HOW IS THAT?
We don't so much mind Fitz Smythe's novel and irreverent familiarity -- not to say novel and atrocious grammar -- in speaking of "a skeleton with a black silk handkerchief around his neck" -- we don't mind these queer little infelicities of composition which must of necessity frequently occur in the hurry of writing up a daily newspaper, but we do protest against "the fact of the handkerchief being around the neck, while there was no other clothing," being received as conclusive and damning evidence that deceased was "murdered!" Oh, this won't do, you know. This is the wildest blast of inspiration that has yet swept through the teeming brain of the great theorizer who traces all mysterious crimes back, step by step, to the bloody unknown goblin who gobbled up the unoffending Doe family in an obscure house up a dark alley at dead of night three years ago. Why is a black silk handkerchief around the throat of a comfortably clad skeleton a matter of no significance -- and yet why, after all the other clothing has rotted away, does that same black silk handkerchief minutely proclaim that a terrible murder has been done? What is there so suspicious about a black silk handkerchief when it was unaccompanied by other clothing? How would it have been if the skeleton had worn one of Ward's shirts and no necktie at all? Fitz Smythe, you are wool-gathering. You are always haunted by some dark and dreadful theory or other. Fitz Smythe, you murdered that man and buried him in the sand, you know you did, and now you are just fixing yourself up to lay it all on your goblin with one of your fine theories.
[published in Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 2, 1864-1865,
University of California Press, 1981, p. 509.]
Return to Chronicle index