Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his creation of Sherlock Holmes, it is not surprising that some of his tales of horror deal with clever crimes. In The New Catacomb, the murderer leads his victim into a labyrinth and leaves him there. When his body is found, everyone assumes that he wandered in by himself and could not find his way out. In The Case of Lady Sannox, a husband tricks his wife’s paramour into mutilating her.
In my judgment, the crime committed in The Brazilian Cat differs from the foregoing in several respects. While the two victims mentioned above were not exactly innocent, Everard King tried to murder a man who had not harmed him in any way. Moreover, Everard’s crime was not very clever. In fact, he bungled it.
Marshall King was the prospective victim. Though he was the nephew and heir of Lord Southerton, he was deeply in debt and facing bankruptcy. His miserly uncle ignored his desperate situation.
As the day of his economic doom approached, he received an invitation from his cousin Everard King. Everard had spent time in Brazil and managed to enrich himself. Everard had ignored Marshall since his return to England; but because of this invitation, Marshall began to hope that Everard might help him financially.
So Marshall journeyed from his home in London to Everard’s home in Clipton-on-the-Marsh in Suffolk. He was cordially received by Everard, but the wife of Everard, a Brazilian lady, seemed to be hostile. She did everything that she could to make him feel unwelcome. This made Marshall feel uncomfortable; but his desperate situation induced him to stay for several days.
In reality, the wife of Everard was trying to help her guest. She either knew or at least suspected that her husband wanted to kill Marshall. She was trying to get rid of him because she wanted to save his life.
Everard liked Brazilian fauna. He had brought Brazilian birds, beasts, and reptiles along with him when he came to England. His prize was a Brazilian cat, which some Brazilians called a black puma. It was kept in a special room in which it could roam freely. At night, it slept in a cage which was located in the room. The cage could be opened and closed by a device in the corridor outside the room.
Everard could freely associate with the Brazilian cat without suffering harm, but no one else could safely enter the room unless the Brazilian cat was in its cage. Everard warned Marshall that it was ferocious, and would become exceedingly vicious if it ever tasted human blood.
On the sixth day of his visit, Marshall finally discussed his financial situation with his cousin. Everard agreed to help him.
It was one o’clock at night when they finished their discussion. Everard then said that he wanted to see his cat before going to bed. Marshall accompanied him.
When Marshall was inside the cat’s special room, Everard closed the door and locked him inside. Then he opened the cage of the Brazilian cat from the corridor. Marshall seemed to be doomed.
Fortunately, the cat was not hungry. Marshall managed to climb on top of the cage, where he spent the night in relative safety.
In the morning, the cat was hungry. It tried to leap on top of the cage but miscalculated, and had to return to the floor of the room.
Marshall knew that the cat would not miscalculate a second time. He decided that he would be safer if he were inside the cage. He threw his dress-coat over the head of the Brazilian cat. Then he jumped down from the cage, pulled the front of the cage to its proper place, and got into the cage. Unfortunately, the cat managed to remove Marshall’s dress-coat from its head and tear off one of Marshall’s calves before he got inside.
Once inside the cage, Marshall suffered a sort of trauma and became incapable of further movement. When Everard came, he was surprised to see Marshall motionless inside the cage, while the cat was trying to get in. He entered the room to see whether or not Marshall was dead.
To his surprise, the cat turned on him. It had tasted Marshall’s blood when it tore off his calf, so it became vicious. Everard was dead by the time the servants came to the room. They had to shoot the cat to get Marshall out of the room.
Everard’s wife returned to Brazil and became a nun. Before leaving, she explained to Marshall the reason for her apparent hostility.
It took a long time before Marshall recovered from his wound. When the doctor considered him fit to do business, he learned that he was now Lord Southerton. His uncle had died on the very day that Everard had tried to kill him.
His lawyer, who brought him this good news, was suspicious. Everard would have inherited the late Lord Southerton’s title and wealth if the cat had killed Marshall instead of its master. The lawyer’s suspicions were enhanced by the fact that Everard had been paying one of the late Lord Southerton’s servants to keep him informed on his master’s health. This servant had sent Everard several telegrams on the day that the elderly gentleman died.
Marshall wisely refused to comment on his lawyer’s suspicions. He did not want his family to suffer the disgrace of a public scandal.
To write these notes, I consulted a version of The Brazilian Cat presented online by Project Gutenberg.