Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advice not taken

Speaking of Holmes, I've been doing a little work on some scenes from DIM lately.

We all know that in the Speckled Band, Holmes doesn't regret causing Dr. Roylott's death by snake, and sounds even a little proud of it. However, in my novel-in-progress, the Surrey County police aren't so supportive of his actions. They suspect Holmes of premeditated murder, so Helen Stoner has to lie to convince them that Roylott was just sleepwalking and was killed by his secret pet snake.

I have now rewritten my Brotherly Advice sketch to show Mycroft disapproving as well. He lectures Sherlock until he sees that killing Roylott was an unnecessary and illogical step. Foolhardy and reckless, even.

Brotherly Advice, revised

Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: sketch from chapter 7 of DIM
Pairing: Holmes/Helen Stoner
Warnings: PG, hetero

In about May or June of 1883, Holmes visits his brother in Pall Mall, and they sit down to drinks. Small talk about Watson still writing, then Sherlock tells his brother all about the Speckled Band case.

Mycroft interrupts him after hearing all of the morning interview with Helen Stoner. "Dr. Roylott, of course, was the murderer, and he introduced a snake through the ventilator to kill Julia."

Sherlock nods, grumbling briefly that he had been led astray by suspecting the gypsies.

Mycroft smiles at his less perceptive brother, saying that gypsies are often wrongly suspected of crimes by citizens and police needing someone to blame. "I hope that in future you will keep logic in mind, and not be swayed by common prejudice."

Sherlock looks chastised. "I shall do my best."

Then Mycroft asks, "You were successful, though, in preventing your client from becoming the next victim?" Sherlock had practical uses after all, and Mycroft would have been too lazy to introduce proofs that could have arrested the villain.

Sherlock nods and swallows, then continues his account of the case.

Slowly, Mycroft becomes less amused and more concerned. He no longer thinks of this as a fun intellectual exercise.

Sherlock keeps pausing to say things like, "Is she not clever? She knew that the building repairs were simply a pretence to move her into Julia's room." He seems unduly impressed with certain things Helen Stoner says and does.

Mycroft warns, "She is engaged to be married."

"I know." With difficulty, Sherlock carries on, through the vigil and the morning after.

Mycroft is fully disapproving now. He protests that Sherlock should not have killed Roylott, taking such a risk of arrest, trial, and imprisonment. Sherlock should have captured the snake instead and had Roylott arrested. "I know you enjoy an active adventure, but how could you involve your friend Watson as an accessory to this? You could have been hanged for murder. You are extremely lucky that the local police accepted that nonsense about Roylott having an accident with his dangerous pet."

"Not luck. She had considerable influence with the police."

"Even still, Sherlock! Behaving in this way, you were no better than Jefferson Hope, taking justice into his own hands. You would really sacrifice your freedom and your profession, for what? She wasn't even your sister."

"I know!" Sherlock says that's what worries him. Then continues telling Mycroft of the morning after the case, and how Helen Stoner has put off her wedding to travel now. He asks semi-seriously if Helen Stoner is like "the most winning woman I ever knew."

"No, Sherlock, she is not a poisoner of little children."

He rolled his eyes at the sarcasm, then pleaded more earnestly, "Are you sure there is no resemblance at all? She is clever and perhaps she has deceived me."

"Sherlock, do you not trust my judgement of the facts?"

"Yes, yes, Mycroft. But you only know what facts I can tell you. Perhaps my observations were faulty. My deductions certainly were." Still can't get over the snake-milk blunder. He stands up, pacing around. "Perhaps I should borrow Watson's case notes to show you? But his account will be romanticised, and I fear that he too may have been blinded by her... charms."

"On the contrary, I believe that your friend Dr. Watson was perfectly correct. You didn't have enough sleep that morning or afternoon, and it made your logical faculties weak. You instead relied on some kind of irrational intuition to solve the case. That is the only explanation."

Sherlock insists desperately, "But--but it wasn't just that day in April! Weeks later, after the coroner's inquest, I saw her and..."

