The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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"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 hadn't 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 don't 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 surprised
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. "You'll do. Come! Come!"
"What then?" I asked.
"Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it won't 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 don't mind breaking the law?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor 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
"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.
"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 hand--so--you 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
"It is nothing very formidable," he said, taking a long cigar- shaped roll
from his pocket. "It is an ordinary plumber's 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 Holmes's succinct description, but
the locality appeared to be less private than I expected. On the contrary, for a
small street in a quiet neighborhood, 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 woman's 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
"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 scissorsgrinder, 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, there's life in him!" shouted another. "But he'll be gone before
you can get him to hospital."
"He's a brave fellow," said a woman. "They would have had the lady's purse
and watch if it hadn't been for him. They were a gang, and a rough one, too. Ah,
he's breathing now."
"He can't lie in the street. May we bring him in, marm?"
"Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room. There is a comfortable sofa. This
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 ill--gentlemen, ostlers, and servant-maids--joined
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 friend's 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
"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."