The Last of Sherlock Holmes (Banjo Paterson Sherlock Parody)

From "Sherlock Holmes Edwardian Parodies and Pastiches II: 1905-1909" coming in late December 2015.

From “Sherlock Holmes Edwardian Parodies and Pastiches II: 1905-1909” coming in late December 2015.

This story requires some explanation. Late on the night of Jan. 20, 1905, police in Perth, Australia, received an urgent telegram from Sir Harry Rawson (1843-1910), the governor of New South Wales, from his summer home in Moss Vale. Two reliable officers were to meet the train from Moss Vale and meet someone who would order them to keep an eye on two unnamed individuals. Word of the mysterious telegram and its purpose spread quickly, and news reports fueled speculation. Several days later, the government explained that Rawson had given a messenger negotiable debentures to raise a £2 million loan and was concerned for their safety. Eventually, the truth surfaced: two Russian agents had been negotiating with a shipping company to buy one of their vessels and the government became alarmed after learning of their presence in the country.

This appeared in at least two Australian newspapers—The Evening News of Jan. 28, 1905, and The Daily News (Perth) of Feb. 16. No byline was listed, but a compiler for Project Gutenberg Australia identified the author as Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864-1941), the journalist-author whose poems of Outback life include “Waltzing Matilda,” “Clancy of the Overflow,” and “The Man from Snowy River.” His portrait appears on the Australian ten-dollar bill.

banjo paterson sherlock parody

A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

The Last of Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Governor’s Message and the Missing ——-.

A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

Those who have followed the career of the marvelous detective Sherlock Holmes, and his assistant, Dr. Watson, will remember that the final exploit of the great Sherlock, as recorded by Conan Doyle, was the recovery of a missing despatch box by the Prime Minister of England. This adventure is supposed to have closed the history of the great detective so far as English readers are concerned; but such a mastermind could not remain unoccupied; such a genius must find an outlet for its energies; and there are indications that various mysteries now puzzling Australians—such as why Pye was left out of the Australian Eleven, and The Missing Diamonds, or the Mystery of the Mont-de-Piete, will before long engage the attention of his giant intellect; in other words, Sherlock Holmes is in Australia.

If any confirmation were wanted of this statement, it would be found in the solution recently worked out of a labyrinthic mystery which Sherlock Holmes and Company alone could have successfully solved.

Suppressing, for obvious reasons, the real names of the parties, let us proceed to narrate how Sherlock Holmes unraveled the mysterious telegram sent by one whom, for the purposes of the story, we shall call Sir Tarry Hawser, the Governor of New South Carolina.

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It was midnight of a sweltering Sydney summer night. The streets were quiet, except for the usual crowds around the betting shops, and Sherlock Holmes, disguised as an Officer of Detective Police, paced restlessly up and down his official sitting-room, holding in his hand a telegram. From time to time he glanced restlessly at the door. A step was heard without, and three knocks were given. The door slid noiselessly into the groove in the wall, admitting Sherlock’s old and true friend, Dr. Watson, now disguised as a policeman. Without looking round, Sherlock motioned him to a chair, saying, “Sit down, Watson. I have a small matter in hand.”

“How did you know it was me?” said Watson, gazing admiringly at the back view of the greatest detective the world has ever known. “I never spoke nor gave my name to a soul.”

“My dear fellow,” said Sherlock, with calm superiority. “I knew it was oyu the moment that you started to come up the stairs. I knew it was you by the heavy way you put your feet down. When I heard the sound on the stairs, I said, ‘This is either Watson, or a draught horse,’ and as no draught horse could get round the angle in the first landing, I knew it was you the moment you had passed that point. But there is a small matter, a mere official trifle, which is likely to afford us a little work. It is a matter which, as a rule, I would hand over to the traffic constables, with instructions to inquire whether any strangers had been seen in town lately. But as our old friend, Sir Tarry Hawser, is concerned in it we must attend to the matter ourselves.”

So saying, he tossed to Watson a telegram timed 11 p.m. and bearing the Hoss Valley telegraph stamp.

Watson held it up to the light, and read it aloud: “‘Hawser, Hoss Valley, to Sherlock, Sydney. Have just come home from amateur races. Very hot. Have lost—’ what’s this he has lost?—‘exiguous co-ordinate?’”

“That’s where the difficulty is,” said Sherlock. “That part is in cipher, and we have lost the key. It is evident he has lost something. I deduce that from the fact that he goes on: ‘send two detectives at once.’”

“And what do you think he has lost?” said Watson.

Sherlock smiled his inscrutable smile and threw himself into an easy chair.

“I think I recognize the hand of Moriarty in this,” he said.

“Do you mean Moriarty, the Crown Prosecu—”

“No. I mean Moriarty, the great chief of crime, the Napoleon of iniquity. See here, Watson,” he went on, stepping over to the window and drawing aside the curtain: “Look out and tell me what you see.”

“I see Phillip street, and a cab at the corner, and a man over the way going into a pub after hours.”

“What does he look like?”

“He looks like a beer-fighter.”

Sherlock smiled his slow smile of satisfaction.

“Watch that man,” he said, “and tell me if he looks round as he goes into the bar.”

“Yes, he does.”

“Does he beckon with his hand, and is he joined by another man?”

“Yes, he is.”

