1 An old hat
My name’s Dr Watson, and I’m a good friend of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Two days after Christmas last year I went to his house – 221B Baker Street. I wanted to say “Happy Christmas!” to him. When I arrived. I found him in the sitting-room. He was by the window with some newspapers next to him. There was an old hat on a chair near him, and he had a magnifying glass in his hand.
“You’re working on something,” I said. “Shall I go?”
“No,” said Holmes. “Sit down and look at that interesting old hat over there.”
I sat down. It was cold out in the street, but it was nice and warm in Holmes’s sitting room.
“Why are you interested in that old hat? Is it something to do with a crime?” I asked.
Holmes laughed. “Not a crime, no,” he said. “I got it from Peterson, the doorman at the Baker Street Hotel.”
He found it in the street and brought it here on Christmas Day for me to look at. He also brought a dead bird with him – a good fat Christmas goose – at the same time.
“I gave the goose back to him this morning. He’s cooking it at his house now and he’s going to eat it for dinner tonight.”
“First it was a hat, and now you’re talking about a goose!” I said. “I don’t understand.”
“Then let’s begin when it all began,” said Holmes.
“At about four o’clock in the morning of Christmas Day, Peterson went home after work. When he got to Tottenham Court Road he saw, in the street in front of him, a tall man with a goose over his shoulder. Peterson walked behind him for some time.”
“There were some young men in the street in front of them. Suddenly one of them hit the tall man’s hat off his head and it fell into the road. Then the tall man tried to hit the young man with his walking stick, but by accident he broke the window of a shop behind him.”
“At that moment Peterson ran to the man to help him, but the tail man ran away. Perhaps he felt bad about breaking the shop window. Perhaps he thought that Peterson – in his doorman’s coat and hat – was a policeman.”
“When he ran, he left his Christmas bird in the street next to his hat. The young men ran away at the same time, so Peterson took the goose and the hat home with him, and the next day he brought them here.”
“There was an interesting little ticket on the goose’s left leg,” said Holmes. “It said “For Mr and Mrs Henry Baker”. We can find the letters H.B. in the hat too.”
“Oh … the owner of the hat and the goose is called Henry Baker,” I said.
“Yes,” answered Holmes. “But my dear Watson this doesn’t help us very much. There are hundreds of Henry Bakers in London. I gave the goose back to Peterson this morning,” he went on,”and I said to him: ‘Have this for your dinner!’ I didn’t want it to go bad, you know.”
“Did Mr Baker put an advertisement in the newspaper about his hat and goose?” I asked.
“No,” answered Holmes.
“Then how can we find him?”
“Well, perhaps his hat can help us,” said Holmes. “Here’s my magnifying glass, Watson. Now, you be a detective for a minute or two. What can you tell me about the owner of this hat?”
I took the magnifying glass and looked at the hat. It was black but old, and very, very dirty. I saw the letters H. B. in it. For me it was no different from any other old black hat.
“I can see nothing,” I said, and I gave the hat back to my friend.
“Excuse me, Watson. You do see, but you don’t think about what you see.”
“All right!” I said. “What can you see in this hat?”
“The owner of this hat is an intelligent man,” said Holmes. “He was once rich and is now poor. His wife loved him once but she doesn’t love him now. And he’s thirty or forty years old.”
“Well, perhaps I’m slow, Holmes, but I don’t understand,” I said. “Why is he an intelligent man, do you think?”
Holmes put the hat on his head. It came down to his nose. “This is a big hat. A man with a big hat has a big head, and a man with a big head has a big brain. A man with a big brain thinks a lot.”
“But you say he was once rich and is now poor. Why?”
“The hat is three years old. I remember these hats were in all the shops then. They were very expensive too.”
“Three years ago this man bought a good hat, so he was rich then. But he has no money to buy a new hat now, so these days he is poor.”
“All right,” I said. “But you say he is in his thirties or forties. How does the hat tell you this?”
“Well, when I looked carefully at the hat with my magnifying glass, I could see some grey hairs in it. People usually get grey hair in their thirties or forties.”
“I see. But what about his wife? You say she doesn’t love him.”
