Excerpt from “A Mercy Unwilling to Trust”

  • This story is an authorized sequel to original Sherlock Holmes story, “The Naval Treaty.”

Tadpole was dead.

I received the urgent letter on the twentieth day of July from the Foreign Office, which conferred this news and caused me great consternation. The surety of the severity of the situation sent me flying out into the Monday morning crowds in the streets of London as I made my way with all haste down to Baker Street.

It did not take me long to reach the apartments I once shared with Sherlock Holmes at 221b. Upon the stairs I heard muffled cries from the chamber above and hastened my stride.

I burst in upon Holmes, who was standing in the room, legs widely spread and left arm outstretched before him, right arm raised in the air behind his body, one thick leather glove upon his left hand, and crying out in a sharp inarticulation of sound, an ululation, over and over. I was brought up short.

“Holmes, are you well?”

He turned to glance at me and exclaimed, “Ho! Merlin is saved! Though this time, instead of the wizard saving the glory of England, the glory of England is saving merlins for the ages!”

“Merlin . . . the wizard?” I blinked and tried to follow my companion. He often was off on tangents of research and thought that led far afield. His breadth of knowledge was formidable, but I was trying to remember a time when he was intrigued by Arthurian legends and folklore. My companion was usually not one for magic, witches, the twinkle of faeries, and the like.

He stepped forward into a normal stance and pulled off the leather glove. “No, merlins. The ringers of skylarks! Falcons, Watson. Falcons! Please, use your reason and try to follow simple facts that establish the world around us.”

“Ah, I see.” said I, as I realized his stance and glove had been like those of a falconer, similar to the tribal ones I had witnessed in the mountains of Pashtunistan. I glanced about the study. “Today we are hunting falcons? Is one loose? Nesting in the papers upon the shelf, I presume?”

“Your presumptions border on insults. One hunts with falcons. However, your surmise is in part correct, because they were being hunted. Egg-hunters! From bravura feats amongst those Pictish descendants to simple farmers trying to make money harvesting delicacies for the rich, it was having its effect. But, no one shall be hunting them, now. Just three days ago, Secretary Ridley issued his Order from Whitehall reaffirming the Wild Birds Protection Act. Her Majesty bestowed said powers upon him and so he is enforcing and extending these protections which will hopefully end the travesty of extinction we have seen underway amongst birds of the Realm.”

“A matter most fowl,” said I, tongue firmly in cheek.

He stared at me for a full minute before continuing. “Going forward, the taking and destroying of eggs from falcons, wrens, ravens, kestrels, and owls – in fact, all manners of wild birds – is strictly prohibited. It will be a boon! A new avian generation will be saved. Some of the forests from Northumberland down to Yorkshire were growing silent.”

“This is a great thing, indeed.”

Holmes waved his leather glove. “Besides, what prey would ever be caught if all the hunters are killed?”

“A true dilemma. Which brings me to another one, of critical importance to the Realm, as well. If you will lend me your ear, I will explain.”

  • This story was first published in Sherlock Holmes: Adventures Beyond the Canon.