It was a bitterly cold February day, I recall, and the meager sun was just setting as I wearily climbed the stairs to our flat at 221 Baker Street. I was looking forward with pleasure to a quiet evening by the fire, with my feet propped up on a footstool and a glass of brandy in my hand. The door to the flat was ajar, and as I quietly pushed it open, I became aware of a voice. It was Holmes, and he was counting.
"Twenty one, twenty two, twenty three..."
I shrugged off my coat and scarf and hung them up as I glanced around the room. He was nowhere in sight.
"Holmes? Where are you?"
The tall, wing-backed chair turned toward the fire moved convulsively. There was a flurry of startled scrabbling, than a silence. I moved into the room.
My old friend was sitting quite stiffly, staring fixedly at a large book, which he held, I noted, upside down. As I gazed at him, bemused, he quickly righted the book, and then, with a studied air of nonchalance, slowly wetted a languid finger and turned the page.
"Holmes? What were you doing just now?"
"Hmmm?" He turned another page, then glanced up. "Oh, ah, I was just... counting the number of, um, types of Persian tobacco."
As I stared at him, I noticed two or three loops of what looked like grey string protruding from beneath the chair cushion. "What's this?" I asked, bending down and giving one of the loops a tug.
With an anquished yelp, Holmes grabbed at my hand. "Look out!" he snapped. As he jumped to his feet, a ball of grey yarn popped out and rolled across the floor.
With a sigh, Holmes carefully retrieved a small bundle from beneath the cushion. Standing before me, he looked like a small boy caught in a particularly large indiscretion. I stared at his hands.
"Holmes? Were you... knitting?"
There was a long pause.
"Well, yes." he finally replied through gritted teeth. His normally pale face was flushed crimson as he turned and placed yarn, needles and what looked like a half-finished sock in an ornate carved box I had often noticed on the mantlepiece. I was astounded. I had always thought that box held his pipes, or his cocaine!
He gazed out tbe window a moment, and then turned to me suddenly. In a rush, he said, "You'll recall when I was laid up two years ago with that bullet wound. Mrs. Hudson often sat with me, and as I watched her knit, I became intrigued. I was fascinated by its intricate logic. Time was weighing on me heavily, and I asked her to teach me. Soon I found it - strangely calming." A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "She said I was quite an apt student. Of course, I started quite simply, with a dishcloth."
"Of course." I echoed numbly.
"I find it to be quite helpful, especially when I am grappling with a difficult case. And, of course, useful; I made Mrs. Hudson that blue shawl she always wears. And -" his eyes flicked to my scarf on the hook behind me.
"Holmes! Do you mean to say YOU made that scarf you gave me for Christmas?"
"Well, yes." His tone was defiant. "And my cables were quite good, if I do say so myself."
I fingered the fine wool, admiring the neat, precise workmanship. "You know," I confessed, laughing a little, "When I was in hospital after the war, one of the nurses taught me to knit. She said it would help me recover my dexterity. It was rather fun, I have to say. Of course, I've forgotten how by now, but..."
Holmes's eyes lit up. "Watson, old fellow! This is wonderful! You know, you probably remember more than you think. Come, let me show you!"
And that's how it began. Before I knew it, I was gripping a pair of needles in my unsure hands, mumbling, "In through the window..."
What's this I'm making? Oh, it's just a scarf for Inspector LeStrade. Do you like it?