The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
I. A Scandal in Bohemia II. The Red-headed League III. A Case of Identity IV. The Boscombe Valley Mystery V. The Five Orange Pips VI. The Man with the Twisted Lip VII. The Adventure of the Blue CarbuncleVIII. The Adventure of the Speckled Band IX. The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb X. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor XI. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet XII. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
ADVENTURE I. A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA
To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heardhim mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipsesand predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he feltany emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and thatone particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise butadmirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfectreasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as alover he would have placed himself in a false position. He neverspoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. Theywere admirable things for the observer--excellent for drawing theveil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasonerto admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finelyadjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor whichmight throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in asensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-powerlenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in anature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, andthat woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionablememory.
I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted usaway from each other. My own complete happiness, and thehome-centred interests which rise up around the man who firstfinds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient toabsorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form ofsociety with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings inBaker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating fromweek to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of thedrug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He was still,as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied hisimmense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation infollowing out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries whichhad been abandoned as hopeless by the official police. From timeto time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summonsto Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing upof the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee,and finally of the mission which he had accomplished sodelicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland.Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merelyshared with all the readers of the daily press, I knew little ofmy former friend and companion.
One night--it was on the twentieth of March, 1888--I wasreturning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned tocivil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. As Ipassed the well-remembered door, which must always be associatedin my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of theStudy in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmesagain, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers.His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I sawhis tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette againstthe blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his headsunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, whoknew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told theirown story. He was at work again. He had risen out of hisdrug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some newproblem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber whichhad formerly been in part my own.
His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, Ithink, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindlyeye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars,and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner. Then hestood before the fire and looked me over in his singularintrospective fashion.
"Wedlock suits you," he remarked. "I think, Watson, that you haveput on seven and a half pounds since I saw you."
"Seven!" I answered.
"Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more,I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did nottell me that you intended to go into harness."
"Then, how do you know?"
"I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been gettingyourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy andcareless servant girl?"
"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much. You would certainlyhave been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is truethat I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadfulmess, but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine how youdeduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife hasgiven her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work itout."
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous handstogether.
"It is simplicity itself," said he; "my eyes tell me that on theinside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it,the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously theyhave been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped roundthe edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it.Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vileweather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slittingspecimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if agentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a blackmark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulgeon the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secretedhis stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronouncehim to be an active member of the medical profession."
I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained hisprocess of deduction. "When I hear you give your reasons," Iremarked, "the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculouslysimple that I could easily do it myself, though at eachsuccessive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until youexplain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as goodas yours."
"Quite so," he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwinghimself down into an armchair. "You see, but you do not observe.The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seenthe steps which lead up from the hall to this room."
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many? I don't know."
"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That isjust my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps,because I have both seen and observed. By-the-way, since you areinterested in these little problems, and since you are goodenough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, youmay be interested in this." He threw over a sheet of thick,pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon the table."It came by the last post," said he. "Read it aloud."
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.
"There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eighto'clock," it said, "a gentleman who desires to consult you upon amatter of the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one ofthe royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one who maysafely be trusted with matters which are of an importance whichcan hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from allquarters received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and donot take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask."
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked. "What do you imagine thatit means?"
"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize beforeone has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suittheories, instead of theories to suit facts. But the note itself.What do you deduce from it?"
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which
"The man who wrote it was presumably well to do," I remarked,endeavouring to imitate my companion's processes. "Such papercould not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarlystrong and stiff."
"Peculiar--that is the very word," said Holmes. "It is not anEnglish paper at all. Hold it up to the light."
I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small "g," a "P," and alarge "G" with a small "t" woven into the texture of the paper.
"What do you make of that?" asked Holmes.
"The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather."
