[Narration by Mr. John Watson, Esquire]
It was two weeks after my return from Cambridge that it happened. I was studying quietly in the library when I heard two students passing outside talking to each other. I do not as a rule eavesdrop on conversations but when one's own name is mentioned then one cannot but listen in.
“I so want to slap that John Watson!”
My eyebrows shot up. Whom had I annoyed, and how?
“Why?” came the second voice.
”I don't know what happened to him up in the flatlands but my God, that self-satisfied smile of his is just too much for a fellow to bear first thing of a morning!”
They passed on. I frowned. I had not been smiling any more of late.
Now I stopped to think about it my mood was definitely better these days, and I always felt a burst of happiness when I got one of Holmes' letters. So what if I did? It made studying easier and if some sourpusses did not like other people being happy, then tough luck!
That autumn the Empire was rocked by the discovery that Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli had secretly negotiated the purchase of a large share in the recently-built canal across the Suez Isthmus in Egypt – oh and he had sort of forgotten to tell anyone about it. As you do when you have just put the British Empire up as security for a loan. The political turmoil was terrible but he survived it and I rather admired the chutzpah of a Great Britain which had done everything it could short of sabotage to stop the damn canal being built and had then taken advantage of French distraction after their recent German problems to nip in and buy the damn thing! Although I dare say that that Paris may have had a slightly different view of things!
Sammy came down for a few days that Christmas and he too commented on my improved mood. Somehow some bastard at the college had told him about Miss Robinson and he naturally chivvied me about always being happier when I was being horizontal. I was not that bad and if he did not shut up about it then there was going to be another clown mask in his suit-case when he unpacked it North of the Border!
Over the winter of the following year I continued to exchange letters with Holmes but, coward that I was, I did not dare to raise the topic of our finding rooms together. Neither did he but with him that could just as easily have been absent-mindedness. His course was finishing that summer so I really should have done something but something in me was afraid of rejection. I was also distracted by several prominent professors on my own course protesting the new Medical Act of that year which granted equal qualifications to women who earned them, effectively preventing discrimination. My own views were fairly liberal but I made sure not to voice them as at least one of the professors involved was known to be quite vindictive to those who crossed him. Such actions were of course against college rules but we all knew how things worked in real life (ironically one of our last cases together would be over exactly this sort of behaviour).
One thing I do remember from that fateful year was the opening of the new Midland Railway between Settle Junction and Carlisle, over seventy miles of track through some of the sparsest-populated country in England. It seemed the ultimate Victorian folly, a line the Company had not wanted to build when alternative arrangements had seemed possible after all but which they had been compelled to by parliament, and I doubted it would ever seriously pay. However I was soon distracted by the fact that the first part of my time at St. Bartholomew's was coming to an end and I would have to find lodgings of my own in which to continue there. And to cap it all I suddenly had problems concerning the current roof over my own head.