- Short Stories: A Scandal In Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle
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- A Scandal in Bohemia
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One evening—I remember that it was the 20th of March, I was returning from having seen a patient for I had dedicated myself to civil practice , when my way led me through Baker-street. He never speaks of her other than under that denomination. In his eyes she eclipses completely the weaker sex. All violent sentiments, and that one particularly, were contradictory to his cold, methodical, and admirably balanced character..
Holmes is truly the animated observing machine the most perfected that one may encounter; but I do not see my character in the role of a lover. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a scornful jest and a mocking smile. A violent emotion for a nature such as his equated to a grain of sand in an instrument of precision or a fissure on one of his more powerful microscopes.
And yet for him there was but one woman in the world, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of doubtful remembrance. He was, as ever, particularly attracted by criminal inquiries, and was putting his wonderful faculties of observation in service of these mysterious crimes that the police had renounced to clear up. I knew that he had been called to Odessa in order to study the murder of Trepoff, that he had thrown light on the singular tragedy of the the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee and, lastly, that he had acquitted himself, with much tact and success, of a delicate mission for the count of the reigning house of Holland.
One evening—I remember that it was the 20th of March, —I was returning from having seen a patient for I had dedicated myself to civil practice , when my way led me through Baker-street. End of Part One. The advertising revenue doesn't even pay for the internet connection so I'm clearly not doing this for the money. I'd really appreciate if you could let me know if the site is helping you as it's taking up quite a lot of my free time and a little encouragement would help.
Even a simple 'thank you' would be much appreciated. Tick the box below if you don't mind me publishing your comment alongside the name you gave on this website. Comment optio Doyle, A. Doyle, Arthur Conan. Lit2Go Edition. July 05, 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.
Short Stories: A Scandal In Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle
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. 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.
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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, —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.
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. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl? You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. 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. 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. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.
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. 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. 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? It is peculiarly strong and stiff. Hold it up to the light.
It is in a German-speaking country—in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. And the man who wrote the note is a German. 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.
Holmes whistled. A hundred and fifty guineas apiece. Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell. And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pity to miss it. I may want your help, and so may he.
A Scandal in Bohemia
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. 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. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases. Whom have I the honour to address?
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.
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. At present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight it may have an influence upon European history. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia. 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.
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. Why should I attempt to conceal it? 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. The name is no doubt familiar to you. 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.
Born in New Jersey in the year 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. If this young person should produce her letters for blackmailing or other purposes, how is she to prove their authenticity? 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. 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 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. Curiously, they go their separate ways after the ceremony. Meanwhile, Watson has been waiting for Holmes to arrive, and when Holmes finally does deliver himself back to Baker Street, he starts laughing.
Watson is confused and asks what is so funny. Holmes then recounts his tale and comments he thought the situation and position he was in at the wedding was amusing. He also asks whether or not Watson is willing to participate in a scheme to figure out where the picture is hidden in Adler's house. Watson agrees, and Holmes changes into another disguise as a clergyman.
The duo depart Baker Street for Adler's house. When Holmes and Watson arrive, a group of jobless men meander throughout the street. When Adler's coach pulls up, Holmes enacts his plan. A fight breaks out between the men on the street over who gets to help Adler. Holmes rushes into the fight to protect Adler, and is seemingly struck and injured.
Adler takes him into her sitting room, where Holmes motions for her to have the window opened. As Holmes lifts his hand, Watson recognizes a pre-arranged signal and tosses in a plumber's smoke rocket. Holmes slips out of Adler's house and tells Watson what he saw. As Holmes expected, Adler rushed to get her most precious possession at the cry of "fire"—the photograph of herself and the King. Holmes was able to see that the picture was kept in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the right bell pull.
He was unable to steal it at that moment, however, because the coachman was watching him. He explains all this to Watson before being bid good-night by a familiar-sounding youth, who promptly manages to get lost in the crowd. The following morning, Holmes explains his findings to the King. When Holmes, Watson, and the King arrive at Adler's house at 8 am, her elderly maidservant sardonically informs them she left the country by the 5. Holmes quickly goes to the photograph's hiding spot, finding a photo of Irene Adler in an evening dress and a letter dated midnight and addressed to him.
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In the letter, Adler tells Holmes he did very well in finding the photograph and taking her in with his disguises. She also reveals that she posed as the youth who bid Holmes good-night. Adler has left England with Norton, "a better man" than the King, adding she will not compromise the King, despite being "cruelly wronged" by him; she had kept the photo only to protect herself from further action he might take. The King exclaims how amazing Adler is "Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity she was not on my level?
Thanking Holmes effusively, the King offers a valuable emerald ring from his finger as further reward. Ignoring the handshake proffered by the King, Holmes leaves. He keeps the photograph as a reminder of her cleverness, and of being beaten by a woman's wit. Watson also tells that, since their meeting, Holmes always refers to her by the honorable title of " the woman". In the opening paragraph of the short story, Watson calls her "the late Irene Adler", suggesting she is deceased.
It has been speculated, however, that the word "late" might actually mean "former". She married Godfrey Norton, making Adler her former name. Doyle employs this same usage in " The Adventure of the Priory School " in reference to the Duke's former status as a cabinet minister. Adler earns Holmes' unbounded admiration. To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.