What fee does Sherlock Holmes ask from the King of Bohemia and why?

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At the end of "A Scandal in Bohemia," the king offers Sherlock Holmes an "emerald snake ring" as payment for his services. Sherlock rejects this generous offer, however, and asks instead for the photograph of Irene Adler, something which he finds far more valuable.

In the final paragraph of the story, Watson gives us a clue as to why Sherlock chose the photograph over the ring:

"And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honorable title of the woman."

For Sherlock, then, Irene Adler is a woman who surpasses all other women. She is the only person who has (thus far) outwitted Sherlock, a feat she achieved using the medium of disguise, one of Sherlock's most famous methods. Before meeting Irene, Sherlock used to joke about women's lack of ability ("make merry over the cleverness of women") but Irene has forced him to dramatically re-evaluate his opinion. It is for this reason that he values her above any other, as Watson foreshadowed in the opening lines of the story:

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

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What fee does Sherlock Holmes ask from the King of Bohemia?

As we can imagine, the King of Bohemia is very pleased at Holmes's ace detective work. (Not to mention rather relieved at being spared what would've been an almighty scandal). He expresses his immense gratitude by giving Holmes an expensive emerald snake ring. However, Holmes gracefully declines this generous gift, preferring instead a photograph of Irene Adler. Irene's clearly had a profound effect on the world's most famous detective. Although he prevented her from causing a huge scandal, she nonetheless managed to give old Sherlock the slip, and that's not something that many people can say.

It's fair to say that Holmes has more than a sneaking admiration for Irene. For one thing, he's never come across a woman as smart as her. (Or maybe he just hasn't been looking hard enough). In any case, in the figure of Irene Adler Holmes has finally met his match. From now on, he will always describe her, with great reverence, as "the woman," as if she's the only woman in the whole wide world. Indeed, to Holmes, that's precisely what she is.

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