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Classics For Kids
The Blue Carbuncle
The Red-Headed League
The Engineer’s Thumb
The Speckled Band
The Six Napoleons
re-told for children by
This edition © Mark Williams 2017
Sherlock Holmes re-told for children 6-in-1 : The Blue Carbuncle, Silver Blaze, The Red-Headed League, The Engineer's Thumb, The Speckled Band, The Six Napoleons (Classics For Kids : Sherlock Holmes)
How old were you when you first discovered Sherlock?
The Blue Carbuncle 1.
The Blue Carbuncle 2.
The Blue Carbuncle 3.
The Blue Carbuncle 4.
The Blue Carbuncle 5.
The Blue Carbuncle 6.
The Blue Carbuncle 7.
The Blue Carbuncle 8.
The Blue Carbuncle 9.
The Blue Carbuncle 10.
The Blue Carbuncle 11.
The Blue Carbuncle 12.
The Blue Carbuncle 13.
The Blue Carbuncle 14.
The Blue Carbuncle 15.
The Blue Carbuncle 16.
Silver Blaze 2.
Silver Blaze 3.
Silver Blaze 4.
Silver Blaze 5.
Silver Blaze 6.
Silver Blaze 7.
Silver Blaze 8.
Silver Blaze 9.
Silver Blaze 10.
Silver Blaze 11.
Silver Blaze 12.
Silver Blaze 13.
Silver Blaze 14.
Silver Blaze 15.
Silver Blaze 16.
Silver Blaze 17.
Silver Blaze 18.
Silver Blaze 19.
Silver Blaze 20.
The Red-Headed League 1.
The Red-Headed League 2.
The Red-Headed League 3.
The Red-Headed League 4.
The Red-Headed League 5.
The Red-Headed League 6.
The Red-Headed League 7.
The Red-Headed League 8.
The Red-Headed League 9.
The Red-Headed League 10.
The Red-Headed League 11.
The Red-Headed League 12.
The Red-Headed League 13.
The Red-Headed League 14.
The Red-Headed League 15.
The Engineer’s Thumb 1
The Engineer’s Thumb 2.
The Engineer’s Thumb 3.
The Engineer’s Thumb 4.
The Engineer’s Thumb 5.
The Engineer’s Thumb 6.
The Engineer’s Thumb 6.
The Engineer’s Thumb 7.
The Engineer’s Thumb 8.
The Engineer’s Thumb 9.
The Engineer’s Thumb 10.
The Engineer’s Thumb 11.
The Engineer’s Thumb 13.
The Speckled Band 1.
The Speckled Band 2.
The Speckled Band 3.
The Speckled Band 4.
The Speckled Band 5.
The Speckled Band 6.
The Speckled Band 7.
The Speckled Band 8.
The Speckled Band 9.
The Speckled Band 10.
The Speckled Band 11.
The Speckled Band 12.
The Speckled Band 13.
The Speckled Band 14.
The Speckled Band 15.
The Speckled Band 16.
The Speckled Band 17.
The Speckled Band 18.
The Speckled Band 19.
The Speckled Band 20.
The Six Napoleons 1.
The Six Napoleons 2.
The Six Napoleons 3.
The Six Napoleons 4.
The Six Napoleons 5.
The Six Napoleons 6.
The Six Napoleons 7.
The Six Napoleons 8.
The Six Napoleons 9.
The Six Napoleons 10.
The Six Napoleons 11.
The Six Napoleons 12.
The Six Napoleons 13.
The Six Napoleons 14.
The Six Napoleons 15.
The Six Napoleons 16.
The Six Napoleons 17.
The Six Napoleons 18.
The Six Napoleons 19.
The Six Napoleons 20.
The Six Napoleons 21.
The Six Napoleons 22.
The Six Napoleons 23.
Thank you for reading.
The | Classics For Kids : Sherlock Holmes | Series
international bestselling author
British ex-pat writing beneath picture post-card blue skies in West Africa
Click HERE to get the latest book news from Mark Williams.
This 6-in-1 Box Set from the Sherlock For Kids series features six classic Sherlock Holmes short stories re-told for children by international best-selling author Mark Williams.
Come join Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson as they solve the following six bizarre mysteries.
The Blue Carbuncle
The Red-Headed League
The Engineer’s Thumb
The Speckled Band
The Six Napoleons
London, England. 1889.
