Adventures of Sherwood Hoakes: An Interrupted Honeymoon
Adventures of Sherwood Hoakes: An Interrupted Honeymoon is the first parody of two written anonymously as A. Cone and Oil (Charles C. Rothwell) published in The Ludgate Weekly on 9 april 1892. His second parody is Adventures of Sherwood Hoakes: The Yellow Cockroach.
Adventures of Sherwood Hoakes: An Interrupted Honeymoon
My first introduction to Mr. Sherwood Hoakes, that eminent specialist in crime, took place under circumstances of the following singular nature. I was walking home inoffensively enough one evening in a late autumn, when, about half-way down Butcheravenue, in the City, an open house door attracted my attention. It was a very ordinary door, in a very ordinary row of flat-faced houses, but on the panel below the knocker there was the following inscription in chalk:
"PUT IT DOWN WITHOUT KNOCKING."
I smiled, and wondered, and would have passed on, but at that instant, as my eye travelled down the short lobby and into a room beyond, I perceived to my astonishment and alarm that the fringe of the carpet adjoining the grate was on fire, and that the flame was eating its way towards the window curtains. Without a moment's hesitation I entered the house, hurried into the room, and crushed out the fire under my boot. Contrary to my expectation, the room was occupied by a gentleman, who slowly rose from a basket chair, showing neither annoyance nor surprise at my intrusion. I was about to offer explanations, but he intercepted me by speaking first.
"Good evening, sir. No apologies, I beg. You are welcome. I perceive that you are a cheesemonger by trade. And a widower. Also I regret to observe that you lost your eldest son two years ago—from the measles, I think. Your daughter is married to a jeweller, who, I am afraid, is not quite so steady as he might be. Won't you take a seat? Ah I perceive you were at Margate last month with your grandchildren." I stood looking in amazement at this man, whom I had never seen before in my life, who, as his eyes travelled over me, read out the biographical details I have given above.
"Now, how on earth—?"
"Do I know all these things?"
He smiled a pleasant, if rather superior, smile.
"There's no magic in it. A trained eye and a logical brain. For instance, how do I discover that you are a cheesefactor? My nose tells me so, and my eyes corroborate it by observing the peculiar glossy yellowness of your right hand, which, of course, must handle many thousand cheeses a year. That you are lately a widower, that locket containing brownish-grey hair at your watchchain leads me to presume."
"And about my son—my poor dead son? How can you tell?"
"By your collar, sir. It was one of his. That is evident by the fact that not only is it half a size too small for you, and therefore not your own purchasing, but the collar is one which came into fashion two years ago, and was much in vogue among young men, which leads one to conclude that he bought it then, and probably died soon after of the measles, which you will remember caused great mortality that year."
"Well, well! And the jeweller, my drunken son-in-law—and Margate—" I gasped.
"Nothing could be simpler. A glance at the bridge of your nose assures me that you rarely use those gold eye-glasses dangling before you, and the fact that you wear plain bone studs in your shirt affords a strong presumption that you wouldn't be the man to buy a pair of useless gold pince-nez; they have therefore been presented to you, but presumably by someone not thoroughly acquainted with your habits, and yet sufficiently intimate to make you a handsome personal gift; this being so, the additional fact that the eyeglasses are an old pattern, evidently furbished up and refitted with new cork noseclips, points strongly to their having been presented by someone in the trade, no doubt a son-in-law anxious to make a handsome gift and to get rid of an unsaleable article. The burin-scratches on one of the glasses seem to indicate the unsteady hand of a drinker."
"Oh, you wizard!" I said, in gay reproach. "You scandalous old sorcerer!"
"As regards your trip to Margate, those three long stiff donkey's hairs—"
"Never mind about Margate and the donkey's hairs. What's under that hat on the table?"
He lifted the silk hat in some confusion and betrayed the flat bottle underneath.
"Won't you sit down and take some?"
