The Yellow Phiz!
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Yellow Phiz! is a Sherlock Holmes parody of the series The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, written by Charles Hamilton (under pen name Peter Todd), published on 18 march 1916 in The Greyfriars Herald, starring Herlock Sholmes as the detective and Dr. Jotson as his sidekick.
The Yellow Phiz!
Another Grand Story dealing with the Amazing Adventures of Herlock Sholmes, Detective.
Herlock Sholmes was examining a series of pawntickets, of which he had a large and interesting collection, when a visitor was shown into our sitting-room at Shaker Street.
He was a young man with a somewhat pale and harassed face. It was evidently some deep-seated trouble which had brought him to consult my amazing friend.
"Mr. Sholmes!" he began eagerly.
"One moment!" said Sholmes. He finished his examination of the tickets. "Jotson, three of these are nearly up. Perhaps you will be good enough to see our friend Mr. Solomons in the morning. Now, sir, I am quite at your service!"
The young man plunged eagerly into his story.
"My name is Green," he said. "I live in the salubrious suburb of Peckham. I am sorely troubled, Mr. Sholmes, by a mystery that weighs upon my spirits and disturbs my domestic peace. I have recently——"
"Married," said Herlock Sholmes quietly.
Mr. Green started.
"How did you know?" he gasped.
"To a trained eye it is obvious," he replied. "A button is missing from your waistcoat, and your coat-collar requires brushing. It is quite evident that you have no longer the advantage of possessing a careful landlady."
"It is true, Mr. Sholmes. I have married — and when I was united with my dear Sempronia Whilks, I deemed myself the happiest man living! She had every charm that the most sensitive lover could desire or dream of — a comfortable balance at the bank, a large house standing in its own grounds, two motor-cars, and a relation in the peerage. She was a widow, Mr. Sholmes, the late Alderman Whilks having died suddenly after a dinner at the Mansion House. For three months, sir, I was deliriously happy. But now" — he made a tragic gesture—"now, Mr. Sholmes, my happiness is dashed — perhaps for ever."
"The bank has failed?" I asked sympathetically.
"No, it is not that."
"The motor-cars have broken down?"
"The mortgagees have foreclosed on the house?"
"No, no! In all those respects, Sempronia is as charming as ever. But a hidden mystery preys upon my peace of mind."
"Pray give us some details, Mr. Green!" said Sholmes. "You may speak quite freely before my friend, Dr. Jotson."
"From the first week at Whilks Hall, Mr. Sholmes, I became aware that Sempronia was concealing something from me. One wing of that imposing mansion was never opened to me. Sempronia kept the key, and sometimes she would disappear into those deserted rooms alone, and remain for hours. After a time I grew curious on the subject. I asked for an explanation. To my surprise, Sempronia burst into tears, and begged me to trust her. Mr. Sholmes, I would have trusted her with my fortune, if I had possessed one; but I was uneasy and alarmed. That closed wing of the house became an obsession in my mind. I could not find it in my heart to force an entrance there against Sempronia's wish, but I prowled round the place occasionally, looking at the windows. On several occasions I heard cries proceeding from the rooms, yet it is supposed to be untenanted."
"Cries! Of what nature?" asked Sholmes, interested.
"It was somewhat like the crying of infants, Mr. Sholmes. But when I asked Sempronia for an explanation, she trembled and was silent. Mr. Sholmes, I know well that Sempronia loves me. Only this morning she stroked my hair and called me her dusky little Charley. Yet she keeps this weird secret from me. She tells me that if I knew it I should love her no longer. Mr. Sholmes, I can bear no more. You must help me to penetrate this mystery, for Sempronia's sake and my own."
"I am quite at your service, Mr, Green," said Herlock Sholmes, rising. "We will proceed at once to Whilks Hall. Come, Jotson, unless you have another engagement."
"My dear Sholmes, I had intended to attend the funeral of one of my patients, but I will come with you with pleasure!"
"You have no more details to give me, Mr. Green?"
The young man hesitated.
"I have, Mr. Sholmes, yet it so extraordinary I almost fear to relate it."
