The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

I HAD CALLED upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose of examination.

“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt you.”

“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one”—he jerked his thumb in the direction of the old hat—“but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”

I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice crystals. “I suppose,” I remarked, “that, homely as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked on to it—that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of some mystery and the punishment of some crime.”

“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal. We have already had experience of such.”

“So much so,” I remarked, “that of the last six cases which I have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any legal crime.”

“Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene Adler papers, to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and to the adventure of the man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt that this small matter will fall into the same innocent category. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?”


“It is to him that this trophy belongs.”

“It is his hat.”

“No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson's fire. The facts are these: about four o'clock on Christmas morning, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest fellow, was returning from some small jollification and was making his way homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw, in the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and carrying a white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between this stranger and a little knot of roughs. One of the latter knocked off the man's hat, on which he raised his stick to defend himself and, swinging it over his head, smashed the shop window behind him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger from his assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window, and seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards him, dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham Court Road. The roughs had also fled at the appearance of Peterson, so that he was left in possession of the field of battle, and also of the spoils of victory in the shape of this battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.”

“Which surely he restored to their owner?”

“My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is true that ‘For Mrs. Henry Baker’ was printed upon a small card which was tied to the bird's left leg, and it is also true that the initials ‘H. B.’ are legible upon the lining of this hat, but as there are some thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of Henry Bakers in this city of ours, it is not easy to restore lost property to any one of them.”

“What, then, did Peterson do?”

“He brought round both hat and goose to me on Christmas morning, knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me. The goose we retained until this morning, when there were signs that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well that it should be eaten without unnecessary delay. Its finder has carried it off, therefore, to fulfil the ultimate destiny of a goose, while I continue to retain the hat of the unknown gentleman who lost his Christmas dinner.”

“Did he not advertise?”


“Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?”

“Only as much as we can deduce.”

“From his hat?”


“But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered felt?”

“Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this article?”

I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal discoloured. There was no maker's name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discoloured patches by smearing them with ink.

“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to my friend.

“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.”

“Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?”

He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion which was characteristic of him. “It is perhaps less suggestive than it might have been,” he remarked, “and yet there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him.”

“My dear Holmes!”

“He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house.”

“You are certainly joking, Holmes.”

“Not in the least. Is it possible that even now, when I give you these results, you are unable to see how they are attained?”

“I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was intellectual?”

For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have something in it.”

“The decline of his fortunes, then?”

“This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world.”

“Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the foresight and the moral retrogression?”

Sherlock Holmes laughed. “Here is the foresight,” said he putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the felt by daubing them with ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely lost his self-respect.”

“Your reasoning is certainly plausible.”

“The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses lime-cream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of lime-cream. This dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, grey dust of the street but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been hung up indoors most of the time, while the marks of moisture upon the inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very freely, and could therefore, hardly be in the best of training.”

“But his wife—you said that she had ceased to love him.”

“This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you, my dear Watson, with a week's accumulation of dust upon your hat, and when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose your wife's affection.”

“But he might be a bachelor.”

“Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a peace-offering to his wife. Remember the card upon the bird's leg.”

“You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you deduce that the gas is not laid on in his house?”

“One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but when I see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with burning tallow—walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never got tallow-stains from a gas-jet. Are you satisfied?”

“Well, it is very ingenious,” said I, laughing; “but since, as you said just now, there has been no crime committed, and no harm done save the loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a waste of energy.”

Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the door flew open, and Peterson, the commissionaire, rushed into the apartment with flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is dazed with astonishment.

“The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!” he gasped.

“Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through the kitchen window?” Holmes twisted himself round upon the sofa to get a fairer view of the man's excited face.

“See here, sir! See what my wife found in its crop!” He held out his hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a brilliantly scintillating blue stone, rather smaller than a bean in size, but of such purity and radiance that it twinkled like an electric point in the dark hollow of his hand.

Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. “By Jove, Peterson!” said he, “this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what you have got?”

“A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as though it were putty.”

“It's more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone.”

“Not the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle!” I ejaculated.

“Precisely so. I ought to know its size and shape, seeing that I have read the advertisement about it in The Times every day lately. It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjectured, but the reward offered of 1000 pounds is certainly not within a twentieth part of the market price.”

“A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!” The commissionaire plumped down into a chair and stared from one to the other of us.

“That is the reward, and I have reason to know that there are sentimental considerations in the background which would induce the Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but recover the gem.”

“It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan,” I remarked.

“Precisely so, on December 22nd, just five days ago. John Horner, a plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the lady's jewel-case. The evidence against him was so strong that the case has been referred to the Assizes. I have some account of the matter here, I believe.” He rummaged amid his newspapers, glancing over the dates, until at last he smoothed one out, doubled it over, and read the following paragraph:

“Hum! So much for the police-court,” said Holmes thoughtfully, tossing aside the paper. “The question for us now to solve is the sequence of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one end to the crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other. You see, Watson, our little deductions have suddenly assumed a much more important and less innocent aspect. Here is the stone; the stone came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr. Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all the other characteristics with which I have bored you. So now we must set ourselves very seriously to finding this gentleman and ascertaining what part he has played in this little mystery. To do this, we must try the simplest means first, and these lie undoubtedly in an advertisement in all the evening papers. If this fail, I shall have recourse to other methods.”

“What will you say?”

“Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now, then: ‘Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a black felt hat. Mr. Henry Baker can have the same by applying at 6:30 this evening at 221B, Baker Street.’ That is clear and concise.”

“Very. But will he see it?”

“Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a poor man, the loss was a heavy one. He was clearly so scared by his mischance in breaking the window and by the approach of Peterson that he thought of nothing but flight, but since then he must have bitterly regretted the impulse which caused him to drop his bird. Then, again, the introduction of his name will cause him to see it, for everyone who knows him will direct his attention to it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the advertising agency and have this put in the evening papers.”

“In which, sir?”

“Oh, in the Globe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James's, Evening News, Standard, Echo, and any others that occur to you.”

“Very well, sir. And this stone?”

“Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you. And, I say, Peterson, just buy a goose on your way back and leave it here with me, for we must have one to give to this gentleman in place of the one which your family is now devouring.”

When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone and held it against the light. “It's a bonny thing,” said he. “Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil's pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in southern China and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallised charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison? I'll lock it up in my strong box now and drop a line to the Countess to say that we have it.”

“Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?”

“I cannot tell.”

“Well, then, do you imagine that this other one, Henry Baker, had anything to do with the matter?”

“It is, I think, much more likely that Henry Baker is an absolutely innocent man, who had no idea that the bird which he was carrying was of considerably more value than if it were made f solid gold. That, however, I shall determine by a very simple test if we have an answer to our advertisement.”

“And you can do nothing until then?”


“In that case I shall continue my professional round. But I shall come back in the evening at the hour you have mentioned, for I should like to see the solution of so tangled a business.”

“Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe. By the way, in view of recent occurrences, perhaps I ought to ask Mrs. Hudson to examine its crop.”

I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past six when I found myself in Baker Street once more. As I approached the house I saw a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a coat which was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as I arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up together to Holmes' room.