IT WAS BOXING DAY, THE day after Christmas Day, as I made my way carefully through the icy London streets. A cold wind blew light, fluffy snowflakes about and I hoped it wouldn’t snow too heavily that afternoon.
The streets were icy and slippery and I found it easier to walk on the straw strewn across the road than on the pavements. By the time I got to my destination I was absolutely freezing. It was high time I bought myself a new coat and gloves!
I stomped my boots on the first of the stone steps outside 221b Baker Street, so I would not traipse ice and grit into Mrs. Hudson’s hallway. It had been some time since I had lived here, sharing an apartment with my dear friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I still had a key, so I unlocked the door and let myself in.
“Mrs. Hudson!” I shouted through to the kitchen where I knew the lady of the house would be busy. Partly as a courtesy to let her know I was here; more in the hope she would see me shivering and offer a warm pot of tea.
Which of course she did, bless her.
“Merry Christmas, Dr. Watson,” Mrs. Hudson said as she came into the hallway, wiping floury hands on her flowery apron. “My, you look quite frozen. Hurry yourself along up to Mr. Holmes this instant and I shall bring you both a pot of steaming hot tea.”
“That would be most welcome, Mrs. Hudson,” I said.
“And just look at my floury hands,” the landlady went on. “Why, Dr. Watson, you must surely have known I was making your favourite scones today. The first batch will be coming out of the oven in no time.”
“Splendid, Mrs. Hudson,” I said. “Splendid. And with a pat of fresh butter and your wonderful home-made strawberry jam, of course.”
“Of course,” chuckled Mrs. Hudson.
I leaned in to Mrs. Hudson and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone I said so, Mrs. H., but between the two of us you make far better scones than my dear wife, bless her.”
“Oh, get away with you, Dr. Watson,” Mrs. Hudson blushed, and she shuffled back into the kitchen, chuckling to herself.
I made my way up the stairs to the floor occupied by my dear friend, and knocked once.
“Come in, Watson,” Holmes called out.
I PUSHED OPEN THE DOOR and the warmth from the blazing fire met me. I put my hat on the hat-stand just inside the door and began taking off my gloves, scarf and overcoat.
“And just how did you know it was me, Holmes?” I asked. “The way I walked up the stairs, perhaps? Or the way I shuffled along the landing?”
Holmes dismissed my question with a wave of his hand.
“Really, Watson,” he said, “it did not need any special detective skills to know of your arrival. First off, the bell did not ring, so clearly the visitor had a key. The upstairs rooms are empty right now, which means only three people are privileged to have a key to this house. Mrs. Hudson and I, of course, and your good self.”
I glanced across at my friend. “You said, first off, Holmes. So there’s something else, I take it?”
“Secondly,” continued Holmes, “you called out to Mrs. Hudson while in the hallway, in that booming voice of yours. A discussion about scones and strawberry jam, if I am not mistaken.”
I smiled as I put my coat on the peg and walked across to warm my hands in front of the burning coals. It was always so obvious when Holmes explained his logic.
My friend Sherlock Holmes was laid out on the sofa, feet up, wearing his favourite purple dressing gown. As a rule Holmes only got dressed if he was going out or if he was expecting visitors. He had been smoking his pipe, and reading the morning’s newspapers, which were now crumpled on the floor.
But what immediately caught my eye were the magnifying glass and the forceps on a wooden chair stood next to the sofa, and, hanging from the back of the same wooden chair, a battered old hat.
I knew immediately this hat did not belong to Holmes, but the magnifying glass and forceps did, and they told me the hat must be a clue in some new case Holmes was working on.
“I see you are busy, Holmes,” I said, as I made myself comfortable by the fire. “A Christmas mystery to solve?”
“It is nothing special,” Holmes said. “Just a lost hat handed in to me by Peterson, the Commissionaire, along with a lost goose.”
I stared at Holmes in surprise. “A goose, did you say?”
Holmes smiled. “A big, fat Christmas goose, Watson. Some poor soul went home without his hat and without his Christmas goose, and late on Christmas Eve, of all days. I would imagine the poor man’s wife was not best pleased yesterday when they had their Christmas dinner with no goose on the table.”
“A missing hat and a missing goose?” I looked around the room. “I see the hat, Holmes,” I said. “But not the goose.”
