The Blue Carbuncle – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 23 Dec 1994

  • Did Holmes and Watson exchange Christmas cards?
  • Why didn’t Mary accompany her husband to wish Holmes the compliments of the season?
  • Is “every possible combination” significant?
  • What was done about the broken window?
  • If a “small jollification” ends at 4 A.M., when would a large jollification end?
  • Why “Mrs.” on the tag?
  • Was there an inner leather hat band?
  • What kind of grate was it?
  • What is the significance of Horner fainting?
  • What happened to Henry Baker’s stick?
  • How old was Mildred Sammons?
  • Did Henry Baker offer to pay for the advertisements?
  • Why the private room at the Alpha Inn?
  • Would the evidence have convicted Horner?
  • How do town and country bred geese differ?
  • Was it pure luck for Holmes to say the bird was country-bred?
  • Why did the ledger show sales details?
  • Would it take half an hour to get from Baker Street to Covent Garden?
  • Can we deduce that Ryder was not married?
  • Was Catherine Cusack fired?
  • Was there no goose for Ryder’s parents?
  • Does Holmes call Watson “Doctor” in any other story?
  • What finally happened to the carbuncle? If returned to the Countess, who received the reward?
  • Did John Horner ever get out of jail?

Chris Redmond – Sat, 23 Dec 1995

Sherlock Holmes is sufficiently cold-blooded to refer to a mugging as a “whimsical little incident” at the beginning of this story. Can one accept as heartfelt his emotional remark at the end of it about “the season of forgiveness”?

Sonia Fetherston – Thu, 18 Dec 1997

There seems to be a consensus that we lock the door to Wisteria Lodge, climb into our four-wheeler and move along to the next story — this being The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (BLUE), taken out of order so that we may exchange the compliments of the season with one another. Therefore, one day early, here are my questions and comments to get us going:

  • Catherine Cusack is thought to be Ryder’s “confederate.” But is anybody out there willing to be a Devil’s advocate and make a case for her innocence?
  • The carbuncle would appear to be a loose stone. How is it that the Countess kept it loose rather than set and worn?
  • I’d like to hear from Hounds who believe the Petersons may have been fellow lodgers at Mrs. Hudson’s house. What reasoning inclines you to accept the 221 address for the commissionaire and his family?
  • Why did Holmes let Ryder go?
  • When Henry Baker appeared at Sherlock Holmes’ door he was wearing a Scotch bunnet, Anglicized by Watson (and most English-speakers) to the word “bonnet.” There are only two sorts of hats which could correctly be called by this term, and Lord knows the Scots are correct about their attire! The first is the Glengarry, a military-style hat worn tilted to the right, most often seen on overseas duty. Glengarries are creased from front to back, with a small red toorie (pom-pom) at the crown and two jaunty ribbons dangling down the neck. They’re normally “diced,” or banded with a checkerboard pattern. Glengarries are often seen on bandsmen and others required to wear fancy-dress. The other kind of bonnet is the Balmoral. It’s a beret-style hat worn forward on the head, with the top pulled gently to the right. Balmorals are both diced and undiced. The ribbons at the back must be tied in a neat bow. Picture Ronald Coleman c. 1931: that’s the dashing Balmoral he’s got on his head! Alas, neither Glengarries nor Balmorals are quite right for this story. The Oxford edition’s choice of a Tam O’Shanter for Henry Baker’s bonnet, though not technically correct, is the ideal alternative. Tams are round, flat, soft woolen caps, sometimes knit in one’s tartan colors, often with a large toorie on top. One source likens a Tam to wearing a tea cosy on one’s head, and that’s not a bad comparison. Tam O’Shanters is named for the hero of a Bobby Burns poem, a fellow who coped with the “ills ‘o life” just as our Henry did, by frequenting taverns.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 25 Dec 1998

On the 27th of December, Watson stopped by to wish Holmes the Compliments of the Season. He found the Master Detective studying a very disreputable hat, which had belonged to an unknown gentleman who lost it while defending himself from a gang of toughs in the Tottenham Road. The unfortunate man had also lost a goose which he had intended for his Christmas supper. Holmes had given the goose to Peterson, a commissionaire who found the hat and bird, and had kept the hat to try to learn more about its owner.

Holmes was about to say something to Watson, in the course of giving his findings about the hat’s owner, when Peterson burst in at the door, wild with excitement. In his hand, he held a brilliant blue jewel, which his wife had found in the crop of the goose. Holmes immediately identified it as the Blue Carbuncle, stolen from the Countess of Morcar, who had offered a £1,000 reward for its return.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will rally the Hounds to the scent of a beautiful diamond that somehow found its way into the innards of an unimpeachable Christmas goose. The trail will take them through deceit and treachery to a most improbable villain…a shrimp, in fact.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle has the distinction of being one of the most analyzed and written-about stories in the Canon. Indeed, only two other stories have had more written on them, according to De Waal. This makes BLUE a particularly difficult adventure from which to draw questions that have not already been investigated in previous examinations by the Hounds.

Nevertheless, I have pored over the story and derived a few questions; not too many, for I know that today must hold other investigations for our List Members. But I note that Holmes refers to two other adventures that were ostensibly crime-free: the “Irene Adler papers” and “the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland.” What “papers” were there connected with Irene Adler, and what was so singular about the case of Miss Mary Sutherland to which Holmes compared two “parallel cases” in IDEN?

Holmes infers that Henry Baker probably had not had gas laid at his home from the presence of five tallow-stains upon Mr. Baker’s battered billycock. Yet Holmes says that Baker “walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in one hand and a guttering candle in the other.” Under those conditions, how did the tallow-stains get on the hat?

Although Holmes describes the Blue Carbuncle as a “forty-grain weight of crystallized charcoal,” he does not come right out and call it a “diamond.” Peterson’s question, “A diamond, sir?” goes unanswered, and his observation that the stone cut into glass is similarly disregarded. I note also that Holmes states that the normal color of carbuncles is “ruby red.” Are there red gemstones of sufficient hardness to cut into glass? Could our resident gemologists advise whether there is such a thing as a “ruby red” diamond?

Watson tells us that when he and Holmes visited the Alpha Inn, “Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar…” Would some person better acquainted with such matters kindly explain why the Alpha Inn was alluded to as a “private bar?”

Lastly, why would Breckenridge keep separate lists of his “country” and “town” suppliers, and what would be the geographic distinction between them?