“Mr. Henry Baker, I believe,” said he, rising from his armchair and greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which he could so readily assume. “Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr. Baker. It is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation is more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah, Watson, you have just come at the right time. Is that your hat, Mr. Baker?”

“Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat.”

He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and a broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes' surmise as to his habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had had ill-usage at the hands of fortune.

“We have retained these things for some days,” said Holmes, “because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving your address. I am at a loss to know now why you did not advertise.”

Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. “Shillings have not been so plentiful with me as they once were,” he remarked. “I had no doubt that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had carried off both my hat and the bird. I did not care to spend more money in a hopeless attempt at recovering them.”

“Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were compelled to eat it.”

“To eat it!” Our visitor half rose from his chair in his excitement.

“Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not done so. But I presume that this other goose upon the sideboard, which is about the same weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your purpose equally well?”

“Oh, certainly, certainly,” answered Mr. Baker with a sigh of relief.

“Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and so on of your own bird, so if you wish—”

The man burst into a hearty laugh. “They might be useful to me as relics of my adventure,” said he, “but beyond that I can hardly see what use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are going to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permission, I will confine my attentions to the excellent bird which I perceive upon the sideboard.”

Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

“There is your hat, then, and there your bird,” said he. “By the way, would it bore you to tell me where you got the other one from? I am somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a better grown goose.”

“Certainly, sir,” said Baker, who had risen and tucked his newly gained property under his arm. “There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum—we are to be found in the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This year our good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club, by which, on consideration of some few pence every week, we were each to receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were duly paid, and the rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you, sir, for a Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my gravity.” With a comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and strode off upon his way.

“So much for Mr. Henry Baker,” said Holmes when he had closed the door behind him. “It is quite certain that he knows nothing whatever about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?”

“Not particularly.”

“Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and follow up this clue while it is still hot.”

“By all means.”

It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly in a cloudless sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out crisply and loudly as we swung through the doctors' quarter, Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and so through Wigmore Street into Oxford Street. In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.

“Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese,” said he.

“My geese!” The man seemed surprised.

“Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry Baker, who was a member of your goose club.”

“Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them's not our geese.”

“Indeed! Whose, then?”

“Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden.”

“Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?”

“Breckinridge is his name.”

“Ah! I don't know him. Well, here's your good health landlord, and prosperity to your house. Good-night.”

“Now for Mr. Breckinridge,” he continued, buttoning up his coat as we came out into the frosty air. “Remember, Watson that though we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain, we have at the other a man who will certainly get seven years' penal servitude unless we can establish his innocence. It is possible that our inquiry may but confirm his guilt; but, in any case, we have a line of investigation which has been missed by the police, and which a singular chance has placed in our hands. Let us follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the south, then, and quick march!”

We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through a zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest stalls bore the name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor a horsey-looking man, with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers was helping a boy to put up the shutters.

“Good-evening. It's a cold night,” said Holmes.

The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my companion.

“Sold out of geese, I see,” continued Holmes, pointing at the bare slabs of marble.

“Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning.”

“That's no good.”

“Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare.”

“Ah, but I was recommended to you.”

“Who by?”

“The landlord of the Alpha.”

“Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen.”

“Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them from?”

To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from the salesman.

“Now, then, mister,” said he, with his head cocked and his arms akimbo, “what are you driving at? Let's have it straight, now.”

“It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the geese which you supplied to the Alpha.”

“Well then, I shan't tell you. So now!”

“Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don't know why you should be so warm over such a trifle.”

“Warm! You'd be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered as I am. When I pay good money for a good article there should be an end of the business; but it's ‘Where are the geese?’ and ‘Who did you sell the geese to?’ and ‘What will you take for the geese?’ One would think they were the only geese in the world, to hear the fuss that is made over them.”

“Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been making inquiries,” said Holmes carelessly. “If you won't tell us the bet is off, that is all. But I'm always ready to back my opinion on a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the bird I ate is country bred.”

“Well, then, you've lost your fiver, for it's town bred,” snapped the salesman.

“It's nothing of the kind.”

“I say it is.”

“I don't believe it.”

“D'you think you know more about fowls than I, who have handled them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds that went to the Alpha were town bred.”

“You'll never persuade me to believe that.”

“Will you bet, then?”

“It's merely taking your money, for I know that I am right. But I'll have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be obstinate.”

The salesman chuckled grimly. “Bring me the books, Bill,” said he.

The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great greasy-backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging lamp.

“Now then, Mr. Cocksure,” said the salesman, “I thought that I was out of geese, but before I finish you'll find that there is still one left in my shop. You see this little book?”


“That's the list of the folk from whom I buy. D'you see? Well, then, here on this page are the country folk, and the numbers after their names are where their accounts are in the big ledger. Now, then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that third name. Just read it out to me.”

“Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road—249,” read Holmes.

“Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger.”

Holmes turned to the page indicated. “Here you are, ‘Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier.'”

“Now, then, what's the last entry?”

“‘December 22nd. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.'”

“Quite so. There you are. And underneath?”

“‘Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.'”

“What have you to say now?”

Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sovereign from his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning away with the air of a man whose disgust is too deep for words. A few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was peculiar to him.

“When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the ‘Pink 'un' protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet,” said he. “I daresay that if I had put 100 pounds down in front of him, that man would not have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the idea that he was doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy, nearing the end of our quest, and the only point which remains to be determined is whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is clear from what that surly fellow said that there are others besides ourselves who are anxious about the matter, and I should—”

His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which broke out from the stall which we had just left. Turning round we saw a little rat-faced fellow standing in the centre of the circle of yellow light which was thrown by the swinging lamp, while Breckinridge, the salesman, framed in the door of his stall, was shaking his fists fiercely at the cringing figure.

“I've had enough of you and your geese,” he shouted. “I wish you were all at the devil together. If you come pestering me any more with your silly talk I'll set the dog at you. You bring Mrs. Oakshott here and I'll answer her, but what have you to do with it? Did I buy the geese off you?”

“No; but one of them was mine all the same,” whined the little man.

“Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it.”

“She told me to ask you.”

“Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all I care. I've had enough of it. Get out of this!” He rushed fiercely forward, and the inquirer flitted away into the darkness.

“Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road,” whispered Holmes. “Come with me, and we will see what is to be made of this fellow.” Striding through the scattered knots of people who lounged round the flaring stalls, my companion speedily overtook the little man and touched him upon the shoulder. He sprang round, and I could see in the gas-light that every vestige of colour had been driven from his face.

“Who are you, then? What do you want?” he asked in a quavering voice.

“You will excuse me,” said Holmes blandly, “but I could not help overhearing the questions which you put to the salesman just now. I think that I could be of assistance to you.”

“You? Who are you? How could you know anything of the matter?”

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know.”

“But you can know nothing of this?”

“Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are endeavouring to trace some geese which were sold by Mrs. Oakshott, of Brixton Road, to a salesman named Breckinridge, by him in turn to Mr. Windigate, of the Alpha, and by him to his club, of which Mr. Henry Baker is a member.”

“Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have longed to meet,” cried the little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering fingers. “I can hardly explain to you how interested I am in this matter.”

Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which was passing. “In that case we had better discuss it in a cosy room rather than in this wind-swept market-place,” said he. “But pray tell me, before we go farther, who it is that I have the pleasure of assisting.”

The man hesitated for an instant. “My name is John Robinson,” he answered with a sidelong glance.

“No, no; the real name,” said Holmes sweetly. “It is always awkward doing business with an alias.”

A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the stranger. “Well then,” said he, “my real name is James Ryder.”

“Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray step into the cab, and I shall soon be able to tell you everything which you would wish to know.”

The little man stood glancing from one to the other of us with half-frightened, half-hopeful eyes, as one who is not sure whether he is on the verge of a windfall or of a catastrophe. Then he stepped into the cab, and in half an hour we were back in the sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing had been said during our drive, but the high, thin breathing of our new companion, and the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the nervous tension within him.

“Here we are!” said Holmes cheerily as we filed into the room. “The fire looks very seasonable in this weather. You look cold, Mr. Ryder. Pray take the basket-chair. I will just put on my slippers before we settle this little matter of yours. Now, then! You want to know what became of those geese?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird, I imagine in which you were interested—white, with a black bar across the tail.”

Ryder quivered with emotion. “Oh, sir,” he cried, “can you tell me where it went to?”

“It came here.”


“Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I don't wonder that you should take an interest in it. It laid an egg after it was dead—the bonniest, brightest little blue egg that ever was seen. I have it here in my museum.”

Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched the mantelpiece with his right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up the blue carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold, brilliant, many-pointed radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a drawn face, uncertain whether to claim or to disown it.

“The game's up, Ryder,” said Holmes quietly. “Hold up, man, or you'll be into the fire! Give him an arm back into his chair, Watson. He's not got blood enough to go in for felony with impunity. Give him a dash of brandy. So! Now he looks a little more human. What a shrimp it is, to be sure!”

For a moment he had staggered and nearly fallen, but the brandy brought a tinge of colour into his cheeks, and he sat staring with frightened eyes at his accuser.

“I have almost every link in my hands, and all the proofs which I could possibly need, so there is little which you need tell me. Still, that little may as well be cleared up to make the case complete. You had heard, Ryder, of this blue stone of the Countess of Morcar's?”

“It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it,” said he in a crackling voice.

“I see—her ladyship's waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of sudden wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has been for better men before you; but you were not very scrupulous in the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the making of a very pretty villain in you. You knew that this man Horner, the plumber, had been concerned in some such matter before, and that suspicion would rest the more readily upon him. What did you do, then? You made some small job in my lady's room—you and your confederate Cusack—and you managed that he should be the man sent for. Then, when he had left, you rifled the jewel-case, raised the alarm, and had this unfortunate man arrested. You then—”

Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched at my companion's knees. “For God's sake, have mercy!” he shrieked. “Think of my father! Of my mother! It would break their hearts. I never went wrong before! I never will again. I swear it. I'll swear it on a Bible. Oh, don't bring it into court! For Christ's sake, don't!”

“Get back into your chair!” said Holmes sternly. “It is very well to cringe and crawl now, but you thought little enough of this poor Horner in the dock for a crime of which he knew nothing.”

“I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir. Then the charge against him will break down.”

“Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us hear a true account of the next act. How came the stone into the goose, and how came the goose into the open market? Tell us the truth, for there lies your only hope of safety.”

Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips. “I will tell you it just as it happened, sir,” said he. “When Horner had been arrested, it seemed to me that it would be best for me to get away with the stone at once, for I did not know at what moment the police might not take it into their heads to search me and my room. There was no place about the hotel where it would be safe. I went out, as if on some commission, and I made for my sister's house. She had married a man named Oakshott, and lived in Brixton Road, where she fattened fowls for the market. All the way there every man I met seemed to me to be a policeman or a detective; and, for all that it was a cold night, the sweat was pouring down my face before I came to the Brixton Road. My sister asked me what was the matter, and why I was so pale; but I told her that I had been upset by the jewel robbery at the hotel. Then I went into the back yard and smoked a pipe and wondered what it would be best to do.

“I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went to the bad, and has just been serving his time in Pentonville. One day he had met me, and fell into talk about the ways of thieves, and how they could get rid of what they stole. I knew that he would be true to me, for I knew one or two things about him; so I made up my mind to go right on to Kilburn, where he lived, and take him into my confidence. He would show me how to turn the stone into money. But how to get to him in safety? I thought of the agonies I had gone through in coming from the hotel. I might at any moment be seized and searched, and there would be the stone in my waistcoat pocket. I was leaning against the wall at the time and looking at the geese which were waddling about round my feet, and suddenly an idea came into my head which showed me how I could beat the best detective that ever lived.

“My sister had told me some weeks before that I might have the pick of her geese for a Christmas present, and I knew that she was always as good as her word. I would take my goose now, and in it I would carry my stone to Kilburn. There was a little shed in the yard, and behind this I drove one of the birds—a fine big one, white, with a barred tail. I caught it, and prying its bill open, I thrust the stone down its throat as far as my finger could reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone pass along its gullet and down into its crop. But the creature flapped and struggled, and out came my sister to know what was the matter. As I turned to speak to her the brute broke loose and fluttered off among the others.

“‘Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?’ says she.”

“‘Well,’ said I, ‘you said you'd give me one for Christmas, and I was feeling which was the fattest.’ ”

“‘Oh,’ says she, ‘we've set yours aside for you—Jem's bird, we call it. It's the big white one over yonder. There's twenty-six of them, which makes one for you, and one for us, and two dozen for the market.’ ”

“‘Thank you, Maggie,’ says I; ‘but if it is all the same to you, I'd rather have that one I was handling just now.’ ”

“‘The other is a good three pound heavier,’ said she, ‘and we fattened it expressly for you.’ ”

“‘Never mind. I'll have the other, and I'll take it now,’ said I.”

“‘Oh, just as you like,’ said she, a little huffed. ‘Which is it you want, then?’ ”

“‘That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of the flock.’ ”

“‘Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.’ ”

“Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I carried the bird all the way to Kilburn. I told my pal what I had done, for he was a man that it was easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed until he choked, and we got a knife and opened the goose. My heart turned to water, for there was no sign of the stone, and I knew that some terrible mistake had occurred. I left the bird, rushed back to my sister's, and hurried into the back yard. There was not a bird to be seen there.

“‘Where are they all, Maggie?’ I cried.”

“‘Gone to the dealer's, Jem.’ ”

“‘Which dealer's?’ ”

“‘Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.’ ”

“‘But was there another with a barred tail?’ I asked, ‘the same as the one I chose?’ ”

“‘Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones, and I could never tell them apart.’ ”

“Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off as hard as my feet would carry me to this man Breckinridge; but he had sold the lot at once, and not one word would he tell me as to where they had gone. You heard him yourselves to-night. Well, he has always answered me like that. My sister thinks that I am going mad. Sometimes I think that I am myself. And now—and now I am myself a branded thief, without ever having touched the wealth for which I sold my character. God help me! God help me!” He burst into convulsive sobbing, with his face buried in his hands.

