I really had to take a break from Sherlock for a bit. You know he’s great and all, but he grates on a person after a while, but we’re back in the swing of things.
The more I read the Sherlock Holmes stories the more I am impressed with the television show Sherlock produced by the BBC. They have done an amazing job of keeping the story lines written by Arthur in the television series.
John and Sherlock are sitting at home one day, when Sherlock gets a card. It’s from Appledore towers (there’s that word again. You’re now an apple). The man who sent the card is named Charles Augustus Milverton and Sherlock tells John that thinking of Charles makes him think of a sneaky slithery satanic snake, not his exact words, but I’m paraphrasing. He says that Charles is simply the worst person there is.
What Charles does is blackmail everybody. He buys gossip. He buys secrets. He pays well, but he receives better when he threatens to release the information. So if the Duke of wherever’s daughter had an illegitimate baby with the African kitchen boy and she went to her aunt’s for a “visit”, Charles would be all over that. He would pay the servant who told lots of money and then he would threaten the Duke for even more money.
Charles gets away with everything. Some of it is a bit illegal, but his victims won’t speak up because to do so would ruin their reputations, especially when the reputations of young women are involved. Charles is nefarious because he isn’t blackmailing the innocent; he’s blackmailing the guilty, and they know they’re guilty. Everyone is guilty all around. Charles is counting on the guilty party being so ashamed that they’re willing to pay up.
It just so happens that Charles has an appointment on Baker Street. He shows up wearing a fancy coat. He’s rather unimpressive for the most part. He looks like a nerd. He looks nice enough though.
Currently Charles is endeavoring to blackmail a woman who is about to be married, her name is Lady Eva. Unlike other women Charles has blackmailed, Lady Eva has enough guts to contact Sherlock about the matter. Charles wants £7000 from Lady Eva. That was a lot of money back then and I wouldn’t have it to give Charles today. Charles says he will mail her future husband some dirty details if she doesn’t pay up. She doesn’t have that much money. Everyone knows she doesn’t have that much money, but Charles reasons that because she’s about to be married people will be more willing to give her money.
Sherlock tries to make a deal with Milverton, but he won’t budge. They all say goodnight without much fanfare. Sherlock then dresses up as someone else and disappears at all hours of the day and night.
He walks in the door one day and this is what happens:
Sherlock: John, I know you thought I was gay, but I’m engaged.
Sherlock: I’m engaged to Milverton’s housemaid. I bought her flowers. I went on walks with her. I told her she was beautiful. I told her that she was the only woman I had ever loved and now we’re engaged. We’re also going to break into Appledore.
John:…but Sherlock, breaking and entering is against the law.
Sherlock: I know, that’s why you’re staying here. You can’t break the law you’re a doctor. Besides it’s ok if I break into his house because he’s a bad guy and I’m doing it for a noble cause.
John: I can’t have you go by yourself Sherlock, let me go with you.
Sherlock: Do you have burglar shoes?
John: Yes, I was a burglar in The Hobbit.
Sherlock: Good, we’ll need masks.
John: I can make some out of black silk.
Sherlock: Excellent Watson, I can see you’re very good at this sort of thing, with all this black silk and such. Why do you have handcuffs in there?
Ok, so it didn’t go exactly like that, but that’s basically how it went.
Sherlock and John go up to Appledore where Sherlock uses his brand new burglar kit; he bought it on eBay. They break into the house fairly easy and find Milverton’s study, but it’s unlocked, which seems strange. They see the safe where all the papers are, but all of a sudden Milverton shows up. They think it is because he knows they’ve come, but it seems he’s waiting for someone else. They hide in the dark shadows of the room.
A veiled woman comes in the room. Milverton says she is late. They speak for a moment of what a terrible person Milverton is and how he ruined her life. It turns out her husband up and had a heart attack when Milverton sent him the terrible news he had of his wife. She says that’s never going to happen a gain. She pulls out a revolver and shoots Milverton many times.
The woman leaves, but Sherlock and John grab all of Milverton’s papers and burn them. They get out of the house, but are almost caught when going over the fence.
The next day Lestrade calls at Baker Street and asks for help in solving Milverton’s murder, but Sherlock refuses saying that he got what he deserved.
No word on Sherlock’s engagement.
Appledore! Appledore! Is there an iappledore?
I have already mentioned that Appledore is something of a real place. It’s a little village.
