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I had intended asking Boswell what had become of my copy of the Baedeker's Hades when he next returned, but the output of the machine that evening so interested me that the hand-book was entirely forgotten. If there ever was a hero in this world who could compare with D'Artagnan in my estimation for sheer ability in a given line that hero was Sherlock Holmes. With D'Artagnan and Holmes for my companions I think I could pass the balance of my days in absolute contentment, no matter what woful things might befall me. So it was that, when I next heard the tapping keys and dulcet bell of my Enchanted Type-writer, and, after listening intently for a moment, realized that my friend Boswell was making a copy of a Sherlock Holmes Memoir thereon for his next Sunday's paper, all thought of the interesting little red book of the last meeting flew out of my head. I rose quickly from my couch at the first sounding of the gong.
"Got a Holmes story, eh?" I said, walking to his side, and gazing eagerly over the spot where his shoulder should have been.
"I have that, and it's a winner," he replied, enthusiastically. "If you don't believe it, read it. I'll have it copied in about two minutes."
"I'll do both," I said. "I believe all the Sherlock Holmes stories I read. It is so much pleasanter to believe them true. If they weren't true they wouldn't be so wonderful."
With this I picked up the first page of the manuscript and shortly after Boswell presented me with the balance, whereon I read the following extraordinary tale:
A MYSTERY SOLVED
A WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT IN FERRETING
From Advance Sheets of
MEMOIRS I REMEMBER
SHERLOCK HOLMES, ESQ.
Ferreter Extraordinary by Special Appointment to his Majesty
WHO THE LADY WAS!
It was not many days after my solution of the Missing Diamond of the Nizam of Jigamaree Mystery that I was called upon to take up a case which has baffled at least one person for some ten or eleven centuries. The reader will remember the mystery of the missing diamond--the largest known in all history, which the Nizam of Jigamaree brought from India to present to the Queen of England, on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. I had been dead three years at the time, but, by a special dispensation of his Imperial Highness Apollyon, was permitted to return incog to London for the jubilee season, where it so happened that I put up at the same lodging-house as that occupied by the Nizam and his suite. We sat opposite each other at table d'hote, and for at least three weeks previous to the losing of his treasure the Indian prince was very morose, and it was very difficult to get him to speak. I was not supposed to know, nor, indeed, was any one else, for that matter, at the lodging-house, that the Nizam was so exalted a personage. He like myself was travelling incog and was known to the world as Mr. Wilkins, of Calcutta--a very wise precaution, inasmuch as he had in his possession a gem valued at a million and a half of dollars. I recognized him at once, however, by his unlikeness to a wood-cut that had been appearing in the American Sunday newspapers, labelled with his name, as well as by the extraordinary lantern which he had on his bicycle, a lantern which to the uneducated eye was no more than an ordinary lamp, but which to an eye like mine, familiar with gems, had for its crystal lens nothing more nor less than the famous stone which he had brought for her Majesty the Queen, his imperial sovereign. There are few people who can tell diamonds from plate-glass under any circumstances, and Mr. Wilkins, otherwise the Nizam, realizing this fact, had taken this bold method of secreting his treasure. Of course, the moment I perceived the quality of the man's lamp I knew at once who Mr. Wilkins was, and I determined to have a little innocent diversion at his expense.
"It has been a fine day, Mr. Wilkins," said I one evening over the pate.
"Yes," he replied, wearily. "Very--but somehow or other I'm depressed to-night."
"Too bad," I said, lightly, "but there are others. There's that poor Nizam of Jigamaree, for instance--poor devil, he must be the bluest brown man that ever lived."
Wilkins started nervously as I mentioned the prince by name.
"Wh-why do you think that?" he asked, nervously fingering his butter-knife.
"It's tough luck to have to give away a diamond that's worth three or four times as much as the Koh-i-noor," I said. "Suppose you owned a stone like that. Would you care to give it away?"
"Not by a damn sight!" cried Wilkins, forcibly, and I noticed great tears gathering in his eyes.
