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  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

  • Adventure VII. 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?"

  • "Yes."

  • "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?" "No."

  • "Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?"

  • "Only as much as we can deduce."

  • "From his hat?" "Precisely."

  • "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:

  • "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 <