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TGMD: The Landlady and the Poet

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THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE: THE LANDLADY AND THE POET

SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION
Written by Diane N. Tran

    To the attentive yet long-suffering landladies of Baker Street, you are not forgotten in my books.

It was a bitterly frozen December evening and the snow-drifts from the many days had still collected and mounted deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly underneath the winter moon. Down the centre of Baker Street, it had been ploughed into brown crumbly bands by traffic; but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the footpaths, it still lay as white as when it fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so there were fewer passers-by than usual.

The snow began again as the landlady of Lower 221B closed the scarlet curtains over the ice-panned window. She blew into her hands for some warmth after touching the frigid glass and rubbed her arms, heading for the fireplace. The woman toiled with the coal and wood with a steel poker before returning the fire-gate to its previous position. The lone landlady took out a dust-cloth from her apron pocket and swept the grime from the mantelpiece, cleaning between the newspaper clippings pinned haphazardly to the timbre of the ledge.

She was stout creature, corpulent in shape. She wore a large white bonnet, which sat like a round-pillowed crown, whose trimmings hung like fringe upon her undersized brow. Her features were, for the most part, soft and petite, with a pair of soothing eyes where cruel lines shadowed beneath the lids, a demure nose that perched a pair of thin spectacles, curved with a thin sweetly pressed mouth, and supported by now-plump, dimpled cheeks. Her hands were delicate; her feet, slight. Her dress was a deep attractive navy; her upper sleeves bunched in a modest fashion upon her shoulders, as the shape tightened the slight form of her arms to the elbows and her narrow wrists peeked a pair of white cuffs. Her collar-wings were white centred with a modest bronze brooch, tied lastly with a white apron about her neck and waist.

She had been the sole owner of the Baker Street lodgings for some time, due to widowhood, whose tenants came and went rapidly, each of them unable to tolerant the noise and danger that loomed heavily over the human tenant above. She had some months ago acquired a young, more perennial tenant, whom moved from his former residence at Montague Street to here. This new tenant was a freelance detective, a very untidy one at that, and had scurried off on some case, no doubt. During these such outings were among the rare opportunities for the landlady to do any proper cleaning about in the rooms. All the better for to-night, for she was to expect a favoured guest this evening — a poet : a friend of the detective.

Departing from the kitchen, she set a silver savour with a china pot, three cups, and a dish of cheese crumpets upon the table, next to an armchair. The wind gusted against the window with a screeching howl. The landlady clutched her dust-cloth tightly, rubbing her arm again. As age has it, the bitterness of winter wearied her further and further by each passing year.

She glanced at the clock. He was late. Of course, he was always late, yet the weather was dreadful. Perhaps he could not come?

The bell-pull rung and rushed along to answer. Twisting the lock, the door swung against her shoulder in a burst. A flurry of snow and ice blew out from the entrance into eyes, burning viciously. Her weight strained against the pushing door, she could feel the cold gnaw of knives upon her face. Everything was distorted and she squinted through its opened crack into the darkness, uncertain if she could make out any form of figure.

"Halloa? Is anyone there?"

"Ah, my dear Lady!" came a rich tenor-like voice. "How wonderful it is to see you again!"

She blinked rapidly, tightening her eyelids together. The scorch from her eyes grew more intense. If there was a figure, she could not make it out.

"Pardon? Who is this?"

"Oh, forgotten me already? Very well then, I might as well take advantage of this opportunity: You may address me as Colonel Bogey." The voice paused to chuckle to himself and continued politely, "I was just wondering if I may enter, Lady Judson; it is sweltering out here, as you know."

"Oh, my! It's you, Sir!" cried landlady, widening the door quickly. "Come in! Come in quickly before the frost gets in."

"Thank you."

The rhythm of soft steps glided her by, but the arctic gale gusted furiously at the door yet again, nearly knocking her down. The landlady bore her weight upon it, but the wind grew stronger, and her heels scrapped the floor-boards, as the wooden egress rattled against nature's force.

"Here," came the voice, "if I may be of assistance?"

She felt a fur-trimmed sleeve stretched aside of her, the soft fibers quietly graced across her cheek, and pushed the door further to a close. With a click, she twisted the lock and spun around and her sights pointed towards the visitor. Her eyelids tried to flicker open, but could not.

"Please warm yourself by the fire," she answered, as she frantically started to rub her eyes; "There is tea set up upon the table. Help yourself."