"Still, he can't help himself, I suppose," I said, gazing abruptly at his scarf-pin. "That is, he doesn't know that he can. The Queen expects it. It's been announced, and now the poor devil can't get out of it--though I'll tell you, Mr. Wilkins, if I were the Nizam of Jigamaree, I'd get out of it in ten seconds."
I winked at him significantly. He looked at me blankly.
"Yes, sir," I added, merely to arouse him, "in just ten seconds! Ten short, beautiful seconds."
"Mr. Postlethwaite," said the Nizam--Postlethwaite was the name I was travelling under--"Mr. Postlethwaite," said the Nizam--otherwise Wilkins--"your remarks interest me greatly." His face wreathed with a smile that I had never before seen there. "I have thought as you do in regard to this poor Indian prince, but I must confess I don't see how he can get out of giving the Queen that diamond. Have a cigar, Mr. Postlethwaite, and, waiter, bring us a triple magnum of champagne. Do you really think, Mr. Postlethwaite, that there is a way out of it? If you would like a ticket to Westminster for the ceremony, there are a half-dozen."
He tossed six tickets for seats among the crowned heads across the table to me. His eagerness was almost too painful to witness.
"Thank you," said I, calmly pocketing the tickets, for they were of rare value at that time. "The way out of it is very simple."
"Indeed, Mr. Postlethwaite," said he, trying to keep cool. "Ah--are you interested in rubies, sir? There are a few which I should be pleased to have you accept"--and with that over came a handful of precious stones each worth a fortune. These also I pocketed as I replied:
"Why, certainly; if I were the Nizam," said I, "I'd lose that diamond."
A shade of disappointment came over Mr. Wilkins's face.
"Lose it? How? Where?" he asked, with a frown.
"Yes. Lose it. Any way I could. As for the place where it should be lost, any old place will do as long as it is where he can find it again when he gets back home. He might leave it in his other clothes, or--"
"Make that two triple magnums, waiter," cried Mr. Wilkins, excitedly, interrupting me. "Postlethwaite, you're a genius, and if you ever want a house and lot in Calcutta, just let me know and they're yours."
You never saw such a change come over a man in all your life. Where he had been all gloom before, he was now all smiles and jollity, and from that time on to his return to India Mr. Wilkins was as happy as a school-boy at the beginning of vacation. The next day the diamond was lost, and whoever may have it at this moment, the British Crown is not in possession of the Jigamaree gem.
But, as my friend Terence Mulvaney says, that is another story. It is of the mystery immediately following this concerning which I have set out to write.
I was sitting one day in my office on Apollyon Square opposite the Alexandrian library, smoking an absinthe cigarette, which I had rolled myself from my special mixture consisting of two parts tobacco, one part hasheesh, one part of opium dampened with a liqueur glass of absinthe, when an excited knock sounded upon my door.
"Come in," I cried, adopting the usual formula.
The door opened and a beautiful woman stood before me clad in most regal garments, robust of figure, yet extremely pale. It seemed to me that I had seen her somewhere before, yet for a time I could not place her.
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes?" said she, in deliciously musical tones, which, singular to relate, she emitted in a fashion suggestive of a recitative passage in an opera.
"The same," said I, bowing with my accustomed courtesy.
"The ferret?" she sang, in staccato tones which were ravishing to my musical soul.
I laughed. "That term has been applied to me, madame," said I, chanting my answer as best I could. "For myself, however, I prefer to assume the more modest title of detective. I can work with or without clues, and have never yet been baffled. I know who wrote the Junius letters, and upon occasions have been known to see through a stone wall with my naked eye. What can I do for you?"
"Tell me who I am!" she cried, tragically, taking the centre of the room and gesticulating wildly.
"Well--really, madame," I replied. "You didn't send up any card--"
"Ah!" she sneered. "This is what your vaunted prowess amounts to, eh? Ha! Do you suppose if I had a card with my name on it I'd have come to you to inquire who I am? I can read a card as well as you can, Mr. Sherlock Holmes."