"Not at all. The 'G' with the small 't' stands for'Gesellschaft,' which is the German for 'Company.' It is acustomary contraction like our 'Co.' 'P,' of course, stands for'Papier.' Now for the 'Eg.' Let us glance at our ContinentalGazetteer." He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves."Eglow, Eglonitz--here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speakingcountry--in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. 'Remarkable as beingthe scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerousglass-factories and paper-mills.' Ha, ha, my boy, what do youmake of that?" His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great bluetriumphant cloud from his cigarette.
"The paper was made in Bohemia," I said.
"Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do younote the peculiar construction of the sentence--'This account ofyou we have from all quarters received.' A Frenchman or Russiancould not have written that. It is the German who is souncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to discoverwhat is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper andprefers wearing a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, ifI am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts."
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses' hoofs andgrating wheels against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at thebell. Holmes whistled.
"A pair, by the sound," said he. "Yes," he continued, glancingout of the window. "A nice little brougham and a pair ofbeauties. A hundred and fifty guineas apiece. There's money inthis case, Watson, if there is nothing else."
"I think that I had better go, Holmes."
"Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am lost without myBoswell. And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pityto miss it."
"But your client--"
"Never mind him. I may want your help, and so may he. Here hecomes. Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your bestattention."
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs andin the passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then therewas a loud and authoritative tap.
"Come in!" said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet sixinches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules. Hisdress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be lookedupon as akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashedacross the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, whilethe deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was linedwith flame-coloured silk and secured at the neck with a broochwhich consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots which extendedhalfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops withrich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulencewhich was suggested by his whole appearance. He carried abroad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upperpart of his face, extending down past the cheekbones, a blackvizard mask, which he had apparently adjusted that very moment,for his hand was still raised to it as he entered. From the lowerpart of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character,with a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestiveof resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy.
"You had my note?" he asked with a deep harsh voice and astrongly marked German accent. "I told you that I would call." Helooked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which toaddress.
"Pray take a seat," said Holmes. "This is my friend andcolleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help mein my cases. Whom have I the honour to address?"
"You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman.I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of honourand discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the mostextreme importance. If not, I should much prefer to communicatewith you alone."
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed meback into my chair. "It is both, or none," said he. "You may saybefore this gentleman anything which you may say to me."
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. "Then I must begin," saidhe, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years; atthe end of that time the matter will be of no importance. Atpresent it is not too much to say that it is of such weight itmay have an influence upon European history."
"I promise," said Holmes.
"You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor. "Theaugust person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown toyou, and I may confess at once that the title by which I havejust called myself is not exactly my own."
"I was aware of it," said Holmes dryly.
"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precautionhas to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immensescandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning families ofEurope. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great Houseof Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia."
"I was also aware of that," murmured Holmes, settling himselfdown in his armchair and closing his eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the languid,lounging figure of the man who had been no doubt depicted to himas the most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in Europe.Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and looked impatiently at hisgigantic client.
"If your Majesty would condescend to state your case," heremarked, "I should be better able to advise you."
The man sprang from his chair and paced up and down the room inuncontrollable agitation. Then, with a gesture of desperation, hetore the mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground. "Youare right," he cried; "I am the King. Why should I attempt toconceal it?"
"Why, indeed?" murmured Holmes. "Your Majesty had not spokenbefore I was aware that I was addressing Wilhelm GottsreichSigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, andhereditary King of Bohemia."
"But you can understand," said our strange visitor, sitting downonce more and passing his hand over his high white forehead, "youcan understand that I am not accustomed to doing such business inmy own person. Yet the matter was so delicate that I could notconfide it to an agent without putting myself in his power. Ihave come incognito from Prague for the purpose of consultingyou."
"Then, pray consult," said Holmes, shutting his eyes once more.
"The facts are briefly these: Some five years ago, during alengthy visit to Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the well-knownadventuress, Irene Adler. The name is no doubt familiar to you."
"Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor," murmured Holmes withoutopening his eyes. For many years he had adopted a system ofdocketing all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that itwas difficult to name a subject or a person on which he could notat once furnish information. In this case I found her biographysandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi and that of astaff-commander who had written a monograph upon the deep-seafishes.