"Don't open them," called the voice of the visitor.

A fabric-gloved hand graced down upon her eyelets, shielding them shut, and a warm arm hugged her shoulder.

"I can't see! I can't see!"

"Shhh, hush now and come with me."

The pain pierced in further, the tears begin to sweat down, as she was led slowly forward, quietly down the steps, and seated her down upon an armchair closest to fireplace, sensing the crackle of the wood and the stench of the coal.

"Sit right here," he came again, "and keep your eyes shut. I shall return in a moment."

Nodded her head, the woman swept in a shaken breath and swallowed, her heart pounded hysterically between her breast, whilst visions of assorted memories flashed rapidly through her mind. She felt her spectacles remove softly from the brim of her nose, a hand raised her plump chin, and a soft, lukewarm handkerchief wetted one of her eyes. The warmth soften her tears and pain began lift gently away. Her breath began to steady and her frantic beat started to soothe, as the other eye was wetted.

The most alluring aroma of a cologne tickled the end of her nose, a luxurious motley scent of Fougère Royale de Houbigant. It was crisp, accented with sweet virile lushness of lavender and oakmoss; it surrounded her senses softly but momentary, like a stain of hot breath upon a glass. By the time the handkerchief was drifted away, so was the pain. The sore tears were dried as the handkerchief caressed her dimpled cheeks with the utmost gentleness — a gentleness she has not felt in a very long time.

"Now, Lady," cooed the voice, "try opening them and tell me what sights you see."

Her lids batted open as she replaced her spectacles. Adjusting to the light, the blurs before her sharpened into a familiar face, kneeling aside her. With a weary sigh, she managed a relieving smile, the face smiled kindly in return: It was the poet.

"Ah-ha, there we go," sang the young man, but his sadden eyes betrayed his natural concern; "Is it better?"

She nodded and managed another smile and, with that, he stood up, emitting a sigh of relief. Glancing at the snowflakes on the heavy over-coat sleeve, he dusted them off and began to remove his white gloves. She noticed his hat was thrown against the opposite chair sloppily, his white cotton handkerchief, and the gloved fingertips were freshly stained with tea. The poet was of careful dresser by nature and, at such a rescue, she could not help but be touched by his uncharacteristic disrespect to his own very fashionable and very expensive accessories.

Turning his attention to her, he began his compliments: "Still as lovely, I see, as lovely as early blooming lilies kissed with the diamond lights of fresh dew upon its delicate pink petals. You should have a bouquet of those very blooms adorned before your feet."

The landlady could not help but roll her eyes playfully at his purple prose. "Lilies are out of season, Sir," puffed she, "and so am I."

"Nonsense," the poet returned. "They are blooming entirely well at the floral shops of Regent's. I have just been there earlier."

She raised a dubious eyebrow. "And I am certain they are as weary in the stems as I am?"

"With branches of steel, I hear."

"Their dry leaves withering?"

"A pristine delicacy of the beauty in which they withhold, I fancy."

"Awaiting to be fainted dead by the slightest frost?"

"Oh, I had figured that was my duty. I grow jealous of the frost now."

"Are you going to continue labouring on like this?"

The poet flashed a playful grin. "Until I win you over, yes."

She blushed in return.

The game, of course; she could never forget the game. It started the instant he walked up to the open door. When and how the game started was, and is, irrelevant. The game developed gradually, progressing further from conversation to conversation, gathering from time to time. They never addressed the game by any specific name or any official ruling; it was intuitively understood that it existed and that it is to be performed. The rule of the game was a very simple one: The one who had the last word, the last witty remark, wins — simple by and far in suggestion. Yet for the challenger to be that of the great poet, it was a demanding but amusing sport. He was the master of the game : a silver-tongued wizard of witticism : a true prince of paradoxes! Conceivably, it was an unfair advantage — an affluent poet and a lumbering landlady — but, alas, there was no trophy to claim, no need of boasting a non-existent title, nothing of importance to prove; therefore, what did winning matter? There was not a rhyme nor a reason that motivated such a game to be engaged so continuously — nor did she care for one.

The landlady held her head for a moment. "We'll just see about that," entered the landlady, decisively; "Oh, do allow me take your coat and your hat."

"There will time for that later," replied he. "Sit, please."