I sat down, and while my host moved about the room, I took note of his appearance and surroundings. He looked a man of about forty, whom time and fortune had conspired to ill-use. His face was long and blanched, his eye large and boiled, his red hair was cropped so short that it might have been under a lawnmower, his general expression was badgered and harassed, and that of a man constantly striving to accomplish something against adverse conditions. He wore a frock coat with inked seams; and his vest, which was buttoned askew, showed that he was one of those few remaining individuals who take snuff.
Having equipped me with a cigar and a glass, he resumed his chair. "By the way," I said, "I can tell you something interesting about these Manila cheroots. I was asked to analyse one the other day, in the ordinary course of my business—"
"Analyse? But, my good sir, you—a cheesefactor—"
"Not for the world! I am a chemist and druggist, sir, from my youth up."
Mr. Hoakes fixed a puzzled jaded eye upon me.
"Dear me! That's odd now. But how comes it—your yellow hand—the odour of cheese — I can smell it this moment, distinctly!"
"No wonder, sir," said I, "with half a pound of Gorgonzola on your own sideboard there. And as for my hand, it was mixing iodoform ointment all morning, which may well account for its colour."
The badgered look on the poor man's face deepened perceptibly.
"At any rate you are a widower," he urged.
"Quite the contrary. Nor am I wearing up my poor dead son's linen. The collar is all my own buying and the hair in this locket is said to be Queen Charlotte's; I bought it at a sale."
"But at least your daughter is married to a jeweler—"
"Never had either son or daughter. Bought the eyeglasses myself. Haven't been to the seaside for years; these 'donkey's hairs' must have come out of the clothes-brush this morning."
Mr. Hoakes sighed, and gazed dejectedly into the fire.
"I don't know how it is, but try as I will I never seem to get the knack of it. It's most disheartening; yet I do my best. I strain every nerve. Induction, deduction, ratiocination —I apply 'em all; but I'm almost always wrong. By every rule of evidence, you ought to have been a cheesemonger, and your daughter married to a tipsy jeweller."
"Well," I said, "I'm sorry to disoblige you. Have you been at this business long?"
"About three years."
"I suppose you would call yourself a private detective?"
"'Criminal pathologist' would be more suitable, sir. I have always had a strong leaning towards crime—I mean, of course, the detection of crime—and having been unfortunate in business, I took up my present profession some three years ago."
"Indeed I am myself a student of humanity, but without any special leanings towards crime, and your case interests me greatly. Have you had many successes?"
"Well—yes—perhaps one or two—partial successes. There was the notorious backgammon case, which I am confident I should have unravelled if the police had only left me alone. There was that remarkable case known as the 'Four and Twenty Jailbirds,' and the other, the great Hoxton Blue Pearl Robbery."
"Ah, yes, I remember that well."
"So do I," said Mr. Hoakes, gloomily, "for I served a light sentence at Millbank in connection with it. How was I to know that those plausible ruffians were only using me as a cat's paw?"
He groaned bitterly.
"And yet it eventually redounded to my advantage, for while in jail I was able to establish acquaintanceship with the elite of the criminal classes, much to my subsequent benefit in my profession."
"And do you work in connection with the regular police?"
"Not now, sir. I went down to Scotland-yard to offer them my co-operation but they declined; they even warned me off, and so far forgot themselves as actually to look me out in their Photograph Albums, and make references the reverse of considerate to—in short—to Millbank. Of course, I left the premises at once. My self-respect demanded it. And now, though I shall always try to work in harmony with the Force, they must understand that there can be no true intimacy between us for the future."
In this wise began my memorable friendship with Sherwood Hoakes. When I left him he pressed his card upon me, which I reproduce here in the hopes that publicity may be of service to him:—
Specialist in Crime and Mystery.
Felonies a Speciality.
404, Butcher Avenue.
In the course of many subsequent interviews I gleaned the details of his craft and the methods he pursued in its practice. His early education had been obviously neglected, but he had made a creditable attempt to repair the deficiency by means of some back numbers of a Popular Educator, and the conscientious study of three volumes of an Encyclopedia, ranging from "Lit" to "Sag," which he had picked up at an auction of cottage pianos and household furniture. "Induction, deduction, ratiocination" were his constant watchwords, and seemed to afford him as much occult satisfaction as "that blessed word Mesopotamia" did to the devout old lady in the story.