"In prowling around the ruined wing, a prey to uneasiness and curiosity, I happened to glance at the windows, and I saw" — Mr. Green shuddered "I saw a face, Mr. Sholmes. It was a terrible-looking face — yellow in colour, and marked with what appeared to be daubs of black and blue paint. A grocer's boy, who was passing on his way to the kitchen door, saw it too, and ejaculated: 'What a chivvy!' It was indeed an extraordinary and alarming chivvy. Mr. Sholmes! It disappeared at once!"
"Extraordinary!" I exclaimed.
"Since then," said Mr. Green hoarsely, "I have seen it again—and others. In all, I have counted fifteen — every chivvy of them a hideous-looking phiz, as ugly and ferocious in expression as the masks used by boys on the fifth of November. Mr. Sholmes, I am not dreaming. Extraordinary as it appears, it is the fact!"
"The improbability of your story, Mr. Green, renders it all the more likely to be correct, in my opinion. My system, as you are perhaps aware, is not that of Scotland Yard. But let us go."
And, in a few minutes more, a motor-bus was bearing us to Peckham.
We arrived at Whilks Hall, one of the finest of the great fashionable mansions of Peckham. As we crossed the extensive grounds, Mr. Green pointed out to us the deserted wing. He gripped Sholmes' arm suddenly.
"Look!" he breathed.
At a large window a face suddenly appeared. I could not help a thrill of horror as I saw it. It was a face that, once seen, could never be forgotten — yellow in hue, with strange marks of red and blue and black — a huge misshapen nose, and wide, curling, grinning mouth. As we gazed, it was joined by a crowd more, all looking at us as we stood. Then suddenly a blind was drawn, and the yellow phizzes vanished from our sight.
"You saw them?" said Mr. Green huskily. "What do you say now, Mr. Sholmes?"
Sholmes' look was sombre.
"Let us proceed," he said.
A door opened, and a lady came forth, and Mr. Green ran towards her. It was evidently Mrs. Green, late Whilks. I turned to Sholmes.
"Sholmes, what does this dreadful mystery mean?" I murmured.
He shook his head.
"Jotson, I confess I am puzzled. Let us go on."
We hurried after Mr. Green. The beautiful Sempronia was endeavouring to prevent him from entering the door of the deserted wing. She threw herself on her knees.
"It is useless, Sempronia!" said the young man. "Let me pass with my friends who have come to investigate this mystery. Otherwise, I leave this house to-day, and return to my humble but happy lodgings in Camden Town."
"Then I will tell you all!" sobbed Sempronia. "but do not forsake your little Sempy! Follow me!"
She swept into the house. We followed, amazed. What strange mystery was about to be revealed?
"Bobby! Tommy! called out the beautiful Sempronia. Gladys! Mary Ann! Willy! Herbert! Charley! Frank! Fred! Wilhelmina! Francesca! Rupert! Cecilia! Ethel! Johnny!"
There was a rush of feet. The hideous faces we had seen at the window surrounded us. Even Sholmes stood dumbfounded. But in a moment more the secret was revealed. With a sweep of her hand, Sempronia removed the fifteen Guy Fawkes' masks from the fifteen faces, and fifteen boys and girls of varying ages stood revealed.
"In mercy's name, Sempronia, what means this?" gasped Mr. Green.
"Is this place an orphanage?"
Sempronia drew herself up proudly.
"Nothing of the kind, Charles Green! Forgive me! I have always intended to reveal the truth, but always I have put it off, even as one puts off a visit to the dentist's. When you met me, you knew that I was a widow, but did know that I had fifteen children. I dared not tell you; I feared that it would diminish your love, that it would outweigh, in the balance, the bank-account, the freehold house and the motor-cars for which you adored me. Forgive me, Charles, and take them to your heart!"
"In my dread that you would see them, and discover my fatal secret, I disguised them with Guy Fawkes' masks," murmured Mrs. Green, "otherwise, the resemblance would have betrayed the secret; but in these masks there is little or no resemblance to my features!"
"None!" said Mr. Green.
His face had cleared, and he drew Sempronia to his heart.
Sholmes and I slipped away quietly. We felt that we should be de trop at that tender scene of reconciliation. As we glanced back from the gate, we saw Mr. Green taking the merry fifteen to his heart, as requested by Sempronia; but, owing to their number, he was taking them on the instalment system!