"Let me see!" said Holmes. "Hum! Born in New Jersey in the year1858. Contralto--hum! La Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Operaof Warsaw--yes! Retired from operatic stage--ha! Living inLondon--quite so! Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangledwith this young person, wrote her some compromising letters, andis now desirous of getting those letters back."
"Precisely so. But how--"
"Was there a secret marriage?"
"No legal papers or certificates?"
"Then I fail to follow your Majesty. If this young person shouldproduce her letters for blackmailing or other purposes, how isshe to prove their authenticity?"
"There is the writing."
"Pooh, pooh! Forgery."
; "My private note-paper."
"My own seal."
"We were both in the photograph."
"Oh, dear! That is very bad! Your Majesty has indeed committed anindiscretion."
"I was mad--insane."
"You have compromised yourself seriously."
"I was only Crown Prince then. I was young. I am but thirty now."
"It must be recovered."
"We have tried and failed."
"Your Majesty must pay. It must be bought."
"She will not sell."
"Five attempts have been made. Twice burglars in my pay ransackedher house. Once we diverted her luggage when she travelled. Twiceshe has been waylaid. There has been no result."
"No sign of it?"
Holmes laughed. "It is quite a pretty little problem," said he.
"But a very serious one to me," returned the King reproachfully.
"Very, indeed. And what does she propose to do with thephotograph?"
"To ruin me."
"I am about to be married."
"So I have heard."
"To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of theKing of Scandinavia. You may know the strict principles of herfamily. She is herself the very soul of delicacy. A shadow of adoubt as to my conduct would bring the matter to an end."
"And Irene Adler?"
"Threatens to send them the photograph. And she will do it. Iknow that she will do it. You do not know her, but she has a soulof steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, andthe mind of the most resolute of men. Rather than I should marryanother woman, there are no lengths to which she would notgo--none."
"You are sure that she has not sent it yet?"
"I am sure."
"Because she has said that she would send it on the day when thebetrothal was publicly proclaimed. That will be next Monday."
"Oh, then we have three days yet," said Holmes with a yawn. "Thatis very fortunate, as I have one or two matters of importance tolook into just at present. Your Majesty will, of course, stay inLondon for the present?"
"Certainly. You will find me at the Langham under the name of theCount Von Kramm."
"Then I shall drop you a line to let you know how we progress."
"Pray do so. I shall be all anxiety."
"Then, as to money?"
"You have carte blanche."
"I tell you that I would give one of the provinces of my kingdomto have that photograph."
"And for present expenses?"
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from under his cloakand laid it on the table.
"There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred innotes," he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his note-book andhanded it to him.
"And Mademoiselle's address?" he asked.
"Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. John's Wood."
Holmes took a note of it. "One other question," said he. "Was thephotograph a cabinet?"
"Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust that we shall soonhave some good news for you. And good-night, Watson," he added,as the wheels of the royal brougham rolled down the street. "Ifyou will be good enough to call to-morrow afternoon at threeo'clock I should like to chat this little matter over with you."
At three o'clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes hadnot yet returned. The landlady informed me that he had left thehouse shortly after eight o'clock in the morning. I sat downbeside the fire, however, with the intention of awaiting him,however long he might be. I was already deeply interested in hisinquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim andstrange features which were associated with the two crimes whichI have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and theexalted station of his client gave it a character of its own.Indeed, apart from the nature of the investigation which myfriend had on hand, there was something in his masterly grasp ofa situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it apleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow thequick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the mostinextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to his invariablesuccess that the very possibility of his failing had ceased toenter into my head.
It was close upon four before the door opened, and adrunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with aninflamed face and disreputable clothes, walked into the room.Accustomed as I was to my friend's amazing powers in the use ofdisguises, I had to look three times before I was certain that itwas indeed he. With a nod he vanished into the bedroom, whence heemerged in five minutes tweed-suited and respectable, as of old.Putting his hands into his pockets, he stretched out his legs infront of the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.
