Welcome to the conclusion of our second festive Tale for Our Time - a Christmas caper with Holmes and Watson, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Part Two begins with the appearance of a chap wearing a Scotch bonnet - a tam o'shanter - to which he is ill-suited. Sherlock Holmes is happy to restore the fellow's hat - and supply a replacement Yuletide goose:
"There is your hat, then, and there your bird," said he. "By the way, would it bore you to tell me where you got the other one from? I am somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom seen a better grown goose."
"Certainly, sir," said Baker, who had risen and tucked his newly gained property under his arm. "There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museumâ€”we are to be found in the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This year our good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club..."
Goose clubs were very popular in Victorian England: In the run-up to Christmas, working Londoners would pay into their club a few pennies per week, and thereby be assured of a nice plump bird for the 25th. Mr Baker was ill-starred to lose his in Goodge Street, but Holmes' replacement surely gave him an especially bonny post-Boxing Day:
With a comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us and strode off upon his way.
"So much for Mr. Henry Baker," said Holmes when he had closed the door behind him. "It is quite certain that he knows nothing whatever about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?"
"Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and follow up this clue while it is still hot."
"By all means."
It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped cravats about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly in a cloudless sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out into smoke like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out crisply and loudly as we swung through the doctors' quarter, Wimpole Street, Harley Street, and so through Wigmore Street into Oxford Street. In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at the Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one of the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.
"Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your geese," said he.
"My geese!" The man seemed surprised.
Goosey-goosey-gander, whither will Holmes wander in search of the explanation for this Yuletide fowl play. Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read the gripping denouement of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle simply by clicking here and logging-in. The first installment can be found here.
Thank you for your kind words about this second of our festive treats. David Dimick, a Steyn Club member from Kansas, writes:
Mark's excellent rendering of the dialogue at 221-B Baker Street can only be complimented by imagining Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. None of the contemporary imitators will suffice. Good show, what?
That's far too generous, David. Mr Dimick's forenamesake, David Wilson, a first-weekend Founding Member from California, is grateful also for last year's Sherlockian thriller:
I cannot believe it has taken me this long to notice you recorded this Tale. Thanks for adding the Holmes Tale at Christmas, so that I could come back to this one. I am a huge Holmes fan, fifty years on from my first exposure to him when I was in junior high school.
Thank you, David. We will certainly have more from Conan Doyle in the years ahead.
It's the Christmas season at SteynOnline, which means next weekend we'll have another seasonal tale that I think you'll enjoy very much. Meanwhile, if you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking something for a fellow fan of classic fiction this holiday season, don't forget our limited-time-only Christmas Gift Membership, which this year includes a personalized Christmas card from yours truly along with a handsomely engraved presentation set of three of our most popular Tales for Our Time (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps).
On the other hand, if you'd like a book in old-fashioned book form, over at the Steyn store there are bargains galore among our Steynamite Christmas Specials - as well as a couple of extra-festive gifts for your loved one: two on the aisle for the first ever Dennis Miller/Mark Steyn live tour, or a deluxe berth on next year's second annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise.