The Mazarin Stone – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Wed, 29 Jun 1994

  • Why didn’t Watson write this story?
  • How long had Watson (or Holmes) been away?
  • Are the scientific charts mentioned in any other adventure?
  • Had the Persian slipper worn out?
  • What were Billy’s hours of work?
  • Did Holmes not have other locations for changing costumes?
  • What did Watson already know about Lord Cantlemere?
  • What was the arrangement of window curtains and blinds?
  • Had Holmes sent for Watson?
  • Does modern medicine agree that facilities become refined when starved?
  • Why “burden your memory” followed by “Write it down”?
  • What were Watsons’ other vices?
  • Why did Holmes drop the parasol?
  • Why do we not hear of air guns today?
  • Why did Holmes not look for Merton himself?
  • When was the waiting room added?
  • Was there a new second exit from the house?
  • What floor plan fits the situation? Compare the location of sitting room and bedroom with that described in SPEC.
  • Does “plate glass” suggest that inferior plain glass was prevalent?
  • Did Holmes invent the forged check to obtain an admission?
  • In what other cases does Holmes deceive the villain to attain his goal?
  • Were safe deposit boxes available to the public?
  • Was Scotland Yard so ineffectual that it did not need paddy wagons?
  • When could Billy dine?

Chris Redmond – Thu, 7 Sep 1995

It is well known that The Mazarin Stone was written first as a play (“The Crown Diamond”) before being turned into a short story. What advantages does an author have in creating a Holmes for the stage that is missing in the creation of a Holmes for the page?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 27 Feb 1998

What the law gained, the stage lost. In the case of this weekend’s stagey story, most readers agree that’s a good thing. Of course that tale is The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone. My questions and comments:

  • Holmes and Watson. The familiar sitting room. Billy. The wax bust. High-ranking government officials. A stolen jewel. A disguise. A foreign bad guy. Cutting-edge technology. This story has all the elements of a really good Sherlock Holmes tale. So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t MAZA live up to its promise?
  • A parasol is used as a feminine prop to help make Holmes’ disguise all the more convincing. Had he no parasol, what other Victorian-Edwardian accessories might he have carried to create the illusion of femininity?
  • An eminent peer and courtier-like Lord Cantlemere should urgently want to see the jewel recovered, no matter what it takes and no matter who does the job. How come Cantlemere would “rather” see Holmes fail at the task?
  • Why are boxers, like MAZA’s Sam Merton, and 3GAB’s Steve Dixie, cast in a generally unfavorable light?
  • Much is made of the fact that then-child actor Charlie Chaplin portrayed Billy the page boy in an early Sherlock Holmes theatrical production. Besides a delightful Cockney delivery, Chaplin brought real-life experience to the role: when he was 10 years old he actually worked as a uniformed page boy, first in the home of a London doctor and then for a disabled British Army officer. Chaplin is said to have liked being in service so much that he dreamed of someday becoming a butler. Success as “Billy” sealed his fate, though, and Chaplin soon found himself in America under contract to appear in two-reel “flickers” for Keystone. The rest is cinematic history. But we sometimes overlook another tidbit from Chaplin’s early days. After he arrived in the United States the young actor quickly established himself as a regular customer at a local saloon-and-boxing ring on Santa Fe Avenue, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Vernon. When each day’s shooting was over, Chaplin headed there to spend a relaxing evening. The name of the joint? It was “Doyle’s.”

Steve Clarkson – Sat, 1 May 1999

When Dr. Watson came calling on Mr. Sherlock Holmes, he found the great detective calmly contemplating his own impending murder. Holmes told the horrified Doctor that he knew the identity of the person who had stolen a diamond worth a hundred thousand pounds. But in order to prove his case he had to catch the thief, a dangerous man, with the stone in his possession. To this end, he had arranged for a potentially deadly confrontation with the malefactor, right there in 221B Baker Street.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will summon the Hounds to witness this confrontation and to solve a few trifling questions about it. While the case is a comparatively simple one, the Mâitre feels reassured that the presence of the Pack will make certain that justice is done.

It’s quite easy to tell that MAZA was written initially in play form (“The Crown Diamond”). In the first place, the use of a third-party narrator is a giveaway. The dialogue is very contrived in places, and the characters are more shallow than those we are accustomed to seeing in the Canon. I’m sure many of you noticed the “somethings borrowed” from earlier adventures: the air-gun and wax dummy from FINA; the “fish” analogy from HOUN; the “card game” dialogue from ILLU; the caricatured, crabby nobleman from MISS. The action is paced for entrances and exits, and events and dialogue do not flow as smoothly as in other stories. Cue lines and stage directions are obvious (“Come over to the window if you want to see the beauty properly.”) There’s even a deus ex machina in the form of a gramophone; the playing of which could hardly pass for a live performance except to the most tone-deaf of audiences. Top all of this off with an atypical, pawky, and very untimely sense of humour on Holmes’ part, and you have the makings of a travesty. Small wonder that the play had a mercifully brief run on the stage, and that the only published edition of it was a limited run of fifty-nine copies.

The character of Billy, the young but wise page, seems to have evolved from the “boy in buttons” mentioned in IDEN. My impression is that Billy is a synthesis of the street-wise Wiggins of SIGN and the faithful Cartwright of HOUN. I would welcome other opinions as to Billy’s origins, however.

When Count Negretto Sylvius sends in his calling-card, Holmes looks at it and remarks to Watson, “The man himself. I had hardly expected this.” Oh, really? Why, then, did he go to the trouble of having a wax effigy of himself made and of adding a second door from the room adjoining the sitting-room so that he could enter and exit behind the curtains in front of the window without attracting attention? “Hardly expected this?” I don’t think so.

Was there really enough evidence to convict Sylvius of the theft of the Mazarin Stone? Consider: A cab took Sylvius to Whitehall, where the Stone was on display. What of it? People took cabs to Whitehall every day. A commissionaire saw the Count near the case containing the Stone. Pooh. The Stone was on display (not in the Tower, mind you) so that people could see it. A cab took Sylvius away from Whitehall. Big deal. “Ikey has peached, and the game is up.” This may well have been a bluff on Holmes’ part, but even if it wasn’t, it would be Ikey Sanders’ word against that of a nobleman, a Count. IMHO, the best case that could be made against Count Negretto Sylvius would be receiving stolen goods, a lesser charge than the actual theft. Even that could only be proved by his actual possession of the Stone, which Holmes could have recovered elsewhere and planted on the Count (just as he did with Lord Cantlemere), with the objective of “ridding the world of a pest.” The confrontational scenario described in the written account could have been fictitious; after all, only Holmes, Sylvius, and Merton were actually present in the rooms during that interval.

Discover more about The Mazarin Stone and read the canon.