"Then, as I understand it, madame," I put in, "you have suddenly forgotten your identity and wish me to--"
"Nothing of the sort. I have forgotten nothing. I never knew for certain who I am. I have an impression, but it is based only on hearsay evidence," she interrupted.
For a moment I was fairly puzzled. Still I did not wish to let her know this, and so going behind my screen and taking a capsule full of cocaine to steady my nerves, I gained a moment to think. Returning, I said:
"This really is child's play for me, madame. It won't take more than a week to find out who you are, and possibly, if you have any clews at all to your identity, I may be able to solve this mystery in a day."
"I have only three," she answered, and taking a piece of swan's-down, a lock of golden hair, and a pair of silver-tinsel tights from her portmanteau she handed them over to me.
My first impulse was to ask the lady if she remembered the name of the asylum from which she had escaped, but I fortunately refrained from doing so, and she shortly left me, promising to return at the end of the week.
For three days I puzzled over the clews. Swan's-down, yellow hair, and a pair of silver-tinsel tights, while very interesting no doubt at times, do not form a very solid basis for a theory establishing the identity of so regal a person as my visitor. My first impression was that she was a vaudeville artist, and that the exhibits she had left me were a part of her make-up. This I was forced to abandon shortly, because no woman with the voice of my visitor would sing in vaudeville. The more ambitious stage was her legitimate field, if not grand opera itself.
At this point she returned to my office, and I of course reported progress. That is one of the most valuable things I learned while on earth--when you have done nothing, report progress.
"I haven't quite succeeded as yet," said I, "but I am getting at it slowly. I do not, however, think it wise to acquaint you with my present notions until they are verified beyond peradventure. It might help me somewhat if you were to tell me who it is you think you are. I could work either forward or backward on that hypothesis, as seemed best, and so arrive at a hypothetical truth anyhow."
"That's just what I don't want to do," said she. "That information might bias your final judgment. If, however, acting on the clews which you have, you confirm my impression that I am such and such a person, as well as the views which other people have, then will my status be well defined and I can institute my suit against my husband for a judicial separation, with back alimony, with some assurance of a successful issue."
I was more puzzled than ever.
"Well," said I, slowly, "I of course can see how a bit of swan's-down and a lock of yellow hair backed up by a pair of silver-tinsel tights might constitute reasonable evidence in a suit for separation, but wouldn't it--ah--be more to your purpose if I should use these data as establishing the identity of--er--somebody else?"
"How very dense you are," she replied, impatiently. "That's precisely what I want you to do."
"But you told me it was your identity you wished proven," I put in, irritably.
"Precisely," said she.
"Then these bits of evidence are--yours?" I asked, hesitatingly. One does not like to accuse a lady of an undue liking for tinsel.
"They are all I have left of my husband," she answered with a sob.
"Hum!" said I, my perplexity increasing. "Was the--ah--the gentleman blown up by dynamite?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Holmes," she retorted, rising and running the scales. "I think, after all, I have come to the wrong shop. Have you Hawkshaw's address handy? You are too obtuse for a detective."
My reputation was at stake, so I said, significantly:
"Good! Good! I was merely trying one of my disguises on you, madame, and you were completely taken in. Of course no one would ever know me for Sherlock Holmes if I manifested such dullness."
"Ah!" she said, her face lighting up. "You were merely deceiving me by appearing to be obtuse?"
"Of course," said I. "I see the whole thing in a nutshell. You married an adventurer; he told you who he was, but you've never been able to prove it; and suddenly you are deserted by him, and on going over his wardrobe you find he has left nothing but these articles: and now you wish to sue him for a separation on the ground of desertion, and secure alimony if possible."
It was a magnificent guess.
"That is it precisely," said the lady. "Except as to the extent of his 'leavings.' In addition to the things you have he gave my small brother a brass bugle and a tin sword."
"We may need to see them later," said I. "At present I will do all I can for you on the evidence in hand. I have got my eye on a gentleman who wears silver-tinsel tights now, but I am afraid he is not the man we are after, because his hair is black, and, as far as I have been able to learn from his valet, he is utterly unacquainted with swan's-down."
