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HOLMES AND ALIEN

When long trips happen, my wife accompanies me. This is the tradition of our family. In the city where we lived for a week, my wife found a tapestry shop. As a result, from the trip we brought a tapestry measuring about a meter per meter. The owner of the store said that she was buying goods in St. Petersburg, and tapestries were brought there from France. Basically, these are copies of paintings by artists. The modern computer equipment allows you to embroider a pictureon fabric with high quality. But if the paintings of Monet, Klimt and other masters were familiar to us, then we did not know who painted this particular canvas, and nobody did not know either. This, in fact, prompted me to the question:

— What painting say about the artist? If the artist is known, then read his biography. And if not – will the picture tell us about the unknown person? …

But first about the picture itself. It depicts a close-up of four simple, wooden shelves with old books. My wife grew up in an intelligent family, where there was a large library and the picture evoked memories, created a feeling of comfort. Therefore, in fact, she bought this picture.

Upon arrival home, the tapestry, inserted into the frame, decorated the wall of the room. Looking at it, I decided that here we can apply the deductive method of Sherlock Holmes. I remember Holmes made a stunning impression on the audience when he set out the conclusions, omitting the chain of reasoning.Then he explained to Watson how he came to these conclusions, and the reader, along with the doctor, admired the sharpness of mind and logic of the detective. Watson was not around, but multiple views of the popular series made his presence almost tangible.


— Holmes! What do you think of the person who painted this picture?

— Listen, Watson, I see that the picture is dear to you. Do you want to know the details about this person’s life? Are you not afraid of disappointment and bitterness from this story?

— What are you, Holmes! I don’t even know who he is. Certainly not my relative!

— Most likely so. I don’t know his name either, but I’m afraid that the impression of warmth and comfort that the picture produces will be dimmed upon closer examination. And this feeling can’t be returned.

— You are exaggerate, Holmes. Whatever you say there, these are just your assumptions.

— How to know, Watson, how to know. Assumptions become beliefs, if proved. Moreover, not only mine, but also yours. And beliefs change attitudes towards reality. But since you insist, please …

The artist was born into a wealthy family in France, but not in Paris. His father was an educated person, and they had a large library with an encyclopedia and reference books. Perhaps the family business was viticulture and winemaking. The young man did not become a successor to the business. He was fond of tennis, was a member of a prestigious club and even received a prize for participating in competitions.

Then he went to Paris, where he studied painting. He liked Picasso, but he painted in a classical manner. When the parents died, the home and furnishings were sold for debt. He took some books from the library with him – how much he could carry. The material well-being of the young man collapsed. He had to settle in the attic in a narrow room. Above the door on two wooden shelves placed his wealth. Memorable photos pinned with push behind the books. Then he fell ill and could no longer go out. No money left. The landlord agreed to accept a large picture, which can be hung below, in a cafe for comfort.

The artist, sitting on the bed, painted his two shelves with books, of which he made four, repeating books with a shift to the right to give a larger picture. A sad story, Watson. Sad story. That, perhaps, is all that the picture was able to tell me about this man.

— Holmes, but how? … I see the same thing, well, about the fact that the artist had only two shelves with books, but where did you get the other details?

— Nothing is easier, dear friend. See what is on the shelves! These are old volumes of the French encyclopedia in expensive bindings and some cheap modern books. Reference editions are devoted to winemaking.Most likely, they belonged to the father, as can be seen from the way the books are dear to the young man – he did not sell them. And here he is in the photo. In his hand is a tennis racket, on the other shelf is a tennis ball and a prize of a modern club popular with rich youth. Well, he himself could not engage in the wine business. He could not, but he could live well at his father’s expense. And why didn’t he live in Paris, but because here is a tourist guide to the city – why is it needed for a Parisian? Cheap edition. Of course, the young man bought it later, when he arrived in the capital with his last belongings.

About the fact that he tried himself as an artist, says a brochure about Picasso, sketches of landscapes. They were fun by buttons behind books and brushes in a glass. Here, in fact, all the facts. The rest is my guess. However, the extreme contrast between expensive old things, cheap new things and these two rough shelves, which the artist painted as four, testify to extreme need.

— Really, everything is simple – after you explained, Holmes.


Looking at the tapestry and imagining the dialogue, I remembered the events that happened to me in my distant childhood. No, I didn’t remember – I saw it!

That boy thought, spoke and felt completely different from what I am today. For me, he is an alien on the planet, where now is 1956. He’s six. Parents first brought him to grandparents for the summer. They have their own home in the southern city Alma-Ata. There, the boy survives in an unusual and incomprehensible world. Around the alarm. The only way to navigate is to remember as much information as possible. What information useful is unknown. But then, when a real threat arises, you can get what you need from your memory. Of course, many children, when they do not understand the situation, are seized with fear, and then they cry loudly. A good adult will come, calm and solve the problem. But this boy was so arranged that he thought and solved problems himself.

On Sunday, grandfather went with his grandson on a tram through the city to the “Park of Culture and Rest”. He intended to walk with his grandson and visit the zoo. They arrived. There are a lot of people in the park. The road passed by the lake, where ship model’s competitions were held. Gasoline engines sneezed loudly, the ships were very beautiful. Especially a long gray warship with small guns. It was worth a look! Ships sailed from the shore to the middle of the lake, turned around the buoy and returned. Time stopped. The boy saw nothing but the ships. He squeezed among the children to the very edge of the water and froze in delight. When the last ship sailed, the crowd began to disperse. Where is the grandfather? A quick panic and erratic search gave way to a stupor from the consciousness of what had happened. He is alone.

It never occurred to the boy to cry or ask for help from adults. Of course, he had not yet read detective stories and had not seen a movie, but the deductive method worked on its own. Need to go home. The house is where the tram came from. Tram at the exit of the park … forward!

