Sunday, September 22, 2019

Then I Will Go Back to Him With Some Faked Papers [VALL]

"The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" is a work of fiction.

Of course it was written by John H. Watson, M.D.  But there's some nonsense in this story.  Mostly the last two paragraphs.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

We all know the story:

Watson and Holmes are having tea. 

Holmes says, "BTW did you know I had a brother?" 

Watson probably does a spit-take and it's off to the Diogenes Club! 

Brother Mycroft is fat and better at detecting how many kids someone has than Sherlock is.

Mycroft's neighbor comes over with a problem: he saw a guy who's been kidnapped, translates some threats from a small giggling man, and gets dumped in the middle of nowhere. 

Mycroft places ads in a bunch of papers and Sherlock and Watson go home. 

Mycroft NEVER diverts from his habit, except for this one time (and the time submarine plans were stolen, and the time he had to drive a cab, etc. etc.) and he rolls into Baker Street with news. 

Time to go rescue a Greek man. 

Oh, and the neighbor has been kidnapped again. 

But first - warrants! 

Bureaucracy, yada yada... 

Finally, the scene of the crime. 

Oh no, the door is locked.

Holmes unlocks a window.

Gregson: “It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force, and not against it, Mr. Holmes."  (Man, that would be a fun idea for a book!)

The Greek man is dead, the neighbor is saved by good old brandy, and a woman ends up kidnapped.

Holmes says, "Case closed."

And then we get these two paragraphs:

"And this was the singular case of the Grecian Interpreter, the explanation of which is still involved in some mystery. We were able to find out, by communicating with the gentleman who had answered the advertisement, that the unfortunate young lady came of a wealthy Grecian family, and that she had been on a visit to some friends in England. While there she had met a young man named Harold Latimer, who had acquired an ascendancy over her and had eventually persuaded her to fly with him. Her friends, shocked at the event, had contented themselves with informing her brother at Athens, and had then washed their hands of the matter. The brother, on his arrival in England, had imprudently placed himself in the power of Latimer and of his associate, whose name was Wilson Kemp—a man of the foulest antecedents. These two, finding that through his ignorance of the language he was helpless in their hands, had kept him a prisoner, and had endeavored by cruelty and starvation to make him sign away his own and his sister's property. They had kept him in the house without the girl's knowledge, and the plaster over the face had been for the purpose of making recognition difficult in case she should ever catch a glimpse of him. Her feminine perception, however, had instantly seen through the disguise when, on the occasion of the interpreter's visit, she had seen him for the first time. The poor girl, however, was herself a prisoner, for there was no one about the house except the man who acted as coachman, and his wife, both of whom were tools of the conspirators. Finding that their secret was out, and that their prisoner was not to be coerced, the two villains with the girl had fled away at a few hours' notice from the furnished house which they had hired, having first, as they thought, taken vengeance both upon the man who had defied and the one who had betrayed them.

Months afterwards a curious newspaper cutting reached us from Buda-Pesth. It told how two Englishmen who had been traveling with a woman had met with a tragic end. They had each been stabbed, it seems, and the Hungarian police were of opinion that they had quarreled and had inflicted mortal injuries upon each other. Holmes, however, is, I fancy, of a different way of thinking, and holds to this day that, if one could find the Grecian girl, one might learn how the wrongs of herself and her brother came to be avenged."

Lies, all lies!

Let's say you are John Watson and you've been writing about your amazing roommate for about ten years now.  Things are going well.  Those Strand checks are coming in and you've got money for the track and billiards with Thurston.  But then you hear that said roommate has an even more amazing older brother.  (Never mind that this has been a secret for a decade for some reason)  This will be an amazing story to write up!  Bonus: there's a mystery attached to it.

And then Holmes doesn't care.

A man was murdered, his sister kidnapped, and another man almost killed.  And Sherlock Holmes is done looking into things. 

This does not make for a good story.  But Watson is not about to let a story slip away.  With a few fabrications, we have a classic Sherlockian tale.  I've read this store time and time again, and I've never been struck by the hollow ring of these final paragraphs before. 

Why would Sophy Kratides's landlord know all about her brother's plight?

Who would have known enough to send a newspaper clipping to Sherlock Holmes?

How did Sophy Kratides disappear without a trace after taking out her captors?

There are too many unanswered questions at the end of the story.  We love a happy ending, but this one wraps up a little too neatly.  I argue that Watson wanted to write up The Greek Interpreter but had to use artistic license to keep his audience happy.  And don't give me that whole "Mycroft was working for Moriarty" business.  My money is on an author who knew what the people wanted.

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