The Freckled Hand!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Freckled Hand! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 11 december 1915 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Freckled Hand!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
In looking over the notes of this period of my residence at Shaker Street, with my friend, Herlock Sholmes, I find three cases of especial interest: " The Case of the Missing Dumb-bell," "The Adventure of the Prime Minister's Ear-trumpet," and the strange and tragic story of Dr. Grimey Pylott, which I have classified as "The Case of the Freckled Hand." It is the last-named that I propose to give here.
I was chatting with Sholmes one morning, when a young Lady, deeply veiled, was shown into our sitting-room at Shaker Street. Sholmes removed his feet from the table at once, with his usual exquisite politeness where women were concerned. The visitor pushed back her veil, and revealed a beautiful and tear-stained face.
"Mr. Sholmes," she said, in an agitated voice, "I have come to you because I am in danger of my life. If my uncle should learn that I have come, he would blow out my brains upon the spot! Of that I am assured. He is accustomed to these ebullitions of violent temper. Mr. Sholmes, will you help me?"
"Pray give me some details!" said Shames. "You may speak quite freely before my friend, Dr. Jotson."
"I should tell you first that my name is Mary Jane Pylott. I live at Coke Pylott with my uncle, Dr. Grimey Pylott. My sister lived with us there till the time of the tragedy of two years ago. One never-to-be-forgotten night, Mr. Sholmes, she came into my room, and sank upon the floor. All she could utter was, 'It was the hand — the freckled hand!'" Mary Jane Pylott sobbed. "Some time before, she had told me of how she was disturbed in her sleep by tilt, sound of a rattle. Mr. Sholmes, last night I woke up, and heard distinctly in my room the sound of a rattle."
Sholmes' eyes gleamed. I could see that he was deeply interested.
"What kind of a rattle?" he asked.
"That I cannot say. It was simply a rattle. As there are no children in the house, and my uncle is too old to play with a rattle, I cannot account for it. But — but I am sure, Mr. Sholmes, that it was the same rattle that my unhappy sister heath upon that fatal night. Without saying a word to my uncle, I came here by the first morning train. I fear that he has followed me. I dare not remain another moment!"
Our visitor departed hastily.
A few minutes later a gigantic man rushed into the room. Herlock Sholmes eyed him calmly, as he advanced with menacing gestures.
"You are Herlock Sholmes!" shouted he. My friend nodded tranquilly.
"Good-morning, Dr. Grimey Pylott!" he replied. "Sholmes, the detective! Sholmes, the meddler! Sholmes, the spy!" hissed Dr. Grimey Pylott.
"What beautiful weather we are having!" yawned Herlock Sholmes.
"If you dare to meddle in my affairs, I will break you as I break this vase!" shouted Pylott, as he seized a vase from the mantelpiece, and hulled it upon the floor, where it was shattered into a thousand fragments.
"The sunflowers are coming on well," remarked Herlock Sholmes.
Dr. Grimey Pylott glared at him, and rushed from the room, slamming the door behind him with a noise like thunder.
Herlock Sholmes yawned.
"A pleasant visitor, Jotson. If he had tried conclusions with me, he might have found, perhaps, that he had met his match!" With scarcely an effort, Sholmes tossed the fragments of the vase into the grate. "Jotson, there is work to do! Not a moment is to be lost! You may go and see your patients, my dear fellow."
He was gone before I could reply.
Sholmes came in towards evening, looking somewhat tired. But he had not come in to rest.
"Come, my dear Jotson — that is, if you wish to be in at the finish!" he said.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To Coke Pylott."
The express from Euston bore us away. My friend was silent and distrait during the whole journey. He smoked, some hundreds of cigarettes, but I noticed that he did not take his usual swig of cocaine.
The dusk was falling as we approached the house. It was a rambling, old-fashioned building. Miss Pylott met us at the door.
"My uncle is shut up in this room," she whispered.
