One nightit was on the twentieth of March, 1888I
was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when
my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door, which must
always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study
in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he
was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I
looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind.
He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands
clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told
their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was
hot upon the scent of  some
new problem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in
part my own.
His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I
think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an
armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in
the corner. Then he stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular introspective
Wedlock suits you, he remarked. I think,
Watson, that you have put 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 not tell 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
getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant
My dear Holmes, said I, this is too much.
You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I
had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess, but as I have changed my
clothes I cant imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and
my wife has given her notice; but there, again, I fail to see how you work it out.
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands
It is simplicity itself, said he; my eyes
tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the
leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone
who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud
from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and
that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to
your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark
of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his
top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not
pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession.
I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained
his process of deduction. When I hear you give your reasons, I remarked,
the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do
it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you
explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.
Quite so, he answered, lighting a cigarette, and
throwing himself down into an armchair. You see, but you do not observe. The
distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from
the hall to this room.
Well, some hundreds of times.
Then how many are there?
How many? I dont know.
Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen.
That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both
seen and  observed. By
the way, since you are interested in these little problems, and since you are good enough
to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you may 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
eight oclock [it said], a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the
very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown
that you are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which
can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters received. Be in
your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask.
This is indeed a mystery, I remarked.
What do you imagine that it means?
I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize
before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, 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 it
The man who wrote it was presumably well to do,
I remarked, endeavouring to imitate my companions processes. Such paper could
not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly strong and stiff.
Peculiarthat is the very word, said Holmes.
It is not an English paper at all. Hold it up to the light.
I did so, and saw a large E with a small
g, a P, and a large 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,
Not at all. The G with the small
t stands for Gesellschaft, which is the German for
Company. It is a customary contraction like our Co. P,
of course, stands for Papier. Now for the Eg. Let us
glance at our Continental Gazetteer. He took down a heavy brown volume from his
shelves. Eglow, Eglonitzhere we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking
countryin Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. Remarkable as being the scene of the
death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-factories and paper-mills. Ha, ha,
my boy, what do you make of that? His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great blue
triumphant cloud from his cigarette.
The paper was made in Bohemia, I said.
Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German.
Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentenceThis account of you we
have from all quarters received. A Frenchman or Russian could not have written that.
It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to
discover what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing
a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses hoofs
and grating wheels against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell. Holmes
A pair, by the sound, said he. Yes, he
continued, glancing out of the window. A nice little brougham and a pair of
beauties. A hundred and fifty guineas apiece. Theres money in this case, Watson, if
there is nothing else.
think that I had better go, Holmes.
Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am lost without
my Boswell. And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pity to miss it.
But your client
Never mind him. I may want your help, and so may he.
Here he comes. Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your best attention.
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs
and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and
Come in! said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet
six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules. His dress was rich with a
richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of
astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, while
the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk
and secured at the neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots
which extended halfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops with rich brown
fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which was suggested by his whole
appearance. He carried a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper
part of his face, extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask, which he had
apparently adjusted that very moment, for his hand was still raised to it as he entered.
From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a thick,
hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of
You had my note? he asked with a deep harsh
voice and a strongly marked German accent. I told you that I would call. He
looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.
Pray take a seat, said Holmes. This is my
friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in 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 honour and
discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most extreme importance. If not, I
should much prefer to communicate with you alone.
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me
back into my chair. It is both, or none, said he. You may say before
this gentleman anything which you may say to me.
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. Then I must
begin, said he, by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years; at the
end of that time the matter will be of no importance. At present it is not too much to say
that it is of such weight it may have an influence upon European history.
I promise, said Holmes.
You will excuse this mask, continued our strange
visitor. The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and
I may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not exactly my
I was aware of it, said Holmes drily.
The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every
precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and
seriously compromise  one
of the reigning families of Europe. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great
House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia.
I was also aware of that, murmured Holmes,
settling himself down 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 him as the most
incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in Europe. Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and
looked impatiently at his gigantic client.