He had calm and cool composure, the poet, a towering creature and very curious in appearance. One might mistake him for a giant, though clearly he was a disciple of dandyism. The gentility of his face was an awkward contrast from the largeness of his body. The poet plucked his black wide-brimmed hat, which had been thrown against the armchair; after briefly inspection of its damages, he dropped his cotton-white gloves inside and set the items beside a a tall conductor's wand of a walking-stick prompted against the side-table. His hair was a thick sepia-brown, overgrown but neatly groomed, its length waved the curve of his grey cheeks and droopy ears, and his fringe combed aside of a pair of large, sad eyes above an undersized nose. Removing his long ebony fur-trimmed over-coat, the poet laid the massive thing upon the rest of the armchair across from hers, which was strangely bulkier from last she seen it. He wore a white Byronic-winged collar roped an elegant black neck-tie, held down with a single diamond pin. The waist-coat was deep black, shimmering with a brocade garland of flowery embroidery with pearl buttons and gold watch-chain. His deep rouge jacket, which hugged his broad shoulders, settled around a massive barrel chest that hung to his narrow hips and his brawny thighs, styled with a white rose buttonhole. His trousers were rouge as well, but were unusually snug upon his stately legs, with patent leather boots, and the costume was topped up with a gold scarab ring, with emerald-stoned eyes, circled on the third finger of his right hand.

"Mr. Basil has been expecting you, Sir," she came, "but he's not here at the moment."

He stood his back facing an empty armchair, across from hers, with his hands clasped behind, smiling pleasantly. "When will he return?"

"Shortly, I suppose," answered she, standing up. "I shall make certain that your coat and hat are properly dried."

"I am much obliged. However," raising a pair of halting hands as the landlady reached for his coat, "I certainly hope you will join me, Lady Judson, in tea. We certainly need to have a little chirper, we have not chirped in years."

The landlady arched an eyebrow. "Sir, the last you came was here three weeks ago."

"Oh, three lifetimes over!" he came in mock amazement. "How tragic that we larks have not sung our sweet songs again. Please sit, in hopes of I entertaining you," motioning her back to her chair.

"Entertain me?" the landlady questioned with a sort of relish, looking up at him from the seat.

"I can certainly entertain myself as well as yourself, Lady. You know very well how awfully multi-talented I am," smiled the poet, clattering with the china upon the table set next to her chair.

"You are aware, Sir, that it is customary for the hostess to entertain the guest?"

"I was never one for proprieties, Lady Judson," assured the poet, pouring tea in one of the cups. "Do you find my entertaining you rude?"

"No, Sir."

"Do you find I sharing a cup of tea with you vile?"

"No, Sir."

"Have I done anything as of yet which is you would consider vulgar?"

"No, Sir."

"Then my only excuse for my most wretched behaviour is that I am utterly incorrigible. I am just one of those horridly eloquent chaps whom delight in making charming women smile. What criminals we are! What sins we do! Sugar?"

She giggled slightly at the sudden come of the question. "Yes, please."

The poet reached up to the inside of his rouge coat, retrieving a small tin flask. He glanced at it mischievously for a few seconds, then turned to the landlady with a great grin. The landlady simpered impishly at the silvered object and licked her dry lips, for the poet knew her blood was terribly vulnerable to the chill of the wintertide and whiskey in particular, as to any Scotswoman, was often a solution to for bodily warmth.

"I never knew you carried one on your person?"

"Only when the weather is so blisteringly hot that my nerves can't stand it," winked he, sportively. "One cube or two?"

"Three."

The youth arched an inspired eyebrow at his elder.

"I do like my tea sweet, Sir," jested she.

"Of course," smiled he, unscrewing the metal cap of the container. He poured nips of distillery into the porcelain bowl of the teacups, first in hers then in his. Replacing the top, he returned the tin to the pocket of his coat. "I really should tell the old boy to add a bit more colour to this place," continued he, tinkering with the spoons; "It's rather dreary. Perhaps a bit of emerald? Or azure? Or a Japanese vase?"

"He'd use that vase for his target practice in an instant!" mused the landlady, with a ridiculous laugh. "It's tedious enough cleaning up after Mr. Basil as it is, let alone re-decorate! Just last week, he purchased a marble bust for £40; and just when he brought it here, he took a hammer and smashed it to bits and pieces, like a madcap! Of course, it was I whom had clean it up!"

"Was it a pretty bust?" asked the poet, handing her a cup and saucer gingerly.

The landlady accepted it with a vein of curiosity. "What does its prettiness matter?"