“That is because it is even now roasting in Mrs. Peterson’s oven,” Holmes said.
“Mrs. Peterson’s oven?” I stared in amazement at Holmes. “But what if the rightful owner returns to claim it?”
“More importantly, Watson, what if he does not?” said Holmes. “Another day and the goose would be of no use to anyone. Better that Peterson and his family enjoy it than it goes to waste, given Peterson was the one who found it.”
“That’s true enough,” I said. “But Holmes, how on earth does one lose one’s hat and one’s Christmas goose at the same time? I mean, to lose one or the other is surely carelessness. But to lose both?”
“IT HAPPENED LIKE THIS, WATSON,” Holmes said, sucking on his pipe. “Peterson had been out late on Christmas Eve, and on his way home saw a scuffle between an elderly man and some youths. The man had been wearing this very hat, and was carrying a Christmas goose over his shoulder.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
Holmes stretched out on the sofa. “It seems the youths were a little lively, perhaps having had a few too many drinks for Christmas, and knocked the man’s hat off. He in turn put his goose down and angrily waved his walking stick at the lads to warn them off. Unfortunately he was closer to a shop window than he realized, and accidentally thrust the walking stick through the glass.”
“Goodness gracious,” I said.
“At this point Peterson called out for them to be careful,” Holmes went on. “But it seems that, when the crowd turned and saw Peterson, still in his Commissionaire’s uniform, they must have mistaken him for a policeman, for they all ran off.”
“Including the man who broke the window, I presume,” I said.
“Including the man who broke the window,” Holmes confirmed. “Most probably he too thought that Peterson was a policeman. By the time Peterson got to the scene all that was left was this battered old hat and a fine Christmas goose."
“And earlier today you had been examining the hat for clues when I arrived,” I said.
“Indeed so, Watson,” Holmes said. “We have a name, but no address. The hat and goose belong to one Mr. Henry Baker. That was easily found out, because the goose had a card tied to its leg, with the wording For Mrs. Henry Baker on it. Also, the hat has the initials H.B. on the lining. But that’s not very helpful. There will of course be hundreds of gentlemen by the name of Henry Baker here in big city like London. Far too many to try track down.”
At this point there was a knock at the door and Mrs. Hudson entered with the promised pot of tea and buttered scones with jam.
“Here you are, gentlemen,” she said, placing the tray on the table.
The teapot was covered with a special Christmas tea-cozy she had knitted. Along with the milk jug, sugar bowl, cups, saucers and teaspoons there was a plate piled high with buttered scones with strawberry jam.
“Mrs. Hudson. You are simply wonderful,” I said. “And the buttered scones are wonderful too, And so is this splendid tea-cozy. Isn’t that so, Holmes?”
But Holmes did not hear me, and seemed not to notice Mrs. Hudson or the tray of tea and scones, for he had picked up the battered hat again and was studying it carefully through the magnifying glass.
Mrs. Hudson gave me a knowing smile. She knew all about Holmes and his strange ways.
“Enjoy the scones, Dr. Watson,” she said. “And do try to save at least one for Mr. Holmes for when he finally realises they are there.”
“A HAT IS A HAT, HOLMES, surely,” I said, biting into one of Mrs. Hudson’s delicious scones as soon as the landlady had closed the door behind her. “Beyond the initials, HB, surely there is nothing more you can tell from examining that old thing?”
“You are right, Watson,” Holmes said. “There is nothing whatsoever I can deduce from this old hat. Except that Mr. Baker is quite clever, and not so long ago earned a good wage.”
I stopped chomping on my scone and looked at Holmes.
“And that lately,” Holmes continued, “Mr. Baker has fallen on hard times and has taken to drinking to take his mind off his problems. Which may be why his wife no longer loves him as much as she once did.”
I stared in astonishment at Holmes. “You can tell all that from an old hat?”
Holmes held out the hat and magnifying glass for me to take. “Look for yourself,” he said. “It is all there.”
I took the hat and examined it carefully. It was an old black bowler hat that had seen better days. The red silk lining inside was faded, but the initials H.B. could clearly be seen. There was a crack in the hard bowl, and the whole thing was dusty, with faded spots that had been coloured black with writing ink.
