The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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"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 Bohemia."
"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 once more.
"The facts are briefly these: Some five years ago, during a lengthy visit
to Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the wellknown 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.
Contralto--hum! La Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Opera of Warsaw--yes!
Retired from operatic stage--ha! Living in London--quite 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
"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 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 reproachfully.
"Very, indeed. And what does she propose to do with the photograph?"
"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
"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 kingdom to have
"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
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his note-book and handed it to
"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 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 o'clock I should like to chat this little matter over with
At three o'clock 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 o'clock 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 my head.
It was close upon four before the door opened, and a drunkenlooking groom,
ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and disreputable clothes,
walked into the room. Accustomed as I was to my friend's 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
"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?"
"It's quite too funny. I am sure you could never guess how I employed my
morning, or what I ended by doing."
"I can't 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 o'clock 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
neighborhood 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 men's 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 gentleman's 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
"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 moustached-- evidently 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 & Hankey's 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!'