"Well, really!" he cried, and then he choked and laughed againuntil he was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in thechair.
"What is it?"
"It's quite too funny. I am sure you could never guess how Iemployed my morning, or what I ended by doing."
"I can't imagine. I suppose that you have been watching thehabits, and perhaps the house, of Miss Irene Adler."
"Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual. I will tell you,however. I left the house a little after eight o'clock thismorning in the character of a groom out of work. There is awonderful sympathy and freemasonry among horsey men. Be one ofthem, and you will know all that there is to know. I soon foundBriony Lodge. It is a bijou villa, with a garden at the back, butbuilt out in front right up to the road, two stories. Chubb lockto the door. Large sitting-room on the right side, wellfurnished, with long windows almost to the floor, and thosepreposterous English window fasteners which a child could open.Behind there was nothing remarkable, save that the passage windowcould be reached from the top of the coach-house. I walked roundit and examined it closely from every point of view, but withoutnoting anything else of interest.
"I then lounged down the street and found, as I expected, thatthere was a mews in a lane which runs down by one wall of thegarden. I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses,and received in exchange twopence, a glass of half and half, twofills of shag tobacco, and as much information as I could desireabout Miss Adler, to say nothing of half a dozen other people inthe neighbourhood in whom I was not in the least interested, butwhose biographies I was compelled to listen to."
"And what of Irene Adler?" I asked.
"Oh, she has turned all the men's heads down in that part. She isthe daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet. So say theSerpentine-mews, to a man. She lives quietly, sings at concerts,drives out at five every day, and returns at seven sharp fordinner. Seldom goes out at other times, except when she sings.Has only one male visitor, but a good deal of him. He is dark,handsome, and dashing, never calls less than once a day, andoften twice. He is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of the Inner Temple. Seethe advantages of a cabman as a confidant. They had driven himhome a dozen times from Serpentine-mews, and knew all about him.When I had listened to all they had to tell, I began to walk upand down near Briony Lodge once more, and to think over my planof campaign.
"This Godfrey Norton was evidently an important factor in thematter. He was a lawyer. That sounded ominous. What was therelation between them, and what the object of his repeatedvisits? Was she his client, his friend, or his mistress? If theformer, she had probably transferred the photograph to hiskeeping. If the latter, it was less likely. On the issue of thisquestion depended whether I should continue my work at BrionyLodge, or turn my attention to the gentleman's chambers in theTemple. It was a delicate point, and it widened the field of myinquiry. I fear that I bore you with these details, but I have tolet you see my little difficulties, if you are to understand thesituation."
"I am following y
ou closely," I answered.
"I was still balancing the matter in my mind when a hansom cabdrove up to Briony Lodge, and a gentleman sprang out. He was aremarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached--evidentlythe man of whom I had heard. He appeared to be in agreat hurry, shouted to the cabman to wait, and brushed past themaid who opened the door with the air of a man who was thoroughlyat home.
"He was in the house about half an hour, and I could catchglimpses of him in the windows of the sitting-room, pacing up anddown, talking excitedly, and waving his arms. Of her I could seenothing. Presently he emerged, looking even more flurried thanbefore. As he stepped up to the cab, he pulled a gold watch fromhis pocket and looked at it earnestly, 'Drive like the devil,' heshouted, 'first to Gross & Hankey's in Regent Street, and then tothe Church of St. Monica in the Edgeware Road. Half a guinea ifyou do it in twenty minutes!'
"Away they went, and I was just wondering whether I should not dowell to follow them when up the lane came a neat little landau,the coachman with his coat only half-buttoned, and his tie underhis ear, while all the tags of his harness were sticking out ofthe buckles. It hadn't pulled up before she shot out of the halldoor and into it. I only caught a glimpse of her at the moment,but she was a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for.
