Monday, September 6, 2021

"This Murder Had No Lurid Background, No Picturesque Touches, and Yet It Baffled Him"

THROUGH INNOCENT INADVERTENCE, today's story happens to reveal how the shopworn cliche of the passing tramp seen near the scene of the crime was already old hat when it was published well over a century ago; additionally, the tale also looks forward to the Golden Age trope of including a map. When there's a murder in a small British village, it warrants the keen attention of the legendary . . .

"Boss 'Tec at Oldby."
By Anonymous.
Illustrations by Alfred Pearse (1856-1933; HERE).
First appearance: Cassell's Family Magazine, February 1895.
Article (7 pages; 3 illos; 1 map).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Text faded but legible.)
     "An inquest had, of course, been held, when the inevitable tramp theory was mooted."

No, it wasn't any disinterested passing tramp who killed the unfortunate little Frenchman on the knoll of what the locals call the "British Field," but someone seething with resentment with an old score to settle . . . .

Main characters:
~ Alphonse d'Himbu:
  ". . . was found twenty minutes later by Arthur Whitcroft, a lad of seventeen, or thereabouts, stabbed to the heart."
~ The coroner:
  "A tramp may mutter imprecations when sent away empty-handed, but he does not run amuck like a Malay fanatic."
~ Mr. Guyhirn:
  ". . . had seen nothing—absolutely nothing."
~ Mrs. Guyhirn:
  "She undertook the duties of a vicar's wife, and fulfilled them."
~ Dr. Settle:
  "I'd give my practice to clear her."
~ Arthur Whitcroft:
  ". . . it's handy-like for the doctor now the missus is bad."
~ Marjorie Marchden:
  ". . . from the little he had learned about her disposition, character, and tastes, she did not seem likely to be the doer of the deed."
~ The white-capped old dame:
  "The last time was on the evening the poor French gentleman was killed."
~ The constable:
  "Motives are like rats in a hole: they flashes out when you least expect 'em."
~ John Bridger:
  ". . . it shows how one ought to shy at mere circumstantial evidence. Motive's the thing—without motive a 'tec hasn't a leg to stand on."

Comment: As with Dr. Watson's cryptic references to unrecorded Sherlock Holmes adventures, the author mentions in passing a couple of Old 'Tec's previous cases: "the noted Vangirard-Vannes case" and "a repetition of the blind used by Captain Meldy in the Cat's Eye Robbery."

References and resource:
- "the pollard": Humans love to tamper with nature:
  "Pollard, a tree affected by pollarding, a method for shaping trees, cropping the branches above head-height" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "forsook the tables for baccarat": James Bond was hooked on it:
  "Baccarat or baccara is a card game played at casinos. It is a comparing card game played between two hands, the 'player' and the 'banker'. Each baccarat coup (round of play) has three possible outcomes: 'player' (player has the higher score), 'banker', and 'tie'" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the vendetta": Not a healthy state of mind:
  "A feud, referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, clan war, gang war, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight, often between social groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party (correctly or incorrectly) perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted, wronged, or otherwise injured by another. Intense feelings of resentment trigger the initial retribution, which causes the other party to feel equally aggrieved and vengeful. The dispute is subsequently fuelled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence. This continual cycle of provocation and retaliation makes it extremely difficult to end the feud peacefully" (Wikipedia HERE).
- So far we haven't been able to determine who wrote today's story; when we do we'll let you know.

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