"All the better," said Sholmes. "Miss Pylott, in this case you most trust us absolutely. Could you sleep in the coal-cellar, or some secluded spot, this night, and leave your room to my friend Jotson and myself?"
"I am entirely at your orders, Mr. Sholmes."
We were shown to Miss Pylott's room, and left there. Sholmes looked about him, and listened at the wall which adjoined Dr. Grimey Pylott's apartment. The doctor could be heard pacing to and fro. A gleam of light penetrated into the darkened room from tho doctor's apartment.
"Hush!" whispered Sholmes. "Not a word, Jotson! Have you a revolver?"
"Here," I whispered back.
"Be on your guard, Jotson! We are taking our lives in our hands!"
I thrilled at the words.
For what were we waiting? I did not know. But I felt that danger was in the air. The shadow of tragedy brooded over the house.
No sound was heard save our subdued breathing. The hours struck dully from the clock in the hall.
My heart was beating wildly. In the gloom I could scarcely discern Herlock Sholmes. I saw that he had gripped his walking-stick hard. His eyes were glittering. The hour was at hand.
Suddenly, in the deep silence, I heard a faint rattle.
It was the sound that had been described to us. My heart beat almost to suffocation.
The rattle was repeated.
With startling suddenness Herlock Sholmes turned on his electric lamp. The light flashed upon a large freckled hand, and upon — Before I could see further my friend had sprung forward, and was lashing out furiously with his stick.
The rattle ceased.
From the adjoining room came a sudden, fearful cry.
"Follow me !" panted Herlock Sholmes.
We rushed into the doctor's room. Stretched upon the floor was the gigantic form of Dr. Grimey Pylott. About it was coiled a huge rattlesnake. With a single blow, Sholmes stretched the reptile dead upon the floor. He threw himself beside the doctor. But it was too late!
Dr. Grimey Pylott, the last representative of the ancient race of the Pylotts of Coke Pylott, had paid for all his sins!
I was still considerably shaken by the tragic, events of the night when we returned to Shaker Street. Sholmes himself was unusually grave.
"You are puzzled, my dear Jotson," he said.
"I am astonished, Sholmes! I do not see how——"
"If you could see how, my dear Jotson, it would not be necessary for me to give my usual explanation," he said, with a slight smile. "It was the freckled hand that gave me the clue I needed. When Dr. Pylott visited us, you may have noticed his hands?"
"I confess that I did not. But you——"
"I observed that they were very large and freckled, my dear Jotson. But that was not all. You remember the rattle? How could that mysterious sound be accounted for? That Dr. Pylott was in the habit of playing with a toy rattle was scarcely an admissible theory. I deduced a rattlesnake. When I left you yesterday, Jotson, it was to consult the wills at Somerset House. I found that Dr. Pylott was heir to his nieces, and that in the case of their death he would take possession of all their furniture. That supplied the motive, Jotson. When we arrived at Coke Pylott I was perfectly prepared to find a means of communication between Dr. Pylott's room and that of Miss Mary Jane."
"You found it?" I exclaimed.
He smiled again.
"Did you not observe, Jotson, when we were waiting in the dark, that a ray of light came from the adjoining apartment?"
"I did. But——"
"From that, my dear Jotson, I deduced an opening in the wall. Light cannot penetrate a solid body. Had the wall been intact the light could not have come through. I deduced an opening."
"Wonderful!" I exclaimed.
"Why was the opening there, Jotson? And you remember that strange exclamation of the former victim — 'It was the hand — the freckled hand!' Once I had deduced the opening in the wall, Jotson, the rest was easy. Through that opening the villain had introduced the rattle-snake into the room. But this time, Jotson, we were there. The dastardly work was interrupted, and the reptile, excited perhaps by the blows I had rained upon it, turned upon his master, and bit the freckled hand that held him. I confess that I had not anticipated this, but I cannot say that I am sorry. He was a distinctly unpleasant character. You remember that saying of the wise Frenchman, Jotson, 'Il fait beau temps ! Bonjour !'  ?"
And Herlock Sholmes was silent.