The Adventure of the Three Gables


The Adventure of the Three Gables
"The Adventure of the Three Gables"
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Released 1926
Series The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
Client(s) Mary Maberly
Set in Unknown
Villain(s) Isadora Klein

"The Adventure of the Three Gables", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.

Contents

Synopsis

The story begins with a visit to 221B Baker Street from Steve Dixie, a black man and a cowardly ruffian who warns Sherlock Holmes to keep away from Harrow. Watson has no idea what this dimwitted fellow is talking about, but Holmes knows who he is and what the intrusion is all about, and manages to elicit some interesting information from him, knowing that Dixie is easily imposed upon. Ironically, although Dixie has come to intimidate Holmes, Holmes cleverly secures Dixie's future cooperation by threatening to tell what he knows about the suspicious Perkins death involving Dixie. Dixie's boss is Barney Stockdale, and he must somehow be connected with the Harrow Weald case, of which Holmes has just learnt from a message from Mary Maberley, a lady who lives at Three Gables, a house at Harrow Weald.

Mrs. Maberley is an elderly woman whose son has recently died in Rome. He was an attaché there. Some peculiar things have happened at Three Gables. Mrs. Maberley has lived there nearly two years, and in all that time has attracted very little attention from her neighbours. Suddenly, however, a man came to her recently and offered to buy her house, despite several other similar nearby houses being empty and on the market. She was asked to name a price; so she named one £500 higher than what she had paid for it. The man readily agreed, and then asked to buy all the furniture in the house as well, which struck Mrs. Maberley as very odd. She was not really willing to do it, and certainly not after her lawyer, Mr. Sutro, told her that the legal agreement drawn up by this prospective buyer would forbid her to remove any possessions from the house when she moved out. Mrs. Maberley finally decided that she did not like this business, and called the deal off.

As she is telling Holmes this story, he becomes aware that someone is eavesdropping on the conversation. He opens a door and drags in Susan, a wheezing maid. Through questioning and deduction, Holmes manages to establish that Susan communicated to Barney Stockdale the fact that her mistress was hiring Sherlock Holmes, and that, of course, precipitated Steve Dixie's visit. Holmes also finds out that it is a rich woman who has hired Barney Stockdale and his assorted thugs to do her dirty work. Susan is also a member of the gang, but will not give up all their secrets. She leaves in a huff.

Obviously, this woman, whoever she is, wants something in the house, and something that has come into the house quite recently. Mrs. Maberley cannot say what that might be, but Holmes, seeing some trunks with Italian placenames on them realizes that her late son Douglas's belongings must hold the key. He instructs Mrs. Maberley to try to get Mr. Sutro to spend a couple of nights at Three Gables, to keep the house guarded. He also tells her to search through her son's belongings to see whether there is anything among them that could be of interest.

Holmes finds Dixie outside, keeping the house under surveillance. Dixie is now inclined to help Holmes if he can, to avoid any indiscreet talk about the Perkins lad who met his end so tragically. He swears, however, that he does not know who has hired Barney Stockdale.

Holmes goes to see Langdale Pike, a man who for years has made a living by being a gossipmonger for several publications. There is not one scandal in London that he does not know about, and as usual, he does not fail Holmes.

First, however, Holmes and Watson find themselves going back to Three Gables to investigate the burglary that has happened there. The burglars chloroformed Mrs. Maberley, and stole a manuscript from her son's belongings. She managed to retain part of one sheet of paper from it when, coming round, she lunged after one of the thieves, who then shook her off.

The police inspector at the scene is treating the matter as an ordinary burglary, but Holmes knows better. He examines the bit of manuscript retained by Mrs. Maberley, and it appears to be the end of a rather lurid novel. Holmes is struck by the peculiar wording; the story abruptly changes from third-person narration to first-person narration. It is in Douglas's handwriting; so it would seem that he was putting himself in a story that he was writing.

Holmes has now deduced everything.

He and Watson go to see Isadora Klein, a wealthy woman who is used to getting what she wants. At first they have a bit of trouble trying to see her; the footman will not let them in. However, they are speedily ushered into Mrs. Klein's rooms once Holmes threatens to call the police and expose the whole sorry story.

The happenings at Three Gables and the information from Langdale Pike have all added up to something. It turns out that Douglas Maberley was ill-advised enough to be involved with Isadora Klein at one time. She broke the relationship off, and he almost wrought his revenge by writing a thinly-veiled account of their affair, to be published as a novel. Everyone in London would know who the characters truly were, were the novel ever published. Isadora managed to establish that no copy had ever been sent to Douglas's publisher, but realized that he must have a copy. She hired Barney Stockdale and his confederates to secure the manuscript. She tried legal means at first, and when that did not work, she resorted to crime. She has, of course, burnt the manuscript.

Holmes compounds the underhanded goings-on by committing extortion (this is indeed one of many crimes that he perpetrates throughout his career): He forces Isadora Klein to write a cheque for £5000 to furnish Mrs. Maberley with a first-class trip round the world, something she has always wanted, in return for his silence about Isadora's nefarious dealings.

Criticism

David Stuart Davies, who has written an afterword to The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, has suggested that Conan Doyle's treatment of Steve Dixie, a black character, was racist. He certainly painted an unflattering portrait, and Steve finds himself rather ill-used at Holmes's hands. If it is an example of racism, it contrasts sharply with the somewhat more sensitive treatment of the matter of race seen in "The Adventure of the Yellow Face", released 32 years earlier. It may, on the other hand, simply be Doyle's creation of one character who happens to be a thug and black. Author Jack Tracy points out that Holmes' treatment of Dixie and Susan Stockdale in 3GAB is consistent with the failing judgement and erratic behavior known to lengthy cocaine abusers.[1]--P. 71, Tracy, Jack and Berkey, Jim. 'Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and the Cocaine Habit", . (C)1978, James A. Rock & Company, Publishers ISBN 091873603 X 395</ref>

Adaptations

Granada Television's series, featuring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson has faithfully presented the story with several differences. In the series, Douglas Maberley is depicted as Mary Maberley's grandson instead of her son as in the story. Furthermore Douglas dies in his grandmother's house after a month of suffering from pneumonia instead of in Rome. Langdale Pike is slightly more fleshed-out as a character. In a masquerade during the episode, Langdale Pike defines himself as the benevolent counterpart of Charles Augustus Milverton (the namesake of the story about a blackmailing antagonist) and points out that he suppresses more than he exposes. Pike is also mentioned in the radio adaptations of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, where his real identity is revealed. His name appears to be Clarence Gable, who adopted the sobriquet 'Langdale Pike' due to his seemingly immense height. Throughout the original story, Holmes seems to have acquired Steve Dixie's complete loyalty through blackmail. In the TV series, Dixie retains some enmity and during the break-in at the Three Gables, he ends up brawling with Dr. Watson, severely beating him.

This is also one of four stories said by a representation of Watson by author Nicholas Meyer to be forged "drivel" in the 1974 novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. (The other three are also from The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.)

References

  1. ^ "In a number of the accounts in "His Last Bow" and the "Case-Book," Holmes begins to exhibit failing judgement and markedly erratic behavior. most conscpicuous is his indulgence in crude and "ill-timed" attempts at humour, as seen particularly in his banter with Steve Dixie and Susand Stockdale in 'The Three Gables.'"

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