People go to the lake, therefore, you need to go the other way. He left the park. Area, buses, but no tram. Soit is the wrong road. He returned with people to the lake. Again went against the stream. But from this place he can see the exit from the park, where there is no tram, but people still go to the other side. Go right there. It took a long time, finally, another exit from the park. In the distance a tram bell. There! Here is the stop.

The trams were then almost half made of wood – window frames, doors.There must have been a tram’s conductor who turned the crane puffing with air. He opened and closed the doorsand alsosold tickets.

The steps was high, of course, you can climb them, but how to get a ticket. With his parents, the boy lived in a small mining town. He had not yet had to buy something himself, but he understood what was needed for this. People gave the conductor coins and got tickets. He has no coins, therefore, a ticket is not available. The boy did not know that for children the fare was free. He thought that if he did not have a ticket, the conductor would give him to the policeman. But this was terribly embarrassing and completely impossible … the tram closed the doors, tinkled and left.

The boy went along the sidewalk to the side where the tram drove off. At that time, there was a private one-story houses in the park area. There were no high fences. An ordinary picket fence separated the front garden from the sidewalk. It was a sunny summer day. Water gurgled peacefully in the canals. Only the boy was cold. His whole being was frozen inside, but outside he was calm. He was busy. If only no one would have guessed that he was lost! If only no one would know! For some reason, he was very afraid of this.

One after another he crossed the narrow streets. There was no transport. But here began multi-storey buildings. The first wide street along which cars go. He stopped, began to watch. When other people to cross the road, he went with them. So he learned to cross the road.

Another trouble, really thirsty. It’s good that there were water taps on the planet at that time. In the city center, the water supply was already connected to the houses. Water tapswere not used, but they have not yet been removed. In order for water to flow from the spout of the tap, it was necessary to press the handle located high. The tap was as the height of a boy. He need to grab the handle with both hands and hang on it. Water was flowing, but how to drink it? True, he sometimes managed to catch a few drops of water with mouth. A passing man came up, pressed a handle and said:

— Drink, boy!

He got drunk, putting his palms under a tight stream. Poured knees and sandals. He wanted to say:

— Thank you, uncle! – But the man has already left.

The boy reached the big square. Tram railswere laid across the square. He had to go far, past a large house. It was the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. The boy did not know this, and only looked cautiously at the police near the entrance. A lot of things the boy did not know. He did not know the names of the streets, but he crossed them 54. He did not know how much time had passed. Only the sun became not so hot and the shadows became long. Hour passed by hour, and the boy kept walking with a calm and businesslike expression frozen on his face.

Of course, by then grandfather and grandmother had already written a statement to the police. All the guards in the city received a description of the lost child.

Grandmother was at home – she was crying, and grandfather went to the police every half hour. There they said to him:

— We are looking for. There are no results so far.

They decided not to call boy’s parents until night.

The boy approached a long park area, which stretched along the territory of the engineering plant. He already recognized this place, since he had walked here with his grandfather before. A cold lump in the shower began to melt. He continued to walk along the tramway, but he was already smiling. By that time he had walked fifteen kilometers in small steps. About 45 thousand steps. And then, finally, a turn to his street. Goodbye, tram. Forward, forward to the house!

Strange, the gate is wide open, the door too. The boy washed his hands on the veranda, went to the kitchen and sat down at the table. Grandfather in the bedroom comforted his grandmother and again was going to go to the police. He heard a noise in the house. They ran out of the bedroom. A grandson sat at the table and showed his hands:

— Grandma, I want to eat. Hands are clean.


— Holmes! Well, why do you solve problems, but it doesn’t work out for me?

— Dear friend, you yourself answered this question. I solve the problems myself, and you count on my help.

TO LOVE IMPOSIBLE TO KILL

A person’s favorite time is not summer, not winter, but vacation. My wife and I planned it in advance and, as a rule, several thousand kilometers from home. At that time, we decided to visit Lyon, in France. Actually, we were there before, my spouse repeatedly, and I once, several years ago. However, this was a special case.

The fact is that I liked to read collected works of French prose writers of the 19th century. A wonderful library was inherited me from parents. In the sixties, they subscribed to the appendices to the magazine “Spark” and received books by subscription. I read collected works from the first page of the first volume to the last page of the last volume, including the author’s biography, his letters, comments on the text and other applications. That is how I received maximum pleasure. While reading, recognizing the author well, he became a close friend, communication with him pleasantly brightened up leisure time.

That year was the year of Prosper Merimee for me. One of the volumes, when describing the visit in Lyon, contained information about an unusual painting by Rubens. My wife and I decided to see this painting. I know from experience that when there is a specific goal, then the journey becomes doubly interesting.

So, the TGV high-speed train delivered us from Paris to Lyon to the familiar Perrache station. We stayed nearby at the Campanil Hotel and the next day went looking for a museum. It turned out to be located on the square, the eastern side of which was occupied by the facade of the city hall, and the museum itself was located on the north side in the old building of the former monastery. The picture of Rubens we immediately seen on the second floor in a large hall. It was a huge canvas, rounded at the top, measuring about 3 by 4 meters, and it occupied the entire wall. On both sides of wall there were passages to the next hall. The picture was exactly the same as it was described by Merimee 170 years ago. I wanted to know story of picture, but the information service at the entrance could not report anything about this picture. There were no reproductions or other information among the literature in the commercial department.

— Well, okay, – I thought. – Then I read it on the Internet.

So did after returning from vacation. It turned out that the museum has a detailed website in many languages of the world, even on Sakha, which contains a list of all Rubens paintings presented in the exhibition, but this picture is not on the list. I sent a request to the museum by e-mail, but did not receive a response, and the story has become like detective.

