The Wiltshire Two and the Tear Filled Box.

    Perhaps the most eerie and sinister of cases ever to come the way of Holmes and I was that of the Wiltshire two and the tear filled box. We were taking breakfast late one morning in the June of 87 when Mrs. Hudson entered the room to alert us to the presence of a visitor and, judging by the agitated manner in which she waved aside the wreaths of our opium smoke, it was obvious even to me that this arrival presaged something out of the ordinary; it was but seldom that I had known the experience of seeing that good lady so flustered.
Having asked her to show the person up to our chambers I looked over to Holmes expecting to see his curiosity as peaked as my own. So it was with some consternation that I observed naught on his angular features other than the merest ghost of a malicious grin.
“By Jove,” I exclaimed; “am I right in surmising that once more you have outpaced me in thought, and that the identity of this newcomer is already known to you?”
He answered, however, not one syllable, but merely continued to regard me with an odd fixed expression as he puffed noiselessly at the long Chinese pipe hanging from his narrow lips. I would have pressed him further, but for the entrance at that very instance of the caller, whose red face and laboured breathing told of a sprint up the four flights of stairs that climbed from the street up to our rooms.
I stood to greet him, but being perhaps a tad unbalanced myself by the fumes from Holmes’, and I confess it, my own morning indulgence I missed my footing and before I knew it I found myself hurtling down onto Mrs. Hudson’s delicate Parisian breakfast table, laden as it was with the tea things and the pots of jams and marmalades she provided daily for the breaking of our fast. Needless to say the fragile item of furniture and every thing on it was smashed asunder as my well rounded form smashed to the floor beneath.
When I came round I had the opportunity to observe our visitor somewhat more closely and there was no denying that he was a striking figure of a man: over six feet in height and broad, his whiskered chin, handlebar moustaches and the straightness of his bearing bespoke, beyond all doubt, the presence of a military man, and moreover, one of no little rank, if I was to judge by the odd solemnity with which Holmes was listening to his narration.
He had, it transpired, recently taken as his bride the daughter of a neighbour of his in the village of Amesbury near the ancient monument of Stonehenge in the county of Wiltshire. Having wed on the evening of the 20th, it was with no small anticipation that he had retired to bed that evening to consummate the marriage.
His young wife retired to an antechamber to prepare herself for the night’s exertions as he settled down on the bed to await her coming. However, come she did not, and so it was with mounting frustration that he observed the passing of first one hour and then a second as he laid waiting. Eventually in a fit of indignation he jumped naked from the conjugal space and flung open the door of her dressing room to demand of her an explanation for the oddness of her behaviour.
Yet all that greeted his enraged entrance was the sight of an empty room, a billowing curtain and an opened window that spoke all too eloquently of the path the youthful beauty had taken. He ran to the window and looked out in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of her fleeing form, but all that met his eyes was the emptiness of the lawns and there, in the distance, those eerie stones silhouetted against the baleful glare of a gibbous moon.
And there too it was that the following morning a member of the local constabulary had taken him to identify the bodies of his young bride and his own loyal stable lad; entwined naked and cold in the centre of that ill omened circle with nothing around them of the garments they must have worn, nor any sign of violence done, nor evidence of the presence of others, nor any one thing except an ancient jeweled cask bearing druidic symbols and containing, of all things, a pool of tears wherein lay desolate the golden wedding band he had placed on her delicate finger not twenty four before.
It was with no small sense of dread that I waited for my good friend’s reaction to this tale of betrayal and woe. The pipe clenched in his teeth continued to emit tiny wreaths of sweet smoke as his oddly glassy stare met the querulous eyes of that noble and bereaved man before us. The moment stretched in time, the silence as heavy as the wreak of the opium we had so recently imbibed, three minutes or more passed before the awful truth dawned on me: Holmes was totally out of his fucking mind. Horrified by the growing awareness of what the completely toasted genius might say or do next in the delicate presence of one in such a piteously fragile state of grief, I leapt once more to my feet in the hope that I might be able to divert our visitors attention long enough for the great detective to gather his shredded wits. The clatter of broken crockery alerted the poor man to my presence as I rose, and he turned his tearful gaze towards me as I sprang forward to offer words of consolation.
My years in the medical profession and the many strange cases I had observed in the company of Holmes had, though I say it myself, bequeathed to me no small skill in the art of comforting the distressed. Had it not been for the patch of quince marmalade that had oozed from the wreckage of my previous fall to make a hardly noticeable, yet quite unerringly treacherous, pool on the polished mahogany of the floorboards, I dare say I might have brought solace even to one as desolate as he. As it was however, the unexpectedness of my violently lunging forward motion and the inarticulate cry of horror that flew unbidden from my mouth as I plunged comet like directly at him proved to be of little comfort, and, as he dodged, with a swiftness quite surprising in a man of such advanced years and thus gave me an unhindered path towards the porcelain filled glass fronted cabinet that had for so long been the pride of our dear landlady, I was able to observe quite clearly that the man was, if anything, further disconcerted by the turn events seemed to be taking. Had I been able to retain consciousness as the shards of priceless tea services and crystal decanters rained down upon my prostrate form the situation might yet have been redeemable, but, unfortunately that possibility must remain forever in the gloomy realms of what might have been. For when I finally managed to rouse myself once more all that greeted my newly flowering consciousness was the sound of Holmes’ demented cackling and the outraged shrieks of our dear hostess demanding that we take ourselves to the den of hooligans where we belonged and never darken the doors of respectable folk again.
And so ended the strange case of the Wiltshire two and the tear filled box.