I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past
six when I found myself in Baker Street once more. As I
approached the house I saw a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with
coat which was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the
bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as
arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up together to
"Mr. Henry Baker, I believe," said he, rising from
and greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which
could so readily assume. "Pray take this chair by the fire,
Baker. It is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation
more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah, Watson, you have
just come at the right time. Is that your hat, Mr. Baker?"
"Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat."
He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head, and
broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of
grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight
tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes's surmise as to his
habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in
front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded
from his sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in
slow staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave
impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had
ill-usage at the hands of fortune.
"We have retained these things for some days," said
"because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving
address. I am at a loss to know now why you did not advertise."
Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. "Shillings have
been so plentiful with me as they once were," he remarked.
no doubt that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had carried
both my hat and the bird. I did not care to spend more money in
hopeless attempt at recovering them."
"Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were compelled
"To eat it!" Our visitor half rose from his chair in
"Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not
But I presume that this other goose upon the sideboard, which
about the same weight and perfectly fresh, will answer your
purpose equally well?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly," answered Mr. Baker with
a sigh of
"Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and
so on of
your own bird, so if you wish--"
The man burst into a hearty laugh. "They might be useful
to me as
relics of my adventure," said he, "but beyond that I
see what use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance are
going to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permission,
will confine my attentions to the excellent bird which I perceive
upon the sideboard."
Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight shrug
of his shoulders.
"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
better grown goose."
"Certainly, sir," said Baker, who had risen and tucked
gained property under his arm. "There are a few of us who
frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum--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, by which,
on consideration of some few pence every week, we were each to
receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were duly paid, and the
rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you, sir, for a
Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my gravity."
a comical pomposity of manner he bowed solemnly to both of us
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
up this clew 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
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
"My geese!" The man seemed surprised.
"Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry
who was a member of your goose club."
"Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them's not our geese."
"Indeed! Whose, then?"
"Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden."
"Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?"
"Breckinridge is his name."
"Ah! I don't know him. Well, here's your good health landlord,
and prosperity to your house. Good-night.
"Now for Mr. Breckinridge," he continued, buttoning
up his coat
as we came out into the frosty air. "Remember, Watson that
we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain,
have at the other a man who will certainly get seven years' penal
servitude unless we can establish his innocence. It is possible
that our inquiry may but confirm his guilt but, in any case, we
have a line of investigation which has been missed by the police,
and which a singular chance has placed in our hands. Let us
follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the south, then, and