"A great deal, Lady Judson, a great deal." The poet positioned himself upon the armchair across, swirling a spoon in his cup and continued, "It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection; through art, and through art only, that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence. The less we see of bitterness and pain the better life we would live."

"Better no art than bad art, eh?"

"How well you phrase it," smirked he, sipping.

"I bet you would be cheering him on if he were to smash the statues in Westminster."

"Only the bad ones."

"Oh, you have a list prepared already?" chuckled she, sipping her cup.

"Not yet, but if my dear friend is up to it when he returns, I will certainly furnish a few obliging suggestions."

The tea, which had been affectionately spiced by the poet, she had been drinking had indeed steeped into her blood at last; her fingers not longer trembled with its former chill.  Her eyes drooped day-dreamily, as the stream of the brew danced gracefully from its brim and heated her round cheeks with type of calmness and soothingness that matched the poet's voice. She glanced up at the poet for moment. He smiled softly at the warm cup, watching the gentle steam wafted the air like morning mist. They sipped their tea quietly in the silence of the moment, the only sounds being the crackle of the fire, the bellow of the frost against the window, and the occasional chime of the cup upon saucer.

"Mind if I suggest a few in?" entered she, finally.

He peered up from his cup with some fond amazement. "My dearest Lady, I would not have it any other way. I do like it when you are wicked; it's quite becoming on you. You really should be wicked more often."

"As wicked as yourself?"

"I have often been labeled as such," shrugged he. "I shan't go out of my way to contradict it."

"Are you as wicked as they say?"

"By whom do they say?"

"Gossip, mostly."

"Lovely thing, gossip," chirped he, shrugging in a feigned innocence. "It is quite astounding what people say behind one's back that is utterly and absolutely true."

"So, you admit it?"

"I admit nothing except my genius."

"You young persons always think your so clever, do you not?" scoffed the landlady.

The poet smiled proudly and nodded.

"Do you always consider yourself so highly, Sir?"

"I do it on principle."

"Is there anything you consider higher than yourself?"

"Beauty, Lady."

"Beauty, Sir?"

"Yes, Beauty is a form of Genius: Correction, it is higher than Genius, for Beauty needs no explanation. Philosophies fall away like sand, and creeds follow one another like the withered leaves of autumn; but what is beautiful is joy for all seasons and a possession for all eternity."

"But surely you value Genius higher than Beauty?"

"It is a sad thing to think about, I confess. Genius does indeed last longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we mortals take such great pains to over-educate ourselves."

"And what of Life, Sir? Certainly you value that higher?"

"The desire for the Beauty is merely a heightened form of the desire for Life, Lady. Beauty is the only thing that time cannot age. What is beautiful before is still beautiful to-day."

"I would not say that, costume changes all the time."

"No, no, Fashion is merely a from of Ugliness that is so awful it must be changed every six months. Fashion is Style, not Beauty."

She laughed marvelously. "Ah, yes," entered the landlady, "but Age before Beauty generally does not apply to fruit."

He laughed delightedly at her wit. "True, but it does apply to wine, I hear."

"You and Mr. Basil are the same age, are you not? Twenty-three. Or is it twenty-four?"

The poet, whom had a notorious fear of aging, seemed to be taken aback for a second in kind of horror. "Lady, I have scarce seen but one-and-twenty summers."

"Oh, don't fib that way; you are the same age as he. Why don't you settle down, Sir? Shower some heartache on some lucky girl?"

The young poet turned his head away at her words, trying to camouflage the sudden flush from his cheeks, and trying to shield his simper and chuckles with his teacup. "Oh, you are not going to try marrying me off as well, are you?" retorted he, irrevocably shaking his head. "I'm having enough pressure about it all. If I wanted to see another matchmaker, I would have called in on my mother. Now even you wish to rid of me! I am hurt, Lady Judson! Very, very hurt!"

"Nay, Sir. You'd be a right good husband."

"I fear not."

"You fear love?"

"No, I embrace Love, in fact, in all its divine splendour. I cannot live without the atmosphere of Love, whatever price we may pay for it, for it all is a tragedy: Love is the sacrament of Life, passion with a holy name. One should always be in love, my dear Lady, which is why one should never marry. To love oneself is is the beginning of a life-long romance."

"Well, perhaps so. People do seem to be happier before marriage. It is a mystery of the universe, I suppose."

