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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

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The Sign of Four

 

1 1. The Science of Deduction

2 Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. 3 With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. 4 For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. 5 Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.
6 Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it. 7 On the contrary, from day to day I had become more irritable at the sight, and my conscience swelled nightly within me at the thought that I had lacked the courage to protest. 8 Again and again I had registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject; but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion which made him the last man with whom one would care to take anything approaching to a liberty. 9 His great powers, his masterly manner, and the experience which I had had of his many extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossing him.
10 Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken with my lunch, or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I could hold out no longer.
11 'Which is it to-day,' I asked, 'morphine or cocaine?'
12 He raised his eyes languidly from the old blackletter volume which he had opened.
13 'It is cocaine,' he said, 'a seven-per-cent. solution. 14 Would you care to try it?'
15 'No, indeed,' I answered, brusquely. 16 'My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet. 17 I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it.'
18 He smiled at my vehemence. 19 'Perhaps you are right, Watson,' he said. 20 'I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. 21 I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment.'
22 'But consider!' I said, earnestly. 23 'Count the cost! 24 Your brain may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological and morbid process, which involves increased tissue-change, and may at last leave a permanent weakness. 25 You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon you. 26 Surely the game is hardly worth the candle. 27 Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed? 28 Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another, but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent answerable.'
29 He did not seem offended. 30 On the contrary, he put his finger-tips together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish for conversation.
31 'My mind,' he said, 'rebels at stagnation. 32 Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. 33 I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. 34 But I abhor the dull routine of existence. 35 I crave for mental exaltation. 36 That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.'
37 'The only unofficial detective?' I said, raising my eyebrows.
38 'The only unofficial consulting detective,' he answered. 39 'I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. 40 When Gregson, or Lestrade, or Athelney Jones are out of their depths - which, by the way, is their normal state - the matter is laid before me. 41 I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist's opinion. 42 I claim no credit in such cases. 43 My name figures in no newspaper. 44 The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my peculiar powers, is my highest reward. 45 But you have yourself had some experience of my methods of work in the Jefferson Hope case.'
46 'Yes, indeed,' said I, cordially. 47 'I was never so struck by anything in my life. 48 I even embodied it in a small brochure, with the somewhat fantastic title of A Study in Scarlet."'
49 He shook his head sadly.
50 'I glanced over it,' said he. 51 'Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. 52 Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. 53 You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.'
54 'But the romance was there,' I remonstrated. 55 'I could not tamper with the facts.'
56 'Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. 57 The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it.'
58 I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been specially designed to please him. 59 I confess, too, that I was irritated by the egotism which seemed to demand that every line of my pamphlet should be devoted to his own special doings. 60 More than once during the years that I had lived with him in Baker Street I had observed that a small vanity underlay my companion's quiet and didactic manner. 61 I made no remark, however, but sat nursing my wounded leg. 62 I had had a Jezail bullet through it some time before, and, though it did not prevent me from walking, it ached wearily at every change of the weather.
63 'My practice has extended recently to the Continent,' said Holmes, after awhile, filling up his old briar-root pipe. 64 'I was consulted last week by François le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come rather to the front lately in the French detective service. 65 He has all the Celtic power of quick intuition, but he is deficient in the wide range of exact knowledge which is essential to the higher developments of his art. 66 The case was concerned with a will, and possessed some features of interest. 67 I was able to refer him to two parallel cases, the one at Riga in 1857, and the other at St. Louis in 1871, which have suggested to him the true solution. 68 Here is the letter which I had this morning acknowledging my assistance.'
69 He tossed over, as he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign note-paper. 70 I glanced my eyes down it, catching a profusion of notes of admiration, with stray 'magnifiques,' 'coup-de-maîtres,' and 'tours-de-force,' all testifying to the ardent admiration of the Frenchman.
71 'He speaks as a pupil to his master,' said I.
72 'Oh, he rates my assistance too highly,' said Sherlock Holmes, lightly. 73 'He has considerable gifts himself. 74 He possesses two out of the three qualities necessary for the ideal detective. 75 He has the power of observation and that of deduction. 76 He is only wanting in knowledge, and that may come in time. 77 He is now translating my small works into French.'
78 'Your works?'
79 'Oh, didn't you know?' he cried, laughing. 80 'Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs. 81 They are all upon technical subjects. 82 Here, for example, is one "Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos." 83 In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco, with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. 84 It is a point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. 85 If you can say definitely, for example, that some murder had been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows your field of search. 86 To the trained eve there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird's-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.'
87 'You have an extraordinary genius for minutiæ,' I remarked.
88 'I appreciate their importance. 89 Here is my monograph upon the tracing of footsteps, with some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris as a preserver of impresses. 90 Here, too, is a curious little work upon the influence of a trade upon the form of the hand, with lithotypes of the hands of slaters, sailors, corkcutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers. 91 That is a matter of great practical interest to the scientific detective - especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the antecedents of criminals. 92 But I weary you with my hobby.'
93 'Not at all,' I answered, earnestly. 94 'It is of the greatest interest to me, especially since I have had the opportunity of observing your practical application of it. 95 But you spoke just now of observation and deduction. 96 Surely the one to some extent implies the other.'
97 'Why, hardly,' he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his arm-chair, and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. 98 'For example, observation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore Street Post Office this morning, but deduction lets me know that when there you dispatched a telegram.'
99 'Right!' said I. 100 'Right on both points! 101 But I confess that I don't see how you arrived at it. 102 It was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I have mentioned it to no one.'
103 'It is simplicity itself,' he remarked, chuckling at my surprise - 'so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous; and yet it may serve to define the limits of observation and of deduction. 104 Observation tells me that you have a little reddish mould adhering to your instep. 105 Just opposite the Wigmore Street Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown up some earth, which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid treading in it in entering. 106 The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint which is found, as far as I know, nowhere else in the neighbourhood. 107 So much is observation. 108 The rest is deduction.'
109 'How, then, did you deduce the telegram?'
110 'Why, of course I knew that you had not written a letter, since I sat opposite to you all morning. 111 I see also in your open desk there that you have a sheet of stamps and a thick bundle of post-cards. 112 What could you go into the post office for, then, but to send a wire? 113 Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.'
114 'In this case it certainly is so,' I replied, after a little thought. 115 'The thing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. 116 Would you think me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?'
117 'On the contrary,' he answered; 'it would prevent me from taking a second dose of cocaine. 118 I should be delighted to look into any problem which you might submit to me.'
119 'I have heard you say that it is difficult for a man to have any object in daily use without leaving the impress of his individuality upon it in such a way that a trained observer might read it. 120 Now, I have here a watch which has recently come into my possession. 121 Would you have the kindness to let me have an opinion upon the character or habits of the late owner?'
122 I handed him over the watch with some slight feeling of amusement in my heart, for the test was, as I thought, an impossible one, and I intended it as a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone which he occasionally assumed. 123 He balanced the watch in his hand, gazed hard at the dial, opened the back, and examined the works, first with his naked eyes and then with a powerful convex lens. 124 I could hardly keep from smiling at his crestfallen face when he finally snapped the case to and handed it back.
125 'There are hardly any data,' he remarked. 126 'The watch has been recently cleaned, which robs me of my most suggestive facts.'
127 'You are right,' I answered. 128 'It was cleaned before being sent to me.'
129 In my heart I accused my companion of putting forward a most lame and impotent excuse to cover his failure. 130 What data could he expect from an uncleaned watch?
131 'Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely barren,' he observed, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-lustre eyes. 132 'Subject to your correction, I should judge that the watch belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it from your father.'
133 'That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W. upon the back?'
134 'Quite so. 135 The W. suggests your own name. 136 The date of the watch is nearly fifty years back and the initials are as old as the watch; so it was made for the last generation. 137 Jewellery usually descends to the eldest son, and he is most likely to have the same name as the father. 138 Your father has, if I remember right, been dead many years. 139 It has, therefore, been in the hands of your eldest brother.'
140 'Right, so far,' said I. 141 'Anything else?'
142 'He was a man of untidy habits - very untidy and careless. 143 He was left with good prospects, but he threw away his chances, lived for some time in poverty with occasional short intervals of prosperity, and, finally, taking to drink, he died. 144 That is all I can gather.'
145 I sprang from my chair and limped impatiently about the room with considerable bitterness in my heart.
146 'This is unworthy of you, Holmes,' I said. 147 'I could not have believed that you would have descended to this. 148 You have made inquiries into the history of my unhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this knowledge in some fanciful way. 149 You cannot expect me to believe that you have read all this from his old watch! 150 It is unkind, and, to speak plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it.'
151 'My dear doctor,' said he, kindly, 'pray accept my apologies. 152 Viewing the matter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten how personal and painful a thing it might be to you. 153 I assure you, however, that I never even knew that you had a brother until you handed me the watch.'
154 'Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get these facts? 155 They are absolutely correct in every particular.'
156 'Ah, that is good luck. 157 I could only say what was the balance of probability. 158 I did not at all expect to be accurate.'
159 'But it was not mere guesswork?'
160 'No, no: I never guess. 161 It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty. 162 What seems strange to you is only so because you do not follow my train of thought or observe the small facts upon which large inferences may depend. 163 For example, I began by stating that your brother was careless. 164 When you observe the lower part of that watch-case you notice that it is not only dinted in two places, but it is cut and marked all over from the habit of keeping other hard objects, such as coins or keys, in the same pocket. 165 Surely it is no great feat to assume that a man who treats a fifty-guinea watch so cavalierly must be a careless man. 166 Neither is it a very far-fetched inference that a man who inherits one article of such value is pretty well provided for in other respects.'
167 I nodded, to show that I followed his reasoning.
168 'It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they take a watch, to scratch the number of the ticket with a pin-point upon the inside of the case. 169 It is more handy than a label, as there is no risk of the number being lost or transposed. 170 There are no less than four such numbers visible to my lens on the inside of this case. 171 Inference - that your brother was often at low water. 172 Secondary inference - that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge. 173 Finally, I ask you to look at the inner plate, which contains the keyhole. 174 Look at the thousands of scratches all round the hole - marks where the key has slipped. 175 What sober man's key could have scored those grooves? 176 But you will never see a drunkard's watch without them. 177 He winds it at night, and he leaves these traces of his unsteady hand. 178 Where is the mystery in all this?'
179 'It is as clear as daylight,' I answered. 180 'I regret the injustice which I did you. 181 I should have had more faith in your marvellous faculty. 182 May I ask whether you have any professional inquiry on foot at present?'
183 'None. 184 Hence the cocaine. 185 I cannot live without brain-work. 186 What else is there to live for? 187 Stand at the window here. 188 Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? 189 See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-coloured houses. 190 What could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? 191 What is the use of having powers, doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? 192 Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth.'
193 I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade, when, with a crisp knock, our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver.
194 'A young lady for you, sir,' she said, addressing my companion.
195 'Miss Mary Morstan,' he read. 196 'Hum! 197 I have no recollection of the name. 198 Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson. 199 Don't go, doctor. 200 I should prefer that you remain.'

201 2. The Statement of the Case

202 Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure of manner. 203 She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste. 204 There was, however, a plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. 205 The dress was a sombre greyish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion of white feather in the side. 206 Her face had neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual and sympathetic. 207 In an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature. 208 I could not but observe that, as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lips trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intense inward agitation.
209 'I have come to you, Mr. Holmes,' she said, 'because you once enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a little domestic complication. 210 She was much impressed by your kindness and skill.'
211 'Mrs. Cecil Forrester,' he repeated, thoughtfully. 212 'I believe that I was of some slight service to her. 213 The case, however, as I remember it, was a very simple one.'
214 'She did not think so. 215 But at least you cannot say the same of mine. 216 I can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly inexplicable, than the situation in which I find myself.'
217 Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. 218 He leaned forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features.
219 'State your case,' said he, in brisk, business tones.
220 I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
221 'You will, I am sure, excuse me,' I said, rising from my chair.
222 To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to detain me.
223 'If your friend,' she said, 'would be good enough to stop, he might be of inestimable service to me.'
224 I relapsed into my chair.
225 'Briefly,' she continued, 'the facts are these. 226 My father was an officer in an Indian regiment, who sent me home when I was quite a child. 227 My mother was dead, and I had no relative in England. 228 I was placed, however, in a comfortable boarding establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained until I was seventeen years of age. 229 In the year 1878 my father, who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months' leave and came home. 230 He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived all safe, and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. 231 His message, as I remember, was full of kindness and love. 232 On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not returned. 233 I waited all day without news of him. 234 That night, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. 235 Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate father. 236 He came home with his heart full of hope, to find some peace, some comfort, and instead-'
237 She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the sentence.
238 'The date?' asked Holmes, opening his note-book.
239 'He disappeared upon the 3rd of December, 1878 - nearly ten years ago.'
240 'His luggage?'
241 'Remained at the hotel. 242 There was nothing in it to suggest a clue - some clothes, some books, and a considerable number of curiosities from the Andaman Islands. 243 He had been one of the officers in charge of the convict guard there.'
244 'Had he any friends in town?'
245 'Only one that we know of - Major Sholto, of his own regiment, the 34th Bombay Infantry. 246 The Major had retired some little time before, and lived at Upper Norwood. 247 We communicated with him, of course, but he did not even know that his brother officer was in England.'
248 'A singular case,' remarked Holmes.
249 'I have not yet described to you the most singular part. 250 About six years ago - to be exact, upon the 4th of May, 1882 - an advertisement appeared in The Times asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan, and stating that it would be to her advantage to come forward. 251 There was no name or address appended. 252 I had at that time just entered the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of governess. 253 By her advice I published my address in the advertisement column. 254 The same day there arrived through the post a small cardboard box addressed to me, which I found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl. 255 No word of writing was enclosed. 256 Since then every year upon the same date there has always appeared a similar box, containing a similar pearl, without any clue as to the sender. 257 They have been pronounced by an expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable value. 258 You can see for yourselves that they are very handsome.'
259 She opened a flat box as she spoke, and showed me six of the finest pearls that I had ever seen.
260 'Your statement is most interesting,' said Sherlock Holmes. 261 'Has anything else occurred to you?'
262 'Yes, and no later than to-day. 263 That is why I have come to you. 264 This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself.'
265 'Thank you,' said Holmes. 266 'The envelope, too, please. 267 Post-mark, London, S.W. Date, July 7. 268 Hum! 269 Man's thumbmark on corner - probably postman. 270 Best quality paper. 271 Envelopes at sixpence a packet. 272 Particular man in his stationery. 273 No address. 274 "Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre to-night at seven o'clock. 275 If you are distrustful bring two friends. 276 You are a wronged woman, and shall have justice. 277 Do not bring police. 278 If you do, all will be in vain. 279 Your unknown friend." 280 Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery! 281 What do you intend to do, Miss Morstan?'
282 'That is exactly what I want to ask you.'
283 'Then we shall most certainly go - you and I and-yes, why, Dr. Watson is the very man. 284 Your correspondent says two friends. 285 He and I have worked together before.'
286 'But would he come?' she asked, with something appealing in her voice and expression.
287 'I shall be proud and happy,' said I, fervently, 'if I can be of any service.'
288 'You are both very kind,' she answered. 289 'I have led a retired life, and have no friends whom I could appeal to. 290 If I am here at six it will do, I suppose?'
291 'You must not be later,' said Holmes. 292 'There is one other point, however. 293 Is this handwriting the same as that upon the pearl-box addresses?'
294 'I have them here,' she answered, producing half-a-dozen pieces of paper.
295 'You are certainly a model client. 296 You have the correct intuition. 297 Let us see, now.' 298 He spread out the papers upon the table, and gave little, darting glances from one to the other. 299 'They are disguised hands, except the letter,' he said, presently; 'but there can be no question as to the authorship. 300 See how the irrepressible Greek e will break out, and see the twirl of the final s. 301 They are undoubtedly by the same person. 302 I should not like to suggest false hopes, Miss Morstan, but is there any resemblance between this hand and that of your father?'
303 'Nothing could be more unlike.'
304 'I expected to hear you say so. 305 We shall look out for you, then, at six. 306 Pray allow me to keep the papers. 307 I may look into the matter before then. 308 It is only half-past three. 309 Au revoir, then.'
310 'Au revoir,' said our visitor; and with a bright, kindly glance from one to the other of us, she replaced her pearl-box in her bosom and hurried away.
311 Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly down the street, until the grey turban and white feather were but a speck in the sombre crowd.
312 'What a very attractive woman!' I exclaimed, turning to my companion.
313 He had lit his pipe again, and was leaning back with drooping eyelids. 314 'Is she?' he said, languidly; 'I did not observe.'
315 'You really are an automaton - a calculating machine,' I cried. 316 'There is something positively inhuman in you at times.'
317 He smiled gently.
318 'It is of the first importance,' he said, 'not to allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. 319 A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem. 320 The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. 321 I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.'
322 'In this case, however-'
323 'I never make exceptions. 324 An exception disproves the rule. 325 Have you ever had occasion to study character in handwriting? 326 What do you make of this fellow's scribble?'
327 'It is legible and regular,' I answered. 328 'A man of business habits and some force of character.' 329 Holmes shook his head.
330 'Look at his long letters,' he said. 331 'They hardly rise above the common herd. 332 That d might be an a, and that l an e. 333 Men of character always differentiate their long letters, however illegibly they may write. 334 There is vacillation in his k's and self-esteem in his capitals. 335 I am going out now. 336 I have some few references to make. 337 Let me recommend this book - one of the most remarkable ever penned. 338 It is Winwood Reade Martyrdom of Man. 339 I shall be back in an hour.'
340 I sat in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were far from the daring speculations of the writer. 341 My mind ran upon our late visitor - her smiles, the deep, rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery which overhung her life. 342 If she were seventeen at the time of her father's disappearance she must be seven-and-twenty now - a sweet age, when youth has lost its self-consciousness and become a little sobered by experience. 343 So I sat and mused, until such dangerous thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into the latest treatise upon pathology. 344 What was I, an Army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking account, that I should dare to think of such things? 345 She was a unit, a factor - nothing more. 346 If my future were black, it was better surely to face it like a man than to attempt to brighten it by mere will-o'-the-wisps of the imagination.

