Scandal in Bohemia
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"You have erred, perhaps," he observed, taking up a glowing
cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood
pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a
disputatious rather than a meditative mood--"you have erred
perhaps in attempting to put color and life into each of your
statements instead of confining yourself to the task of placing
upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is
really the only notable feature about the thing."
"It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the matter,"
I remarked with some coldness, for I was repelled by the egotism
which I had more than once observed to be a strong factor in my
friend's singular character.
"No, it is not selfishness or conceit," said he, answering, as
was his wont, my thoughts rather than my words. "If I claim full
justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing--a
thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it
is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should
dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of
lectures into a series of tales."
It was a cold morning of the early spring, and we sat after
breakfast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at
Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between the lines of
dun-colored houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark,
shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths. Our gas was lit
and shone on the white cloth and glimmer of china and metal, for
the table had not been cleared yet. Sherlock Holmes had been
silent all the morning, dipping continuously into the
advertisement columns of a succession of papers until at last,
having apparently given up his search, he had emerged in no very
sweet temper to lecture me upon my literary shortcomings.
"At the same time," he remarked after a pause, during which he
had sat puffing at his long pipe and gazing down into the fire,
"you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of
these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself
in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense,
at all. The small matter in which I endeavored to help the King
of Bohemia, the singular experience of Miss Mary Sutherland, the
problem connected with the man with the twisted lip, and the
incident of the noble bachelor, were all matters which are
outside the pale of the law. But in avoiding the sensational, I
fear that you may have bordered on the trivial."
"The end may have been so," I answered, "but the methods I hold
to have been novel and of interest."
"Pshaw, my dear fellow, what do the public, the great unobservant
public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a
compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of
analysis and deduction! But, indeed, if you are trivial. I cannot
blame you, for the days of the great cases are past. Man, or at
least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As
to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an
agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to
young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched
bottom at last, however. This note I had this morning marks my
zero-point, I fancy. Read it!" He tossed a crumpled letter across
It was dated from Montague Place upon the preceding evening, and
"DEAR MR. HOLMES:--I am very anxious to consult you as to whether
I should or should not accept a situation which has been offered
to me as governess. I shall call at half-past ten to-morrow if I
do not inconvenience you.
Yours faithfully, VIOLET HUNTER."
"Do you know the young lady?" I asked.
"It is half-past ten now."
"Yes, and I have no doubt that is her ring."
"It may turn out to be of more interest than you think. You
remember that the affair of the blue carbuncle, which appeared to
be a mere whim at first, developed into a serious investigation.
It may be so in this case, also."
"Well, let us hope so. But our doubts will very soon be solved,
for here, unless I am much mistaken, is the person in question."
As he spoke the door opened and a young lady entered the room.
She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face,
freckled like a plover's egg, and with the brisk manner of a
woman who has had her own way to make in the world.
"You will excuse my troubling you, I am sure," said she, as my
companion rose to greet her, "but I have had a very strange
experience, and as I have no parents or relations of any sort
from whom I could ask advice, I thought that perhaps you would be
kind enough to tell me what I should do."
"Pray take a seat, Miss Hunter. I shall be happy to do anything
that I can to serve you."
I could see that Holmes was favorably impressed by the manner
and speech of his new client. He looked her over in his searching
fashion, and then composed himself, with his lids drooping and
his finger-tips together, to listen to her story.
"I have been a governess for five years," said she, "in the
family of Colonel Spence Munro, but two months ago the colonel
received an appointment at Halifax, in Nova Scotia, and took his
children over to America with him, so that I found myself without
a situation. I advertised, and I answered advertisements, but
without success. At last the little money which I had saved began
to run short, and I was at my wit's end as to what I should do.
"There is a well-known agency for governesses in the West End
called Westaway's, and there I used to call about once a week in
order to see whether anything had turned up which might suit me.
Westaway was the name of the founder of the business, but it is
really managed by Miss Stoper. She sits in her own little office,
and the ladies who are seeking employment wait in an anteroom,
and are then shown in one by one, when she consults her ledgers
and sees whether she has anything which would suit them.
"Well, when I called last week I was shown into the little office
as usual, but I found that Miss Stoper was not alone. A
prodigiously stout man with a very smiling face and a great heavy
chin which rolled down in fold upon fold over his throat sat at
her elbow with a pair of glasses on his nose, looking very
earnestly at the ladies who entered. As I came in he gave quite a
jump in his chair and turned quickly to Miss Stoper.
"'That will do,' said he; 'I could not ask for anything better.
Capital! capital!' He seemed quite enthusiastic and rubbed his
hands together in the most genial fashion. He was such a
comfortable-looking man that it was quite a pleasure to look at
"'You are looking for a situation, miss?' he asked.
"'And what salary do you ask?'
"'I had 4 pounds a month in my last place with Colonel Spence
"'Oh, tut, tut! sweating--rank sweating!' he cried, throwing his
fat hands out into the air like a man who is in a boiling
passion. 'How could anyone offer so pitiful a sum to a lady with
such attractions and accomplishments?'
"'My accomplishments, sir, may be less than you imagine,' said I.
'A little French, a little German, music, and drawing --'
"'Tut, tut!' he cried. 'This is all quite beside the question.
The point is, have you or have you not the bearing and deportment
of a lady? There it is in a nutshell. If you have not, you are
not fined for the rearing of a child who may some day play a
considerable part in the history of the country. But if you have
why, then, how could any gentleman ask you to condescend to
accept anything under the three figures? Your salary with me,
madam, would commence at 100 pounds a year.'
"You may imagine, Mr. Holmes, that to me, destitute as I was,
such an offer seemed almost too good to be true. The gentleman,
however, seeing perhaps the look of incredulity upon my face,
opened a pocket-book and took out a note.
"'It is also my custom,' said he, smiling in the most pleasant
fashion until his eyes were just two little shining slits amid
the white creases of his face, 'to advance to my young ladies
half their salary beforehand, so that they may meet any little
expenses of their journey and their wardrobe.'
"It seemed to me that I had never met so fascinating and so
thoughtful a man. As I was already in debt to my tradesmen, the
advance was a great convenience, and yet there was something
unnatural about the whole transaction which made me wish to know
a little more before I quite committed myself.
"'May I ask where you live, sir?' said I.
"'Hampshire. Charming rural place. The Copper Beeches, five miles
on the far side of Winchester. It is the most lovely country, my
dear young lady, and the dearest old country-house.'
"'And my duties, sir? I should be glad to know what they would
"'One child--one dear little romper just six years old. Oh, if
you could see him killing cockroaches with a slipper! Smack!
smack! smack! Three gone before you could wink!' He leaned back
in his chair and laughed his eyes into his head again.
"I was a little startled at the nature of the child's amusement,
but the father's laughter made me think that perhaps he was