The Case of the Biscuit-Tin!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Case of the Biscuit-Tin! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 27 november 1915 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Case of the Biscuit-Tin!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
Sholmes was at breakfast when I came down. He was dressed with his usual negligence, in a dressing-gown, a bathing-towel, and a slipper of a curious Oriental design.
He threw down the morning paper with a gesture of impatience.
"Nothing doing, my dear Jotson," he said. "The criminal classes seem to have gone out of business for three years, or the duration of the war. I have had nothing since the case of the King of Spoofia's Crown Jewels and the case of the missing Duke of Hookeywalker. I am growing bored, my dear Jotson."
"You are not losing your keenness, my dear Sholmes."
"I wonder," said Sholmes, absently knocking the ash from his eternal cigarette into my left ear— "I wonder, my dear Jotson! Shall I tell you what you had for breakfast this morning?"
"You cannot, Sholmes."
"Now, you have put me on my mettle, my dear Dotson. In the first place," said Sholmes dreamily, "you rose from that bed."
"It is true," I admitted. "But how——"
"You then took your morning bath."
"And you breakfasted upon eggs and bacon."
Sholmes smiled, with a slightly bored expression.
"Nothing at all, my dear boy. Deduction, that's all."
"Ah, if I explain you will no longer wonder at the accuracy of my deductions!" he said, with a smile. "Still, I will risk it with you, my dear Jotson. In the first place, you are now in a perpendicular attitude."
"The observations of a lifetime have led me to conclude that in bed people generally – in fact, almost invariably – assume a horizontal attitude."
"True again!" I exclaimed. "I had not observed it, but, now that you point it out, I must admit that so far your deductions seem very simple."
"Did I not tell you so? But to proceed. Your present perpendicular attitude shows indubitably that you rose from your bed. As for your bath, I have observed your customs during the time we have been together at Shaker Street. Why should the habit of years be broken upon this especial morning? I admit that this was a venture, but it proved correct, as you admit."
"Perfectly correct. But the eggs and bacon ?"
"Ah, there we go a little deeper!" smiled Sholmes. "First, I have observed that, contrary to modern custom, you wear a moustache."
"You astound me, Sholmes!"
"Upon your moustache remains a slight trace of the breakfast egg. Voila tout!" said Sholmes carelessly.
"But the bacon?" I urged.
"Ah, there I was obliged to call upon my very wide experience! Bacon and eggs frequently — in fact, almost invariably — are taken together. From the eggs I deduced the bacon."
Before I could further express my admiration for the marvellous insight of my amazing friend the door was flung open, and Inspector Pinkeye, of Scotland Yard, rushed into the room.
"Sholmes!" he gasped. "Ah, thank goodness you are here! But——"
"You may speak freely before my friend, Dr. Jotson," said Sholmes. "Take a cigarette, my dear Pinkeye, and a gallon of cocaine."
"Sholmes, the Duke of Shepherd's Bush's diamonds have been stolen! There is no clue. The thieves left nothing behind them but a biscuit-tin!"
Herlock Sholmes was on his feet in a twinkling. All the laziness was gone from his manner. He was once more the keen, cool detective.
"Only a biscuit-tin!" he drawled. "That is hard upon you, my dear Pinkeye. What do you deduce from that?"
"Nothing!" said the inspector, with a despairing gesture.
"Then answer one question," he said: "Was the lid on the biscuit-tin?"
Inspector Pinkeye shook his head.
"It was not!" exclaimed Sholmes.
"No. But what has that——"
But Herlock Sholmes was gone.
I did not see Sholmes again for some days. Although kept pretty busy by my medical practice, my thoughts were chiefly with my friend. The case of the stolen diamonds occupied my mind, and I wondered whether the Duke of Shepherd's Bush would ever see them again. To this preoccupation I attribute the fact that several of my patients died during those few anxious days. This was a considerable loss to me financially, but I gave it little thought in my concern for Sholmes.
At last he reappeared. When I found an Italian organ-grinder reposing on the couch in my consulting-room one morning I had little difficulty in guessing that this was my friend in one of his innumerable disguises.
"Saffron Hillo!" he said. "Greeko Streeto! Macaroni, vermicelli!" Herlock Sholmes spoke Italian like a native. "Organ-grindo! Soupo potato!"
"Sholmes !" I exclaimed.