“Because the hat is very dirty. When a woman loves her husband, she cleans his hat for him.”
“Perhaps he hasn’t got a wife.”
“Yes, he has. Remember the ticket on the goose’s leg.”
“Ah yes,” I said. “You have an answer for everything.”
At that moment the door opened and Peterson the hotel doorman ran into the room. He looked very excited.
“The goose, Mr Holmes. The goose!” he said.
“What’s the matter with the goose?” asked Holmes. “Did it come back from the dead and fly off through the kitchen window?”
“No, Mr Holmes. My wife found this in the bird!” Peterson opened his hand. There was a beautiful blue diamond in it.
2 The Blue Diamond
When Sherlock Holmes saw the diamond in the doorman’s hand he sat up. “Well, well, Peterson,” he said. “What a wonderful thing to find in a goose. Do you know what you have in your hand?”
“I think it’s a diamond, Mr Holmes. Is it expensive?” “Yes, it is,” said Holmes. “This is the Countess of Morcar’s blue diamond. It disappeared a week ago.” “How do you know that?” I said.
“Watson, you must read the newspapers more often. There’s an advertisement in The Times today about it. Here, look.”
Holmes gave the advertisement to me.
Then Holmes spoke to the doorman. “It’s a very expensive jewel, Peterson. The Countess paid about £20,000 for it. Last week someone took it from her rooms in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Now the Countess wants to get her diamond back. She says that she’s going to give a thousand pounds to the finder.”
“A thousand pounds!” cried Peterson excitedly. Then, without saying more, he sat down in the chair between us. First he looked at Holmes and then he looked at me.
“The diamond disappeared five days ago, I think,” I said.
“Yes,” answered Holmes. “They say a young man, John Horner, took it. Here’s a newspaper report about the case.”
Holmes gave an old newspaper to me and I read the report.
A Diamond dissapears from the cosmopolitan hotel.
The Countess of Morcar’s blue diamond disappeared from her room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on the 22nd of this month. The police think John Homer, 26 years old, took the diamond from a jewel box when he went to repair the window in the room.
James Ryder, the assistant manager of the hotel, told the court: “I took Horner to the Countess’ s room but then I went away for some time. When I came back, Homer wasn’t there, and I found the open box, without the jewel in it, on the table next to the bed.”
Catherine Cusack, the countess’s maid, spoke next: “I heard Mr Ryder call and I ran to the Countess’s room. There I found Ryder with the jewel box in front of him.’
The police found Homer at his home later that day, but they couldn’t find the diamond.
Later, Detective Bradstreet spoke to the court: “When I said ‘You’re a diamond thief!’ Homer hit me.”
Soon after that Horner told the court angrily: “You’ve got the wrong man. I didn’t take the Countess’s diamond. I’m not a thief.”
Bradstreet then told the court: “Horner went to prison once before for being a thief. I say he took the diamond.”
The case goes to the High Court next week.
“Well, that’s the newspaper report about the diamond,” said Holmes. “Now we need to understand how the jewel left the Countess of Morcar’s room in the Cosmopolitan hotel and arrived in Tottenham Court Road in a goose.”
“You see, Watson, there is a crime in this case. Here’s the diamond. The diamond came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr Henry Baker – the man with the old hat.”
“I know you felt a little bored when I told you all about Mr Baker, but now we must find him. Where and how does he come into the case of the blue diamond? The answer to these two questions is most important.”
“But how can we find him?” I asked.
“Through a newspaper advertisement,” answered Holmes.
He took a pen and began to write.
“There. That says it all, I think,” said Holmes.
“Yes, but is he going to read it?” I asked.
“Yes, Watson, I think he is. He’s a poor man, remember. At the time he was afraid because of his accident with the shop window, but now I believe he feels very sorry about running away and thinks: ‘Why did I leave that bird in the street?'”
“Perhaps he looked for a newspaper advertisement about it yesterday. I think he’s going to look again today, too. What’s more, we’ve got his name in the advertisement, so I believe his friends are going to see it and tell him about it.”
“Yes, I see,” I said.