"Perhaps our missing host should look into this business, then?"

"Don't you weasel yourself out of this subject," the landlady warned with a laugh. "He's a lost case!"

"Oh, be sure not to spread that about, Lady," smiled the poet; "It may ruin his reputation."

She laughed again. "Oh, certainly you've had thoughts of it sometime or another?"

"I have," nodded he, "and I am quite confident that they'll drown away in a few days."

"There are a great many respectable girls out there, Sir."

"How tragic for them."

She smiled kindly. "Many of them are awfully nice, Sir."

"Yes, I suppose," shrugged he, sighing somewhat. "But nice is such a nasty word."

She arched an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

"Yes..." His voice drifted absently and boringly.

"Then tell me, Sir, since you have an answer for everything," entered she, lying back in the cushions of her chair. "Is there a nice word for nasty?"

The poet's mouth open causally, he waited an instant to allow the words flow. But for the moment, his breath came still with no response. His lips closed palely and his eyebrows rose in some surprise. Craning his neck back for a moment in mixed thoughts, his dark-coloured eyes blinked blankly for some long seconds. He then gazed up to the seated landlady.

She smiled — yes, by heaven, did she smile! Her soft eyes twinkled with a saucy pridefulness of no other, her curled corners of lips glowered upon her countenance, her dimpled cheeks quite pink and merry! How brilliantly pleased she was! How confident! How proud! And she had all the right to be as such, because for once, and perhaps only once in this eminent game they had played, the poet was at a lost for words.

He bit his lip, then grinned a fantastic grin. The poet rested his cup upon his lap and his hand clapped together in applause. "Brava, dear Lady," came he, gently, in almost a breathless whisper; "Brava..."

The head of the landlady bowed graciously and dramatically to the poet's praise. Their smiles were exchanged with a great warm-heartedness that was akin to both.

"You know, Sir," replied she, "I never could talk like this with Mr. Basil."

"The poor boy," mourned he, with sadden eyes; "He doesn't know what he's missing, does he?"

The landlady deferred her head down, staring at her cup, her cheeks flushed in a sudden bright roseate. She peered up and the poet's eyes were upon her, tender and generous as his own smile.

Her mouth opened slightly, but her words were cut by a sudden booming fling of the wooden door! The frosty wind gushed in, the flames of the gaslights and the fireplace cowered, causing the couple sprung up from their chairs in a fright. The tea-cup in the landlady's hand quivered instantly at the icy bite of cold. The poet's hands seemed to have swiftly leapt forward to embrace that shaken hand into his, taking the saucer and cup and settling it down upon the table before it could spill.

A snow-covered figure waddled in and shut the wooden gate with a half-snarl, half-sneeze. The flakes from his heavy coat floated down and vanished as they hit warmer floor-boards. The figure tore off the large, sodden over-coat from his shoulders, and tossed it and his hat slovenly upon the steps of the stairs. It was the detective : tenant of the landlady : friend of the poet.

The young detective yet again removed his dampened brown travelling-cloak and flung it also atop the articles left upon the short stairwell. He mumbled his curses about the weather to himself, vigorously blowing what little heat could muster into his clasped nervous hands and rubbing his pale, long fingers together with a sneeze.

The detective had a hyper-anxious composure, which was unlike his friend's. His short flaxen hair crowned smartly upon an intelligent brow, his auburn-tipped nose gutted outward, large and sharp, outlined with a characteristic pale-coloured muzzle between two hazel-green-coloured eyes, scorched with a fury of mania yet betrayed a keenness of forethought. He combed his blondish hair back and walked towards a red velvet dressing-gown, with ebony trim upon its softly folded collar and cuffs, pinned by a dart on the wall. He quickly slipped it on comfortably and tied the cord in a knot about his slender waist, and with a feverish sniffle, flung the dart to the centre of the target. He wore a white flying collar roped neatly in a flowing virescent neck-tie, the ends of his fawn-coloured trousers were drenched and wetly hugged his ankles, his ashen spats were flat and long, tipped fashionably with a sepia-brown. He was a towering creature as well, as tall as the poet, but nowhere as bulky; he resembled more of a rod, gaunt and grave.

Marching rapidly for a stack of thick hard-bound books upon a crowded wooden table, its counter-top blotched randomly with chemical stains, the detective appeared thinner than usual, both the landlady and the poet noted this: He must have not have eaten all day.

