Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rocking the Boat

She pushed away the plate of soup unfinished, and planted her elbows on the table.  Slipping her hands under the sleeves of her kimono, she began, lightly, delicately, with the tips of her fingers, to caress her own arms.   How smooth they were, how soft and warm, and how secret  under the sleeves.
-- Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay (1923)

Having an idle hour at my disposal,  I take the liberty, contre mon habitude, of jotting down a little note concerning an amusing interview -- an incident, merely, no more than that, nothing rising to the level of an Adventure or a Case -- at which my polygraphic friend and amanuensis  Doctor Watson did not assist,  so that, unless I write it up myself, it must be lost to history.

It was a sunny autumn day.  I was contentedly at work on my monograph, Über die Methoden und Entdeckung der weiblichen Onanie (privately printed), when Mrs Hudson, the housekeeper, announced a Miss Kitzler, and ushered her into my chambers.   She proved to be a pretty brunette of around twenty years of age, fashionably and tastefully dressed in pink and crème de camélia,  with bobbed hair, bright eyes, damask cheeks, and a well-turned ankle visible beneath her crinolines:  quite a palate-pleasing specimen, I assessed, were I subject to the attractions of such things.  But what most arrested the attention was her wearing, though the weather was not chilly,  a rich muff of silver fir, inside which her hands could be perceived to be slowly revolving.

“Il y a quelque-chose pour vous, là-dedans…”

She alighted on the seat indicated, and sat primly, her knees pressed together beneath her dress.  “I dreamt” she said without preface “of a little man in a boat”.

At this  I laughed heartily, and refilled my pipe.  “You seem to have mistaken these lodgings for those of my esteemed colleague Herr Doktor Freud, who practices in the next street over.  He is an alienist by training, whereas I am a detective.  My practice concerns the investigation of crime;  while his, by contrast, is the unearthing of the concealment of a crime.”

This all seemed rather to go over her head, for she took no notice, but began fidgeting in her chair, and then went on.  “It is concerning a crime that I consult you.”

“R-real-ly,” I drawled, amused.  “You interest me exceedingly.  And just which might this ‘crime’ amount to?”  I puffed at my pipe, and penetrated her with my gaze.

Here she flushed.  “A--  a child is being beaten,” she managed to stammer, and then fell silent.

I made no response, thus forcing her to go on.

“A -- child is being beaten, a child is being beaten,” she chanted, rocking rhythmically back and forth in her chair.  

I fear I may have so strayed from my gaming-face as to cock a skeptical eyebrow.  “I see.  And just -- where is this … child?”  Knowing full well that it was “in the boat”.

At this she flushed crimson, and turned her face away.  “How -- dare you.”

Thereupon I smiled, not unkindly.  “I have just the thing for you,”  I said.  And, tearing a prescription-blank from Dr Watson’s pad, I wrote out, in a bold hand,

Veretrum normale -- dosim repetatur.

She nodded a curt acknowledgement, took the sheet, and whisked out of the room.

The enigma of a woman’s heart,
finally espied  by a Private Eye,
for less than the price  of a Valentine …
This Rose
[Kindle]  [Nook]

[Update, 16 March 2014/1914]   One hundred years ago to the day:  the assassination of Gaston Calmette, editor in chief of Le Figaro.   Illustrating other useful applications of the muff:

L'épouse du ministre, Henriette Caillaux, après la publication par Calmette d'une lettre signée "Ton Jo" que l'homme politique avait adressée à sa future épouse, alors qu'elle n'était encore que sa maîtresse et qu'il était marié à Berthe Gueydan3, se rend à la rédaction du journal, tue son directeur, qui venait de recevoir l'écrivain Paul Bourget, en vidant le chargeur de son pistolet automatique (un Browning modèle sac à main  caché dans son manchon).

Psychological side-note:   It was not only the wrist-muff that proved useful to the murderess (in concealing the murder-weapon), but the nether one as well.   In view of the attractions of the latter, the jury simply acquited her:  she served no time, and paid no fine.

For the best in detective fiction,
check out the website of those wise-cracking, gat-packing Private Eyes,
the Murphy Brothers:

[Sidenote:   As well, a simple parasol, may serve as a handy murder-weapon, for a lady so equipped.    Read all about it here (footnote at the end of the essay): ]


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