If your Majesty would condescend to state your
case, he remarked, I should be better able to advise you.
The man sprang from his chair and paced up and down the room
in uncontrollable agitation. Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the mask from
his face and hurled it upon the ground. You are right, he cried; I am
the King. Why should I attempt to conceal it?
Why, indeed? murmured Holmes. Your
Majesty had not spoken before I was aware that I was addressing Wilhelm Gottsreich
Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and hereditary King of
But you can understand, said our strange visitor,
sitting down once more and passing his hand over his high white forehead, you can
understand that I am not accustomed to doing such business in my own person. Yet the
matter was so delicate that I could not confide it to an agent without putting myself in
his power. I have come incognito from Prague for the purpose of consulting you.
Then, pray consult, said Holmes, shutting his eyes
The facts are briefly these: Some five years ago, during
a lengthy visit to Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the well-known adventuress, Irene
Adler. The name is no doubt familiar to you.
Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor, murmured
Holmes without opening his eyes. For many years he had adopted a system of docketing all
paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it was difficult to name a subject or a
person on which he could not at once furnish information. In this case I found her
biography sandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi and that of a staff-commander who
had written a monograph upon the deep-sea fishes.
Let me see! said Holmes. Hum! Born in New
Jersey in the year 1858. Contraltohum! La Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Opera of
Warsawyes! Retired from operatic stageha! Living in Londonquite so! Your
Majesty, as I understand, became entangled with this young person, wrote her some
compromising letters, and is 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
should produce her letters for blackmailing or other purposes, how is she to prove their
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 an indiscretion.
I was madinsane.
You have compromised yourself seriously.
I was only Crown Prince then. I was young. I am but
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
ransacked her house. Once we diverted her luggage when she travelled. Twice she 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
Very, indeed. And what does she propose to do with the
To ruin me.
I am about to be married.
So I have heard.
To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter
of the King of Scandinavia. You may know the strict principles of her family. She is
herself the very soul of delicacy. A shadow of a doubt 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. I know that she will do it. You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has
the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men. Rather
than I should marry another woman, there are no lengths to which she would not
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 the betrothal was publicly proclaimed. That will be next Monday.
Oh, then we have three days yet, said Holmes with
a yawn. That is very fortunate, as I have one or two matters of importance to look
into just at present. Your Majesty will, of course, stay in London for the present?
Certainly. You will find me at the Langham under the
name of the Count Von Kramm.
Then I shall drop you a line to let you know how we
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
kingdom to have that photograph.
And for present expenses?
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from under his cloak
and laid it on the table.
There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred
in notes, he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his note-book and
handed it to him.
And Mademoiselles address? he asked.
Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. Johns
Holmes took a note of it. One other question, said
he. Was the photograph a cabinet?
Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust that we
shall soon have some good news for you. And good-night, Watson, he added, as the
wheels of the royal brougham rolled down the street. If you will be good enough to
call to-morrow afternoon at three oclock I should like to chat this little matter
over with you.
At three oclock precisely I was at Baker Street, but
Holmes had not yet returned. The landlady informed me that he had left the house shortly
after eight oclock in the morning. I sat down beside the fire, however, with the
intention of awaiting him, however long he might be. I was already deeply interested in
his inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim and strange features which
were associated with the two crimes which I have already recorded, still, the nature of
the case and the exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own. Indeed,
apart from the nature of the investigation which my friend had on hand, there was
something in his masterly grasp of a situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which
made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle
methods by which he disentangled the most inextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to
his invariable success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to enter into
It was close upon four before the door opened, and a
drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and
disreputable clothes, walked into the room. Accustomed as I was to my friends
amazing powers in the use of disguises, I had to look three times before I was certain
that it was indeed he. With a nod he vanished into the bedroom, whence he emerged in five
minutes tweed-suited and respectable, as of old. Putting his hands into his pockets, he
stretched out his legs in front of the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.
Well, really! he cried, and then he choked and
laughed again until he was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in the chair.