Holmes gave some money to the doorman and said: “Peterson, please go down to the newspaper offices and put this advertisement in all the evening newspapers.”
“Very good, sir. And shall I leave the diamond with you, sir?”
“Yes, Peterson. And, I say, Peterson, after you leave the newspaper offices, can you buy a goose and bring it back here? We need a new bird for Mr Henry Baker when he comes. Your family is eating the old one for dinner today, so he can’t have that.”
The doorman went out of the door and down the street.
3 Mr Henry Baker
Holmes took the blue diamond in his hand and looked at it. “What a beautiful thing!” he said. “Look at the wonderful colours in it – dark blues and cold whites. All big jewels make people into thieves and killers in the end. This one comes from the south of China, near the Amoy river. It’s only twenty years old, so it’s a young thing, but already many terrible crimes are happening because of it.”
“I’m going to put it in my safe now, and then let’s write a letter to the Countess of Morcar and say we have her beautiful blue diamond here with us.”
“But Holmes,” I said, “I don’t understand. Is that young man Horner innocent after all?”
“I don’t know.”
“And what about Henry Baker – the tall man with the hat and the goose? Is he the jewel thief perhaps?”
“No, I don’t think he is. I believe he’s an innocent man. I don’t think he knew there was an expensive diamond in his goose – a jewel worth more than £20,000. But let’s wait and see. Perhaps Mr Baker’s going to answer our advertisement this evening and then we can learn something more about him.”
“All right,” I said. “I can come back after work this evening. I’m very interested in the answer to this case.” “Good,” replied Holmes. “Dinner is at 7 o’clock.”
I got to Baker Street at 6.30 that evening. There was a tall man already at Sherlock Holmes’s front door when I came down the street. He wore a long winter coat and had a Scottish hat on his head. When I arrived next to him the door opened. Mrs Hudson, Holmes’s housekeeper, said “Good evening” to the two of us, and we went in and upstairs to Holmes’s room.
“Mr Henry Baker, I believe!” said Holmes to the man when he came in. “Please sit down.”
Holmes looked at me and smiled.
“Ah, Watson, good. You are here when we need you.” Then he looked back at his other visitor.
“Is that your hat, Mr Baker?”
Mr Baker looked at the hat on the chair.
“Yes, sir. That’s my hat. There’s no question about it.”
He was a big man with a big head, an intelligent face, and grey hair. I remembered Holmes’s words about him.
He wore a dirty old blaek coat with no shirt under it, but he spoke slowly, quietly and carefully. I looked at him and listened to him and I thought: “Yes, this is an intelligent man. He was rich once but now he has no money and things aren’t easy for him.”
“We found your hat and your goose some days ago,” said Holmes, “But we couldn’t find you very easily, Mr Baker. We didn’t know your address. Why didn’t you put an advertisement in the newspaper with your address in it? We waited and waited for an advertisement from you. but saw nothing.”
Mr Baker smiled “I’m sorry. Advertisements are expensive and I haven’t got a lot of money these days. I had once, but not now,” he went on. “And, well, I thought those young men in Tottenham Court Road had my hat and my goose, and I didn’t want to put an expensive advertisement in the newspaper for nothing.”
“I understand,” said Holmes, “Now, before we say more. I must tell you something about your goose, Mr Baker. I’m sorry but… well… we ate it yesterday, you know.”
“You ate it!” said our visitor, and he stood up excitedly.
“Yes, well, we didn’t want it to go bad, you see. But we bought a nice new goose this morning for you. It’s on the table there by the door. Is that all right for you?”
“Oh, yes, yes!” said Mr Baker happily. He sat down again.
“And, let’s see, I think we have your old goose’s feet, head and everything from inside it in the kitchen. Do you want those?”
The man laughed.
“No, no,” he said. “But I’d like to take that nice new goose home with me, thank you very much.”
Sherlock Holmes looked at me with a little smile. “Very well.” he said to Mr Baker.
“There is your hat and there is your bird. Please take them. Oh, and, before you go, can you tell me something? Where did you get your goose? I know a lot about geese and that was a very good bird, I can tell you.”