“I thought so. Moriarty at every turn! That is no ordinary emergency. I would go myself, but—” and here he paused, lost in thought.

“Why not telegraph Sir Tarry, and see—”

“What, and have the telegram intercepted by Moriarty? Watson, you surprise me. Oblige me by pressing the bell.”

A velvet-footed official came to the door.

“Are all arrangements made?” said Sherlock sharply.

“They are, sir.”

“Have you rung up the press and told them at what time the detectives leave, and where they are going, and by whom they are wanted?”

“We have, sir.”

“Have they been photographed and their descriptions circulated among the criminal classes?”

“They have, sir.”

“Have they got a banner and masks for their faces and a bloodhound to follow the tracks?”

“They have, sir.”

“Excellent, excellent,” said Sherlock Holmes. “It is a great aid to detective work, Watson, to notify beforehand what you are going to do. It lowers the number of convictions and enables Neitenstein to effect a saving of gaol expenditure. And now let us snatch a few hours’ sleep. We can do nothing till the morning. Good night, Watson. Mind the step.”

Next morning there was a great to-do. People were asking, “What had the Governor of South Carolina lost? Had the miscreants been arrested? Had Rozhestvensky’s fleet appeared on the Upper Marrumbidgee, and begun to shell the Barren Jack Reservoir? Was a Russian emissary disguised as a commercial traveler trying to sell fire extinguishers to the burnt-out settlers? The public mind was all unrest, and all looked to the great detective to know what had been done.

Meanwhile, the detectives had started for the railway station with the utmost secrecy, accompanied by a German band, a banner, and a bloodhound. The time and place of their departure and the object of their visit were all chronicled in the society columns among the fashionable intelligence, and were read with interest by the criminal classes.

They followed up the blood-stained trail. “A Russian spy has passed along here,” they said. But the desperado was found to be only an ordinary swagman, and the sleuth hounds of the law were puzzled.

“Strange!” they said, “that the criminals are not here to meet us after our departure was so extensively advertised.” They returned as unobtrusively and secretly as they set out, and were met by four hundred people at the railway station, who cheered them heartily.

Public excitement ran higher than ever. The mysterious message—what was it about? Had the detectives arrested anyone?

It was then that the genius of our friend Holmes shone out more brightly; with more luster and luminosity than on any occasion in his history. He rigidly refused to give any information. “We have told the criminals what we are going to do,” he said, “but it would never do to tell the public what the affair was all about. Enough for them to know that the criminals, whoever they were, were taken no unfair advantage of. Let it never be said that Sherlock Holmes descended to the low expedient of surprising a burglar. Any officer giving any information whatever will be sacked.”

Later on in the day the Prime Minister, by one of those singular lapses of which even the greatest minds are capable, actually made public the details of the affair. There was nothing to make a fuss about, he said. There had been no crime committed, and he didn’t see why the public should be kept in a state of unrest. He said that Sir Tarry Hawser had merely wanted two detectives to look after some unsalable bonds that the Carruthers Government were trying to palm off on the British moneylender; but the public would not believe this story at all.

“Why,” they said, “should he wait until the middle of the night to remember about the bonds? No, there was a mystery in it, and Sherlock Holmes is the only man who can tell us.”

When this was reported to Sherlock, he again smiled his deep, enigmatical smile.

“To the ordinary superficial observer, Watson,” he said, “there was nothing in it. But the trained, deductive intellect discards all the theories of guarding bonds. The great mastermind of crime was at work in this.”

“And what was it then that Sir Tarry Hawser wished the detectives to do? What did he wish them to guard?”

Sherlock Holmes looked round furtively, and drew his questioner close to him.

“The family washing,” he hissed. “He didn’t like sending it down, considering the people that were about. Look out, Watson, and tell me what you see in the street.”

“I see the same pub, and I think the same man going in to have a drink.”

Sherlock Holmes gave his usual chuckle of triumph. “There you are, Watson,” he said, “that proves that my suspicions were correct. Moriarty is yet at large.”

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[Back] Australian Eleven: Leslie W. Pye’s non-selection for the Australian Eleven to play against England’s Eleven ignited much arguing in the region’s newspapers. Sources for the other mysteries could not be located.

[Back] Sir Tarry Hawser: Admiral Sir Harry Rawson (1843-1910) was governor of New South Wales (1902-1909), but was best known for leading a punitive expedition in 1897 that destroyed the independent Kingdom of Benin (now in Nigeria) after a previous British force had been wiped out.

[Back] Hoss Valley: A reference to Moss Vale, a town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Gov. Harry Rawson’s summer residence was in nearby Sutton Forest.

[Back] Neitenstein: Frederick Neitenstein (1850-1921) was a prison reformer. As comptroller-general of New South Wales’ prisons, he developed tools such as separating prisoners by classes and instituting physical drill and other programs to turn prisons into “moral hospitals.” In 1906, he transferred the cost of housing lunatics in prison to another department, creating a great savings on paper.

[Back] Rosbjestvensky’s fleet: As admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, Zinovy Rozhestvensky (1848-1909) led a squadron from St. Petersburg to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, only to lose in the decisive Battle of Tsushima.

[Back] Barren Jack Reservoir: A dam-created lake on the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales. The name was a corruption of the Aboriginal name for the area, and is now called Burrinjuck. The Murrumbidgee is the second-longest river in Australia.