I looked through the magnifying glass, but all this did was make larger what I had already seen. I look up at Holmes in bewilderment. “But there is nothing to see,” I declared.
“Nothing?” asked Holmes. “But surely you can see the man is late middle-aged, with gray hair, recently cut, who does little exercise and has no gas in his house.”
I handed the hat and magnifying glass back to Holmes. “Now you are surely joking,” I said.
At this Holmes laughed out loud and, spying the pot of tea, poured himself a cup before turning to me to explain. And of course when he did explain it, it was all so obvious.
First Holmes popped the hat on his own head, and it fell down over his eyes, for it was several sizes too big. He pulled it off again and beamed at me. “Mr. Baker has a head much larger than mine,” he said. “It surely must have a larger brain in it, so he must be clever.”
“Maybe so,” I said, “but what about the rest of it? His wife no longer loves him because he has fallen on hard times and drinks too much? That he is middle-aged with gray hair, recently cut, and has no gas in his house? That is just guess-work, surely?”
“On the contrary,” said Holmes. “It is all here. You saw it with your own eyes.”
“I did no such thing,” I said.
“You saw everything I saw,” Holmes said. “But, Watson, you did not try to make sense of what you saw.”
I took another scone from the plate. “Then tell me, Holmes,” I said, “how does this hat reveal all this information to you, but not to me.”
“ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON,” Holmes said. “The hat is three years old, for this design became fashionable at that time. The lining is silk, not some cheaper fabric, and would have cost quite a lot when new. Clearly the hat is now old and needs replacing, but our Mr. Baker still wears it. Therefore three years ago Mr. Baker was in a better job than he is now.”
“Confound it, Holmes, it is always so obvious once you explain it,” I said. “But what about the rest? The recent haircut, and his not being one to exercise?”
“The silk lining has traces of hair-cream,” Holmes said. “And in that cream are short gray hairs, just cut. There are recent sweat stains, and that tells me Mr. Baker is not used to exercise, for no-one would sweat normally at this time of year.”
“Be that as it may,” I said, wishing I had noticed all this myself, “but there is no way, Holmes, absolutely no way, you can tell from that hat that his wife no longer loves him, or that he has no gas in his house. That is beyond even your powers, surely.”
“There is nothing to it,” said Holmes. “The hat is dusty, as you can plainly see, and the dust is house-dust. You can tell by looking through the magnifying glass. It seems like the hat has not been dusted for many weeks. Now tell me, dear Watson, would your wife let you go out in public in such a disgraceful fashion?”
“Of course not,” I said. “Why, I cannot leave the house at all without Mrs. Watson finding something on me that needs brushing or cleaning or adjusting. Sometimes it takes me ten minutes to get out of the front door!”
“Because she loves you so,” Holmes beamed. “But no less clearly Mrs. Baker does not lavish such attention on her own husband anymore.”
“Or perhaps he has no wife,” I said, pleased with myself for finding a weakness in my friend’s theory. “Perhaps Mr. Baker is not married, or something happened that they no longer live together.”
“You are forgetting the card tied to the leg of the goose, Watson,” came the reply. “For Mrs. Henry Baker.”
I sighed. Holmes had an answer for everything.“Ah, but what about the gas?” I demanded.
“Candle wax,” said Holmes matter-of-factly. “There are no less than five candle wax stains on the hat. One, or even two, might come from outside the home, but five? That surely tells us he has no gas-lighting and carries candles frequently.”
Before I could answer Holmes, the outside bell jangled loudly, followed by a fist pounding on the front door.
A smile spread across my friend’s face. “Unless I am very much mistaken there is someone at the door for me.”
“You are expecting visitors?”
“I am expecting no-one,” said Holmes, as the bell jangled again, and the hammering at the door continued. “But anyone visiting Mrs. Hudson would know better than to tug on the bell like that, and the urgency of those pounding fists can only mean someone in need of my services.”
We heard the front door open, but Mrs. Hudson’s words were cut short as the man – for it was a man’s voice – shouted “Mr. Holmes! Mr. Holmes!” in breathless tones and we heard him rush past Mrs. Hudson and storm up the stairs.
IT SOUNDED LIKE A HERD of elephants charging up the staircase, and I could just imagine Mrs. Hudson looking on in amazement at this desperate visitor stomping a trail of ice and snow up the stairs.