There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing and by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes' finger-tips upon the edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.

“Get out!” said he.

“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”

“No more words. Get out!”

And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the street.

“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his clay pipe, “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing; but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaol-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which, also a bird will be the chief feature.”

– January 1892

‘“Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John Horner, 26, plumber, was brought up upon the charge of having upon the 22nd inst., abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess of Morcar the valuable gem known as the blue carbuncle. James Ryder, upper-attendant at the hotel, gave his evidence to the effect that he had shown Horner up to the dressing-room of the Countess of Morcar upon the day of the robbery in order that he might solder the second bar of the grate, which was loose. He had remained with Horner some little time, but had finally been called away. On returning, he found that Horner had disappeared, that the bureau had been forced open, and that the small morocco casket in which, as it afterwards transpired, the Countess was accustomed to keep her jewel, was lying empty upon the dressing-table. Ryder instantly gave the alarm, and Horner was arrested the same evening; but the stone could not be found either upon his person or in his rooms. Catherine Cusack, maid to the Countess, deposed to having heard Ryder's cry of dismay on discovering the robbery, and to having rushed into the room, where she found matters as described by the last witness. Inspector Bradstreet, B division, gave evidence as to the arrest of Horner, who struggled frantically, and protested his innocence in the strongest terms. Evidence of a previous conviction for robbery having been given against the prisoner, the magistrate refused to deal summarily with the offence, but referred it to the Assizes. Horner, who had shown signs of intense emotion during the proceedings, fainted away at the conclusion and was carried out of court.”


  1. In Hamlet, Shakespeare says, through his character Polonius, that "the apparel oft proclaims the man." This is a truth we are all aware of, because we all tend to judge others, at least superficially, by their "apparel," which could include such things as haircuts, tattoos, jewelry, and items they carry. There is probably no other place in literature where a person's apparel is given such an exhaustive inspection and interpretation as in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle." Another Sherlock Holmes story in which a character's apparel is thoroughly scrutinized is "The League of Red-Headed Men."

    In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," Holmes has nothing to examine but the black hat which a man named Henry Baker left behind when he fled the scene of an altercation with some street hoodlums. These are Holmes' deductions from his examination of the old hat:

    "That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him.”

    “He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect,” he continued, disregarding my remonstrance. “He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat. Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas laid on in his house.”

    When Henry Baker arrives at Baker Street to reclaim his hat and his lost goose, he turns out to be exactly as Holmes has described him. The fact that he has taken to drink has led him to become a regular at the Alpha Inn. Because he is a regular he was invited to join the goose club. The missing blue carbuncle happened to have been hidden in the goose he was carrying home when he was attacked by the hoodlums.

    This opening part of the story should make us realize how much of ourselves we are advertising to the world at large by our "apparel." Just as we are judging others, both consciously and unconsciously, by their apparel, so too are they judging us. What are we proclaiming about ourselves?

    — William Delaney
  2. This corresponds to the entries in Breckinridge's ledgers. He paid her seven shillings and sixpence for each of the twenty-four geese and sold them to Windigate at the Alpha Inn for twelve shillings apiece. Henry Baker was apparently paying three pence a week into the goose club, so he would have had a credit of approximately 150 pence or just a little over 12 shillings, since in those days there were 12 pence to a shilling (3 X 50 = 150). The landlord probably did not expect to make a profit on the geese but was just using the club as a way of attracting customers and keeping them coming back.

    — William Delaney
  3. Holmes feels very strongly about this matter. In many of the Sherlock Holmes tales the great detective is motivated by the desire to aid an innocent man in serious danger of being imprisoned or disgraced. This not only helps to humanize the seemingly cold, cerebral detective but it also makes his involvement in non-paying cases more plausible. Edgar Allan Poe initiated this now standard convention of detective stories with "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." In that story C. Auguste Dupin wants to help a bank clerk named Le Bon who has been mistakenly accused of murdering the two women for their money. Dupin tells his friend the narrator:

    "Le Bon once rendered me a service for which I am not ungrateful."

    Motivation is of the utmost importance in any story. The protagonist's motivation drives the story to its conclusion. Holmes, of course, is the protagonist in most of the Sherlock Holmes stories--although Professor Moriarty may be considered the protagonist in one or two, such as "The Final Problem."

    — William Delaney
  4. Henry Baker is a good example of how a skillful fiction writer creates a character to fit the needs of his plot. Baker is only a minor character, but he plays an important role in the story because he is the one who lost the goose that was brought to Sherlock Holmes by Peterson the commissionaire. (A commissionaire is not a policeman but more like a night watchman.) Baker is described as a large man. Only a large man would try to defend himself against several attackers, thereby accidentally breaking a shop window and causing him to run away under the mistaken notion that he needed to avoid arrest, leaving his goose behind. He is also obviously poor. Otherwise he would not take a whole year to buy the goose by paying a few pennies a week into the goose club at the Alpha Inn--and he would not risk fighting with several hoodlums to prevent them from stealing a goose it had taken him a whole year to pay for. But what would Baker be doing carrying a goose home in that neighborhood at four o'clock in the morning. As Holmes deduces from the size of the abandoned hat, Baker is very intelligent. He works as a freelance writer in the Reading Room at the British Museum and then goes to the nearby Alpha Inn which is a hangout for other poor scribblers like himself. He would only join the goose club if he went to the Alpha Inn on a regular basis. As Holmes also deduced, Baker is not happily married. So he has developed the habit of staying out late and not coming home until his wife is asleep. Hanging out at the Alpha Inn has made him an alcoholic, as Holmes also deduced before ever meeting him, and no doubt the man's alcoholism has had a deleterious effect on his work and his income. Money is important to him, since he earns so little, and this explains why he put up such a fight over his goose. Everything about Baker is intended to serve the needs of Doyle's complex plot. Through Henry Baker, Holmes learns that the goose came from the Alpha Inn. And through the cordial landlord at that establishment, Holmes and Watson learn that the goose came from the dealer named Breckinridge who operates out of a stall at Covent Garden Market.

    If Baker had not been drunk, he would not have broken the shop-window. If he had brought the goose home to his wife, they would have eaten it but might not have noticed the Blue Carbuncle in its crop. And that precious jewel would probably have disappeared forever.

    — William Delaney
  5. In various stories Holmes is frequently saying that he is interested in apparently trivial problems, and Watson is also repeating that his friend will take on anything that happens to interest him, even if there is no money to be earned and even if there is no apparent crime involved. Doyle gives Holmes this trait because it enables the author to deal with a broader range of subjects, characters, settings, and problems, thereby avoiding formulaic plots and giving himself more scope for his own creative imagination. We all have come to know Sherlock Holmes as a brilliant man who loves to use his analytical powers and who easily becomes bored and frustrated if he has nothing to challenge his mind.

    — William Delaney
  6. The weather is very cold, and Henry Baker would be wearing an overcoat if he had one. No doubt he did own an overcoat in the past but sold it when he was in need of money. Now he wears a frock-coat which he buttons up to his chin and also has the collar turned up. When Holmes and Watson start for the Alpha Inn, Watson explains that

    ...we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats about our throats.

