A Christmas Fantasy

by Robert Marston

"What do you make of this, Watson?"

Holmes was by our sitting-room window, looking down at Baker Street, where two

men, standing beside a hansom, argued loudly. Angry voices rose and fell during the

dispute, punctuated frequently by a gruff "Humbug!' from one of them.

Curious, I went over to see what the commotion was about.

"In my judgment, Holmes, the old gentleman is protesting these exorbitant fares

the drivers have been charging lately. I can't say that I blame him."

A December storm, raging since early morning, had by now deposited a quantity of

snow over the scene, muffling some of the noisy sounds common to London the day

before Christmas. Except for this local disturbance, a peaceful charm existed outside

our steamy window panes. But the icy particles rattling against them told of the wintry

conditions that prevailed just below, making our well-heated rooms unusually appealing.

"You see, Watson, but you do not observe," my companion then remarked mildly.

"Doesn't it strike you odd that he is not wearing his greatcoat though the weather is

bitter, but carries it on his arm? His agitation has another source elsewhere, as shown

by the eye shade thrust hastily into his waistcoat pocket, where the upper tip of a quill

pen, you will notice, protrudes at an odd angle " objects used exclusively by those in

the bookkeeping profession " which would account as well for the stooped posture,

peculiar to one who is habitually bent over his ledgers. You have noticed, have you not,

the direction the tracks in the snow? They lead back to the Commerce Block, where

only one counting-house, to my knowledge, does business. If you had not missed these

telling facts, my dear fellow, you would have undoubtedly come to the same conclusion

I have, that we are about to receive a visit from someone who has just made a hurried

departure to get here."

"Amazing, Holmes."

"Elementary, Watson."

By this time the belligerent old man had dismissed the luckless driver and stomped

into the entrance to our lodgings at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson's cheery "Merry

Christmas' received only a muttered "Humbug" as she led him to our door. His impatient

knock gave Holmes little time to open the door and show him in.

"Sherlock Holmes, is it?", he inquired, I am".."

"Ebenezer Scrooge", Holmes finished, smiling cordially.

"Come in, come in and warm yourself by our fire. You're chilled after that prolonged

discussion outside, I'm sure."

His anger flaring again, Scrooge began to pace.

"I could not convince that confounded rascal that we were being followed here. He saw

no one, he said, and made a reference to my mental capacity which did nothing to soften

my temper, or relieve my anxiety. As a practical business man, Mr.Holmes, I'm not given

to flights of fancy, but this afternoon has proved to be an unwelcome distraction to me.

There has been a threat made, and I don't seem to know who made it."

From the expression on his face, I saw that Holmes seemed to find the last comment


"Please describe the events of this afternoon that troubled you so spare no details."

"The days are dreadfully dreary at this time

of the year, and this continual intrusion by so-

called well-meaning solicitors, with their untiring

efforts to pick my pockets on their behalf does

not brighten them."

"How much can we put you down for?"


"You wish to be anonymous?""..

Scrooge's voice had risen to a falsetto.

"I wish to be left alone!, I told them. It's

hard enough to make ends meet as it is. We

are a small establishment. Christmas is a

poor excuse for robbing a".."

"The details," Holmes said sharply.

"Yes, of course," admitted our visitor, somewhat taken aback. "These incursions into

my place of business are an expensive nuisance. The weather is bitter enough without

bringing it in all day with every swing of the door. My clark, Bob Cratchett, has even

taken to putting coals on the fires without asking. I've caught him at it several times this

last week.

Perhaps due to the unaccustomed warmth, or fatigue from the tiresome

parade of these persons throughout the day, I've begun to fall asleep before the end of

the day " every day this week.Crachett has had to shake me awake before the closing


"This very afternoon I had to be roused, earlier than ever, as Cratchett left to take his

holiday time. After he left I stayed behind, intending to put things in order, mulling over

the day's events, when, as clearly as I hear you now, I recalled a voice speaking to me.

Although somewhat muffled in tone, I was able to hear it distinctly, retaining the words.

No one had come in " Cratchett locked the door. I cannot remember any of the solicitors

saying these things""

"What things?," prompted Holmes.

