The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Page 2 of 10
"But you are joking. What can you gather from this old
"Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you
gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn
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 hatsecurer, 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
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 limecream, 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, gray 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."