Mr. Hoakes had, on the whole, a taking personality. Simplicity of mind and warmth of heart were his most prominent traits. As I followed his calamitous career, at a judiciously safe distance, I was only too frequently pained to observe the endless troubles into which he was hurried by the unselfish zeal with which he espoused the causes of dubious and deceitful clients. His trustful, unshaken confidence in the face of failures innumerable, in the infallibility of his method of "lightning deductions," should have aroused the pity of the most callous of his dissembling clients. This I will say to my own credit that I was always the first to welcome him out of jail after he had served one or other of those many light sentences to which his benevolent indiscretions, on behalf of other people, subjected him.
On looking over my copious notes of his cases, I am tempted to extract the following and most recent adventure for publication:—
I was supping with him one evening, to celebrate a recent release, and was in the midst of an appeal to him to control for the future those "lightning deductions" which so often ended in Millbank, when a client was announced. Mr. Hoakes put on his skull cap (he had only been out four days) and we repaired to the consulting room.
Here a lady in a heavy crape veil awaited us; but, oddly enough, her other attire was not mourning. As she raised the veil Mr. Hoakes took his usual plunge.
"You are recently from New York, I see."
"No, sir; I'm from Camberwell."
"But your glove-buttons are stamped with an American maker's name, and they don't ship such articles over here."
"My sister gave me them when she was over last year from Canada."
Mr. Hoakes looked annoyed, and sat down.
"You wish to consult me, madam?"
"Yes, sir, I do. I've read about you in the police reports, and I thought perhaps you might be able, though everyone else has failed, to help me in my terrible perplexity." The lady turned a pathetic white face upon each of us, and sobbed in a very hopeless way, very touching. She was about thirty, rather good-looking, with dreamy eyes, and an accent that plainly came from Camberwell as well as herself.
"My name is Bagworthy, Marian Bagworthy. I was married three weeks ago, from my parent's house in Camberwell, to a gentleman who travelled in tea and varnish, Mr. Arthur Bagworthy."
"You say 'travelled' in the past tense, Mrs. Bagworthy. Is your husband dead, then?"
"Alas, sir, I don't knows. All I know is, that he disappeared on the very day of our marriage, and hasn't been seen or heard of since."
"Not altogether an uncommon occurrence," said Hoakes, drily. "Do you suspect foul play, or have you any grounds (pardon the supposition) for presuming his disappearance prearranged and intentional?"
"Oh, not the slightest! He bore an excellent character, and his accounts were found in perfect order. The circumstances of his disappearance were so unaccountably strange, Mr. Hoakes, that I don't know what to think, or where to turn for help! Why, he vanished before my very eyes!"
The unhappy woman looked from one to the other in haggard despair.
"This seems strange," said Hoakes. "Let me have the story in detail."
"It was a quarter to eight on the evening of the twelfth of February when he vanished. But let me begin at the beginning. We were married at two o'clock—it was a very quiet wedding—and we went home to mother's after it, while I finished packing and changed my dress. Then we drove quietly into town and put up at Lakey's Hotel, intending to start early next morning for Folkestone."
"One moment. Be good enough to describe your husband's personal appearance."
"He was rather short and slim—a very elegant figure—dark, with black eyes, and a — a slight squint in the left one; but not a very noticeable squint."
"Inwards or outwards?"
"Outwards, sir, and it gave him a sort of—sort of poetic, far-away look, very taking. Well, as I was saying, we reached Lakey's at half-past six and had dinner, and then, as it was a nice calm night, Arthur suggested a little walk. So we went upstairs to put my things on, and then—then he—he vanished."
Mrs. Bagworthy wept into an already damp handkerchief.
"Control yourself, dear madam," said Hoakes, soothingly. "In what way did he vanish? through the door?—the window? — the chimney?"
