I had just settled down into my leather overstuffed chair with a delightful little book I had received in the mail earlier in the day from my favorite rare book dealer. Though it was simply bound and its pages were not gilt, it was still a thing of beauty to me and I, too, was simply bound to read it without guilt.
Suddenly there appeared in my midst the delightful Mrs. Callington, referred to by many as my much better half.
She breezed into my study airily, but with purpose.
“Darling,” she said, “Which necklace do you think looks the best on me?”
Though my spine is normally as stiff as a shirt collar stay with extra starch, I felt a slight shiver ripple down it as if it were made of pudding. If some far-thinking and altruistic soul would ever write a book called The Amateur’s Guide to Matrimonial Reefs and Shoals, this would be in the chapter titled “Here be dragons.” It would be adorned by a color plate showing a hapless clipper ship sailing off the edge of the earth while avoiding a large tentacle coming up from the ocean.
Fortunately, I had just poured a chalice-full of an impertinent little something, which, if their advert in my last issue of the Natty Gent’s Guide to Epicurean Delectation (published quarterly) was to believed, was guaranteed to oil the gears and pulleys encased within the Alistair noggin and help me navigate expertly through the treacherous seas which I found myself now plying through. That meant that, sadly, I would have to wait a bit longer to crack the covers of my Edwardian whodunit. There were more pressing matters about to be impressed upon me by my delightful wife.
“That depends, my winsome wildflower,” I said, setting my newly acquired literary gem on the table beside me.
“Oh what?” she asked.
“On which one you like better.”
“Well, the emeralds go best with my eyes, I think,” she said, holding up the emerald necklace to her delicate throat and looking at me expectantly.
“Natch,” I said helpfully, taking a bracing swig of the amber hootch in my hand.
The glittering emeralds were indeed very much like her equally glittering green eyes, which were a beautiful by-product of her Scottish heritage, as were the contents of the glass in my hand.
“And they pick up the green pattern in my dress,” she continued.
“I was about to say that very same thing,” I said, after a slow, deliberate swallowing of the amber nectar.
“But the sapphire necklace goes better with the style of the dress.” She lowered the emeralds and held the sapphire necklace up to the neckline of her dress. “It’s more modern, don’t you think?”
“If it were any more modern,” I said, “People would swear you were a visitor from the future.”
“But there is sort of provincial elegance about the emeralds.”
I rubbed my chin thoughtfully, considering the emeralds.
“Yes,” I said. “Provincial. That is just the word I was looking for.”
“You don’t think they’re too provincial?” she asked, suddenly gazing at the emeralds with a worried expression.
“Can anything be too provincial?” I asked philosophically, followed by a hearty and bracing draught from my glass. I reached for the decanter, for this discussion of necklaces looked as if it would go far into the night.
“So, which do you like better?” she asked, holding both necklaces up to her throat.
“Well,” I said. “I do like how the emeralds set off your eyes.”
“So, you like the emeralds better?” she asked, smiling softly at me.
“Well,” I said, preparing to dissemble, for the time had come to do so. It could be put off no longer. A weaker man might ask for a blindfold and a cigarette, but we Callingtons, through centuries of selective breeding, are always prepared to look our fate into the eyes.
“Yes,” I said, trying to keep my voice confident and sure, and to suppress the quavering that it invariably suffers from when I am asked my opinion of whatever she is wearing. “I prefer the emeralds.”
She looked relieved.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “Then sapphires it is then.”
“Wait. What?,” I blustered. My feelings were a little hurt at this sudden plot twist. “You’re going to wear the sapphires after I chose the emeralds?”
“No, silly,” she said, laughing and insinuating herself onto my lap. “I’m going to wear the emeralds. I’m going to donate the sapphires to the charity auction for the veteran’s hospital.”
I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her in closer for a cuddle and a quick kiss.
“Darling,” I said, “Your sparkling jewels are only exceeded by your sparkling heart. You’ve inspired me.”
I reached beside me and picked up my newly acquired book.
“I would like to donate this book to the auction.”
“Who on earth would bid on some old book?” she asked dubiously.
“This is not just some old book,” I said, a little hurt at her dismissive tone. “It is one of the greatest mysteries of this or of any age.”
“Is the mystery why someone would buy an old book at an auction?” she asked, looking at the book with a somewhat jaundiced eye.
“Again,” I said, trying to get her to focus on the salient point. “Not just some old book. This is The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”
“Do you mean, ‘these are’ the adventures of Sherlock Holmes?”
“I suppose,” I said, considering the book, “It would be more accurate to say that these were the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for surely he has passed on to the great beyond by now.”
“Well, I do appreciate the gesture, Darling,” said my beautiful Day Lily, lifting my hand to kiss it. “But honestly, the veteran’s hospital needs oodles and oodles of cash and even though I’m sure you love this book, I don’t think it would make much of a dent in what we’re hoping to collect.”
“That is where you’re wrong, my Sweet,” I said.
“How so?” she asked.
“Elementary, my dear Alexis. This is no ordinary edition of the aforementioned adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is a first edition in extremely fine condition.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?”
“Really. Furthermore, it was signed by none other than one A. C. Doyle himself, known among his inner circle as Conan the Grammarian.”
“Oh my gosh!” she gushed, staring at the book with a new appreciation. “It must be worth a fortune.”
“Only a small one,” I said, but I deduce it is for a good cause.”
“Oh Darling!” she said, throwing her arms around my neck and kissing me. “How can I ever thank you?”
“That,” I said, smiling at her, “Is a mystery that is easy to solve.”
Story is Copyright ©2019 by Biff Sock Pow
The title and characters “Alistair and Alexis” are copyright © 2019 by Biff Sock Pow
All characters, character names, fictional place names, fictional products, and fictional companies and organizations used in the “Alistair and Alexis” stories are copyright © 2019 by Biff Sock Pow