347 3. In Quest of a Solution

348 It was half-past five before Holmes returned. 349 He was bright, eager, and in excellent spirits, a mood which in his case alternated with fits of the blackest depression.
350 'There is no great mystery in this matter,' he said, taking the cup of tea which I had poured out for him; 'the facts appear to admit of only one explanation.'
351 'What! you have solved it already?'
352 'Well, that would be too much to say. 353 I have discovered a suggestive fact, that is all. 354 It is, however, very suggestive. 355 The details are still to be added. 356 I have just found, on consulting the back files of The Times, that Major Sholto, of Upper Norwood, late of the 34th Bombay Infantry, died upon the 28th of April, 1882.'
357 'I may be very obtuse, Holmes, but I fail to see what this suggests.'
358 'No? 359 You surprise me. 360 Look at it in this way, then. 361 Captain Morstan disappears. 362 The only person in London whom he could have visited is Major Sholto. 363 Major Sholto denies having heard that he was in London. 364 Four years later Sholto dies. 365 Within a week of his death Captain Morstan's daughter receives a valuable present, which is repeated from year to year, and now culminates in a letter which describes her as a wronged woman. 366 What wrong can it refer to except this deprivation of her father? 367 And why should the presents begin immediately after Sholto's death, unless it is that Sholto's heir knows something of the mystery and desires to make compensation? 368 Have you any alternative theory which will meet the facts?'
369 'But what a strange compensation! 370 And how strangely made! 371 Why, too, should he write a letter now, rather than six years ago? 372 Again, the letter speaks of giving her justice. 373 What justice can she have? 374 It is too much to suppose that her father is still alive. 375 There is no other injustice in her case that you know of.'
376 'There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties,' said Sherlock Holmes, pensively; 'but our expedition of to-night will solve them all. 377 Ah, here is a four-wheeler, and Miss Morstan inside. 378 Are you all ready? 379 Then we had better go down, for it is a little past the hour.'
380 I picked up my hat and my heaviest stick, but I observed that Holmes took his revolver from his drawer and slipped it into his pocket. 381 It was clear that he thought that our night's work might be a serious one.
382 Miss Morstan was muffled in a dark cloak, and her sensitive face was composed, but pale. 383 She must have been more than woman if she did not feel some uneasiness at the strange enterprise upon which we were embarking, yet her self-control was perfect, and she readily answered the few additional questions which Sherlock Holmes put to her.
384 'Major Sholto was a very particular friend of papa's,' she said. 385 'His letters were full of allusions to the Major. 386 He and papa were in command of the troops at the Andaman Islands, so they were thrown a great deal together. 387 By the way, a curious paper was found in papa's desk which no one could understand. 388 I don't suppose that it is of the slightest importance, but I thought you might care to see it, so I brought it with me. 389 It is here.'
390 Holmes unfolded the paper carefully and smoothed it out upon his knee. 391 He then very methodically examined it all over with his double lens.
392 'It is paper of native Indian manufacture,' he remarked. 393 'It has at some time been pinned to a board. 394 The diagram upon it appears to be a plan of part of a large building with numerous halls, corridors, and passages. 395 At one point is a small cross done in red ink, and above it is "3.37 from left," in faded pencil-writing. 396 In the left-hand corner is a curious hieroglyphic like four crosses in a line with their arms touching. 397 Beside it is written, in very rough and coarse characters, "The sign of the four - Jonathan Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, Dost Akbar." 398 No, I confess that I do not see how this bears upon the matter. 399 Yet it is evidently a document of importance. 400 It has been kept carefully in a pocket-book; for the one side is as clean as the other.'
401 'It was in his pocket-book that we found it.'
402 'Preserve it carefully, then, Miss Morstan, for it may prove to be of use to us. 403 I begin to suspect that this matter may turn out to be much deeper and more subtle than I at first supposed. 404 I must reconsider my ideas.'
405 He leaned back in the cab, and I could see by his drawn brow and his vacant eye that he was thinking intently. 406 Miss Morstan and I chatted in an undertone about our present expedition and its possible outcome, but our companion maintained his impenetrable reserve until the end of our journey.
407 It was a September evening, and not yet seven o'clock, but the day had been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon the great city. 408 Mudcoloured clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets. 409 Down the Strand the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light, which threw a feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement. 410 The yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air, and threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. 411 There was, to my mind, something eerie and ghost-like in the endless procession of faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light - sad faces and glad, haggard and merry. 412 Like all human kind, they flitted from the gloom into the light, and so back into the gloom once more. 413 I am not subject to impressions, but the dull, heavy evening, with the strange business upon which we were engaged, combined to make me nervous and depressed. 414 I could see from Miss Morstan's manner that she was suffering from the same feeling. 415 Holmes alone could rise superior to petty influences. 416 He held his open note-book upon his knee, and from time to time he jotted down figures and memoranda in the light of his pocket-lantern.
417 At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already thick at the side-entrances. 418 In front a continuous stream of hansoms and four-wheelers were rattling up, discharging their cargoes of shirt-fronted men and beshawled, bediamonded women. 419 We had hardly reached the third pillar, which was our rendezvous, before a small, dark, brisk man in the dress of a coachman accosted us.
420 'Are you the parties who come with Miss Morstan?' he asked.
421 'I am Miss Morstan, and these two gentlemen are my friends,' said she.
422 He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and questioning eyes upon us.
423 'You will excuse me, miss,' he said, with a certain dogged manner, 'but I was to ask you to give me your word that neither of your companions is a police officer.'
424 'I give you my word on that,' she answered. 425 He gave a shrill whistle, on which a street arab led across a four-wheeler and opened the door. 426 The man who had addressed us mounted to the box, while we took our places inside. 427 We had hardly done so before the driver whipped up his horse, and we plunged away at a furious pace through the foggy streets.
428 The situation was a curious one. 429 We were driving to an unknown place, on an unknown errand. 430 Yet our invitation was either a complete hoax - which was an inconceivable hypothesis - or else we had good reason to think that important issues might hang upon our journey. 431 Miss Morstan's demeanour was as resolute and collected as ever. 432 I endeavoured to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation, and so curious as to our destination, that my stories were slightly involved. 433 To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it. 434 At first I had some idea as to the direction in which we were driving; but soon, what with our pace, the fog, and my own limited knowledge of London, I lost my bearings, and knew nothing, save that we seemed to be going a very long way. 435 Sherlock Holmes was never at fault, however, and he muttered the names as the cab rattled through squares and in and out by tortuous by-streets.
436 'Rochester Row,' said he. 437 'Now Vincent Square. 438 Now we come out on the Vauxhall Bridge Road. 439 We are making for the Surrey side, apparently. 440 Yes, I thought so. 441 Now we are on the bridge. 442 You can catch glimpses of the river.'
443 We did indeed get a fleeting view of a stretch of the Thames, with the lamps shining upon the broad, silent water; but our cab dashed on, and was soon involved in a labyrinth of streets upon the other side.
444 'Wandsworth Road,' said my companion. 445 'Priory Road. 446 Larkhall Lane. 447 Stockwell Place. 448 Robert Street. 449 Coldharbour Lane. 450 Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable regions.'
451 We had indeed reached a questionable and forbidding neighbourhood. 452 Long lines of dull brick houses were only relieved by the coarse glare and tawdry brilliancy of public-houses at the corners. 453 Then came rows of two-storied villas, each with a fronting of miniature garden, and then again interminable lines of new, staring brick buildings - the monster tentacles which the giant city was throwing out into the country. 454 At last the cab drew up at the third house in a new terrace. 455 None of the other houses were inhabited, and that at which we stopped was as dark as its neighbours, save for a single glimmer in the kitchen-window. 456 On our knocking, however, the door was instantly thrown open by a Hindu servant, clad in a yellow turban, white, loose-fitting clothes, and a yellow sash. 457 There was something strangely incongruous in this Oriental figure framed in the commonplace doorway of a third-rate suburban dwelling-house.
458 'The sahib awaits you,' said he, and even as he spoke there came a high, piping voice from some inner room.
459 'Show them in to me, khitmutgar,' it cried. 460 'Show them straight in to me.'