“Well, sir.” said Baker. He stood up and took his hat and the goose in his hands. “I got that bird at The Alpha, a pub near the British Museum. This year the owner of the pub Mr Windigate, began a goose club. Every week we all put live or six pence into a money box and at Christmas time we all had the money for a goose.”
With that he said goodbye, and left.
“Well.” said my detective friend. “That answers one question. Mr Baker is not our diamond thief. Are you hungry, Watson?”
“No, not very.”
“Let’s eat later then. We must go to The Alpha at once. We need to speak to Mr Windigate tonight.”
4 To Mr Breckinridge's
Holmes and I put on our coats and hats and went out into the cold winter street. The sky was dark over our heads. We walked east, and in a quarter of an hour we stood in front of The Alpha. Holmes opened the door and we went in.
In the pub the owner, Mr Windigate, gave us some beer.
“Is this beer good?” Holmes asked him. “I ask because I know your geese are very good. Mr Henry Baker told us all about your goose club.”
“Ah, yes. But those geese weren’t our geese. They came from a man with a little shop in Covent Garden. Breckinridge is his name.”
“Thank you, my good man” said Holmes.
We paid for our beer and drank it. Then we walked out of the warm pub and into the cold night again.
“Now for Covent Garden,” said Holmes, and we walked down the street past the British Museum. “Remember, Watson, it all began with a goose, but it finishes with seven years in prison for young Mr Horner. Perhaps we can learn more about this interesting case in Mr Breckinridge’s shop.”
We walked south and soon came to Mr Breckinridge’s shop. Breckinridge and a boy were at the door. It was nearly time to close for the night.
“Good evening. It’s a cold night,” said Holmes.
“How can I help you?” asked Breckinridge.
Holmes looked at the empty shop window. “No geese, I see,” he said.
“There are some in that other shop – there behind you.”
“Ah, but I came to you because I hear your geese are very good. ‘Breckinridge’s birds are the best,'” he said.
“Who said that?”
“The owner of The Alpha.”
“Ah, yes. He had twenty-four of my geese two days before Christmas.”
“They were very good birds too. Where did you get them?”
“I’m not going to tell you!” said Breckinridge angrily. Again and again people come and talk to me about those geese and I don’t like it. I paid good money for them, I took them to The Alpha and then I forgot all about them. And then all the questions began. “Where are the geese?” “How much do you want for them?” “Who did you sell them to?” Why are people interested in them? I don’t know. They aren’t the only geese in London, you know.”
“I know,” said Holmes. “But who asked you all those questions before? Not me. I had nothing to do with that, you know. But now I need your help. We ate a goose at the Alpha, and I say it was a country goose, but my good friend, Dr Watson here, says it was a London goose. Which of us is right? It’s an important question. Five pounds goes to the winner.”
“Well then, you lose and your friend is the winner,” said Breckinridge. “That goose came from London.”
“I can’t believe that,” said Holmes.
“A pound says I’m right.”
“Very well,” said Holmes, and he took out a pound. “I’m ready to pay. But I know you’re going to lose your money.”
Breckinridge laughed. “Bring me the books, Bill,” he said. The boy brought two books to him.
Breckinridge opened the little one. “This is my address book,” he said. “When people sell their geese to me their addresses go in here – country people on the left and town people on the right. The numbers after every name are page numbers in my big book.”
“Read out the third name on the right,” said Breckinridge.
“Mrs Oakshott, 117 Brixton Road. Number 249,” read Holmes.
Then Breckinridge opened the big book. “And this is my ‘IN and OUT’ book,” he said. “Let’s look at page 249. Here we are. Mrs Oakshott. What can you see for December 22nd?”
“Twenty-four geese from Mrs 0,” read Holmes. “All twenty-four to Mr Windigate at the Alpha.”
“There. What do you say now?” said Breckinridge.
Holmes put his pound into Breckinridge’s hand angrily.
5 A weak little man
In the street Holmes stopped. Suddenly he wasn’t angry; he began to laugh. “You see, Watson,” he said. “Breckinridge didn’t want to tell me Mrs Oakshott’s name and address at first. But later, when he saw he could easily get a pound from me, he told me everything. And he said something very interesting when he got angry. Did you hear? Other people are asking questions about those geese.”