"'The Church of St. Monica, John,' she cried, 'and half asovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.'
"This was quite too good to lose, Watson. I was just balancingwhether I should run for it, or whether I should perch behind herlandau when a cab came through the street. The driver lookedtwice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped in before he couldobject. 'The Church of St. Monica,' said I, 'and half a sovereignif you reach it in twenty minutes.' It was twenty-five minutes totwelve, and of course it was clear enough what was in the wind.
"My cabby drove fast. I don't think I ever drove faster, but theothers were there before us. The cab and the landau with theirsteaming horses were in front of the door when I arrived. I paidthe man and hurried into the church. There was not a soul theresave the two whom I had followed and a surpliced clergyman, whoseemed to be expostulating with them. They were all threestanding in a knot in front of the altar. I lounged up the sideaisle like any other idler who has dropped into a church.Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar faced round tome, and Godfrey Norton came running as hard as he could towardsme.
"'Thank God,' he cried. 'You'll do. Come! Come!'
"'What then?' I asked.
"'Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it won't be legal.'
"I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I wasI found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear,and vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and generallyassisting in the secure tying up of Irene Adler, spinster, toGodfrey Norton, bachelor. It was all done in an instant, andthere was the gentleman thanking me on the one side and the ladyon the other, while the clergyman beamed on me in front. It wasthe most preposterous position in which I ever found myself in mylife, and it was the thought of it that started me laughing justnow. It seems that there had been some informality about theirlicense, that the clergyman absolutely refused to marry themwithout a witness of some sort, and that my lucky appearancesaved the bridegroom from having to sally out into the streets insearch of a best man. The bride gave me a sovereign, and I meanto wear it on my watch-chain in memory of the occasion."
"This is a very unexpected turn of affairs," said I; "and whatthen?"
"Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced. It looked as ifthe pair might take an immediate departure, and so necessitatevery prompt and energetic measures on my part. At the churchdoor, however, they separated, he driving back to the Temple, andshe to her own house. 'I shall drive out in the park at five asusual,' she said as she left him. I heard no more. They droveaway in different directions, and I went off to make my ownarrangements."
"Some cold beef and a glass of beer," he answered, ringing thebell. "I have been too busy to think of food, and I am likely tobe busier still this evening. By the way, Doctor, I shall wantyour co-operation."
"I shall be delighted."
"You don't mind breaking the law?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor running a chance of arrest?"
"Not in a good cause."
"Oh, the cause is excellent!"
"Then I am your man."
"I was sure that I might rely on you."
"But what is it you wish?"
"When Mrs. Turner has brought in the tray I will make it clear toyou. Now," he said as he turned hungrily on the simple fare thatour landlady had provided, "I must discuss it while I eat, for Ihave not much time. It is nearly five now. In two hours we mustbe on the scene of action. Miss Irene, or Madame, rather, returnsfrom her drive at seven. We must be at Briony Lodge to meet her."
"And what then?"
"You must leave that to me. I have already arranged what is tooccur. There is only one point on which I must insist. You mustnot interfere, come what may. You understand?"
"I am to be neutral?"
"To do nothing whatever. There will probably be some smallunpleasantness. Do not join in it. It will end in my beingconveyed into the house. Four or five minutes afterwards thesitting-room window will open. You are to station yourself closeto that open window."
"You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you."
"And when I raise my hand--so--you will throw into the room whatI give you to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the cry offire. You quite follow me?"
"It is nothing very formidable," he said, taking a long cigar-shapedroll from his pocket. "It is an ordinary plumber's smoke-rocket,fitted with a cap at either end to make it self-lighting.Your task is confined to that. When you raise your cry of fire,it will be taken up by quite a number of people. You may thenwalk to the end of the street, and I will rejoin you in tenminutes. I hope that I have made myself clear?"
"I am to remain neutral, to get near the window, to watch you,and at the signal to throw in this object, then to raise the cryof fire, and to wait you at the corner of the street."
