The Captured Submarines!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Captured Submarines! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 26 february 1916 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Captured Submarines!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
The efficient manner in which our Navy has dealt with the submarine menace is well known. The part played in the affair by my amazing friend, Herlock Sholmes, has not, however, been communicated to the public in the official reports. It is not generally known that, as a matter of absolute fact, the failure of the German submarine campaign was largely due to my amazing friend. But honour must be given where honour is due.
I was reading the obituary notices of some of my patients one morning, in our sitting-room in Shaker Street, when Sholmes came in, and I could not help glancing at him in some surprise. He wore a skipper's cap, and his famous dressing-gown was tucked into high sea-boots.
"My dear Jotson," he said. "are you a good sailor?"
"I am quite at home upon the water, Sholmes. In those far-off peaceful days before the war, I frequently made the trip from London Bridge to Southend. On more than one occasion I have ventured upon the remotest recesses of the turbid Serpentine."
"Good! I require an experienced seaman as first mate of the Spoof Bird. You shall have the post, Jotson."
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"Hunting," he replied. "You are aware, Jotson, that the German submarines have caused a good deal of havoc among our shipping. The authorities, for reasons best known to themselves, have not cared to avail themselves of my services. I have, however, decided to step in. A trim craft, the Spoof Bird, lies ready. We have but to embark."
"You have formed a plan, Sholmes, for dealing with these pests?"
"Naturally, Jotson. But you will see." I forbore to ask further, knowing my friend's dislike of questioning. I followed him. Shaker Street, with its old familiar motor-buses, and its familiar, haunting scent, was left behind, and we embarked upon the Spoof Bird, and ere long we were cleaving the wild water of the North Sea.
I admit that I was in some perplexity.
The Spoof Bird was a well-found craft, but I could observe no means aboard of dealing with submarines. There were no guns, and there was no ammunition. The absence of amunition I could have understood, on the supposition that Sholmes was acting upon expert advice from high quarters. But I had expected to see guns. No guns, however, were visible.
Several large packing-cases were piled on the deck, the contents of which Sholmes did not acquaint me with.
Sholmes was tireless. In the intervals of absorbing cocaine and smoking some thousands of cigarettes, he kept an intent watch upon the sea with a very large telescope. Towards evening, he turned to me with a smile of satisfaction.
"The enemy are in sight, Jotson."
I felt a thrill.
"A submarine, Sholmes?"
"A submarine," he replied.
A dark object appeared on the waters. Herlock Sholmes rapped out a rapid order. A large packing-case was immediately tossed over the side, and it floated between us and the submarine.
"Sholmes, in the name of wonder——"
Sholmes did not reply.
The submarine was approaching rapidly, and all his skill was needed to save the Spoof Bird from the treacherous torpedo.
Sholmes was an accomplished seaman. His voice rang out from the bridge, giving orders.
"Take a double reef in the propellor! Lower the topgallant sails into the engine-room! Hoist the main deck overboard!"
These orders were promptly obeyed.
Like a thing of life, the Spoof Bird flew over the wild waters, and the submarine and the floating packing-case vanished astern.
Herlock Sholmes rubbed his hands with satisfaction.
"One!" he said, with his inscrutable smile.
"But, Sholmes, I do not comprehend!"
"My dear Jotson, have you forgotten the old proverb, that little boys should not ask question?" said Sholmes.
"Moreover, if I should explain it now, it would spoil our usual little explanation in the sitting-room at Shaker Street, which should properly come at the end of the story," added Sholmes.
"I submit to your judgment, Sholmes. But I am amazed."
"By this time, Jotson, you should be accustomed to amazement."
I felt the force of my friend's remark, and was silent.
Our cruise continued, and each time that an enemy submarine was sighted, a fresh packing-case was dropped overboard, and, owing to Sholmes' wonderful seamanship, the Spoof Bird eluded the enemy.
It was not till the last of the packing-cases had been disposed of that the prow of the Spoof Bird was turned for home.
When we arrived at Baker Street, I could contain my impatience no longer.
"Sholmes," I exclaimed, "I am on tenterhooks."
"Remain, my dear Jotson, upon tenterhooks a little longer. I am awaiting for a report from the Admiralty."
"Pass the cocaine!" said Herlock Sholmes.
I passed the cocaine, and was silent.
I could not help wondering about this strange affair. That Herlock Sholmes' apparently mysterious action was based upon some amazing and far-reaching plan, I knew. But it was not till a week later that I learned the astounding facts.
One morning, when I came down to breakfast, I found Sholmes in high good-humour. He was reading a long report, but he looked up as I came in, with a smile.
"Well, Jotson, your curiosity is about to be satisfied," he said. "The submarine campaign has been an eminent success."
"I am overjoyed to hear it, Sholmes. And the result——"
"You remember that there were twelve packing cases on board the Spoof Bird, Jotson?"
"Twelve submarines have been captured," said Sholmes, rubbing his hands. "The crews were in a helpless condition, and fell easily into our hands."
"But how — why? It was your work, Sholmes?"
"It was my work, Jotson, though I doubt whether my name will appear in the official communications. That, however, I do not desire. I derive my satisfaction from the knowledge that I have dished the enemy, and that Admiral Von Whiskerpitz will be tearing his hair."
"You promised me an explanation, Sholmes."
"I am ready to give it, my dear fellow. You did not know the contents of those packing-cases?"
"Some terrible explosive?"
"More dangerous than that, Jotson."
"Some deadly chemical?" "More dangerous than that."
"Some poisonous gas?" "Still more dangerous, my dear Jotson."
"In Heaven's name, Sholmes, what terrible secret did those packing-cases contain?"
"German sausages!" he replied.
"German sausages?" I exclaimed.
"Nothing more nor less, Jotson. Consider. The submarine crews were far away from land. For days and days they had not tasted German sausages. They examined the packing-cases left floating behind the Spoof Bird; they found them to contain German sausages. You can easily guess the result — an orgy in the submarine. Not one of the sausages, probably, was left undevoured."
"True. But still, you forget, Sholmes, that German sausages, though perhaps fatal to civilised stomachs, are an accustomed article of diet among the Huns."
"I do not forget, Jotson," said Sholmes coldly. "Excuse me, Sholmes, then how—" "I have not told you all. In each sausage were cunningly concealed a fragment of American potted beef, especially imported from Chicago for the purpose."
"You will now comprehend, Jotson, The sausages they would have survived, their systems being inured to such diet. But the Chicago beef, Jotson, put the lid on it. That mysterious compound, the ingredients of which are known only to the American inventor, was too much for them. Completely overcome, they lay sick and feeble, at the mercy of wind and waves, and submarine after submarine was snapped up by our patrols before they could recover."
I could only gaze at my amazing friend in silent admiration.