Then the door to Holmes’s apartment burst open and Peterson the Commissionaire raced into the room and stopped, breathless, before Holmes, who was still sat comfortably on the sofa.
“The goose, Mr. Holmes!” shouted Peterson excitedly. “The goose!”
Holmes and I stared at Peterson.
“What, has the goose somehow come alive in the oven and flown off through the window with your carrots in its beak?” asked Holmes. “Calm yourself, Peterson. Take a seat and tell me what has happened.”
But instead of taking a seat, Peterson did the most extraordinary thing. He marched up to Holmes with his hands in front of him, cupping an object of some sort.
“Look here, sir,” he said. “My wife found this in the crop of the goose.”
Holmes took the object from Peterson and held it up to the light from the frosted window. It looked like a large diamond or ruby, except that it was the most beautiful blue in colour.
“And this was in the bird’s crop, you say?” Holmes demanded.
“Yes, sir,” Peterson said, slowly getting his breath back. “My wife was preparing the bird for the oven when she found it.”
“In its crop?” I asked.
“That’s the goose’s throat, Dr. Watson,” Peterson said.
“Yes, I know that,” I said. “I meant, how on earth did it get there?”
“That, my dear Watson, is what we must find out,” said Holmes. He let out a low whistle as he studied the gem in his hands. “By Jove, Peterson, do you know what this is?”
Peterson shrugged. “Not really, Mr. Holmes. But it looks valuable. Is it some sort of diamond?”
“No, not a diamond,” said Holmes. “But in some ways this is far more valuable than a diamond. Peterson, I do believe you have recovered the missing Blue Carbuncle.”
“You mean, the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle?" I stared at Holmes, then at Peterson, then back at the blue stone Holmes held in his hand. “The precious stone that was stolen from the Hotel Cosmopolitan just a few days ago?”
“The very same,” said Holmes. “A plumber by the name of John Horner had been arrested, but the stone was never recovered. Until now.”
I stared at the hat on the chair. “Then is our Mr. Baker somehow involved with the theft? I mean, if it is his hat, and it was his goose...”
Holmes rubbed his hands with glee. “That is what we must find out, my dear Watson. What a delightful little problem to present itself on this otherwise boring Christmas holiday.”
HOLMES HANDED ME A PEN and paper. “Be so kind, Watson, as to jot down this advertisement for Peterson to take along to put into the evening papers.”
I wrote down the message as Holmes told me.
Found, one hat and one Christmas goose. Would Mr. Henry Baker kindly come to 221b Baker Street at 6.30 pm this evening to collect his lost belongings.
Holmes turned to Peterson, handing him the message and a five pound note. “Peterson, I want this to go out in all the evening papers.”
“All of them, sir?” asked Peterson.
“All of them,” said Holmes.
Peterson stared at the five pound note. “Even if I do them all, Mr. Holmes, sir, it won’t come to this much.”
“Ah,” said Holmes. “But with the change I want you to buy and bring back another goose, identical in size and weight to the one you and Mrs. Peterson will shortly be eating. I must have something to give Mr. Baker when he arrives.”
With that, Peterson went off to do his errands, and Holmes carefully put the blue carbuncle in his safety deposit box.
“Well, Watson,” he said. “Other than eating these fine scones of Mrs. Hudson’s, there’s not much else we can do until half past six, after which we might have a busy evening ahead of us, depending on what Mr. Henry Baker has to say.”
Holmes added with a twinkle in his eye, “I suggest you spend the afternoon with your dear, loving wife, so she’ll be sure to brush your hat before you come out again.”
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT I arrived back at 221b Baker Street at about 6.25pm, just as Mr. Baker himself arrived – I knew it was him because the poor man was wearing an ill-fitting beret – so I was able to let Mr. Baker in without disturbing Mrs. Hudson, and escort him up the stairs to where Sherlock Holmes was waiting.
On the way up the stairs I was able to confirm Mr. Baker was indeed overweight and didn’t exercise much, for the strain of climbing the stairs had him breathing hard. I could also see beneath the beret that he had gray hair, cut short.
I wondered how much else of what Holmes had deduced from the hat would prove correct. But I could hardly ask the man if his wife still loved him. Or indeed if he had gas laid on at his house.
Besides, that was a trivial matter compared to the mystery of the blue carbuncle.