"I have been threatened that someone will be coming to my house tonight..perhaps

as many as three persons. They plan to carry me away somehow..perhaps for ransom.

Who would be likely to pay to get me back?" Scrooge laughed sardonically.

Was there a note of wistfulness?

"I will not be the same man when they are done with me, I'm told, whatever that


Scrooge was regaining his belligerence.

"I'm not going to put up with this any longer, Holmes.I confess I was at a loss what

to do, when your name suddenly came to mind. I came here immediately. Will you

help then?"

"By all means. Unless I miss my guess, this may become a most memorable

Christmas Eve. If Dr. Watson is agreeable, you may expect us later tonight."

Visibly relaxed, Scrooge took his leave.

"Watson, I trust you will thank your good wife for her continual patience in these

matters.Your assistance is highly valued. Your companionship her loss. We shall

make this up to her. Mrs.Hudson has invited the three of us to share Christmas dinner

with her tomorrow. Assure Mary that nothing shall deprive us of this delightful prospect."

"In the meantime however, if you will bring along your revolver, we must find our way

into the office of Scrooge and Marley."

Going to the window, Holmes raised and lowered the shade twice, then suggested

we put on our heavy coats. By the time we reached the street, a black hansom had

drawn up alongside and was waiting. Holmes' contact with certain members of the under-

world was widespread and of great use to him often.

A brief journey through the deserted streets

brought us to the darkened counting-house, where

the hansom stopped long enough for us to get out,

then moved slowly away.

Using one of the many lock-picking tools he

carried with him at all times, Holmes easily opened

the door to the bleak interior, illuminated with a

ghastly yellow light from the gas street lamp on the

sidewalk outside.

As Holmes moved silently about the room, I remarked on the

pungent, yet somehow sickly sweet odor of smoke that still lingered.

"Don't breathe too deeply, Watson!"

He was kneeling by a stove quite close to the front door,

undoubtedly Bob Cratchett's, sifting ashes gently through

his fingers, then quickly located the second one, Scrooge's,

and probed those ashes as well, disclosing a small lump

that he immediately slipped into another pocket

"As I thought", he exclaimed, in barely audible tones.

"Watson, we're finished here", he whispered. Taking my

arm he led us back into the street. As the door clicked

shut behind us, the black hansom reappeared.

" We're headed to your home at the moment as you

see", Holmes told me as we rode.

"I'm not completely heartless " you need a little time

with your long-suffering wife before spending this

Christmas Eve with two crotchety old men. We will

return for you in an hour."

True to his word, the black carriage arrived within

the hour. Holmes seemed much more at ease,

I thought". but said nothing.

Scrooge opened his door to let us in " pausing only to peer closely at the knocker,

before shutting it firmly behind us.

"My mind has been playing tricks since I left you", he apologized. "I seem to have

encountered Jacob Marley at every turn. A good night's sleep will soon straighten me out.

So much for Spirits! Humbug!."

As was his habit, Scrooge retired early to his bedchamber, not however, before a

final outburst of rage at his supposed persecutors, solicitors, life in general and

Christmas in particular.

"What an awful man" I muttered.

"Perhaps not, Watson, perhaps not," Holmes mused absently.

"We shall see."

A series of regular, rasping sounds

indicated that Scrooge was sleeping.

Holmes was right " it was indeed a

long night. my anticipated excitement

was cut short when I laid my revolver on

a nearby table only to hear him say it

would not be needed.

"They'll be no intruders, Watson."

"Then why are we here?", I asked,

in bewilderment.

"Your medical skills may be needed."

The night dragged on while I dozed

fitfully. Holmes watched me with a trace

of a sympathetic smile.

"Watson, my dear fellow, don't fight it.

Lie down on that sofa and get some rest."

I must admit I followed his advice and

the remainder of the night passed quickly,

bringing daylight " and an unexpected


Before I saw him, I heard him. Scrooge was at his window, calling to a youngster.

"What day is this?"

"Christmas day, sir."

"Then I haven't missed it!", followed by gales of laughter.

I sat in stunned disbelief. "Holmes, what in the world".?"