461 4. The Story of the Bald-headed Man

462 We followed the Indian down a sordid and common passage, ill-lit and worse furnished, until he came to a door upon the right, which he threw open. 463 A blaze of yellow light streamed out upon us, and in the centre of the glare there stood a small man with a very high head, a bristle of red hair all round the fringe of it, and a bald, shining scalp which shot out from among it like a mountain-peak from fir-trees. 464 He writhed his hands together as he stood, and his features were in a perpetual jerk-now smiling, now scowling, but never for an instant in repose. 465 Nature had given him a pendulous lip, and a too visible line of yellow and irregular teeth, which he strove feebly to conceal by constantly passing his hand over the lower part of his face. 466 In spite of his obtrusive baldness, he gave the impression of youth. 467 In point of fact, he had just turned his thirtieth year.
468 'Your servant, Miss Morstan,' he kept repeating, in a thin, high voice. 469 'Your servant, gentlemen. 470 Pray step into my little sanctum. 471 A small place, Miss, but furnished to my own liking. 472 An oasis of art in the howling desert of South London.'
473 We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment into which he invited us. 474 In that sorry house it looked as out-of-place as a diamond of the first water in a setting of brass. 475 The richest and glossiest of curtains and tapestries draped the walls, looped back here and there to expose some richly mounted painting or Oriental vase. 476 The carpet was of amber and black, so soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into a bed of moss. 477 Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased the suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a huge hookah which stood upon a mat in the corner. 478 A lamp in the fashion of a silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre of the room. 479 As it burned it filled the air with a subtle and aromatic odour.
480 'Mr. Thaddeus Sholto,' said the little man, still jerking and smiling. 481 'That is my name. 482 You are Miss Morstan, of course. 483 And these gentlemen-'
484 'This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this Dr. Watson.'
485 'A doctor, eh?' cried he, much excited. 486 'Have you your stethoscope? 487 Might I ask you - would you have the kindness? 488 I have grave doubts as to my mitral valve, if you would be so very good. 489 The aortic I may rely upon, but I should value your opinion upon the mitral.'
490 I listened to his heart, as requested, but was unable to find anything amiss, save, indeed, that he was in an ecstasy of fear, for he shivered from head to foot. 491 'It appears to be normal,' I said. 492 'You have no cause for uneasiness.'
493 'You will excuse my anxiety, Miss Morstan,' he remarked, airily. 494 'I am a great sufferer, and I have long had suspicions as to that valve. 495 I am delighted to hear that they are unwarranted. 496 Had your father, Miss Morstan, refrained from throwing a strain upon his heart, he might have been alive now.'
497 I could have struck the man across the face, so hot was I at this callous and off-hand reference to so delicate a matter. 498 Miss Morstan sat down, and her face grew white to the lips.
499 'I knew in my heart that he was dead,' said she.
500 'I can give you every information,' said he; 'and what is more, I can do you justice; and I will, too, whatever Brother Bartholomew may say. 501 I am so glad to have your friends here, not only as an escort to you, but also as witnesses to what I am about to do and say. 502 The three of us can show a bold front to Brother Bartholomew. 503 But let us have no outsiders - no police or officials. 504 We can settle everything satisfactorily among ourselves, without any interference. 505 Nothing would annoy Brother Bartholomew more than any publicity.'
506 He sat down upon a low settee, and blinked at us inquiringly with his weak, watery blue eyes.
507 'For my part,' said Holmes, 'whatever you may choose to say will go no farther.'
508 I nodded to show my agreement.
509 'That is well! 510 That is well!' said he. 511 'May I offer you a glass of Chianti, Miss Morstan? 512 Or of Tokay? 513 I keep no other wines. 514 Shall I open a flask? 515 No? 516 Well, then, I trust that you have no objection to tobacco smoke, to the balsamic odour of the Eastern tobacco. 517 I am a little nervous, and I find my hookah an invaluable sedative.'
518 He applied a taper to the great bowl, and the smoke bubbled merrily through the rosewater. 519 We sat all three in a semi-circle, with our heads advanced and our chins upon our hands, while the strange, jerky little fellow, with his high, shining head, puffed uneasily in the centre.
520 'When I first determined to make this communication to you,' said he, 'I might have given you my address; but I feared that you might disregard my request and bring unpleasant people with you. 521 I took the liberty, therefore, of making an appointment in such a way that my man Williams might be able to see you first. 522 I have complete confidence in his discretion, and he had orders, if he were dissatisfied, to proceed no further in the matter. 523 You will excuse these precautions, but I am a man of somewhat retiring, and I might even say refined, tastes, and there is nothing more unæsthetic than a policeman. 524 I have a natural shrinking from all forms of rough materialism. 525 I seldom come in contact with the rough crowd. 526 I live, as you see, with some little atmosphere of elegance around me. 527 I may call myself a patron of the arts. 528 It is my weakness. 529 The landscape is a genuine Corot, and, though a connoisseur might perhaps throw a doubt upon that Salvator Rosa, there cannot be the least question about the Bouguereau. 530 I am partial to the modern French school.'
531 'You will excuse me, Mr. Sholto,' said Miss Morstan, 'but I am here at your request to learn something which you desire to tell me. 532 It is very late, and I should desire the interview to be as short as possible.'
533 'At the best, it must take some time,' he answered; 'for we shall certainly have to go to Norwood and see Brother Bartholomew. 534 We shall all go and try if we can get the better of Brother Bartholomew. 535 He is very angry with me for taking the course which has seemed right to me. 536 I had quite high words with him last night. 537 You cannot imagine what a terrible fellow he is when he is angry.'
538 'If we are to go to Norwood, it would perhaps be as well to start at once,' I ventured to remark.
539 He laughed until his ears were quite red.
540 'That would hardly do,' he cried. 541 'I don't know what he would say if I brought you in that sudden way. 542 No, I must prepare you by showing you how we all stand to each other. 543 In the first place, I must tell you that there are several points in the story of which I am myself ignorant. 544 I can only lay the facts before you as far as I know them myself.
545 'My father was, as you may have guessed, Major John Sholto, once of the Indian Army. 546 He retired some eleven years ago, and came to live at Pondicherry Lodge, in Upper Norwood. 547 He had prospered in India, and brought back with him a considerable sum of money, a large collection of valuable curiosities, and a staff of native servants. 548 With these advantages he bought himself a house, and lived in great luxury. 549 My twin-brother Bartholomew and I were the only children.
550 'I very well remember the sensation which was caused by the disappearance of Captain Morstan. 551 We read the details in the papers, and knowing that he had been a friend of our father's, we discussed the case freely in his presence. 552 He used to join in our speculations as to what could have happened. 553 Never for an instant did we suspect that he had the whole secret hidden in his own breast, that of all men he alone knew the fate of Arthur Morstan.
554 'We did know, however, that some mystery, some positive danger, overhung our father. 555 He was very fearful of going out alone, and he always employed two prize-fighters to act as porters at Pondicherry Lodge. 556 Williams, who drove you to-night, was one of them. 557 He was once light-weight champion of England. 558 Our father would never tell us what it was he feared, but he had a most marked aversion to men with wooden legs. 559 On one occasion he actually fired his revolver at a wooden-legged man, who proved to be a harmless tradesman canvassing for orders. 560 We had to pay a large sum to hush the matter up. 561 My brother and I used to think this a mere whim of my father's; but events have since led us to change our opinion.
562 'Early in 1882 my father received a letter from India which was a great shock to him. 563 He nearly fainted at the breakfast-table when he opened it, and from that day he sickened to his death. 564 What was in the letter we could never discover, but I could see as he held it that it was short and written in a scrawling hand. 565 He had suffered for years from an enlarged spleen, but he now became rapidly worse, and towards the end of April we were informed that he was beyond all hope, and that he wished to make a last communication to us.
566 'When we entered his room he was propped up with pillows and breathing heavily. 567 He besought us to lock the door and to come upon either side of the bed. 568 Then, grasping our hands, he made a remarkable statement to us, in a voice which was broken as much by emotion as by pain. 569 I shall try and give it to you in his own very words.
570 '"I have only one thing," he said, "which weighs upon my mind at this supreme moment. 571 It is my treatment of poor Morstan's orphan. 572 The cursed greed which has been my besetting sin through life has withheld from her the treasure, half at least of which should have been hers. 573 And yet I have made no use of it myself, so blind and foolish a thing is avarice. 574 The mere feeling of possession has been so dear to me that I could not bear to share it with another. 575 See that chaplet tipped with pearls beside the quinine-bottle? 576 Even that I could not bear to part with, although I had got it out with the design of sending it to her. 577 You, my sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. 578 But send her nothing-not even the chaplet - until I am gone. 579 After all, men have been as bad as this and have recovered.
580 '"I will tell you how Morstan died," he continued. 581 "He had suffered for years from a weak heart, but he concealed it from everyone. 582 I alone knew it. 583 When in India, he and I, through a remarkable chain of circumstances, came into possession of a considerable treasure. 584 I brought it over to England, and on the night of Morstan's arrival he came straight over here to claim his share. 585 He walked over from the station, and was admitted by my faithful old Lal Chowdar, who is now dead. 586 Morstan and I had a difference of opinion as to the division of the treasure, and we came to heated words. 587 Morstan had sprung out of his chair in a paroxysm of anger, when he suddenly pressed his hand to his side, his face turned a dusky hue, and he fell backwards, cutting his head against the corner of the treasure-chest. 588 When I stooped over him I found, to my horror, that he was dead.
589 '"For a long time I sat half distracted, wondering what I should do. 590 My first impulse was, of course, to call for assistance; but I could not but recognize that there was every chance that I would be accused of his murder. 591 His death at the moment of a quarrel, and the gash in his head, would be black against me. 592 Again, an official inquiry could not be made without bringing out some facts about the treasure, which I was particularly anxious to keep secret. 593 He had told me that no soul upon earth knew where he had gone. 594 There seemed to be no necessity why any soul ever should know.
595 '"I was still pondering over the matter, when, looking up, I saw my servant, Lal Chowdar, in the doorway. 596 He stole in and bolted the door behind him. 597 'Do not fear, sahib,' he said; 'no one need know that you have killed him. 598 Let us hide him away, and who is the wiser?' 599 'I did not kill him,' said I. 600 Lal Chowdar shook his head and smiled. 601 'I heard it all, sahib,' said he; 'I heard you quarrel, and I heard the blow. 602 But my lips are sealed. 603 All are asleep in the house. 604 Let us put him away together.' 605 That was enough to decide me. 606 If my own servant could not believe my innocence, how could I hope to make it good before twelve foolish tradesmen in a jury-box? 607 Lal Chowdar and I disposed of the body that night, and within a few days the London papers were full of the mysterious disappearance of Captain Morstan. 608 You will see from what I say that I can hardly be blamed in the matter. 609 My fault lies in the fact that we concealed not only the body, but also the treasure, and that I have clung to Morstan's share as well as to my own. 610 I wish you, therefore, to make restitution. 611 Put your ears down to my mouth. 612 The treasure is hidden in-"
613 'At this instant a horrible change came over his expression; his eyes stared wildly, his jaw dropped, and he yelled, in a voice which I can never forget, "Keep him out! 614 For Christ's sake, keep him out!" 615 We both stared round at the window behind us upon which his gaze was fixed. 616 A face was looking in at us out of the darkness. 617 We could see the whitening of the nose where it was pressed against the glass. 618 It was a bearded, hairy face, with wild, cruel eyes and an expression of concentrated malevolence. 619 My brother and I rushed towards the window, but the man was gone. 620 When we returned to my father, his head had dropped and his pulse had ceased to beat.
621 'We searched the garden that night, but found no sign of the intruder, save that just under the window a single footmark was visible in the flower-bed. 622 But for that one trace, we might have thought that our imaginations had conjured up that wild, fierce face. 623 We soon, however, had another and a more striking proof that there were secret agencies at work all round us. 624 The window of my father's room was found open in the morning, his cupboards and boxes had been rifled, and upon his chest was fixed a torn piece of paper, with the words, "The sign of the four," scrawled across it. 625 What the phrase meant, or who our secret visitor may have been, we never knew. 626 As far as we can judge, none of my father's property had been actually stolen, though everything had been turned out. 627 My brother and I naturally associated this peculiar incident with the fear which haunted my father during his life; but it is still a complete mystery to us.'
628 The little man stopped to relight his hookah, and puffed thoughtfully for a few moments. 629 We had all sat absorbed, listening to his extraordinary narrative. 630 At the short account of her father's death Miss Morstan had turned deadly white, and for a moment I feared that she was about to faint. 631 She rallied, however, on drinking a glass of water which I quietly poured out for her from a Venetian carafe upon the side-table. 632 Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair with an abstracted expression and the lids drawn low over his glittering eyes. 633 As I glanced at him I could not but think how, on that very day, he had complained bitterly of the commonplaceness of life. 634 Here at least was a problem which would tax his sagacity to the utmost. 635 Mr. Thaddeus Sholto looked from one to the other of us with an obvious pride at the effect which his story had produced, and then continued, between the puffs of his overgrown pipe.
636 'My brother and I,' said he, 'were, as you may imagine, much excited as to the treasure which my father had spoken of. 637 For weeks and for months we dug and delved in every part of the garden without discovering its whereabouts. 638 It was maddening to think that the hiding-place was on his very lips at the moment that he died. 639 We could judge the splendour of the missing riches by the chaplet which he had taken out. 640 Over this chaplet my brother Bartholomew and I had some little discussion. 641 The pearls were evidently of great value, and he was averse to part with them, for, between friends, my brother was himself a little inclined to my father's fault. 642 He thought, too, that if we parted with the chaplet it might give rise to gossip, and finally bring us into trouble. 643 It was all that I could do to persuade him to let me find out Miss Morstan's address and send her a detached pearl at fixed intervals, so that at least she might never feel destitute.'
644 'It was a kindly thought,' said our companion, earnestly; 'it was extremely good of you.'
645 The little man waved his hand deprecatingly.
646 'We were your trustees,' he said; 'that was the view which I took of it, though brother Bartholomew could not altogether see it in that light. 647 We had plenty of money ourselves. 648 I desired no more. 649 Besides, it would have been such bad taste to have treated a young lady in so scurvy a fashion. 650 "Le mauvais goût mène au crime." 651 The French have a very neat way of putting these things. 652 Our difference of opinion on this subject went so far that I thought it best to set up rooms for myself; so I left Pondicherry Lodge, taking the old khitmutgar and Williams with me. 653 Yesterday, however, I learn that an event of extreme importance has occurred. 654 The treasure has been discovered. 655 I instantly communicated with Miss Morstan, and it only remains for us to drive out to Norwood and demand our share. 656 I explained my views last night to brother Bartholomew, so we shall be expected, if not welcome, visitors.'
657 Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased, and sat twitching on his luxurious settee. 658 We all remained silent, with our thoughts upon the new development which the mysterious business had taken. 659 Holmes was the first to spring to his feet.
660 'You have done well, sir, from first to last,' said he. 661 'It is possible that we may be able to make you some small return by throwing some light upon that which is still dark to you. 662 But, as Miss Morstan remarked just now, it is late, and we had best put the matter through without delay.'
663 Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled up the tube of his hookah, and produced from behind a curtain a very long, befrogged top-coat with astrakhan collar and cuffs. 664 This he buttoned tightly up, in spite of the extreme closeness of the night, and finished his attire by putting on a rabbit-skin cap with hanging lappets which covered the ears, so that no part of him was visible save his mobile and peaky face.
665 'My health is somewhat fragile,' he remarked, as he led the way down the passage. 666 'I am compelled to be a valetudinarian.'
667 Our cab was awaiting us outside, and our programme was evidently prearranged, for the driver started off at once at a rapid pace. 668 Thaddeus Sholto talked incessantly, in a voice which rose high above the rattle of the wheels.
669 'Bartholomew is a clever fellow,' said he. 670 'How do you think he found out where the treasure was? 671 He had come to the conclusion that it was somewhere indoors: so he worked out all the cubic space of the house, and made measurements everywhere, so that not one inch should be unaccounted for. 672 Among other things, he found that the height of the building was seventy-four feet, but on adding together the heights of all the separate rooms, and making every allowance for the space between, which he ascertained by borings, he could not bring the total to more than seventy feet. 673 There were four feet unaccounted for. 674 These could only be at the top of the building. 675 He knocked a hole, therefore, in the lath and plaster ceiling of the highest room, and there, sure enough, he came upon another little garret above it, which had been sealed up and was known to no one. 676 In the centre stood the treasure-chest, resting upon two rafters. 677 He lowered it through the hole, and there it lies. 678 He computes the value of the jewels at not less than half a million sterling.'
679 At the mention of this gigantic sum we all stared at one another open-eyed. 680 Miss Morstan, could we secure her rights, would change from a needy governess to the richest heiress in England. 681 Surely it was the place of a loyal friend to rejoice at such news; yet I am ashamed to say that selfishness took me by the soul, and that my heart turned as heavy as lead within me. 682 I stammered out some few halting words of congratulation, and then sat downcast, with my head drooped, deaf to the babble of our new acquaintance. 683 He was clearly a confirmed hypochondriac, and I was dreamily conscious that he was pouring forth interminable trains of symptoms, and imploring information as to the composition and action of innumerable quack nostrums, some of which he bore about in a leather case in his pocket. 684 I trust that he may not remember any of the answers which I gave him that night. 685 Holmes declares that he overheard me caution him against the great danger of taking more than two drops of castor-oil, while I recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative. 686 However that may be, I was certainly relieved when our cab pulled up with a jerk and the coachman sprang down to open the door.
687 'This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry Lodge,' said Mr. Thaddeus Sholto, as he handed her out.

688 5. The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge

689 It was nearly eleven o'clock when we reached this final stage of our night's adventures. 690 We had left the damp fog of the great city behind us, and the night was fairly fine. 691 A warm wind blew from the westward, and heavy clouds moved slowly across the sky, with half a moon peeping occasionally through the rifts. 692 It was clear enough to see for some distance, but Thaddeus Sholto took down one of the side-lamps from the carriage to give us a better light upon our way.
693 Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds, and was girt round with a very high stone wall topped with broken glass. 694 A single narrow iron-clamped door formed the only means of entrance. 695 On this our guide knocked with a peculiar postman-like rat-tat.
696 'Who is there?' cried a gruff voice from within.
697 'It is I, McMurdo. 698 You surely know my knock by this time.'
699 There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of keys. 700 The door swung heavily back, and a short, deep-chested man stood in the opening, with the yellow light of the lantern shining upon his protruded face and twinkling, distrustful eyes.
701 'That you, Mr. Thaddeus? 702 But who are the others? 703 I had no orders about them from the master.'
704 'No, McMurdo? 705 You surprise me! 706 I told my brother last night that I should bring some friends.'
707 'He hain't been out o' his room to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I have no orders. 708 You know very well that I must stick to regulations. 709 I can let you in, but your friends they must just stop where they are.'
710 This was an unexpected obstacle. 711 Thaddeus Sholto looked about him in a perplexed and helpless manner.
712 'This is too bad of you, McMurdo!' he said. 713 'If I guarantee them, that is enough for you. 714 There is the young lady, too. 715 She cannot wait on the public road at this hour.'
716 'Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,' said the porter, inexorably. 717 'Folk may be friends o' yours, and yet no friends o' the master's. 718 He pays me well to do my duty, and my duty I'll do. 719 I don't know none o' your friends.'
720 'Oh, yes, you do, McMurdo,' cried Sherlock Holmes, genially. 721 'I don't think you can have forgotten me. 722 Don't you remember the amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?'
723 'Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!' roared the prizefighter. 724 'God's truth! how could I have mistook you? 725 If instead o' standin' there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I'd ha' known you without a question. 726 Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! 727 You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.'
728 'You see, Watson, if all else fails me, I have still one of the scientific professions open to me,' said Holmes, laughing. 729 'Our friend won't keep us out in the cold now, I am sure.'
730 'In you come, sir, in you come - you and your friends,' he answered. 731 'Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus, but orders are very strict. 732 Had to be certain of your friends before I let them in.'
733 Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a huge clump of a house, square and prosaic, all plunged in shadow save where a moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret window. 734 The vast size of the building, with its gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill to the heart. 735 Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the lantern quivered and rattled in his hand.
736 'I cannot understand it,' he said. 737 'There must be some mistake. 738 I distinctly told Bartholomew that we shoold be here, and yet there is no light in his window. 739 I do not know what to make of it.'
740 'Does he always guard the premises in this way?' asked Holmes.
741 'Yes, he has followed my father's custom. 742 He was the favourite son, you know, and I sometimes think that my father may have told him more than he ever told me. 743 That is Bartholomew's window up there where the moonshine strikes. 744 It is quite bright, but there is no light from within, I think.'
745 'None,' said Holmes. 746 'But I see the glint of a light in that little window beside the door.'
747 'Ah, that is the housekeeper's room. 748 That is where old Mrs. Bernstone sits. 749 She can tell us all about it. 750 But perhaps you would not mind waiting here for a minute or two, for if we all go in together, and she has had no word of our coming, she may be alarmed. 751 But, hush! what is that?'
752 He held up the lantern, and his hand shook until the circles of light flickered and wavered all round us. 753 Miss Morstan seized my wrist, and we all stood, with thumping hearts, straining our ears. 754 From the great black house there sounded through the silent night the saddest and most pitiful of sounds - the shrill, broken whimpering of a frightened woman.
755 'It is Mrs. Bernstone,' said Sholto. 756 'She is the only woman in the house. 757 Wait here. 758 I shall be back in a moment.'
759 He hurried for the door, and knocked in his peculiar way. 760 We could see a tall old woman admit him, and sway with pleasure at the very sight of him.
761 'Oh, Mr. Thaddeus, sir, I am so glad you have come! 762 I am so glad you have come, Mr. Thaddeus, sir!'
763 We heard her reiterated rejoicings until the door was closed and her voice died away into a muffled monotone.
764 Our guide had left us the lantern. 765 Holmes swung it slowly round, and peered keenly at the house, and at the great rubbish-heaps which cumbered the grounds. 766 Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. 767 A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two, who had never seen each other before that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other. 768 I have marvelled at it since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I should go out to her so, and, as she has often told me, there was in her also the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection. 769 So we stood hand-in-hand, like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us.
770 'What a strange place!' she said, looking round.
771 'It looks as though all the moles in England had been let loose in it. 772 I have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where the prospectors had been at work.'
773 'And from the same cause,' said Holmes. 774 'These are the traces of the treasure-seekers. 775 You must remember that they were six years looking for it. 776 No wonder that the grounds look like a gravel-pit.'
777 At that moment the door of the house burst open, and Thaddeus Sholto came running out, with his hands thrown forward and terror in his eyes.
778 'There is something amiss with Bartholomew!' he cried. 779 'I am frightened! 780 My nerves cannot stand it.'
781 He was, indeed, half blubbering with fear, and his twitching, feeble face peeping out from the great astrakhan collar had the helpless, appealing expression of a terrified child.
782 'Come into the house,' said Holmes, in his crisp, firm way.
783 'Yes, do!' pleaded Thaddeus Sholto. 784 'I really do not feel equal to giving directions.'
785 We all followed him into the housekeeper's room, which stood upon the left-hand side of the passage. 786 The old woman was pacing up and down with a scared look and restless, picking fingers, but the sight of Miss Morstan appeared to have a soothing effect upon her.
787 'God bless your sweet, calm face!' she cried, with an hysterical sob. 788 'It does me good to see you. 789 Oh, but I have been sorely tried this day!'
790 Our companion patted her thin, work-worn hand, and murmured some few words of kindly, womanly comfort, which brought the colour back into the other's bloodless cheeks.
791 'Master has locked himself in, and will not answer me,' she explained. 792 'All day I have waited to hear from him, for he often likes to be alone; but an hour ago I feared that something was amiss, so I went up and peeped through the keyhole. 793 You must go up, Mr. Thaddeus - you must go up and look for yourself. 794 I have seen Mr. Bartholomew Sholto, in joy and in sorrow for ten long years, but I never saw him with such a face on him as that.'
795 Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way, for Thaddeus Sholto's teeth were chattering in his head. 796 So shaken was he that I had to pass my hand under his arm as we went up the stairs, for his knees were trembling under him. 797 Twice as we ascended Holmes whipped his lens out of his pocket and carefully examined marks which appeared to me to be mere shapeless smudges of dust upon the coco-nutmatting which served as a stair-carpet. 798 He walked slowly from step to step, holding the lamp low, and shooting keen glances to right and left. 799 Miss Morstan had remained behind with the frightened housekeeper.
800 The third flight of stairs ended in a straight passage of some length, with a great picture in Indian tapestry upon the right of it and three doors upon the left. 801 Holmes advanced along it in the same slow and methodical way, while we kept close at his heels, with our long, black shadows streaming backwards down the corridor. 802 The third door was that which we were seeking. 803 Holmes knocked without receiving any answer, and then tried to turn the handle and force it open. 804 It was locked on the inside, however, and by a broad and powerful bolt, as we could see when we set our lamp up against it. 805 The key being turned, however, the hole was not entirely closed. 806 Sherlock Holmes bent down to it, and instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of the breath.
807 'There is something devilish in this, Watson,' said he, more moved than I had ever before seen him. 808 'What do you make of it?'
809 I stooped to the hole, and recoiled in horror. 810 Moonlight was streaming into the room, and it was bright with a vague and shifty radiance. 811 Looking straight at me, and suspended, as it were, in the air, for all beneath was in shadow, there hung a face - the very face of our companion Thaddeus. 812 There was the same high, shining head, the same circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance. 813 The features were set, however, in a horrible smile, a fixed and unnatural grin, which in that still and moonlit room was more jarring to the nerves than any scowl or contortion. 814 So like was the face to that of our little friend that I looked round at him to make sure that he was indeed with us. 815 Then I recalled to mind that he had mentioned to us that his brother and he were twins.
816 'This is terrible!' I said to Holmes. 817 'What is to be done?'
818 'The door must come down,' he answered, and, springing against it, he put all his weight upon the lock.
819 It creaked and groaned, but did not yield. 820 Together we flung ourselves upon it once more, and this time it gave way with a sudden snap, and we found ourselves within Bartholomew Sholto's chamber.
821 It appeared to have been fitted up as a chemical laboratory. 822 A double line of glass-stoppered bottles was drawn up upon the wall opposite the door, and the table was littered over with Bunsen burners, test-tubes, and retorts. 823 In the corners stood carboys of acid in wicker baskets. 824 One of these appeared to leak or to have been broken, for a stream of dark-coloured liquid had trickled out from it, and the air was heavy with a peculiarly pungent, tar-like odour. 825 A set of steps stood at one side of the room, in the midst of a litter of lath and plaster, and above them there was an opening in the ceiling large enough for a man to pass through. 826 At the foot of the steps a long coil of rope was thrown carelessly together.
827 By the table, in a wooden arm-chair, the master of the house was seated all in a heap, with his head sunk upon his left shoulder, and that ghastly, inscrutable smile upon his face. 828 He was stiff and cold, and had clearly been dead many hours. 829 It seemed to me that not only his features, but all his limbs, were twisted and turned in the most fantastic fashion. 830 By his hand upon the table there lay a peculiar instrument - a brown, close-grained stick, with a stone head like a hammer, rudely lashed on with coarse twine. 831 Beside it was a torn sheet of note-paper with some words scrawled upon it. 832 Holmes glanced at it, and then handed it to me.
833 'You see,' he said, with a significant raising of the eyebrows.
834 In the light of the lantern I read, with a thrill of horror, 'The sign of the four.'
835 'In God's name, what does it all mean?' I asked.
836 'It means murder,' said he, stooping over the dead man. 837 'Ah, I expected it. 838 Look here!'
839 He pointed to what looked like a long, dark thorn stuck in the skin just above the ear.
840 'It looks like a thorn,' said I.
841 'It is a thorn. 842 You may pick it out. 843 But be careful, for it is poisoned.'
844 I took it up between my finger and thumb. 845 It came away from the skin so readily that hardly any mark was left behind. 846 One tiny speck of blood showed where the puncture had been.
847 'This is all an insoluble mystery to me,' said I. 848 'It grows darker instead of clearer.'
849 'On the contrary,' he answered, 'it clears every instant. 850 I only require a few missing links to have an entirely connected case.' 851 We had almost forgotten our companion's presence since we entered the chamber. 852 He was still standing in the doorway, the very picture of terror, wringing his hands and moaning to himself. 853 Suddenly, however, he broke out into a sharp, querulous cry. 854 'The treasure is gone!' he said. 855 'They have robbed him of the treasure! 856 There is the hole through which we lowered it. 857 I helped him to do it! 858 I was the last person who saw him! 859 I left him here last night, and I heard him lock the door as I came downstairs.'
860 'What time was that?'
861 'It was ten o'clock. 862 And now he is dead, and the police will be called in, and I shall be suspected of having had a hand in it. 863 Oh, yes, I am sure I shall. 864 But you don't think so, gentlemen? 865 Surely, you don't think that it was I? 866 Is it likely that I would have brought you here if it were I? 867 Oh, dear! oh, dear! 868 I know that I shall go mad!'
869 He jerked his arms and stamped his feet in a kind of convulsive frenzy.
870 'You have no reason for fear, Mr. Sholto,' said Holmes, kindly, putting his hand upon his shoulder; 'take my advice, and drive down to the station to report the matter to the police. 871 Offer to assist them in every way. 872 We shall wait here until your return.'
873 The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashion, and we heard him stumbling down the stairs in the dark.