The poet broke the silence. "Is it of any disadvantage to you, Lady Judson, to prepare a light supper?"

"No, Sir," replied the landlady. "Supper for two?"

"Three," entreated he, with a smile, "if it is at all possible?"

"Two, Sir. I have my duties to perform."

"I see," came he, gloomily. "I suppose there is no way I can otherwise convince you away of those beastly duties?"

"No," smiled the landlady softly, "but if you did try, my excuse will then be that my ears have gone deaf with age."

He laughed in a thwarted tone.

"Oscar, would you come here, please?" boomed the detective from the other side of the study-room. His keen nose buried inside one of his many index books, flipping the pages with his spindly finger-ends. "That is—," glancing up briefly with a furrow in his young brow, "—after you stop flirting with Mrs. Judson and be serious."

"How dare you, Sherringford? How dare you declare of such a thing?" cried the poet in mock offense and surprise. "I? Serious? Never heard of anything so absurd!"

The detective rolled his eyes, impatiently flipping the leaves of his book again. "Are you quite finished? I'd like to show you something."

"A few minutes, if you please?" gambled the poet.

"One minute!" stated the detective, with a warning finger.

The poet scoffed sharply under his breath. "Harridan."

The detective shot him a murderous look in response to the remark, yet the poet took no notice for his attention was still upon the landlady.

"Supper for two, Sir?" questioned the landlady again.

"Yes," confirmed the poet, "and we shall unfortunately postpone our chirping another time. My congratulations, by the bye."

She curtsied triumphantly, recalling her game-some win, returning to her a gracious bow. They departed slowly, she went to fetch the wet coats dropped by both gentlemen, and he ventured finally to the companionship of his school colleague.

"Took you long enough," scoffed the detective.

"My compliments to the season to you also, Sherri," chaffed the poet. "Your patience does endear yourself to me."

He peered away from the dusty pages of the book with a remorseful expression that caused him a pause. The detective was more than less than enthusiastic about the coming of holidays. He treated most days much in the same matter; as celebrated the day may or may not be to others, the detective periodically failed to see any difference from a wintry day from another wintry day, save if it were the scheduling of the trains and other such technicalities.

"Um, well," the detective stammered his words, chewing at his bottom lip. "Light a cigarette for me, would you, Oscar?"

The poet removed a small shiny golden case from his coat-pocket and extracted two gold-tipped Egyptian cigarettes and a single-stick match from the ivory ribbon-band. He tapped the ends of the sticks upon the metallic lid and placed the two of them between his lips. Replacing the case into his coat again, he struck the match-flame upon the side-grain of the table and, hovering his grey hand over the light, the poet lit the ends. Wafting the match-light out, the violet cloud of rich tobacco tainted with a delicate whiff of opium danced forth from his lips and he languidly watched the landlady from the corner of his sight, as she collected the outfits upon the floor, where the detective left, and upon the armchair, where the poet had left. Removing the right-lit cigarette and lowing it to his friend, whose eye glared into the ocular lens of a microscope, the detective accepted the cigarette, nipping its stump quickly between his lips, muttering an abrupt gratitude.

The landlady heaved and hefted the enormous pile of clothing in her arms and proceeded to retreat back to small but tidy kitchen area: Indeed, the fur-trimmed over-coat was not only bulkier than the landlady last recollected it, certainly heavier! Perhaps it was due to the dampness, she thought.

The tiny iron stove bubbled a kettle of boiling water for the tea she lain out previously. She pulled a rack from the corner of the room close to the warm stove and started hanging the coats, one by one on each on the wooden hooks. As she hooked up the final coat, the young poet's heavy coat, something fell out with a rustle. She startled back, her heart leapt for a still moment not knowing what it was; but whatever it was, it was light and did not bruise.

Opening her eyes cautiously, the widow woman gazed upon the floor and, in surprise, nestled at her tiny feet, was a bouquet of delicate, white lilies wrapped in a thin, pale lemon-yellow tissue-paper, where dewdrops clung to its petals from the melted snow. They were as beautiful, strong-stemmed, and freshly bloomed as the poet praised. A small, butter-cream tag was attached to one of the lilies. The script was distinctively in the poet's hand — decorative but bold — and it simply read:
    THE HAPPIEST CHRISTMAS TO YOU, LADY JUDSON;
    FROM YOUR DEVOTED ADMIRER IN THE NEXT ROOM,
    O.
A smile went across her face and she began to laugh.

