Saturday, December 10, 2011

Merry Christmas, Sherlock Holmes

Tis the season when childhood images fill our minds and warm our hearts. For some of us we remember tobogganing down a hill among snow-frosted cedars and pine; star-filled nights whose light reflected off the snow creating the appearance of twilight; the warmth of the house afterward; mittens drying on the radiator, the smell of cooking; the Christmas tree all lit up and sparkly looking quite magical, was magical, in fact, since presents would appear under it on the morning of December 25th.

For some of us Sherlock Holmes afficionados there is no original Conan Doyle tale that captures the spirit of the Christmas Season (indeed, it is the only Holmes adventure that occurs during the Christmas season) like The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.
I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice crystals. Watson states early in the story. It is a nostalgic image that we treasure.

Watson finds Holmes studying a worn hat that had been left by Peterson, the commissionaire.
I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire.

Though some of us, no doubt, had grown up with turkeys for Christmas, we can almost smell the goose roasting, its skin turning a glistening golden colour.

For those of us who know the Blue Carbuncle story (and know it well) Peterson finds a precious jewel in the goose and returns to show it to Holmes. The stone is nothing less than the famous Blue Carbuncle that has recently been stolen from the Countess of Morcar in London.

Holmes and Watson track down Henry Baker, the original owner of the goose (and hat). Baker tells how he bought the goose from the owner of the Alpha Inn, who bought the goose from a dealer in Covent Garden. who bought the goose from... You get the idea.

When Holmes finally captures the jewel thief and he relates how the jewel got into the goose, the detective allows the man to flee. Holmes explains:
I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaol-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness.

Of all the images and messages we recall this Christmas, let us remember these final words of Sherlock Holmes.

Stephen Gaspar's books can be found on Amazon

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