Click on these links for publication details of editions used for indexing:

short stories | novels | children's stories

This pastiche appeared in the New York Evening World in 1904. As far as I am aware it has not been republished since then.The Fatal Chord was published in twelve daily chapters, the excerpt below is chapter two.


The Fatal Chord,

or the Baffling Mystery of the Carnegie Hall Murder.

By Albert Payson Terhune.

To Be Completed in Twelve Dally Instalments.


Cyril Ballard a young New Yorker, is killed during a musicale at Paul Craddock's apartment in Carnegie Hall. Several apparently supematural events attend his death. Poison tablets also are found in his pocket but the autopsy reveals no trace of poison In the system. As Gresham and Beckwith, two detectives, are discussing the affair they are joined by a tall, thin Englishman whom Beckwith introduces to Gresham as the ideal detective. To which Gresham replies: "Do you mean to tell me this is SHERLOCK HOLMES?"


The Famous Detective.

"SHERLOCK HOLMES?" repeated Gresham Incredulously. "Are you" -

"Am I Sheriock Holmes?" finished the stranger. "That's a question many people have asked. You can answer it to suit yourself. Here are the facts: A great English writer has created the character 'Sherlock Holmes' and imputed to him a certain skill In unravelling knotty criminal cases. Now it may be merely an odd coincidence, but 'Sherlock Holmes's' methods and many of his strangest adventures are the methods which I credit myself with originating and the adventures which I have experienced."

"In other words you are the original from whom he drew Sherlock Holmes," completed Beckwith. "It was in that way Dr. Watts Introduced me to you in London."

"Say," interrupted Gresham, "sizng you up from your pictures and the way you talk, I belleve you're Sherlock Holmes himself and that youre concealing your name to avoid notoriety here."

"Think what you like," replied the other in a tone that made Gresham wonder whether or not this tall, thin man was having a joke at his expense or whether he was in earnest. "I've told you I am supposed by many people to be the original of Sherlock Holmes. It Is also true I came here to rest and to avoid notoriety."

"If you aren't really Sherlock Holmes, then what is your name?" queried Gresham. "I know most of the big English detectives by hearsay. What Is your name, Mr. Englishman?"

"Well," drawled the stranger, with an amused glance at Beckwith, "suppose you keep on calling me The Englishman."

"So be it," agreed Gresham with a rather woeful laugh. "But I suppose your wonderful skiII as a detective is genuine, even if your name isn't, eh?"

"I can vouch for its reality," laughed Beckwith. "I had the honor of meeting The Englishman in London and he let me accompany him on one or two cases. His work made me feel a raw beginner. How furious poor Dr. Watts was because a broken leg laid him up and The Englishman did me the kindness to choose me as his companion on those two expeditions! Then we came over together on thae Cymric and" -

"Are - are the stories written about Sherlock Holmes all true?" asked Gresham, staring at his hero as a newsboy might at Jeffries.

The great detective's brow clouded slightly.

"They are very interesting stories," he replied, "but there is a tendency to look on the romantic, sentimental side of every case and to play that up at the expense of some of the finer details of work. There Is no poetry, no romance in our business, as you know."

Knowing how sore a subject this was to The Englishman, Beckwith hastened to change the topic.

"I'm thirsty," he announced. "Let's all go across the hall to the cafe and I'll proceed to demonstrate to you how infinitely superior a Scotch highball is to a British brandy and soda."

"I must apologize, Sergt. Gresham," said The Engllshman as he sipped reflectively his long, golden drink, "for eavesdropping. I saw Beckwith talking with you and came across to speak to him. I found you were telling a most interesting story, so I sat down to wait until it should be concluded. I read of this Ballard case In The Evening World last night. It is as interesting a case as has come under my observatlon In some time."

"It's the most complicated mystery of the year," assented Gresham warmly.

"Mystery?" mused The Englishman frowning slightly "Is there such a thing on earth as a mystery? Show a baby the alphabet. It is a mystery to him. Yet a little study makes it clear as day. Show an unthinking man some of the facts In a crime and he will declare it a mystery. Yet, invariably, a little study will make it clear. The word 'mystery' has no place in our language."