After a couple of years, my wife and I decided to celebrate the New Year in Vienna. Time was short, but we could not find out where the Austrian consulate in our city was. Therefore, we decided to take a Schengen visa in the usual way at the French consulate, and we decided to go to Vienna from France. And so, the “Air France” plane safely delivered us from Amsterdam to “Saint Exupery” Airport in Lyon. This time we stayed at the “Grand Hotel Mercourt Chateau Perrache” in the same square near the station and again went to the museum. The picture was in place, but the information is still deafly blocked.

Subsequently, I thought about it, specially read literature on the life and work of Rubens and, it seems, found the answer to the question – how did it happen, that a huge picture of a great artist has been hanging in the museum for at least 170 years, but no information about it?

I think my favorite hero Sherlock Holmes would like this story.


— Yes, that is a very interesting scam, Watson.

— What are you talking about, Holmes? It is unlikely that the book that lies in front of you. It is the book old-looking and, moreover, in French. By the way, I did not know that you read the French novels in the original!

— In the conclusions of your observations, dear friend, you made two mistakes. Firstly, as you know, my grandmother is French and, therefore, French was the second language in our family after English, and for me in childhood, perhaps the first one. Secondly, even an Englishman, in my opinion, can understand that the title of this book “Carne de Voyage” means “Travel Diary”, and not the title of the novel. The book was brought from the French Embassy together with the letter that lies on the table on your right. You can read letter, it is written in English.

After reading, Watson laid the letter aside.

— I’m very glad, Holmes, that the French Ministry of Culture needed your advice on painting. I did not know that you are such a great expert in this field. However, I remember that in Baskerville Hall you easily distinguished the portrait of Neller’s brush from the portrait of Reynolds’s brush.

— Do not exaggerate my modest abilities, dear friend, I know little about color and composition. Here we are talking about content of the picture, more precisely, about its criminal aspects. They asked me to express my opinion on the question – Is it necessary to put one of Rubens’ paintings on public display, or is it better to store it in the vault for narrow specialists?

At first, I was asked to give my opinion briefly. I replied that this would require a trip to France and a month of time.

The man from the embassy with whom I spoke was surprised and asked:

— And if you were asked to state your thoughts verbally and without any restrictions, how long would preparation?

My answer:- Yes, at least right now!

You see, a brief note is a document based on a lot of preliminary work. It is opinion of a specialist that has a price and imposes responsibility on him. And reasoning, such as “on the one hand … but on the other …” is meaningless and irresponsible. The embassy agreed with my arguments and, dear friend, they are paid for us a business trip to France.

I hope you can keep me company, because I specifically insisted that I need an assistant. If you can’t, then, anyway, go.

By the way, this book is not a guide, but the publication of the official report of Prosper Merimee, written half a century ago for the Ministry of Culture. So how are we going? Does your medical practice allow a long absence?

— I think Holmes that this is possible, only it will take me a few days to visit patients and arrange with other doctors for a replacement.

— Fine, then we’ll go to Lyon in a week. This is almost the south of France. Sometimes Lyon is called the culinary capital of the country, so our trip, I hope, will be pleasant in all respects.

September has already arrived, but the English Channel was relatively calm that day. Fresh wind blew from the North Sea. Standing near the railing on the deck of a ship, Holmes watched the albatrosses and listened to Watson’s recollections of the Eastern Campaign, in which he participated as a military doctor.

Watson gave examples when people took risks for life saved their comrades. What motivated them? After all, they really did not even know the people for whose salvation they were ready to give their lives. It was necessary to act quickly, without weighing risks, at the level of instinct – you have to save and that’s all! Of course, cowards ran away, but, as a rule, they were the first to be hit by enemy bullets or even from a shot in the back. To summarize, Watson said:

— I think so, Holmes, that the basis of human behavior at the time of danger is the subconscious desire to preserve their identity. Moreover, not so much for the body as for the soul. After all, if a person leaves people in trouble, then his personality will be destroyed, and then he will live worse than die.

— A deep thought, dear friend, said Holmes -By the way, I think that it is directly related to the purpose of our trip.

From Calais, friends on the train arrived in Paris, where they did not stop. At the North Station, they hired a horse-drawn carriage and went through the city center to Lyon Railway Station. They were comfortably accommodated in a first-class carriage, had lunch and, when the fields of Burgundy swam outside the window, they continued the conversation.

— In this case, Watson, the main thing is the moral aspect. As a detective consultant, in practice I did not always follow the letter of the law. This should not be done by Lestrade or another professional policeman. But I sometimes let the criminals go, except for serious cases, of course, if the crime had no tragic consequences, and the person’s personality inspired confidence. I think that sometimes letting a person go is the same as saving him. You remember how one lady, from the “best” motives, stole a service document from her husband and handed it to the blackmailer. Only by coincidence, we managed to return the document to its place and prevent a catastrophe. Now, imagine what would happen, if I guided by the letter of the law, referred the matter to the police. This husband would die of grief, and his wife withered in prison. Yes I let the criminals go. But now they are happy and, I think, the lesson is well learned.

In the morning, already at the hotel, friends were sitting at breakfast or “petit dejeuner”, as the French say. Watson expressed surprise that the hotel staff did not speak English. What Holmes answered:

— No wonder. The Hundred Years War led the rejection of the English language by the French and vice versa. Even at Madame Tussauds’ gallery, the only wax figure that is available for inspection without a ticket is Napoleon. You probably noticed that he is standing at the entrance to the box office and mournfully looking at the layout of the Waterloo battle.

In addition, French is very musical, and this is reflected in the perception of other languages. English acts on the French ear in the same way as a creak of iron on glass for your ear. Therefore, if you want to attract a person to yourself, then speak French. And, when you don’t know how to say something, ask me. I will prompt slowly. Just do not call the waiter “Garson”. Actually, this word means “boy” and can offend anyone. I advise you to try soft goat cheese. It is delicious.

After breakfast, Watson expressed a desire to immediately go to the museum, but Holmes objected that he should not hurry, as this would damage the main purpose of the trip – to understand what impression the painting makes on visitors.