    According to the article "Ulster coat" in Wikipedia:

    The Ulster was originally a Victorian working daytime overcoat, with a cape and sleeves. It is often seen in period productions of Victorian novels, such as those of Charles Dickens and was referred to in the Sherlock Holmes stories A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" and "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor".



    — William Delaney
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle creates a short-tempered character in Breckinridge in order to provide interesting dramatic conflict in this important scene. First the shopkeeper becomes angry when Holmes asks where he got the geese he sold to the landlord of the Alpha. Then he gets even more angry and even hostile when James Ryder shows up still trying to locate the goose he had forced to swallow the stolen Blue Carbuncle. Doyle also establishes that Breckinridge plays the horses, which inspires Holmes to bet a sovereign with the obstinate man. Holmes claims that he got one of the geese from the Alpha and that it was raised in the country, whereas Breckinridge knows it was raised in the city and wins the bet by showing Holmes his books.

    This ploy of Holmes is reminiscent of what Polonius says to Reynaldo whom he is sending to spy on his son Laertes in Paris.

    Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;
    And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
    With windlasses and with assays of bias,
    By indirections find directions out.
                  Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1


    — William Delaney
  8. Henry Baker is a good example of a man of high intelligence who has never managed to use it to advance in the world. Holmes deduces Baker's superior intellect even before meeting him. Watson says:

    “I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was intellectual?”

    For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have something in it.”

    Henry Baker seems to be lacking in initiative and self-discipline. He spends many hours at the British Museum Reading Room, but no doubt he gets lost in reading about miscellaneous matters that intrigue him without helping him to earn a living through tutoring, editorial work, compiling popular articles, or even writing a book. Lately he has taken to drinking at a nearby pub, which explains how he got involved in the goose club. He has lost much of his youthful energy and ambition and has given up his early great expectations. It takes more than intelligence to be financially successful in this competitive world; it takes practicality, specialization, and initiative.

    George Gissing, a contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells, wrote about the insecure lives of freelance writers in his best novel, New Grub Street. His main character, Edwin Reardon, is another example of a highly intelligent and well-educated man who cannot make a living for himself and his wife and child through his writing.

    The struggle for existence among books is nowadays as severe as among men.
    --George Gissing

    Oh, you heavy-laden, who at this hour sit down to the cursed travail of the pen; writing, not because there is something in your mind, in your heart, which must needs be uttered, but because the pen is the only tool you can handle, your only means of earning bread! Year after year the number of you is multiplied; you crowd the doors of publisher and editors, hustling, grappling, exchanging maledictions. Oh, sorry spectacle, grotesque and heart-breaking!

    Innumerable are the men and women now writing for bread, who have not the least chance of finding in such work a permanent livelihood. They took to writing because they knew not what else to do, or because the literary calling tempted them by its independence and its dazzling prizes. They will hang on to the squalid profession, their earnings eked out by begging and borrowing until it is too late for them to do anything else--and then? With a lifetime of dread experience behind me, I say that he who encourages any young man or woman to look for his living to “literature” commits no less than a crime. If my voice had any authority, I would cry this truth aloud wherever men could hear. Hateful as is the struggle for life in every form, this rough-and-tumble of the literary arena seems to me sordid and degrading beyond all others. Oh, your paragraphings and your interviewings! And oh, the black despair that awaits those downtrodden in the fray!
    --George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

    * *

    — William Delaney
  9. According to Wikipedia:

    "In a bird's digestive system, the crop is an expanded, muscular pouch near the gullet or throat. It is a part of the digestive tract, essentially an enlarged part of the oesophagus.

    "While chickens and  turkeys possess a crop, geese do not have one, a fact which occasioned what many consider Sherlock Holmes' — or rather author Arthur Conan Doyle's — greatest forensic blunder."

    The Wikipedia article footnotes a review of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes in The Guardian which contains this comment on "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle":

    In The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - the only Holmes episode with a Christmas theme - a precious gem is concealed in a goose's crop, the storage pouch found at the opening to certain fowl's throats. Several commentators have debated whether this is anatomically possible as, unlike turkeys or chickens, geese do not actually possess a crop. 

    — William Delaney
  10. Peterson was mistaken for a policeman because he was wearing an official-looking uniform. Arthur Conan Doyle makes this character a commissionaire, a uniformed security guard, rather than a policeman because it would probably have been impossible for a regular policeman to collect a reward for recovery of the blue carbuncle. Holmes probably intends to collect the reward from the Countess of Morcar and pass it on to Peterson, because she might assert that as a semi-official the commissionaire was not entitled to receive awards. In any case, Peterson is such a low-ranking and humble man that he might easily be put off by the Countess or the detectives handling the case.

    — William Delaney
  11. According to Wikipedia and the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a commissionaire was a only a uniformed security guard.

    — William Delaney
  12. Breckinridge is an interesting character. He is obviously lower-class, but he is not impressed by the two obviously higher-class gentlemen, Holmes and Watson, he has to deal with. He is hostile and disrespectful throughout their meeting. This is attributable to the fact that Breckinridge is getting rich selling geese. Doyle has him tell Holmes that he is receiving five hundred more geese tomorrow. If he deals in such quantities, he must be making a lot of money. He should make a profit of 100 pounds just on that one batch of 500 geese. And he knows that there are many educated gentlemen who are far inferior to him in matters of income and practicality. Henry Baker, who probably doesn't even earn a hundred pounds in a whole year,  is an example of an educated man who can barely make a living. The two characters, Breckinridge and Baker, might be considered foils to each other. It is noteworthy that Breckinridge starts off by calling Holmes "mister" rather than "sir" and is deliberately insulting. He has come up the hard way in life and has been toughened by years of struggle in a competitive world. He likes money and is mainly interested in making money.

    — William Delaney
  13. That is, a five-pound note. Holmes would have to imply that the bet was substantial to explain why he and Watson had come out so late in such cold weather.

    Notice how Arthur Conan Doyle makes the scene dramatic by introducing a minor conflict between Holmes and Breckinridge, and then another between Breckinridge and Ryder.

    — William Delaney
  14. This is an impressive number of geese, but London was a city of four million people and there would be a demand for geese even after Christmas. The fact that Breckinridge deals in such big quantities of fowls partly explains why he is so annoyed by the little man who is trying to find one specific goose out of all the geese that go through Breckinridge's stall. It further explains why he becomes so hostile towards Holmes, who is inquiring about that same goose.

    — William Delaney
  15. There were probably 23 members of the goose club and the proprietor kept the 24th for himself in return for organizing the club. If each member paid three pence a week, there would be just enough over by Christmas to pay for the landlord's goose.

    — William Delaney
  16. Henry Baker has been drinking, as usual. He comes home late because he doesn't want to run into his wife. His wife, as Holmes says, has ceased to love him. There are several reasons for her change. Baker is not a good provider. He spends too much on drinking. He comes home late. The fact that he is staggering will explain why he breaks the shop window: his balance is impaired and he staggers backwards when he raises his cane to defend himself. He decides to run from the officer because he broke the window. He has to drop the big goose because it is a handicap in his getaway. He loses his hat because one of the roughs knocked it off. 