"No," wailed the unhappy girl, "he was sitting on my tin trunk and he disappeared."
"Into the trunk?"
"No, into nothingness."
"What were you doing at the moment?"
"I was looking at him and putting on my ulster."
Hoakes leaned back and took a heavy pinch of snuff.
"This is going to be a stickler, Chasemore"
"Had you much ready money with you at the time, madam?" I asked.
"We had a matter of twenty pounds for the honeymoon, but it was all in my box.
Arthur had only a few shillings on him when he disappeared."
"This occurred at a quarter to eight, you say," resumed Hoakes, in his most impressive style. "You would be an hour over dinner?"
"About, sir. But we had to order the dumplings beforehand, and that delayed it."
"Yes, sir. Apple dumplings. My husband was always partial to them, and so we ordered three, and had one each."
"And left the third on the dish?"
"You divided it, then?"
"No. We had only one each."
"Then it must have been removed by the waiter."
"Oh no, it wasn't."
"Well, then, what became of it?"
"That's what I don't know," said Mrs. Bagworthy, tearfully.
"But why? If it wasn't on the dish, and you didn't eat it, and it didn't go out, what do you suppose happened to it?" The poor woman put up her handkerchief and sobbed.
"It vanished too."
Hoakes stared and whistled.
"Vanished? Before your eyes?"
"I was looking at it, and it turned into nothing on the dish."
"And you never saw it again?"
"Yes, sir, I did. That's how I know Arthur's alive. It came back to me by post three days afterwards, directed in his own writing."
Mrs. Bagworthy opened a small parcel done up in tissue paper, and displayed a rather large and unclean envelope, which bore the post-office stamps, and contained the withered yellow mummy of an apple dumpling.
We both started up to examine this interesting relic. Hoakes posed over it with his inevitable magnifying glass, and we sniffed it and nibbled at it. "I don't like the looks of this," said Hoakes, gravely. "I don't like it at all. You observed the envelope, Chasemore. He was not only in safety when he addressed that to his poor deserted wife, but he was actually enjoying comfort and leisure, and smoking a pipe at the time."
"O come now! How do you make—"
"Look at the handwritings! A man whose mind is distressed doesn't write such a natty hand as that, all flourishes and whipthongs. He spread his elbows and took his time over it, and if you look narrowly you can see half a dozen brown spots in the middle of the '—worthy' where the ashes puffed out of his pipe and slightly burnt the paper. Depend upon it, we have to deal with some cowardly scamp who, for private ends of his own, has married the girl and then bolted."
On the following day we met Mrs. Bagworthy at Lakey's Hotel by appointment. This establishment is a third-rate house at the bottom of Bloater-street. We were not exactly welcomed by the proprietor.
"I'm gettin' sick of this here business," he shouted, angrily, into our faces.
"Police for breakfast, police for dinner; we've 'ad the 'ole blamed Force down at one time and another."
Hoakes explained blandly that we didn't belong to the Force.
"I dessay you don't, neither! But you look as if you'd come out of their 'ands only last week; you've got the proper Newgate cut, you 'ave! Here, Tom, show these tramps upstairs to number 17, and keep an eye on the towels."
It was a small, square, plainly-furnished apartment. There was no wardrobe, no cupboard, nor any valance to the iron bedstead. Tom Thumb could not have hidden himself in the room. Mrs. Bagworthy rehearsed the details of the mysterious disappearance, showing us where, at the foot of the bed, "Arthur" sat on the tin box, smoking a cigar, whilst she, standing before the closed door, put on her cloak. "He was wearing a chemical diamond pin in his tie—he was always fond of jewellery, was Arthur — and it sparkled so prettily in the gaslight that I spoke about it to him, and the next minute — he had vanished."
"And what did you do then?"
"It gave me a proper turn, Mr. Hoakes, but I didn't go off. I called 'Arthur,' and told him not to be silly, but to come out again—though goodness knows there was nothing for him to hide behind in the room."
"They do say," observed the crumpled waiter Tom, hoarsely, "as the gent had been a amateur Moore and Burgess, and was a good 'and at playin' the 'anky-panky."