"Then you may entirely rely on me."
"That is excellent. I think, perhaps, it is almost time that Iprepare for the new role I have to play."
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned in a few minutes inthe character of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformistclergyman. His broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his whitetie, his sympathetic smile, and general look of peering andbenevolent curiosity were such as Mr. John Hare alone could haveequalled. It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. Hisexpression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with everyfresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor, even asscience lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist incrime.
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker Street, and it stillwanted ten minutes to the hour when we found ourselves inSerpentine Avenue. It was already dusk, and the lamps were justbeing lighted as we paced up and down in front of Briony Lodge,waiting for the coming of its occupant. The house was just suchas I had pictured it from Sherlock Holmes' succinct description,but the locality appeared to be less private than I expected. Onthe contrary, for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it wasremarkably animated. There was a group of shabbily dressed mensmoking and laughing in a corner, a scissors-grinder with hiswheel, two guardsmen who were flirting with a nurse-girl, andseveral well-dressed young men who were lounging up and down withcigars in their mouths.
"You see," remarked Holmes, as we paced to and fro in front ofthe house, "this marriage rather simplifies matters. Thephotograph becomes a double-edged weapon now. The chances arethat she would be as averse to its being seen by Mr. GodfreyNorton, as our client is to its coming to the eyes of hisprincess. Now the question is, Where are we to find thephotograph?"
/> "It is most unlikely that she carries it about with her. It iscabinet size. Too large for easy concealment about a woman'sdress. She knows that the King is capable of having her waylaidand searched. Two attempts of the sort have already been made. Wemay take it, then, that she does not carry it about with her."
"Her banker or her lawyer. There is that double possibility. ButI am inclined to think neither. Women are naturally secretive,and they like to do their own secreting. Why should she hand itover to anyone else? She could trust her own guardianship, butshe could not tell what indirect or political influence might bebrought to bear upon a business man. Besides, remember that shehad resolved to use it within a few days. It must be where shecan lay her hands upon it. It must be in her own house."
"But it has twice been burgled."
"Pshaw! They did not know how to look."
"But how will you look?"
"I will not look."
"I will get her to show me."
"But she will refuse."
"She will not be able to. But I hear the rumble of wheels. It isher carriage. Now carry out my orders to the letter."
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a carriage came roundthe curve of the avenue. It was a smart little landau whichrattled up to the door of Briony Lodge. As it pulled up, one ofthe loafing men at the corner dashed forward to open the door inthe hope of earning a copper, but was elbowed away by anotherloafer, who had rushed up with the same intention. A fiercequarrel broke out, which was increased by the two guardsmen, whotook sides with one of the loungers, and by the scissors-grinder,who was equally hot upon the other side. A blow was struck, andin an instant the lady, who had stepped from her carriage, wasthe centre of a little knot of flushed and struggling men, whostruck savagely at each other with their fists and sticks. Holmesdashed into the crowd to protect the lady; but just as he reachedher he gave a cry and dropped to the ground, with the bloodrunning freely down his face. At his fall the guardsmen took totheir heels in one direction and the loungers in the other, whilea number of better-dressed people, who had watched the scufflewithout taking part in it, crowded in to help the lady and toattend to the injured man. Irene Adler, as I will still call her,had hurried up the steps; but she stood at the top with hersuperb figure outlined against the lights of the hall, lookingback into the street.
"Is the poor gentleman much hurt?" she asked.
"He is dead," cried several voices.
"No, no, there's life in him!" shouted another. "But he'll begone before you can get him to hospital."
"He's a brave fellow," said a woman. "They would have had thelady's purse and watch if it hadn't been for him. They were agang, and a rough one, too. Ah, he's breathing now."
"He can't lie in the street. May we bring him in, marm?"
"Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room. There is a comfortablesofa. This way, please!"
