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Herz Verrat

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Little Anna sat up in her bed, clutching her favourite doll. "Mamma, der Englischmann –"

Martha Freud reassured her daughter that the screaming man who'd frightened her so in the night had been very sick and was now much better, that her Pappa and the Englisch Doktor had worked nonstop to make the man well. Only then did the child, assured, go with Paula the maid to take her breakfast.

She left Anna's room and looked in on her husband, sitting by Herr Holmes' bedside and watching him sleep after his terrible ordeal of shaking off his Kokain addiction. She silently sent a prayer of thanks that this patient had survived, unlike their poor friend.

But as she headed to the staircase, a sound of grief stopped her at the room they had given to Herr Doktor Watson. Martha opened the door, and saw the man collapsed into a chair with his face in his hands and his whole body shaking.

Her motherly instincts warred with her duty as a good hostess. Everyone knew how reserved the Englisch could be – despite the fact that their good Queen still wore mourning decades after the death of her beloved Albert – and few men would not feel shame to be caught weeping.

Fortunately her instincts won almost immediately and she approached her suffering guest.

She did not try to embrace Doktor Watson – that might embarrass the poor man to death – but merely laid a hand over his, holding a clean handkerchief. He managed to gasp his thanks even as he buried his face in the linen, and murmur an apology for his unkempt look (he was still in his shirtsleeves from the long nights of tending a delirious man).

"Herr Doktor, your friend will get well," she said softly. "The worst of this terrible ordeal finished is. Between your efforts and those of my husband you have saved Herr Holmes from a ruinous death. You have toiled like a king on a battlefield, and your heart is sick and tired. Take your rest now."

Watson's hands clenched in the kerchief before his face. His voice was low, punctuated by gasps for breath that were not quite sobs. "He begged me to – to forgive him. Forgive him."

Frau Freud nodded. She had heard the hysterical shrieks from the cocaine-addled Herr Holmes, the foul language and vile curses he piled on the heads of all his caretakers whilst deep in the throes of withdrawal (Gott sei dank, Paula knew not a word of Englisch!) – but surely the barbs that drew the most blood were when he accused his loyal friend of betrayal, of working with Professor Moriarty to deliver him to his enemies – had gone so far as to sneeringly rename the Doktor "Iscariot."

Dr. Watson pulled his hands away. His eyes were red and wet, and the look in them was pure self-loathing. "I struck him. I struck my patient. I betrayed my oath as a medical man, and the friendship of the best and wisest man I've ever known – and he asks for my forgiveness."

Ah, this. Sigmund had told her that Herr Holmes had tried to escape his room and Doktor Watson had been forced to use physical force to stop him – and it was very likely that his resentment at the nonstop abuse and insults from the sick man had added weight to his fist. For this she had no words, and only patted his hand.

"Herr Doktor."

Both looked to the doorway where the specialist stood.

"You carry a wagonload on your heart," Dr. Freud said, "of Schuldgefühl - terrible guilt. You think there is nothing that will make it right, that will take this betrayal away."

Dr. Watson only nodded. The poor man looked so wretched – this, on top of the five nearly sleepless days of tending Herr Holmes.

Freud nodded in the same way. "Ja ja, I have for years your stories read, and have come to admire your friend for his great brain and for his passion for justice. But also have I seen in these stories the Freundschaft which you and Herr Holmes share – like so few I have ever seen in literature or in my life.

"Consider, then, Herr Doktor Watson, how Herr Holmes will feel when he awakens, fully and truly for the first time – and he realizes that he has called his incomparable friend 'Judas' for the crime of saving his life."

Watson went utterly still. His hand under hers clenched around the damp handkerchief.

"An equal measure, is it not? One Schuldgefühl for another. When he awakens, go see him – and you may then wish to work together to unlade your wagons." Freud inclined his head. "In the meantime, your friend sleeps. I prescribe the same for both of us, after breakfast."

***

Voices again from the sickroom – but quiet and measured now behind the closed door, rising and falling like a peaceful sea. The Freuds continued to their room to retire for the night and left their guests to their unlading.