Sunday, September 3, 2023

"It Became One of the Unsolved Mysteries of the Year"

"The Scattered Violets."
By Harrison Jewell Holt (1875-1956; HERE).
First appearance: Pearson's Magazine, February 1913.
Short short story (8 pages).
Online at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: Text is blotchy at times but readable.)
   "No better illustration of the need of what may be termed a scientific imagination in dealing with problems of this character occurs to me than the case of the Scattered Violets . . ."

Two people have died in a small Virginia village, and the locals aren't short of suspicions as to who's responsible. Even before leaving town, blind New York sleuth Stephen Garth has already decided WHO was responsible and HOW it happened, but there's still one thing he doesn't know: WHY . . . .

Principal characters:
~ The victims: Elihu Wing and Mabel Cummings.
~ The sleuth: Stephen Garth, blind detective.
~ Others: Peter (no last name), Garth's secretary and narrator; "Judge" Thornton, the postmaster; James Buchanan Butler, the storekeeper; Caleb Dawson, the village shoe-maker; and Mrs. Arnold.

Comment: Garth's amanuensis and biographer seems as determined to overlook the obvious and as intent on drawing the wrong conclusions as Watson was.

References and resources:
- "At any rate my experience as Stephen Garth's secretary has convinced me that imagination is essential to a first-class detective":
  Einstein also held imagination in high regard:
- "the bewildered air of a Rip Van Winkle":
  You've probably heard of him since his name has become a cultural fixture thanks to required reading in school: "Rip Van Winkle is a short story by the American author Washington Irving, first published in 1819. It follows a Dutch-American villager in colonial America named Rip Van Winkle who meets mysterious Dutchmen, imbibes their strong liquor and thence falls deeply asleep in the Catskill Mountains. He awakes 20 years later to a very changed world, having missed the American Revolution." (Wikipedia has a very thorough article HERE.)
- "hot springs said to be of remarkable medicinal value":
  Many times but not always: "The water of mineral springs is sometimes claimed to have therapeutic value. Mineral spas are resorts that have developed around mineral springs, where (often wealthy) patrons would repair to 'take the waters' — meaning that they would drink (see hydrotherapy and water cure) or bathe in (see balneotherapy) the mineral water. Historical mineral springs were often outfitted with elaborate stone-works — including artificial pools, retaining walls, colonnades and roofs — sometimes in the form of fanciful 'Greek temples', gazebos or pagodas. Others were entirely enclosed within spring houses." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "an old rebel cavalryman who had fought with Wheeler":
  This being 1913, the American Civil War (a.k.a. The War Between the States or, to some, just "The Late Unpleasantness") would be in the living memory of many readers. (See Wikipedia HERE about that conflict and HERE about who Wheeler was.)
- "the size and luxuriance of his violet patch":
  Violets are actually a subsection of a larger genus of flowering plants called violas. (See Wikipedia HERE for all the details and HERE for info about "Parma violets.")
- "'let the dead bury their dead'":
  This Bible passage has provoked much commentary. (See Wikipedia HERE for what we mean.)
- Blind detectives have enjoyed a vogue almost from the beginning of the modern mystery, John Dyce for example (HERE), Max Carrados (HERE), and even Jim Dunbar in a short-lived 21st-century TV series (HERE).
- A New York private eye of the Mike Hammer school our Stephen Garth is not.
- FictionMags's thumbnail of Harrison Jewell Holt: "Born and died in Portland, Maine; graduate of Harvard." FictionMags credits Holt with nine short stories, three with Stephen Garth:

  (1) "The Disappearance of the Japanese Envoy," Pearson’s Magazine (U.S.), December 1912 (13 pages; HERE)
  (2) "The Missing Sense," Pearson’s Magazine (U.S.), January 1913 (7 pages; HERE)
  (3) "The Scattered Violets," Pearson’s Magazine (U.S.), February 1913 (8 pages; above).

Editorial announcement: "Another story of Garth—the mystery of the Bungalow Ghost—will be in the March Pearson's." But it wasn't.

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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