The Adventure of Damascus Rode
The Real Lost 61st Story of the Holy Writ
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First, for your edification, excerpts from the 'London Times' December 1999 - May 2002
"...the so-called 'Dead Sir Scrawls' have been the focus of attention among disciples of Sherlock Holmes since their discovery three years
ago by an itinerant Welsh shepherd boy in a cave outside London. The writings thus translated are in surprising accord with the Baring-Gould and Doubleday Complete Canons, but experts hasten to remind the faithful disciples that so far only The Adventures and The Memoirs have been completed from the short verse, and of the book-length only A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four are finished..." (Dec. 9, 1999)
The Adventure of Damascus Rode
In those days there was great persecution of the Amateur Detectives; King Hardboiled did stretch forth his clenched fist and slew Dupin and Lecoq, and a voice was heard throughout the Strand; Rache, weeping for the serials, and refusing to be comforted, for they were not available. Now when the King saw that it pleased the audiences, he set forth a royal decree that all Amateur Detectives should be persecuted for their practice. And throughout the land were the Amateurs sore afflicted, and they did disperse to hide in the deserts and the catacombs, and docks and alleyways of Rotherhithe, for to be a Detective was a curse and a leprosy.
Then the King called Arthur Ignatius Doyle to his side, and bade him rid the land for once and all of the pestilence. For Doyle was knowledgeable in matters of detection, and he did both see and observe, and he was of the Holy Sect known as the Faerie-Sees. And Doyle, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the detectives, went unto the Archbishop of Canterbury, and desired of him letters to Scotland Yard, that if he found any who followed the
Amateur Detective way, that he might seize them, and bring them bound unto the King.
And as he journeyed, he came to Kent, and in Kent did his horse go lame. Therefore Doyle gave the horse as an offering unto the knackers, but in Kent did no one have a horse to sell. And Doyle bought an elderly donkey which was called Damascus. Now Damascus was small and not of many teeth, and was grey of color and half blind, but he neither bit nor kicked and did plod steadily wheresoever he was commanded to go. Thus Doyle found in the ass a reliable partner, and he set out once more to persecute the Detectives.
But Damascus tired easily, and Doyle was compelled to dismount and lead the beast for periods of time. And as he journeyed, leading the ass, there suddenly shined round about him a light from heaven and a voice, saying, "Doyle, Doyle, why persecutest thou me?"
And Doyle saith, "Who art thou, Lord?"
And the voice answered and said unto him, "Call me not Lord, for I am not Peter Wimsey -- indeed, I work for a living, and have even refused knighthoods. But never mind that -- I am the Master, whom thou persecutest."
"Then art thou an amateur detective, and a follower of that Way?" Doyle asked.
Then was the Master very wroth, and he saith, "Follower? Follower? Callest thou me a follower? I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning
and the End, of all detective fiction. All who came before me were but weak prophets, and all who come after will be but pale shadows. But I, I who both see and observe, who base my methods on the study of trifles, I who can tell the occupation of a man at 50 yards, and the emotional state of a woman at 30, I am ignored because I am called an amateur. I know I have it in me to make my name great, and yet I have no public relations."
Then was Doyle the Persecutor frightened but not cowed. He stood by the head of Damascus and said, "Prove thyself."
And the thunder did roar and the lightning did flash forthwith, but Arthur Ignatius was not afraid. "Thou art grandiose indeed," said he. "And yet I cannot believe so easily. Give me a sign -- yea, even a sign of four signs, and then shall I be thy disciple."
"Thou art an unimaginative fellow, for a Faerie-See," sighed the Master, "and yet shall I humour thee." (This did the Master do that the prophecy might be fulfilled, saying, "Having eyes they see not, and having ears they hear not.")
Therefore did the Master list many deductions involving mud on trousers and calluses on fingers, and at last the Master did cause the earth to
divide asunder in the place where Doyle and Damascus stood, so that Damascus fell therein and Doyle followed after, landing atop the donkey. And Doyle shouted, "I am thine, O Master, only free me!" And the Master caused the dirt to soften, and Doyle rode the ass out of the torn earth, whereupon he fell on his
knees and worshiped the Master.
"What wilt thou have me do, O Master?" Doyle asked.
