Jody Baker: Lighthouses, Beacons And Hundreds Of Bright Seeds

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - by Jody Baker

From time to time Dr. Watson liked to come to Surrey and spend a quiet weekend with Mrs. Baynes and me. As you may know from the report that he wrote of the Wisteria Lodge matter, Dr. Watson held me in high regard. He so expressed himself in that tale, and this endeared him to Mrs. Baynes who is profoundly grateful to him for writing me up as he did in that case.

Mrs. Baynes and I reside in a cottage near Esher not too far from Oxshott.  This is peaceful country, and the fly fishing in the nearby trout streams is good. Our home is not pretentious, but it is comfortable, and we do have a guest room within.

Dr. Watson enjoyed an occasional outing to our place, where he sought refuge from the noise and din of London and respite from the swirls of yellow fog and the billowing black smoke that belched forth from the coke ovens and the other furnaces of industry. Sometimes, too, his excursions into Surrey were an escape from boredom when his friend, Sherlock Holmes, was off on one of his continental jaunts chasing after international miscreants.

In particular, Dr. Watson enjoyed our evenings of spirituous indulgence and companionable conversation when he availed himself of our hospitality and partook liberal libations of our liquor.

It was during one such visit, on a winter evening as I recall, that Dr. Watson, Mrs. Baynes and I sat before the hearth fire as the slowly burning peat hissed and sizzled in the grate. It was then that we had the conversation of which I now write. As our supply of single-malt waned, our friendship and mutual fondness prospered, and Dr. Watson became loquacious.  He took us into his confidence and told us of undisclosed details in some of his reported collaborations with Mr. Holmes. 

One such experience related to The Naval Treaty adventure. You may recall a part of the conversation between Watson and Holmes as they were aboard the train returning from Woking to Waterloo Station in London. Dr. Watson revealed to Mrs. Baynes and me the rest of that conversation, the part that he had not reported in his writings.

The train was travelling along elevated tracks over suburban London, and Holmes was looking down upon the board schools below. He philosophized to Watson about the schools and about the students --- and about the future: 

" Light houses, my boy ! Beacons of the future !
Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds
... out of which will spring the wiser, better

England of the future." [Doubleday pp. 456-57] 

Watson complimented Holmes upon the depth of the thought and upon his effort to be poetic. But Watson also commented that Holmes's phrasing lacked a certain quality of style and, perhaps, could be improved by some minor modifications:

“Light houses, beacons and hundreds of bright  seeds," repeated Watson.  “That's not bad, Holmes, but perhaps it could be improved if you compressed  it and said simply, `A thousand points of light.'"

Holmes attempted to interrupt, but Watson continued: "Then, too, instead of a `wiser, better, England,' let's express it as ‘a kinder, gentler world.’ That has a clarion ring to it."

Sherlock Holmes was not accustomed to being corrected by anyone. His temper flared, and he instructed: "Watson, I like it the way it is. Leave it alone. Don't change it. Write it up my way when you report upon it." 

Watson, feeling stung by this rebuke, retreated into himself. He silently mouthed the words of his own version as he penciled them on the back of his ticket stub:

“A thousand points of light....
A kinder gentler world."

Then Watson said audibly, but more to himself than to Holmes: 

“Some day, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, someone will come along who prefers my version to yours. It will be someone who has grace and style, and a bit of class. And I'll give that person permission to use my expression as if it were his own --- and without attribution. And then, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, that person may very well replace you as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known. "

As the train rolled on down the tracks into London, Watson settled back in his seat and smiled to himself as he thought, "Yes, perhaps, some day a head of state will address his citizens and seek to lift their spirits by telling them that they are:

“ ‘A thousand points of light
out of which will come
a kinder, gentler world.’ "

This was the tale that Dr. Watson told Mrs. Baynes and me as we sat around the fire on that particular winter night, and I believe it to be true. 

Respectfully,
Insp. Baynes


(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at josiahbaker@bkhcw.com.)


Roy Exum: Fourth Of July, 2015

As one who is about good and fed up with being “socially correct” so less than 10 percent of us can dictate how the other 90 percent of us ought to think, I am going to pause today in order to share a wonderfully fun email that has been around for a while. It is aptly called, “You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop.” Before I do, I got a sweet note the other day from my dear friend ... (click for more)

New Walmart Neighborhood Market Is A Step Back For The East Brainerd Community

Driving out East Brainerd Road recently, I was excited to see that what I thought was the run down strip center being renovated was actually a new Walmart Neighborhood Market.  I believe that this is the same type facility that was proposed for Middle Valley, but was rejected by the local citizens living in that area. I don't recalling hearing anything about any neighborhood ... (click for more)

Muslim Advocacy Group Questions House Arrest For Signal Mountain Man Charged In Threats Against Muslim Village In New York

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on Saturday questioned the release of a Signal Mountain man who admitted to planning what it called "a Charleston-style terror attack" on a Muslim community in New York. CAIR also called for stepped up protection for the community targeted in the plot. Judge ... (click for more)

Plumbers Bring Complaints To WWTA; Told New Contracts Are Ready

Several plumbers on Thursday brought complaints to a committee of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) and got little response other than being told that new contracts are ready. Kay Keefe of Keefe Plumbing said the small number of plumbing companies still participating in the program to repair leaky lines to homes, have long been operating without ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC Clinches Southeast Division Title

The Chattanooga Football Club clinched the Southeast Division title Saturday night before a crowd of 4,000 plus fans and celebrated with fireworks after the game.  Chattanooga beat visiting Nashville FC 2-0.   Matt Aldred scored the first goal in the 27th minute and Jack Hopkins scored the second goal in the 85th minute.  Chattanooga will host the conference ... (click for more)

TSWA Announces All-State Soccer Teams

 The Tennessee Sports Writers Association recently announced its all-state high school soccer teams. THE TEAMS        TSWA All State Boys’ Soccer teams Class AAA Nathan Djona, Antioch junior forward Avery Cowan, Brentwood senior midfielder Johnny Heckman, Centennial senior midfielder Nick Zalewski, Sr., Cookeville ... (click for more)