reverend De Montague James, condemned the swim as a pagan themselves by frolicking in the waves.

Dr James took his revenge by ringing the church bells even more vigorously, insistently, disharmoniously, and longer than usual. I recognised several of the pears: nine tailors, plain bob triples; bowbells and weasels - each of them rendered with ear - crunching discords. Even the new Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Peter joined in, although whether in competition of in solidarity it is hard to say. The salvation Army, sensing the presence of potential converts, mounted a band of drums, brass and tambourines on a little wooden stand known as Libardi’s Mount, from where they handed out copies of The War Cry and sang “Throw out the lifeline, someone is sinking today.” Bizarrely, the tall lean violinist whom I had seen at the railway station the evening before - so strange and yet so familiar - had also set up and was playing The Devil’s Trill alongside the pier. The crowd steadily increased and flowed to the water’s edge.

Then suddenly the storm broke and everyone rushed for shelter. I noticed the sundial on the wall of the Moote Hall and the inscription underneath ‘O lente lente currite noctis equi’ which I recognised as a quotation from Ovid ‘Oh slowly, slowly, let them run, the horses of the night!’ I too needed more time, much more time - even though I had promised our client that I would solve the crime by the end of the day. Perhaps I needed help after all. It was at that moment that I glanced again at the tall thin violinist, still playing while the rain lashed around him. Raindrops formed into translucent globes at the end of his aquiline nose, before teetering on the brink and falling over. His long bony fingers darted over the strings. How strange, and yet how familiar he seemed. I went over to satisfy my curiosity...

To be continued.