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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


II.

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 some minutes.

"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
situation."

"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!'

"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 surpliced 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."

"Which are?"

"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 her."

"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. You understand?"

"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."

"Yes."

"You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you."

"Yes."

"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 me?"

"Entirely."

"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."

"Precisely."

"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?"

"Where, indeed?"

"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 with her."

"Where, then?"

"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."

"What then?"

"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
hcr 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 way, please!"

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 another.

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
Edgeware Road.

"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."

"I am still in the dark."

"I do not wish to make a mystery," said he, laughing. "The matter
was perfectly simple. You, of course, saw that everyone in the
street was an accomplice. They were all engaged for the evening."

"I guessed as much."

"Then, when the row broke out, I had a little moist red paint in
the palm of my hand. I rushed forward, fell down. clapped my hand
to my face, and became a piteous spectacle. It is an old trick."

"That also I could fathom."

"Then they carried me in. She was bound to have me in. What else
could she do? And into her sitting-room. which was the very room
which I suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom, and I was
determined to see which. They laid me on a couch, I motioned for
air, they were compelled to open the window. and you had your
chance."

"How did that help you?"

"It was all-important. When a woman thinks that her house is on
fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she
values most. It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have
more than once taken advantage of it. In the case of the
Darlington substitution scandal it was of use to me, and also in
the Arnsworth Castle business. A married woman grabs at her baby;
an unmarried one reaches for her jewel-box. Now it was clear to
me that our lady of to-day had nothing in the house more precious
to her than what we are in quest of. She would rush to secure it.
The alarm of fire was admirably done. The smoke and shouting were
enough to shake nerves of steel. She responded beautifully. The
photograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the
right bell-pull. She was there in an instant, and I caught a
glimpse of it as she half-drew it out. When I cried out that it
was a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at the rocket, rushed
from the room, and I have not seen her since. I rose, and, making
my excuses, escaped from the house. I hesitated whether to
attempt to secure the photograph at once; but the coachman had
come in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed safer to
wait. A little over-precipitance may ruin all."

"And now?" I asked.

"Our quest is practically finished. I shall call with the King
to-morrow, and with you, if you care to come with us. We will be
shown into the sitting-room to wait for the lady; but it is
probable that when she comes she may find neither us nor the
photograph. It might be a satisfaction to his Majesty to regain
it with his own hands."

"And when will you call?"

"At eight in the morning. She will not be up, so that we shall
have a clear field. Besides, we must be prompt, for this marriage
may mean a complete change in her life and habits. I must wire to
the King without delay."

We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door. He was
searching his pockets for the key when someone passing said:

"Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes."

There were several people on the pavement at the time, but the
greeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had
hurried by.

"I've heard that voice before," said Holmes, staring down the
dimly lit street. "Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have
been."


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