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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Minute Mystery With Lieutenant Fordney


As he questioned old Peacock, the butler, Lieutenant Fordney closely examined the foyer floor.

"These are the shoes your employer last wore?"

"Yes sir, he always removes them and places them side by side as he enters the house."

"And these gloves, lying two feet in front of them, they are also his?"

"Indeed, master generally crawls in and doffs them with a single masterly shrug."

"I see, and what caused you to fear something untoward had occurred?"

"Well sir," said Peacock,"as I opened the west windows that morning, I heard something in the garden next door."

"Something?"

"Thuds, sir."

"Thuds?"

"Indeed, a great many of them!"

There came a thudding knock at the door. Lieutenant Fordney opened it to find a portly politician panting upon the porch. "Good morning!" Bellowed the man,"I'm your candidate soliciting support on the Incendiary Anarchist Ticket. Please accept one of these very unsafe blazing oil-lanterns and remember me at the polls!"

"Thank you," said Lieutenant Fordney, "but just a moment. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Thud, head of the large family of Thuds next door?"

"You do indeed, though how the devil you deduced it, I confess myself baffled!"

"My methods are my own, but I shan't detain you further. I perceive a plethora of porches you've yet to pant upon."

"Hah! Easy for you to say!" Thud shouted over his shoulder whilst thudding off down the street.

"And now, Peacock, tell me. In a house this large there must be many dangerously deep uncovered pits in dark hallways."

"Oh yes sir, ever so many!"

"In which of them does your master keep his luggage?"

"Why, in the deepest, darkest, least covered and most dangerous one. But how...?

"Quickly Peacock! Not a moment to be lost, and bring the lantern!"

They came upon the missing man precisely where Fordney reckoned him to be.


 "Aha," exclaimed Fordney. "The unfortunate fellow was trying to stuff his suit into a suitcase while he was still wearing it."

"Poor Master!" cried Peacock.

"Your concern is admirable, Peacock, but somewhat belated. You have been remiss in your duties!"

"Sir?"

[Dear readers, this is traditionally where Minute Mysteries asks: why did Lieutenant Fordney suspect the butler of inefficiency? For the answer, read on.]

"Peacock, the illustration of our discovery is from a back number of  the Strand, dated May, 1893. Will you kindly read me the date over this blog post?"

"November, 2015, sir."

"Precisely, you were so preoccupied with local politics, eavesdropping on the Thud family next door, that you let 122 years slip by before consulting a criminologist, did you not?"

"Admittedly, I lost track of the time, sir, and concede it borders upon the inexcusable."

"There, there Peacock. Who's to say we could have helped had we only got here sooner? Incidentally, have you a ladder? I believe I hear your master asking for one."

"Oh, as do I! Thank you Lieutenant Fordney!"

" I'll see myself out. And Peacock, don't let it happen again!"

28 comments:

  1. Politics will do that to a person. But eavesdropping on a Thud is just going too far.

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    1. True. However it's often impossible to ignore political Thuds.

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  2. This was quite lovely. It seemed to hark back to books and imagination experiences of long ago in my childhood. Not that I am 122 years old, you understand....I think.

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    1. Thanks Tom. I too reach pretty far back for Minute Mysteries. Austin Ripley was a staple author of my childhood ---whose collections made inferential thinking and reading for details fun.

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  3. Time sneaks away from us all some days. Lieutenant Fordney was being a bit hard on Peacock...

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    1. I must agree. Few among us have not got distracted and forgot to reset the clocks for a century or two.

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  4. Your witty way with words has provided us with another thoroughly amusing dialog. It's always fun trying to extract my favorite sentences. Here it is:
    "I perceive a plethora of porches you've yet to pant upon."

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    1. Kind Jon, I just really like sentences with lots of p's in them.

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  5. A delightful mystery yarn, more compact than most and that makes it more than elementary my dear Peacock.