— The request of the ministry refers to those people who see it for the first time. Therefore, if possible, we ourselves must become so, get used to the image, for which it is better to first get acquainted with the historical places of the city, feel its spirit, talk with the townspeople. This is a unique city. Perhaps he is the only one in the world where there were no destructive events like sieges, fires, floods or irrepressible passion of the authorities for the reconstruction, as in Paris, for example. Therefore, both Roman buildings and medieval houses were preserved very well. Relax, dear friend, Moriarty is not following us.

For three days, friends roamed leisurely through the Roman forum, the medieval streets and the Rhone promenade. In cafe they talked with the townspeople. Actually, Holmes was talking, and Watson usually sat basking in the sun, tasted some delicacy and enjoyed peace. Holmes was particularly interested in the interlocutor’s attitude to the crimes reported in the newspapers. Opinions about the criminals ranged from “They must be shot indiscriminately” to “Do not judge and you will not be judged.” The most informative was the conversation with Professor Laroche, who taught history at the University.

To Holmes’s remark that the Lyon prison is the largest in the country, Monsieur Laroche burst into a speech. He said the city was founded at the dawn of our era by retired Roman soldiers who earned pensions and wanted to live on a well-deserved vacation. Over a millennium and a half, people have changed little, and therefore the prison is large. The use of the labor of slaves smoothly passed into the exploitation of people by aristocrats-latifundists, who made free subjects of the king their vassals. The church has always had control over souls, but when one Christian God came to replace different Gods, his face was severe! Order of the Jesuits “Ad majorem Dei gloriam!” It justified the appropriation of property by the church. Inquisition’s bonfires burned. What to do if hunger and crop failure – burn the witch! Simple and fast. The Pope’s envoys briskly traded indulgences. Pay and receive absolution: for 5 reais, the murder of an ordinary person is forgiven, for 10 – the murder of parents, the most serious sin is pulled by 15 reais – the murder of a priest. They drove Huguenots and Protestants to Switzerland. The number of parishionersin churches was getting smaller every day … On this note, the conversation with Monsieur Laroche was interrupted, as he was in a hurry to lecture at the University.

In the morning friends went to the museum, were Holmes presented a letter of French embassy. Without any formalities, the clerk brought them into the room where the picture hung. On the tablet attached to the wall to the right of the canvas, they read “Paul Rubens. Saints save the earth from Jesus Christ”.


On the planet Earth was a warm summer of 1973. A young man, a graduate student at the Polytechnic Institute of the second year of study, was in a hurry. His time for working on a computer was approaching. Usually he walked to the educational building, but this time he decided to go by bus. City buses at that time were of such a design that drivers were separated from passengers by a blank with glass and a small sliding window at the top. From the passenger compartment it was impossible to get to the driver’s seat. This remark is essential for the narrative. The day was hot. There were a lot of people on the bus. The young man had to stand, clutching briefcase. The street climbed on the hill and the stop was located at the highest point, after which the road went downhill. The bus stopped, the doors opened. The young man began to squeeze closer to the front exit, as already at the next stop it was necessary to leave. The bus moved smoothly.

Suddenly, a woman screamed:

— And where is the driver? No one is driving!

Near the driver’s partition, a panic began, the reasons for which the rest of the passengers at the first moment were not clear. Everything looked as if a quarrel had occurred and therefore people were shouting and pushing. Those who were closer to the front door began to jump out onto the sidewalk and run away. Right in front of the young man, a man jumped up from his chair and jumped out of the bus.

A single glance into the glass partition was enough to assess the danger of the situation. The road went down with a left turn. The left side of the street was fenced with a high fence. Those who rode along the road on the left side could see the bus only right in front of them. The bus driver, before leaving cabin, turned the wheels away from the stop, so the bus moved towards the oncoming lane. In this situation, a collision with vehicles was inevitable.

The young man threw the briefcase into the seat and also jumped out the open door. He ran around the front of the bus and found himself near the door to the driver’s cabin. Although the bus had not yet had time to accelerate, it rode fast. The door was located high, and the young man opened it only on the third attempt. Hanging on the open door to equalize the speed, he hardly got his foot into a special footboard deepened. When this happened, he lay down on the driver’s seat with his stomach, since it was impossible to turn right, with support of one right leg. He somehow climbed onto the chair and immediately began to look down at the pedals. There were three of them. Clicked on one. The engine growled loudly. He thought:

— Gas!

He pressed another pedal and the car stopped abruptly. He breathed a sigh in relief and only now looked into the front window. The bus stood in the middle of the road at the bottom of the descent before turning. Cars jumped right in front of him because of the fence. The drivers, suddenly seeing a bus in front of them, clicked on the gas, on the signal and flew past with a roar and beeps. He turned the wheels to the right, but with his foot he continued to put pressure on the saving brake pedal. Thought:

— Somewhere there must be a handbrake.

At first he did not find anything like it, but then he saw a small handle on the left, in front of the door. Turned her and heard the sound of pneumatics

— Psh … sh.

He decided to slowly ease the pressure on the pedal. The bus was standing, so it was indeed a hand brake. He examined the handle and noticed that it had a spring-loaded lock, which, in theory, should have allowed to turn the handle only after you click on it. However, the spring was lost, the lock was broken and, apparently, when the driver got out of the cab, he touched this handle with clothes and what happened did it happened.

He clicked on the signal, but in the general cacophony he hardly heard it. Behind he, a woman swearing behind a partition, and the other explained to her that is not the driver sitting in the cab, but another person, and there was nothing to scold him. He did not turn around. He just sat and waited for the hapless driver to appear. At firsthe thought of scolding him, but then somehow burned out. Finally, the door opened, and a stocky unshaven man appeared below. In his right hand he held a paper bag and a bottle of lemonade.

— What are you doing here? – The driver asked grimly.