What is it?
Its quite too funny. I am sure you could never
guess how I employed my morning, or what I ended by doing.
I cant imagine. I suppose that you have been
watching the habits, 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 oclock this morning in the
character of a groom out of work. There is a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among
horsy men. Be one  of
them, and you will know all that there is to know. I soon found Briony Lodge. It is a bijou
villa, with a garden at the back, but built out in front right up to the road, two
stories. Chubb lock to the door. Large sitting-room on the right side, well furnished,
with long windows almost to the floor, and those preposterous English window fasteners
which a child could open. Behind there was nothing remarkable, save that the passage
window could be reached from the top of the coach-house. I walked round it and examined it
closely from every point of view, but without noting anything else of interest.
I then lounged down the street and found, as I expected,
that there was a mews in a lane which runs down by one wall of the garden. I lent the
ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and received in exchange twopence, a glass of
half and half, two fills of shag tobacco, and as much information as I could desire about
Miss Adler, to say nothing of half a dozen other people in the neighbourhood in whom I was
not in the least interested, but whose biographies I was compelled to listen to.
And what of Irene Adler? I asked.
Oh, she has turned all the mens heads down in that
part. She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet. So say the
Serpentine-mews, to a man. She lives quietly, sings at concerts, drives out at five every
day, and returns at seven sharp for dinner. 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, and often twice. He is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of
the Inner Temple. See the advantages of a cabman as a confidant. They had driven him home
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 up and down near Briony Lodge once more, and to think
over my plan of campaign.
This Godfrey Norton was evidently an important factor in
the matter. He was a lawyer. That sounded ominous. What was the relation between them, and
what the object of his repeated visits? Was she his client, his friend, or his mistress?
If the former, she had probably transferred the photograph to his keeping. If the latter,
it was less likely. On the issue of this question depended whether I should continue my
work at Briony Lodge, or turn my attention to the gentlemans chambers in the Temple.
It was a delicate point, and it widened the field of my inquiry. I fear that I bore you
with these details, but I have to let you see my little difficulties, if you are to
understand the situation.
I am following you closely, I answered.
I was still balancing the matter in my mind when a
hansom cab drove up to Briony Lodge, and a gentleman sprang out. He was a remarkably
handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustachedevidently the man of whom I had heard.
He appeared to be in a great hurry, shouted to the cabman to wait, and brushed past the
maid who opened the door with the air of a man who was thoroughly at home.
He was in the house about half an hour, and I could
catch glimpses of him in the windows of the sitting-room, pacing up and down, talking
excitedly, and waving his arms. Of her I could see nothing. Presently he emerged, looking
even more flurried than before. As he stepped up to the cab, he pulled a gold watch from
his pocket and looked at it earnestly, Drive like the devil, he shouted,
first to Gross & Hankeys in Regent Street, and then to the Church of St.
Monica in the Edgeware Road. Half a guinea if you do it in twenty minutes!
Away they went, and I was just wondering whether I
should not do well to follow them when up the lane came a neat little landau, the coachman
with his  coat only
half-buttoned, and his tie under his ear, while all the tags of his harness were sticking
out of the buckles. It hadnt pulled up before she shot out of the hall door 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 a sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.
This was quite too good to lose, Watson. I was just
balancing whether I should run for it, or whether I should perch behind her landau when a
cab came through the street. The driver looked twice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped
in before he could object. The Church of St. Monica, said I, and half a
sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes. It was twenty-five minutes to twelve,
and of course it was clear enough what was in the wind.
My cabby drove fast. I dont think I ever drove
faster, but the others were there before us. The cab and the landau with their steaming
horses were in front of the door when I arrived. I paid the man and hurried into the
church. There was not a soul there save the two whom I had followed and a surpliced
clergyman, who seemed to be expostulating with them. They were all three standing in a
knot in front of the altar. I lounged up the side aisle like any other idler who has
dropped into a church. Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar faced round to me,
and Godfrey Norton came running as hard as he could towards me.
