“No Great Harm Was Done” [FINA]

Stutler's Drawing of 221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street, as imagined by Russell Stutler


Brad at Sherlock Peoria posted recently about the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the fire at 221B Baker Street in “The Final Problem”.

“They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm was done.”

So says Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Watson. It does indeed seem to have caused very little harm, since three years later, in “The Empty House”, Holmes says that “Mycroft preserved my rooms and my papers exactly as they had always been.” An impressive feat, considering how quickly paper burns.

That fire came up in a quiz a couple of years ago, and there was a discussion in the comments in which Ariana (“Carla”) suggested that Holmes set the fire himself.

What do you think? Did Moriarty (or his agents) set the fire? Did Holmes set it himself? Or perhaps Holmes fibbed, and there was no fire at all?

(Click on Russell Stutler’s illustration of the Baker Street rooms to see an enlarged version.  Be sure to visit his site for his annotations!)

4 Replies to ““No Great Harm Was Done” [FINA]”

  1. As Selena Buttons pointed out, we don’t hear much about this fire, and so there might be any number of possibilities.

    Just imagine something burning thrown through a window. The burning brand lands on the rug, filling the room with smoke. Fire!

    Alas for the arsonists, Mrs. Hudson has just that day gone over the carpeting with a stiff broom and a bucket of water, in a vain attempt to get rid of the dust, accumulated for months until a few days before, when Holmes picked up his papers and boxed them, high on shelves.

    The crack of the window is loud enough to alarm Mrs. Hudson’s bulldog (once Dr. Watson’s bull pup), and his barking alerts her. The mere whiff of smoke sends her upstairs with water, and all is well.

    Well, that is, except for the hole in the carpet, the broken glass of the window, and the smell of smoke, necessitating Mrs. Hudson’s airing of the room daily for months regardless of the weather.

    The window is replaced, so is the carpet, and Holmes’s papers remains in their boxes, up on the shelves. When he returns to his old lodging, paid for by Mycroft and dusted by Mrs. Hudson, all seems exactly the same as when he left.

  2. Hi Roxie: I think you idea makes perfect sense. I’ve often that our master criminal sure employs less than stellar goons: the attacks against Holmes fail to stop him and the fire caused no great harm.

  3. I like to think that Moriarty — or his henchmen — had read “A Scandal in Bohemia” and knew how to use a plumber’s rocket….

  4. Surely they were misled about Holmes’s movements. Perhaps they thought he was back home and were trying to “smoke him out”, and a certain Colonel was ready with an air-rifle aimed at the main door of the 221b.

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