— You better see where the car is. The brake must be repaired. Now I’ll go around the car, and you don’t leave until I go to the salon. I left my briefcase in the cabin.

The young man ran around the car and entered the front door. No one recognized his face. He took the briefcase. The door closed and the car started. Women through the window scolded the driver, he drove the car silently, even he pulled his head into his shoulders.

At the bus stop, the young man got out and stood for a minute, looking after the departing bus.


The big picture was in a massive frame. In the upper part of the canvas, as befits a celestial, on a cloud, Jesus Christ angrily shakes with lightning. At his right hand, the Virgin Mary in blue clothes is trying to reassure her son, on the left and above Father-God calmly looks at what is happening. Below there are many people whose unrighteous life were the causes the wrath of Jesus.

In the lower right corner, the Earth is depicted, very similar to a school globe, turned to the audience by the Mediterranean Sea with the image of Italy in the form of boot. Near the globe are two figures of saints dressed in long brown cloaks. The Saints cover the Earth With their cloaks, and their hands are trying to cover the Earth from above lightning. They do not pray to God, their faces are harsh, their mouths are closed, their eyes are turned upwards.

They seem to say:

— No, we will not allow the destruction of the Earth!

Holmes and Watson sat on soft sofas in front of the picture, and sat for a long time, silently looking at the canvas. The here were no other visitors in the hall. The silence, the museum smell of old paintings and dust miraculously created an atmosphere of reflection, when it became apparent that “the word uttered is a lie.”

The next day, Watson went to see the workshop of jacquard fabrics, and Holmes returned to the museum. They never discussed the picture. Only a week later, already in London, on Baker Street, sitting in armchairs with the fireplace, Holmes began talking about the trip.

— Thank you, dear friend, for still not talking to me about visiting the museum. I needed time to come to think about a certain conclusions. Frankly, I am very interested in your impression of the Rubens painting.

— Holmes, I saw the same thing as you – Allegory. The figure of Jesus Christ has very little in common with the usual image in cathedrals. He looks like Zeus from Greek mythology. For Rubens, this figure was the personification of the forces of nature. All the people at the bottom of the picture are beautiful. Among them there are no images of villains. But still it was their crime that angered God. Therefore, probably, Rubens did not depict Jesus at all, but the image of the blind forces of nature in a masculine guise. We do not see eyes shining with anger, because his face is turned down. Vesuvius covered with red-hot ashes of Pompey and Herculaneum, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, storms killed thousands of people, not knowing who is righteous, who is a sinner. Another question is why did Rubens so name his canvas? I think that the answer lises in the reformation of the church, which took place at that time.

Before Jesus came to earth, the punishment of heaven fell upon people for any deviations from the commandments. Therefore there was a Global Flood. By the way, archaeologists find evidence of the existence of civilizations hundreds of thousands of years ago, while the Son of God by historical standards was born recently. He took upon himself the sins of the people and, thereby, deprived of the right to punish. A mortal man must love other people, and they will receive the punishment for sinners in hell. This is probably the main conclusion.

— You did a deep analysis, Watson. However, it is controversial. Why punish all living on earth at the same time, if for everyone there is God’s judgment in heaven. And, besides, the central figure is not Zeus, namely Jesus, which is clearly indicated by other celestial characters. The painting by Rubens was commissioned by the local bishop, whose portrait is also present among the people. Recall that in Paris, Rubens filled the halls of the Louvre with huge canvases with the history of the queen, where the characters of Greek mythology were used. Therefore, the project in Lyon is most likely commercial, and all characters templates. All, except the two Saints. Pay attention to them. Do you think there is at least one chance to save people on Earth if God decided to destroy them?

— The obvious answer, Holmes, No chance!

— It is true, Watson, Rubens understood this very well, and yet, he painted two people, who took on an impossible mission and challenged God for the love of people.

And I will recommend the French to exhibiting this picture for free access, as a highly humane work with the great educational value.

You see, dear friend, the deeds of a person, the very possibility of gaining happiness depends on, where in life he puts a comma in the sentence

“TO LOVE IMPOSIBLE TO KILL”.

THE OLD AFFAIR OF MISTER HOLMES

A business trip to London took place at the conference. My wife looked around the city during the day, and in the evening we usually met under the sculpture of horses harnessed to a chariot on Westminster Bridge, or near a cafe in St. James’s Park. Saturday came, and before leaving England we decided to spend two days in Cambridge, since we had a little affair there. Actually, the matter consisted in attending an exhibition of paintings by Dutch artists, which was held in the local historical museum. Leaving the museum, we went to have lunch at a restaurant located on the opposite side of the street. Probably, this institution is not less than 300 years old. Thick walls, small windows, blackened oak beams under the ceiling – all spoke of respectable age. It was easy to imagine that my favorite heroes, Holmes and Watson, could have lunch here.


— Great fish, Holmes!

— Yes …, I think that fish came on barges from the coast, we’ll check it. Mister! Did you catch the fish yourself on the weekend?

— What are you sir, this is a sea fish, today’s catch, delivered directly from King Lynn!

— Thank you, very tasty! There you go, Watson. It’s worth offending a person’s pride a little and he will tell you everything. And you never thought, dear friend, about how the perception of events is distorted over time. Why, for example, did the ancient Romans build amphitheaters in all the cities they conquered — expensive and complex structures?

— I think, Holmes, it was worth it. Christianity did not exist then, and now, instead of believing in the divine nature of power, faith in an idol ruler was required. Therefore, periodically, under the excuse of entertainment, all the inhabitants of the city gathered in an amphitheater, where they felt like one people. And the governor, appointed by the emperor, here he is on a place of honor. And even the emperor himself is here, in the form of a stone figure towering above everyone. To maintain respect for the power of the legionnaires alone is not enough. These local barbarians obeyed out of fear, but the Romans needed faith.