Thank God, he cried. Youll do.
What then? I asked.
Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it
wont be legal.
I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew
where I was I found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear, and vouching
for things of which I knew nothing, and generally assisting in the secure tying up of
Irene Adler, spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor. It was all done in an instant, and
there was the gentleman thanking me on the one side and the lady on the other, while the
clergyman beamed on me in front. It was the most preposterous position in which I ever
found myself in my life, and it was the thought of it that started me laughing just now.
It seems that there had been some informality about their license, that the clergyman
absolutely refused to marry them without a witness of some sort, and that my lucky
appearance saved the bridegroom from having to sally out into the streets in search of a
best man. The bride gave me a sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in memory
of the occasion.
This is a very unexpected turn of affairs, said
I; and what then?
Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced. It looked
as if the pair might take an immediate departure, and so necessitate very prompt and
energetic measures on my part. At the church door, however, they separated, he driving
back to the temple, and she to her own house. I shall drive out in the park at five
as usual, she said as she left him. I heard no more. They drove away in different
directions, and I went off to make my own arrangements.
Some cold beef and a glass of beer, he answered,
ringing the bell. I have been too busy to think of food, and I am likely to be
busier still this evening. By the way, Doctor, I shall want your cooperation.
I shall be delighted.
You dont mind breaking the law?
Not in the least.
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 to you. Now, he said as he turned hungrily on the simple fare that our
landlady had provided, I must discuss it while I eat, for I have not much time. It
is nearly five now. In two hours we must be on the scene of action. Miss Irene, or Madame,
rather, returns from 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 to occur. There is only one point on which I must insist. You must not interfere, come
what may. You understand?
I am to be neutral?
To do nothing whatever. There will probably be some
small unpleasantness. Do not join in it. It will end in my being conveyed into the house.
Four or five minutes afterwards the sitting-room window will open. You are to station
yourself close to that open window.
You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you.
And when I raise my handsoyou will throw
into the room what I give you to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire.
You quite follow me?
It is nothing very formidable, he said, taking a
long cigar-shaped roll from his pocket. It is an ordinary plumbers
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 then walk to the end of the street, and I will rejoin you in ten
minutes. 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 cry of 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 I prepare for the new role I have to play.
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned in a few
minutes in the character of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman. His
broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white tie, his sympathetic smile, and general
look of peering and benevolent curiosity were such as Mr. John Hare alone could have
equalled. It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His expression, his manner,
his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine
actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime.
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker Street, and it
still wanted ten minutes to the hour when we found ourselves in Serpentine Avenue. It was
already  dusk, and the
lamps were just being lighted as we paced up and down in front of Briony Lodge, waiting
for the coming of its occupant. The house was just such as I had pictured it from Sherlock
Holmess succinct description, but the locality appeared to be less private than I
expected. On the contrary, for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it was remarkably
animated. There was a group of shabbily dressed men smoking and laughing in a corner, a
scissors-grinder with his wheel, two guardsmen who were flirting with a nurse-girl, and
several well-dressed young men who were lounging up and down with cigars in their mouths.
You see, remarked Holmes, as we paced to and fro
in front of the house, this marriage rather simplifies matters. The photograph
becomes a double-edged weapon now. The chances are that she would be as averse to its
being seen by Mr. Godfrey Norton, as our client is to its coming to the eyes of his
princess. Now the question is, Where are we to find the photograph?
It is most unlikely that she carries it about with her.
It is cabinet size. Too large for easy concealment about a womans dress. She knows
that the King is capable of having her waylaid and searched. Two attempts of the sort have
already been made. We may take it, then, that she does not carry it about with her.
Her banker or her lawyer. There is that double
possibility. But I am inclined to think neither. Women are naturally secretive, and they
like to do their own secreting. Why should she hand it over to anyone else? She could
trust her own guardianship, but she could not tell what indirect or political influence
might be brought to bear upon a business man. Besides, remember that she had resolved to
use it within a few days. It must be where she can 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 is her carriage. Now carry out my orders to the letter.
