28 Apr 2014
Today’s Sherlock Holmes parody has traveled far and wide to reach the shores of the Internet. This article is an example of how far a story can spread. It originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press under the headline “A Great Detective; It Was an Easy Matter For Him to Quiet the Woman’s Fears” on March 3. Less than three weeks later, it was reprinted in the March 24 edition of the Los Angeles Herald as simply “Herlock Sholmes.” It then crossed the ocean to Australia, where it appeared on June 7 in the Warragul Guardian and the Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times (using the title we adopted), and the next day in the Caulfield and Eisternwick Leader. It probably surfaced in other newspapers as well, because as late as Jan. 23, 1904, it appeared in the Bowral Free Press in Australia.
Stories from the 223B casebook — stories published during Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s lifetime (plus later ones I liked) — are published here every Monday and Friday. The up-to-date list can be found here.
THE GENIUS OF HERLOCK SHOLMES
He Solves A Thrilling Mystery and Exhibits to Advantage His Wonderful Gifts.
I was talking to my friend Herlock Sholmes when there came a knock on the door and a woman entered.
“I want to see Mr. Herlock Sholmes,” she said, in a quivering voice.
“Very well, madame, I am he,’’ replied the great detective, with all the courtliness of a great gentleman.
“I have a communication that I wish to make to you alone,” she went on. ‘It is of a strictly private character, and I prefer that no third person hear it.”
“Madam,” he replied with much formality, “permit me to present my best friend, Woctor Dotson. Whatever I may hear he may hear, and unless you speak to both of us you cannot speak at all.”
I had risen to withdraw from the room when the lady protested against my presence and now sat down again.
“With your assurance,” she said to Sholmes, “I will tell you my story and implore your assistance. My husband”—
“I beg your pardon, madam,’’ interrupted Sholmes, “‘you have not told me your name or his.”
“Oh, excuse me,” she said, quite embarrassed. “I am Mrs. Calbro, of—”
“Fourteen Bertry Square, and your husband is Henry M. Calbro,’’ interrupted Sholmes, fairly taking the words out of her mouth.
Sholmes laughed at the consternation of his visitor, for she was violently affected by his words, and, after calming her, she went on.
“As I was about to say,’’ she said, shrinking away from him, ‘‘my husband disappeared two days ago, and I have seen nothing of him since. He had just received quite a large sum of money and as he was met by three men just after leaving the house, I greatly fear something has happened to him.
Sholmes studied her critically through his fingers as he set deep in his chair listening to her story.
“Your husband was a man about six feet tall, l believe,’’ said Sholmes, in that confident manner which always provoked me.
‘‘Yes,” he replied, starting nervously.
“Dark eyes; almost black?’’
“One front tooth gone. Or rather I should say, a false tooth?”
“Y-yes,” stammered the visitor, half in fear.
‘‘Will you be kind enough to state the amount of money he had on his person when you last saw him?” asked Sholmes, peering at her closely.
“I am not sure, but I think there was £94.”
Sholmes shook his head as if disturbed. “Four men in the party,” he said to himself, ‘‘and only three shillings left.’’
The visitor stared at him, but he offered no explanation.
“Your husband, madam, was of bibulous habits also, was he not?” he asked politely, but still with the confidence of certain knowledge.
“Periodically only,” she said, trying to shield him.
“The worst kind,” responded Sholmes. “I think I am not mistaken,” he continued, “in saying that he had on. when you last saw him, a silk hat. dark clothes, stylishly made, and wore patent leather shoes, No. 9?”
It was so like a revelation to the wife that she rose from her chair and paced the apartment in nervous excitement.
“How do you know these things?” she exclaimed. “You did not know him, I’m sure, for he would have told me. He always told me everything,” and she broke into a flood of tears.
“Calm yourself, my dear madam, calm yourself,” said Sholmes, soothingly. “I can do nothing for you now, but if you will return to your home and have confidence in my ability to restore him to you all will be well.”
“But when—when?” she asked imploringly.
“Or course,” he said to her in cold, businesslike tones, “in such cases as these there can be no absolute certainty, for the very slightest events may throw out of line every calculation the shrewdest of us make; but I think by day after to-morrow at noon your husband will be with you.”
“Alive and well?’’ she asked with trembling eagerness.
Sholmes hesitated for an instant.
‘‘Alive, yes,’’ he answered, ‘‘and as well as could be expected under the circumstances.”
She would have asked more of him. but he cut her off and gently escorted her to the door.
As we heard her footsteps descending the stairs he turned to me with a smile.
“Are you a man or devil?” I asked in amazed admiration.
“Why?’’ he inquired, betraying slightly the conceit which at times asserted itself in his character and which I had noticed first in his defense of an article he had written in the Times, which I had criticized.
“How do you know this man so minutely, when I am sure you had never heard of him until his wife came to you with her story.”
‘Don’t he too sure of that. You are talking now as my friends at Scotland Yard talk.’’
‘‘So or not,’’ I said, ‘‘how do you know this man Calbro?’’
It’s the easiest thing in the world.’’ he said, toying with a small vial of cocaine, ‘‘when you know how,’’ and he winked at me cunningly. “I happened to be at the police station last night when they brought him in. He was temporarily a mental and moral wreck and speechless, but the papers on his person identified him perfectly, and, working on that clue, I spoke to his wife as I did. He had three shillings in his pocket, and you may imagine what kind of a time four men must have had in two days on the difference between three shillings and ninety-four pounds. Didn’t I tell his wife the periodicals were the worst? And I was right. He was the worst I ever saw. I may be wrong, though, in telling her he would be restored to her by day after to-morrow, but the police physician is a friend of mine, and I’ll go right down there and tell him to soak Mr. Calbro in vichy and ammonia and other restoratives in order that my conclusions in this great case may be confirmed. Will you accompany me for the sake of the adventure?
More than ever impressed by the true greatness of this strange being, I put on my top coat and went with him to the police hospital.