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Thursday, December 23, 2021

When Christopher Morley Was Wrong

Christopher Morley was wrong.

There, I said it.

In his introduction to the Baker Street Irregulars’ landmark 1948 edition of “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” the BSI founder Morley famously began by writing, “Surely one of the most unusual things in the world: a Christmas story without slush.”

Most TV and radio adaptations move the date of “The Blue Carbuncle” to Christmas eve instead of Dec. 27, but that’s not really necessary. Traditionally, the Twelve Days of Christmas only begin on Christmas and don’t end until Jan. 6, considered by most Sherlockians to be the Master’s birthday.

So “The Blue Carbuncle” is a Christmas story. Morley was right about that. But it is not without slush. Consider how the story ends:

There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing and by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes’ finger-tips upon the edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.

“Get out!” said he.

“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”

“No more words. Get out!”

And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the street.

“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his clay pipe, “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing; but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must collapse. 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 jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which also a bird will be the chief feature.”

That is slush – and very good slush indeed!