"Then kindly explain the Ballard case to me," retorted Gresham, somewhat nettled.

"I have not studied it. I qualified my assertion by saying that 'study' would make all mysteries clear. For instance, here is something that might seem mysterious to some people: You left your watch at home this morning. It Is a gold stem-winder, and you wear it on a fob. Not on a chain. Your fellow detectives make fun of you for having a fob instead of a chain. You carry the watch In your left-hand vest pocket instead of In the rlght, like most people. You did not forget it this morning but left it home purposely."

"That's all true," agreed Gresham, grinning in a puzzled fashion, "but how you knew it is a mystery" -

"That same old word 'mystery' again. It is no mystery. Nor, if the truth were known, is this Ballard case."

"Would you mind telling me," asked Gresham, more respectfully, "how you came to all these conclusions about my watch?"

"By cultivating the faculty of observation. That is all. I knew you left your watch at home, because as we came into the cafe you felt for it and it was not there. You felt at the left side of your vest, not the right. Your nand touched the vest just below the centre of the left-hand pocket. That is where one would reach for a hanging fob. The hand goes higher and nearer the centre to catch a chain. That explains what I said of the left pocket and the fob.

"When you found the watch was not there you did not look worrled, as one would who had forgotten to wear his watch and who could not, for the moment think where he had left it. You remembered at once that you had left it off purposely. That it was a gold watch and a stem winder I deduced from the rest of your costume. A man as careful about his dress as you are would have only a flrst-class watch. Your clothes are up to date. Such men do not carry cheap or old-fashioned watches."

"How did you know the other men at Central guy me about the fob though?"

"You ought to know that half the watches reported stolen are really only lost and that they are Iost because they are on a fob and not on a chain that would hold them in case they slipped from the wearer's pocket. This fact made the police avoid wearing fobs, and they usually make fun of any one who is so foolish as to wear one. They would be doubly amused at one of their own companions who took such risks. As you see it is all absurdly simple. And so this Ballard murder will prove as I said, with a little study."

“Study!” groaned Gresham. “Every copper and detective and reporter in New York is spraining his brain to study it out. And we can’t make anythingof it.”

“Perhaps you’ve all been studying with your books held upside down. For instance, what examination - microscopic examination - was made of the floor in that part of the alcove where Herr von Rickerl said he saw a man standing at the time Ballard thrust his way into the alcove? I suppose the floor was hard wood? Yes? And from the curtain being drawn across, few guests would probably go in there, So a boot mark on the waxed floor might have been visible to the microscope. It might have led to the identifying of the one person who was near Ballard when he died. I suppose no such examination was made?”

“None,” said Gresham, “It isn’t the custom here.”

“Nor in England, except in such cases as I undertake. Still, it is in just such tiny details as those and a thousand like them that the key to these alleged ‘mysteries’ is found. Footprints only discernible through a microscope, flakes of tobacco-ash, even the half-invisible mark made by a brushing shoulder or finger-tip, on wall or door. All these are significant to the trained observer. Tell me,” he broke off abruptly, “did you personally examine this alcove?”


“There is no door leading from it into any other room?”

“None. It opens only on the main drawing-room. I even examined the walls of the alcove. They are papered and there is no chance for a secret door in the wall. Besides, it’s in a modern apartment-house where such things would be impossible”

“What furniture is in the alcove?”

“None except the piano”

“You are absolutely certain? No chair, nor even a hassock or a tabouret?”

“Not one stick of furniture except the piano. I’ll take my oath on that. What’s the joke?” - for a smile was relaxing the tense lines about The Englishman’s lips.

“Merely a question of observation. You, a skilled detective stand ready to swear there is not an atom of furniture of any sort, except the piano, in that alcove. Yet what was the pianist supposed to sit on while he played? Was there no piano stool?”

Gresham bit his mustache with vexation.

“I’d forgotten the piano stool,” he said sulkily, “but I can’t see what bearing it has on the case.”

