In *The Five Orange Pips* John Openshaw had already told Sherlock Holmes the details of the mysterious death of his uncle, Elias Openahaw. Elias was found face downwards in two feet of water in a little green-scummed pool. That death was ruled -- suicide. Now, John Openshaw was putting before Holmes the details of the death of his own father, Joseph Openshaw. Joseph was found lying senseless with a shattered skull in a chalk-pit. That was ruled -- death from accidental causes.
Sherlock Holmes admonished young Openshaw: “Tut! tut! You must act, man, or you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you. This is no time for despair.”
Openshaw advised Holmes: “I have seen the police…..But they listened to my story with a smile. I am convinced that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters [warnings from KKK] are all practical jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were really accidents …and were not to be connected with the warnings.”
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air. “Incredible imbecility!” he cried.
“‘Incredible Imbecility’--- ‘Incredible Imbecility’” I said to Mrs. Baynes. “What a marvellous expression! What an excellent combination of words and of concepts. It is a delight to the ear and a titivation of the mind. It is the ultimate in perspicuity. I’ll bet that Peter Blau is pleased that Holmes came up with that one.”
Then, I continued, “You know, Mrs. Baynes, I wish that I had said that.”
“ I’m sure you will, Inspector. No doubt about it; I’m sure you will,” she said as she left the room.
(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)