Soon after his first marriage, Dr. John Watson leaves the Baker Street flat that he has shared with Sherlock Holmes and returns to private medical practice. In the course of his calls, he passes through Baker Street one day, sees Holmes pacing before the window, and on an impulse walks up to visit his friend. Holmes tells him that a client is expected that evening, one whose case may be interesting to Watson in his capacity as Holmes’s chronicler. The client arrives, a huge man, richly and garishly dressed and wearing a mask. Holmes quickly penetrates the disguise, however, and identifies the man as King Wilhelm of Bohemia. The surprised king unmasks and tells Holmes why he has come.
It seems that some years earlier, the king fell in love with a young soprano named Irene Adler. The woman is not only beautiful but also possessive. The king’s engagement to another woman, a princess, will soon be announced, and Irene Adler has sworn to stop the wedding. She threatens to publish a compromising photograph of her and the king, thereby creating a scandal that will lead the bride’s family to call off the wedding. She refuses to sell the photograph to the king; twice, burglars have failed to find it in her house; her luggage has been searched without success; and on two occasions robbers have stopped her, but without finding the picture. The king lays the matter in Holmes’s hands, begging for his help.
The next morning, Holmes disguises himself as a seedy-looking horse groom and goes to the neighborhood around Miss Adler’s house to see what gossip he can pick up. There he not only learns that Miss Adler has an admirer, Godfrey Norton, but also becomes involved in an incident that amuses as well as enlightens him. He sees both Norton and Miss Adler set off in separate carriages for a nearby church. When he follows them there, the disguised Holmes is commandeered as a witness for their wedding. Now that Irene Adler is...
(The entire section is 794 words.)