And a still, small voice answered and said, "Thou shalt be my Literary Agent. Thou, who hast been heretofore the greatest persecutor of
amateur detective fiction, shalt now become the foremost writer of it. Thou shalt go before King Hardboiled and cry 'let my people grow,' and they shall grow greatly. Their numbers will be past counting, even by the doubting Thomas Stix. They will meet in diverse places to discuss the stories thou hast written,
they will argue over locations of wounds and numbers of wives. They will give meaning to their lives by observing trifles, and they will do mighty works to escape ennui. And they shall be my scions, and I shall be their Detective."
"Indeed I believe that thou art the true Master, and have raised detective fiction to an art and a science," Doyle cried, weeping, and throwing himself at the Master's feet, and sacrificing Brigadier Gerard and Professor Challenger as burnt offerings on the altar of literature. And that day did he also change his name: no more would he be called Ignatius, but Conan, for the Master said "a Barbarian hast thou been, and a witness to the Barbarians shalt thou be, and the great unobservant public shall be thy ministry from this day forth."
Now Damascus fell down dead, and the Master deduced cause to be shock and concussion, but he could not revive the sad creature for as he saith, "I can discover the facts, but I cannot change them." So did Arthur Conan bury the donkey, and return to his own home, where he wrote his first epistle to the public, and did call it 'A Study in Scarlet'. And it was as the Master had foretold, a very great success, and the glory of it was such that Doyle could not endure, for in later years he tried to blaspheme by writing 'The Final Problem'. But the Master was merciful, and Doyle repented.
Still, over the years did many disciples turn from the one true Detective, and they gave the glory to Doyle the Fairie-See, and knew not the name of Escott or Altamont, and they did forget him who had lifted them from the realms of literary dullness. They turned to apostates such as Tony Hillerman and PD James, and then to the children of the evil one themselves, Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins, and they were plagued by Danielle Steele for years. But the Master had foreseen all of this, and he sent an east wind which he had himself promised. And though it was cold and bitter, and a great many did wither before its blast, so the faithful did persevere. And still they wait today, looking to that better, greener England and a cheque for 500 pounds, and they listen for the
sound of horses' hooves muffled by fog in a land where it is always 1895.
"...ardent Holmesians still hang on every word of the newly translated Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, serialized in the pages of section C for your enjoyment..." (Jan. 21, 2001)
"...Disciples of the Master Detective were shocked to find the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, as translated from the Dead Sir Scrawls, differed notably from the existing English work. Minor differences, such as the substitution of the name 'Kitty Winter' for the correct name 'Eunice Dowdy' were accepted with only minor disruptions to the faith, but the absence in The Lion's Mane of an ocean, a jellyfish or even Sherlock Holmes made many Holmesians cry 'foul!' And the ultimate insult was discovered in The Mazarin Stone -- the entire story consisted of two pages of notes and a memo saying 'So fix it yourself, wiseguy.' " (Aug. 1, 2001)
"...after the translation of His Last Bow and The Valley of Fear , a new wrinkle emerged in the discovery of fifteen sheets of foolscap at the bottom of the pottery ashtray -- an apparently unpublished story called The Adventure of Damascus Rode." The uproar in Holmesian circles has caused threats against the lives of officers in the Baker Street Irregulars and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and mass resignations have already been handed in throughout both societies..." (May 5, 2002)
"...after considerable difficulty, the Times has managed to obtain a copy of the so-called 61st story of the Holmesian Canon. This story, The Adventure of Damascus Rode , is now printed in its entirety, and the reader may judge its veracity for himself."
Thus ends the 61st story of the Holmesian Canon, Times readers, and it has probably not escaped your notice that, had not one Arthur Ignatius been knocked upon his ass, the world might today be deprived of Sherlock Holmes, the Master of detective fiction.
Mel Hughes has been a Sherlockian since the age of 17. She has been married "MANY years" and has 3 kids,1 dog and 2 cars. Mel is a member of Prodigy's "Wigmore Street Post Office", "The Men with the Twisted Konjo", "The Hansoms of John Clayton", and "The Literary Shortcomings". In addition to being a regular barfly at the Dangling Prussian, she is also a part-time bartender at the Alpha (WSPO's pub). When spending time in reality, she works at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. You can email Mel with your comments or questions. This work is copyrighted © 1995-1999 by Mel Hughes. My deep thanks to Mel for allowing me to publish this work on Yoxley Old Place.
Note: This web version first appeared on 'The Express Office' by David Hobbet
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