The Foreign Spy!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Foreign Spy! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 29 january 1916 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Foreign Spy!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
In the course of his varied professional experiences, Herlock Sholmes has met, and mingled freely with, members of every rank in Society. His famous dressing-gown has been in the lounges of the titled and the wealthy as often as in the haunts of vice and the purlieus of crime. Kings and princes have visited our humble quarters in Shaker Street, rubbing shoulders with butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers. But though accustomed to visits from personages of the highest station, I confess to feeling something of a thrill when, one morning, our landlady, Mrs. Spudson, announced the name of Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain.
For that name, at that moment, was in everybody's mouth. The great diplomat of the age, the untiring Minister, who was regarded with limitless admiration by everyone who did not judge merely by results, entered our apartment, and even Sholmes was a little impressed. At least, I judged so by the fact that he removed his feet from the table, and took both pipes from his mouth.
"You know me, Mr. Sholmes?" said the great Minister abruptly.
Herlock Sholmes nodded.
"Everyone knows Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain!" he replied gracefully. "If my humble services can be of use to you——"
"That is why I have come to you, Mr. Sholmes. But——"
Sir Obviously paused, and glanced at me. I rose.
"Do not go, my dear Jotson," said Herlock Sholmes quietly. "You may speak quite freely before my friend Jotson, Sir Obviously. Dr. Jotson is kind enough to assist me in my work."
"Very well, Mr. Sholmes. But you will understand that the matter is of the first importance, and must be kept strictly secret. Mr. Sholmes, there is a spy in the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department, of which I am the head."
"You have just discovered that, sir?"
"At least, I have the strongest suspicion that such is the case," replied Sir Obviously. "I do not understand that smile, Mr. Sholmes."
"Pray excuse me. But I could have given you the information you have just given me a considerable time ago," explained Sholmes. "The course of political events during the past year points indubitably to the conclusion that there is an enemy influence at work in the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department."
Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain frowned. It was quite evident that he did not relish my friend's remark.
"I can hardly agree with you, Mr. Sholmes. Of course, as a Minister, I cannot be expected to see what is obvious to every man in the street, neither should I desire to do so—I trust I understand too well the traditions of my high office. It may, therefore, be as you say. However, to come to the point. Are you prepared to undertake to discover this secret and malign influence in the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department?"
"Undoubtedly. Pray give me a few details." Herlock Sholmes stretched himself in the armchair, scratching his left ear in a way I knew so well. "What has given rise to your suspicions?"
"The fact that every political move for some time past has been discounted in advance by our enemies. I have been attacked in some newspapers on that account, as if the conduct of the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department was not my own particular business!" said the baronet, with a touch of natural indignation.
"Has any search been made for the supposed spy?"
"Certainly. Every morning I make it a point to look carefully into the coal-box, under the paper-weight on my desk, and into the receiver of the telephone. So far I have discovered nothing. The aid of the police was invoked, and plain-clothes officers have, for weeks, kept a careful watch upon the taxi-stand at the corner and upon the telegraph poles at a short distance from my official residence. But the result has been the same."
"You suspect no particular person?"
Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain made a haughty gesture.
"Personal suspicions would be scarcely becoming to the head of the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department, Mr. Sholmes. I am surprised at the question!"
"Your pardon!" said Herlock Sholmes gracefully. "You have, probably, some confidential secretary in whom you repose the most absolute confidence?"
"Certainly; his name is Heinrich Speistein."
"One of our old British names!" said Sholmes musingly.
"A gentleman, sir, whom I trust implicitly!" said the baronet, with emphasis.
"Naturally. His name answers for him," said Sholmes. "the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department would scarcely be expected to repose trust in a Smith, a Brown, or a Robinson. But a Speistein is above suspicion."
Sholmes appeared lost in thought.
"Well, Mr. Sholmes?"
'Pray leave the case in my hands," said Herlock Sholmes. "I will make my report in the course of a day or so."
Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain was shown out.
I looked at Sholmes inquiringly.
He lighted both his pipes, and rested his feet on the table, and seemed plunged in thought.
