The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Page 1 of 10
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," l remarked, "that of the last six cases which I
have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any
"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
"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?"