THE author of this book offers it to the public without apology. The reviewers of his previous work of this character have presumed, on inductive grounds, that he must be a young man from the most westerly part of the Western States, to whom many things might be pardoned as due to the exuberant animal spirits of youth. They were good enough to express the thought that when the author grew up and became educated there might be hope for his intellect. This expectation is of no avail. All that education could do in this case has been tried and has failed. As a Professor of Political Economy in a great university, the author admits that he ought to know better. But he will feel amply repaid for his humiliation if there are any to whom this little book may bring some passing amusement in hours of idleness, or some brief respite when the sadness of the heart or the sufferings of the body forbid the perusal of worthier things.
I. – Maddened by Mystery: or, The Defective Detective
THE great detective sat in his office. He wore a long green gown and half a dozen secret badges pinned to the outside of it.
Three or four pairs of false whiskers hung on a whisker-stand beside him.
Goggles, blue spectacles and motor glasses lay within easy reach.
He could completely disguise himself at a second's notice.
Half a bucket of cocaine and a dipper stood on a chair at his elbow.
His face was absolutely impenetrable.
A pile of cryptograms lay on the desk. The Great Detective hastily tore them open one after the other, solved them, and threw them down the cryptogram-shute at his side.
There was a rap at the door.
The Great Detective hurriedly wrapped himself in a pink domino, adjusted a pair of false black whiskers and cried,
His secretary entered. "Ha," said the detective, "it is you!"
He laid aside his disguise.
"Sir," said the young man in intense excitement, "a mystery has been committed!"
"Ha!" said the Great Detective, his eye kindling, "is it such as to completely baffle the police of the entire continent?"
"They are so completely baffled with it," said the secretary, "that they are lying collapsed in heaps; many of them have committed suicide."
"So," said the detective, "and is the mystery one that is absolutely unparalleled in the whole recorded annals of the London police?"
"And I suppose," said the detective, "that it involves names which you would scarcely dare to breathe, at least without first using some kind of atomiser or throat-gargle."
"And it is connected, I presume, with the highest diplomatic consequences, so that if we fail to solve it England will be at war with the whole world in sixteen minutes?"
His secretary, still quivering with excitement, again answered yes.
"And finally," said the Great Detective, "I presume that it was committed in broad daylight, in some such place as the entrance of the Bank of England, or in the cloak-room of the House of Commons, and under the very eyes of the police?"
"Those," said the secretary, "are the very conditions of the mystery."
"Good," said the Great Detective, "now wrap yourself in this disguise, put on these brown whiskers and tell me what it is."
The secretary wrapped himself in a blue domino with lace insertions, then, bending over, he whispered in the ear of the Great Detective:
"The Prince of Wurttemberg has been kidnapped."
The Great Detective bounded from his chair as if he had been kicked from below.
A prince stolen! Evidently a Bourbon! The scion of one of the oldest families in Europe kidnapped. Here was a mystery indeed worthy of his analytical brain.
His mind began to move like lightning.
"Stop!" he said, "how do you know this?"
The secretary handed him a telegram. It was from the Prefect of Police of Paris. It read: "The Prince of Wurttemberg stolen. Probably forwarded to London. Must have him here for the opening day of Exhibition. 1,000 pounds reward."
So! The Prince had been kidnapped out of Paris at the very time when his appearance at the International Exposition would have been a political event of the first magnitude.
With the Great Detective to think was to act, and to act was to think.
Frequently he could do both together.
"Wire to Paris for a description of the Prince."
The secretary bowed and left.
At the same moment there was slight scratching at the door.
A visitor entered. He crawled stealthily on his hands and knees. A hearthrug thrown over his head and shoulders disguised his identity.
He crawled to the middle of the room.
Then he rose.
It was the Prime Minister of England.
"You!" said the detective.
"Me," said the Prime Minister.
"You have come in regard the kidnapping of the Prince of Wurttemberg?"
The Prime Minister started.
"How do you know?" he said.
The Great Detective smiled his inscrutable smile.
"Yes," said the Prime Minister. "I will use no concealment. I am interested, deeply interested. Find the Prince of Wurttemberg, get him safe back to Paris and I will add 500 pounds to the reward already offered. But listen," he said impressively as he left the room, "see to it that no attempt is made to alter the marking of the prince, or to clip his tail."
So! To clip the Prince's tail! The brain of the Great Detective reeled. So! a gang of miscreants had conspired to—but no! the thing was not possible.
There was another rap at the door.
A second visitor was seen. He wormed his way in, lying almost prone upon his stomach, and wriggling across the floor. He was enveloped in a long purple cloak. He stood up and peeped over the top of it.
It was the Archbishop of Canterbury!