Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

FROM THE CASE-BOOKS OF DR JOHN H. WATSON

Penned upon the 13th of April, 2010

(With all due apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who watches, no doubt, from the spirit realm, wreathed in fey and goblins like a sultana in her silks.)

I find this section of my collected narratives rather disorganised, but I shall endeavour to describe as best I can the conclusion to the singular affair of that great racehorse, Silver Blaze. If I might be permitted to recapitulate, my friend Sherlock Holmes had, at the behest of Inspector Gregory of the Devonshire police, met with the horse’s owner, Colonel Ross, and performed a thorough examination of the training-grounds and of the surrounding moors. Gathering the facts into his analysis of the crime like a gambler, he had arranged to meet the Colonel at the running of the Wessex Cup, with no hint but a promise that Silver Blaze would run.

“Five to four against Silver Blaze!” roared the ring. “Five to four against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteen against Desborough! Five to four on the field!”

“There are the numbers up,” I cried. “They are all six there.”

“All six there? Then my horse is running,” cried the Colonel in great agitation. “But I don’t see him. My colours have not passed.”

“Only five have passed. This must be he.”

As I spoke a powerful bay horse swept out from the weighting enclosure and cantered past us, bearing on it back the well-known black and red of the Colonel.

“That’s not my horse,” cried the owner. “That beast has not a white hair upon its body. What is this that you have done, Mr. Holmes?”

“Well, well, let us see how he gets on,” said my friend, imperturbably. For a few minutes he gazed through my field-glass. “Capital! An excellent start!” he cried suddenly. “There they are, coming round the curve!”

From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the straight. The six horses were so close together that a carpet could have covered them, but half way up the yellow of the Mapleton stable showed to the front. Before they reached us, however, Desborough’s bolt was shot, and the Colonel’s horse, coming away with a rush, passed the post a good six lengths before its rival, the Duke of Balmoral’s Iris making a bad third.

“It’s my race, anyhow,” gasped the Colonel, passing his hand over his eyes. “I confess that I can make neither head nor tail of it. Don’t you think that you have kept up your mystery long enough, Mr. Holmes?”

“Certainly, Colonel, you shall know everything. Let us all go round and have a look at the horse together. Here he is,” he continued, as we made our way into the weighing enclosure, where only owners and their friends find admittance. “You have only to wash his face and his leg in spirits of wine, and you will find…”

With this, Holmes opened his Gladstone bag, and took up a very large bath-sponge, which he rubbed twice vigorously up and down the horse’s face.

“Let me introduce you,” he shouted, “to Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in the county of Kent.”

Never in my life have I seen such a sight. The horse’s face peeled off under the sponge like the bark from a tree. Gone was the smooth brown fur! Gone, too, were the long, powerful head and broad incisors. A twitch brought away the shaggy mane, and there, sitting up in the stall, was a pale, sad-faced, refined-looking man, black-haired and smooth-skinned, rubbing his eyes and staring about him with bewilderment. Then suddenly realising the exposure, he broke into a scream and threw himself down with his face to the trough of oats.

“You take my breath away!” cried the Colonel.


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