A Scion Society of The Baker Street Irregulars
“On the table lay two bank-notes for £10 each and £17 10s. in silver and gold …”
– The Adventure of The Empty House (EMPT)
In The Adventure of The Final Problem, we learn of the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair. Watson goes on to describe Adair’s fondness for cards and describes the desk where Adair was murdered.
Ronald Adair was fond of cards, playing continually, but never for such stakes as would hurt him. He was a member of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and the Bagatelle Card Clubs. It was shown that after dinner on the day of his death he had played a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played there in the afternoon. The evidence of those who had played with him – Mr. Murray, Sir John Hardy, and Colonel Moran – showed that the game was whist, and that there was a fairly equal fall of the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but not more. His fortune was a considerable one, and such a loss could not in any way affect him. He had played nearly every day at one club or other, but he was a cautious player, and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidence that in partnership with Colonel Moran he had actually won as much as £420 in a sitting some weeks before from Godfrey Milner and Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history, as it came out at the inquest.
On the evening of the crime he returned from the club exactly at ten. His mother and sister were out spending the evening with a relation. The servant deposed that she heard him enter the front room on the second floor, generally used as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and as it smoked she had opened the window. No sound was heard from the room until eleven-twenty, the hour of the return of Lady Maynooth and her daughter. Desiring to say good night, she had attempted to enter her son’s room. The door was locked on the inside, and no answer could be got to their cries and knocking. Help was obtained, and the door forced. The unfortunate young man was found lying near the table. His head had been horribly mutilated by an expanded revolver bullet, but no weapon of any sort was to be found in the room. On the table lay two bank-notes for £10 each and £17 10s. in silver and gold, the money arranged in little piles of varying amount. There were some figures also upon a sheet of paper with the names of some club friends opposite to them, from which it was conjectured that before his death he was endeavouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards.
Using the image of Ronald Adair’s desk from the Granada production of The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The Empty House we can clearly see the two £10 banknotes and several stacks of coins. Looking closely at the coins, they appear to be gold sovereigns and silver crowns.
The £10 notes in circulation at the time of the story, Spring of 1894 per the good doctor, would look almost identical to the note above, with the exception of the dates and signatures. This note from the 1856 issue remained in circulation until 1929.
1893 Crown (Victoria Old Head) and 1887 Sovereign (Victoria Jubilee Head)
In reviewing the picture, it appears that the producers of the television show were true to the original story, having 10 gold sovereigns and 20 silver crowns on the desk. Sovereigns were the equivalent of 20 shillings and Crowns were worth 5 shillings each – totalling up to £17 10s mentioned in Doctor Watson’s writings.