"How dare they say such things of my husband!" cried Mrs. Bagworthy, indignantly.
"I've never known him do anything but a little thought-reading, in fun; and as for playing the 'hanky-panky' on our wedding-day—it's wicked of you to suggest such things!" I have never seen a man so almost inspired as Hoakes was during his examination of that room. The walls, the floors, the chimney, the bed, the washstand, were auscultated with the loving care of a physician sounding a phthisical patient. We stood reverently apart while the scrutiny lasted. As well as the magnifying-glass, he had a small compass, which he deposited at different places and watched with rapt attention. He seemed to be gathering clues as he proceeded, for his eagerness increased, and once or twice he spoke half-aloud—"Yes, yes, as I thought, as I feared! Ah, when an unscrupulous tea-traveller takes to crime, 'tis indeed a corker. He has no match!" Finally he reached the window and searched the woodwork inch by inch with his glass. At length an exclamation burst from him, and he turned with a burning glance on the trembling woman.
"Did your husband wear a signet ring?"
"Shield-shaped—on his third finger?"
Hoakes drew in a deep breath of triumph.
"One more question, madam, and I have done. Was your husband partial to a large umbrella?"
"He frequently carried a large one, as most travellers do."
"Did he bring it upstairs with him on the evening of his disappearance?"
Mrs. Bagworthy reflected a moment. "I believe he did, sir, but I wouldn't be quite positive."
"Thank you," said Hoakes, quietly, "but I am. And now, I think I can promise you, madam, to produce your lost husband within three days."
We next chartered a cab for Camberwell, where Hoakes desired to be introduced to the tin trunk and such personal effects of Mr. Bagworthy's as his wife was in possession of. On the journey a very curious thing happened. Mrs. Bagworthy and I occupied the back seat, and facing us sat Hoakes. His lens peeped over the edge of his vest-pocket and sparkled vividly in a ray of the March sunlight. Both my companion's and my own eyes were attracted by its brightness. Suddenly Mrs. Bagworthy remarked:—"
I wonder why Mr. Hoakes didn't come with us? I thought he said he wanted particularly to see my husband's clothing."
She turned a pair of dreamy eyes on me as I sat stupidly grinning at my astonishment.
"I think if you look closer, madam, you'll see Mr. Hoakes sitting there in front of us."
She looked, but obviously without seeing his very palpable presence.
"There's no one there," she said, smiling at what she appeared to think was my little joke. Then it flashed upon me that she was hypnotised, no doubt by the sparkle of the lens. Hoakes and I exchanged nods. In a few moments she came out of her partial trance and chatted to us as if nothing had happened.
In Bagworthy's clothes Hoakes read a world of subtle meaning in his most approved style. He construed characteristics of deceit in every fold and wrinkle. "This is no ordinary scoundrel's waistcoat, Chasemore; see here what I've found." It was a small brass dinner-check with the Queen's head neatly cut in it. "That's as good as a halfsovereign on a dark night to a tipsy cabman. And look at this overcoat; look at the long slit and the secret pocket it forms in the lining, right under the armpits. And those slippers—they reek of trickery! You see that bend in the sole, showing his habit of walking about, secretly, on tiptoe! The man's a monster of hypocrisy and crime!" In discussing the case that night Hoakes was becomingly mysterious and reticent, as all good novelists and detectives should be. We agreed that the theory of the instantaneous disappearance was now satisfactorily explained on the assumption that Mrs. Bagworthy had been for the moment hypnotised, probably by the sparkle of the chemical diamond in her husband's tie, and that during her trance he had slipped away unobserved. But how?—for the employees at the hotel were unanimously confident that he had never come downstairs in the ordinary way.
Hoakes tapped me significantly on the knee.
"What was he doing with that umbrella upstairs?"
"But that explains nothing," I objected.
"It explains everything. He used it as a parachute! I saw the marks of his boots and his signet-ring outlined in the soft ashwood of the window-sill. He climbed out that way and floated down into the stable-yard, unnoticed in the dark." Next evening I called at Butcher-avenue, and found a seedy-looking cab-driver asleep in his hat by the fire. It was Hoakes.
"I've had a heavy day," he explained. "This is my third disguise since morning."
"Have you been successful?"
"Very. I've got my man well in hand, and I shall be up with him to-morrow. He thinks he's going to Antwerp on the noon boat, but I don't!"
"You've seen him, then?"
"Not yet. But I've seen his other wife and the children. Oh, yes—very much married man—nice little house and shop in the Commercial-road — sells German yeast — under an alias, of course. Ran him to earth by means of his trouser-buttons. You remember I cut one off yesterday and measured the trousers. Well, I found his tailor, to whom, of course, he figures under his German yeast alias — 'Augustus Bundelman.' Same initials, you observe. Had a chat with his little wife, and surprised the confession from her that her husband's favourite dish is — apple dumplings! That's corroboration I should hope? Oh, we've got him fairly!"
"And how will you proceed to-morrow? For heaven's sake, be careful, Hoakes, do nothing rash!"
"It's plain sailing now. I shall go down to St. Katherine's Wharf disguised as a dock-hand; Mrs. Bagworthy will be there to identify him, and we nail my little man as he steps on board."
"Well, good luck, and let me hear from you to-morrow night."
I did hear from him. At seven a policeman brought a note to my shop, as urgent as a four-line "whip."
"Come at once—identify me—bail me—save me!"
I found my friend extremely dishevelled and depressed. He looked so life-like a dock-hand that I did not wonder at the police discrediting his assertions to the contrary. Had we been Frenchmen we should have wept on each other's shoulders.
"My poor Hoakes, how did it all happen?"
"My cursed luck again," he moaned. "She didn't come in time—Mrs. Bagworthy — the boat was about to start — he came on board—something had to be done — I charged him—he denied it, denied everything — I dragged him ashore — there was an awful row — the boat went off — we fought and then gave each other in charge — they've let him go on his own recognizances, but they won't believe I'm not a dock-hand. It's too late to bail me to-night, so go down and bring up Mrs. Bagworthy, and let us have an explanation."
Away I posted to Camberwell. Imagine my surprise when I was precipitated, by a flurried servant-girl, into the presence of the re-united bride and bridegroom, sitting hand in hand by the fire.
"Oh, for shame of yourself, sirs," I cried, "dallying in the lap of pleasure while the man who dragged you from the Antwerp boat and the paths of crime is groaning on a bed of straw!"
My rhetoric was florid, but well-meant. Up started Mrs. Bagworthy.
"Sir, how dare you! And poor Arthur only just come out of hospital!"
"Well," I said, "it was his own fault. He shouldn't have struck Hoakes. He should have come off the boat quietly."
Then it all came out. We were talking at sixes and sevens. Mr. Bagworthy rose and explained, while I sat and humbly listened, for self and Hoakes. He was not Mr. Bundelman, and never had been. On the evening of his disappearance, not noticing his wife's temporary trance, he had quietly walked downstairs to await her in the street. There he had been knocked down by a hansom and hurried off insensible to hospital, but for three weeks he had suffered from "aphasia" or aberration of speech, and was quite unable to put his thoughts and wishes into intelligible words or writing. He couldn't even give his own name and address. As for the incident of the apple-dumpling, he confessed, with some confusion, that he had removed it from the dish and popped it into a large envelope he had in his pocket, being extremely fond of cold dumpling, with the intention of eating it later on. He further supposed that the packet was jerked out of his pocket by the collision, and picked up eventually by some honest soul, who, finding it already addressed and stamped, consigned it to the post.
"This will be a sad blow for my poor friend," I said. "His chain of evidence was so complete, beginning with the parachute-descent and the trouser-buttons, and ending triumphantly at the German yeast shop. I will bid you goodnight and break the news to him in his lonely cell."
The action of Bundelman v. Hoakes resulted disastrously for my friend. I expect him out at the end of next week.