874 6. Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration

875 'Now, Watson,' said Holmes, rubbing his hands, 'we have half an hour to ourselves. 876 Let us make good use of it. 877 My case is, as I have told you, almost complete; but we must not err on the side of over-confidence. 878 Simple as the case seems now, there may be something deeper underlying it.'
879 'Simple!' I ejaculated.
880 'Surely,' said he, with something of the air of a clinical professor expounding to his class. 881 'Just sit in the corner there, that your footprints may not complicate matters. 882 Now to work! 883 In the first place, how did these folk come, and how did they go? 884 The door has not been opened since last night. 885 How of the window?' 886 He carried the lamp across to it, muttering his observations aloud the while, but addressing them to himself rather than to me. 887 'Window is snibbed on the inner side. 888 Framework is solid. 889 No hinges at the side. 890 Let us open it. 891 No water-pipe near. 892 Roof quite out of reach. 893 Yet a man has mounted by the window. 894 It rained a little last night. 895 Here is the print of a foot in mould upon the sill. 896 And here is a circular muddy mark, and here again upon the floor, and here again by the table. 897 See here, Watson! 898 This is really a very pretty demonstration.'
899 I looked at the round, well-defined muddy disks.
900 'That is not a footmark,' said I.
901 'It is something much more valuable to us. 902 It is the impression of a wooden stump. 903 You see here on the sill is the boot-mark, a heavy boot with a broad metal heel, and beside it is the mark of the timber-toe.'
904 'It is the wooden-legged man.'
905 'Quite so. 906 But there has been someone else - a very able and efficient ally. 907 Could you scale that wall, doctor?'
908 I looked out of the open window. 909 The moon still shone brightly on that angle of the house. 910 We were a good sixty feet from the ground, and, look where I would, I could see no foothold, nor as much as a crevice in the brickwork.
911 'It is absolutely impossible,' I answered.
912 'Without aid it is so. 913 But suppose you had a friend up here who lowered you this good stout rope which I see in the corner, securing one end of it to this great hook in the wall. 914 Then, I think, if you were an active man, you might swarm up, wooden leg and all. 915 You would depart, of course, in the same fashion, and your ally would draw up the rope, untie it from the hook, shut the window, snib it on the inside, and get away in the way that he originally came. 916 As a minor point, it may be noted,' he continued, fingering the rope, 'that our wooden-legged friend, though a fair climber, was not a professional sailor. 917 His hands were far from horny. 918 My lens discloses more than one blood-mark, especially towards the end of the rope, from which I gather that he slipped down with such velocity that he took the skin off his hand.'
919 'This is all very well,' said I; 'but the thing becomes more unintelligible than ever. 920 How about this mysterious ally? 921 How came he into the room?'
922 'Yes, the ally!' repeated Holmes, pensively. 923 'There are features of interest about this ally. 924 He lifts the case from the regions of the commonplace. 925 I fancy that this ally breaks fresh ground in the annals of crime in this country - though parallel cases suggest themselves from India, and, if my memory serves me, from Senegambia.'
926 'How came he, then?' 927 I reiterated. 928 'The door is locked; the window is inaccessible. 929 Was it through the chimney?'
930 'The grate is much too small,' he answered. 931 'I had already considered that possibility.'
932 'How, then?' 933 I persisted.
934 'You will not apply my precept,' he said, shaking his head. 935 'How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? 936 We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. 937 We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. 938 Whence, then, did he come?'
939 'He came through the hole in the roof!' I cried.
940 'Of course he did. 941 He must have done so. 942 If you will have the kindness to hold the lamp for me, we shall now extend our researches to the room above-the secret room in which the treasure was found.'
943 He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with either hand, he swung himself up into the garret. 944 Then, lying on his face, he reached down for the lamp, and held it while I followed him.
945 The chamber in which we found ourselves was about ten feet one way and six the other. 946 The floor was formed by the rafters, with thin lath-and-plaster between, so that in walking one had to step from beam to beam. 947 The roof ran up to an apex, and was evidently the inner shell of the true roof of the house. 948 There was no furniture of any sort, and the accumulated dust of years lay thick upon the floor.
949 'Here you are, you see,' said Sherlock Holmes, putting his hand against the sloping wall. 950 'This is a trapdoor which leads out on to the roof. 951 I can press it back, and here is the roof itself, sloping at a gentle angle. 952 This, then, is the way by which Number One entered. 953 Let us see if we can find some other traces of his individuality?'
954 He held down the lamp to the floor, and as he did so I saw for the second time that night a startled, surprised look come over his face. 955 For myself, as I followed his gaze, my skin was cold under my clothes. 956 The floor was covered thickly with the prints of a naked foot - clear, well-defined, perfectly formed, but scarce half the size of those of an ordinary man.
957 ' Holmes,' I said, in a whisper, 'a child has done this horrid thing.' 958 He had recovered his self-possession in an instant.
959 'I was staggered for the moment,' he said, 'but the thing is quite natural. 960 My memory failed me, or I should have been able to foretell it. 961 There is nothing more to be learned here. 962 Let us go down.'
963 'What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?' I asked, eagerly, when we had regained the lower room once more.
964 'My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself,' said he, with a touch of impatience. 965 'You know my methods. 966 Apply them, and it will be instructive to compare results.'
967 'I cannot conceive anything which will cover the facts,' I answered.
968 'It will be clear enough to you soon,' he said, in an offhand way. 969 'I think that there is nothing else of importance here, but I will look.'
970 He whipped out his lens and a tape measure, and hurried about the room on his knees, measuring, comparing, examining, with his long, thin nose only a few inches from the planks, and his beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a bird. 971 So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defence. 972 As he hunted about he kept muttering to himself, and finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight.
973 'We are certainly in luck,' said he. 974 'We ought to have very little trouble now. 975 Number One has had the misfortune to tread in the creosote. 976 You can see the outline of the edge of his small foot here at the side of this evil-smelling mess. 977 The carboy has been cracked, you see, and the stuff has leaked out.'
978 'What then?' I asked.
979 'Why, we have got him, that's all,' said he. 980 'I know a dog that would follow that scent to the world's end. 981 If a pack can track a trailed herring across a shire, how far can a specially-trained hound follow so pungent a smell as this? 982 It sounds like a sum in the rule of three. 983 The answer should give us the - But, halloa! here are the accredited representatives of the law.'
984 Heavy steps and the clamour of loud voices were audible from below, and the hall door shut with a loud crash.
985 'Before they come,' said Holmes, 'just put your hand here on this poor fellow's arm, and here on his leg. 986 What do you feel?'
987 'The muscles are as hard as a board,' I answered.
988 'Quite so. 989 They are in a state of extreme contraction, far exceeding the usual rigor mortis. 990 Coupled with this distortion of the face, this Hippocratic smile, or "risus sardonicus," as the old writers called it, what conclusion would it suggest to your mind?'
991 'Death from some powerful vegetable alkaloid,' I answered, 'some strychnine-like substance which would produce tetanus.'
992 'That was the idea which occurred to me the instant I saw the drawn muscles of the face. 993 On getting into the room I at once looked for the means by which the poison had entered the system. 994 As you saw, I discovered a thorn which had been driven or shot with no great force into the scalp. 995 You observe that the part struck was that which would be turned towards the hole in the ceiling if the man were erect in his chair. 996 Now examine this thorn.'
997 I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of the lantern. 998 It was long, sharp, and black, with a glazed look near the point as though some gummy substance had dried upon it. 999 The blunt end had been trimmed and rounded off with a knife.
1000 'Is that an English thorn?' he asked.
1001 'No, it certainly is not.'
1002 'With all these data you should be able to draw some just inference. 1003 But here are the regulars; so the auxiliary forces may beat a retreat.'
1004 As he spoke, the steps which had been coming nearer sounded loudly on the passage, and a very stout, portly man in a grey suit strode heavily into the room. 1005 He was red-faced, burly, and plethoric, with a pair of very small, twinkling eyes, which looked keenly out from between swollen and puffy pouches. 1006 He was closely followed by an inspector in uniform, and by the still palpitating Thaddeus Sholto.
1007 'Here's a business!' he cried, in a muffled, husky voice. 1008 'Here's a pretty business! 1009 But who are all these? 1010 Why, the house seems to be as full as a rabbit-warren!'
1011 'I think you must recollect me, Mr. Athelney Jones,' said Holmes, quietly.
1012 'Why, of course I do!' he wheezed. 1013 'It's Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the theorist. 1014 Remember you! 1015 I'll never forget how you lectured us all on causes and inferences and effects in the Bishopgate jewel case. 1016 It's true you set us on the right track; but you'll own now that it was more by good luck than good guidance.'
1017 'It was a piece of very simple reasoning.'
1018 'Oh, come, now, come! 1019 Never be ashamed to own up. 1020 But what is all this? 1021 Bad business! 1022 Bad business! 1023 Stern facts here - no room for theories. 1024 How lucky that I happened to be out at Norwood over another case! 1025 I was at the station when the message arrived. 1026 What d'you think the man died of?'
1027 'Oh, this is hardly a case for me to theorize over,' said Holmes, drily.
1028 'No, no. 1029 Still, we can't deny that you hit the nail on the head sometimes. 1030 Dear me! 1031 Door locked, I understand. 1032 Jewels worth half a million missing. 1033 How was the window?'
1034 'Fastened; but there are steps on the sill.'
1035 'Well, well, if it was fastened the steps could have nothing to do with the matter. 1036 That's common-sense. 1037 Man might have died in a fit; but then the jewels are missing. 1038 Ha! 1039 I have a theory. 1040 These flashes come upon me at times. 1041 - Just step outside sergeant, and you, Mr. Sholto. 1042 Your friend can remain. 1043 What do you think of this, Holmes? 1044 Sholto was, on his own confession, with his brother last night. 1045 The brother died in a fit, on which Sholto walked off with the treasure! 1046 How's that?'
1047 'On which the dead man very considerately got up and locked the door on the inside.'
1048 'Hum! 1049 There's a flaw there. 1050 Let us apply common sense to the matter. 1051 This Thaddeus Sholto was with his brother; there was a quarrel: so much we know. 1052 The brother is dead and the jewels are gone. 1053 So much also we know. 1054 No one saw the brother from the time Thaddeus left him. 1055 His bed had not been slept in. 1056 Thaddeus is evidently in a most disturbed state of mind. 1057 His appearance is - well, not attractive. 1058 You see that I am weaving my web round Thaddeus. 1059 The net begins to close upon him.'
1060 'You are not quite in possession of the facts yet,' said Holmes. 1061 'This splinter of wood, which I have every reason to believe to be poisoned, was in the man's scalp where you still see the mark; this card, inscribed as you see it, was on the table, and beside it lay this rather curious stone-headed instrument. 1062 How does all that fit into your theory?'
1063 'Confirms it in every respect,' said the fat detective, pompously. 1064 'House is full of Indian curiosities. 1065 Thaddeus brought this up, and if this splinter be poisonous, Thaddeus may as well have made murderous use of it as any other man. 1066 The card is some hocus-pocus - a blind, as like as not. 1067 The only question is, how did he depart? 1068 Ah, of course, here is a hole in the roof.'
1069 With great activity, considering his bulk, he sprang up the steps and squeezed through into the garret, and immediately afterwards we heard his exulting voice proclaiming that he had found the trap-door.
1070 'He can find something,' remarked Holmes, shrugging his shoulders; 'he has occasional glimmerings of reason. 1071 Il n'y a pas des sots si incommodes que ceux qui ont de l'esprit!'
1072 'You see!' said Athelney Jones, reappearing down the steps again; 'facts are better than theories, after all. 1073 My view of the case is confirmed. 1074 There is a trapdoor communicating with the roof, and it is partly open.'
1075 'It was I who opened it.'
1076 'Oh, indeed! 1077 You did notice it, then?' 1078 He seemed a little crestfallen at the discovery. 1079 'Well, whoever noticed it, it shows how our gentleman got away. 1080 Inspector!'
1081 'Yes, sir,' from the passage.
1082 'Ask Mr. Sholto to step this way. 1083 - Mr. Sholto, it is my duty to inform you that anything which you may say will be used against you. 1084 I arrest you in the Queen's name as being concerned in the death of your brother.'
1085 'There, now! 1086 Didn't I tell you?' cried the poor little man, throwing out his hands, and looking from one to the other of us.
1087 'Don't trouble yourself about it, Mr. Sholto,' said Holmes; 'I think that I can engage to clear you of the charge.'
1088 'Don't promise too much, Mr. Theorist, don't promise too much!' 1089 snapped the detective. 1090 'You may find it a harder matter than you think.'
1091 'Not only will I clear him, Mr. Jones, but I will make you a free present of the name and description of one of the two people who were in this room last night. 1092 His name, I have every reason to believe, is Jonathan Small. 1093 He is a poorly educated man, small, active, with his right leg off, and wearing a wooden stump which is worn away upon the inner side. 1094 His left boot has a coarse, square-toed sole, with an iron band round the heel. 1095 He is a middle-aged man, much sunburned, and has been a convict. 1096 These few indications may be of some assistance to you, coupled with the fact that there is a good deal of skin missing from the palm of his hand. 1097 The other man-'
1098 'Ah! 1099 the other man?' asked Athelney Jones, in a sneering voice, but impressed none the less, as I could easily see, by the precision of the other's manner.
1100 'Is a rather curious person,' said Sherlock Holmes, turning upon his heel. 1101 'I hope before very long to be able to introduce you to the pair of them. 1102 A word with you, Watson.'
1103 He led me out to the head of the stair.
1104 'This unexpected occurrence,' he said, 'has caused us rather to lose sight of the original purpose of our journey.'
1105 'I have just been thinking so,' I answered; 'it is not right that Miss Morstan should remain in this stricken house.'
1106 'No. 1107 You must escort her home. 1108 She lives with Mrs. Cecil Forrester, in Lower Camberwell, so it is not very far. 1109 I will wait for you here if you will drive out again. 1110 Or perhaps you are too tired?'
1111 'By no means. 1112 I don't think I could rest until I know more of this fantastic business. 1113 I have seen something of the rough side of life, but I give you my word that this quick succession of strange surprises to-night has shaken my nerve completely. 1114 I should like, however, to see the matter through with you, now that I have got so far.'
1115 'Your presence will be of great service to me,' he answered. 1116 'We shall work the case out independently, and leave this fellow Jones to exult over any mare's-nest which he may choose to construct. 1117 When you have dropped Miss Morstan, I wish you to go to No. 3, Pinchin Lane, down near the water's edge at Lambeth. 1118 The third house on the right-hand side is a bird-stuffer's; Sherman is the name. 1119 You will see a weasel holding a young rabbit in the window. 1120 Knock old Sherman up, and tell him, with my compliments, that I want Toby at once. 1121 You will bring Toby back in the cab with you.'
1122 'A dog, I suppose?'
1123 'Yes, a queer mongrel, with a most amazing power of scent. 1124 I would rather have Toby's help than that of the whole detective force of London.'
1125 'I shall bring him then,' said I. 1126 'It is one now. 1127 I ought to be back before three, if I can get a fresh horse.'
1128 'And I,' said Holmes, 'shall see what I can learn from Mrs. Bernstone, and from the Indian servant, who, Mr. Thaddeus tells me, sleeps in the next garret. 1129 Then I shall study the great Jones's methods and listen to his not too delicate sarcasms. 1130 "Wir sind gewohnt dass die Menschen verhöhnen was sie nicht verstehen." 1131 Goethe is always pithy.'

