The Disappearance of Alice Nosegay
The Disappearance of Alice Nosegay
'A "Sheerluckian" Drama.
Rain was falling steadily as I emerged from the bowels of the earth, and there, outside the Tube station, stood Sheerluck Jones.
Buttoning up my coat I fell into step with the great detective, wondering what surprise he had in store for me.
It was not long before I was enlightened. "My dear What's On, disaster has overtaken us. I will not tax your brain with deductions, but simply state fact. In a few words: Alice Nosegay has disappeared."
This was indeed disaster, because, as all the world knows, Alice was the only woman that Sheerluck had ever betrayed the slightest affection for.
"No clue?" I ventured.
"None whatever;" he vouch-safed, "she has disappeared as completely as if she had never existed."
He walked moodily on, never speaking a word until, turning into Piccadilly, he surprised me by singing at the top of his voice:
- "Of all the gir-ir-it-irls that are so sweet,
- There's none so sweet as Al-lus ;
- She is the dar-ar-ar-arling of my heart,
- And lives by the Crystal Pal-lus."
I looked at him, wondering if the shock had turned his brain.
A policeman, attracted by the singing, came up prepared to remonstrate, but when he saw who the singer was he became subservient in a moment, and remarked with a smile: "Ha, Mr. Jones, working out another ticklish case, I observe."
The astute detective threw him under the wheels of an oncoming motor 'bus and passed on, while I followed closely in his footsteps.
He was making for Butcher Street, so I did not disturb him by talking. I knew he would think things over when we were there.
He took a seat by the fire that was blazing merrily. Noticing how distrait he was, I said:—
"Why don't you compose yourself, Sheerluck?"
"Ah me, how can I?" he more sobbed than said.
"Yiddle on your fiddle," said I.
"Good idea, What's On, I'll yiddle." Which he did, sucking a nob of resin the while I left him, knowing full well that his brain was intent upon discovering Alice, even though he was weaving such subtle melodies.
About a week after, we were sitting at breakfast when he told me that he had recently called at Alice's home, and found that though she was still missing he had discovered there some correspondence that would help him solve the problem. What that correspondence was he would not for the moment say.
Realising that I could not render any assistance I went out.
After wandering about for an hour or so, I dropped in a cafe and was enjoying a cup of coffee and a cigarette, when I was surprised to see a figure enter clad in a suit of armour.
After looking round for a few moments the person thus garbed made for the table where I was seated and, taking a chair, said in a sepulchral voice:—
"Do you know me?"
I confessed I did not.
The mysterious one then asked me to guess.
Nothing loth, I ventured: "Oliver Cromwell."
A scornful laugh greeted me, then: "My dear What's On, I am Sheerluck."
"But why this get up?" I queried.
"I am on the track of her whom I most desire to find."
"Well," said I, "with what result?"
"To-night's the night, What's On," he answered. "Be at our rooms by seven o'clock." With which he glided away.
I was there well before the appointed hour and found Sheerluck, minus his suit of armour, idly figuring on a piece of paper.
"You will observe, my dear What's On, that this case has been one of peculiar intricacy, complex enough to baffle the best men of Scotland Yard," he said.
Really it had not struck me like that, but to humour him I answered: "Yes."
"I shall, however," he continued, "take you to-night to the spot where she is whom we seek. See to it that our car is ready for the journey. You may go."
Thus dismissed I went to the garage, filled up with petrol, oil, and water, giving the tyres also the attention they needed.
The night was perfect, the starlit heavens cast an irradiating light over all, while the new moon, suspended crescent like, added her lustre to the beauty of the night. A slight frost tinged the air, adding a piquancy that made motoring a delight.
Cars a-many have I known; cars a-many do I know, but my present 20 hp., known to you as well as me, is indeed IT.
"Speed up a little," Sheerluck at my side remarked.
I gave her a little more, and the sharp sibilant hiss of the carburettor told us how well the car answered, as did our increased speed.
Through the Surrey lanes we sped, never stopping, but making for our goal with unerring precision.
Presently a large house, silhouetted against the sky, caused Sheerluck to cry:—
"Throttle down; we are there."
I brought the car to a standstill and leaped out beside the great man.
Instead of going to the house, he made for a building a little way off, which proved to be a garage.
A tiny stream of light filtered through a crack in the door, to which Sheerluck applied his eye.
He turned round to me, perspiration oozing from every pore, and said: "Look!"
I did so. There was she whom we sought, gazing fondly at a new Ford car.
We tarried no longer but burst in, Sheerluck crying as he did so:—
"Found at last, dear heart."
With a glad cry of delight, she ran to him. When he put his arms around her, a noise like a back fire broke the silence.
He had kissed her, Alice Nosegay, on the lips.
Little more remains to be told. Sheerluck had found in Alice's rooms a copy of the Ford Times, which gave him the lead as it were.
Close by was a receipt for a new car, and also a letter from the village where we found her, complaining to her mother of the petrol shortage.
Sheerluck saw the thing in a moment. He knew a Ford could only be hung up through want of petrol, and realized it was only a question of time before he found her. As he told me later:—
"You see, What's On, really, she never disappeared at all."
"No," I echoed; "not really."