    — William Delaney
  17. In contrast to the warm and comfortable Sherlock Holmes, Watson has been out in the cold making the rounds of his patients. This makes Holmes' lifestyle and profession seem all the more enviable to the reader. We would all like to be like him. His life seems even more enviable than that of a rich man who doesn't have to work at all, because the rich man might suffer boredom while Holmes is always getting involved in interesting and exciting "adventures." 

    — William Delaney
  18. All of this is typical of Sherlock Holmes. He has an enviable lifestyle, which is one of the reasons the stories have been so popular. Readers identify with him because they would like to be able to live like him. Most of the original readers of "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" would have to go to work in some office or factory immediately after Christmas, but Holmes is "lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing gown" in front of a "crackling fire." As a rule his clients will come to him and he can always remain warm and comfortable. Being a "consultant" of any kind seems like an ideal occupation. It only involves listening and offering an opinion. Of course, it has taken Holmes some little time to acquire a reputation that will create a large demand for his services. He is successful because he solves people's problems, and he is motivated to keep solving people's problems in order to sustain the demand for his services. Watson, on the other hand, has to run around all day in the bitter cold to visit his patients in their homes, as was customary for general practitioners in older times. He sees his friend Sherlock Holmes in the morning and doesn't get back to see him again until after six-thirty that night.

    — William Delaney
  19. Earlier in the story Watson had told Holmes he would return in the evening to see if Henry Baker turned up in response to the advertisements. Holmes had invited him to dinner with these words:

    “Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I believe." 

    — William Delaney
  20. People believed in physiognomy more in Victorian times than they do today. It was commonly thought that a person's character could be read in his or her facial features. Such a belief must have been quite useful to writers such as Doyle because it would make it easier for them to depict their characters. Doyle was an extremely credulous man, especially for one who wrote detective fiction. He believed in spiritualism, which involves communicating with the dead. He wrote a book titled The Coming of the Fairies (1922) inspired by a hoax perpetrated by a couple of young girls who faked pictures of fairies and other little supernatural creatures with an ordinary camera. 

    — William Delaney
  21. If Henry Baker paid three pennies a week into the goose club, that would add up to 150 pennies in fifty weeks. Since there were 12 pence to a shilling, he would have built a credit of 12.5 shillings, or twelve and sixpence. The proprietor probably did not charge the good club members more for their geese than he paid himself but used the club to hold his regular customers and perhaps attract a few more regulars. Henry Baker could have just enough to pay for the goose plus a couple of pints of beer. He might have drunk a little more than usual on the night he lost his goose, because it was Christmas and the weather was cold and the affable Mr. Windigate might have given the regulars a round of drinks on the house.

    — William Delaney
  22. Henry Baker does not own an overcoat. It was fairly common for men in need of cash to sell or pawn pieces of their clothing. They might dispose of a waistcoat (vest) first and then their overcoat. The "frock-coat" Baker is wearing is just a long jacket. It does not provide adequate protection in this cold winter weather. When Holmes and Watson go out they put on their ulsters, which are heavy overcoats, usually with extra thickness of the shoulders and upper back. Watson explains:

    It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats about our throats.

    Holmes now knows that the goose came from the Alpha Inn and wants to find out where the proprietor got it. The fact that it is bitterly cold explains why Baker's goose remains in edible condition for several days.

    — William Delaney
  23. Henry Baker is a good example of how a character is created to suit the author's plot needs. Baker is purposely made poor to explain why the goose and even the hat are so important to him. The goose is only worth twelve shillings, but that is a lot of money to Baker. He has been saving several pennies a week for a full year to pay for the Christmas bird. He is an intellectual and spends most of his time in the Reading Room at the British Museum because there is plenty of reading material and plenty of light. It is a magnet for all the starving artists in London, as George Gissing, a contemporary of the vastly more successful Arthur Conan Doyle, explains in his excellent novel about literary life, New Grub Street. There Baker would have access to all the newspapers, so he would be sure to see Holmes's ad. Otherwise Baker might not buy a newspaper. Since his wife no longer loves him, as Holmes observes to Watson, Baker would stay at the British Museum until closing time. Even then he would be reluctant to go home, so he would go to the Alpha Inn and stay for several hours. That would explain why, as a regular, he joined the goose club and why he was returning home so late and in an intoxicated state. His being intoxicated was what tempted the "roughs" to attack him and caused him to break the shop window with his cane. He wasn't in full control of his balance because of the liquor he had consumed. He probably staggered backwards as he raised his cane. Otherwise he would not have broken the window, would not have run when he saw the policeman coming, and would not have dropped the heavy goose to expedite his flight. His common name makes it impossible for Holmes to trace him, but this enables Doyle to set the scene easily at 221B Baker Street.

    — William Delaney
  24. Geese can be fattened by cramming extra food, usually bits of bread, down their throats. This is how pate de foie gras is made.

    — William Delaney
  25. The fact that the goose with the blue carbuncle in its crop is now "right in the middle of the flock" of twenty-six geese helps to explain why Ryder could have mistakenly taken the wrong bird.

    — William Delaney
  26. Mrs. Oakshott is a little huffed because she will have to sell "Jem's bird" to Breckinridge for the same price as the others and his goose cost her a little bit more to be "especially fattened." It is three pounds heavier than most of the others.

    — William Delaney
  27. This is to establish that the Oakshotts have already chosen the goose they want to eat themselves. Otherwise there would have been a possibility that they might have eaten the one they called "Jem's bird," since they had fattened it more than the others. But they would also have "especially fattened" the goose they had already chosen for themselves.

    — William Delaney
  28. Perhaps Ryder would have been wise to drop the matter at this point and hope that the stolen jewel, if found and returned to the Countess for the reward, could not be traced to Mrs. Oakshott and through her to him.

    — William Delaney
  29. Arthur Conan Doyle does not write a scene in which Holmes and Watson visit Mrs. Oakshott because they would not be likely to learn much of value from her. This link in the chain of possession is handled much more dramatically when Ryder confesses to Holmes and tells his whole story.

    — William Delaney
  30. This little man, whose name is James Ryder, would not be able to retrieve the blue carbuncle even if Breckinridge told him Mrs. Oakshott's geese all went to Windigate at the Alpha Inn. Windigate could possibly tell him that a goose with a barred tail went to Henry Baker, but Ryder's only hope of finding Henry Baker would be by advertising in the newspapers or by hanging around the pub until Henry Baker came in and Windigate introduced them. If Ryder managed to contact Baker, he would be told how Baker had lost the goose. But that would be the end of the trail as far as Ryder was concerned, because Baker had no idea who found it or what the finder did with it. Presumably someone ate that goose by now and may have found the blue carbuncle or else thrown the bird's crop into the garbage. Ryder has to go with Holmes because Holmes represents his only hope of recovering the stolen jewel.