1132 7. The Episode of the Barrel

1133 The police had brought a cab with them, and in this I escorted Miss Morstan back to her home. 1134 After the angelic fashion of women, she had borne trouble with a calm face as long as there was someone weaker than herself to support, and I had found her bright and placid by the side of the frightened housekeeper. 1135 In the cab, however, she first turned faint, and then burst into a passion of weeping - so sorely had she been tried by the adventures of the night. 1136 She has told me since that she thought me cold and distant upon that journey. 1137 She little guessed the struggle within my breast, or the effort of self-restraint which held me back. 1138 My sympathies and my love went out to her, even as my hand had in the garden. 1139 I felt that years of the conventionalities of life could not teach me to know her sweet, brave nature as had this one day of strange experiences. 1140 Yet there were two thoughts which sealed the words of affection upon my lips. 1141 She was weak and helpless, shaken in mind and nerve. 1142 It was to take her at a disadvantage to obtrude love upon her at such a time. 1143 Worse still, she was rich. 1144 If Holmes's researches were successful, she would be an heiress. 1145 Was it fair, was it honourable, that a half-pay surgeon should take such advantage of an intimacy which chance had brought about? 1146 Might she not look upon me as a mere vulgar fortune-seeker? 1147 I could not bear to risk that such a thought should cross her mind. 1148 This Agra treasure intervened like an impassable barrier between us.
1149 It was nearly two o'clock when we reached Mrs. Cecil Forrester's. 1150 The servants had retired hours ago, but Mrs. Forrester had been so interested by the strange message which Miss Morstan had received that she had sat up in the hope of her return. 1151 She opened the door herself, a middle-aged, graceful woman, and it gave me joy to see how tenderly her arm stole round the other's waist, and how motherly was the voice in which she greeted her. 1152 She was clearly no mere paid dependent, but an honoured friend. 1153 I was introduced, and Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged me to step in and to tell her our adventures. 1154 I explained, however, the importance of my errand, and promised faithfully to call and report any progress which we might make with the case. 1155 As we drove away I stole a glance back, and I still seem to see that little group on the step - the two graceful, clinging figures, the half-opened door, the hall-light shining through stained glass, the barometer, and the bright stair-rods. 1156 It was soothing to catch even that passing glimpse of a tranquil English home in the midst of the wild, dark business which had absorbed us.
1157 And the more I thought of what had happened, the wilder and darker it grew. 1158 I reviewed the whole extraordinary sequence of events as I rattled on through the silent, gas-lit streets. 1159 There was the original problem: that, at least, was pretty clear now. 1160 The death of Captain Morstan, the sending of the pearls, the advertisement, the letter - we had had light upon all those events. 1161 They had only led us, however, to a deeper and far more tragic mystery. 1162 The Indian treasure, the curious plan found among Morstan's baggage, the strange scene at Major Sholto's death, the rediscovery of the treasure immediately followed by the murder of the discoverer, the very singular accompaniments to the crime, the footsteps, the remarkable weapons, the words upon the card, corresponding with those upon Captain Morstan's chart - here was, indeed, a labyrinth in which a man less singularly endowed than my fellow-lodger might well despair of ever finding the clue.
1163 Pinchin Lane was a row of shabby, two-storied brick houses in the lower quarter of Lambeth. 1164 I had to knock for some time at No. 3 before I could make any impression. 1165 At last, however, there was the glint of a candle behind the blind, and a face looked out at the upper window.
1166 'Go on, you drunken vagabond,' said the face. 1167 'If you kick up any more row, I'll open the kennels and let out forty-three dogs upon you.' 1168 'If you'll let one out, it's just what I have come for,' said I.
1169 'Go on!' yelled the voice. 1170 'So help me gracious, I have a wiper in this bag, an' I'll drop it on your 'ead if you don't hook it!'
1171 'But I want a dog,' I cried.
1172 'I won't be argued with!' shouted Mr. Sherman.
1173 'Now, stand clear; for when I say "Three," down goes the wiper.'
1174 'Mr. Sherlock Holmes-' I began; but the words had a most magical effect, for the window instantly slammed down, and within a minute the door was unbarred and open. 1175 Mr. Sherman was a lanky, lean old man, with stooping shoulders, a stringy neck, and blue-tinted glasses.
1176 'A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome,' said he. 1177 'Step in, sir. 1178 Keep clear of the badger, for he bites. 1179 Ah, naughty, naughty! would you take a nip at the gentleman?' 1180 This to a stoat, which thrust its wicked head and red eyes between the bars of its cage. 1181 'Don't mind that, sir; it's only a slow-worm. 1182 It hain't got no fangs, so I gives it the run o' the room, for it keeps the beetles down. 1183 You must not mind my bein' just a little short wi' you at first, for I'm guyed at by the children, and there's many a one just comes down this lane to knock me up. 1184 What was it that Mr. Sherlock Holmes wanted, sir?'
1185 'He wanted a dog of yours.'
1186 'Ah! that would be Toby.'
1187 'Yes, "Toby" was the name.'
1188 'Toby lives at No. 7 on the left here.' 1189 He moved slowly forward with his candle among the queer animal family which he had gathered round him. 1190 In the uncertain, shadowy light I could see dimly that there were glancing, glimmering eyes peeping down at us from every cranny and corner. 1191 Even the rafters above our heads were lined by solemn fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from one leg to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers.
1192 Toby proved to be an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy, waddling gait. 1193 It accepted, after some hesitation, a lump of sugar which the old naturalist handed to me, and, having thus sealed an alliance, it followed me to the cab, and made no difficulties about accompanying me. 1194 It had just struck three on the Palace clock when I found myself back once more at Pondicherry Lodge. 1195 The ex-prizefighter McMurdo had, I found, been arrested as an accessory, and both he and Mr. Sholto had been marched off to the station. 1196 Two constables guarded the narrow gate, but they allowed me to pass with the dog on my mentioning the detective's name.
1197 Holmes was standing on the doorstep, with his hands in his pockets, smoking his pipe.
1198 'Ah, you have him there!' said he. 1199 'Good dog, then! 1200 Athelney Jones has gone. 1201 We have had an immense display of energy since you left. 1202 He has arrested not only friend Thaddeus, but the gatekeeper, the housekeeper, and the Indian servant. 1203 We have the place to ourselves, but for a sergeant upstairs. 1204 Leave the dog here and come up.'
1205 We tied Toby to the hall table, and reascended the stairs. 1206 The room was as we had left it, save that a sheet had been draped over the central figure. 1207 A weary-looking police-sergeant reclined in the corner.
1208 'Lend me your bull's-eye, sergeant,' said my companion. 1209 'Now tie this bit of card round my neck, so as to hang it in front of me. 1210 Thank you. 1211 Now I must kick off my boots and stockings. 1212 Just you carry them down with you, Watson. 1213 I am going to do a little climbing. 1214 And dip my handkerchief into the creosote. 1215 That will do. 1216 Now come up into the garret with me for a moment.'
1217 We clambered up through the hole. 1218 Holmes turned his light once more upon the footsteps in the dust.
1219 'I wish you particularly to notice these footmarks,' he said. 1220 'Do you observe anything noteworthy about them?'
1221 'They belong,' I said, 'to a child or a small woman.'
1222 'Apart from their size, though. 1223 Is there nothing else?'
1224 'They appear to be much as other footmarks.'
1225 'Not at all. 1226 Look here! 1227 This is the print of a right foot in the dust. 1228 Now I make one with my naked foot beside it. 1229 What is the chief difference?'
1230 'Your toes are all cramped together. 1231 The other print has each toe distinctly divided.'
1232 'Quite so. 1233 That is the point. 1234 Bear that in mind. 1235 Now, would you kindly step over to that flap-window and smell the edge of the wood-work? 1236 I shall stay over here, as I have this handkerchief in my hand.'
1237 I did as he directed, and was instantly conscious of a strong tarry smell.
1238 'That is where he put his foot in getting out. 1239 If you can trace him, I should think that Toby will have no difficulty. 1240 Now run downstairs, loose the dog, and look out for Blondin.'
1241 By the time that I got out into the grounds Sherlock Holmes was on the roof, and I could see him like an enormous glow-worm crawling very slowly along the ridge. 1242 I lost sight of him behind a stack of chimneys, but he presently reappeared, and then vanished once more upon the opposite side. 1243 When I made my way round there I found him seated at one of the corner eaves.
1244 'That you, Watson?' he cried.
1245 'Yes.'
1246 'This is the place. 1247 What is that black thing down there?'
1248 'A water-barrel.'
1249 'Top on it?'
1250 'Yes.'
1251 'No sign of a ladder?'
1252 'No.'
1253 'Confound the fellow! 1254 It's a most breakneck place. 1255 I ought to be able to come down where he could climb up. 1256 The water-pipe feels pretty firm. 1257 Here goes, anyhow.'
1258 There was a scuffling of feet, and the lantern began to come steadily down the side of the wall. 1259 Then with a light spring he came on to the barrel, and from there to the earth.
1260 'It was easy to follow him,' he said, drawing on his stockings and boots. 1261 'Tiles were loosened the whole way along, and in his hurry he had dropped this. 1262 It confirms my diagnosis, as you doctors express it.'
1263 The object which he held up to me was a small pocket or pouch woven out of coloured grasses, and with a few tawdry beads strung round it. 1264 In shape and size it was not unlike a cigarette-case. 1265 Inside were half-a-dozen spines of dark wood, sharp at one end and rounded at the other, like that which had struck Bartholomew Sholto.
1266 'They are hellish things,' said he. 1267 'Look out that you don't prick yourself. 1268 I'm delighted to have them, for the chances are that they are all he has. 1269 There is the less fear of you or me finding one in our skin before long. 1270 I would sooner face a Martini bullet myself. 1271 Are you game for a six-mile trudge, Watson?'
1272 'Certainly,' I answered.
1273 'Your leg will stand it?'
1274 'Oh, yes.'
1275 'Here you are, doggy! 1276 Good old Toby! 1277 Smell it, Toby, smell it!' 1278 He pushed the creosote handkerchief under the dog's nose, while the creature stood with its fluffy legs separated, and with a most comical cock to its head, like a connoisseur sniffing the bouquet of a famous vintage. 1279 Holmes then threw the handkerchief to a distance, fastened a stout cord to the mongrel's collar, and led him to the foot of the water-barrel. 1280 The creature instantly broke into a succession of high, tremulous yelps, and, with his nose on the ground, and his tail in the air, pattered off upon the trail at a pace which strained his leash and kept us at the top of our speed.
1281 The east had been gradually whitening, and we could now see some distance in the cold, grey light. 1282 The square, massive house, with its black, empty windows and high, bare walls, towered up, sad and forlorn, behind us. 1283 Our course led right across the grounds, in and out among the trenches and pits with which they were scarred and intersected. 1284 The whole place, with its scattered dirt-heaps and ill-grown shrubs, had a blighted, ill-omened look which harmonized with the black tragedy which hung over it.
1285 On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along, whining eagerly, underneath its shadow, and stopped finally in a corner screened by a young beech. 1286 Where the two walls joined, several bricks had been loosened, and the crevices left were worn down and rounded upon the lower side, as though they had frequently been used as a ladder. 1287 Holmes clambered up, and, taking the dog from me, he dropped it over upon the other side.
1288 'There's the print of wooden-leg's hand,' he remarked, as I mounted up beside him. 1289 'You see the slight smudge of blood upon the white plaster. 1290 What a lucky thing it is that we have had no very heavy rain since yesterday! 1291 The scent will lie upon the road in spite of their eight-and-twenty hours' start.'
1292 I confess that I had my doubts myself when I reflected upon the great traffic which had passed along the London road in the interval. 1293 My fears were soon appeased, however. 1294 Toby never hesitated or swerved, but waddled on in his peculiar rolling fashion. 1295 Clearly, the pungent smell of the creosote rose high above all other contending scents.
1296 'Do not imagine,' said Holmes, 'that I depend for my success in this case upon the mere chance of one of these fellows having put his foot in the chemical. 1297 I have knowledge now which would enable me to trace them in many different ways. 1298 This, however, is the readiest, and, since fortune has put it into our hands, I should be culpable if I neglected it. 1299 It has, however, prevented the case from becoming the pretty little intellectual problem which it at one time promised to be. 1300 There might have been some credit to be gained out of it, but for this too palpable clue.'
1301 'There is credit, and to spare,' said I. 1302 'I assure you, Holmes, that I marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in this case, even more than I did in the Jefferson Hope murder. 1303 The thing seems to me to be deeper and more inexplicable. 1304 How, for example, could you describe with such confidence the wooden-legged man?'
1305 'Pshaw, my dear boy! it was simplicity itself. 1306 I don't wish to be theatrical. 1307 It is all patent and aboveboard. 1308 Two officers who are in command of a convict guard learn an important secret as to buried treasure. 1309 A map is drawn for them by an Englishman named Jonathan Small. 1310 You remember that we saw the name upon the chart in Captain Morstan's possession. 1311 He had signed it in behalf of himself and his associates - the sign of the four, as he somewhat dramatically called it. 1312 Aided by this chart, the officers - or one of them - gets the treasure and brings it to England, leaving, we will suppose, some condition under which he received it unfulfilled. 1313 Now, then, why did not Jonathan Small get the treasure himself? 1314 The answer is obvious. 1315 The chart is dated at a time when Morstan was brought into close association with convicts. 1316 Jonathan Small did not get the treasure because he and his associates were themselves convicts and could not get away.'
1317 'But this is mere speculation,' said I.
1318 'It is more than that. 1319 It is the only hypothesis which covers the facts. 1320 Let us see how it fits in with the sequel. 1321 Major Sholto remains at peace for some years, happy in the possession of his treasure. 1322 Then he receives a letter from India which gives him a great fright. 1323 What was that?'
1324 'A letter to say that the men whom he had wronged had been set free.'
1325 'Or had escaped. 1326 That is much more likely, for he would have known what their term of imprisonment was. 1327 It would not have been a surprise to him. 1328 What does he do then? 1329 He guards himself against a wooden-legged man - a white man, mark you, for he mistakes a white tradesman for him, and actually fires a pistol at him. 1330 Now, only one white man's name is on the chart. 1331 The others are Hindus or Mohammedans. 1332 There is no other white man. 1333 Therefore, we may say with confidence that the wooden-legged man is identical with Jonathan Small. 1334 Does the reasoning strike you as being faulty?'
1335 'No: it is clear and concise.'
1336 'Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of Jonathan Small. 1337 Let us look at it from his point of view. 1338 He comes to England with the double idea of regaining what he would consider to be his rights, and of having his revenge upon the man who had wronged him. 1339 He found out where Sholto lived, and very possibly he established communications with someone inside the house. 1340 There is this butler, Lal Rao, whom we have not seen. 1341 Mrs. Bernstone gives him far from a good character. 1342 Small could not find out, however, where the treasure was hid, for no one ever knew, save the major and one faithful servant who had died. 1343 Suddenly, Small learns that the major is on his death-bed. 1344 In a frenzy lest the secret of the treasure die with him, he runs the gauntlet of the guards, makes his way to the dying man's window, and is only deterred from entering by the presence of his two sons. 1345 Mad with hate, however, against the dead man, he enters the room that night, searches his private papers in the hope of discovering some memorandum relating to the treasure, and finally leaves a memento of his visit in the short inscription upon the card. 1346 He had doubtless planned beforehand that, should he slay the major, he would leave some such record upon the body as a sign that it was not a common murder, but, from the point of view of the four associates, something in the nature of an act of justice. 1347 Whimsical and bizarre conceits of this kind are common enough in the annals of crime, and usually afford valuable indications as to the criminal. 1348 Do you follow all this?'
1349 'Very dearly.'
1350 'Now, what could Jonathan Small do? 1351 He could only continue to keep a secret watch upon the efforts made to find the treasure. 1352 Possibly he leaves England and only comes back at intervals. 1353 Then comes the discovery of the garret, and he is instantly informed of it. 1354 We again trace the presence of some confederate in the household. 1355 Jonathan, with his wooden leg, is utterly unable to reach the lofty room of Bartholomew Sholto. 1356 He takes with him, however, a rather curious associate, who gets over this difficulty, but dips his naked foot into creosote, whence come Toby, and a six-mile limp for a half-pay officer with a damaged tendo Achillis.'
1357 'But it was the associate, and not Jonathan, who committed the crime.'
1358 'Quite so. 1359 And rather to Jonathan's disgust, to judge by the way he stamped about when he got into the room. 1360 He bore no grudge against Bartholomew Sholto, and would have preferred if he could have been simply bound and gagged. 1361 He did not wish to put his head in a halter. 1362 There was no help for it, however: the savage instincts of his companion had broken out, and the poison had done its work: so Jonathan Small left his record, lowered the treasure-box to the ground, and followed it himself. 1363 That was the train of events as far as I can decipher them. 1364 Of course, as to his personal appearance he must be middle-aged, and must be sunburned after serving his time in such an oven as the Andamans. 1365 His height is readily calculated from the length of his stride, and we know that he was bearded. 1366 His hairiness was the one point which impressed itself upon Thaddeus Sholto when he saw him at the window. 1367 I don't know that there is anything else.'
1368 'The associate?'
1369 'Ah, well, there is no great mystery in that. 1370 But you will know all about it soon enough. 1371 How sweet the morning air is! 1372 See how that one little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo. 1373 Now the red rim of the sun pushes itself over the London cloud-bank. 1374 It shines on a good many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on a stranger errand than you and I. 1375 How small we feel, with our petty ambitions and strivings in the presence of the great elemental forces of Nature! 1376 Are you well up in your Jean Paul?'
1377 'Fairly so. 1378 I worked back to him through Carlyle.'
1379 'That was like following the brook to the parent lake. 1380 He makes one curious but profound remark. 1381 It is that the chief proof of man's real greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. 1382 It argues, you see, a power of comparison and of appreciation which is in itself a proof of nobility. 1383 There is much food for thought in Richter. 1384 You have not a pistol, have you?'
1385 'I have my stick.'
1386 'It is just possible that we may need something of the sort if we get to their lair Jonathan I shall leave to you, but if the other turns nasty I shall shoot him dead.'
1387 He took out his revolver as he spoke, and, having loaded two of the chambers, he put it back into the right-hand pocket of his jacket.
1388 We had during this time been following the guidance of Toby down the half-rural villa-lined roads which lead to the Metropolis. 1389 Now, however, we were beginning to come among continuous streets, where labourers and dockmen were already astir, and slatternly women were taking down shutters and brushing door-steps. 1390 At the square-topped corner public-houses business was just beginning, and rough-looking men were emerging, rubbing their sleeves across their beards after their morning wet. 1391 Strange dogs sauntered up and stared wonderingly at us as we passed, but our inimitable Toby looked neither to the right nor to the left, but trotted onwards with his nose to the ground and an occasional eager whine which spoke of a hot scent.
1392 We had traversed Streatham, Brixton, Camberwell, and now found ourselves in Kennington Lane, having borne away through the side streets to the east of the Oval. 1393 The men whom we pursued seemed to have taken a curiously zig-zag road, with the idea probably of escaping observation. 1394 They had never kept to the main road if a parallel side-street would serve their turn. 1395 At the foot of Kennington Lane they had edged away to the left through Bond Street and Miles Street. 1396 Where the latter street turns into Knight's Place, Toby ceased to advance, but began to run backwards and forwards with one ear cocked and the other drooping, the very picture of canine indecision. 1397 Then he waddled round in circles, looking up to us from time to time, as if to ask for sympathy in his embarrassment.
1398 'What the deuce is the matter with the dog?' growled Holmes. 1399 'They surely would not take a cab, or go off in a balloon.'
1400 'Perhaps they stood here for some time,' I suggested.
1401 'Ah! it's all right. 1402 He's off again,' said my companion, in a tone of relief.
1403 He was indeed off, for after sniffing round again he suddenly made up his mind, and darted away with an energy and determination such as he had not yet shown. 1404 The scent appeared to be much hotter than before, for he had not even to put his nose on the ground, but tugged at his leash and tried to break into a run. 1405 I could see by the gleam in Holmes's eyes that he thought we were nearing the end of our journey.
1406 Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick and Nelson's large timber-yard, just past the White Eagle tavern. 1407 Here the dog, frantic with excitement, turned down through the side gate into the enclosure, where the sawyers were already at work. 1408 On the dog raced through sawdust and shavings, down an alley, round a passage, between two woodpiles, and finally, with a triumphant yelp, sprang upon a large barrel which still stood upon the hand-trolley on which it had been brought. 1409 With lolling tongue and blinking eyes, Toby stood upon the cask, looking from one to the other of us for some sign of appreciation. 1410 The staves of the barrel and the wheels of the trolley were smeared with a dark liquid, and the whole air was heavy with the smell of creosote.
1411 Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other, and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

