Mr. Curlock Combs

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Mr. Curlock Combs is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series Memoirs of Curlock Combs, written by Newton Newkirk, published on 3 july 1902 in The Boston Post, starring Curlock Combs as the detective and Dr. Spotson as his sidekick.

Mr. Curlock Combs

The Boston Post (3 july 1902, p. 6)

The Great Detective and Dr. Spotson Go to the Theatre Together.

When I arrived home from a visit to one of my patients the other evening I found the following note awaiting me:

Dear Spotson — Come to my room on Shaker street this evening, at 7:30, and we will go to the theatre together. Yours,

I was rather surprised to receive this invitation from the great detective, inasmuch as ho very rarely patronized the theatre. It occurred to me, however, that possibly he might be engaged in ferreting out some deep crime, and that this evening at the theatre was merely part of his programme. Eating my dinner hastily, I slipped my opera glasses into my over-coat pocket and walked to Combs's quarters.

"Hullo. Spotson!" he said, opening the door to my knock and extending his hand. "I observe that you walked instead of taking a cab; that you have kept your hands in your overcoat pockets since leaving your 'house, and that you have been to see a fever patient late this afternoon."

These statements were all true; but I was at a loss to know how the great detective could thus know their truth. He noted my puzzled expression, and added:

"Very simple, Spotson; I know you walked because your overcoat collar is turned up and the tails of it are not crumpled by having sat in a cab seat; your hands are warm, therefore you kept teem in your overcoat pockets, the flaps of which are pushed down inside the pockets; you have visited a fever patient very recently, because I can see protruding from your vest pocket the end of your temperature thermometer, which you forgot to leave at home. I also see that you are worried about a small financial matter."

This was true. I had at that moment in my inside pocket a notice from my landlord that my month's rent was due.

"Now, Spotson," continued Combs, putting on his hat, "we have 15 minutes left to reach the theatre. It is a bracing evening, and I think we had best walk. What do you say?" I acquiesced, and we started out together.

"Do you observe that milk wagon in the distance?" queried Combs, after we had travelled a little way. I told him I did. "The driver of that milk wagon," continued Combs, "is asleep."

I confess that I thought the great detective was at fault in this deduction. It seemed preposterous that he should be able to know such a thing when the milk wagon was over a block distant. I hurried forward to disprove his assertion, but to my great amazement it was as Combs had said — the driver was asleep. As Combs came up smiling, I asked him how on earth he knew.

"Most simple thing in the world. Spotson," he replied. "To be able to tell that the driver of that milk wagon was asleep is only the A, B, C of deduction. I knew the driver was asleep because the horse attached to the milk wagon moved in a rambling, wandering manner that plainly showed, the reins were being held loosely or not at all. But here we are at the theatre."

Combs purchased two tickets at the box office. Returning to my side he whispered:

"We will not proceed far before encountering a man in uniform who will ask me for these two tickets."

Before I could ask Combs how he knew this, he walked away and I followed at his heels. We had proceeded only a few steps ere a blue-coated official at a wicket plucked Combs by the coat sleeve and said, "Tickets!" Whereupon Combs gave him the two tickets he had bought and an usher conducted m to our seats. Now the great detective knew that a man would ask him for the tickets is more than I can fathom.

"The curtain will go up at 8:15," said Combs.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Because it says so on the playbill," he replied.

After the performance had begun, Combs leaned toward me and whispered:

"Spotson, There is a gentleman sitting in the seat behind me who has on a pair of light colored trousers and patent leather boots."

I knew that Combs had not turned his head since sitting down, consequently I was nonplussed at his knowledge.

"How can you tell?" I asked.

"Because," answered Combs, "the chump has stuck his feet through in under my seat. If you don't believe ho has on light trousers and patent leather boots, look down here for yourself."

Shortly before the end of the third act Combs indicated to me two gentlemen in a box at our right whom he had been observing through my opera glasses.

"Those two gentlemen will leave that box and go out of the theatre in a few minutes," he said. The curtain had scarcely descended ere both did precisely as Combs said they would. When I pressed him to tell me how be knew they would do this, he said:

"Extremely easy, Spotson. While I was looking at them through your opera glasses just now, one spoke to the other and by the movements of his lips I saw him frame these words, 'Let's go out and Wet a drink at the end of this act.' The one spoken to said, 'All right.' so I know they would do what they said."

After I bade Combs good night at his own door I walked slowly home marvelling at his wonderful powers of deduction.