30 Dec 2015
Production on the next volume in the 223B Casebook series, covering the years 1905-1909, is nearly finished! I expect to have the book out during the first week of January. So to celebrate, we’re running stories from that time period, but which had to be cut from the volume for space.
This one featuring Padlock Holmes has never been seen since since its original publication 110 years ago. I rather like this one because of the period slang.
A New Padlock Holmes Story
“A. Coining Doyle”
This parody from the May 7, 1905, edition of The Washington Post is told in an American patoise, with references to bootjacks, 2-fer cigars, go-to-meeting boots and other bits of slang.
Padlock Holmes was resting on his laurels and a Morris chair when I begged his assistance to unravel a baffling mystery.
“Before proceeding further I will briefly state the case under the following heads: First—Nine murders had been committed in the immediate neighborhood. Second—The police said it was off their beat. Third—Who had men murdered? Fourth—Who was the murderer? Fifth—Everything not included in the above.”
The great detective listened to the recital of the meager facts while he blew smoke rings, then he made this succinct and anxious inquiry: “Did the police who were on the case wear gum shoes?”
“They did,” I replied.
“Bad,” he mused. “That proves something has been done to arouse the suspicion of the murderer. We have difficult sailing ahead of us. However, to take up the first head,” he continued, “you say there have been nine murders?”
“Yes,” I responded, lost in admiration of his perspicacity and red tie.
“Then,” he said, propounding the axiom, “there must be nine persons missing!”
I knew nobody else could have thought so deeply on the subject, so I nodded assent.
His next question came like a shot from a cannon: “How many cooks have you missed this week?”
“Fifteen,” I replied.
“Two a day and one over for Sunday,” I heard him mentally subtract nine from fifteen, and saw the ashy pallor overspread his countenance when he realised his inductive, seductive, reductive method had failed. But he was game and bluffed it out.
The next morning Padlock Holmes met me with a bright smile and a 2-fer cigar.“Ha,” he said, “I have solved the mystery. The first murder was committed in the alley between your house and the next. The instrument used was a bootjack.” He paused to allow his words to sink in on me, while I muttered a muffled “You don’t say?”
“The second murder,” he sternly continued, “took place in your own back yard. A knob is missing from your closet door. This gave me the clew to the means employed.”
Another pause and another confirmation of his invincible method.
“The third,” he continued, while I quailed before his glance, “was perpetrated in the middle of the street, and the water pitcher which came from your room accomplished the deed.”
What could I do? What could I say?
“The fourth life,” he announced, fixing me with his eagle eye, “was taken in the yard of your rear neighbor. The cries were plainly heard by the whole block.’’
Again I bowed before the wonderful logic of this great man.
“The fifth victim was struck dead by your military brushes. The touseled condition of your hair tells me so.”
I hastily arranged my locks, but it was already too late.
“The sixth,” remorselessly continuing, “occurred next to you. I may add that your Sunday go-to-meeting boots are missing.”
Trying to curl up my toes inside my trousers, I forebore to speak.
“The seventh innocent existence winked out on your front steps,” he proclaimed. “The assassin used a heavy cut-glass smelling bottle. By a strange coincidence, I observed that your wife has only one, of what was obviously a pair, remaining on her dresser.”
What manner of man was this to whom all things were as an open book? I wearily nodded my head up and down.
“The eighth victim of this uncanny series,” said the merciless logician, “fell before an onslaught of coal. There is even now a trail of soot from your scuttle to your window; deny it if you can!”
“The ninth life,” he concluded, “was taken by means of the coal scuttle itself. The cat is dead!” Could anything be more faultless than the train of circumstantial evidence thus shown step by step? I doubt it.
“No,” returned Padlock Holmes, grandly, “It ain’t! I’m going to see Adelina Patti and go her one better.”
[Back] Gum shoes: Shoes with a rubber-like sole, similar to a sneaker, enabling a person to move quietly. A “gumshoe man” was originally a thief, but by 1908, the word was applied to police detectives, then to private detectives.
[Back] 2-fer cigar: A deal in which two cigars are sold for the price of one. Websites that sell cigars offer 2-fer, 3-fer, and even 4-fer sales.
[Back] Bootjack: A tool used for helping you take off your boot. It features a U-shaped piece of metal or wood that nestles the back of the boot. While standing on the back end, the wearer slides the boot into place and pulls upward. A cast-iron bootjack can make for a handy and effective weapon.
[Back] Smelling bottle: A small bottle used to store perfume or smelling salts. A cut-glass bottle has deep lines cut into the thick glass for both aesthetic reasons and to make it easier to hold.
[Back] Scuttle: A hatch through which coal was dumped down a chute and into the basement of the house. The homeowner or servant would shovel the coal into the furnace to heat the house.
[Back] Adelina Patti: Another reference to Adelina Patti (1843-1919), the opera singer who made several farewell tours before her permanent retirement from the stage in 1906. See the footnote in “The Unmasking of Sherlock Holmes” for more details.