Holmes got straight to the point as we entered his room. The hat was on the table, alongside a fresh, plump, snowy-white goose.
“Tell me, is this your hat, sir?” Holmes pointed to the hat.
Mr. Baker smiled. “It is indeed, Mr. Holmes, and I am most grateful for your finding it and keeping it for me. I’ve had to borrow this beret to come out this evening, and it really doesn’t suit me.”
“This hat was handed in two days ago,” said Holmes. “I had expected to see an advertisement in the papers asking if anyone had found it.”
Mr. Henry Baker managed a wan smile. “If only, Mr. Holmes, but I simply could not afford to. These last few years have been very difficult for me. I had already spent what little money I had on the goose, and then I foolishly had a few drinks to celebrate Christmas Eve. I simply did not have enough money to pay for an advertisement as well.”
“I quite understand,” said Holmes, with a knowing smile towards me.
“My wife was barely talking to me even before I lost the goose,” Mr. Baker continued, “so you can imagine what a dreadful festive season we had, with nothing on the dinner table Christmas Day.”
Another point to Holmes, I thought to myself.
“Ah, yes, about the goose,” said Holmes. “I’m afraid it has been eaten.”
Mr. Henry Baker looked from Holmes to the big, fat goose on the table, then back to Holmes. “Eaten? But then, what is this I am looking at? Is that not the goose?”
“That,” said Holmes, “is a goose, but not the goose. It is a replacement goose,” Holmes said. “You will recall your goose had a black bar across its tail feathers, and this one does not.”
Mr. Baker stared at the goose on the table, obviously trying to remember the first goose. At length he shrugged his shoulders. “Did it?” he said. “I really took no notice.”
Holmes smiled at Mr. Baker. “The first goose would not have stayed fresh this long, so we ate it and bought you this fresh goose to replace it. I hope this does not cause any problems for you?”
Mr. Henry Baker beamed back. “Problems? Not at all! I mean, a goose is a goose, is it not? And this one looks to be about the same size, only fresher.”
Holmes handed the hat to Mr. Baker. “So, here is your hat, sir. I’m sorry that I allowed it to get a little dusty, but I’m sure Mrs. Baker will be able to clean it up for you.”
Mr. Baker chuckled. “It has been a long time since Mrs. Baker worried about my hat, Mr. Holmes. “But at least I will see a smile on her face tonight when I arrive home with this fine bird.”
“Then I suggest you take it away now and enjoy it as a late Christmas dinner tomorrow,” said Holmes.
“You, sir, are most kind,” said Mr. Baker, stuffing his beret into his pocket and putting his dusty bowler hat on his head. Then he slung the goose over his shoulder. As he reached the door he turned to us and said, “I do not know how I can thank you enough, Mr. Holmes.”
“Well, there is one thing you might do for me,” said Holmes. “I enjoyed the first goose very much. Would you kindly tell me where you bought it?”
“By all means,” said Mr. Baker. “It came from the goose club at the Alpha Inn.”
“The goose club?” I asked.
“We all pay a few pence each week over the year into a kitty which the landlord at the Alpha Inn keeps safe,” Mr. Baker explained. “By the time Christmas comes around there is enough money for us to buy a nice Christmas goose each. So the landlord of the Alpha Inn gave me the goose, but where he got it from, I have no idea.”
As Mr. Henry Baker opened the door to leave, I said, “Before you go, may I ask a personal question, Mr. Baker?”
“Go ahead,” Mr. Baker said.
“I was just wondering if you had gas laid on in your home, that is all.”
Mr. Baker stared at me in astonishment, then burst out laughing. “I cannot imagine why you would want to know such a thing, but the answer is no, sir. We get by with candles.”
I closed the door as Mr. Baker left us, and turned to Holmes, ready to admit he had been right yet again.
“THAT SETTLES IT,” SAID HOLMES, rubbing his hands together gleefully.
“It does indeed,” I said. “You were absolutely right, Holmes. Mr. Henry Baker has no gas in his house, poor fellow.”
Holmes laughed. “My dear Watson, that was never in question. Except by you, of course. What has been settled is whether or not Mr. Baker was involved in the theft of the blue carbuncle.”
I stared at Holmes. “It has?”
