It was a curious case. In fact, it was the most curious case that I
had ever come across.
It stood one hundred and twelve inches in height, forty six inches in
breadth, and twenty inches in depth at its base. My best estimate of
its weight would be about fifteen stone.
I took the face wood to be English Walnut but Holmes was adamant that
it was Circassian.
"Draw your attention to the swirling pattern and the subtlety
of the brown shading. Juglans regia. Grown along the Black Sea.
There can be no doubt."
The secondary wood, as I was informed by my companion was Tulip
Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera.
"He appears to be an American, and one from the Eastern
section of his country. Perhaps a gunsmith."
I was too tired to ask.
We had been called out on the darkest part of a foul night to the home
of Sir Charles Mountebank, in the hope that we could shed some light
on the disappearance of his son, Regis Cathilee Mountebank, who, by
virtue of his maternal ancestry, was the soul pretender to the Bemis
Holmes was mad for its drawers.
"Notice the deep cuts from the marking gauge. The point has
been shaped to round, as though it were a pencil point. This
is the mark of a dilettante, a poseur, a ..."
"A Mountebank", I offered.
"Then we have established a connection", I said, hopefully.
"Do you have your pistol with you?"
Though he, himself, was a dead on shot, Holmes had often called upon
my old friend from days gone bye with the Northumberland Fusiliers,
which sat, at that moment, as it always did when I left London in the
dark of night, in my right coat pocket.
"Do you intend to shoot this case then, Holmes?"
Holmes was possessed of a perfect stare, which would sear the soul of
any man who was foolish enough to draw it from him.
"Perhaps you would be so kind as to use your pistol to hammer
apart these drawer joints."
Suitably chastised, I set about to knocking apart the joints of the
"There it is, man! There it is!"
As Holmes was not one to punctuate his speech with exclamation points,
I was in quite a state, his point not obvious to me at all.
"The pitch, man! Look at the pitch! Where have you seen a
dovetail pitched like that before?"
I must confess that I was flabbergasted by both his excitement and his
apparent insistence on the portent of the pitch of those dovetails.
Tremulously I delivered my unsubstantiated but nonetheless predictable
The high hilarity of Holmes's laugh has always both frightened and
engaged me, and its full force was upon me now.
"But, he's not..."
"We were meant to think not, but he undoubtedly is. It's all
right there in the dovetails, man."
(to be continued)