Suddenly there was a lot of noise from Mr Breckinridge’s shop behind us. We looked back at it. Breckinridge stood, tall and angry, in front of his shop door. A weak little man stood in front of him in the street.
“Look, you,” Breckinridge shouted. “I don’t want to hear any more about those geese. Mrs Oakshott can come and speak to me when she wants, but not you. You have nothing to do with it. Did I get the geese from you?”
“No, but one was my goose, I tell you,” cried the little man.
“Then ask Mrs Oakshott for it.”
“But she told me ‘Ask Mr Breckinridge for it.'”
“Well, that’s nothing to do with me. I don’t want to hear any more from you. Do you understand? Now go away!”
Breckinridge closed his shop door angrily and the little man ran off down the dark street.
“Perhaps we don’t need to visit Mrs Oakshott in Brixton Road after all,” said Holmes to me quietly. “Let’s talk to that man. Perhaps he can help us.”
Holmes walked quickly up behind the little man and put a hand on his shoulder. The man stopped and looked back over his shoulder at us. His face was white.
“Who are you? What do you want?” he asked weakly.
“Excuse me,” said Holmes. “But I heard your questions to that shop owner. I think I can help you.”
“Who are you? And how can you help me?”
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. And It’s my job to know things other people don’t know.”
“But, you can’t know anything about this!”
“Excuse me, I know everything. You want to find twenty-four geese. Mrs Oakshott of Brixton Road sold them to Mr Breckinridge here. He sold them to Mr Windigate, the owner of the Alpha, and Mr Windigate sold them to the people in his goose club.”
“Oh, sir. This is wonderful. I’m very happy to meet you,” said the little man excitedly. “You are right. I am very interested in those geese. More than I can say.”
“Why don’t we go to a warm room in my house for a talk then? I don’t like standing here in the cold street.”
Holmes put out his arm and a cab stopped for us.
“But before we go, can you please tell us your name?”
The little man looked at Holmes and then at me before he answered.
“J-J-John Robinson,” he said.
“No, no,” said Holmes quietly. “We’d like to know your real name please.”
The stranger’s face changed from white to red.
“Very well. My real name is James Ryder,” he said.
“Well, well, well,” said Holmes. “Assistant Manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Now let’s get into the cab and go home. Then I can tell you everything you want to know.” So we got into the cab and went home. Ryder looked excited but said nothing. Holmes didn’t speak at all in the cab.
6 One or two questions
When we arrived at 221B Baker Street, we got out of the cab and went in. Back in his sitting room, Holmes spoke at last.
“Please sit down, Mr Ryder. Now, where were we? Ah, yes. You want to know what happened to those twenty-four geese. Or perhaps, what happened to one of those geese?You are interested in only one bird, I think. A white goose with a black tail.”
“Oh, sir,” Ryder said excitedly. “Where did that bird go to?”
“It came here. And it was a most interesting bird. We found something in it after it died. The most wonderful thing. Here it is.”
Our visitor stood up weakly. Holmes opened his safe and took out the blue diamond. In his hand it was cold and beautiful. Ryder looked at the jewel but said nothing.
Holmes spoke for him. “We know it was you, Ryder,” he said. “Sit down and have a drink. You look very weak.”
I gave Ryder a drink. He sat down and drank it quickly and looked at Holmes. I saw he was afraid.
“You don’t need to tell me much,” said Holmes, “I know nearly everything about the case. But I have one or two questions to ask. How did you hear of the Countess of Morcar’s blue diamond?”
“Catherine Cusack, her maid, told me,” said Ryder.
“I see,” Holmes went on. “So you and Cusack wanted to get the diamond and sell it for lots of money. You asked John Horner to come and repair the window in the room because you knew of his time in prison. When he left, you took the diamond from the Countess’s jewel box. Then you called the police. They came at once. Because of Horner’s time in prison they believed he was the thief. It was all very easy. Then …”
“Oh, please, please!” cried Ryder, now on the floor at Holmes’s feet. “Think of my father! Think of my mother! I never did anything wrong before. I’m never going to do it again. Please don’t tell the police. I don’t want to go to prison.”
