The Adventure of the Swiss Banker

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Adventure of the Swiss Banker is the 7th story of the second series of Sherlock Holmes parodies: Picky Back written by R. C. Lehmann starring Picklock Holes as the detective and Potson as his sidekick. First published on 17 february 1904 in Punch magazine.

The Adventure of the Swiss Banker

The Adventure of the Swiss Banker (Punch, 17 february 1904, p. 110)
The Adventure of the Swiss Banker (Punch, 17 february 1904, p. 113)

(Being the Seventh Passage from the reinconanation of Picklock Holes.)

One incident — I might almost call it an adventure — which diversified and added zest to the relations between Picklock Holes and myself is of a character so astounding as to completely and without the possibility of denial cast into the shade all those adventures which my duty to posterity no less than my vehement admiration for our one and only unparalleled detective marvel has hitherto compelled me to narrate. I will now endeavour to set it down, though I am fully aware how inadequate my humble powers of literary composition are to the task of doing justice to one so primus inter pares as was (alas! that I should have to use a tense which, as applied to him, is his only imperfection) as was Picklock Holes.

Much against our will we had temporarily left our comfortable bourgeois quarters in Baker Street. It was no easy matter for us, as may well be imagined, to tear ourselves away with so many investigations unfinished. When I say that the shocking murders in the Rue Morgue, and the all but inexplicable mystery of Marie Roget — affairs which had been so disgracefully bungled by M. Dupin and Mr. Poe of the united Paris and New York police — had been but recently confided to Mr. Holes, it will be understood that our natural reluctance to depart had become well nigh insuperable. Still, duty is duty, and when the Duke Cosimo Di Monte Carlo called upon us one day and offered Holes a year of his ducal income if he would discover the whereabouts of his erring son, the Marchese Casino Dei Rouletti, we could no longer hesitate.

Having, therefore, given the landlady strict instruction to keep the Baker Street Rifle Club in full activity and to put any inquirers from the Free Trade Union off the scent, we departed one morning from Charing Cross with two black bags and a guide to polite conversation in four languages, and on the following morning, Holes as usual taking the lead and driving all the railway engines, we found ourselves deposited in a bright little town on one of the many shores of the Mediterranean. Why we had come to that precise place I know not, nor did I gather its name. It was enough for me that Holes was my leader. I ought to add that, the better to conceal ourselves and our mission from prying eyes, Holes had assumed the disguise of a Swiss banker, while I was garbed as his sister, a not unprepossessing lady of forty-five summers, wearing a large hat with plumes and carrying a small yellow reticule suspended by a gold chain from my left wrist. Thus attired nobody could possibly have suspected that it was us, nor, if we could have seen ourselves, could we have imagined that we were other than what we appeared to be.

The scene as we entered what I afterwards learnt was the Ducal Palace was indeed a brilliant one, with its gathering of rank and fashion and beauty and wealth from all the quarters of the globe. Holes, however, paid no attention to it, but, brushing his way haughtily and inductively past the innumerable obsequious and liveried attendants, he made his way swiftly to a gorgeously decorated inner hall, where crowds of Europe's bluest-blooded aristocracy were mingled with all that America could show of millionaires round numerous large tables on which was proceeding a game that was as obviously moneyed as it was manifestly mysterious.

"Potson," said Holes in a tremor of excitement, as we paused before one of these tables, "Potson, do you see that man?" He pointed to an individual decently dressed in black, who was spinning a small ivory ball in a wheel set in the centre of the table. "That, unless I am mistaken — but tush! listen to him."

Saying this he pushed me into a chair next to the person in question, at the very moment when the weird phrase "Renny var ploo" — the meaning of which I did not understand — fell from his lips.

"Do you hear that?" hissed Holes. "The last word was 'ploo,' which rhymes to 'you.' Changing the pronoun we get 'I.' The other words you heard are Roumanian for 'am the missing heir,' and the full sentence, therefore, is 'I am the missing heir.' The fool has betrayed himself, and the reward will certainly be ours."

"But, Holes" — I began.

"Silence, Potson," whispered Holes menacingly. "Silence, and observe me."

At this instant the massive figure of Duke Cosimo was plainly visible on the opposite side of the table. Horror was depicted upon his brow; his mouth was working convulsively. Holes waited no longer. Taking a roll of banknotes from his pocket he handed them to me, instructing me where to place them. I did as he ordered me, and in a moment the notes were swept away. Again, again, and yet again the same proceeding took place, until at last I heard Holes say, "The trap is baited. Now for the revelation."

With these words he made his way through the crowd, seized the man I have described, and, having ordered me in a low voice to lay hold of all the money within my reach, shouted out in clear tones so that the whole astonished room could hear:—

"Duke, this is your son, the Marquis Cosimo! He has led the life of a croupier" — this, I have been told, means the life of a rake — "but it is yet time for him to reform, and to cast new lustre on the great name he bears."

The excitement and the confusion were at first frightful, but order was at last restored, and the Duke was eventually compelled to acknowledge his son, and to pay to Holes the stipulated reward of ten million francs in gold.

"Potson," said Holes, as he pocketed the sum, " I shall place no less than one hundred francs to your credit."

"Holes," I sobbed, "you are too generous. To be known as your friend is credit enough for me."