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Being an Excerpt from the Reminisces of John H. Watson, M.D., of the Canterlot General Hospital
Chapter 1. My friend, Fetlock Holmes.
In the course of my association with Mr. Fetlock Holmes, and the stinging barbs of his insight into my person that sometimes accompany it, I have from time wished he would, if only briefly, turn his keen and unflinching gaze upon himself. I did not know then how much of his haughty disposition was a mask. Once only, for the span of a few seconds, I saw that mask slip. In those seconds I saw how cruel and needless my wish had been. This slip was the result of a peculiar entanglement with a most peculiar mare.
To Holmes, she is always "the mare." I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. If he once felt something akin to love for her, he at least believes he has since sublimated it into an intellectual admiration. He never speaks of the softer passions save with a gibe and a sneer. For him to admit such an intrusion into his own finely adjusted temperament would be to introduce grit in a sensitive instrument. And yet, to him, there is but one mare. It was in Fillydelphia that we first encountered her.
Holmes' appearance regularly drew attention in Canterlot, that magnet for everything and everypony outlandish or excessive in Equestria. He could hardly pass unnoticed on the streets of Fillydelphia. In height he was rather over fifteen hooves at the withers, and so excessively lean that he seemed considerably taller. By breed he should have been a plow-horse, but one could not imagine him engaged in dactylous labor. Aside from his ectomorphic frame, he had a delicacy of touch in his hooves not exceeded by any unicorn; and something imperious in his eyes as well that at times called to mind the Canterlot high-bred. But he walked with the awkward urgency of a grounded pegasus, and I was once again pressed to keep up with him without breaking into a trot, as we headed from the train station towards the center of the city.
He would have stood out even had he not had a completely uniform tan coat, bare of decoration on both flanks. Either by virtue of his mastery of innumerable subjects, of his impatience for pursuing any of them with regularity, or (as I am inclined to believe) through sheer force of stubbornness, Holmes had managed to avoid ever manifesting a cutie mark relegating him to one trade or another. I may give the impression in my missives that detective work was his sole occupation; but in reality it took only a fraction of his time, and served as much as a framework to organize and justify his hobbies and vices, as a profession.
The sight was too much for one blue-maned unicorn on the other side of the street, who cocked his head and widened his eyes until I could see the whites. My companion stopped abruptly as we drew up beside him.
"I see you were admiring my mark. That is a sign of distinction." He tapped his forehead with one hoof and smiled conspiratorily. "Only the wise can see it."
The stallion glanced at Holmes, at Holmes' blank flank, and back at Holmes again. "Ah... remarkable!" he replied.
"Really? What do you think of it?"
"Think... of it?" The poor fellow – it is impossible not to think of anypony who falls into Holmes' hooves when he is in a mischievous mood as a poor fellow, no matter wealth or breeding – twitched his ears back and forth, uncertain whether to venture an opinion or bolt.
"Yes, yes. The coloring, the geometry. Does it call anything to mind?"
"Not... immediately. Unique, I should say." The unicorn took a harder look. "Yes... unique. Excuse me, I have a train..." He sidled off, then hurried towards the station at which we had just disembarked, looking shaken.
"Holmes!" I admonished as we resumed our walk. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
"On the contrary, I have rendered him a service. I have taught him that he is not wise."
"But by deception!"
"That is the difference between you and I, Watson. You are a deontologist; I, a consequentialist."
"I haven't a deuce what you're talking about."
Holmes whinnied briefly. "Thank you, Doctor. It is refreshing to converse with somepony who will admit to not knowing something."
"It is fortunate for our friendship, Holmes," I huffed, "that I do not feel the same."
He tossed his head up and pulled back his lips. "Ha! Touché, Watson!"
He is a horse not given to sentimentalities, observing no emotional allegiances beyond those of close friends and, I charitably assume, family. Yet I have never seen him exercise his sharp wit this way on his fellow earth ponies. It is one of the many contradictions of his character. I would not ordinarily mention such small indulgences of his, but I think this one bears on this case in particular.
"I suppose I will allow you your vices, Holmes, if you will allow me mine."
"Did you have any particular vice in mind?"
"Indeed," I said, already scanning the storefronts along the road. "I plan to find a pub and a pint, and ply you with drink, if need be, until you tell me why you were so intent on arriving here by six for an exhibit that closed at five."
"Ah! I see where that might be confusing. Do not worry about the exhibit; I have an appointment with the curator at six. But it is essential that we see the magic show at seven. I am afraid your drink must wait."
Holmes has a bitter fascination with magic. He has often bemoaned the difficulty of eliminating the impossible when anypony with a horn can violate the laws of physics on a whim, and expressed the opinion that the world would be a good deal more orderly without such nonsense. Yet he devotes entire days to the study of magical theory, and delights in confounding well-educated unicorns with his superior mastery of the subject. He mostly applies this knowledge in eliminating magic as a possibility from his cases. Nonetheless, I could not see his practical study of the matter carrying over into a desire, or even an ability, to be entertained by a magical impresario. I told him as much.
"You are correct, Watson," he replied cheerfully. "We are not going to the show to be entertained. We are going there to witness the theft of the Starry Night."