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony Lodge and laid outin the principal room, while I still observed the proceedingsfrom my post by the window. The lamps had been lit, but theblinds had not been drawn, so that I could see Holmes as he layupon the couch. I do not know whether he was seized withcompunction at that moment for the part he was playing, but Iknow that I never felt more heartily ashamed of myself in my lifethan when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I wasconspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which she waitedupon the injured man. And yet it would be the blackest treacheryto Holmes to draw back now from the part which he had intrustedto me. I hardened my heart, and took the smoke-rocket from undermy ulster. After all, I thought, we are not injuring her. We arebut preventing her from injuring another.
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw him motion like a manwho is in need of air. A maid rushed across and threw open thewindow. At the same instant I saw him raise his hand and at thesignal I tossed my rocket into the room with a cry of "Fire!" Theword was no sooner out of my mouth than the whole crowd ofspectators, well dressed and ill--gentlemen, ostlers, andservant-maids--joined in a general shriek of "Fire!" Thick cloudsof smoke curled through the room and out at the open window. Icaught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the voiceof Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.Slipping through the shouting crowd I made my way to the cornerof the street, and in ten minutes was rejoiced to find myfriend's arm in mine, and to get away from the scene of uproar.He walked swiftly and in silence for some few minutes until wehad turned down one of the quiet streets which lead towards theEdgeware Road.
"You did it very nicely, Doctor," he remarked. "Nothing couldhave been better. It is all right."
"You have the photograph?"
"I know where it is."
"And how did you find out?"
"She showed me, as I told you she would."
"I am still in the dark."
"I do not wish to make a mystery," said he, laughing. "The matterwas perfectly simple. You, of course, saw that everyone in thestreet was an accomplice. They were all engaged for the evening."
"I guessed as much."
"Then, when the row broke out, I had a little moist red paint inthe palm of my hand. I rushed forward, fell down, clapped my handto my face, and became a piteous spectacle. It is an old trick."
"That also I could fathom."
"Then they carried me in. She was bound to have me in. What elsecould she do? And into her sitting-room, which was the very roomwhich I suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom, and I wasdetermined to see which. They laid me on a couch, I motioned forair, they were compelled to open the window, and you had yourchance."
"How did that help you?"
"It was all-important. When a woman thinks that her house is onfire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which shevalues most. It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I havemore than once taken advantage of it. In the case of theDarlington substitution scandal it was of use to me, and also inthe Arnsworth Castle business. A married woman grabs at her baby;an unmarried one reaches for her jewel-box. Now it was clear tome that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house more preciousto her than what we are in quest of. She would rush to secure it.The alarm of fire was admirably done. The smoke and shouting wereenough to shake nerves of steel. She responded beautifully. Thephotograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above theright bell-pull. She was there in an instant, and I caught aglimpse of it as she half-drew it out. When I cried out that itwas a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at the rocket, rushedfrom the room, and I have not seen her since. I rose, and, makingmy excuses, escaped from the house. I hesitated whether toattempt to secure the photograph at once; but the coachman hadcome in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed safer towait. A little over-precipitance may ruin all."
"And now?" I asked.
"Our quest is practically finished. I shall call with the Kingto-morrow, and with you, if you care to come with us. We will beshown into the sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it isprobable that when she comes she may find neither us nor thephotograph. It might be a satisfaction to his Majesty to regainit with his own hands."
"And when will you call?"
"At eight in the morning. She will not be up, so that we shallhave a clear field. Besides, we must be prompt, for this marriagemay mean a complete change in her life and habits. I must wire tothe King without delay."
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door. He wassearching his pockets for the key when someone passing said:
"Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes."
There were several people on the pavement at the time, but thegreeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who hadhurried by.
"I've heard that voice before," said Holmes, staring down thedimly lit street. "Now, I wonder who the deuce that could havebeen."
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged upon ourtoast and coffee in the morning when the King of Bohemia rushedinto the ro
"You have really got it!" he cried, grasping Sherlock Holmes byeither shoulder and looking eagerly into his face.
