This is the intruder that popped up in my garden. No, not a swamp adder - no speckled band here, but a plant - a poppy of some variety to be exact.
Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes but even I can recognise a plant out of place, so I researched it in the big book of plants that sits by my Meerschaum on the mantle and as always when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Papaver Somnifereum, the most recognisable type of opium poppy, bright red with a crossed black centre, a real study in scarlet. They can be four or five petal if a single flower variety or many petals on top of each other if it is fancy or multi-petal. This is of the four petal variety, the most dangerous of all, with a deadly seed pod and pale green, cabbagey foliage. It must have blown in on the wind and the thoroughfare at the back of the house is full of them.
What’s that my dear Watson? Alternatively they may have been brought here on the soles of the feet of a tribe of Amazonian Pygmy Indians, carrying blowpipes and intent on mischief of the darkest, direst, intrigue? I somewhat doubt it my good fellow, and it is a capital mistake to theorise before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.
Good heavens! Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads? Opium in the alleyway, who’d have thought the opium dens of Limehouse would take a turn in this road? Perhaps I’ll make some opium tea, a seven percent solution to cure me of this damned ennui. After all, chance has put our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and the solution (seven percent or not) is its own reward.
Now Watson, the game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come! Fetch me a kettle and my trusty violin – and remind me, just why aren’t you wearing any trousers this morning? Is this one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to his neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the deduction. And yet, poppy tea has been used for thousands of years and is still used by some classes as a remedy for pain, an aid to sleep, a cough suppressant, an intoxicant, and even as a mild relaxant – although my preference is for Morphine or maybe a little Cocaine.
It is true, I have been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical subjects. Here, for example, is one 'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos'. In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. On experimentation with this tea however, I found it to taste quite bitter and some might find the taste completely foul and horrible, but then one doesn’t usually drink it for the taste, but for the effect.
The opium poppy contains Morphine, Codeine, Papaverine, and Thebaine and by grinding the seeds in a pestle and allowing the resulting powder to soak in water a tea can be made. This tea can cause any number of effects from a state of very light relaxation and sleepiness to an overpowering sedation, that is if the nausea doesn’t get to you first. Of course death is a possibility if enough is taken, although I haven’t come across it in any case as yet.
Yes, a strange and potent death lurking in the alley, now let me see….
So good to be active once more, my mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants even poppy tea. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world - an almighty arse!
Yes, so good to be active once more.
Hark, Watson! Is that a hound I hear baying in the distance?