1412 8. The Baker Street Irregulars

1413 'What now?' I asked. 1414 'Toby has lost his character for infallibility.'
1415 'He acted according to his lights,' said Holmes, lifting him down from the barrel and walking him out of the timber-yard. 1416 'If you consider how much creosote is carted about London in one day, it is no great wonder that our trail should have been crossed. 1417 It is much used now, especially for the seasoning of wood. 1418 Poor Toby is not to blame.'
1419 'We must get on the main scent again, I suppose.'
1420 'Yes. 1421 And, fortunately, we have no distance to go. 1422 Evidently what puzzled the dog at the corner of Knight's Place was that there were two different trails running in opposite directions. 1423 We took the wrong one. 1424 It only remains to follow the other.'
1425 There was no difficulty about this. 1426 On leading Toby to the place where he had committed his fault, he cast about in a wide circle and finally dashed off in a fresh direction.
1427 'We must take care that he does not now bring us to the place where the creosote-barrel came from,' I observed.
1428 'I had thought of that. 1429 But you notice that he keeps on the pavement, whereas the barrel passed down the roadway. 1430 No, we are on the true scent now.'
1431 It tended down towards the river-side, running through Belmont Place and Prince's Street. 1432 At the end of Broad Street it ran right down to the water's edge, where there was a small wooden wharf. 1433 Toby led us to the very edge of this, and there stood whining, looking out on the dark current beyond.
1434 'We are out of luck,' said Holmes. 1435 'They have taken to a boat here.'
1436 Several small punts and skiffs were lying about in the water and on the edge of the wharf. 1437 We took Toby round to each in turn, but, though he sniffed earnestly, he made no sign.
1438 Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick house, with a wooden placard slung out through the second window. 1439 ' Mordecai Smith' was printed across it in large letters, and underneath, 'Boats to hire by the hour or day.' 1440 A second inscription above the door informed us that a steam launch was kept - a statement which was confirmed by a great pile of coke upon the jetty. 1441 Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and his face assumed an ominous expression.
1442 'This looks bad,' said he. 1443 'These fellows are sharper than I expected. 1444 They seem to have covered their tracks. 1445 There has, I fear, been preconcerted management here.'
1446 He was approaching the door of the house, when it opened, and a little curly-headed lad of six came running out, followed by a stoutish, red-faced woman with a large sponge in her hand.
1447 'You come back and be washed, Jack,' she shouted.
1448 'Come back, you young imp; for if your father comes home and finds you like that, he'll let us hear of it.'
1449 'Dear little chap!' cried Holmes, strategically. 1450 'What a rosy-cheeked young rascal! 1451 Now, Jack, is there anything you would like?'
1452 The youth pondered for a moment.
1453 'I'd like a shillin',' said he.
1454 'Nothing you would like better?'
1455 'I'd like two shillin' better,' the prodigy answered, after some thought.
1456 'Here you are, then! 1457 Catch! 1458 - A fine child, Mrs. Smith!'
1459 'Lor' bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. 1460 He gets a'most too much for me to manage, 'specially when my man is away days at a time.'
1461 'Away, is he?' said Holmes, in a disappointed voice. 1462 'I am sorry for that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith.'
1463 'He's been away since yesterday mornin', sir, and, truth to tell, I am beginning to feel frightened about him. 1464 But if it was about a boat, sir, maybe I could serve as well.'
1465 'I wanted to hire his steam launch.'
1466 'Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has gone. 1467 That's what puzzles me; for I know there ain't more coals in her than would take her to about Woolwich and back. 1468 If he'd been away in the barge I'd ha' thought nothin'; for many a time a job has taken him as far as Gravesend, and then if there was much doin' there he might ha' stayed over. 1469 But what good is a steam launch without coals?'
1470 'He might have bought some at a wharf down the river.'
1471 'He might, sir, but it weren't his way. 1472 Many a time I've heard him call out at the prices they charge for a few odd bags. 1473 Besides, I don't like that wooden-legged man, wi' his ugly face and outlandish talk. 1474 What did he want always knockin' about here for?'
1475 'A wooden-legged man?' said Holmes, with bland surprise.
1476 'Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that's called more'n once for my old man. 1477 It was him that roused him up yesternight, and, what's more, my man knew he was comin', for he had steam up in the launch. 1478 I tell you straight, sir, I don't feel easy in my mind about it.'
1479 'But, my dear Mrs. Smith,' said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, 'you are frightening yourself about nothing. 1480 How could you possibly tell that it was the wooden-legged man who came in the night? 1481 I don't quite understand how you can be so sure.'
1482 'His voice, sir. 1483 I knew his voice, which is kind o' thick and foggy. 1484 He tapped at the winder - about three it would be. 1485 "Show a leg, matey," says he: 1486 "time to turn out guard." 1487 My old man woke up Jim - that's my eldest - and away they went, without so much as a word to me. 1488 I could hear the wooden leg clackin' on the stones.'
1489 'And was this wooden-legged man alone?'
1490 'Couldn't say, I am sure, sir. 1491 I didn't hear no one else.'
1492 'I am sorry, Mrs. Smith, for I wanted a steam launch, and I have heard good reports of the - Let me see, what is her name?'
1493 'The Aurora, sir.'
1494 'Ah! 1495 She's not that old green launch with a yellow line, very broad in the beam?'
1496 'No, indeed. 1497 She's as trim a little thing as any on the river. 1498 She's been fresh painted, black with two red streaks.'
1499 'Thanks. 1500 I hope that you will hear soon from Mr. Smith. 1501 I am going down the river, and if I should see anything of the Aurora I shall let him know that you are uneasy. 1502 A black funnel, you say?'
1503 'No, sir. 1504 Black with a white band.'
1505 'Ah, of course. 1506 It was the sides which were black. 1507 Good morning, Mrs. Smith. 1508 There is a boatman here with a wherry, Watson. 1509 We shall take it and cross the river.'
1510 'The main thing with people of that sort,' said Holmes, as we sat in the sheets of the wherry, 'is never to let them think that their information can be of the slightest importance to you. 1511 If you do, they will instantly shut up like an oyster. 1512 If you listen to them under protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what you want.'
1513 'Our course now seems pretty clear,' said I.
1514 'What would you do, then?'
1515 'I would engage a launch and go down the river on the track of the Aurora.'
1516 'My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task. 1517 She may have touched at any wharf on either side of the stream between here and Greenwich. 1518 Below the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of landing-places for miles. 1519 It would take you days and days to exhaust them, if you set about it alone.'
1520 'Employ the police, then.'
1521 'No. 1522 I shall probably call Athelney Jones in at the last moment. 1523 He is not a bad fellow, and I should not like to do anything which would injure him professionally. 1524 But I have a fancy for working it out myself, now that we have gone so far.'
1525 'Could we advertise, then, asking for information from wharfingers?'
1526 'Worse and worse! 1527 Our men would know that the chase was hot at their heels, and they would be off out of the country. 1528 As it is, they are likely enough to leave, but as long as they think they are perfectly safe they will be in no hurry. 1529 Jones's energy will be of use to us there, for his view of the case is sure to push itself into the daily Press, and the runaways will think that everyone is off on the wrong scent.'
1530 'What are we to do, then?' I asked, as we landed near Millbank Penitentiary.
1531 'Take this hansom, drive home, have some breakfast, and get an hour's sleep. 1532 It is quite on the cards that we may be afoot to-night again. 1533 Stop at a telegraph office, cabby! 1534 We will keep Toby, for he may be of use to us yet.'
1535 We pulled up at the Great Peter Street post-office, and Holmes dispatched his wire.
1536 'Whom do you think that is to?' he asked, as we resumed our journey.
1537 'I am sure I don't know.'
1538 'You remember the Baker Street division of the detective police force whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?'
1539 'Well?' said I, laughing.
1540 'This is just the case where they might be invaluable. 1541 If they fail, I have other resources; but I shall try them first. 1542 That wire was to my dirty little lieutenant, Wiggins, and I expect that he and his gang will be with us before we have finished our breakfast.'
1543 It was between eight and nine o'clock now, and I was conscious of a strong reaction after the successive excitements of the night. 1544 I was limp and weary, befogged in mind and fatigued in body. 1545 I had not the professional enthusiasm which carried my companion on, nor could I look at the matter as a mere abstract intellectual problem. 1546 As far as the death of Bartholomew Sholto went, I had heard little good of him, and could feel no intense antipathy to his murderers. 1547 The treasure, however, was a different matter. 1548 That, or part of it, belonged rightfully to Miss Morstan. 1549 While there was a chance of recovering it I was ready to devote my life to the one object. 1550 True, if I found it, it would probably put her for ever beyond my reach. 1551 Yet it would be a petty and selfish love which would be influenced by such a thought as that. 1552 If Holmes could work to find the criminals, I had a tenfold stronger reason to urge me on to find the treasure.
1553 A bath at Baker Street and a complete change freshened me up wonderfully. 1554 When I came down to our room I found the breakfast laid and Holmes pouring out the coffee.
1555 'Here it is,' said he, laughing and pointing to an open newspaper. 1556 'The energetic Jones and the ubiquitous reporter have fixed it up between them. 1557 But you have had enough of the case. 1558 Better have your ham and eggs first.'
1559 I took the paper from him and read the short notice, which was headed, 'Mysterious Business at Upper Norwood.'
1560 'About twelve o'clock last night,' said the Standard, 'Mr. Bartholomew Sholto, of Pondicherry Lodge, Upper Norwood, was found dead in his room under circumstances which point to foul play. 1561 As far as we can learn, no actual traces of violence were found upon Mr. Sholto's person, but a valuable collection of Indian gems which the deceased gentleman had inherited from his father has been carried off. 1562 The discovery was first made by Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who had called at the house with Mr. Thaddeus Sholto, brother of the deceased. 1563 By a singular piece of good fortune, Mr. Athelney Jones, the well-known member of the detective police force, happened to be at the Norwood Police Station, and was on the ground within half an hour of the first alarm. 1564 His trained and experienced faculties were at once directed towards the detection of the criminals, with the gratifying result that the brother, Thaddeus Sholto, has already been arrested, together with the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, an Indian butler named Lal Rao, and a porter, or gatekeeper, named McMurdo. 1565 It is quite certain that the thief or thieves were well acquainted with the house, for Mr. Jones's well-known technical knowledge and his powers of minute observation have enabled him to prove conclusively that the miscreants could not have entered by the door or by the window, but must have made their way across the roof of the building, and so through a trap-door into a room which communicated with that in which the body was found. 1566 This fact, which has been very clearly made out, proves conclusively that it was no mere haphazard burglary. 1567 The prompt and energetic action of the officers of the law shows the great advantage of the presence on such occasions of a single vigorous and masterful mind. 1568 We cannot but think that it supplies an argument to those who would wish to see our detectives more decentralized, and so brought into closer and more effective touch with the cases which it is their duty to investigate.'
1569 'Isn't it gorgeous?' said Holmes, grinning over his coffee cup. 1570 'What do you think of it?'
1571 'I think that we have had a close shave ourselves of being arrested for the crime.'
1572 'So do I. 1573 I wouldn't answer for our safety now, if he should happen to have another of his attacks of energy.'
1574 At this moment there was a loud ring at the bell, and I could hear Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, raising her voice in a wail of expostulation and dismay.
1575 'By heavens, Holmes,' said I, half rising, 'I believe that they are really after us.'
1576 'No, it's not quite so bad as that. 1577 It is the unofficial force - the Baker Street irregulars.'
1578 As he spoke, there came a swift pattering of naked feet upon the stairs, a clatter of high voices, and in rushed a dozen dirty and ragged little street Arabs. 1579 There was some show of discipline among them, despite their tumultuous entry, for they instantly drew up in line and stood facing us with expectant faces. 1580 One of their number, taller and older than the others, stood forward with an air of lounging superiority which was very funny in such a disreputable little scarecrow.
1581 'Got your message, sir,' said he, 'and brought 'em on sharp. 1582 Three bob and a tanner for tickets.'
1583 'Here you are,' said Holmes, producing some silver. 1584 'In future they can report to you, Wiggins, and you to me. 1585 I cannot have the house invaded in this way. 1586 However, it is just as well that you should all hear the instructions. 1587 I want to find the whereabouts of a steam launch called the Aurora, owner Mordecai Smith, black with two red streaks, funnel black with a white band. 1588 She is down the river somewhere. 1589 I want one boy to be at Mordecai Smith's landing-stage opposite Millbank to say if the boat comes back. 1590 You must divide it out among yourselves, and do both banks thoroughly. 1591 Let me know the moment you have news. 1592 Is that all clear?'
1593 'Yes, guv'nor,' said Wiggins.
1594 'The old scale of pay, and a guinea to the boy who finds the boat. 1595 Here's a day in advance. 1596 Now, off you go!'
1597 He handed them a shilling each, and away they buzzed down the stairs, and I saw them a moment later streaming down the street.
1598 'If the launch is above water they will find her,' said Holmes, as he rose from the table and lit his pipe. 1599 'They can go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone. 1600 I expect to hear before evening that they have spotted her. 1601 In the meanwhile, we can do nothing but await results. 1602 We cannot pick up the broken trail until we find either the Aurora or Mr. Mordecai Smith.'
1603 'Toby could eat these scraps, I dare say. 1604 Are you going to bed, Holmes?'
1605 'No; I am not tired. 1606 I have a curious constitution. 1607 I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely. 1608 I am going to smoke and to think over this queer business to which my fair client has introduced us. 1609 If ever man had an easy task, this of ours ought to be. 1610 Wooden-legged men are not so common, but the other man must, I should think, be absolutely unique.'
1611 'That other man again!'
1612 'I have no wish to make a mystery of him to you, anyway. 1613 But you must have formed your own opinion. 1614 Now, do consider the data. 1615 Diminutive footmarks, toes never fettered by boots, naked feet, stone-headed wooden mace, great agility, small poisoned darts. 1616 What do you make of all this?'
1617 'A savage!' I exclaimed. 1618 'Perhaps one of those Indians who were the associates of Jonathan Small.'
1619 'Hardly that,' said he. 1620 'When first I saw signs of strange weapons, I was inclined to think so; but the remarkable character of the footmarks caused me to reconsider my views. 1621 Some of the inhabitants of the Indian Peninsula are small men, but none could have left such marks as that. 1622 The Hindu proper has long and thin feet. 1623 The sandal-wearing Mohammedan has the great toe well separated from the others, because the thong is commonly passed between. 1624 These little darts, too, could only be shot in one way. 1625 They are from a blowpipe. 1626 Now, then, where are we to find our savage?'
1627 'South American,' I hazarded.
1628 He stretched his hand up, and took down a bulky volume from the shelf.
1629 'This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published. 1630 It may be looked upon as the very latest authority. 1631 What have we here? 1632 "Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Sumatra, in the Bay of Bengal." 1633 Hum! hum! 1634 What's all this? 1635 Moist climate, coral reefs, sharks, Port Blair, convict barracks, Rutland Island, cottonwoods - Ah, here we are! 1636 "The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon this earth, though some anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of Africa, the Digger Indians of America, and the Tierra del Fuegians. 1637 The average height is rather below four feet, although many full-grown adults may be found who are very much smaller than this. 1638 They are a fierce, morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained." 1639 Mark that, Watson. 1640 Now, then, listen to this. 1641 "They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted features. 1642 Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. 1643 So intractable and fierce are they, that all the efforts of the British officials have failed to win them over in any degree. 1644 They have always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their stone-headed clubs, or shooting them with their poisoned arrows. 1645 These massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast." 1646 Nice, amiable people, Watson! 1647 If this fellow had been left to his own unaided devices, this affair might have taken an even more ghastly turn. 1648 I fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not to have employed him.'
1649 'But how came he to have so singular a companion?'
1650 'Ah, that is more than I can tell. 1651 Since, however, we had already determined that Small had come from the Andamans, it is not so very wonderful that this islander should be with him. 1652 No doubt we shall know all about it in time. 1653 Look here, Watson; you look regularly done. 1654 Lie down there on the sofa, and see if I can put you to sleep.'
1655 He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air - his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvization. 1656 I have a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face, and the rise and fall of his bow. 1657 Then I seemed to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of sound, until I found myself in dreamland, with the sweet face of Mary Morstan looking down upon me.

