FROM THE ARCHIVES: This original work of fiction by Bertram Atkey was first published in Fry’s: The Outdoor Magazine in November 1909. It’s first appearance in the U.S. was in The Armchair Detective Vol. 15 Number 2 in 1982.
“Holmes,” said I, as I was looking out of our window one morning, “here is a madman coming!”
My friend slipped the fully loaded hypodermic syringe – with which he was whiling away a pleasant half-hour after breakfast – into the pocket on the his dressing-gown, and looked over my shoulder.
“Yes. Coming to consult with me,” he said, rubbing his hands. “Ha! There he is.” Almost as he spoke the font door bell-wire was torn completely down and out through the door into the street.
The landlady ushered into the sitting-room a short, stout, red-faced, middle-aged man of hairless appearance with a military look.
Puffing and gesticulating, he sat down heavily in the arm-chair which Holmes indicated.
“Whisky, for Heaven’s sake!” he gasped.
I poured out the stimulant for him, and turned to get the soda syphon. By the time I reached it our caller had emptied his glass, refilled it, emptied it again, and was refilling for the third time. He motioned the soda away impatiently, and drained the glass.
“Not another drop,” he said, emphatically, and drained the glass.
Holmes opened his eyes suddenly. He had been lounging in his favourite chair with half-closed lids.
“Were you under the impression that it was ‘The White Hart’ or ‘The Three Tuns’?” he said, suavely. “Let me offer you – er –” he pushed over the cachou box presented to him by a Russian Grand Duke.
Our caller smiled.
“No doubt you think I am mad!” he said.
“No – only thirsty,” said Holmes, gently. “And now that you have slaked your thirst, let me have a clear account of who you are and what trouble has befallen you.”
“My name,” answered our visitor, “is Colonel Cleak. I am a member of Blameshot Golf Club, and I have been travelling half the night in order to lose no time in laying my case before you. Blameshot Golf Club is composed wholly of retired officers – we tolerate no d – n nonsense there, sir, from the pups of the younger school – and two days ago I put up for competition an Indian trophy of great value. It was a gem-studded drinking cup fashioned from a tiger’s skull, and had long been the envy of every member of the club. It was, of course, an event of some moment in the annals of the club, and to celebrate it the committee engaged an Indian cook for the occasion, and arranged for a perfect dinner to be attended by all the members, at which I should formally offer the cup for competition. I attended that dinner – held last evening – Mr. Holmes, and I have no hesitation in saying that it was the finest dinner I recollect – and that form a man who has eaten with kings, damme! We have a cellar to be proud of, Mr. Holmes. Now, I remember distinctly taking the cup to the club-house – where the event was celebrated – I carried it personally in a small brown bag, and during the meal the bag was under my chair. At the conclusion of the banquet I made a few well-chosen and appropriate remarks, and, producing the cup from the bag, placed it in the exact centre of the table upon a pedestal which had been put there for the purpose. Then followed a few speeches suitable to the occasion, and we adjourned to the billiard-room for some pool. Since that moment not one of us has set on the cup. It has vanished completely. The servants are above suspicion, and I scarcely say the members also. Indeed, there are only twenty members of the club. We are fairly well-to-do, and we like to play our own games in our own way – without the advice and sneers of strangers or of the younger generation. Practically all the Blameshot Golf Club is a purely private concern. And now, Mr. Holmes, we want you to find the cup. That is the problem you have to solve.”
“I have!” said Holmes, languidly.
“You have! Have what?” cried the colonel.
“Solved it!” Holmes yawned. “I shall arrive at the club-house at four o’clock this afternoon, and I shall place the cup in your hands at six o’clock precisely.” He rose. “It has been an interesting little problem, colonel, but elementary. And now I must leave you. I have an appointment at the docks in connection with the Case of the Man with the Striped Hair, the story of which Watson here is anxious to finish in time to catch the American mail on Saturday. It would be wise for you to rest here for an hour or so – you won’t find it dull, there is plenty of whisky left – and by twelve o’clock Watson and I will be back. We might all three travel to the scene of the robbery together. Good-morning. Come along, Watson, and bring your revol – your fountain pen, that is.”
A few hours later found us on the scene of the robbery, where we were met by an inspector of the local police, who, beyond arresting the entire staff of the servants and telephoning to Scotland Yard to have the Indian cook arrested on his arrival at Waterloo, had taken no steps pending our arrival. There were a number of elderly gentlemen of the military type sitting on the verandah behind tumblers, discussing their handicaps.
Holmes asked to be shown the kitchen, and the inspector conducted us thither. Colonel Cleak had joined the group on the verandah. Lost in admiration and wonder the inspector and I squeezed ourselves up against the dresser watching the great detective at work. With a magnifying-glass in one hand, his pamphlet upon cigar ash in the other, and a tape measure between his teeth, he crawled about the kitchen, evidently hot upon the scent. Suddenly he turned to the inspector.