"Why you shameless, little rogue! You wicked creature! You could have knocked me over with a feather!"
© 2007 - 2020 tranimation-art
"To wish each other the seasons greetings..."

Well, I thought of drawing a "compliments of the season" piece with the Baker Street Irregulars, but it didn't turn out the way I planned. Therefore, I'm uploading a pastiche instead:

This is perhaps one of my oldest pastiches, it took me about three years to finish (because I'm a slow writer and an accursed perfectionist), and it surprisingly didn't need to be re-written, like so much of my early material. For those whom are unfamiliar with my Great Mouse Detective work, the character of Oscar Milde (simply referred to as "the poet" here) is the character I'm probably most remembered for: He is a miniature tribute to the real-life writer/playwright/poet/critic/wit, Oscar Wilde. I took great effort to keep the character as "Wildean" as possible and much of the dialogue were taken right out of Wilde's own mouth. I purchased a number of his biographies, including a rare copy of the dictionary-sized Letters of Oscar Wilde, to make certain that he "talked," with all his idiosyncratic quality, ticks, and rhythms, of his human counterpart. In addition, the character of Mrs. Judson (referred to as "the landlady"), like Mrs. Hudson from the Sherlock Holmes canon, was always written as if she's part of the background, treated like a rug or a vase, so I took this opportunity to bring the character out of the background into the foreground and show that she can be an interesting character of her own right, one that could be sad, lonely, sympathetic, flirtatious, humourous, loveable, sensitive, and intelligent, and not just a cardboard cut-out.

I was influenced by Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales to use occupational titles — "the poet," "the landlady," and "the detective" — rather than individual names. The characters were only known by their titles and/or occupations due to sociopolitical conflicts between the classes of the time. Chaucer exemplified the relativism of their titles, what they meant to represent from their titles, versus the reality of their character, how they really were as a person, where he could be insulting or revering to each. These said entitlements, generally, did not disclose whom they were as individuals: The general stereotype of a "landlady" is an uneducated, servile, silent woman who gives your food and cleans your mess, but the reality here is that she's more like a comely beauty feeling the weight of her age yet still youthful in spirit, as well as a relatively successful businesswoman during an age where women were not expected to have careers; the general stereotype of a "poet" is a flaky, verbose milquetoast who bemoans and broods about their emotions, but he's a cheerful, eccentric, if somewhat artificial, philosopher of life; and the general stereotype of the "detective" is a by-the-books, hard-boiled lawman with a spyglass to his eye, but he's more of a manic, careless mad scientist. One could say glean more about a character through how they talk, act, and react rather through a known occupation. You also can see more of Chaucer's influence when I capitalize the honourifics of "Lady" and "Sir," as if a knight of nobility would address a lady of court and vice versa.

Fougère Royale de Houbigant was a perfume for men (before the term "cologne" was popularized) launched in 1882 that was worn by the real-life Oscar Wilde.  The very first fougère fragrance was created by the House of Houbigant, which was discontinued in the 1950s, but relaunched briefly in 1988. It was a dry and bracing fern-like scent of bergamot, lavender, clary sage (as top notes), geranium, orchid, heliotrope, carnation, rose (as middle notes), oakmoss, tonka bean, vanilla, musk (as bottom notes), and synthetic hay-like coumarin rising from the base. The House of Houbigant became the perfumer to the royal courts of Europe for centuries -- amongst its patrons were the likes of Napoleon (I) Bonaparte of France, Napoleon III of France, Alexander III of Russia, Victoria of Great Britain, etc).

This takes place on Christmas Eve 1881, years before the events of the film, The Great Mouse Detective: Sherringford Basil would have recently moved from his original lodgings from Montague Street to Baker Street, so this would be his first Christmas at 221B.