We separated again and I went to the club to think. Never in my life before had I had so baffling a case. As I sat in the cafe sipping a cocaine cobbler, who should walk in but Hamlet, strangely enough picking particles of swan's-down from his black doublet, which was literally covered with it.
"Hello, Sherlock!" he said, drawing up a chair and sitting down beside me. "What you up to?"
"Trying to make out where you have been," I replied. "I judge from the swan's-down on your doublet that you have been escorting Ophelia to the opera in the regulation cloak."
"You're mistaken for once," he laughed. "I've been driving with Lohengrin. He's got a pair of swans that can do a mile in 2.10-- but it makes them moult like the devil."
"Pair of what?" I cried.
"Swans," said Hamlet. "He's an eccentric sort of a duffer, that Lohengrin. Afraid of horses, I fancy."
"And so drives swans instead?" said I, incredulously.
"The same," replied Hamlet. "Do I look as if he drove squab?"
"He must be queer," said I. "I'd like to meet him. He'd make quite an addition to my collection of freaks."
"Very well," observed Hamlet. "He'll be here to-morrow to take luncheon with me, and if you'll come, too, you'll be most welcome. He's collecting freaks, too, and I haven't a doubt would be pleased to know you."
We parted and I sauntered homeward, cogitating over my strange client, and now and then laughing over the idiosyncrasies of Hamlet's friend the swan-driver. It never occurred to me at the moment however to connect the two, in spite of the link of swan's-down. I regarded it merely as a coincidence. The next day, however, on going to the club and meeting Hamlet's strange guest, I was struck by the further coincidence that his hair was of precisely the same shade of yellow as that in my possession. It was of a hue that I had never seen before except at performances of grand opera, or on the heads of fool detectives in musical burlesques. Here, however, was the real thing growing luxuriantly from the man's head.
"Ho-ho!" thought I to myself. "Here is a fortunate encounter; there may be something in it," and then I tried to lead him on.
"I understand, Mr. Lohengrin," I said, "that you have a fine span of swans."
"Yes," he said, and I was astonished to note that he, like my client, spoke in musical numbers. "Very. They're much finer than horses, in my opinion. More peaceful, quite as rapid, and amphibious. If I go out for a drive and come to a lake they trot quite as well across its surface as on the highways."
"How interesting!" said I. "And so gentle, the swan. Your wife, I presume--"
Hamlet kicked my shins under the table.
"I think it will rain to-morrow," he said, giving me a glance which if it said anything said shut up.
"I think so, too," said Lohengrin, a lowering look on his face. "If it doesn't, it will either snow, or hail, or be clear." And he gazed abstractedly out of the window.
The kick and the man's confusion were sufficient proof. I was on the right track at last. Yet the evidence was unsatisfactory because merely circumstantial. My piece of down might have come from an opera cloak and not from a well-broken swan, the hair might equally clearly have come from some other head than Lohengrin's, and other men have had trouble with their wives. The circumstantial evidence lying in the coincidences was strong but not conclusive, so I resolved to pursue the matter and invite the strange individual to a luncheon with me, at which I proposed to wear the tinsel tights. Seeing them, he might be forced into betraying himself.
This I did, and while my impressions were confirmed by his demeanor, no positive evidence grew out of it.
"I'm hungry as a bear!" he said, as I entered the club, clad in a long, heavy ulster, reaching from my shoulders to the ground, so that the tights were not visible.
"Good," said I. "I like a hearty eater," and I ordered a luncheon of ten courses before removing my overcoat; but not one morsel could the man eat, for on the removal of my coat his eye fell upon my silver garments, and with a gasp he wellnigh fainted. It was clear. He recognized them and was afraid, and in consequence lost his appetite. But he was game, and tried to laugh it off.
"Silver man, I see," he said, nervously, smiling.
"No," said I, taking the lock of golden hair from my pocket and dangling it before him. "Bimetallist."
His jaw dropped in dismay, but recovering himself instantly he put up a fairly good fight.
"It is strange, Mr. Lohengrin," said I, "that in the three years I have been here I've never seen you before."