“I shall want to see the waiter or butler who served at table at the dinner last night,” he said.
The inspector went to fetch the man.
“Will you ask Colonel Cleak to step this way, Watson, my dear fellow?” next asked Holmes.
I did so.
“Which of the members of the club has the most seasoned and strongest head for wine, colonel?” questioned Sherlock Holmes when the colonel arrived.
“I have, Mr. Holmes, undoubtedly,” said the colonel, readily.
Holmes thanked him, and he withdrew, as the inspector returned with the waiter – a tired-looking man, with a very pale face and curious look of regret in his eyes.
Holmes whispered something to the inspector, who left the kitchen. He then spoke in low tones with the man for a few moments, and went with him into a sort of scullery adjoining the kitchen.
Very shortly the inspector returned, accompanied by a horsey-looking individual in coachman’s livery.
“How was your master when you drove him home last night, my man?” asked Holmes, holding a half-sovereign in his hand.
The man threw up his hands in a gesture of envy and despair.
“Abso-lutely, sire. Broke all records.
“All right, my man, that will do!”
The horsey-looking man grabbed the half-sovereign and vanished. Holmes pulled out his cocaine apparatus and took a stiff dose. Then, lightning his pipe and placing a paper of shag on the floor, he sat down beside it and stared vacantly at a toasting-fork that hung near the kitchen range. He was thinking – that flawless, pitilessly logical mind was dissecting, as with a pork-butcher’s knife, weighing, as with a cheesemonger’s scales, the case upon which we were working. It was almost possible to hear that great brain grinding as it worked, swiftly, surely, relentlessly, to the solution of the problem. An hour passed. Then, with an exclamation, Holmes leaped to his feet and darted into the scullery. We heard a rattle of plates and dishes, then a sound of running water. A minute later Holmes appeared before us. In his hand he held a whitish, jewelled object that blazed and sparkled in the sunlight which shone through the kitchen window. It was the Indian trophy!
“Call the colonel,” said Holmes.
We did so, and as the old soldier appeared in the doorway the clock struck six.
“Permit me, colonel,” said Sherlock, and handed over the cup.
“The case has been interesting, though elementary, Watson,” said Holmes as we sat in the London train an hour later. “Very elementary. I saw at once, this morning, from the manner in which the colonel dealt with my whisky, that, to coin an expression, he was no cold-water sharp. I had found myself looking askance at the part played by the Indian cook and the servant or servants who waited upon our military golfers at the dinner. But, upon arriving here I eliminated the cook – at least, the inspector had arranged his elimination for me. He was to be arrested at Waterloo. I then examined the waiter, as you saw. He was complaining of a headache; he did not remember when it began, but was sure that he woke up with it this morning. He did not remember seeing the trophy on the table when he cleared away the remains of the banquet. He did not remember any speeches. He had a vague idea that he had found the billiard-room full of dead bodies an hour or so after the dinner, but was not sure. It might have been a dream, he thought. It all seemed to be a dream to him, he remarked, banquet and all. Towards the end of the meal he had noticed a kind of haze about the place. He did not remember anything more. Fancied he had been out of sorts. Had a dark blue taste in his mouth, as though he had been drugged. The crockery used at the dinner had not yet been washed.
“Suspecting at first the presence of some Indian drug, I went into the cellar and among other things counted the number of empty wine, liqueur, and spirit bottles that had been removed after use at the dinner. The number was incredible. I began to get a glimmering of the truth. Then I examined Colonel Cleak as to his staying powers. He considered he could give a bottle of anything drinkable start to any member of the club and beat him to a standstill. Then I gathered from the colonel’s coachman that his master was ‘abso-lutely’ on the night of the banquet. This being so, what must the others have been like? I began to see what the waiter’s dim recollection of dead bodies meant. It was clear to me that none of the members either knew or cared what had happened to the trophy by the time they had finished their liqueurs and were ready for whiskies and sodas in the billiard-room. The empty bottles proved that.
“Then in the scullery I found three quart champagne bottles empty, and a half-empty bottle of cognac, and then I understood why the waiter thought he had been drugged. Now, how does an extremely ‘drugged’ waiter, when alone, remove the débris of a banquet, my Watson? He removes it by armfuls – glass, cutlery, decorations, dishes, flower-bowls, everything – by armfuls. (I have written a small monograph on the effects of drugs on waiters.) And that is what this waiter did. All the members were far too ‘drugged’ to care. I found the things piled in heaps on the scullery tables and floor. Among them was a round bowl liberally covered with a mixture of mayonnaise and about 50 horse-power tipsy cake. I marked this down, and at two minutes to six went into the scullery and washed it. It was the trophy, of course. The waiter had mistaken it for a flower-bowl. That is all!” and the great detective smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and dreamily proceeded to recharge his cocaine pump.
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