Scandal in Bohemia
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 Next page
and a shock of very red hair.
"It's all clear," he whispered. "Have you the chisel and the
bags? Great Scott! Jump, Archie, jump, and I'll swing for it!"
Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized the intruder by the
collar. The other dived down the hole, and I heard the sound of
rending cloth as Jones clutched at his skirts. The light flashed
upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes's hunting crop came
down on the man's wrist, and the pistol clinked upon the stone
"It's no use, John Clay," said Holmes blandly. "You have no
chance at all."
"So I see," the other answered with the utmost coolness. "I fancy
that my pal is all right, though I see you have got his
"There are three men waiting for him at the door," said Holmes.
"Oh, indeed! You seem to have done the thing very completely. I
must compliment you."
"And I you," Holmes answered. "Your red-headed idea was very new
"You'll see your pal again presently," said Jones. "He's quicker
at climbing down holes than I am. Just hold out while I fix the
"I beg that you will not touch me with your filthy hands,"
remarked our prisoner as the handcuffs clattered upon his wrists.
"You may not be aware that I have royal blood in my veins. Have
the goodness, also, when you address me always to say 'sir' and
"All right," said Jones with a stare and a snigger. "Well, would
you please, sir, march upstairs, where we can get a cab to carry
your Highness to the police-station?"
"That is better," said John Clay serenely. He made a sweeping bow
to the three of us and walked quietly off in the custody of the
"Really, Mr. Holmes," said Mr. Merryweather as we followed them
from the cellar, "I do not know how the bank can thank you or
repay you. There is no doubt that you have detected and defeated
in the most complete manner one of the most determined attempts
at bank robbery that have ever come within my experience."
"I have had one or two little scores of my own to settle with Mr.
John Clay," said Holmes. "I have been at some small expense over
this matter, which I shall expect the bank to refund, but beyond
that I am amply repaid by having had an experience which is in
many ways unique, and by hearing the very remarkable narrative of
the Red-headed League."
"You see, Watson," he explained in the early hours of the morning
as we sat over a glass of whisky and soda in Baker Street, "it
was perfectly obvious from the first that the only possible
object of this rather fantastic business of the advertisement of
the League, and the copying of the Encyclopaedia, must be to get
this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the way for a number of
hours every day. It was a curious way of managing it, but,
really, it would be difficult to suggest a better. The method was
no doubt suggested to Clay's ingenious mind by the color of his
accomplice's hair. The 4 pounds a week was a lure which must draw
him, and what was it to them, who were playing for thousands?
They put in the advertisement, one rogue has the temporary
office, the other rogue incites the man to apply for it. and
together they manage to secure his absence every morning in the
week. From the time that I heard of the assistant having come for
half wages, it was obvious to me that he had some strong motive
for securing the situation."
"But how could you guess what the motive was?"
"Had there been women in the house, I should have suspected a
mere vulgar intrigue. That, however, was out of the question. The
man's business was a small one, and there was nothing in his
house which could account for such elaborate preparations, and
such an expenditure as they were at. It must, then, be something
out of the house. What could it be? I thought of the assistant's
fondness for photography, and his trick of vanishing into the
cellar. The cellar! There was the end of this tangled clew. Then
I made inquiries as to this mysterious assistant and found that I
had to deal with one of the coolest and most daring criminals in
London. He was doing something in the cellar--something which
took many hours a day for months on end. What could it be, once
more? I could think of nothing save that he was running a tunnel
to some other building.
"So far I had got when we went to visit the scene of action. I
surprised you by beating upon the pavement with my stick. I was
ascertaining whether the cellar stretched out in front or behind.
It was not in front. Then I rang the bell, and, as I hoped, the
assistant answered it. We have had some skirmishes, but we had
never set eyes upon each other before. I hardly looked at his
face. His knees were what I wished to see. You must yourself have
remarked how worn, wrinkled, and stained they were. They spoke of
those hours of burrowing. The only remaining point was what they
were burrowing for. I walked round the corner, saw the City and
Suburban Bank abutted on our friend's premises, and felt that I
had solved my problem. When you drove home after the concert I
called upon Scotland Yard and upon the chairman of the bank
directors, with the result that you have seen."
"And how could you tell that they would make their attempt
to-night?" I asked.
"Well, when they closed their League offices that was a sign that
they cared no longer about Mr. Jabez Wilson's presence--in other
words, that they had completed their tunnel. But it was essential
that they should use it soon, as it might be discovered, or the
bullion might be removed. Saturday would suit them better than
any other day, as it would give them two days for their escape.
For all these reasons I expected them to come to-night."
"You reasoned it out beautifully," I exclaimed in unfeigned
admiration "It is so long a chain, and yet every link rings
"It saved me from ennui," he answered, yawning. "Alas! I already
feel it closing in upon me. My life is spent in one long effort
to escape from the commonplaces of existence. These little
problems help me to do so."
"And you are a benefactor of the race," said I.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, perhaps, after all, it is of
some little use," he remarked. " 'L'homme c'est rien--l'oeuvre
c'est tout,' as Gustave Flaubert wrote to George Sand."
ADVENTURE III. A CASE OF IDENTITY
"My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side
of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely
stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We
would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere
commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window
hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the
roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the
strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the
wonderful chains of events, working through generation, and
leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with
its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and
"And yet I am not convinced of it," I answered. "The cases which
come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and
vulgar enough. We have in our police reports realism pushed to
its extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed,
neither fascinating nor artistic."
"A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a
realistic effect," remarked Holmes. "This is wanting in the
police report, where more stress is laid, perhaps, upon the
platitudes of the magistrate than upon the details, which to an
observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter. Depend
upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."
I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite understand your thinking
so." I said. "Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser
and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, throughout
three continents, you are brought in contact with all that is
strange and bizarre. But here"--I picked up the morning paper
from the ground--"let us put it to a practical test. Here is the
first heading upon which I come. 'A husband's cruelty to his
wife.' There is half a column of print, but I know without
reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to me. There is, of
course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the
bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of
writers could invent nothing more crude."
"Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument,"
said Holmes, taking the paper and glancing his eye down it. "This
is the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged
in clearing up some small points in connection with it. The
husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the
conduct complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of
winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling
them at his wife, which, you will allow, is not an action likely
to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller. Take a
pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over
you in your example."
He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a great amethyst in
the centre of the lid. Its splendour was in such contrast to his
homely ways and simple life that I could not help commenting upon
"Ah," said he, "I forgot that I had not seen you for some weeks.
It is a little souvenir from the King of Bohemia in return for my
assistance in the case of the Irene Adler papers."
"And the ring?" I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which