The Hungarian Diamond

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Hungarian Diamond is the 5th story of the first series of Sherlock Holmes parodies: The Adventures of Picklock Holes written by R. C. Lehmann (aka Cunnin Toil) starring Picklock Holes as the detective and Potson as his sidekick. First published on 7 october 1893 in Punch magazine.

The Hungarian Diamond

The Hungarian Diamond (Punch, 7 october 1893)

Everybody must remember the apparently causeless panic that seized the various European governments only a few years ago. It was the dead season. Members of Parliament were all disporting themselves on the various grouse-moors which are specially reserved for that august legislative body in order that there may be no lack of accuracy in the articles of those who imagine that the 12th of August brings to every M.P. a yearning for the scent of heather and the sound of breech-loading guns. Suddenly, and without any warning, a great fear spread through Europe. Nobody seemed able to state precisely how it began. There were, of course, some who attributed it to an after-dinner speech made by the German Emperor at the annual banquet of the Blue Bösewitzers, the famous Cuirassier regiment of which the Grand Duke of Schnupftuchstein is the honorary commanding officer. Others again saw in it the influence of M. Paul Deroulède, while yet a third party attributed it with an equal assumption of certainty to the fact that Austria had recently forbidden the import of Servian pigs. They were all wrong. The time has come when the truth must be known. The story I am about to tell will show my extraordinary friend, Picklock Holes, on an even higher pinnacle of unmatchable acumen than that which fame has hitherto assigned to him. He may be vexed when he reads my narrative of his triumphs, for he is as modest as he is inductive; but I am determined that, at whatever cost, the story shall be made public.

It was on one of those delightful evenings for which our English summer is famous, that Holes and I were as usual sitting together and conversing as to the best methods of inferring an Archbishop from a hat-band and a Commander-in-Chief from a penny-whistle. I had put forward several plans which appeared to me to be satisfactory, but Holes had scouted them one after another with a cold impassivity which had not failed to impress me, accustomed though I was to the great man's exhibition of it.

"Here," said Holes, eventually, "are the necessary steps. Hat-band, band-master, master-mind, mind-your-eye, eye-ball, ball-bearing, bear-leader, Leda and the Swan, swan-bill, bill-post, post-cart, cart-road, roadway, Weybridge, bridge-arch, arch-bishop. The inference of a Commander-in-Chief is even easier. You have only to assume that a penny-whistle has been found lying on the Horse-Guards' Parade by the Colonel of the Scots Guards, and carried by him to the office of the Secretary of State for War. Thereupon you subdivide the number of drummer-boys in a regiment of Goorkhas by the capital value of a sergeant's retiring pension, and––"

But the rest of this marvellous piece of concise reasoning must remain for ever a secret, for at this moment a bugle-call disturbed the stillness of the summer night, and Holes immediately paused.

"What can that mean?" I asked, in some alarm, for Camberwell (our meeting place) is an essentially unmilitary district, and I could not account for this strange and awe-inspiring musical demonstration.

"Hush," said Holes, with perfect composure; "it is the agreed signal. Listen. The great Samovar diamond, the most brilliant jewel in the turquoise crown of Hungary, has been lost. The Emperor of Austria is in despair. Next week he is due at Pesth, but he cannot appear before the fierce and haughty Magyars in a crown deprived of the decoration that all Hungary looks upon as symbolical of the national existence. A riot in Pesth at this moment would shake the Austro-Hungarian empire to its foundations. With it the Triple Alliance would crumble into dust, and the peace of Europe would not be worth an hour's purchase. It is, therefore, imperative that before the dawn of next Monday the diamond should be restored to its wonted setting."

"My dear Holes," I said, "this is more terrible than I thought. Have they appealed to you, as usual, after exhausting all the native talent?"

"My dear Potson," replied my friend, "you ask too much. Let it suffice that I have been consulted, and that the determination of the question of peace or war lies in these hands." And with these words the arch-detective spread before my eyes those long, sinewy, and meditative fingers which had so often excited my admiration.

Our preparations for departure to Hungary were soon made. I hardly know why I accompanied Holes. It seemed somehow to be the usual thing that I should be present at all his feats. I thought he looked for my company, and though his undemonstrative nature would never have suffered him to betray any annoyance had I remained absent, I judged it best not to disturb the even current of his investigations by departing from established precedent. I therefore departed from London — my only alternative. Just as we were setting out, Holes stopped me with a warning gesture.

"Have you brought the clue with you?" he asked.

"What clue?"

"Oh," he answered, rather testily, "any clue you like, so long as it's a clue. A torn scrap of paper with writing on it, a foot-print in the mud, a broken chair, a soiled overcoat — it really doesn't matter what it is, but a clue of some kind we must have."

"Of course, of course," I said, in soothing tones. "How stupid of me to forget it. Will this do?" I continued, picking up a piece of faded green ribbon which happened to be lying on the pavement.

"The very thing," said Holes, pocketing it, and so we started. Our first visit on arriving at Pesth was to the Emperor-King, who was living incognito in a small back alley of the Hungarian capital. We cheered the monarch's heart, and proceeded to call on the leader of the Opposition in the Hungarian Diet. He was a stern man of some fifty summers, dressed in the national costume. We found him at supper. Holes was the first to speak. "Sir," he said, "resistance is useless. Your schemes have been discovered. All that is left for you is to throw yourself upon the mercy of your King."

The rage of the Magyar was fearful to witness. Holes continued, inexorably:— "This piece of green ribbon matches the colour of your Sunday tunic. Can you swear it has not been torn from the lining? You cannot. I thought so. Know then that wrapped in this ribbon was found the great Samovar diamond, and that you, you alone, were concerned in the robbery."

At this moment the police broke into the room.

"Remove his Excellency," said Holes, "and let him forthwith expiate his crimes upon the scaffold."

"But," I ventured to interpose, "where is the diamond? Unless you restore that—"

"Potson," whispered Holes, almost fiercely, "do not be a fool."

As he said this, the door once again opened, and the Emperor-King entered the room, bearing on his head the turquoise crown, in the centre of which sparkled the great Samovar, "the moon of brilliancy," as the Hungarian poets love to call it. The Emperor approached the marvellous detective. "Pardon me," he said, "for troubling you. I have just found the missing stone under my pillow."

"Where," said Holes, "I was about to tell your Majesty that you would find it."

"Thank you," said his Majesty, "for restoring to me a valued possession and ridding me of a knave about whom I have long had my suspicions." The conclusion of this speech was greeted with loud "Eljens," the Hungarian national shout, in the midst of which we took our leave. That is the true story of how the peace of Europe was preserved by my wonderful friend.