"Holmes," said I, as I sat one morning on our window sill looking down the street, "here is a madcat coming along. It seems rather sad that he is allowed to go out alone, without his supporting staff."
My friend rose lazily from his arm-chair, and climbed up next to me. The cat that I mentioned was a large, shorthair tabby, quite portly with a massive face and a leather collar. Despite his dignified look he was running and wailing loudly, which drew my attention.
"What on earth is the matter with him?" I asked. "He is sniffing all of the house marks*."
"I believe that he's coming here," said Holmes, flexing himself.
"Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult me professionally. I think that I recognize the symptoms. Ha! Did I not tell you?" As he spoke the cat, panting and steaming, jumped on a barrow below, scrambled up a short distance to a ledge. From there he made his way to a tree, via a protruding branch and at last entered.
His expression was of such despair that our smiles turned into worried frowns.
"No doubt you think me mad." Said he.
"I see that you have some great trouble."
"God knows I have! -- A trouble which is enough to unseat my reason, so sudden and terrible is it. Public disgrace I might have faced, although I am a cat whose character has never yet borne a stain. Private affliction also is the lot of every cat; but the two coming together, and in so frightful a form, have been enough to shake my very soul. Besides, it is not I alone. The very noblest in the land may suffer, unless some way be found out of this horrible affair."
"Pray compose yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and tell me who you are and what has befallen you."
"My name is Lexis Tiddles, of the banking firm Tiddles & Whiskas, of Threadneedle Street, the alley marked with a smell like this, behind the garbage cans. You probably heard of me."
We indeed had, for his banking firm was the second largest in all of England. What could have happened to bring one of the foremost citizens to this state?
"I was in my office yesterday when my clerk informed that Lord -- well, I won't reveal the name but take my word for it he's the most noble, most exalted lord in this country.
'Mr. Tiddles,' he said to me, 'I have been informed that you have the most secure firm in England.'
'Yes,' I told him, 'security is good.'
'I would like to have 50,000 pounds Whiskas (£W) at once. I will pay you back in a few days. As a guarantee I leave you the Beryl Can.'
And he took out a gold can of the usual size inlaid with giant beryls, six on the sides, four on the top, four on the bottom and one on the pull. I gasped with surprise at seeing one of the most precious possessions of England and tried to say something but he took the £50,000 certificate and left**.
I resolved to keep the Can with me at all times. When I returned home I informed only my son and my niece of it. Now, my niece Mary is a daughter one can only wish for, much unlike my son, Arkie, who gambles and has a taste for catnip. He has often tried to reform but he can't because of the influence of His Excellency Sir George Theodore Brunwell the Third Pearl of the Thames (who gives cats these names anyway?) who is impressive enough to affect me.
Anyway my son asked money from me again and I refused. He said that he is desperate, that if he didn't show up with the money today he would never be able to turn up in his club, I disrecall the name. I said that that would be for the better, so he left my study quite disappointed..."
"And where was the Beryl Can all this while?"
"I placed it in a human-made box with a latch. It's not easy to open and the scrabbling of claws is sure to awaken me... Anyway, back to my narrative. I decided to check personally that everything is closed, usually it is done by Mary. As I hopped my way down the stairs I saw Mary herself on a window sill, which she jumped off upon seeing me.
'Dad, did you give leave to Lucy Parr?' Lucy Parr is a maid, who, when I come to think of it could have easily overheard our conversation about the Beryl Can.
'Well she went outside a few minutes ago.'
I didn't give much thought to the matter and went to sleep in my room. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a slight sound. I rushed towards my study, you see I was very nervous, and who should I discover but Arkie with the Beryl Can in his paws and the lid missing. Of course the police arrested him immediately. That is my case."
"Has your son been searched?"
"Oh yes. The whole house was turned upside down but they didn't find it."
"Dr. Catson and I would like very much to see the scene of the crime."
We hitched a ride on several hansoms going in the right direction but we still had to walk a little bit to arrive at Fairbank, Mr. Tiddles' house. Holmes left us standing at the entrance while he examined the surroundings. So long was he that Mr. Tiddles and I entered into the dining room. We were sitting there when a young lady came in. She was slim, dark-eyed with short lilac fur. She was evidently much worried because her eyes, large as they, seemed to be even bigger because of her deathly expression.
"You've told the police to let him go?" She asked, totally ignoring me.
"No, no. The matter must be probed to the bottom."
"But I know that he is innocent." Turning to me she added. "This must be the gentleman from London who came to investigate."
"No I am his friend, Dr. Catson. The gentleman you are seeking is Mr. Furlock Holmes. He is outside." I explained.
"This is him I believe."
It was indeed Holmes.
"Miss Mary Tiddles I would like to ask you some questions." He said.
"Oh sir, I know that Arkie is innocent." She cried.
"I am much of the same opinion. Did you check all the windows and doors?"
"Yes most of them were fastened by the supporting staff and the ones that weren't, I locked myself."
"One of the maids, Lucy Parr by name, has a sweetheart, whom she went out to see that night, didn't she?"
"You saw the cat in question?"
"Who was he?"
"He lives with the green grocer. His name Frankie."
"Thank you, that's enough. I would like to see the Can now."
Mr. Tiddles led us upstairs and showed us a steel box with a latch, using his claw he hooked the latch in a peculiar fashion and lifted the lid. Capsizing the box he rolled out the Beryl Can. There was a gaping whole instead of the lid.
"Your son did not do this." Said Holmes.
"How do you know?" Mr. Tiddles was as surprised as me.
"Elementary, it takes two strong cats to open an ordinary can. The Beryl Can isn't much different, despite the fact that it is made of gold -- a soft metal, therefore Arkie couldn't have done it since he definitely didn't have any ally inside the house. Also, it's illogical that Arkie would break off a piece of can, go outside the house to hide it and return, risking getting caught."
Then Holmes proceeded to go outside again and returned several hours later.
"Come, my dear Catson, let's head home." He told me.
"What about the gems?" Cried Mr. Tiddles.
"Come to Baker Street at this time tomorrow and I shall have them."
"What?!" Exclaimed Mr. Tiddles and I in unison.
"Trust me." Said Holmes with a smile.
When we returned to Baker Street, Holmes went into his room for a quarter of an hour, returning briefly to gulp down a hasty early dinner and then departing. He returned some time during the night, immensely satisfied.
Mr. Tiddles arrived at the due time. He looked worn and tired.
"Mary has deserted me! She left this message:
I have caused you much pain and grief. I will leave. Don't worry about my future I am well provided for.
"Excellent, that's the answer!" Cried Holmes.
"Mary stole the Beryl Can: Brunwell, really Fluffy the famous forger, turned her head like he did to so many girls before her. She told him about the Beryl Can and gave it to him but his flight was hindered by Arkie who saw him out of the window, by mistake they broke the can and voila. That also explains why Arkie refused to talk, he didn't want to betray Mary."
"And the gems?" Exclaimed Mr. Tiddles.
"Right here, I went to get them from Brunwell yesterday." And Holmes uncovered a gold disc inlaid with Beryls.
"By God! You found them!" Mr. Tiddles clutched them to his chest so tightly that I thought he would cut himself.
"You owe something." Said Holmes.
"Anything! How much do you want?" Mr. Tiddles was as happy today as he was sad yesterday.
"You didn't understand me: you owe a most humble apology to your son who acted as I would want my son to act on such an occasion."
*A feline house mark is made by urinating on the desired spot. The smell gives a cat all kinds of information.
**Cats don't bother much with ceremony.