    — William Delaney
  31. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an expert fiction writer. In plotting his Sherlock Holmes stories, he made them dramatic through telling them in a series of vivid scenes with considerable dialogue. The scenes are usually dramatized by the presence of some sort of conflict, even between Holmes and Watson. When Holmes gets Ryder to his sitting room at Baker Street, he has little trouble forcing the terrified man to confess, so there is not much conflict between the two men. But there is a great deal of conflict in the little story Ryder tells about how he stole the blue carbuncle, how he came to insert it in one of his sister's geese, and so on. There is even conflict between Ryder and his sister. He wants her to give him one particular goose but she insists on giving him the one that was especially fattened for him. Then when he wins this argument he discovers that he has taken the wrong goose! His sister has led him to Breckinridge, but Breckinridge won't lead him to the Alpha Inn, where he would have been able to find that his goose with the barred tail feathers had been given to Henry Baker. That information would not have been of much help to Ryder because the name Henry Baker is too common, and anyway he would assume that the bird was roasted and eaten on Christmas eve or Christmas day and that the jewel had either been discovered or thrown out with the bird's crop. If Ryder had seen Holmes' advertisement in one of the newspapers, he would have had no way of knowing that the lost goose was his bird, and he would have had no way of knowing that Henry Baker lost it on his way home from the Alpha Inn.

    — William Delaney
  32. Conveniently for the author, the jewel thief turns up at Breckinridge's stall in Covent Garden while Holmes and Watson are still there. This saves Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the trouble of describing how the detective goes to Mrs. Oakshott's, learns about her brother, if possible, and then tries to track down James Ryder.

    Notice how the meeting between Holmes and Ryder is dramatized by introducing conflict. Ryder doesn't want to reveal his true identity and is reluctant to go to Baker Street with Holmes because he is afraid of being arrested. Ryder wants to find out what Holmes knows without telling Holmes what he knows himself. He gives the false name of John Robinson, suggesting not only that he wants to keep his identity secret, but also that he is unlikely to reveal any part of the truth. Yet he sees that Holmes is the only person who can tell him what became of the blue carbuncle.

    — William Delaney
  33. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an accomplished fiction writer. His story consists of a series of scenes. He knew that the way to make a scene interesting was to make it dramatic. And the way to make a scene dramatic is to introduce conflict. If Holmes had simply gone to Breckinridge and asked him where he bought the geese he sold to the Alpha Inn, and if Breckinridge had simply told him the answer, this scene would not have been dramatic or interesting. But Breckinridge is a feisty man who becomes angry and refuses to give Holmes the simple information he requests. Holmes ends up winning the conflict through appearing to lose it by losing his bet with Breckinridge as well as his fictitious bet with Watson. Breckinridge not only tells Holmes where he bought the geese but actually shows him his ledgers with the name and address of Mrs. Oakshott, egg and poultry supplier, who turns out to be the sister of the man who stole the blue carbuncle.

    This is a minor conflict within the major conflict, which involved trying to identify the man who stole the jewel. Notice how every scene in the story is dramatic because it contains some sort of conflict. For example, when Henry Baker comes to Holmes he does not argue or quarrel with the detective, but he does describe a conflict he had with some "roughs" which caused him to lose both his hat and his Christmas goose.

    — William Delaney
  34. Holmes is motivated to pursue this case because an innocent man may be accused to the robbery. Even if the jewel is recovered, John Horner is facing a term of seven years in prison for stealing it in the first place. If Horner is guilty, how did the blue carbuncle get into Henry Baker's goose? Somebody must have stuffed it down the bird's throat. Did Horner have access to a live goose?

    — William Delaney
  35. This one sentence describes what will take place throughout the remainder of this complicated story. It tells what "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is "about." The stolen jewel was found in the goose belonging to Henry Baker, but he probably did not steal it. So who did steal it? And how did it get in Henry Baker's goose? Since the jewel has been recovered, the only reason for wanting to solve the question, or questions, is that a man who may or may not be innocent is going on trial for "rifling" the jewel-case. The first step is to find Henry Baker, which can be a problem because he has such a common name, and find out if he knows anything about the blue carbuncle.

    — William Delaney
  36. When Watson goes to see Holmes he says he sat down in front of the "crackling fire." Holmes later mentions that there are four million people in London. If they all use fireplaces for heat, with coal for fuel, we can imagine the amount of smoke that pours into the air. This made breathing unpleasant, and difficult for older people and those with respiratory problems. Also, the smoke that went up into the air had to come down as soot. Hats would have to be brushed practically every day to be kept clean, and people would have keep brushing their clothes as well. Holmes goes on to say that even a week's accumulation of dust upon a hat would put it in a sad state. All men wore hats or caps in those days.

    — William Delaney
  37. Breckinridge has a whole list of people, including Mrs. Oakshott, who raise geese in their backyards in London. There must have been no zoning laws in those days. Geese are noisy birds. Mrs. Oakshott alone was raising twenty-six geese of which two dozen were bought by Breckinridge and sold to the proprietor of the Alpha Inn. Mrs. Oakshott is listed as an "egg and poultry supplier." She must keep chickens as well as geese. She would have to handle a great many birds during the year to make a significaant amount of money. Breckinridge paid her seven-and-a-half shillings apiece for 24 geese, which brought her a gross of nine pounds but must have cost quite a lot for feed, since they are such big birds. She would need to earn fifty or sixty pounds a year to make the enterprise worthwhile.

    — William Delaney
  38. Holmes knows the man who first calls himself John Robinson is James Ryder because he has read his name and title in the newspaper story about the theft of the precious stone. Holmes deduces from Ryder's highly emotional behavior at Breckinridge's stall in Covent Garden that he must be after the blue carbuncle and must know it was in one of the geese Breckinridge bought from Ryder's sister. Since Henry Baker didn't steal the jewel, and since the accused John Horner is locked up in a cell, this frantic man must be the real thief and must be James Ryder, the hotel employee, who would have had many excellent opportunities to steal the blue carbuncle.

    — William Delaney
  39. This indicates that Holmes has no intention of either keeping the blue carbuncle or returning it to the Countess of Morcar and collecting the reward for himself. He must be planning to collect the reward for Peterson, who, as a police officer, might find it awkward if not impossible to accept the money himself. Holmes is sensitive to Peterson's interests, and Peterson seems to trust him implicitly. Obviously, Watson is only recording what he personally observed and does not wish to speculate about what his friend Sherlock Holmes might have done with the blue carbuncle.

    The blue carbuncle is what Hollywood movie makers call a "MacGuffin." It is something that causes all the conflict, like the black bird in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. Alfred Hitchcock once told French film director Francois Truffaut that a story needs a MacGuffin but the MacGuffin is not of great importance other than to motivate the principal characters. The blue carbuncle in this Sherlock Holmes story is only important in setting the wheels of the complicated plot in motion. It brings Sherlock Holmes and the reader in contact with colorful characters like Henry Baker, Breckinridge the poultry dealer, and James Ryder the cowardly sneak thief. 

    — William Delaney
  40. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never has Watson tell the reader what Holmes did with the blue carbuncle. Presumably Holmes and Peterson have a tacit understanding that Holmes will collect the reward for him. Doyle does not want to call the reader's attention to this matter because Holmes might be breaking a law by giving the reward to Peterson, and Peterson might be breaking a law by accepting it. When Holmes says, "Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone," he may be giving Peterson a significant look as if to say, "I'll take care of this matter on your behalf." Holmes often acts above or outside the law, as he does when he releases James Ryder and tells Watson, "I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies."

