Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
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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.
"Irene's 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 honor 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
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 woman's 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 honorable title of the woman.
ADVENTURE II. THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE
I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the
autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with a
very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair.
With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when
Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room and closed the door
"You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear
Watson," he said cordially.
"I was afraid that you were engaged."
"So I am. Very much so."
"Then I can wait in the next room."
"Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my partner and
helper in many of my most successful cases, and I have no
doubt that he will be of the utmost use to me in yours also."
The stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a bob of
greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small
"Try the settee," said Holmes, relapsing into his armchair and
putting his fingertips together, as was his custom when in
judicial moods. "I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love
of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum
routine of everyday life. You have shown your relish for it by
the enthusiasm which has prompted you to chronicle, and, if you
will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so many of my own
"Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me," I
"You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we
went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary
Sutherland, that for strange effects and extraordinary
combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more
daring than any effort of the imagination."
"A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting."
"You did, Doctor, but none the less you must come round to my
view, for otherwise I shall keep on piling fact upon fact on you
until your reason breaks down under them and acknowledges me to
be right. Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call
upon me this morning, and to begin a narrative which promises to
be one of the most singular which I have listened to for some
time. You have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique
things are very often connected not with the larger but with the
smaller crimes, and occasionally, indeed, where there is room for
doubt whether any positive crime has been committed. As far as I
have heard it is impossible for me to say whether the present
case is an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is
certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to.
Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to
recommence your narrative. I ask you not merely because my friend
Dr. Watson has not heard the opening part but also because the
peculiar nature of the story makes me anxious to have every
possible detail from your lips. As a rule, when I have heard some
slight indication of the course of events, I am able to guide
myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my
memory. In the present instance I am forced to admit that the
facts are, to the best of my belief, unique."
The portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of some
little pride and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the
inside pocket of his greatcoat. As he glanced down the
advertisement column, with his head thrust forward and the paper
flattened out upon his knee, I took a good look at the man and
endeavored, after the fashion of my companion, to read the
indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance.
I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor
bore every mark of being an average commonplace British
tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray
shepherd's check trousers, a not over-clean black frock-coat,
unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy
Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as
an ornament. A frayed top-hat and a faded brown overcoat with a
wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him. Altogether,
look as I would, there was nothing remarkable about the man save
his blazing red head, and the expression of extreme chagrin and
discontent upon his features.
Sherlock Holmes's quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook
his head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances.
"Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual
labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has
been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of
writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."
Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger
upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.
"How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Mr.
Holmes?" he asked. "How did you know, for example, that I did
manual labour. It's as true as gospel, for I began as a ship's
"Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger
than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more
"Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"
"I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that,
especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you
use an arc-and-compass breastpin."
"Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?"
"What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for
five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the
elbow where you rest it upon the desk?"
"Well, but China?"
"The fish that you have tattooed immediately above your right
wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a small
study of tattoo marks and have even contributed to the literature
of the subject. That trick of staining the fishes' scales of a
delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I
see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain, the matter
becomes even more simple."
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. "Well, I never!" said he. "I
thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see
that there was nothing in it, after all."
"I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes, "that I make a mistake
in explaining. 'Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' you know, and my
poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I
am so candid. Can you not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?"
"Yes, I have got it now," he answered with his thick red finger
planted halfway down the column. "Here it is. This is what began
it all. You just read it for yourself, sir."
I took the paper from him and read as follows.
TO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE: On account of the bequest of the late
Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., there is now
another vacancy open which entitles a member of the League to a
salary of 4 pounds a week for purely nominal services. All
red-headed men who are sound in body and mind and above the age
of twenty-one years, are eligible. Appiy in person on Monday, at
eleven o'clock, to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7
Pope's Court, Fleet Street.
"What on earth does this mean?" I ejaculated after I had twice
read over the extraordinary announcement.
Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair, as was his habit when
in high spirits. "It is a little off the beaten track, isn't it?"
said he. "And now, Mr. Wilson, off you go at scratch and tell us
all about yourself, your household, and the effect which this
advertisement had upon your fortunes. You will first make a note,
Doctor, of the paper and the date."
"It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890. Just two months
"Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?"
"Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes," said Jabez Wilson, mopping his forehead; "I have a small
pawnbroker's business at Coburg Square, near the City. It's not a