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    1. "Elementary" indeed. You recognize the Paget illustration from "The Musgrave Ritual" by Conan Doyle.

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  6. Politics can deaden the mind...poor fellow was probably better off down in the hole with the luggage.

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    1. Excellent point, Delores. U.S. Republican candidates are summarily professing faith in Creationism over Evolution in order to appeal to their constituents --as if either view has any bearing on the economy or endless military involvement in the Middle East. Not sure if it qualifies as luggage or baggage. However, all holes should definitely have ladders in them.

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  7. Ahhh ... I so enjoy your whimsy, Geo.! Who else would have thought of this story just from seeing that page?

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    1. O, Jenny, with Sidney Paget's illustrations one is invited to create alternative explanations with pseudo-Holmesian deduction: when all possibilities have been eliminated, the impossible must provide the solution.

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  8. Good luck on the ladder...it is hard for a pile of bones to get to the top.

    clever use of the illustration!

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    1. Thanks Susan. 19th century book illustrations are such wonders of chiaroscuro they invite the imagination to apply itself. Hardest part is explaining the presence of a lantern --hence Mr. Thud and his campaign gift.

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  9. Dear Geo., thank you!
    A masterpiece of prolonged suspense, indeed! For that long time the Master looks astonishingly fit.
    Can you imagine that we own the original old Strand Magazines (now they stand in the library of the Hildesheimer University).

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    1. Dear Brigitta, most kind. I didn't want to keep the poor fellow in a pit for 122 years but couldn't figure another way to wrap up the story. Glad to hear the old Strand Magazine is being preserved; it has a great history.

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  10. I've been on jury duty all week, so like Peacock, I wouldn't be surprised to hear more than a century had passed while I was distracted by a bunch of lawyer-speak, which in some cases, comes across as a series of thuds. (All finished in court! Although the defense lawyers just called to pick my brain, so to speak. Never had that happen before... I guess it was because I was the oldest one on the case?)

    Great post, dude.

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    1. Thanks Susan. As a dude who has been impaneled numerous times, I empathize completely. Even jurors get caught up in the atmosphere. When we'd go into deliberation, newbies would ask me how to vote for a foreperson. I'd reply, whether we vote or not, it's always the one sitting closest to the door. I never sat there. Did you?

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  11. You've aged well... Oh the 1890s: A depression, the World's Fair in Chicago, Haymarket riots and Williams Jennings Bryan (before he went ape on evolution) running for President as a liberal

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    1. Ah, those were the days, Sage! 1892 Columbian Expo in1893 and Little Egypt, Fatima Djemille, was only two or three of herself instead of who knows how many? And Bryan was still more interested in the ages of rocks than the Rock of Ages.

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  12. Have nothing to add; your commenters summed it up quite well above. Wouldst we go back to an earlier time, what better than the years of the Columbian Expo, and for the next 20....for most of the world. If a 5 year period was all I could choose, I'd pick Paris, 1904-1909.

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    1. Certainly a time of invention and progress, Mike. I too would delight in the effects of the Rose Period of Picasso, the Fauvists, the precursors to magic ---Miró, Chirico, Modigliani-- but I'd also take a lot of penicillin.

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  13. Jenny O nailed it: whimsey! I enjoy your whimsical creations, Geo, and it's all the more fun because I never know what to expect when I visit your blog. I think I want to drop down into that dark hole until the 2016 elections are over, but I fear Lieutenant Fordney would drag me out before it happened. Although I have to admit I'm laughing a lot at all the political shenanigans. If only it weren't a whole long year ... Canada does it much better. Have a good one!

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    1. It's still early days in the campaign circus, Louise. Much will happen and much will be revealed in the coming year but I believe we'll go to the polls with clear heads and hopeful hearts. As I say to my friend, Willie, every 4th year, "Hold your nose, mon ami, here we go again!

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  14. Thank you for the chuckle on this cloudy, gloomy day!

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