“Sit down in your chair!” said Holmes coldly. “You’re crying now, but did you feel sorry for young Horner? He knew nothing of this crime. But the police believed he was a diamond thief, and so he went to court and he is now going to prison – all because of you.”
“I can leave the country, Mr Holmes. Then, when I don’t go to court, Horner can leave prison.”
“We can see about that later!” said Holmes. “But now please tell me, Mr Ryder. How did the diamond get from the hotel into a goose? And how did the goose get into a shop? And please tell the truth.”
When the police arrested Horner, I left the hotel with the diamond in my pocket. I didn’t want to stay at the Cosmopolitan, not with the police everywhere, looking at everything, so I went to my sister’s house in South London. She lives in Brixton Road with her husband, Mr Oakshott. I saw lots of police officers on my way there and when I got to Brixton Road I was very afraid.
“What’s the matter?” my sister asked.
I told her about the diamond thief and about the police arresting Horner. Then I went into the back garden to smoke and think. What could I do with the diamond now? In the garden, I remembered my friend Maudsley. He began well, but he went bad, and in the end he went to prison for his crimes. “Perhaps he knows about selling diamonds,” I thought. So I decided to visit him at his home in Kilburn in North London.
“But how can I walk across London with the diamond?” I thought. “I can’t have it in my pocket. Not with all those police officers in the streets.” Then I looked down at the geese in the garden and I thought of something.
I knew one of those geese was for me, for my Christmas dinner. So I decided to take my goose there and then, and not to wait for it.
I quickly caught a big white goose with a black tail. Then I took the diamond from my pocket, and put it into the bird’s mouth. I felt the jewel go down its neck. With the diamond now inside the goose I felt happy. I could walk to Kilburn and back easily.
Then my sister came into the garden.
“What are you doing with that goose?” she said.
I put my bird down and it ran off with the other geese. “That’s the goose I want for Christmas,” I said
“Very well. Catch it, kill it, and take it with you, she said.
Well, Mr Holmes. I caught that bird, killed it and took it with me to Kilburn. There I told my friend Maudsley all about the diamond and he laughed and laughed. We got a knife and opened the goose but we couldn’t find the diamond. I knew then something was wrong.
I left the goose with Maudsley, ran to my sister’s house, and went into the back garden. There were no geese there.
“Where are they all, Maggie?” I said.
“In Mr Breckinridge’s shop, in Covent Garden.”
“Were there two birds with black tails?” I asked.
“Yes, there were, James,” she said. “And to my eyes one was no different from the other.”
I understood it all then. The diamond was inside the other goose with the black tail. And that goose was now in Mr Breckinridge’s shop. I ran to Covent Garden at once and went to Breckinridge’s. But the geese weren’t in his shop, and when I asked about them he told me: “I sold them all at once.”
“But you must tell me. Where are they now?” I asked again and again. But he never told me. You and Dr Watson heard him earlier tonight, Mr Holmes. He never answered my questions.
“Now my sister thinks I’m a terrible brother. I’m a thief, I’m going to lose my good name, and I never got any money from my crime at all. Oh, what’s going to happen to me?”
He put his head in his hands and began to cry.
Holmes didn’t speak for a long time. Then, in the end, he stood up and opened the door.
“Get out!” he said.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you, sir!” said Ryder.
“Be quiet and get out!” said Holmes again, and, with that, Ryder ran out of the door, downstairs, out into the street, and away.
“After all, Watson,” said Holmes. “It’s not my job to do the police’s work for them and young Horner’s going to be all right. Ryder isn’t going to go to court now.
Without him, the police have no witness to say Horner was the thief.
“Perhaps I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t believe it. I think I’m helping Ryder to be a better man. Send him to prison now and you make him into a thief for life. But now he’s afraid, he’s not going to go wrong again. We found the solution to the crime and that makes me happy. And it’s Christmas, after all, and Christmas is a time to be nice to other people, I believe.
“And now, Watson, let’s ask Mrs Hudson to bring in our dinner.”