The Story of the Lost Picklock

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Story of the Lost Picklock is the 8th 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 2 march 1904 in Punch magazine.

The Story of the Lost Picklock

The Story of the Lost Picklock (Punch, 2 march 1904, p. 150)

(Being the Eighth and Last Passage from the re-inconanation of Picklock Holes)

There are some things a man never forgets. Years may pass: a nomadic existence may find a rest in Baker Street; Baker Street in turn may give way to more aristocratic things and a better quarter of the town; there may be marryings and births and buryings; any one, in fact, of the innumerable events to which even a conanical existence is liable may bring its obliterating influence to bear on the mind, but these unforgettable things, when once they have occurred, stand out for ever with a startling and permanent distinctness that none of the chances and changes of this mortal life can ever manage to thoroughly or even partly efface or, for the matter of that, to injuriously affect. Of such was the adventure which, in pursuance of my duty to Holes and humanity at large, I am about to describe.

We had been for some time past living a quiet life, disturbed only by a series of telegrams from the Emperor William and a prolonged quest for a briar-root pipe and a cairngorm shirt-stud (an heirloom in the Holes family), which, as it subsequently turned out, had been abstracted and stomachically concealed by Laura, the favourite parrot of Mrs. Coles, our landlady. In the investigation which had followed on the disappearance of these articles Holes had displayed all his marvellous acumen. Never had I known his deductivity to burn with a steadier and a more brilliant flame.

How well I recall that memorable afternoon when he sprang suddenly from the horse-hair armchair on which he had been resting and, with a look of concentrated essence of intellect which was almost overwhelming in its Bovrility, shouted to me:—

"Potson, fool of my heart, you are sitting on it, you are sitting on it."

"Am I, Holes? " I replied, gently. "I am glad to know it, for I have never yet sat on a pipe or a cairngorm, and the feeling is both novel and agreeable."

"Not that, you worm," hissed the great detective, "I don't mean that — at least not the way you mean," and he proceeded to prove to me that the cushion on which I was seated, being covered with red plush, was intimately allied with the legs of a footman, and that thus, proceeding by the stages of hair-powder, powder-puff, puff paragraph, par-value, value received, he was able to prove that I had actually been at one time or another in receipt of the lost objects. Ten days afterwards, Laura, having in the meantime given up the ghost, they were found in her inside. I shall always consider this one of Holes's most astounding experiments. But I am straying from my point.

For some weeks I had noticed that Holes seemed ill at ease. Nothing worried him quite so much as the consciousness that events which he could comfortably have controlled and moulded to the benefit of the human species were passing without any help from him; that those who had set these events in motion had done so without consulting him. "It is strange," he would mutter in that far-away ascetic voice of his, "that after all I have done both for the Czar and the Mikado they should have had the face to go to war without a word to me."

"Holes," I broke in impatiently, for I am free to confess that I could never keep my temper in face of a slight put upon the man whom I consider to be the marvel of the century, "Holes, it is worse than a crime: it is a blunder of unparalleled magnitude. But there is one comfort: the fools will live to regret it."

"Hush, hush, Potson," said Holes not unkindly, "we must not judge them harshly. Let us remember that possibly even an Emperor and a Mikado may be subject — it almost shocks me to think so — to human frailties. They may be jealous; on the other hand they may be merely ignorant. And yet even they must have heard what un-exampled facilities I possess for concluding wars. Potson, do you recollect—?"

"Do I recollect!" I interrupted. "Why, Holes, everybody knows that you finished, absolutely and entirely finished, the South African war months and months and months before the army had begun to dream of peace. That has always seemed to me one of the surest proofs of your massive and superhuman intellect."

Here I broke down, and sobbed like a child.

"Nay, Potson," said Holes, patting me on the back with one hand, while with the other he brushed away what I was tempted to think might be the nearest approach to a tear that had ever trickled over that thought-worn and meditative cheek, "nay, Potson, you must not repine. Though we are not matched in brain-power — Heaven knows I did not ask for all I have, nor did you intend to have so little — we still have one another. Yet I own that, things being what they are, I am — pardon my weakness, Potson; I cannot help it — I am lost in amazement—"

"No, no, Holes," I shrieked in anguish, "not lost. Don't say that. Not lost. What should I do without you? Not lost."

But the bolt had fallen. The silver cord was broken. The pitcher had gone to the well once too often. Apollo had bent his bow for the last time. The last cartridge had been expended. Holes, the mighty detective, the unequalled discoverer of the lost, was now lost himself. He had said it, and it was not for me, the poor Baker Street doctor, to contradict him.

"Shall I try to find you, Holes?" I asked timidly.

He turned on me with a blaze of anger in his eyes.

"Poston," he said, "you really are a most consummate fool."

Since then I have abandoned my efforts. For one in my desolated condition the well-tried clues would have been useless. The brain that had given them their unique value had departed with Holes, and no other could deal with them as they ought to be dealt with.

And so, for the present, my task is done. Yet in the silence of the night-time, or in the busy haunts of men by day, I sometimes hear a voice which says in mysterious accents:— "Some day you shall meet him again."