"But you have hopes?"
"I have hopes."
"Then, come. I am all impatience to be gone."
"We must have a cab."
"No, my brougham is waiting."
"Then that will simplify matters." We descended and started offonce more for Briony Lodge.
"Irene Adler is married," remarked Holmes.
"But to whom?"
"To an English lawyer named Norton."
"But she could not love him."
"I am in hopes that she does."
"And why in hopes?"
"Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of futureannoyance. If the lady loves her husband, she does not love yourMajesty. If she does not love your Majesty, there is no reasonwhy she should interfere with your Majesty's plan."
"It is true. And yet--Well! I wish she had been of my ownstation! What a queen she would have made!" He relapsed into amoody silence, which was not broken until we drew up inSerpentine Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stoodupon the steps. She watched us with a sardonic eye as we steppedfrom the brougham.
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?" said she.
"I am Mr. Holmes," answered my companion, looking at her with aquestioning and rather startled gaze.
"Indeed! My mistress told me that you were likely to call. Sheleft this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from CharingCross for the Continent."
"What!" Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin andsurprise. "Do you mean that she has left England?"
"Never to return."
"And the papers?" asked the King hoarsely. "All is lost."
"We shall see." He pushed past the servant and rushed into thedrawing-room, followed by the King and myself. The furniture wasscattered about in every direction, with dismantled shelves andopen drawers, as if the lady had hurriedly ransacked them beforeher flight. Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a smallsliding shutter, and, plunging in his hand, pulled out aphotograph and a letter. The photograph was of Irene Adlerherself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to"Sherlock Holmes, Esq. To be left till called for." My friendtore it open and we all three read it together. It was dated atmidnight of the preceding night and ran in this way:
"MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES,--You really did it very well. Youtook me in completely. Until after the alarm of fire, I had not asuspicion. But then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, Ibegan to think. I had been warned against you months ago. I hadbeen told that if the King employed an agent it would certainlybe you. And your address had been given me. Yet, with all this,you made me reveal what you wanted to know. Even after I becamesuspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a dear, kindold clergyman. But, you know, I have been trained as an actressmyself. Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantageof the freedom which it gives. I sent John, the coachman, towatch you, ran up stairs, got into my walking-clothes, as I callthem, and came down just as you departed.
"Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I wasreally an object of interest to the celebrated Mr. SherlockHolmes. Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, andstarted for the Temple to see my husband.
"We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued byso formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest empty whenyou call to-morrow. As to the photograph, your client may rest inpeace. I love and am loved by a better man than he. The King maydo what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruellywronged. I keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve aweapon which will always secure me from any steps which he mighttake in the future. I leave a photograph which he might care topossess; and I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
"Very truly yours, "IRENE NORTON, nee ADLER."
"What a woman--oh, what a woman!" cried the King of Bohemia, whenwe had all three read this epistle. "Did I not tell you how quickand resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen?Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?"
"From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on avery different level to your Majesty," said Holmes coldly. "I amsorry that I have not been able to bring your Majesty's businessto a more successful conclusion."
"On the contrary, my dear sir," cried the King; "nothing could bemore successful. I know that her word is inviolate. Thephotograph is now as safe as if it were in the fire."
"I am glad to hear your Majesty say so."
"I am immensely indebted to you. Pray tell me in what way I canreward you. This ring--" He slipped an emerald snake ring fromhis finger and held it out upon the palm of his hand.
"Your Majesty has something which I should value even morehighly," said Holmes.
"You have but to name it."
The King stared at him in amazement.
"Irene's photograph!" he cried. "Certainly, if you wish it."
"I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more to be done in thematter. I have the honour to wish you a very good-morning." Hebowed, and, turning away without observing the hand which theKing had stretched out to him, he set off in my company for hischambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdomof Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes werebeaten by a woman's wit. He used to make merry over thecleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. Andwhen he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to herphotograph, it is always under the honourable title of the woman.