The Three Gables – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Wed, 29 Jun 1994

  • How does this entrance compare with others (PRIO, SPEC)?
  • How had Holmes’s consulting practice developed over the years?
  • Does “curled down” differ from “curled up”?
  • Where was Billy?
  • What identifies a boxer? (See GLOR)
  • Do we read into this case more racial prejudice than fully justified?
  • Is Dixie’s speech separable into American and British?
  • Is it pure coincidence that boxers appear in two consecutive adventures?
  • What does “you’ll get put through it” mean?
  • Are differences in the salutations and complimentary closes of letters throughout the Canon significant?
  • Why a shorter drive for a short walk?
  • Other than as a writer, why was Douglas prominent?
  • Had Douglas been spoiled as a child?
  • What does “be my own mistress” imply?
  • Did Susan’s revelations get Holmes away from Harrow?
  • Why did Holmes not learn Susan’s last name; or was it an alias?
  • Should Holmes have deduced an unpublished novel?
  • Would Watson have prescribed paregoric?
  • Did the Post Office have deposit boxes?
  • Did Holmes say “Dr. Watson agrees….” for emphasis or for sarcasm?
  • What did Holmes have in his pocket?
  • Should Holmes have foreseen inaction by Mrs. Maberly?
  • Do reputable newspapers today have garbage pages?
  • Was Harrow built up enough that screams would bring the police, or that idlers would gather?
  • Was the piece of paper being guarded to preserve finger prints?
  • Should Holmes have suspected Douglas of mostly wanting a wealthy wife?
  • Wasn’t copying the manuscript a tremendous task?
  • Will Isadora be harmed by the outcome of the Perkins case?
  • Should Holmes have raised the amount to cover his fee?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 15 Sep 1995

Does this story’s general flavour of decadence, decay, and perverse sex, somehow more characteristic of the 1920s than of the 1890s, spoil the enjoyment of a reader who is anticipating a “typical” Sherlock Holmes tale?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 6 Mar 1998

A black male comes crashing through the door……and blackmail turns out to be a crashing bore. It must be time for our next story: The Adventure of the Three Gables. My questions and comments:

  • Douglas Maberley: obsessive weirdo, or hopeless romantic?
  • Isadora Klein: heartless Jezebel, or innocent bystander?
  • At various times in his career Holmes joked about trying his hand at crime. When he negotiated the hush-money deal in 3GAB, which (if any) laws were broken?
  • It appears likely that Mrs. Maberley will accept money to forget about the little unpleasantness. Is she reasonable or greedy?
  • By story’s end, Isadora Klein is free to marry the Duke of Lomond — a ficticious name used to shield the identity of a nobleman presumably of Scots descent. “Lomond” comes from Loch Lomond, the lake with the “bonnie, bonnie banks” northwest of Glasgow. One family in particular is associated with Loch Lomond’s history, and it’s possible that Isadora’s duke was a clansman of theirs. They are the tumultuous MacGregors. After 1603 Clan MacGregor was forcibly crushed, “altogidder abolisheed” as James VI put it, and for years surviving clan members were ordered to change their name or die. Some were executed, some fled to avoid persecution, but most surviving MacGregors simply adopted the last names of their “septs” – branches of the clan acquired through marriage and other means. All of the enactments against the MacGregors were finally repealed by 1775, but a few of the descendants of those proscribed MacGregors still go by the adopted surnames chosen nearly 400 years ago. So, though they are truly “MacGregors,” today some of them bear the surname “Campbell,” others go by “Murray,” a few are called “Grant,” and some even use a last name familiar to us. . . . .”Leckie.”
  • There was a beautiful house in Biddenham, Bedford called “Three Gables.” It was built by Charles Edward Mallows (1864-1915), the architect, landscape designer and artist, on commission for his father-in-law. Constructed between 1900-01, Mallows used an Arts and Crafts approach to the design of Three Gables, placing vernacular building materials inside a fabulous natural garden. Photos I’ve seen of the house show a central block with the three gables across the second story (British). Two wings extend at slight angles from the block. Mallows was not a towering figure in British architecture, however, and it’s the incredible garden at Three Gables which established him. Look for references to him in gardening history books if you’re interested in pursuing his life and works.
  • Mrs. Maberley jokes that she owns nothing “rarer than a Crown Derby tea-set,” a reference to the English porcelain manufacturer. I collect a different type of porcelain, but I’ll share the little I know about Crown Derby. Derbyware has been around since the mid-1750’s. Many of the pieces are nice, and a few are found in Museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London, and the Cincinnati Art Museum in the USA. Their work is not particularly rare or astonishing. Derby was known for table as well as ornamental pieces. Following the death of the founder and his heirs, former Derby workers went on to become the creative force behind Crown Derby (1877), and then Royal Crown Derby (so-called under separate trademark following appointment in 1890 as manufacturers of porcelain to Queen Victoria). Crown Derby pioneered brilliant colors using an enameling technique similar to the modern Limoges process. The most recent Crown Derby tea set transaction I’ve been able to find was an 1887 “Kings” pattern set (pot, jug, covered sugar bowl, six cups, saucers) that sold for $210 in 1994 — a very reasonable price, depending on the condition of the pieces. Edwardian Royal Crown Derby sets sell for two/three times that amount because they’re finer quality. What the collectors go ape over is miniature Royal Crown Derby pieces, which were only briefly manufactured as children’s toys around 1904.
  • 3GAB is the Sherlock Holmes story I most want to see in 3-D. Steve Dixie and Susan Stockdale tumbling through doorways……Dr. Watson with the poker (do they still use the bent one in Baker Street?)…..the chloroforming of Mrs. M, and the looting of her room……the speeding cab…….Isadora rushing after Holmes…….Isadora throwing down her own poker……..hand me the popcorn and the funny glasses, Mycroft!

