Posted by: relativitygirl | December 8, 2013

Four legs good, two legs bad

George Orwell’s insightful allegory Animal Farm is packed with tidbits of useful wisdom. All pigs are equal. Some pigs are more equal than others. Would it be safe to say that literature of that period (1945) too liberally used the metaphoric device to translate the world as it was back then? I was thirty before I realized that The Chronicles of Narnia was secretly about The Bible.

I find myself considering four vs. two legs while watching one of my favorite Holmes stories, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, one of the handful where Watson was forced to act alone with Holmes back in London attending to more pressing matters. Watson came across a striking, red-haired woman in possession of a confidence and independence unbecoming of women from that era. She sailed in a self-operated skiff across the lake to church. She chose to eat alone, walk alone, and move to the beat of her own mystifying drum.

Carfax 1

Her vigorous suitor, Philip Green, wanting nothing more than her hand in marriage, stayed close, watching, stalking, observing from a fine Morgan horse in the hills above the Englischer Hof in Baden, Germany where she was staying. Unsurprisingly, Watson was unable to see the truth of the situation, being blinded by his feelings of protectiveness for the intrepid damsel. Yet Holmes, even from five hundred miles away, was able to pierce through Watson’s cloudy accounts to deduce that Frances along with her jewels was a target of a sinister plot by posing clergyman, Shlessinger.


Why, as I constantly ask myself, was Holmes so typically able to see what others could not? Were his eyes healthier? Doubtful, as he rarely either ate or slept, let alone attended to deeper bodily needs.  Did he move slower, allowing him a deeper look into details? Like a telescope, we can tune our eyes and minds and senses to focus on different things. While studying these stories, via book form or the renowned Granada DVDs, I am reminded again and again of the power of the human mind and how underutilized it is. Holmes, in his almost insane preoccupation with minute details, could be simultaneously myopic and hyperopic – a talent that gave him an almost superhuman perception of underlying motivations.

The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1991)

Albert Shlessinger: “What the devil do you mean by this sacrilege?”

Holmes: “Murder, sir!”



  1. Love that episode and great blog – when are you writing more Holmes stories??

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