1658 9. A Break in the Chain

1659 It was late in the afternoon before I woke, strengthened and refreshed. 1660 Sherlock Holmes still sat exactly as I had left him, save that he had laid aside his violin and was deep in a book. 1661 He looked across at me as I stirred, and I noticed that his face was dark and troubled.
1662 'You have slept soundly,' he said. 1663 'I feared that our talk would wake you.'
1664 'I heard nothing,' I answered. 1665 'Have you had fresh news, then?'
1666 'Unfortunately, no. 1667 I confess that I am surprised and disappointed. 1668 I expected something definite by this time. 1669 Wiggins has just been up to report. 1670 He says that no trace can be found of the launch. 1671 It is a provoking check, for every hour is of importance.'
1672 'Can I do anything? 1673 I am perfectly fresh now, and quite ready for another night's outing.'
1674 'No; we can do nothing. 1675 We can only wait. 1676 If we go ourselves, the message might come in our absence, and delay be caused. 1677 You can do what you will, but I must remain on guard.'
1678 'Then I shall run over to Camberwell and call upon Mrs. Cecil Forrester. 1679 She asked me to, yesterday.'
1680 'On Mrs. Cecil Forrester?' asked Holmes with the twinkle of a smile in his eyes.
1681 'Well, of course, on Miss Morstan too. 1682 They were anxious to hear what happened.'
1683 'I would not tell them too much,' said Holmes. 1684 'Women are never to be entirely trusted - not the best of them.'
1685 I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment.
1686 'I shall be back in an hour or two,' I remarked.
1687 'All right! 1688 Good luck! 1689 But, I say, if you are crossing the water you may as well return Toby, for I don't think it is at all likely that we shall have any use for him now.'
1690 I took our mongrel accordingly, and left him, together with a half-sovereign, at the old naturalist's in Pinchin Lane. 1691 At Camberwell I found Miss Morstan a little weary after her night's adventures, but very eager to hear the news. 1692 Mrs. Forrester, too, was full of curiosity. 1693 I told them all that we had done, suppressing, however, the more dreadful parts of the tragedy. 1694 Thus, although I spoke of Mr. Sholto's death, I said nothing of the exact manner and method of it. 1695 With all my omissions, however, there was enough to startle and amaze them.
1696 'It is a romance!' cried Mrs. Forrester. 1697 'An injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian. 1698 They take the place of the conventional dragon or wicked earl.'
1699 'And two knight-errants to the rescue,' added Miss Morstan, with a bright glance at me.
1700 'Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this search. 1701 I don't think that you are nearly excited enough. 1702 Just imagine what it must be to be so rich, and to have the world at your feet!'
1703 It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she showed no sign of elation at the prospect. 1704 On the contrary, she gave a toss of her proud head, as though the matter were one in which she took small interest.
1705 'It is for Mr. Thaddeus Sholto that I am anxious,' she said. 1706 'Nothing else is of any consequence; but I think that he has behaved most kindly and honourably throughout. 1707 It is our duty to clear him of this dreadful and unfounded charge.'
1708 It was evening before I left Camberwell, and quite dark by the time I reached home. 1709 My companion's book and pipe lay by his chair, but he had disappeared. 1710 I looked about in the hope of seeing a note, but there was none.
1711 'I suppose that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has gone out?' I said to Mrs. Hudson as she came up to lower the blinds.
1712 'No, sir. 1713 He has gone to his room, sir. 1714 Do you know, sir,' sinking her voice into an impressive whisper, 'I am afraid for his health?'
1715 'Why so, Mrs. Hudson?'
1716 'Well, he's that strange, sir. 1717 After you was gone he walked and he walked, up and down, and up and down, until I was weary of the sound of his footstep. 1718 Then I heard him talking to himself and muttering, and every time the bell rang out he came on the stairhead, with "What is that, Mrs. Hudson?" 1719 And now he has slammed off to his room, but I can hear him walking away the same as ever. 1720 I hope he's not going to be ill, sir. 1721 I ventured to say something to him about cooling medicine, but he turned on me, sir, with such a look that I don't know however I got out of the room.'
1722 'I don't think that you have any cause to be uneasy, Mrs. Hudson,' I answered. 1723 'I have seen him like this before. 1724 He has some small matter upon his mind which makes him restless.'
1725 I tried to speak lightly to our worthy landlady, but I was myself somewhat uneasy when through the long night I still from time to time heard the dull sound of his tread, and knew how his keen spirit was chafing against this involuntary inaction.
1726 At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggard, with a little fleck of feverish colour upon either cheek.
1727 'You are knocking yourself up, old man,' I remarked. 1728 'I heard you marching about in the night.'
1729 'No, I could not sleep,' he answered. 1730 'This infernal problem is consuming me. 1731 It is too much to be baulked by so petty an obstacle, when all else had been overcome. 1732 I know the men, the launch, everything; and yet I can get no news. 1733 I have set other agencies at work, and used every means at my disposal. 1734 The whole river has been searched on either side, but there is no news, nor has Mrs. Smith heard of her husband. 1735 I shall come to the conclusion soon that they have scuttled the craft. 1736 But there are objections to that.'
1737 'Or that Mrs. Smith has put us on a wrong scent.'
1738 'No, I think that may be dismissed. 1739 I had inquiries made, and there is a launch of that description.'
1740 'Could it have gone up the river?'
1741 'I have considered that possibility too, and there is a search-party who will work up as far as Richmond. 1742 If no news comes to-day, I shall start off myself tomorrow, and go for the men rather than the boat. 1743 But surely, surely, we shall hear something.'
1744 We did not, however. 1745 Not a word came to us either from Wiggins or from the other agencies. 1746 There were articles in most of the papers upon the Norwood tragedy. 1747 They all appeared to be rather hostile to the unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto. 1748 No fresh details were to be found, however, in any of them, save that an inquest was to be held upon the following day. 1749 I walked over to Camberwell in the evening to report our ill-success to the ladies, and on my return I found Holmes dejected and somewhat morose. 1750 He would hardly reply to my questions, and busied himself all the evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which involved much heating of retorts and distilling of vapours, ending at last in a smell which fairly drove me out of the apartment. 1751 Up to the small hours of the morning I could hear the clinking of his test-tubes, which told me that he was still engaged in his malodorous experiment.
1752 In the early dawn I woke with a start, and was surprised to find him standing by my bedside, clad in a rude sailor dress with a pea-jacket, and a coarse red scarf round his neck.
1753 'I am off down the river, Watson,' said he. 1754 'I have been turning it over in my mind, and I can see only one way out of it. 1755 It is worth trying, at all events.'
1756 'Surely I can come with you, then?' said I.
1757 'No; you can be much more useful if you will remain here as my representative. 1758 I am loth to go, for it is quite on the cards that some message may come during the day, though Wiggins was despondent about it last night. 1759 I want you to open all notes and telegrams, and to act on your own judgment if any news should come. 1760 Can I rely upon you?'
1761 'Most certainly.'
1762 'I am afraid that you will not be able to wire to me, for I can hardly tell yet where I may find myself. 1763 If I am in luck, however, I may not be gone so very long. 1764 I shall have news of some sort or other before I get back.'
1765 I had heard nothing of him by breakfast-time. 1766 On opening the Standard, however, I found that there was a fresh allusion to the business.
1767 'With reference to the Upper Norwood tragedy,' it remarked, 'we have reason to believe that the matter promises to be even more complex and mysterious than was originally supposed. 1768 Fresh evidence has shown that it is quite impossible that Mr. Thaddeus Sholto could have been in any way concerned in the matter. 1769 He and the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, were both released yesterday evening. 1770 It is believed, however, that the police have a clue as to the real culprits, and that it is being prosecuted by Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard, with all his well-known energy and sagacity. 1771 Further arrests may be expected at any moment.'
1772 'That is satisfactory so far as it goes,' thought I. 1773 'Friend Sholto is safe, at any rate. 1774 I wonder what the fresh clue may be, though it seems to be a stereotyped form whenever the police have made a blunder.'
1775 I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at that moment my eye caught an advertisement in the agony column. 1776 It ran in this way:
1777 'Lost. 1778 Whereas Mordecai Smith, boatman, and his son Jim, left Smith's Wharf at or about three o'clock last Tuesday morning in the steam launch Aurora, black with two red stripes, funnel black with a white band, the sum of five pounds will be paid to anyone who can give information to Mrs. Smith, at Smith's Wharf, or at 221b, Baker Street, as to the whereabouts of the said Mordecai Smith and the launch Aurora.'
1779 This was clearly Holmes's doing. 1780 The Baker Street address was enough to prove that. 1781 It struck me as rather ingenious, because it might be read by the fugitives without their seeing in it more than the natural anxiety of a wife for her missing husband.
1782 It was a long day. 1783 Every time that a knock came to the door, or a sharp step passed in the street, I imagined that it was either Holmes returning or an answer to his advertisement. 1784 I tried to read, but my thoughts would wander oft to our strange quest and to the ill-assorted and villainous pair whom we were pursuing. 1785 Could there be, I wondered, some radical flaw in my companion's reasoning? 1786 Might he not be suffering from some huge self-deception? 1787 Was it not possible that his nimble and speculative mind had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises? 1788 I had never known him to be wrong, and yet the keenest reasoner may occasionally be deceived. 1789 He was likely, I thought, to fall into error through the over-refinement of his logic - his preference for a subtle and bizarre explanation when a plainer and more commonplace one lay ready to his hand. 1790 Yet, on the other hand, I had myself seen the evidence, and I had heard the reasons for his deductions. 1791 When I looked back on the long chain of curious circumstances, many of them trivial in themselves, but all tending in the same direction, I could not disguise from myself that even if Holmes's explanation were incorrect the true theory must be equally outré and startling.
1792 At three o'clock in the afternoon there was a loud peal at the bell, an authoritative voice in the hall, and, to my surprise, no less a person than Mr. Athelney Jones was shown up to me. 1793 Very different was he, however, from the brusque and masterful professor of common-sense who had taken over the case so confidently at Upper Norwood. 1794 His expression was downcast, and his bearing meek and even apologetic.
1795 'Good-day, sir; good-day,' said he. 1796 'Mr. Sherlock Holmes is out, I understand?'
1797 'Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back. 1798 But perhaps you would care to wait. 1799 Take that chair and try one of these cigars.'
1800 'Thank you; I don't mind if I do,' said he, mopping his face with a red bandanna handkerchief.
1801 'And a whisky and soda?'
1802 'Well, half a glass. 1803 It is very hot for the time of year; and I have had a good deal to worry and try me. 1804 You know my theory about this Norwood case?'
1805 'I remember that you expressed one.'
1806 'Well, I have been obliged to reconsider it. 1807 I had my net drawn tightly round Mr. Sholto, sir, when pop he went through a hole in the middle of it. 1808 He was able to prove an alibi which could not be shaken. 1809 From the time that he left his brother's room he was never out of sight of someone or other. 1810 So it could not be he who climbed over roofs and through trap-doors. 1811 It's a very dark case, and my professional credit is at stake. 1812 I should be very glad of a little assistance.'
1813 'We all need help sometimes,' said I.
1814 'Your friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful man, sir,' said he, in a husky and confidential voice. 1815 'He's a man who is not to be beat. 1816 I have known that young man go into a good many cases, but I never saw the case yet that he could not throw a light upon. 1817 He is irregular in his methods, and a little quick perhaps in jumping at theories; but, on the whole, I think he would have made a most promising officer and I don't care who knows it. 1818 I have had a wire from him this morning, by which I understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto business. 1819 Here is his message.'
1820 He took the telegram out of his pocket, and handed it to me. 1821 It was dated from Poplar at twelve o'clock. 1822 'Go to Baker Street at once,' it said. 1823 'If I have not returned, wait for me. 1824 I am close on the track of the Sholto gang. 1825 You can come with us to-night if you want to be in at the finish.'
1826 'This sounds well. 1827 He has evidently picked up the scent again,' said I.
1828 'Ah, then he has been at fault too,' exclaimed Jones, with evident satisfaction. 1829 'Even the best of us are thrown off sometimes. 1830 Of course this may prove to be a false alarm; but it is my duty as an officer of the law to allow no chance to slip. 1831 But there is someone at the door. 1832 Perhaps this is he.'
1833 A heavy step was heard ascending the stair, with a great wheezing and rattling as from a man who was sorely put to it for breath. 1834 Once or twice he stopped, as though the climb were too much for him, but at last he made his way to our door and entered. 1835 His appearance corresponded to the sounds which we had heard. 1836 He was an aged man, clad in seafaring garb, with an old pea-jacket buttoned up to his throat. 1837 His back was bowed, his knees were shaky, and his breathing was painfully asthmatic. 1838 As he leaned upon a thick oaken cudgel his shoulders heaved in the effort to draw the air into his lungs. 1839 He had a coloured scarf round his chin, and I could see little of his face save a pair of keen dark eyes, overhung by bushy white brows, and long grey side-whiskers. 1840 Altogether he gave me the impression of a respectable master mariner who had fallen into years and poverty.
1841 'What is it, my man?' I asked.
1842 He looked about him in the slow methodical fashion of old age.
1843 'Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?' said he.
1844 'No; but I am acting for him. 1845 You can tell me any message you have for him.'
1846 'It was to him himself I was to tell it,' said he.
1847 'But I tell you I am acting for him. 1848 Was it about Mordecai Smith's boat?'
1849 'Yes. 1850 I knows well where it is. 1851 An' I knows where the men he is after are. 1852 An' I knows where the treasure is. 1853 I knows all about it.'
1854 'Then tell me, and I shall let him know.'
1855 'It was to him I was to tell it,' he repeated, with the petulant obstinacy of a very old man.
1856 'Well, you must wait for him.'
1857 'No, no; I ain't goin' to lose a whole day to please no one. 1858 If Mr. Holmes ain't here, then Mr. Holmes must find it all out for himself. 1859 I don't care about the look of either of you, and I won't tell a word.' 1860 He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney Jones got in front of him.
1861 'Wait a bit, my friend,' said he. 1862 'You have important information, and you must not walk off. 1863 We shall keep you, whether you like or not, until our friend returns.'
1864 The old man made a little run towards the door, but, as Athelney Jones put his broad back up against it, he recognized the uselessness of resistance.
1865 'Pretty sort o' treatment this!' he cried, stamping his stick. 1866 'I come here to see a gentleman, and you two, who I never saw in my life, seize me and treat me in this fashion!'
1867 'You will be none the worse,' I said. 1868 'We shall recompense you for the loss of your time. 1869 Sit over here on the sofa, and you will not have long to wait.'
1870 He came across sullenly enough, and seated himself with his face resting on his hands. 1871 Jones and I resumed our cigars and our talk. 1872 Suddenly, however, Holmes's voice broke in upon us.
1873 'I think that you might offer me a cigar too,' he said.
1874 We both started in our chairs. 1875 There was Holmes sitting close to us with an air of quiet amusement.
1876 'Holmes!' I exclaimed. 1877 'You here! 1878 But where is the old man?'
1879 'Here is the old man,' said he, holding out a heap of white hair. 1880 'Here he is - wig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all. 1881 I thought my disguise was pretty good, but I hardly expected that it would stand that test.'
1882 'Ah, you rogue!' cried Jones, highly delighted. 1883 'You would have made an actor, and a rare one. 1884 You had the proper workhouse cough, and those weak legs of yours are worth ten pounds a week. 1885 I thought I knew the glint of your eye, though. 1886 You didn't get away from us so easily, you see.'
1887 'I have been working in that get-up all day,' said he, lighting his cigar. 1888 'You see, a good many of the criminal classes begin to know me - especially since our friend here took to publishing some of my cases: so I can only go on the war-path under some simple disguise like this. 1889 You got my wire?'
1890 'Yes; that was what brought me here.'
1891 'How has your case prospered?'
1892 'It has all come to nothing. 1893 I have had to release two of my prisoners, and there is no evidence against the other two.'
1894 'Never mind. 1895 We shall give you two others in the place of them. 1896 But you must put yourself under my orders. 1897 You are welcome to all the official credit, but you must act on the lines that I point out. 1898 Is that agreed?'
1899 'Entirely, if you will help me to the men.'
1900 'Well, then, in the first place I shall want a fast police-boat - a steam launch - to be at the Westminster Stairs at seven o'clock.'
1901 'That is easily managed. 1902 There is always one about there; but I can step across the road and telephone to make sure.'
1903 'Then I shall want two stanch men, in case of resistance.'
1904 'There will be two or three in the boat. 1905 What else?'
1906 'When we secure the men we shall get the treasure. 1907 I think that it would be a pleasure to my friend here to take the box round to the young lady to whom half of it rightfully belongs. 1908 Let her be the first to open it. 1909 Eh, Watson?'
1910 'It would be a great pleasure to me.'
1911 'Rather an irregular proceeding,' said Jones, shaking his head. 1912 'However, the whole thing is irregular, and I suppose we must wink at it. 1913 The treasure must afterwards be handed over to the authorities until after the official investigation.'
1914 'Certainly. 1915 That is easily managed. 1916 One other point. 1917 I should much like to have a few details about this matter from the lips of Jonathan Small himself. 1918 You know I like to work the details of my cases out. 1919 There is no objection to my having an unofficial interview with him, either here in my rooms or elsewhere, as long as he is efficiently guarded?'
1920 'Well, you are master of the situation. 1921 I have had no proof yet of the existence of this Jonathan Small. 1922 However, if you can catch him, I don't see how I can refuse you an interview with him.'
1923 'That is understood, then?'
1924 'Perfectly. 1925 Is there anything else?'
1926 'Only that I insist upon your dining with us. 1927 It will be ready in half an hour. 1928 I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little choice in white wines. 1929 Watson, you have never yet recognized my merits as a housekeeper.'

