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(pt III.)

I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged upon our

toast and coffee in the morning when the King of Bohemia rushed

into the room.

"You have really got it!" he cried, grasping Sherlock Holmes by

either shoulder and looking eagerly into his face.

"Not yet."

"But you have hopes?"

"I have hopes."

"Then, come. I am all impatience to be gone."

"We must have a cab."

"No, my brougham is waiting."

"Then that will simplify matters." We descended and started off

once more for Briony Lodge.

"Irene Adler is married," remarked Holmes.

"Married! When?"


"But to whom?"

"To an English lawyer named Norton."

"But she could not love him."

"I am in hopes that she does."

"And why in hopes?"

"Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of future

annoyance. If the lady loves her husband, she does not love your

Majesty. If she does not love your Majesty, there is no reason

why she should interfere with your Majesty's plan."

"It is true. And yet--Well! I wish she had been of my own

station! What a queen she would have made!" He relapsed into a

moody silence, which was not broken until we drew up in

Serpentine Avenue.

The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stood

upon the steps. She watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped

from the brougham.

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?" said she.

"I am Mr. Holmes," answered my companion, looking at her with a

questioning and rather startled gaze.

"Indeed! My mistress told me that you were likely to call. She

left this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from Charing

Cross for the Continent."

"What!" Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin and

surprise. "Do you mean that she has left England?"

"Never to return."

"And the papers?" asked the King hoarsely. "All is lost."

"We shall see." He pushed past the servant and rushed into the

drawing-room, followed by the King and myself. The furniture was

scattered about in every direction, with dismantled shelves and

open drawers, as if the lady had hurriedly ransacked them before

her flight. Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a small

sliding shutter, and, plunging in his hand, pulled out a

photograph and a letter. The photograph was of Irene Adler

herself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to

"Sherlock Holmes, Esq. To be left till called for." My friend

tore it open and we all three read it together. It was dated at

midnight of the preceding night and ran in this way:

MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES,--You really did it very well. You

took me in completely. Until after the alarm of fire, I had not a

suspicion. But then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, I

began to think. I had been warned against you months ago. I had

been told that if the King employed an agent it would certainly

be you. And your address had been given me. Yet, with all this,

you made me reveal what you wanted to know. Even after I became

suspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a dear, kind

old clergyman. But, you know, I have been trained as an actress

myself. Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage

of the freedom which it gives. I sent John, the coachman, to

watch you, ran up stairs, got into my walking-clothes, as I call

them, and came down just as you departed.

Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I was

really an object of interest to the celebrated Mr. Sherlock

Holmes. Then I, rather imprudently, wished you good-night, and

started for the Temple to see my husband. We both thought the

best resource was flight, when pursued by so formidable an

antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when you call

to-morrow. As to the photograph, your client may rest in peace. I

love and am loved by a better man than he. The King may do what

he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly wronged. I

keep it only to safeguard myself, and to preserve a weapon which

will always secure me from any steps which he might take in the

future. I leave a photograph which he might care to possess; and

I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

Very truly yours,


"What a woman--oh, what a woman!" cried the King of Bohemia, when

we had all three read this epistle. "Did I not tell you how quick

and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen?

Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?"

"From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a

very different level to your Majesty," said Holmes coldly. "I am

sorry that I have not been able to bring your Majesty's business

to a more successful conclusion."

"On the contrary, my dear sir," cried the King; "nothing could be

more successful. I know that her word is inviolate. The

photograph is now as safe as if it were in the fire."

"I am glad to hear your Majesty say so."

"I am immensely indebted to you. Pray tell me in what way I can

reward you. This ring--" He slipped an emerald snake ring from

his finger and held it out upon the palm of his hand.

"Your Majesty has something which I should value even more

highly," said Holmes.

"You have but to name it."

"This photograph!"

The King stared at him in amazement.

"Irene's photograph!" he cried. "Certainly, if you wish it."

"I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more to be done in the

matter. I have the honor to wish you a very good-morning." He

bowed, and, turning away without observing the hand which the

King had stretched out to him, he set off in my company for his


And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdom

of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were

beaten by a woman's wit. He used to make merry over the

cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. And

when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her

photograph, it is always under the honorable title of the woman.



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