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a carriage came
round the curve of the avenue. It was a smart little landau which rattled up to the door
of Briony Lodge. As it pulled up, one of the loafing men at the corner dashed forward to
open the door in the hope of earning a copper, but was elbowed away by another loafer, who
had rushed up with the same intention. A fierce quarrel broke out, which was increased by
the two guardsmen, who took sides with one of the loungers, and by the scissors-grinder,
who was equally hot upon the other side. A blow was struck, and in an instant the lady,
who had stepped from her carriage, was the centre of a little knot of flushed and
struggling men, who struck savagely at each other with their fists and sticks. Holmes
dashed into the crowd to protect the lady; but just as he reached her he gave a cry and
dropped to the ground, with the blood running freely down his face. At his fall the
guardsmen took to their heels in one direction and the loungers in the other, while a
number of better-dressed people, who had watched the scuffle without taking part in it,
crowded in  to help the
lady and to attend to the injured man. Irene Adler, as I will still call her, had hurried
up the steps; but she stood at the top with her superb figure outlined against the lights
of the hall, looking back into the street.
Is the poor gentleman much hurt? she asked.
He is dead, cried several voices.
No, no, theres life in him! shouted another.
But hell be gone before you can get him to hospital.
Hes a brave fellow, said a woman. They
would have had the ladys purse and watch if it hadnt been for him. They were a
gang, and a rough one, too. Ah, hes breathing now.
He cant lie in the street. May we bring him in,
Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room. There is a
comfortable sofa. This way, please!
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony Lodge and laid
out in the principal room, while I still observed the proceedings from my post by the
window. The lamps had been lit, but the blinds had not been drawn, so that I could see
Holmes as he lay upon the couch. I do not know whether he was seized with compunction at
that moment for the part he was playing, but I know that I never felt more heartily
ashamed of myself in my life than when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was
conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which she waited upon the injured man. And
yet it would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to draw back now from the part which he
had intrusted to me. I hardened my heart, and took the smoke-rocket from under my ulster.
After all, I thought, we are not injuring her. We are but preventing her from injuring
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw him motion like a
man who is in need of air. A maid rushed across and threw open the window. At the same
instant I saw him raise his hand, and at the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with
a cry of Fire! The word was no sooner out of my mouth than the whole crowd of
spectators, well dressed and illgentlemen, ostlers, and servant-maidsjoined in
a general shriek of Fire! Thick clouds of smoke curled through the room and
out at the open window. I caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the
voice of Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm. Slipping through the
shouting crowd I made my way to the corner of the street, and in ten minutes was rejoiced
to find my friends arm in mine, and to get away from the scene of uproar. He walked
swiftly and in silence for some few minutes until we had turned down one of the quiet
streets which lead towards the Edgeware Road.
You did it very nicely, Doctor, he remarked.
Nothing could have 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 matter was perfectly simple. You, of course, saw that everyone in the
street 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 in the palm of my hand. I rushed forward, fell down, clapped my hand to my face, and
became a piteous spectacle. It is an old trick.
also I could fathom.
Then they carried me in. She was bound to have me in.
What else could she do? And into her sitting-room, which was the very room which I
suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom, and I was determined to see which. They
laid me on a couch, I motioned for air, they were compelled to open the window, and you
had your chance.
How did that help you?
It was all-important. When a woman thinks that her house
is on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most. It is a
perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have more than once taken advantage of it. In the
case of the Darlington substitution scandal it was of use to me, and also in the Arnsworth
Castle business. A married woman grabs at her baby; an unmarried one reaches for her
jewel-box. Now it was clear to me that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house more
precious to 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 were enough to shake nerves of steel. She
responded beautifully. The photograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the
right bell-pull. She was there in an instant, and I caught a glimpse of it as she
half-drew it out. When I cried out that it was a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at
the rocket, rushed from the room, and I have not seen her since. I rose, and, making my
excuses, escaped from the house. I hesitated whether to attempt to secure the photograph
at once; but the coachman had come in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed safer
to wait. A little over-precipitance may ruin all.