Scrooge continued to address the boy, made arrangements for a goose to be

delivered to Bob Cratchett's home, throwing him money, with a promise of more for

speedy service".all this with continual eruptions of giggles until he had to stop to

catch his breath. At last he rushed from his bedroom and greeted us as though we

might have just come in.

"Merry Christmas", he roared, bestowing a great bear hug to each of us. "What

a fine morning! i can scarcely contain myself. Oh, i have so many places to go, so

many people I must see, before my nephew's dinner party. I mustn't miss it. Where

do I start? Why, I'm as giddy as a schoolboy

He fairly danced as he got himself dressed and out the door he went.

Holmes was smiling as he motioned me to follow him out the same door. Not surprisingly, the black hansom was waiting at the curb.

Settling back in the familiar hansom once again I pressed Holmes for hisexplanation of the remarkable occurrence we had just witnessed.

"The Spirits have done it, Watson", he smiled, "that is how history will record it."

"Humbug!". I found myself quoting Scrooge at the notion. "You know better. What

DO you know? And where are we headed this time?"

"One more appointment, only, my dear fellow, before our promised dinner. There

will be ample time to acquire hearty appetites."

"Were now on our way to the home of a troubled man who is anxiously awaiting us.

I want to see him before Scrooge gets there."


"Bob Cratchett, Watson."

"After I left you at your home yesterday, I went directly to his for a little talk. When I

showed him the small lump extracted from Scrooge's stove " his stove only, mind you,

he grew quite pale and led me into an adjoining room, away from his family. Once in the

little side chamber he handed me a small booklet which justified my suspicions. Are you

acquainted with the growing practice of Mesmerism, Watson?"

"I took the liberty of copying for you a portion of the page which states their objective:

"To alleviate pain and suffering, to cure others of diseases and ailments without drugs

or the surgeon's knife, is to engage in work evoking the keenest human sympathy. Here

is one of the noblest callings to which human kind can devote it's energies " a work of

sympathy, love and devotion to our fellow mortals and that science is Mesmerism. By

its influence you can extend a powerful influence over the mind of others without their


"In the space of half an hour Cratchett laid bare his desperation, employment under

a severe taskmaster, the poverty of his existence, unable to meet the needs of his

growing family, the bleak outlook for his youngest, Tiny Tim. Somewhere, somehow

he came into possession of this tract and saw immediately a way out.

"The harsh weather provided an excuse for stoking the fires without incurring the wrath

of Scrooge. While his employer was intent on his ledger, Cratchett added a substance to

the fire which produced the drowsiness he spoke of " cannabis. When Scrooge was deep

in slumber, Cratchett spoke persuasively to him, telling him he was to be visited by three

Spirits who would reveal his past life and lead him into a happier one of love for his fellow

man. A fanciful tale, Watson, which could add to your literary merits should you write it

up. If you don't, rest assured someone else will."

"By the way, in answer to my unspoken question, I saw a note at the back of the

book that he must have seen:

"Cannabis can be smoked in a variety of ways, whereas in some places a pile of

cannabis is simply thrown on the fire.and the smoke inhaled.'

"How is it that Cratchett was not affected?" I wondered aloud..

"The muffled voice Scrooge heard would indicate that Cratchett used some form of

covering to avoid the fumes, perhaps a kerchief."

"He repeated this procedure for several days and now suffers agonies at what he has

done, fearful of the consequences to Scrooge."

"Then this Christmas morning should be a delight for him, Holmes, when he hears

that he was successful."

"We can only hope the results are permanent. Mesmerism is successful when the

individual has a strong desire to accept the outcome. I have a feeling that Scrooge had

a facade he adopted long ago for whatever reason, and may have often wished to shrug

it off." It appears that Mesmerism has accomplished the feat.

"It's mind control nevertheless, Watson, and though one could find himself longing for

a world where the evil that drives man could be so readily suggested away, it must never

be allowed." I have exchanged a promise with Bob Cratchett that he is to have no further

dealing with the practice, and I, in turn, will conveniently forget the entire matter. If you

will leave this out of your journals, I will be grateful, Watson. The story will emerge one

day in some fanciful form that will charm readers everywhere."

"But that is not our concern, my good doctor, is it? If you are getting as hungry as I

am, we must not keep Mrs.Hudson waiting another moment."

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