A Study in Red

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

A Study in Red is a pastiche written by A. Dewar Willock published in the Fun magazine on 6 july 1892.

A Study in Red

We sat at dinner together. It was Christmas dinner; yet there was little about the decorations of the room or of the table to suggest that the glorious time of peace and dyspepsia and goose and good will was with us.

The remarkable man with whom I was dining was not given to the display of sentimental decorative effects. He was practical, intensely practical.

Everything for him had a meaning, and what did not have a meaning had one promptly manufactured to fit into it.

I might have had my dinner at home, or I might have had it in a hotel or restaurant. My reason for having it here, in a plain lodging house, was because I had been asked; had I not been asked I would not have been here; had I not been here I was have missed one of those remarkable manifestations of logical thought which are so frequently exhibited by the remarkable man.

I may state that we had almost dined. We had had soup, we had had a bit of fish with oyster sauce, we had had roast beef; we had dallied with a small bit of fowl, and we were about to deal with plum pudding. It will at once be seen that our dinner was plain, but substantial. It was a dinner which might have been eaten any day - the plum pudding, perhaps, being the only offering which had been made at the shrine of the festive season.

It had been a silent dinner - comparatively. The remarkable man devoted himself to his meal with that intensity which marked his treatment of everything upon which he entered. Only twice had he spoken during the repast. Once he asked me to pass the mustard, and once he had invited me to have more gravy. I saw he was wrapped in thought, and I knew better than to disturb the train of ideas.

As he lifted the second spoonful of pudding to his lips, I observed him suddenly pause. To one who had studied him less than I had, the emotion which passed over his face would have passed unnoticed, but I was at once aware something had happened. Suddenly he raised his hand, and with his finger and thumb he nervously fingered the side of his mouth; then he withdrew his hand, and allowed it to rest a moment by the side of his plate. The action was suggestive that he had laid down something, but I could see nothing.

He rang the bell with a sharp blow, and the obsequious landlady entered the room.

"Mrs. Smith," said the remarkable man, "you have a young girl concealed somewhere about the basement flat.

"Which I won't deceive you, sir, I have," replied the landlady.

"She is untidy - is down at heel," said the remarkable man.

"I am sorry to say she is."

"She is the slavey - the maid of all work."

"She is."

"And she has red hair."

"She has."

"I knew it. Enough! I leave these lodgings at the end of the week."

"I am so sorry," whimpered the landlady, as she left the room.

I looked across for an explanation of the sudden resolve. For answer the remarkable man motioned me to come to the window. As I approached him he extended his open palm towards me, and I saw laying across it a single red hair!

"It was in the first spoonful of plum pudding," he whispered.

The whole affair was simple, and could be seen at a glance, but to make it clear, and draw the proper deductions, it required the intellect of Sherlock Holmes!