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Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 105, August 26th 1893   By:

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VOLUME 105, August 26th 1893

edited by Sir Francis Burnand


( By Cunnin Toil. )


A day or two after the stirring events which I have related as taking place at Blobley in the Marsh, and of which, it will be remembered, I was myself an astonished spectator, I happened to be travelling, partly for business, partly for pleasure, through one of the most precipitous of the inaccessible mountain ranges of Bokhara. It is unnecessary for me to state in detail the reasons that had induced me once more to go so far a field. One of the primary elements in a physician's success in his career is, that he should be able to guard, under a veil of impenetrable silence, the secrets confided to his care. It cannot, therefore, be expected of me that I should reveal why his Eminence the Cardinal DACAPO, one of the most illustrious of the Princes of the Church, desired that I should set off to Bokhara. When the memoirs of the present time come to be published, it is possible that no chapter of them will give rise to bitterer discussion than that which narrates the interview of the redoubtable Cardinal with the humble author of this story. Enough, however, of this, at present. On some future occasion much more will have to be said about it. I cannot endure to be for ever the scape goat of the great, and, if the Cardinal persists in his refusal to do me justice, I shall have, in the last resort, to tell the whole truth about one of the strangest affairs that ever furnished gossip for all the most brilliant and aristocratic tea tables of the Metropolis.

I was walking along the narrow mountain path that leads from Balkh to Samarcand. In my right hand I held my trusty kirghiz, which I had sharpened only that very morning. My head was shaded from the blazing sun by a broad native mollah, presented to me by the Khan of BOKHARA, with whom I had spent the previous day in his Highness's magnificent marble and alabaster palace. As I walked I could not but be sensible of a curiously strained and tense feeling in the air the sort of atmosphere that seems to be, to me at least, the invariable concomitant of country house guessing games. I was at a loss to account for this most curious phenomenon, when, looking up suddenly, I saw on the top of an elevated crag in front of me the solitary and impassive figure of PICKLOCK HOLES, who was at that moment engaged on one of his most brilliant feats of induction. He evinced no surprise whatever at seeing me. A cold smile lingered for a moment on his firm and secretive lips, and he laid the tips of his fingers together in his favourite attitude of deep consideration.

[Illustration: "Holes opened it, and read it."]

"How are you, my dear POTSON?" he began. "What? not well? Dear me, dear me, what can it mean? And yet I don't think it can have been the fifth glass of sherbet which you took with the fourteenth wife of the KHAN. No, I don't think it can have been that."

"HOLES, you extraordinary creature," I broke in; "what on earth made you think that I drank five glasses of sherbert with the KHAN'S fourteenth wife?"

"Nothing simpler, my dear fellow. Just before I saw you a native Bokharan goose ran past this rock, making, as it passed, a strange hissing noise, exactly like the noise made by sherbert when immersed in water. Five minutes elapsed, and then you appeared. I watched you carefully. Your lips moved, as lips move only when they pronounce the word fourteen. You then smiled and scratched your face, from which I immediately concluded you were thinking of a wife or wives. Do you follow me?"

"Yes, I do, perfectly," I answered, overjoyed to be able to say so without deviating from the truth; for in following his reasoning I did not admit its accuracy. As to that I said nothing, for I had drunk sherbert with no one, and consequently had not taken five glasses with the fourteenth wife of the KHAN. Still, it was a glorious piece of guess work on the part of my matchless friend, and I expressed my admiration for his powers in no measured terms... Continue reading book >>

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