    — William Delaney
  41. Note the use of the subjunctive with "fail." Modern English and American writers would say, "If this fails," or "If this should fail." Sherlock Holmes stories are often assigned reading in high school and college English classes, not only because they are interesting and valuable as models of short stories, but because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has an excellent command of the English language. A student can learn to appreciate impeccable English usage from reading these stories and can also enhance his or her vocabulary

    — William Delaney
  42. James Ryder is a timid, nervous man who has never committed a serious crime before. Doyle wanted him to be that sort of person so he would break down and make a full confession to Sherlock Holmes. But Doyle needed a stronger person involved in the theft in order to make Ryder's action seem plausible. That person was Catherine Cusack, the Countess of Morcar's waiting-maid. The whole scheme originated with the maid. No doubt she will get off free along with Ryder, since Holmes cannot accuse her without bringing in Ryder, and he has decided to let the little man go.

    — William Delaney
  43. Holmes has tricked Ryder into betraying his guilt in front of two witnesses, himself and Watson. They can testify that Ryder was trying desperately to trace the goose that contained the blue carbuncle and therefore must have been the man who tried to hide it by stuffing it into the goose. Furthermore, Ryder is the brother of Mrs. Oakshott who raised the goose that went to the Alpha Inn, where it was given to Henry Baker. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intentionally created James Ryder as a terrified little man with a guilty conscience who could easily be scared into making a full confession to Holmes and to the police if Holmes were to turn him in. Such a character was needed to pour out a full explanation of how the blue carbuncle got into Henry Baker's lost goose. "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is similar to "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" which is included in The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

    — William Delaney
  44. That is, 7 shillings and 6 pence, or 7 1/2 shillings. Henry Baker paid about twelve or thirteen shillings for the goose he was carrying home from the pub. The proprietor of the Alpha Inn who initiated the goose club probably did not make any profit but used the club to attract regular customers. So Breckinridge the poultry merchant would be making a profit of around six shillings on each goose he sold.

    — William Delaney
  45. This establishes Sherlock Holmes' main motivation for taking all this trouble. John Horner is in jail awaiting trial. According to Holmes, Horner could get sentenced to seven years in prison even though the blue carbuncle would have been recovered.

    — William Delaney
  46. Heavy woolen overcoats. They usually had an extra woolen half-cape attached to the shoulders and back for additional protection of that part of the body. This is just a few days after Christmas and would be extremely cold in London. The emphasis on the cold weather is to help explain the fact that Baker's lost goose remained in edible condition longer. It was half-frozen. Poor Henry Baker had been wearing only a frock-coat. No doubt he had been forced to sell his overcoat to pay for rent, food, and beer. Watson does not explain why he and Holmes chose to walk for a quarter of an hour rather than take a cab, but it must have been that they enjoyed the exercise in spite of the cold weather.

    — William Delaney
  47. George Gissing, a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wrote an excellent novel titled New Grub Street in which he describes the lives of freelance writers of the period. Gissing devotes considerable space to the reading room at the British Museum, where many struggling writers tried to earn their livings by turning out articles and books, most of which were rehashes of information contained in the materials available in the reading room. They might also be able to get work doing research, editing, proofreading, translating, and tutoring. It would appear that Henry Baker is drinking more and working less. His precarious and ill-paying profession would make him feel depressed, which would induce him to drown his sorrows in ale. Drinking is still an occupational hazard for freelance writers. George Orwell was a great admirer of George Gissing and wrote an essay about him. New Grub Street is still available in paperback. A summary of the book is available in eNotes.

    — William Delaney
  48. This is a sign that Henry Baker is a writer. Sir Francis Bacon says in one of his essays that writing makes an "exact man." Baker does his work at the library at the British Museum.

    — William Delaney
  49. This fact explains how Henry Baker came into possession of a big goose and why he was bringing it home at such a late hour. He was in the habit of drinking at the same pub, probably every evening, and staying there quite late. The proprietor had formed a "goose club" for the regulars, who all contributed a few pennies a week, as Baker will explain when he comes in answer to Holmes' advertisements. Baker received his goose at night and had to carry it home late. The policeman named Peterson who recovered the goose and brought it to Holmes told the detective that the man was staggering, a further suggestion that Baker was a fairly heavy drinker.

    — William Delaney
  50. At that time there were twelve pence to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound. Henry Baker must have been paying about one shilling a month into the goose club, so the bird cost him about twelve shillings by the end of the year. The landlord probably did not make any profit from the club but used it to keep his regular customers and attract others. Life was much simpler in those days.

    — William Delaney
  51. Henry Baker is wearing a knit woolen bonnet because he has lost his only hat. He had given up hope of retrieving the hat he lost in the scuffle, but he cannot afford to buy a new one. This immediately identifies him as the man who lost the goose.

    — William Delaney
  52. Henry Baker only fled because he accidentally broke a window with his cane while trying to defend himself from several "roughs," i.e., hoodlums, who attacked him on the dark street.

    — William Delaney
  53. Since Sherlock Holmes already has possession of the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle, his only motive for delving into the case is to help John Horner, if Horner is innocent. Holmes thinks the man must be innocent because the carbuncle was in the possession of Henry Baker. First Holmes has to find out whether Baker knew the jewel was inside the bird's crop. When he learns that Baker obviously knew nothing about it, he then decides to find out who actually stole it. He is motivated by curiosity and a desire to help an innocent man who is going to be tried at the Assizes criminal court. It turns out that neither Henry Baker nor John Horner is guilty but a third party named James Ryder who works at the hotel where the owner of the blue carbuncle, the Countess of Morcar, has been staying. Although Watson often describes Holmes as a thinking machine with no feelings, Holmes is often motivated by a desire to help someone who is in serious danger. A reader of mystery stories usually identifies with a detective when that character is motivated by something other than a monetary fee or reward. The Countess is offering a reward of a thousand pounds for recovery of the blue carbuncle, but Holmes undoubtedly only plans to collect the reward for Peterson, the commissionaire, who found the goose dropped by Henry Baker when he fled. It might be awkward for Peterson to collect the reward himself because as a policeman it is his job to recover stolen property. Holmes is constantly ingratiating himself with the police, and consequently the police always treat him with the greatest consideration. They also bring him interesting cases they are unable to cope with themselves. 

    — William Delaney
  54. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle deliberately gives this important character an extremely common name in order to establish that it would be impossible to trace him directly. Doyle has Sherlock Holmes mention that the population of London was then approximately four million and that there would be "hundreds of Henry Bakers" in such an enormous city. Holmes can only manage to get in touch with the right Henry Baker by advertising in the Globe, Star, Pall Mall. St. James's, Evening News, Standard, Echo, and some other newspapers. That brings Henry Baker to Holmes in short order and the whole scene can take place in the familiar setting of 221B Baker Street. The owner of the hat and goose turns out to be exactly the sort of man Holmes describes from examining his black felt hat.

    — William Delaney