"Right again, my dear Jotson!" he said, rubbing his hands. "Are you busy this morning, or would you like a little excitement?"
"My dear Sholmes, I am entirely at your service. I was about to visit a patient for a dangerous operation. Probably he will not survive if it is delayed. But what does that matter at a time like this? Lead on!"
"Good man, Jotson! What should I do without my faithful Jotson?" said Herlock Sholmes, with one of those rare touches of affection that endeared him so much to me. "But you must be disguised."
With a few touches of his skilful hand, he disguised me as a coal-heaver.
A few seconds later we were seated in a taxi-cab.
"Where are we going, my dear Sholmes?" I asked, as the taxi whizzed through the streets at breakneck speed, causing several unfortunate fatalities by the way.
"You will see in a moment, Jotson. Have you your revolver?"
I felt a thrill.
"It is in my pocket, Sholmes."
"Leave it there, my dear fellow. It is safer there."
Before I had time to reflect upon this cryptic remark the taxi drew up at the door of the Hotel d'Oof. I followed Herlock Sholmes into the gorgeous vestibule. We were shown at once into the spacious kitchens. I was amazed. What mystery was this? My amazement increased at the sight of Inspector Pinkeye and several special constables hiding behind a pat of butter in a corner of the kitchen. Evidently the climax was at hand.
The chef was busy, with his spotless apron about him, and his sleeves rolled up. A momentary frown appeared upon his fat face at the sight of Sholmes, but it vanished immediately, and he smiled.
"Good-morning, Mr. Bakenphat!" said Sholmes cheerily. "I have brought my friend, Jotson, to see that remarkable wrist-watch of yours."
The chef started, and turned deadly pale.
"You have no objection?" smiled Sholmes.
"None at all," stammered Mr. Bakenphat.
"You are quite welcome——"
He held out his wrist. The watch was worn in a somewhat remarkable bracelet formed of dull metal. Sholmes appeared to examine it attentively. There was a sudden click.
Bakenphat staggered back.
The handcuffs were on his wrists.
"There!" exclaimed Sholmes, with an exultant note in his voice. "There is your prisoner, Pinkeye. You will find the duke's diamonds concealed in a German sausage in his watch-pocket."
"But – but how——" gasped Pinkeye, as he grasped his prisoner.
"And if you observe closely, my dear Pinkeye," said Sholmes, in a careless drawl, "you will find that watch-bracelet is made of tin——"
"And is, in fact, the missing lid of the biscuit-tin. Come, my dear Jotson! We are finished here. The police can do the rest."
In our rooms in Shaker Street, after the usual pint of cocaine and a hundred cigarettes, Herlock Sholmes explained.
"Quite simple, my dear Jotson," he said— "elementary, in fact. The thief left behind him an empty biscuit-tin. You must be aware that it is not usual for cracksmen to take tins of biscuits with them upon burgling expeditions. This peculiar taste on the part of the cracksman furnished the first clue. Observe, Jotson, that while leaving the empty tin upon the scene of crime, he had taken the lid away with him."
"But Inspector Pinkeye attached no importance——"
Sholmes made a gesture.
"Ah, these Scotland Yard men!" he murmured. "They tire me, Jotson! Cannot you see that, when the lid of the biscuit-tin was found, the thief was found? Where would he conceal it? And observe that, however cunningly he might hide the lid of the biscuit-tin, he could not hide the abnormal taste for biscuits which had caused him to leave this clue behind him."
"Such was my task. Well, the chef at the Hotel d'Oof had an almost morbid affection for biscuits. I discovered that he had taken to wearing a wrist-watch instead of the usual time-keeper in the usual place. Aha! Disguised as a butcher's boy, I penetrated into the kitchens of the Hotel d'Oof. His watch-bracelet was made of beaten tin; his watch-pocket bulged. It was enough. It was a cunning scheme, which would have deceived the police. Who, my dear Jotson, would have suspected a cracksman of concealing the lid of a biscuit-tin under the form of a watch-bracelet?"
"Nobody but you, Sholmes," I said, with conviction. "It is wonderful !"
"Elementary, my dear Jotson."
"One more question, Sholmes. Why did not the thief throw the lid of the biscuit-tin into the nearest dustbin?"
Herlock Sholmes smiled his inscrutable smile.
"Ah, why, Jotson?" he replied. "The psychology of the habitual criminal presents many baffling peculiarities. This is one of them. Pass the cocaine."