By Philip Shreffler


“My collection of ‘S’s’ is a fine one,” remarked Sherlock Holmes. “Here is Col. Lysander Stark of evil memory, and Kenneth Starr, the worst man in Washington. But you asked about the fate of Dr Leon Sterndale, and here he is — his work, the other half of it in Africa, neatly docketed.

“Sterndale, Leon. Poisoner employing radix pedis diaboli. Removed to Central Africa, 1897. Heartbroken over the demise of his true love, took a native African wife, 1898. Two daughters: Calpurnia (b. 1899) and Calamari (b. 1900), eventually grew into Siamese twins. Sterndale’s wife, Sylvia Plath-Katauga, virtually doomed their marriage owing to her


frequent self-destructive behaviour, including, but not limited to, strolling into clearly marked “Hostile Hippo Zones,” eating ground glass, and attempting to levitate herself above beds of hot coals when she knew this to be impossible. To end the union, Sterndale fled into the jungle, taking with him only some peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in a bandanna.


“He soon rebuilt his fortune and ruined life by supplying black-faced langur serum to the importers Lowenstein, Lowenstein & Mangles, of Prague. Flushed with success, Sterndale determined to discover the source of the Nile, despite the fact that this had been done thirty years earlier. Rejecting both Richard Francis Burton’s identification of Lake Tanganyika as the source and John Hanning Speke’s correct nomination of Lake Victoria’s Falls, Sterndale opted for a location roughly proximal to Teaneck, New Jersey. His theory was never seriously entertained.


“Still in funds, Sterndale then pooled his remaining cash with a Lascar or a Sikh or something named Jarawaral O’Brien and the two entered into a wildcat scheme to undertake aluminum foil mining — but the venture failed since aluminum foil hadn’t been invented yet. Now destitute, the adventurer-explorer fell into black moods, often drinking himself into a stupor on distilled aloe juice and carrying on animated conversations in German with King George III.

(Right: Dr Leon Sterndale confronts Mr Holmes in a threatening manner in “The Devil’s Foot.”