29 Dec 2014
This excerpt from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” uses R.C. Lehmann’s Picklock Holes to poke fun at “His Last Bow.”
This version is also available in the second Great War volume
His Final Arrow
My name is Potson, as all the world now knows. I am only a poor doctor and suffer from the consequences of a wound received in a border skirmish in Afghanistan many years ago. It is not for any merits of my own that my name has become celebrated, but because I have enjoyed the friendship and the society of the most illustrious and most detective man known to this or any other age. That man, as every reader will have guessed, was Picklock Holes. It was his custom, when engaged on one of those marvellous feats of investigation which made Continents shudder and Scotland Yard grow green with envy, to take me with him, not so much to help him — I never aspired to that — as to be the recipient of his confidences and the foil for his humour. “Potson,” he would say to me, “you are not clever; in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, you’re a fool; but if I want any one to tell me how many beans make five you will do for the job as well as any other man. Of course you ask silly questions, but they don’t worry me now and therefore I can endure you.”
“My dear Holes,” I used to murmur, “I love your quaint harshness and could not do without it. Lead on and wherever you go I’ll follow.”
I am now about to relate the last and perhaps the most striking example of my wonderful friend’s genius. Everyone will remember the sensation that was caused a year or two ago by the discovery that there was a shortage in the accounts of the Food-Controller of one lump of sugar and three standardized bread-crumbs. All kinds of guesses were hazarded to explain the deficiency and to discover the culprit who was responsible for it, but none was successful. It was thought at one time that German spies, whom this country, by the way, has never sufficiently hated, were responsible for the loss; but this supposition proved to be untenable. At last the War Cabinet decided to call in the assistance of Holes, and he, as usual, summoned me to his side. Without a moment’s delay I repaired to the Baker Street room on which Holes had conferred the dignity of his presence. I found him deep in calculations. Without looking up or even responding to my greeting he continued to cover sheets of paper with mysterious formulæ until at last he noticed that I was there.
“Potson,” he said, “we learn from the arithmetic books that nine times twelve is a hundred and eight.”
“Are a hundred and eight,” I ventured to object.
“Brainless chatterer,” he hissed, “is this a time for grammatical subtleties? Can you tell what this is?” and he handed me a fragment of something green.
“It belongs,” I said, looking at it carefully, “to the vegetable kingdom.”
He gave me one of his piercing looks. “Any fool,” he said, “could have told me that. Do you not see that it is a strawberry leaf, and do you not remember that, according to my Detective’s Manual, a strawberry leaf is always a clue of the first importance? Let us proceed. We will eliminate the strawberry and the cream, because there is no cream to be had, and the strawberry has already been eaten, and we then find ourselves brought up against a ducal coronet.”
He waved me aside and continued: “Proceeding twice, according to the well-known theory of ‘Next Things,’ we find that the next thing to a ducal coronet is a Duke, and the next thing to a Duke is a Marquis. This leaf was found in the back-garden. Therefore it was found outside. Now fetch Who’s Who, and look at this entry, ‘Outside, family name of the Marquis of Bobstay.’ Ah, Henry Brabazon Beltravers, Marquis of Bobstay, I think we have got you fixed at last, and shall bring your career of crime to a close.” In a moment we had flung ourselves into a taxi, and in about ten minutes we had arrived at the palatial mansion of the Marquis of Bobstay. We found his Lordship at home and were ushered into his library. He is a stout man and evidently well fed. Holes grappled with him at once, and after a short struggle produced from the Marquis’s breast-pocket a glistening lump of sugar. The bread-crumbs were discovered in the ticket-pocket of his Lordship’s overcoat. On the following morning the miserable man paid the penalty of his wickedness.
“Holes,” I said, as we came away, “what made you think of this?”
“I never think,” said Holes; “I always know.”
[BACK]From Ruth 1:16, in which Ruth expresses her loyalty to Naomi: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
[BACK]As an island nation that needed to import its food, Britain was vulnerable to Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare during World War I. To help control fears of food hoarding and price gouging, a Food Controller was appointed in 1917 charged with fixing prices, regulating the distribution of food and encouraging homeowners to reduce waste.
[BACK]With the onset of World War I, a coalition government was formed between the Conservative and Liberal parties.
[BACK]In the English peerage, duke is the highest rank, followed by marquess, earl, viscount and baron/baroness.