— Great analysis, Watson! However, keep in mind that the struggle for power led to a frequent change of emperors. What to do with a statue? Order a new one? But it is long and expensive. Here we meet an example of hypocrisy and pragmatism together! At the statue, only the head was changed, which was mounted on an iron pin embedded in the neck. The figure draped in a toga remained the same. You see, the new emperor comes “for many years”, everyone swears allegiance to him, and only change this head, because they think that soon they will have to change her again. Now is the end of the nineteenth century, and the people are the same … Tell me, what is the name of the model of chairs in which we sit at home on Baker Street in front of the fireplace?

— I know! This model is called “Voltaire’s chair”.

— Right. And why?

— I think, Holmes, because of the headrest. Voltaire, after all, was a thinker and in old age; he probably loved to sit in such an armchair and think. If you accidentally fall asleep, it does not matter – the head is held by the headrest and does not fall to the right or left.

— That would be a good explanation, my friend, if it were not for the mistake. I saw Voltaire’s genuine favorite chair, there is even his sculptural portrait in this chair. So, the back of the chair barely reaches the middle of the back of a person. In old age, Voltaire was energetic, writing down his thoughts. And he would fall asleep in armchair? The model of the chair was named so as to amuse the pride of ordinary people. Such a person is sitting and dozing, digesting a hearty dinner, all the blood rushed to the stomach, the head thinks nothing at all. But if he is sitting in an armchair, and if you know that this armchair is Voltaire, then from the side it seems that an intelligent person has plunged into deep thoughts. So advertising indulges petty pride, and the desire to sell a product leads to a distortion of facts. Pragmatism and bigotry drove the actions of most people at all times. By the way, we came here to investigate the case, the basis of the dramatic events of which are these concepts. If you finished the meal, then let’s go.

A sunny day created the illusion of summer, although it was the end of November. Friends went to the big white house along the cobblestone pavement, the stones of which were firmly driven into the ground by thousands of legs, hooves and wheels. The fence of the house is low, but abounds in forged sharp curved pins, the purpose of which was not entirely clear, since a person could freely climb between them. Perhaps the architect only wanted to prevent the horses from approaching the house.

— Well, here we are … In front of you, Watson, the Ferguson Museum. This building was built half a century ago specifically as a museum with the money of this gentleman. A rare case when a person, even a very wealthy one, donates a large sum to the construction of a museum. Despite the fact that he was not a scientist or collector of antiquities. Curious fact, isn’t it? It will become even more interesting to you if I say that his relatives turned to me with a request to find out what caused such a decision of their ancestor. Suspect family secrets. Of course, just to immortalize your name in the name of the museum is a good motive, but the descendants do not want to have “skeletons” in their closet. How do you like this? No chases, no Scotland Yard.

— Interesting, Holmes, but many years have passed. It’s a long-standing affair. Most likely, there is no crime, no evidence, no traces or eyewitnesses either. But it’s good that we drove here at the expense of the customer! Thank you for taking me with you. Nice to leave London fog even for a day.

— Let’s sit on this bench at the entrance. Before we start exploring the museum, Watson, I want to clarify that a crime is possible, nevertheless, but evidence can be stored as exhibits. The fact is that Mr. Ferguson’s great-great-grandfather was a very devout person, far from commerce. He was a priest in a church in a small town in Surrey. And so, his son, inherited from his father a big sum, for which he began a very profitable at that time trade in tea and other colonial goods. Success accompanied him, and, in turn, his son, Mr. Ferguson, continued the work. He built the museum building, and then for many years paid for the purchase of exhibits and maintained the museum, which he then donated to the city. My working hypothesis is that the poor priest got a lot of money in a criminal way and that two generations of his heirs kept a secret. The last keeper was Mr. Ferguson, who did not inform her children, but tried to calm his conscience by building a museum. Now let’s go and see the exhibits. Dear friend, please pay attention to any details that cause associations with the words “pragmatism” and “hypocrisy”. Then we will share our impressions.

Entering the high front door, Holmes and Watson stopped at the counter, behind which sat a friendly elderly lady.

— Good afternoon, gentlemen. The entrance is free. Charity donations are welcome. I advise you to start inspecting the museum from the second floor. Please go up this ladder.

In the spacious lobby on the left and right, high doors led into the halls, and a wide staircase rose to the second floor. About an hour, friends examined the exposition, covering the period from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the XIX century. Most of all, Holmes was interested in the hall on the ground floor, located to the right of the entrance. It was lined with tall glass cabinets with armor and various ancient weapons.

Leaving the museum, friends called a cab and drove to the railway station. As the train approached “King Cross” Station in London, Holmes emerged from deep thought.

— Well, what did you notice, Watson?

— Armor. What a delicate jewelry job to make a durable iron suit movable due to the many plates of complex shape, fixed on hinges. Just a miracle of engineering. They are somewhat similar to a clockwork. Probably precision fitting parts. I can’t even believe that artisans could do this four hundred years ago. But this, in my opinion, does not apply to hypocrisy. Here also, I was impressed by a sword about two meters long. I thought that it would be very inconvenient to fight with such weapons, and I spoke specifically with the hall attendant. He explained that riders used such swords before the spread of firearms. The large length of the sword made it possible to keep the enemy away, which provided an advantage in battle. In addition, a special clamp was made on the saddle, fixing the sword to the right or left. That with a fast ride, sometimes, it allowed to injure the enemy or his horse. But, as I think, this is also not quite what we were looking for.

— Dear friend, of course, armor and swords are weapons. Heat, heat… But as I see it, you do not connect them with the word “hypocrisy”. Thank you for taking the time to travel with me to Cambridge. I think your patients are waiting for their doctor. I will be glad if you go to Baker Street tomorrow. I’ll just make some inquiries, and we will summarize this case.

The next day, in London, the weather was normal – a gray sky and cold fog. Near the gallery of Madame Tussauds, Christmas trade was briskly going on, although there was still much time before Christmas. Turning right to Baker Street, Watson saw that an expensive crew was standing on the opposite side of the street at 221b.

