[Editor: This tongue-in-cheek short story was published in “The Moving Picture Show” section of The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 17 September 1921.]
“Manly Council was indignant at a suggestion read into the remarks of the Chief Harbor Trust Commissioner that Manly was only a pleasure resort. A motion of protest was carried, and the suggestion made by Alderman Keirle that the Commissioner should be invited to travel on the 8.10 boat any morning.” — Report of Council meeting.
Determining to ascertain once and for all by the Keirle method whether or no Manly was a pleasure resort Persnurlock Holmes approached the gang-plank of the 8.10 boat. Elbowing his way through the dense, struggling crowd, he planted one foot firmly on the edge of the plank. Slowly but surely, with the grim determination that helped him bring Sal Volatile, the baby-farmer of Zetland, to the gallows in 1873, the Sleuth fought his way on to the packed boat. By this time he had lost his new hat and most of his temper.
Although the passengers seemed to be sitting practically on top of one another, his lynx eye spied a vacant place. He hastened towards it.
“This seat is engaged,” remarked a voice, coldly. The Sleuth arose and walked to the bulwarks, against which he leant. Youths pressed heavily on him from all sides, smoking vigorously. Tobacco ash blew on to his clothes in an almost constant stream. Wearily he shifted from one foot to the other and tried to open his morning paper, but it was immediately blown far out to sea.
After what seemed to him an eternity the boat reached the Quay. When it was about 200 yards off, most of the younger male passengers began to leap from the boat to the wharf, several dropping into the water in the process. The moment the vessel touched the wharf there was a concerted, mad rush for the gang-plank. The wretched detective was borne along on the crest of it, shedding his garments one by one. A hatpin pierced his cheek. A parasol knocked his glasses off. People executed clever pas-de-souls on his feet.
At last he found himself outside the turnstile, dazed and breathless. Slowly he took his tablets from his pocket, and opposite an entry — “Ascertain by 8.10 boat method if Manly is a pleasure resort” — he wrote:— “The Manly people take their pleasures sadly.”
The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 17 September 1921, p. 4 (Final Sporting edition)
baby-farmer = (also spelt “baby farmer”) someone who runs a “baby farm” (a place that houses and cares for babies and infants for a fee, although the usage of the term included the connotation that the care and conditions are sub-standard); someone who takes babies into private foster care in exchange for payment (the practice was especially used for off-loading the illegitimate babies of single mothers)
pas-de-seul = a French phrase, meaning “step of a sole (person)” or “step of one’s own”; commonly rendered as “pas seul” (meaning “solo step”), in the context of ballet, a reference to a solo dance, or a dance sequence performed solo (i.e. by one person)
Persnurlock Holmes = a fictional character, created with reference to the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes