The Notch in the Tulwar

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Notch in the Tulwar is the 2nd 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 4 november 1903 in Punch magazine.

The Notch in the Tulwar

The Notch in the Tulwar (Punch, 4 november 1903, p. 320)

(Being Passages from the Re-inconanation of Picklock Holes.)

It was on the morning of October 22 — how well I remember the day, and how immaterial is the exact year — that, as I was rapidly and skilfully removing the top of a boiled egg prior to absorbing its contents, I was startled by the sudden but not, I must admit, unexpected appearance of Holes, the master-spirit of this or any other age. I had just time to hide the egg away under my napkin when he advanced upon me with an air of almost pathetic impassivity and pointed a long forefinger meditatively at me:—

"Potson," he said sternly, "you have been, nay, you are at this moment, over-eating yourself."

"My dear Holes," I replied somewhat peevishly, for during the nine years of his absence I had grown accustomed to a certain amount of independence, "My dear Holes, I assure you––"

"Tush!" said Holes — and I have never heard the word pronounced more shortly — "Listen to me; you cannot deny that you have been eating. Very well, then. Mark what follows. If you have been eating — you have assented to the use of the past tense — your eating is, grammatically at any rate, finished, or, to use a permitted equivalent, it is over. You are, therefore, over-eating, and as you are physically unable to over-eat me or anybody else, except yourself, you must be over-eating yourself. Do I make myself plain?"

"My dear Holes, I gasped with an enthusiasm which under the circumstances may perhaps be pardoned, "I have never, no never, in all my life known you to be so marvellously, so convincingly deductive. It is indeed good of you to interest yourself to such an extent in my welfare, all the more good––"

"Better," interrupted Holes in a tone of severe correction.

"All the better of you, seeing that I can never hope to be worthy of you. Holes, when I am with you or when I think of you, I sometimes feel that I am a fool, that I can never hope to be a fit companion to one who has overawed the chancelleries of Europe and has brought criminality home to some of the remotest and duskiest potentates of Asia and Africa."

"Pooh, pooh," said Holes, not unkindly, "you must not despair, Potson. To do so were unmanly."

I was profoundly moved, and grasped his hand in a silence more eloquent than words.

So we sat for a few moments, when Holes suddenly rose, and, pointing to the napkin, which still reposed on the table, said with a voice in which indulgence was beautifully mingled with accusation, "Potson, do you see that napkin? Can you tell me what is underneath it? No, of course you cannot; but I," he continued, his eyeballs positively blazing with excitement, "can. Let us proceed by a process of exhaustion. It is not an elephant. The shape of the pachyderm and the peculiar conformation of his tusks forbid the notion. It is not a £500 Tit-Bits prize, for your intelligence — pardon me, Potson — is not sufficient for the discovery of such a treasure. Again, it is not Mr. Chamberlain's eye-glass, for I saw him myself only ten minutes ago" — he stood up reverentially, and an expression of worship came over his marble face — "I saw him myself only ten minutes ago, with his monocle affixed to its accustomed centre of vision. We have, therefore, to some extent narrowed the field of investigation, and still proceeding by the same method we are driven to the conclusion that the concealed object is" — here he dexterously flicked the napkin from the table — "ah, as I thought, an egg prepared for degustation by the removal of the upper portion of its hard integumentary covering."

"Holes," I said, "you are more than mortal!"

"Tush, tush," said Holes. "A little common sense, my dear Potson, will carry us far. But hist!"

I histed.

"Someone is approaching," whispered Holes;" we must be prepared."

So saying he rapidly took down from the wall my old Indian tulwar, broke a piece from its edge with his powerful forefinger and thumb, tore his frock-coat up the back seam, removed his boots and covered the lower part of his face with the grey beard and side-whiskers of a Colonial bishop. To force me underneath the sofa and conceal himself under the table was the work of a moment, of that very moment, in fact, when a footstep, coming softly up the passage, paused at the door of my breakfast-room. Directly afterwards a voice, which I recognised as that of my man Carter, was heard to say, "I'm going to clear away breakfast, Mrs. Coles. Might I ask you to bring up Mr. Potson's boots?"

"We have him now," hissed Holes from under the table. "He cannot escape us."

The door was then opened, and, as I assumed (for I could not sea), Carter entered the room.

"Hallo," he said, "master's gone, and without his boots too. Lor', what's this ugly old pig-sticking thing doing on the table? Someone's been a breaking a bit out of its edge. I wonder where ever––"

As he uttered these words Holes sprang out at him. The struggle that followed was severe but short, for Holes had regained all his old muscular activity, and was an antagonist to be reckoned with. In less than five minutes Carter was securely bound and gagged, and Holes was sitting upon him.

"I am sorry, my dear Potson," he said, "to disturb your domestic arrangements, but I have long been looking for the assassin who slew the Imaum of Tulliegorum and decamped with his seraglio. The deed was done with a tulwar, which I find in this ruffian's hands. The missing piece I myself extracted from the shattered head of the Imaum. Here it is, and, as you see, it fits exactly."

There was no gainsaying such evidence. I was sorry to lose Carter, a valuable servant who had become accustomed to my ways, but I consoled myself by the thought that I had aided the cause of justice and enabled my great friend to give one more proof of his transcendent abilities. I ought to add that Holes, with his usual generosity, settled a comfortable annuity on Carter's widow and her nine children.