“Most probably It has none at all. I merely mentioned it to show how seldom the police take the trouble to get all the details accurately. A man in your business should be able to photograph on his brain everything he sees at such a time. Now for the people concerned. This man Ballard, was he married or single?”

“Single, rich and stingy,” put In Beckwith. “When I left New York, six months ago, there was some talk of his being engaged to an Italian girl. an artist named Bona Pittani, whom society had taken up. There was no doubt the girl was head over ears in love with him, though what she could see to love in” -

“Oh, that was off some months ago,” interrupted Gresham. “It can have nothing to do with his murder.”

“An Italian girl deeply in love - the man does not marry her – ‘can have nothing to do with his murder.’ Oh, these police!” muttered The Englishman under his breath. Then, aloud:

“Had any one a grudge against him? A motive for his death? You say he was rich and unmarried. Who was his next of kin?"

“His brother, Royce,” answered Beckwith. “Their father was a millionaire. Cyril was his favorite son. Royce was wild, and there were some shady stories afloat about him. He was a ne’er-do-well. Never stuck to anything. Studied medicine - was expelled. Took up law - failed. The father left his fortune to Cyril, leaving Royce just enough keep him going. There was little love lost between the brothers.”

“Studied medicine, eh?”

“Oh,” cried Gresham. “You think it was he who made those tablets? We never thought of that. You think he’s the man?”

“I think nothing, because I know nothing of the circumstances. What was it you said to Beckwith a while ago about the folly of jumping at conclusions? But, if I might offer a suggestion, look up this Italian girl’s career since she broke with Cyril Ballard, and also try to find the extent of Royce Ballard’s knowledge of medicine - especially of chemistry The host - Craddock, I think you said his name was - what sort of man is he?”

“He’s all right!” responded Beckwith quickly. “Paul Craddock’s one of the whitest men alive. He’s an odd chap, one of the stern, quiet, masterful sort, with a tremendous lot of force and personal magnetism. But when you get to knowing him you see what a brick he is. He’s one of the few Bohemians left in New York. Not the sort that wear long hair, forswear the bathtub, frequent 30-cent table d’hotes, and fail to pay their debts; but an all-around citizen of the world, accomplished at everything and a man who bends society to his will instead of bending to society’s. He’s been everywhere, done everything, and knows everybody. By the way, when I left he was rumored to be engaged to Iris Durand. I wonder if it was true.”

“I guess not,” answered Gresham. “I don’t know people in that walk of life, of course; but I read in one of the society papers just a little while ago that a girl of that name was reported engaged to this piano chap, young Siurd von Rickerl.”

“She’s a lovely girl,” said Beckwith. “I wish them luck. But,” changing the subject, “this Ballard case, Mr Englishman, is just the sort of thing I should have thought would wake you up wide. It may not be a ‘mystery,’ but it surely has points that promise to be of interest. Why not take a fly at it?”

“I came over here for a rest,” objected The Englishman, “I was run down from overwork. Besides, I don’t know your country or your city. In England I am at home. Finding a criminal there is like finding some familiar article in my own room. Here it is all strange to me. I should probably fail. I certainly could not do myself credit. And yet” -

He paused.

“It’s a grand chance,” urged Beckwith. “It’s the greatest case of the year. You will get a grand chance to study our police methods, to see New York and to meet a lot of pleasant people. Think it over.”

“No need to think it over!” sighed The Englishman regretfully. “I came here for rest but the moment I read of that case last night in The Evening World, I felt the old fever of the manhunt rushing back on me and I knew there was no use trying to shake it off. I say there’s ‘no need to think it over,’ for it’s all thought over. I shall take up the case.”

Gresham and Beckwith thrust out congratulatory hands.

“It’ll be an honor to work with you,” exclaimed the former.

“It is I who am working with you, not you with me,” corrected The Englishman. “Remember, though, in introducing me, that I am Dr. Joseph Watts, not the man you believe to be the original of Sherlock Holmes. And first of all let us go to Craddock’s rooms. It may not even now be too late to pick up some clue there.”

(To Be Continued.)

The Evening World, 5 April 1904



found at