'IT can't hurt now,' was Mr Sherlock Holmes's comment when, for the tenth time in as many years, I asked his leave to reveal the following narrative. So it was that at last I obtained permission to put on record what was, in some ways, the supreme moment of my friend's career.*
Both Holmes and I had a weakness for the Turkish Bath.* It was over a smoke in the pleasant lassitude of the dryingroom that I found him less reticent and more human than anywhere else. On the upper floor of the Northumberland Avenue* establishment there is an isolated corner where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay upon September 3,* 1902, the day when my narrative begins. I had asked him whether anything was stirring, and for answer he had shot his long, thin, nervous arm out of the sheets which enveloped him and had drawn an envelope from the inside pocket of the coat which hung beside him.
'It may be some fussy, self-important fool, it may be a matter of life or death,' said he, as he handed me the note. 'I know no more than this message tells me.'
It was from the Carlton Club,* and dated the evening before. This is what I read:
Sir James Damery presents his compliments to Mr Sherlock Holmes, and will call upon him at 4.30 to-morrow. Sir James begs to say that the matter upon which he desires to consult Mr Holmes is very delicate, and also very important. He trusts, therefore, that Mr Holmes will make every effort to grant this interview, and that he will confirm it over the telephone to the Carlton Club.
'I need not say that I have confirmed it, Watson,' said Holmes, as I returned the paper. 'Do you know anything of this man Damery?'
'Only that his name is a household word in Society.'