For 2013, I uploaded a "special collector's edition" of this story, where if you choose to download the "premium content" you will get the following:
  • PNG image of the accompanied illustration of Mrs. Judson and Oscar Milde above for your visual pleasure
  • MP3 audio recording of the story (pre-edits) by my friend NikkiAgent for your listening pleasure
Oscar Milde ("the poet") © Diane N. Tran.
Basil of Baker Street ("the detective") and Mrs. Judson ("the landlady") © Eve Titus/Walt Disney.
The name "Sherringford" © Diane N. Tran.
Comments86
anonymous's avatar
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JackalyenMystique's avatar
JackalyenMystiqueProfessional Writer
:star::star::star::star::star: Overall
:star::star::star::star::star: Vision
:star::star::star::star::star: Originality
:star::star::star::star::star: Technique
:star::star::star::star::star: Impact

This piece was extremely enjoyable for me for a number of reasons. But I'll just mention the main two reasons. One, you give some of limelight to the poor landladies who have to deal with eccentric tenants that obliterate their good down pillows who deserve it. And two, the fact that you write a story for The Great Mouse Detective! I can't believe anyone even remembered that. It brings back so many wonderful memories. So I thank you very much for this Diane. I wish you luck in your future literature works. May they be as great as this one!
PennyThoughts's avatar
Jesus frick! I love this! Even more so for the fact Basil the mouse detective is hands down my favourite film!

Bless you for this piece of gold! ❤️❤️
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Thank you so much!

I hope you enjoy the rest of my BASIL THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE works here: tranimation-art.deviantart.com…
LaEnigmaDama's avatar
Llama Emoji-03 (Sparkles) [V1] This is fantastic!! I want hope my stories come out this good:love: !!
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked it. I don't think many people read anything I write, so I'm very grateful you took the time to read and comment; I'm very appreciative of that.

Keep on writing, because practice makes perfect, keep on reading, because you learn from others, and know your strengths and weakness, so you can defy them and push yourself to the best you can be. And good luck.

I hope you like the rest of my written works here: tranimation-art.deviantart.com…
LaEnigmaDama's avatar
Your welcome and thank you for the advice, it's very encouragingPearl Emote 43 .
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
You're welcome. I hope I helped.
LaEnigmaDama's avatar
It did :smile: . 
WingsOfASong's avatar
WingsOfASongHobbyist Traditional Artist
I know Oscar's attitude towards marriage, but I can't help falling in love with him. What a wonderful, beautiful little story! I'm sorry I have no t read it earlier! Oh Oscar, ever the charming wonderful mouse, aren't you? I am very much in love with him.
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
No worries! I'm glad that you even read it and commented!  (I love comments! And I apologize for the lateness because I've been so busy as of late.) Sadly, I don't think many people read this story, or really read anything I write, hence why I'm very thrilled that you did because I love this story so much and it was a labour of love! Lots of people fell in love with Oscar because of this story.
WingsOfASong's avatar
WingsOfASongHobbyist Traditional Artist
^^ *snuggles Oscar though he might not like it much* I think this is one of my favorite of your workd. ^^ It's too adorable and gives me Oscar feels.
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Oh, he loves snuggles, lots and lots of snuggles, because he's such a narcissist!  He loves being loved!
WingsOfASong's avatar
WingsOfASongHobbyist Traditional Artist
Then I shall snuggle him all day. He needs them. ^^
KehXKeova's avatar
KehXKeovaHobbyist Artist
I LOVE this!!

Thank you for posting it!! :w00t!:
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Awwww, thank you! I really appreciate that you read it and enjoyed it! I hope you like the rest of my writings here: [link]
KehXKeova's avatar
KehXKeovaHobbyist Artist
You're very welcome, hun!! :hug:
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Hope you enjoy the rest of my literary work here: [link]
Feyqueen91's avatar
Feyqueen91Hobbyist General Artist
Mrs.Judson really does need a companion to ease her tension with Basil's residence. And Basil in general needs to stop tormenting the poor lady with nearly tearing her hair out, I mean there IS a limit with shooting pillows with a loaded gun that a landlady can take here!
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Agreed. The reason why this story came about is because Mrs. Judson, like her human counterpart, was always part of the background, as much as a rug or a vase was. I always felt she, dwarfed under the personality of her more "colourful" tenant, definitely had stories to tell of her own. This was an opportunity to pull her out of the background and personify her as an actual "character" in the foreground.
Feyqueen91's avatar
Feyqueen91Hobbyist General Artist
Ah! The benefits of fan stories!
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Yep!
Slashphoto's avatar
SlashphotoHobbyist Digital Artist
I'd say something nice, but I'll spare you your blushes. Well done!
tranimation-art's avatar
tranimation-artProfessional Filmographer
Uhhhhh...thanks, I think. :giggle:
Slashphoto's avatar
SlashphotoHobbyist Digital Artist
You missed a reference to "My blushes, Watson!"? I'm getting rusty, I am. Cracking good story. :)
anonymous's avatar
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