WORDS ON WATSON

An occasional feature of published pages about John Watson

Holmes is encouraging Watson to give his analysis of Mortimer’s stick. Let me slip this thing away from Dr. Watson and pass it around. There you are.

You may recall that this type of walking stick is called a “Penang lawyer.” The island of Penang, from which these beauties come, can be found off the coast of Malaysia, not all that far from Sumatra. As with so many other British colonies, Penang started out as a penal colony, and these bulbous-headed sticks were probably the closest things the prisoners had to a lawyer. You can see how they might settle a disagreement rather swiftly.

This particular specimen also has an engraved silver band near the top, which seems to be attracting most of Watson’s attention…or it will as soon as I give it back to him. There you go, Doctor.

“To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H., 1884” is what the engraving reads. From this and the stick’s condition in general, Watson has deduced that Mortimer is a successful, elderly fellow, a country doctor who does a lot of walking, and is especially well liked by members of the local hunt club. He must assume they have a lot of gun-cleaning accidents and Mortimer is extremely skilled at removing buckshot.

Watson has given it his best shot. After studying Holmes’s methods for years, he thinks that this time he’s really captured it, done the trick himself. At moments like these, you really have to feel sorry for the guy. It’s like watching that basketball team that always plays the Harlem Globetrotters. They do a decent job of it, but you always know they’re about to be used to mop the floor. It’s the same with Watson.

From The Armchair Baskerville Tour by Brad Keefauver, Magico Magazine, 1995, p. 8.

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