Mycroft dismissed it all with a shrug. "So she lied elaborately to save her family's reputation. A great many people do so, whether in society circles or in international politics. It does not make her exceptional, but mundane rather. I see nothing in her postponing her wedding either. She may have only been engaged out of desperation to marry and leave the house. Now she is free to leave the house and has the money to support herself. Moreover, the horrific murder plot and the death of her stepfather are surely enough to make any young lady afraid of men for a while. She will either recover herself on her travels or she will retire and become a poor little nun."

Sherlock sat down and blinked, slowly absorbing his brother's words.

Shaking his head, Mycroft wonders why Sherlock is acting so distracted and strange; to him, Miss Stoner seems quite an ordinary spinster and damsel in distress. If she were truly clever, she'd have devised a way to leave her stepfather for her aunt long ago. If she were evil, she would have lied plausibly about Julia's locked door, to put the blame firmly on her stepfather. But no, the evidence clearly showed that she was quite irrational, emotional, and blind for the past eight years, let alone the past two.

Helen Stoner does not seem capable of inspiring such infatuation, and yet here's Sherlock rambling about her like a bumbling idiot. Well, he is still young and fallible; he has succumbed to emotion, due to his mistakes in reasoning. So Mycroft firmly told his little brother, "She is nothing. I suggest that you forget about her immediately."

Sherlock stared at him, then finally swallowed and rose to go. He whispered, "Thank you, Mycroft," then departed.

End Sketch

Despite Mycroft's lecture, Holmes does not forget about Helen Stoner entirely. He avoids meeting her face to face, but he does respond when she writes letters to him, and he writes her letters of introduction so that she can meet his friends in America, the NYPD detective Wilson Hargreave and the Pinkertons. She travels to New York ostensibly for a holiday to recover, but instead she practically moves there, to the annoyance of her fiancé Percy who is still waiting for her.

At first Helen stays at a hotel, but finds it restrictive in not allowing her to have male visitors (the Pinkertons) in her room. They have to meet in the lounge downstairs, but she wants to discuss Holmes's cases with them, which they don't want to be overheard speaking about. She also cannot get used to so many servants after all the years she has done without, so she eventually rents/buys a house and only keeps one maid/housekeeper. Says it's good practice for when she'll have to manage a house back in Crane Water after she marries.

She attends music concerts and explores the cultural life around the city. The Pinkertons introduce her to their friend Irene Adler, the opera singer from Jersey. Helen is also impressed by Central Park and the newly completed Brooklyn Bridge.

She still writes Holmes letters, thanking him and discussing her case again, and how she feels so guilty about Julia's death. He finds that he can't stop writing back to her, trying to encourage her to move on. He can't stand the thought of her becoming a "poor little nun" like Mycroft suggested, and wants her to have a good life, even though she keeps postponing her marriage. They become fairly regular pen pals until finally he decides to visit her for a month in 1884; this is partly to get away from Watson nagging him about his health.

Through some contrivance or another Holmes winds up staying at her house and not a hotel. That's too close, though, and things happen like I previously described in the Chapter 8 sketch with Irene Adler (linked above).

So here's a sketch of the morning after Irene crashed at Helen's house, having been dumped by the Crown Prince of Bohemia. Helen decides to make a move, since Holmes won't:

Cunning Temptress

Fandom: Sherlock Holmes
Story: sketch from chapter 8 of DIM
Pairing: Holmes/Helen Stoner
Warnings: PG, hetero

The next morning, Helen has made her decision, and she asks Irene to give them a moment alone/keep her maid busy with making breakfast.

Holmes comes downstairs and she greets him alone in the sitting-room. "Good morning."

He asks her with concern if she slept well, and she says she has only had difficulty coming to a decision, but she knows it is the right one now.

He asks worriedly, "Do you wish me to leave for a hotel so that you may offer your guest a room?"

"Irene? Oh no," she smiles, "she has a place of her own in town. She only came here last night because of her heartache. In such a moment of distress, one needs a confidante and a shoulder to cry on."

"But she may still need you in the coming days, and I would be in the way."

"No, no." She steps closer and takes his hand, insisting. "No, you must stay."

"If you wish." He does not let go of her hand, and looks at her closely, wondering her intention.