"You have formed a theory, Sholmes?" I asked, at last.
He made an irritated gesture.
"How often have I told you, Jotson, that I never form theories? My business is with the facts. But I confess, Jotson, that at present I see no clue. All is darkness. Sir Obviously's precautions are all very well, so far as they go, but I hardly believe that the spy and traitor will be found in the coal-box or in the telephone receiver, or even under the paper-weight on the honourable baronet's desk. The search must go deeper."
"But the police——"
"I admit, Jotson, that the police have shown unusually keen intuition. It was a cunning move to watch the taxi-stand. It was a clever stroke to set a watch upon the telegraph-poles. For it is extremely unlikely that the spy would hide under a taxi, which might be set in motion at any moment, and highly improbable that he would climb a telegraph-pole for concealment. Being unlikely, it was therefore the thing that was most probable to happen. You know my system, Jotson?"
"Quite so. But in this case——"
"In this case it has failed," Herlock Sholmes knitted his brows. "Jotson, I confess that I am quite at sea. If the most unlikely theory proves to be incorrect, how can I even grasp at a clue?"
"You will never be beaten, Sholmes," I said confidently. "Am I permitted to make a suggestion?"
"Certainly, my faithful Jotson!"
"The most unlikely theory having proved incorrect, how would it do to test the most likely one?"
I saw a glitter come into his eyes. He rose and paced the room hurriedly, his dressing-gown whisking behind him.
"Jotson!" His voice trembled. "You have benefited by your study of my methods. Jotson, you have given me the clue to the mystery!"
He grasped me by the shoulder.
"Come!" he exclaimed.
"Not a word — come!"
A few minutes later we were seated in a taxi-cab, and whirling across London. Shaker Street was left behind.
"Where are we going, Sholmes?" I gasped.
"To the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Department."
"But — but for what——"
Herlock Sholmes' reply astounded me.
"To arrest the spy!"
Sholmes did not speak another word till the taxi had stopped at the palatial official residence of Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain, and we were shown in to that great statesman's private office. The baronet was evidently surprised to see us, after taking leave of us so short a time before in Shaker Street. But his manner was courteous and polished as he greeted us.
"Mr. Sholmes, you have surely made no discovery, so far?"
"My visit, sir, is in connection with your confidential secretary, who can materially assist us in this case. Kindly send for him."
The Minister touched a bell, and a stout and florid gentleman, with a spiked blond moustache, entered the room.
"Mr. Speistein — Mr. Herlock Sholmes!" said Sir Obviously.
The secretary bowed.
Herlock Sholmes' next action was amazing. With the spring of a tiger he was upon Mr. Speistein; there was a click, and the handcuffs jingled upon the wrists of the confidential secretary of the Minister of the Red-Tape and Sealing-Wax Office.
The surprise was complete.
"Mr. Sholmes!" ejaculated the baronet.
"There is the spy, Sir Obviously. Look!"
He turned out the pockets of the shrinking scoundrel. German banknotes, plans of fortifications, and naval and military lists rolled upon the rich carpet. Sir Obviously Hardley-Sain stood dumbfounded.
"Mein Gott!" murmured his secretary.
"You may call the police," said Herlock Sholmes, with a ring of exultation in his voice. "They may leave the taxi-stand, they may cease to watch the telegraph-poles. There is your prisoner."
"Sholmes, this is wonderful!"
Sholmes smiled as he leaned back in the taxi and hung his feet negligently out of the window.
"Elementary, my dear Jotson! The suggestion came from yourself, though you were hardly aware of it"
"From me, Sholmes?"
"Undoubtedly. Did you not suggest that, the unlikeliest theory having failed, the likeliest should be tried?"
"It was all I needed, Jotson. For, granted that there was a foreign spy in a high and important office, where was he likeliest to be found? Evidently in a high position, and enjoying the fullest faith and confidence of the Minister concerned. Voila tout!"
I could not help but agree. And, proud as I was of having contributed, in ever so humble a degree, to the success of my amazing friend, I acknowledge that it was the simplest case Herlock Sholmes had ever handled.