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 7 May 1999

Mrs. Morton Maberley, whose late husband had been a client of Holmes, was puzzled by an unexpected offer from an anonymous person to buy her home, The Three Gables, at the highest price she could name. The catch was that the offer included everything in the house, with the possible exception of her clothing and jewelry. The furniture, the pictures… even her Crown Derby tea-set were all included as a condition of the purchase. Remembering that Holmes had helped her husband, she turned to the Master Detective for guidance.

Holmes decided to take up the matter after a sudden incursion into the rooms at 221B Baker Street by a professional pugilist named Steve Dixie, who warned Holmes to keep away from The Three Gables under penalty of physical harm. That very day Holmes and Watson visited Mrs. Maberley at her home and determined that there was something which the house contained that was wanted very badly by whoever had hired Dixie, an “enforcer” for the Spencer John gang, to try to scare Holmes off. Holmes advised Mrs. Maberley to make a strict accounting of the contents of her home, and said he would return upon the morrow to look further into the situation.

By the next day, however, Mrs. Maberley had been chloroformed into unconsciousness during the night and the house had been rifled by burglars. The only thing missing was the bulk of a manuscript written by her son Douglas, who had died only a month earlier. One page of the manuscript was inadvertently left behind by the burglars, and furnished Holmes with a clue that might lead him to the person behind this strange sequence of events.

In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will summon the Hounds to set out on the trail of a cunning individual who will stop at nothing to obtain a draft copy of an apparently harmless romantic novel. The trail will lead to an upper-class residence in one of the most fashionable districts in London, and the quarry will prove to be both beguiling and clever.

I have never read the excerpt of Douglas Maberley’s manuscript contained in this story without saying a silent prayer of gratitude that Isadora Klein had the good taste to burn the rest of it. Could it be that Doyle was having a little joke at the expense of the tabloids of the day such as the Family Herald (THOR) when he wrote that tommyrot? Was Isadora Klein really afraid that the unintended comical undertones in the narrative would make her not the talk, but rather the laughing-stock of British society?

Watson writes, “I don’t think that any of my adventures with Mr. Sherlock Holmes opened quite so abruptly, or so dramatically, as that which I associate with The Three Gables.” Surely, he hadn’t forgotten the violent appearance of Dr. Grimesby Roylott in the doorway of 221B in SPEC? What do the Hounds think? Were there any adventures besides these in which the story opens abruptly and/or dramatically?

Holmes said to the wheezy Susan Stockdale, “Good-bye, Susan. Paregoric is the stuff….” Paregoric is a camphorated tincture of opium, used in Victorian times for relief of diarrhea and intestinal pain. Would it also have been helpful in treating asthma, emphysema, or any complaint which causes the sufferer to wheeze loudly?

Isadora Klein told Holmes that Barney and Susan Stockdale were the only persons who knew of her involvement in this matter. If the Stockdales (and Steve Dixie, for that matter) were members of the Spencer John gang, how was it that the Stockdales knew Isadora Klein’s role in the Maberley affair, but Spencer John didn’t? Who was “Spencer John”? Was he a would-be Moriarty? Was “Spencer John” the criminal pseudonym of Isadora Klein?

Finally, Frau Klein described Douglas Maberley as “a penniless commoner.” It’s not as though she were averse to marriage to a younger man, for she was engaged to the young Duke of Lomond. She was wealthy due to her inheritance from the German Sugar King (Sugar Daddy?). Was she only interested in a title, a place in the peerage?

Discover more about The Three Gables and read the canon.