"I've been very quiet," he said. "Fact is, I have had my reasons, Mr. Holmes, for preferring the life of a hermit. A youthful indiscretion, sir, has made me fear to face the world. There was nothing wrong about it, save that it was a folly, and I have been anxious in these days of newspapers to avoid any possible revival of what might in some eyes seem scandalous."
I felt sorry for him, but my duty was clear. Here was my man-- but how to gain direct proof was still beyond me. No further admissions could be got out of him, and we soon parted.
Two days later the lady called and again I reported progress.
"It needs but one thing, madame, to convince me that I have found your husband," said I. "I have found a man who might be connected with swan's-down, from whose luxuriant curls might have come this tow-colored lock, and who might have worn the silver-tinsel tights--yet it is all might and no certainty."
"I will bring my small brother's bugle and the tin sword," said she. "The sword has certain properties which may induce him to confess. My brother tells me that if he simply shakes it at a cat the cat falls dead."
"Do so," said I, "and I will try it on him. If he recognizes the sword and remembers its properties when I attempt to brandish it at him, he'll be forced to confess, though it would be awkward if he is the wrong man and the sword should work on him as it does on the cat."
The next day I was in possession of the famous toy. It was not very long, and rather more suggestive of a pancake-turner than a sword, but it was a terror. I tested its qualities on a swarm of gnats in my room, and the moment I shook it at them they fluttered to the ground as dead as door-nails.
"I'll have to be careful of this weapon," I thought. "It would be terrible if I should brandish it at a motor-man trying to get one of the Gehenna Traction Company's cable-cars to stop and he should drop dead at his post."
All was now ready for the demonstration. Fortunately the following Saturday night was club night at the House-Boat, and we were all expected to come in costume. For dramatic effect I wore a yellow wig, a helmet, the silver-tinsel tights, and a doublet to match, with the brass bugle and the tin sword properly slung about my person. I looked stunning, even if I do say it, and much to my surprise several people mistook me for the man I was after. Another link in the chain! Even the public unconsciously recognized the value of my deductions. They called me Lohengrin!
And of course it all happened as I expected. It always does. Lohengrin came into the assembly-room five minutes after I did and was visibly annoyed at my make-up.
"This is a great liberty," said he, grasping the hilt of his sword; but I answered by blowing the bugle at him, at which he turned livid and fell back. He had recognized its soft cadence. I then hauled the sword from my belt, shook it at a fly on the wall, which immediately died, and made as if to do the same at Lohengrin, whereupon he cried for mercy and fell upon his knees.
"Turn that infernal thing the other way!" he shrieked.
"Ah!" said I, lowering my arm. "Then you know its properties?"
"I do--I do!" he cried. "It used to be mine--I confess it!"
"Then," said I, calmly putting the horrid bit of zinc back into my belt, "that's all I wanted to know. If you'll come up to my office some morning next week I'll introduce you to your wife," and I turned from him.
My mission accomplished, I left the festivities and returned to my quarters where my fair client was awaiting me.
"Well?" she said.
"It's all right, Mrs. Lohengrin," I said, and the lady cried aloud with joy at the name, for it was the very one she had hoped it would be. "My man turns out to be your man, and I turn him over therefore to you, only deal gently with him. He's a pretty decent chap and sings like a bird."
Whereon I presented her with my bill for 5000 oboli, which she paid without a murmur, as was entirely proper that she should, for upon the evidence which I had secured the fair plaintiff, in the suit for separation of Elsa vs. Lohengrin on the ground of desertion and non-support, obtained her decree, with back alimony of twenty-five per cent. of Lohengrin's income for a trifle over fifteen hundred years.
How much that amounted to I really do not know, but that it was a large sum I am sure, for Lohengrin must have been very wealthy. He couldn't have afforded to dress in solid silver-tinsel tights if he had been otherwise. I had the tights assayed before returning them to their owner, and even in a country where free coinage of tights is looked upon askance they could not be duplicated for less than $850 at a ratio of 32 to 1.
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