When Marie Lloyd, the so called “Queen of the Music Hall”, unexpectedly showed up at 221B, Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes already knew what was the case that she was going to place in his hands. The “Thames” of the previous day had echoed the news under the title “The floating singer.” So the first thing Holmes did when Mrs. Hudson announced her visit, was to close the windows to prevent Mrs Lloyd from floating out of the apartment. However, Mrs Lloyd’s account of the facts showed us that it had been an unnecessary precaution. Mrs Lloyd’s spontaneous buoyancy was limited to the “Canterbury Music Hall” located in Lambeth and only while she was on stage.
It had all started three days before, when during her performance she began to float aimlessly in the air. She did not want to interrupt her performance but, upon completion, she complained angrily to Mr Villiers, Canterbury Hall’s manager, claiming that she had a reputation as a singer and could not afford to squander it having the audience cracking up at her expense.
That very night Holmes and I went to the “Canterbury”. The place was full to overflowing and the public anxiously await for the curtain to go up. When finally Mrs Lloyd went on stage, Holmes and I watched in amazement how, as soon as she started singing her greatest hit “The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery”, our client floated across the stage aimlessly. We also noticed with disgust that the manager had sewed a pair of large wings to the singer’s dress.
I was still speechless when I felt that Holmes was pulling me to force me to follow him into the backstage area. After a thorough search of the theater’s backstage, a trunk traversed on the side of the stage attracted much attention from my friend. The trunk lid remained semi-open, which immediately made Holmes suspect that there was something phony about the whole thing. Out of a sudden impulse, Holmes closed the trunk with a swipe and, to our amazement, at that very moment Mrs. Lloyd stopped floating and collapsed on the stage from a considerable height, a fall that caused her to break one leg and to turn her ballad into a frightful yelling of pain. Then we heard Mr Villiers rebuking us for having closed the trunk. He hurried up to open it wide and, as if it were a jack-in-the-box, a guy emerged from within as impelled by a spring. But this guy was not a clown or a jester as in the children’s toy but a fakir, an skeletal fakir of olive-green skin who was naked except for a diaper and a turban. The manager took advantage of our shock to give Holmes such a powerful push that placed him right in the centre of the stage. Uttering horrifying screams of pain, Mrs Lloyd was been evacuated on a stretche while the audience began to lose patience. It was a compromised situation for Holmes. But my friend was a resourceful man, so he began to sing the ballad Mrs Lloyd had left unfinished, “The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery”, with such emotion that the audience began to return to their seats.
While Holmes sang, he began to float across the stage, and then I was able to unravel the mystery that underlied that buoyancy phenomenon. Beside me, the trunk was half-open again and through the slit the red eyes of the fakir were concentrated on my friend. So that was it! The hypnotic glance of the fakir was what caused the buoyancy of the artist on stage. Knowing what I knew at that point, I kept myself from slamming the lid like Holmes had done, ignorant as he was of what was happening inside the trunk. In this way, my friend was able to complete his performance without suffering any damage and with remarkable success judging by the laughter of the audience. So much so that Mr. Villiers offered him a substantial contract to fill the vacant post of Mrs Lloyd while she recovered.
It goes without saying that Holmes declined the offer and, when we left the theater, we immediately went to the nearest police station to denounce the wiles employed by Mr Villiers to massively attract the public to his show.