— Ferguson’s heirs have come, – Watson thought.

Miss Hudson opened the door: – Come in, doctor, they are waiting for you.

Holmes and a stranger sat in chairs in front of the fireplace. He was dressed a clean and good suit, but without watches or jewelry. He stood up, and Holmes remained in the chair.

— Meet Watson! This is Henry Ferguson. Henry, this is Dr. Watson.

The handshake was strong, the palm was dry and warm, an open smile completed the pleasant impression.

— Glad to meet you sir. I read your publications about Mr. Holmes with interest and I consider you an outstanding writer. However, please do not describe the details of this case to the general public. You see, I have a son, and if something goes wrong, I will tell him myself. And relatives and friends of the affairs of bygone days from the history of our family do not need to know.

— I agree, I give my word not to use the materials of your case in the press.

— Thank you Doctor.

Henry sat down in a chair, and Watson sat in his favorite chair. Miss Hudson brought a tray with three glasses of sherry. Warmth and comfort spread in the room.

— I told Mr. Ferguson about our trip and was just about to continue the story about what you, Watson, do not know yet. Honestly, I did not want to go outside in such weather, so I worked at home. They sent me a selection of “North Surrey Observer” for the period of interest to us. In addition, Lestrade sent old files from the archive, which I must return to him. And yet, while you, dear friend, enthusiastically talked with the museum clerk, I went away and talked with the director. I left the required deposit and now, the parcelwas delivered to me for study an interesting exhibit from the museum, which we will examine together a little later. The director’s trust is explained by the fact that he, like me, is a member of the Royal Historical Society and, in addition, read my work on methods of reconstructing the identity of the Egyptian pharaohs according to the contents of their tombs. So, a century ago, when the great-great-grandfather of Henry Ferguson was a priest in the parish of his town, a series of impudent robberies were committed within a radius of about 40 miles. The criminal was not found.

— You mean, Mr. Holmes, that my ancestor was a robber!

— No. Do not worry, your ancestor did not have such an opportunity. He was very busy serving in the church. All the time in public. He could not ride 40 miles, track down, rob and even go unnoticed. And yet, he was a very pious man, taking the act of repentance seriously. Even when it happened that the inveterate criminals left the world from a prison nearby, they asked Father Ferguson to be invited to pray for their souls, to confess them and instruct them on the last road. These are proven facts without doubt. He lived modestly, outlived his spouse for several years. He died of a heart attack in the arms of an adult son, who, according to a will prepared by his father in advance, inherited a large fortune. Interestingly, the inheritance was a suitcase full of banknotes. This was written in the local newspaper. Detectives tried to connect this money with robberies, but could not. They came to the conclusion that money were inherited by a priest from a distant relative who sailed from America and visited his house several years ago. It is known that he went on another voyage on the ship “Blue Star” and disappeared. Actually, the ship was gone. In the Lloyd’s office, after a set time, the bell struck – the ship was officially declared sunken.

— It’s all interesting, Holmes, but don’t torment us, at the counter I see a mysterious package. Did they deliver it to you from the museum?

— Yes, Watson, you are observant. Honestly, I myself do not know what is there. The director of the museum said that they only have one storage unit transferred to the museum personally by Mr. Ferguson. This item was sent to us. Let’s see what it is.


On planet Earth, as in our university, the XX-th century ended. After the morning lecture, a break between classes, which could be used to put things in order. In the teachers’ room, my desk and cupboard stood to the left of the door. Along the walls were the workplaces of three more colleagues.

Actually, my main workplace was in the laboratory of computer technology, which I led. True, “led” loudly, since there I was alone with a Polish multi-terminal computer. Students came to laboratory classes on schedule and left. Those of them who did not have time to finish the calculations on time, wanted to work on a break. I had to write a program that created the illusion that the central processor independently communicates with students and warns that after five minutes the power will turn off so that everyone can save their files. The annoyance of students turned to the computer, and this allowed to maintain comfort in the relationship. Unfortunately, it was not so easy with other people.

A few minutes later, colleagues approached. They just wanted to communicate, but for some reason they were always located near my table, so I was involving in their circle. However, there was a reason for this. That reason hid in the tradition of fifteen years ago, when the topic of discussion was the news of science and technology. Everyone was younger, and the times were Soviet. University teaching and research were considered prestigious occupations. Society appreciated this work. Since then, times have changed. The conversations of colleagues became mercantile and not interesting. And the need for respect on the part of society was reduced to the fact that they, as it were, chose me as the “scapegoat”. The fact is that I was the only one who did not have their own car. It never happened. There was no desire to acquire an iron horse. Thus, it is clear who in the traditional circle was a black sheep. I had to keep silent or insert meaningless phrases, such as “How interesting!”, “Really?”. This was hard.

In the evening, a friend called who taught at another university and called for feedback on the methodological manual. A rare call, as I was not able to see him from the student bench. Invited to meet in a cafe after work. We sat well, remembered the student years. Once in the third year, we enrolled together in DOSAAF and jumped three times as a paratrooper with forced disclosure. Actually, a bag of potatoes can jump. But if for me the acquaintance with aviation limited this, then the comrade became interested in technology. He said that several years ago, pilots organized a commercial enterprise on the basis of the former DOSAAF airfield, which has small aircraft and leases them. Clients, mostly foreigners working in our city. At home, they own airplanes, love to fly and want to keep themselves in good shape. Rent costs $ 180 per hour. My friend has been attending amateur pilot courses at this enterprise for a year now, and all he needs to do is fly 100 hours on his own to pass the exam for a certificate.

When we said goodbye, he suggested:

— Let’s go with me on Sunday and see. I just saved up money for an hour of rent. I can’t take a passenger, as I don’t have pilot rights, but it will still be interesting.

On Sunday morning, my friend’s blue “Lada” took us to the airport. We approached one of the aircraft. The propeller is in front, the cabin is like a two-seater car, only two steering wheels, at the instructor and the cadet.

— Look, the director of the company is just walking. I will introduce you! Gennady Ivanovich, get acquainted – my friend. Together we parachuted into DOSAAF. Well, I ran to class.

The director was a mustachioed man of about my age, dressed in a neat jumpsuit.

— You, I see, how your friend is a passionate person. I just need to fly around by the plane. Sit on the right. Put on your headset.

I sat down in a chair and slammed his door. I did not find any seat belts or parachute. I silently put on a headset and heard a voice in the headphones: – Let’s go.

I thought about the director: – Well, like Gagarin!

The motor hummed loudly, and the plane ran along the unpaved strip of the airfield. Among the instruments in front of me I recognized the altimeter, since it had an inscription.

A gas handle was between our seats, and the pilot moved it forward with his right hand. The speed increased, the plane took off from the ground and began to take off.

Hooray! Phew!

I thought: – How beautiful it is around, it’s good that summer … and the propeller, it turns out, does not interfere with looking through it, because it spins too fast.

From the pleasant thoughts the pilot’s voice deduced, like a bucket of cold water on my head:

— Take control!

I look, he let go of the helm and turned away, looking out of the left window.

Quickly grabbed the helm. The first thought is panicky:

— I must say that I do not even know how to drive a car.

In a second:

— But nothing bad will happen if I just quietly hold the helm.

The pilot turned to me and ordered:

— Four thousand altitude, we will fly in a radius of two kilometers from the CHP pipe.

He pointed a finger to the right.

The shock passed, and I began to think something. Of course, in the movies and in the computer games, that my son played, I saw that if the helm from myself the plane fly down, and if the helm to myself the plane fly up. We are flying up, therefore, now the position of the helm is to myself. So … here the altimeter comes to the 4000 mark. I slowly move the steering wheel away from me. The arrow on the device froze at around 4000. Keep it up! Where is the pipe? There she is, on the right. Gently I turn the helm to the right. What is it, the plane does not turn! It just blows the wing to the pipe. Yeah, probably the steering wheel turns only the aileron on the tail. And how to make the whole plane turn? When I happened to fly as a passenger in large airplanes, I saw that when turning on the wings, flaps, ailerons, or whatever they are, lower and rise. It is logical to assume that the two pedals under my feet serve for this. Right – when turning right. Left – when turning left. It’s worth a try. I gently press the right pedal. The plane flew the direction of the pipe, as it should. Hooray! Here it is a pipe. Right in front of me I released the pedal and returned the helm to its previous position.

But I hear in the headphones:

— Why are you diving?

The pilot taps his finger on the instrument, where the small profile of the aircraft leaned down. It is almost on a red line drawn at an angle. As I later learned, there is an angle of 15 degrees, at which the plane crashes into a spin. I was so carried away by turning on the pipe that I did not realize – the pipe is below! If I see the pipe in front of me, then the plane is guaranteed to fly down. Slowly I take the helm on myself. The height is again leveled up to 4000. I flew over the pipe. As he said – a radius of two kilometers? Keeping my eyes on the altimeter, I gently press the right pedal and turn the helm to the right. Slowly turn, turn. I realize that if you keep it that way, then there will be a smooth continuous rotation clockwise in the horizontal plane. Maybe it’s two kilometers, maybe not two – what’s the difference, you’ll return to the pipe anyway. I keep the height, moving the helm slowly on myself. All this is terribly tiring. I don’t look at the window at all. Sweat from the forehead interferes, and I have to look at the altimeter all the time. I glanced quickly at my wristwatch. Wow, I’ve been flying for 30 minutes. Enough. Elementary pragmatism, of course, helps even in controlling an airplane, but physically it is very difficult. I say loudly:

— Take control!

I see the pilot took the helm. Phew! At least I’ll look at the Earth, otherwise I won’t see anything. Relaxed … How not so!

I hear in the headphones:

— Well, you, I see, a novice pilot (mentally said to himself: – “Ha Ha!”), But look at how experienced pilots can fly.

Airplane – candle up. Then down. At low altitude above the meadow horizontal flight. Grass and some car on the road are carried away right under the plane. Ahead is a row of tall trees. Just about to crash. In front of the trees – up steeply. I think continuously one phrase:

— If only it would not vomit!

I don’t remember how we sat down. The pilot opened the door and went towards the airport buildings. I stood on the ground for a long time, holding on to the wing. I can’t go, the earth is swaying a lot. Then I went to the office, saw Gennady Ivanovich, thanked and paid him $ 90 for 30 minutes of flight. I have not seen my friend anywhere and decided to go to the track on foot.

A short straight asphalt road about a kilometer long stretches from the airport to the highway. On both sides, high pyramidal poplars doze under the sun. Above me the blue sky. From there comes a faint buzz of an airplane. Maybe this is my friend flying? I reached the track, crossed the road. On the other side is grass and a trodden ground in front of a column with numbers. A bus came up. His large door rolled back in the middle of the bus. I got to the bottom step and asked:

— Will I get to the market?

Received a negative response and stepped back. But the bus has already gone! Fell on my back, on soft dust. I did not immediately understand that I was falling. It seemed that I was standing firmly on the ground, and the bus was smoothly flying up into the sky along a curve. I was very surprised. Then I jumped up, brushed himself off and looked around. Fortunately, no one was around. Thought:

— I must be careful. My vestibular apparatus is misaligned.

I remembered how, 30 years ago, in an aero club, after a swivel chair, I could not go straight to the wall along the floorboard of the painted floor. I took two meters away in the direction of rotation. The doctor said that this is normal, but you should always make mental adjustments. If you was spinning to the right, then take it to the left when walking. The next bus came up. Now I left without incident.

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