The Adventures of Shylock Oames: The Sign of Gore

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Adventures of Shylock Oames: The Sign of Gore is a Sherlock Holmes parody written by F. W. Freeman published in Tit-Bits and The Ludgate Weekly on 3 december 1892.

Starring Shylock Oames, as the detective, and Wilkins as his sidekick. This pastiche was the Tit-Bits' prize (two guineas) offered to the best detective story in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, introducing certain incidents, awarded to Mr. F. W. Freeman "for penning a tale about a man whose moustache was shaved off in his sleep by a romantic rival."


The Sign of Gore

At eight o'clock one morning, when I was sharing rooms with Shylock Oames in Quaker Street; we were awaiting breakfast in the sitting­room. Oames was lying back in an arm­chair, apparently in the last stage of complete boredom, indulging his very reprehensible habit of a smoke before breakfast. The plugs and dottels of his yesterday's pipes, carefully collected, formed the appetizing mixture with which he always began the day. I was looking idly out of the window.

"There is a client coming down the street," I said, as I noticed a stoutish man hurrying along the pavement, anxiously scanning the numbers of the houses.

"I can see him," said Oames, sleepily.

I turned round, somewhat startled, but remembered there was a glass over the mantelpiece tilted so as to show the street.

"He has just lost a fine black moustache," said Oames; "I suppose he wants me to get him another."

"Good heavens" I exclaimed. "How can you tell that?"

"My dear Wilkins," he answered, oracularly, "I am afraid you will never get beyond the mere ABC of the art of scientific deduction. Did you not notice how his hand kept straying to his clean­shaved upper lip, and is not his hair black? When a man is perplexed and worried, he is in the habit of pulling his moustache."

It was true! Looking at the man again, I noticed his hand perpetually going to his upper lip and, finding nothing, his nervousness seemed to increase tenfold.

Just then breakfast was brought in, and with it came a violent ring at the bell.We heard the door opened, a hurried question and answer, and then rapid steps on the stairs. A moment afterwards our door was flung violently open and the man entered, clutching off his hat, which in his hurry he dropped on the floor.

Oames picked it up and handed it to him.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Jones?" he asked.

At hearing his name, the man flopped into a chair and gazed openmouthed at Oames's imperturbable face.

"Your name is in your hat," he said, quietly.

The man looked in his hat as if he were the victim of a conjuring trick.

"What can I do for you?" said Oames again.

Then the man seemed to remember his errand, and he jumped up and clenched his hands and became horribly excited, banging his head against the wall, and giving every manifestation of the utmost misery and despair. The magnetic influence, however, of Oames's manner soon calmed him somewhat, and he managed to gasp out his tale. Oames's surmise was correct. He had lost his moustache.

"Stolen from me in my sleep, sir," he ejaculated in his rage. "In my sleep, sir; what do you think of that? And look at the way he has cut me," and he pointed to a long cut beneath the left nostril. "Find me the dastardly scoundrel and I am your slave for life." And he danced about the room, clenching his hands. "Whatever I shall do I can't think. What the other fellows will say to me—besides—"

"You are a clerk in a bank, I think," said Oames, quietly.

Again the man stared open­mouthed, but merely nodded an affirmative.

"What time did you wake this morning?" Oames went on.

"Five o'clock."

"Did you feel sick?"

"Yes, very. Why?"

"Never mind why; just answer my questions. Was your door locked?"

"Yes. The outer oak was locked; the inside door was merely shut."

"You live in chambers?"

"Yes—in Bedford Row."

"Is there anybody you wish to marry?"

A slight colour came into the man's face. He looked shy and annoyed.

"What has that to do with it?" he asked, rather sharply.

"If you don't care to answer my questions," said Oames, with a shrug,

"you had better go to the police."

"I shall have to, I'm afraid," said the man.

"Good morning," said Oames. "Wilkins, breakfast is getting cold."

The man looked stunned. He had not a word to say, and would probably have gone; but another ring at the bell and more hurrying feet on the stairs gave a fresh turn to events.

"A lady this time," said Oames. And sure enough our door was again flung open and a young lady appeared, with evident traces of tears on her face.

"Oh, Mr. Oames!" she said. "Whatever shall I do? Oh, please help me.

Look what I have had sent me this morning. Oh—"

Here she caught sight of our first visitor, and started violently. I thought she was going to faint.

Suppressing a slight scream, she drew herself up haughtily and bowed stiffly. "Good morning, Mister Jones," she said, with considerable emphasis on the "Mr."

The man looked utterly crushed. He tried to bow, and then fumbled in his pocket for his handkerchief, and held it to his face.

The young lady then turned to Oames. "This gentleman," she said freezingly, "has, doubtless, already explained. Perhaps when you show him what is in this envelope he will understand. Good morning. Good morning, Mister Jones." And with a stately bow to our perspiring client, she swept out of the room.

Oames opened the envelope. In it was a black moustache gummed on a card, bearing the legend, "This is what you were in love with." Underneath was a cross in red, which Oames declared, after examining it through a microscope, to be blood.

"It is the Sign of Gore," he said. Then he turned to the man.

"There is your moustache," he said. "You have a rival for the love of that young lady?"

"Yes yes! Ah! I see it now. A little whipper­snapper of a fellow—"

Oames held up his hand. "You will find that he has procured a key of your rooms, and chloroformed you in your sleep."

"He lives on the floor below," the man said.

"Quite so. One piece of advice before you go. Don't show yourself to the young lady till your moustache has grown again, for your appearance without it is, to say the least, plebeian; even now, I fear your chance is gone forever. And next time you are in trouble, take my advice and go straight to Scotland Yard. Good morning. You will be late for the bank, I am afraid." And the man went, gasping in astonishment, and with his eyes sticking out like pegs on a hat­rack.

"How true is the remark of the German philosopher," said Oames, as we drew in our chairs to the table: "Donner und Blitzen!"