She invites him to sit down with her on the couch and says, "I've been thinking about that horrid man who used Irene and tossed her aside. How he toyed with her callously, led her on and allowed her to think that he might love her and wed her. She ought to have known better, but she has the audacity of Americans, and the marriages of their heiresses with our poor gentry to inspire her wishful thinking. But in seeing her heartbreak, I realise that I have been heartless myself, with how I've treated Percy, making him wait all this time."

He reacts stiffly at the name, starts to mask his face. "You shall not make him wait any longer?"

"No, I shall give him back his ring."

He looks up in surprise, having thought she was going to Crane Water at last, to marry him. "You're ending your engagement?"

She nods and looks in his eyes. "I do not feel it is right to let him believe that he has my heart any longer, that he ever had it so... deeply."

"Miss Stoner--" But he found no more words when she pressed his hands in hers.

She continued, "I realize now that you have been reluctant to speak your mind, for this very reason. How callous you must have thought me, toying with you as well."

"No, I--"

She interrupts him with a soft kiss on his lips, then sits back. "So I'll speak first, in my apology." She confesses, "When I first met you, I could hardly believe you--an eccentric young man supposedly able to work miracles. I never thought you could succeed, that you could change everything in one short day."

He whispers, "I had to."

She smiles and touches his face tenderly. "Thank you, for saving me. Not only from my stepfather, but myself as well. You have given me new life, drawing me out of books and into the world. It is like discovering colour and adventure... I find that I do not crave life in the countryside anymore. I feel at home in a metropolis like New York, or London."

He gulps and his eyes widen, but cannot do more than stammer.

She laughs and shakes her head at his panic. "I am in no hurry. I shall return to Harrow and visit my aunt for a while. I owe her that much, and an explanation for the scandal of my broken engagement." She raises an eyebrow. "Then perhaps I might visit you?"

He stares at her, then reaches to touch her hand on his face.

She explains, "It is not only gratitude I feel for you, and I will take the time to prove this to you, so you cannot think me mistaken in my heart. Trust in me, as you once asked me to trust in you."

Overcome, leaning nearer, he sighs as if in defeat. "Helen," he whispers achingly, and half closes his eyes, "Helen of Troy."

"Oh!" She flushes in pleasure, feeling suddenly young and shy. He is surely flattering her to compare her to the mythic beauty. She looks up into his eyes and recklessly kisses his lips again.

He yields this time, holds her near to prolong the moment. Inhaling the scent of her skin and stroking her hair. She starts to open her mouth to murmur his own name in return, but he interrupts her by deepening their kiss. She wonders if this was what it tasted like when Julia allowed her half-pay soldier liberties under the mistletoe. No wonder she managed to extract his proposal of marriage at Christmas. It was a heady feeling to be kissed so passionately.

But then Holmes pulled back, suddenly rising from the sofa and saying, "No! No! What kind of cunning temptress are you? Tangling me up in your web. Like Helen destroyed a great city, an ancient kingdom. Worse, you would destroy an Alexandria!"

"What?" She stammered in shock and confusion.

He began pacing now, rambling on. "You ruin my reason, my logic. You have wrecked my senses. You're not satisfied enough with your other admirers, that you would seduce me and Watson too?"


"You used your wiles on Mr. Tibbs to influence the inquest. Did you use them on me too? You knew--you knew Roylott was plotting against you; you just didn't know how. You suspected him when he moved you from your room, but you couldn't fight him. Did you bewitch me into killing him?"

She protested, "I didn't! How can you--?"

He spoke more angrily now, "Women can't be trusted! I've learned this already. I should know! The most winning woman I ever knew poisoned three little children for the insurance money."

She stared in horror and disbelief. How had everything gone so suddenly wrong?

"You lured me here, to weaken me and break me. I will not surrender!" vows to leave.

"You bastard!" She broke down and cried.

Irene came in as he stormed out of the room to pack. "What on earth? Helen!" She rushed over.

"Oh God! He--" she sobbed incoherently, and now Irene held her in her arms.

Thus Holmes leaves and returns to London, pretending to Watson that he's merely ill, not freaking out over his potential love life. And thus Irene is confirmed in her belief that all men are selfish cowards. The correspondence ends, and I still have to decide when it will resume.

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