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  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

  • ADVENTURE I. A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA

  • I. To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

  • I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.

  • In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

  • It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.

  • All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but

  • admirably balanced mind.

  • He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the

  • world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position.

  • He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.

  • They were admirable things for the observer--excellent for drawing the veil

  • from men's motives and actions.

  • But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely

  • adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a

  • doubt upon all his mental results.

  • Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would

  • not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.

  • And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of

  • dubious and questionable memory. I had seen little of Holmes lately.

  • My marriage had drifted us away from each other.

  • My own complete happiness, and the home- centred interests which rise up around the

  • man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to

  • absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who

  • loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our

  • lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to

  • week between cocaine and ambition, the

  • drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.

  • He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his

  • immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those

  • clues, and clearing up those mysteries

  • which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police.

  • From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to

  • Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy

  • of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee,

  • and finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully

  • for the reigning family of Holland.

  • Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the

  • readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

  • One night--it was on the twentieth of March, 1888--I was returning from a journey

  • to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through

  • Baker Street.

  • As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with

  • my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a

  • keen desire to see Holmes again, and to

  • know how he was employing his extraordinary powers.

  • His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare

  • figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind.

  • He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his

  • hands clasped behind him.

  • To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own

  • story. He was at work again.

  • He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new

  • problem.

  • I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my

  • own. His manner was not effusive.

  • It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me.

  • With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair,

  • threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in

  • the corner.

  • Then he stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

  • "Wedlock suits you," he remarked. "I think, Watson, that you have put on

  • seven and a half pounds since I saw you."

  • "Seven!" I answered.

  • "Indeed, I should have thought a little more.

  • Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson.

  • And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you intended to go

  • into harness." "Then, how do you know?"

  • "I see it, I deduce it.

  • How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have

  • a most clumsy and careless servant girl?" "My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too

  • much.

  • You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago.

  • It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess,

  • but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine how you deduce it.

  • As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice, but there,

  • again, I fail to see how you work it out." He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long,

  • nervous hands together.

  • "It is simplicity itself," said he; "my eyes tell me that on the inside of your

  • left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost

  • parallel cuts.

  • Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the

  • edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it.

  • Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that

  • you had a particularly malignant boot- slitting specimen of the London slavey.

  • As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a

  • black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right

  • side of his top-hat to show where he has

  • secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an

  • active member of the medical profession."

  • I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of

  • deduction.

  • "When I hear you give your reasons," I remarked, "the thing always appears to me

  • to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each

  • successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process.

  • And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours."

  • "Quite so," he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into

  • an armchair. "You see, but you do not observe.

  • The distinction is clear.

  • For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this

  • room." "Frequently."

  • "How often?"

  • "Well, some hundreds of times." "Then how many are there?"

  • "How many? I don't know."

  • "Quite so!

  • You have not observed. And yet you have seen.

  • That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps,

  • because I have both seen and observed.

  • By-the-way, since you are interested in these little problems, and since you are

  • good enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you may be interested

  • in this."

  • He threw over a sheet of thick, pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon

  • the table. "It came by the last post," said he.

  • "Read it aloud."

  • The note was undated, and without either signature or address.

  • "There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o'clock," it said, "a

  • gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest moment.

  • Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are

  • one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly

  • be exaggerated.

  • This account of you we have from all quarters received.

  • Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor wear a

  • mask."

  • "This is indeed a mystery," I remarked. "What do you imagine that it means?"

  • "I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before

  • one has data.

  • Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit

  • facts. But the note itself.

  • What do you deduce from it?"

  • I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was written.

  • "The man who wrote it was presumably well to do," I remarked, endeavouring to imitate

  • my companion's processes.

  • "Such paper could not be bought under half a crown a packet.

  • It is peculiarly strong and stiff." "Peculiar--that is the very word," said

  • Holmes.

  • "It is not an English paper at all. Hold it up to the light."

  • I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small "g," a "P," and a large "G" with a small

  • "t" woven into the texture of the paper.

  • "What do you make of that?" asked Holmes. "The name of the maker, no doubt; or his

  • monogram, rather." "Not at all.

  • The 'G' with the small 't' stands for 'Gesellschaft,' which is the German for

  • 'Company.' It is a customary contraction like our

  • 'Co.'

  • 'P,' of course, stands for 'Papier.' Now for the 'Eg.'

  • Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer."

  • He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves.

  • "Eglow, Eglonitz--here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking country--in

  • Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad.

  • 'Remarkable as being the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-

  • factories and paper-mills.' Ha, ha, my boy, what do you make of that?"

  • His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.

  • "The paper was made in Bohemia," I said. "Precisely.

  • And the man who wrote the note is a German.

  • Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence--'This account of you we have

  • from all quarters received.' A Frenchman or Russian could not have

  • written that.

  • It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs.

  • It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes

  • upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face.

  • And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts."

  • As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses' hoofs and grating wheels against

  • the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell.

  • Holmes whistled.

  • "A pair, by the sound," said he. "Yes," he continued, glancing out of the

  • window. "A nice little brougham and a pair of

  • beauties.

  • A hundred and fifty guineas apiece. There's money in this case, Watson, if

  • there is nothing else." "I think that I had better go, Holmes."

  • "Not a bit, Doctor.

  • Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell.

  • And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pity to miss it."

  • "But your client--"

  • "Never mind him. I may want your help, and so may he.

  • Here he comes. Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give

  • us your best attention."

  • A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the passage, paused

  • immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and authoritative

  • tap.

  • "Come in!" said Holmes. A man entered who could hardly have been

  • less than six feet six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules.

  • His dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin

  • to bad taste.

  • Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his

  • double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders

  • was lined with flame-coloured silk and

  • secured at the neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl.

  • Boots which extended halfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops with

  • rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which was suggested by

  • his whole appearance.

  • He carried a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper part of his

  • face, extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard mask, which he had apparently

  • adjusted that very moment, for his hand was still raised to it as he entered.

  • From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a

  • thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed to the

  • length of obstinacy.

  • "You had my note?" he asked with a deep harsh voice and a strongly marked German

  • accent. "I told you that I would call."

  • He looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.

  • "Pray take a seat," said Holmes.

  • "This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to

  • help me in my cases. Whom have I the honour to address?"

  • "You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman.

  • I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of honour and discretion,

  • whom I may trust with a matter of the most extreme importance.

  • If not, I should much prefer to communicate with you alone."

  • I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me back into my chair.

  • "It is both, or none," said he.

  • "You may say before this gentleman anything which you may say to me."

  • The Count shrugged his broad shoulders.

  • "Then I must begin," said he, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years;

  • at the end of that time the matter will be of no importance.

  • At present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight it may have an

  • influence upon European history." "I promise," said Holmes.

  • "And I."

  • "You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor.

  • "The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I may

  • confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not exactly my

  • own."

  • "I was aware of it," said Holmes dryly.

  • "The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to be taken to

  • quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the

  • reigning families of Europe.

  • To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein, hereditary kings

  • of Bohemia."

  • "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