“Of course,” said Holmes. “Clearly Mr. Baker was not involved, for if he knew the blue gem was in the goose he would have demanded the original bird he had lost. Instead he has left us, quite happily, with a replacement goose. Obviously Mr. Baker knows nothing whatsoever of the blue carbuncle being in his goose.”
“So we have a mystery on our hands,” I said. “Namely to find out who put the blue gem in the goose, because that person must be the thief.”
“Exactly so,” said Holmes.
“So what next?” I asked, certain that Holmes would already have formed a plan.
And of course, he had.
“Come, we must hurry to the Alpha Inn,” said Holmes, grabbing his overcoat and bustling out of the door.
I quickly put on my hat and coat and rushed after Holmes into the dark, cold evening.
AFTER FIFTEEN MINUTES WALKING through the evening streets of London, and covered in a light dusting of snow, we found ourselves at the Alpha Inn.
It was early, so the bar was not crowded. Holmes ordered two beers from the landlord and immediately struck up a conversation.
“I have been hearing about your goose club, good sir,” said Holmes. “Mr. Henry Baker speaks very highly of you. He showed me one of your geese, and I wondered if you might have any more available.”
“Sorry,” said the landlord as he pushed two tankards of frothy beer before us. “You’ve come to the wrong place.”
“But this is the Alpha Inn, is it not?” Holmes asked.
The landlord laughed again. “It is, and we do have a goose club. But the geese don’t come from here, you see. There’s a man in Covent Garden who sells them to me.”
“A Covent Garden goose dealer?” said Holmes, thinking quickly. “Why, you must surely mean Smith, perhaps? Or even Wilkinson?”
“Neither of those two, sir,” said the landlord, pulling his watch from his pocket. “Breckinbridge is his name. He’ll shortly be closing up for the night, though, so if you want to catch him this evening you’ll have to hurry.”
“In that case there is no time to lose,” said Holmes. “Come, Watson.”
And with that Holmes was dragging me out through the door.
“Steady on, Holmes!” I cried. “I didn’t get to touch that beer!”
“No time for that now,” said Holmes as he strode towards Covent Garden. “There is a mystery to be solved and that is far more important than eating and drinking.”
“It might be to you, Holmes,” I muttered as I hurried to catch up with my friend. “I was looking forward to that beer.”
Holmes hailed a passing Hansom cab and told the driver to make haste to Covent Garden.
The two-wheeled carriage gave us a little shelter from the icy wind, but not much. I pitied the poor driver, sat out in the open, above us at the back, steering the horses.
Ten minutes later we arrived at London’s famous market, by day the busiest marketplace in London, bustling with shoppers, but at this time of an evening all but deserted.
We were just in time to find Mr. Breckinbridge closing up his stall for the night.
“No geese, my man?” asked Holmes, rushing across. “I was told you had some fine specimens here on Christmas Eve.”
“Sold out, guv’nor,” said Mr. Breckinbridge. “Try my mate’s stall at the end of the row. He still has a few left.”
“But I wanted one of your geese,” insisted Holmes, dismissing the other stall with a wave of his hand. “Your geese came highly recommended.”
“Oh?” Mr. Breckinbridge, looking pleased with himself. “And who might be recommending my geese, may I ask?”
“Why, the landlord of the Alpha Inn,” said Holmes. “He told me your geese were the best available by far, and I should go to no-one else but you. Absolutely no-one else will do, the landlord had said.”
Mr. Breckinbridge swelled with pride. “Is that so? Well I did sell him a couple of dozen geese as it happens. But they’ve all gone. Sorry. Not a single goose left.”
“Well, might I ask where you yourself got the geese from?” Holmes said.
Mr. Breckinbridge’s smile disappeared. He stood with his arms crossed and glared at Holmes. “I don’t see as that’s any of your business, guv’nor.”
Holmes shrugged. “It’s a simple enough question, my man. Where did you buy the geese you sold to the landlord of the Alpha Inn? Is that too much to ask?”
Mr. Breckinbridge was having none of it. “Yes, sir, it is too much to ask. It’s none of your business where I get my geese from, and you can’t say otherwise.”
Holmes turned to me, a sorrowful look on his face. “Then the bet’s off, Watson. Sorry.”
Mr. Breckinbridge stared at Holmes, then at me, then back at Holmes. “Bet, did you say?” Mr. Breckinbridge leaned forward. “What’s all this about a bet?”