We have reached the end my friends. This is the end of all the Sherlock stories, but don’t worry, I still have things to write about concerning good old Sherlock, so this will not be the last you hear of Sherlock from me.
This story is also called The Last Bow. This is Sherlock’s last hurrah into the world of solving mysteries. The story opens with two German men talking. They go on and on about all the special papers one of them has. He’s waiting for some naval codes in particular. It turns out this man is a spy. He’s in England selling off secrets to the Germans. It’s 1917. We all know what happened soon after.
One of the people who works for this German is named Altamont; he procures information and other such things. He’s a Irish-American. The visiting man, a secretary, asks about the German man’s servant. He says, “Oh that’s Martha. All my other servants and family went ahead of me.” Then the secretary left.
Another car soon shows up. This time it’s Altamont. He says he has a copy of the naval signals, which is better than the real thing because the original won’t have been misplaced. He tells the German man, Von Bork, that his way of keeping papers is stupid. Well, he doesn’t say stupid, he simply says that it’s not very secure. Von Bork says that it is secure because it takes a double combination. He the proceeds to tell Altamont the double combination, which is August and 1914.
Altamont then tells Von Bork some bad news. His men are going down. Someone is getting to them. Steiner is down and Altamont fears he will be next. Altamont almost accuses Von Bork of giving the men up himself, Von Bork is irritated about this of course. Altamont says he’s going to go to Holland before things get too bad. There is something about a book. Altamont asks for money, but Von Bork says he can’t have it until he sees the book. He opens the book and it’s the Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, then someone chloroforms him.
That someone happens to be the chauffeur, who is actually none other than John Watson. Sherlcok is Altamont. They sit around drinking Von Bork’s wine, while he’s out. Martha comes in, but it turns out she was in on the whole thing, so she isn’t really that disturbed. Sherlock finds that the papers are important, but not that important. The two men pick up a conversation.
Sherlock has been retired and keeping bees. He wrote the book on beekeeping that he used to distract Von Bork. John and Sherlock have not seen each other for quite some time. This particular case has taken Sherlock two years to crack.
Von Bork wakes up, and Sherlock reveals to him that he is not Altamont, he’s actually Sherlock Holmes. Von Bork has heard of Sherlock Holmes and he knows he is screwed. Sherlock has apparently been passing some false information along as well. It turns out England is better equipped than Germany has been led to believe. They secure Von Bork and take him on his way to the police. We leave Sherlock and John recalling old times with a prisoner wriggling around in the car.
Germans. You know, I’m part German. I have German ancestry. They’re not all bad you know, but for a long time saying you were German was fairly synonymous with being a bad person. It’s discriminatory and stereotypical, of course. Germany had been misbehaving for a little while, here and there, before WWI broke out. They hadn’t really done anything all up in your face yet.
This story was published in 1917 and I’m assuming it takes place around the same time. 1917 was towards the tail-end of WWI. The date mentioned by Von Bork, August 2014, was very, very close to when WWI officially started. Officially WWI started on July 28, 1914. Von Bork was basically gloating over the fact that the war had started and he had been a part of it.
I’ve written about nationalism in literature before; it was a ways back. This is a nationalistic piece in my opinion. Arthur was saying that an Englishman was so awesome that he was brought out of retirement to foil German war efforts. Sherlock spent two years sending the wrong information to Germany via Von Bork. WWI officially ended in 1918, so there was still a little time left for the war to be fought. Arthur was saying that England was ten times smarter than Germany. He was saying it wasn’t a contest. He was saying that Germany wasn’t very smart. The guy kept his important papers in some strange contraption and not in a safe. Nationalism is about saying your country is awesome in whatever medium you prefer, but there is also that side that will say other countries just aren’t smart. If your country is so awesome, some other countries have to be not so awesome in order for your country to be recognized as awesome. Does it make any sense?
Arthur was trying to boost morale. Sherlock Holmes was getting involved in the war effort, fancy that. Sherlock Holmes left retirement and beekeeping, which he probably enjoyed, to serve his country. He spent two years behind the scenes pretending to be someone else all for the sake of Mother England. It almost brings a tear to your eye. I’m not British, but if I were, I would be proud of Sherlock Holmes at this point.
You know what else this story is? Propaganda, that’s what it is. Almost anything can be propaganda, not just stories. Posters, movies, artwork, music, subliminal messages, advertisements, and the list goes on. Think of propaganda as a mass media type of way to get lots of people to recognize your viewpoint. It’s a way to make people share your point of view. Here’s a brightly colored object, believe that coconut is the Devil. That’s a stupid example, but it doesn’t matter what your viewpoint is. As long as you use media to try to push your opinion on someone else, that’s propaganda. Someone else may have a different position than I do.
This story was published in The Strand. Lot’s of people read it. I mean, lots and lots of people. There was already a following of Sherlock, so Sherlock could be a valuable tool in boosting morale of the British citizens, but also in getting people to think that England was winning and Germany was stupid.
I really don’t think this story was written pure as another venture into the world of Sherlock Holmes. This was a war effort. Arthur did his part, just as everyone else did their part.
Look forward to more essays on Sherlock Holmes