And now? I asked.
Our quest is practically finished. I shall call with the
King to-morrow, and with you, if you care to come with us. We will be shown into the
sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it is probable that when she comes she may find
neither us nor the photograph. It might be a satisfaction to his Majesty to regain it with
his own hands.
And when will you call?
At eight in the morning. She will not be up, so that we
shall have a clear field. Besides, we must be prompt, for this marriage may mean a
complete change in her life and habits. I must wire to the King without delay.
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door. He
was searching 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 the
greeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.
Ive heard that voice before, said Holmes,
staring down the dimly lit street. Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged
upon our toast and coffee in the morning when the King of Bohemia rushed into the room.
You have really got it! he cried, grasping
Sherlock Holmes by either shoulder and looking eagerly into his face.
But you have hopes?
I have hopes.
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 off once 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 future
annoyance. If the lady loves her husband, she does not love your Majesty. If she does not
love your Majesty, there is no reason why she should interfere with your Majestys
It is true. And yet Well! I wish she had
been of my own station! What a queen she would have made! He relapsed into a moody
silence, which was not broken until we drew up in Serpentine Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stood
upon the steps. She watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the brougham.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe? said she.
I am Mr. Holmes, answered my companion, looking at
her with a questioning and rather startled gaze.
Indeed! My mistress told me that you were likely to
call. She left this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from Charing Cross for the
What! Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with
chagrin and surprise. Do you mean that she has left England?
Never to return.
And the papers? asked the King hoarsely. All
We shall see. He pushed past the servant and
rushed into the drawing-room, followed by the King and myself. The furniture was scattered
about in every direction, with dismantled shelves and open drawers, as if the lady had
hurriedly ransacked them before her flight. Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a
small sliding shutter, and, plunging in his hand, pulled out a photograph and a letter.
The photograph was of Irene Adler herself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to
Sherlock Holmes, Esq. To be left till called for. My friend tore it open, and
we all three read it together. It was dated at midnight of the preceding night and ran in
- MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:
You really did it very well. You took me in completely. Until
after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion. But then, when I found how I had betrayed
myself, I began to think. I had been warned against you months ago. I had been told that
if the King employed an agent it would certainly be you. And your address had been given
me. Yet, with all this, you made me reveal what you wanted to know. Even after I became
suspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a dear, kind old clergyman. But, you
know, I have been trained as an actress myself. Male costume  is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the
freedom which it gives. I sent John, the coachman, to watch you, ran upstairs, got into my
walking-clothes, as I call them, and came down just as you departed.
Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I was
really an object of interest to the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Then I, rather
imprudently, wished you good-night, and started for the Temple to see my husband.
We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued by
so formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when you call to-morrow. As
to the photograph, your client may rest in peace. I love and am loved by a better man than
he. The King may do what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly wronged. I
keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve a weapon which will always secure me
from any steps which he might take in the future. I leave a photograph which he might care
to possess; and I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
Very truly yours,
IRENE NORTON, née ADLER.
What a womanoh, what a woman! cried the
King of Bohemia, when we had all three read this epistle. Did I not tell you how
quick and 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 a very different level to your Majesty, said Holmes coldly. I am sorry that
I have not been able to bring your Majestys business to a more successful
On the contrary, my dear sir, cried the King;
nothing could be more successful. I know that her word is inviolate. The photograph
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 can reward you. This ring He slipped an emerald snake ring from his
finger and held it out upon the palm of his hand.
Your Majesty has something which I should value even
more highly, said Holmes.
You have but to name it.
The King stared at him in amazement.
Irenes photograph! he cried.
Certainly, if you wish it.
I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more to be done
in the matter. I have the honour to wish you a very good-morning. He bowed, and,
turning away without observing the hand which the King had stretched out to him, he set
off in my company for his chambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the
kingdom of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a
womans wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard
him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph,
it is always under the honourable title of the woman.