Hampstead is a place mentioned in the story. It’s real, of course. I think everyone has heard of Hampstead. I’ve never been there myself, but I hear it’s real ritzy.
The story mentions someone named Mr. Pickwick and the name was not familiar to me so I researched it. Mr. Pickwick is a Dickens’ character from the book The Pickwick Papers, which is not one book, but a collection of tales published serially by Dickens in 1836 and 1837. Most likely, Arthur had read this publication and nodded back to it in this story. Mr. Pickwick was seen as a rather nice and benevolent person. When John describes Milverton, he first describes him as having something of Mr. Pickwick in his appearance.
Like the Sherlock Holmes stories, which were also published serially, The Pickwick Papers had illustrations. I’ve been using some of the original illustrations of the Sherlock stories in each of the Sherlock posts I have made. Mr. Pickwick was obviously recognizable not only to Arthur, but to others, otherwise it would have been pointless for Arthur to draw the parallel. If nobody knew what Mr. Pickwick looked like, this would have just been empty words on Arthur’s part.
Part of me wonders if Arthur would have written in the same manner were he writing today. I added a little flair to my description of what happens in this story, but John really does make silk masks in the story and Sherlock really does say he has a talent for it. I used to think the idea that the television show Sherlock portraying John and Sherlock as possibly gay and alluding to it every so often was just a concept the TV producers came up with. Oh we’ll keep it hip for this generation, blah, blah, blah. In reality, if you read Arthur’s more antiquated text, with a modern mindset, it totally looks as if they could be gay. I’m sure men used to be more friendly with each other a hundred years ago, but when we’re reading it with our modern eye, they seem a bit too close.
The word ejaculation is used one time in this story.
Blackmail has always been currency. If you know something bad about somebody else and they don’t want other people knowing that bad something, then you can make some killer money telling that person you’re going to publish that bad something in the newspaper if they don’t give you money, or free Doritos, whichever you prefer. Milverton is quite a nefarious villain. He’s sort of illegal, but not entirely. You could drag him down, but you would drag yourself down as well.
That’s really the worst kind of situation. You could do something about it, but it wouldn’t profit you in the end. I believe some people would call that being between a rock and a hard place. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Getting back to blackmail, the stakes become higher the more important you are, or rather, the more famous you are. You could blackmail me, and while I wouldn’t like it, you probably wouldn’t hurt my reputation that much. You could totally publish it in the newspaper that I did the terrible thing of giving my dog Max, rest his soul, a Listerine strip when they first came out, but I’ve told people about that before and it really wouldn’t be news. Even if nobody knew that I had done that and you made it available to the public, who is going to care? I just review books and write. It’s not as if I’m Hillary Clinton.
Now, if Hillary Clinton had done the same thing I did, then there is a chance it might be plastered all over the news, and Hillary really might not want you to tells the news that she gave her dog a Listerine strip. She’s a political entity. She helps make important decisions for the United States. She’s supposed to be above reproach, to an extent. She can’t be going around giving Listerine strips to people’s dogs. Who is going to vote a woman in as president if she gives Listerine strips to dogs?
Milverton did not make his money blackmailing the maid. He made his money blackmailing royalty, public officials, and other well-known people. Basically, if Milverton were alive today, he would be going after Princess Kate, the prime minister, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and so forth, but he wouldn’t go after the Kardashians; it seems that no matter what anybody says about them everybody still thinks they’re great and fascinating.
There are people like Milverton today, we just don’t know their names. These people aren’t going to advertise that they make their living blackmailing celebrities and public figures.
In the end, Milverton got what was coming to him. I hope that woman went on a cruise to the Bahamas afterwards to celebrate. You can only blackmail people for so long before someone gets you; someone will get you; don’t think you can escape.
What happened to the fiancée, Agatha? I bet she was heart-broken when Sherlock really didn’t marry her. You know what would have been great though? If it happened that Sherlock really did marry her and led a secret family life away from John and mystery-solving. Then when Sherlock finally kicks the bucket everyone finds out that he has twenty grand-kids and a community that loves him as Mr. so-and-so.
P.S. Don’t think my spelling of fiancée is incorrect. It’s correct. If it’s a man you’re engaged to, he’s your fiancé, but if it’s a woman, she’s your fiancée, but people tend to use fiancé as the term to mean both these days. It’s a French-ish thing.
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Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes