How the Great Detective Restored a Missing Husband to a Penitent Wife

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

How the Great Detective Restored a Missing Husband to a Penitent Wife is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series Memoirs of Curlock Combs, written by Newton Newkirk, published on 29 june 1902 in The Boston Post, starring Curlock Combs as the detective and Dr. Spotson as his sidekick.

How he Restored a Missing Husband to a Penitent Wife

The Boston Post (29 june 1902, p. 26)

A Chronicle of How the Great Detective Restored a Missing Husband to a Penitent Wife

It chances that I am fortunate enough to have an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Curlock Combs, the greatest detective who ever wore false whiskers, and I have decided to give to the world a few samples of his almost miraculous powers of ferreting out crime by the deduction method.

One stormy night about 10 o'clock Combs and I sat in his apartment playing penny-ante. It was just such a night the foul-handed murderer would choose to perpetrate his diabolical plots. Outside the wind wrenched at the window shutters and the trees waved their naked arms aloft like creatures in distress. My friend Combs was about to open another bottle of pop when a loud knocking came at the door. Rising hastily and sweeping all the pennies from the table into his pocket Combs strode to the door and without hesitation threw it wide open. A beautiful woman entered and stood irresolutely on the threshold.

"Are you Mr. Combs, the detective?" she queried.

"The same, madam," he replied with marked courtesy, waling bet toward a chair; "pray, be seated. I observe that you live in the suburbs?"

"I do, sir, but may I ask how you are aware, of that fact?"

"Because, madam, you have a suburban clay on your feet which is not indigenous to this immediate locality. I also note that the initials of your name are 'M. H.'; that you are married and that your husband is a man of dark complexion who wears a black mustache and goatee and who parts his hair in the middle. His first name is George."

"Really, Mr. Combs, you astonish me!"

"Nothing astonishing about it, madam; I see your initials on your umbrella handle; at your throat you wear a miniature labelled 'From George,' of a man such as I have described. Now, madam, we will go more deeply into the occasion of your visit."

Combs leaned back in his chair and placed his linger tips together, as is his wont when listening to a client.

"My name is Millicent Harrington," began the lady. "Six months ago I was happily wedded to George Harrington and since then we have lived in connubial felicity——"

"Pardon me, madam," interrupted Combs. "You have already admitted that you live in the suburbs; please stick to the facts."

"As I was saying," went on Mrs. Harrington, "we lived happily In the suburbs until this evening at supper time when. I served hot biscuits — the first I ever baked. As George went to pick one up from the plate it fell on his foot. He then made some remarks about the biscuit in such language as no gentleman ought to use in the presence of a lady. While under the influence of an overmastering passion I seized one of the biscuits and threw it at him. It struck the poor dear above the left eye, and rising from the table he staggered out of the house. That Is the last I have seen of him. Poor, dear George! Perhaps I have driven him to suicide. Why did I do it; oh, why did I do it!"

Here Mrs. Harrington broke down and wept copiously. Combs dashed from the room, but returned almost immediately with a water bucket, which he gave to the lady to weep into.

"Do I understand you to say," continued the great detective after she had become somewhat composed, "that you aimed to hit George when you threw the hot liner at him?"

"Yes," she sobbed.

"Most remarkable!" he exclaimed. "I don't believe such markmanship on the part of a woman has a parallel in the annals of criminology. Did George say anything when the biscuit struck him?"

"Yes, sir; but I wouldn't like to repeat it."

Curlock Combs lapsed into silence. He sat with his head on his chest unravelling the tangled skeins of this mysterious disappearance. From my acquaintance with him I knew that his marvellous powers of deduction were working at their fullest capacity. After a few minutes he spoke:

"That is all, madam; you may now return to your home."

Mrs. Harrington arose and was about to pass out into the night when Combs arrested her:

"Pardon me, madam, but would you have any objection to me shadowing you to your residence?"

"Not in the least," she answered. "I'll let on I don't know you're near." 0 "Thank you; now just one more question — have you any of those biscuits on your person?"

"Why, no," she replied; show thoughtless of me not to bring you one!"

"It is just as well," replied Combs, reassuringly. "I'll feel safer under the circumstances."

She had hardly left the house before Combs had strapped on his revolvers and emerged with me at his heels.

"Most intricate case," muttered Combs as we followed after our quarry in the darkness. "Young married couple — loving, devoted — six months' bliss — wife bakes biscuits — husband draws line at biscuits — wife hits husband with biscuit — husband leaves home. Don't blame him, Spotson, do you?" he asked, turning to me. On we stumbled in the darkness over fireplugs and curbing, Once Mrs. Harrington turned about and asked if we were coming. Combs assured her that we were. Then we both proceeded forward as stealthily as before.

"I wish she had taken a street car," muttered Combs, as lie stepped into a, pool of water that he thought was a flagstone. At length we dimly saw the woman ascend the steps of a house a short distance ahead and we hurried forward together.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed as we came up. "I've lost my latchkey!"

"O, fudge!" cursed Combs, laying his hand on the butt of his revolver. "The plot begins to thicken. Is there no other means of ingress to the house?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Harrington, as a new inspiration came to her; "we can enter through the side window, which we always keep open so that burglars may enter the house without breaking the lock on the front door."

"Capital!" exclaimed Combs, leading the way around the house. Placing his hands on the sill he sprang lightly into the room and assisted Mrs. Harrington to enter. I followed last.

"'Hist!" whispered Combs, when we were once inside. "Do you hear anything?"

"No," we gasped in chorus.

"Neither do I," replied the great detective. After this precaution we proceeded forward. As we were about to enter the ball Combs stooped down and examined the leg of a chair critically.

"Ah-ha!" he exclaimed. "The varnish has been chipped from the leg of this chair at this point."

Mrs. Harrington remarked that this bad been done the last time they moved. We again went forward, marvelling at this man's practical demonstrations of his superhuman powers of penetration. Not one in a thousand would have noticed the varnish being knocked off that chair. After searching the lower floor we ascended the stairway to the sleeping apartment of the Harringtons. The door leading into this room was pulled to, but not fastened. Combs stooped, and, placing his ear to the keyhole, listened intently, while we stood aside awed by his daring bravery. Suddenly he straightened up, and seizing a pistol in either hand in such a way as to command the interior of the room, kicked open the door.

A gas jet threw a flickering light about the apartment. In the farther corner of the room stood a bed. A man with blanched free and disheveled hair sat up in this bed and stared into the muzzles of the pistols with eyes that looked like two burnt holes in a blanket.

"Hands up!" roared Combs, "or shoot!"

"Shoot and be d——d!" replied the man with a sigh of relief no he lay down again for another snooze. "You're nothing but a common burglar; I thought at first it was Milly with a biscuit."