1930 10. The End of the Islander

1931 Our meal was a merry one. 1932 Holmes could talk exceedingly well when he chose, and that night he did choose. 1933 He appeared to be in a state of nervous exaltation. 1934 I have never known him so brilliant. 1935 He spoke on a quick succession of subjects - on miracle plays, on mediæval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the warships of the future - handling each as though he had made a special study of it. 1936 His bright humour marked the reaction from his black depression of the preceding days. 1937 Athelney Jones proved to be a sociable soul in his hours of relaxation, and faced his dinner with the air of a bon vivant. 1938 For myself, I felt elated at the thought that we were nearing the end of our task, and I caught something of Holmes's gaiety. 1939 None of us alluded during dinner to the cause which had brought us together.
1940 When the cloth was cleared, Holmes glanced at his watch, and filled up three glasses with port.
1941 'One bumper,' said he, 'to the success of our little expedition. 1942 And now it is high time we were off. 1943 Have you a pistol, Watson?'
1944 'I have my old service-revolver in my desk.'
1945 'You had best take it, then. 1946 It is well to be prepared. 1947 I see that the cab is at the door. 1948 I ordered it for half-past six.'1949 It was a little past seven before we reached the Westminster Wharf, and found our launch awaiting us. 1950 Holmes eyed it critically.
1951 'Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?'
1952 'Yes; that green lamp at the side.'
1953 'Then take it off.'
1954 The small change was made, we stepped on board, and the ropes were cast off. 1955 Jones, Holmes, and I sat in the stern. 1956 There was one man at the rudder, one to tend the engines, and two burly police-inspectors forward.
1957 'Where to?' asked Jones.
1958 'To the Tower. 1959 Tell them to stop opposite to Jacobson's Yard.'
1960 Our craft was evidently a very fast one. 1961 We shot past the long lines of loaded barges as though they were stationary. 1962 Holmes smiled with satisfaction as we overhauled a river steamer and left her behind us.
1963 'We ought to be able to catch anything on the river,' he said.
1964 'Well, hardly that. 1965 But there are not many launches to beat us.'
1966 'We shall have to catch the Aurora, and she has a name for being a clipper. 1967 I will tell you how the land lies, Watson. 1968 You recollect how annoyed I was at being baulked by so small a thing?'
1969 'Yes.'
1970 'Well, I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a chemical analysis. 1971 One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work is the best rest. 1972 So it is. 1973 When I had succeeded in dissolving the hydrocarbon which I was at work at, I came back to the problem of the Sholtos, and thought the whole matter out again. 1974 My boys had been up the river and down the river without result. 1975 The launch was not at any landing-stage or wharf, nor had it returned. 1976 Yet it could hardly have been scuttled to hide their traces, though that always remained as a possible hypothesis if all else failed. 1977 I knew that this man Small had a certain degree of low cunning, but I did not think him capable of anything in the nature of delicate finesse. 1978 That is usually a product of higher education. 1979 I then reflected that since he had certainly been in London some time - as we had evidence that he maintained a continual watch over Pondicherry Lodge - he could hardly leave at a moment's notice, but would need some little time, if it were only a day, to arrange his affairs. 1980 That was the balance of probability, at any rate.'
1981 'It seems to me to be a little weak,' said I: 'it is more probable that he had arranged his affairs before ever he set out upon his expedition.'
1982 'No, I hardly think so. 1983 This lair of his would be too valuable a retreat in case of need for him to give it up until he was sure that he could do without it. 1984 But a second consideration struck me. 1985 Jonathan Small must have felt that the peculiar appearance of his companion, however much he may have top-coated him, would give rise to gossip, and possibly be associated with this Norwood tragedy. 1986 He was quite sharp enough to see that. 1987 They had started from their headquarters under cover of darkness, and he would wish to get back before it was broad light. 1988 Now, it was past three o'clock, according to Mrs. Smith, when they got the boat. 1989 It would be quite bright, and people would be about in an hour or so. 1990 Therefore, I argued, they did not go very far. 1991 They paid Smith well to hold his tongue, reserved his launch for the final escape, and hurried to their lodgings with the treasure-box. 1992 In a couple of nights, when they had time to see what view the papers took, and whether there was any suspicion, they would make their way under cover of darkness to some ship at Gravesend or in the Downs, where no doubt they had already arranged for passages to America or the Colonies.'
1993 'But the launch? 1994 They could not have taken that to their lodgings.'
1995 'Quite so. 1996 I argued that the launch must be no great way off, in spite of its invisibility. 1997 I then put myself in the place of Small, and looked at it as a man of his capacity would. 1998 He would probably consider that to send back the launch or to keep it at a wharf would make pursuit easy if the police did happen to get on his track. 1999 How, then, could he conceal the launch and yet have her at hand when wanted? 2000 I wondered what I should do myself if I were in his shoes. 2001 I could only think of one way of doing it. 2002 I might hand the launch over to some boat-builder or repairer, with directions to make a trifling change in her. 2003 She would then be removed to his shed or yard, and so be effectually concealed, while at the same time I could have her at a few hours' notice.'
2004 'That seems simple enough.'
2005 'It is just these very simple things which are extremely liable to be overlooked. 2006 However, I determined to act on the idea. 2007 I started at once in this harmless seaman's rig, and inquired at all the yards down the river. 2008 I drew blank at fifteen, but at the sixteenth - Jacobson's - I learned that the Aurora had been handed over to them two days ago by a wooden-legged man, with some trivial directions as to her rudder. 2009 "There ain't naught amiss with her rudder," said the foreman. 2010 "There she lies, with the red streaks." 2011 At that moment who should come down but Mordecai Smith, the missing owner? 2012 He was rather the worse for liquor. 2013 I should not, of course, have known him, but he bellowed out his name and the name of his launch. 2014 "I want her to-night at eight o'clock," said he - "eight o'clock sharp, mind, for I have two gentlemen who won't be kept waiting." 2015 They had evidently paid him well, for he was very flush of money, chucking shillings about to the men. 2016 I followed him some distance, but he subsided into an ale-house; so I went back to the yard, and, happening to pick up one of my boys on the way, I stationed him as a sentry over the launch. 2017 He is to stand at the water's edge and wave his handkerchief to us when they start. 2018 We shall be lying off in the stream, and it will be a strange thing if we do not take men, treasure and all.'
2019 'You have planned it all very neatly, whether they are the right men or not,' said Jones; 'but if the affair were in my hands I should have had a body of police in Jacobson's Yard, and arrested them when they came down.'
2020 'Which would have been never. 2021 This man Small is a pretty shrewd fellow. 2022 He would send a scout on ahead, and if anything made him suspicious he would lie snug for another week.'
2023 'But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith, and so been led to their hiding-place,' said I.
2024 'In that case I should have wasted my day. 2025 I think that it is a hundred to one against Smith knowing where they live. 2026 As long as he has liquor and good pay, why should he ask questions? 2027 They send him messages what to do. 2028 No, I thought over every possible course, and this is the best.'
2029 While this conversation had been proceeding, we had been shooting the long series of bridges which span the Thames. 2030 As we passed the City the last rays of the sun were gilding the cross upon the summit of St. Paul's. 2031 It was twilight before we reached the Tower.
2032 'That is Jacobson's Yard,' said Holmes, pointing to a bristle of masts and rigging on the Surrey side. 2033 'Cruise gently up and down here under cover of this string of lighters.' 2034 He took a pair of night-glasses from his pocket and gazed some time at the shore. 2035 'I see my sentry at his post,' he remarked, 'but no sign of a handkerchief.'
2036 'Suppose we go downstream a short way and lie in wait for them,' said Jones, eagerly.
2037 We were all eager by this time, even the policemen and stokers, who had a very vague idea of what was going forward.
2038 'We have no right to take anything for granted,' Holmes answered. 2039 'It is certainly ten to one that they go downstream, but we cannot be certain. 2040 From this point we can see the entrance of the yard, and they can hardly see us. 2041 It will be a clear night and plenty of light. 2042 We must stay where we are. 2043 See how the folk swarm over yonder in the gaslight.'
2044 'They are coming from work in the yard.'
2045 'Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose everyone has some little immortal spark concealed about him. 2046 You would not think it, to look at them. 2047 There is no a priori probability about it. 2048 A strange enigma is man!'
2049 'Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal,' I suggested.
2050 'Winwood Reade is good upon the subject,' said Holmes. 2051 'He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. 2052 You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. 2053 Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. 2054 So says the statistician. 2055 But do I see a handkerchief? 2056 Surely there is a white flutter over yonder.'
2057 'Yes, it is your boy,' I cried. 2058 'I can see him plainly.'
2059 'And there is the Aurora,' exclaimed Holmes, 'and going like the devil! 2060 Full speed ahead, engineer. 2061 Make after that launch with the yellow light. 2062 By Heaven, I shall never forgive myself if she proves to have the heels of us!'
2063 She had slipped unseen through the yard-entrance and passed behind two or three small craft, so that she had fairly got her speed up before we saw her. 2064 Now she was flying down the stream, near in to the shore, going at a tremendous rate. 2065 Jones looked gravely at her and shook his head.
2066 'She is very fast,' he said. 2067 'I doubt if we shall catch her.'
2068 'We must catch her!' cried Holmes, between his teeth. 2069 'Heap it on, stokers! 2070 Make her do all she can! 2071 If we burn the boat we must have them!'
2072 We were fairly after her now. 2073 The furnaces roared, and the powerful engines whizzed and clanked, like a great metallic heart. 2074 Her sharp, steep prow cut through the still river-water and sent two rolling waves to right and to left of us. 2075 With every throb of the engines we sprang and quivered like a living thing. 2076 One great yellow lantern in our bows threw a long, flickering funnel of light in front of us. 2077 Right ahead a dark blur upon the water showed where the Aurora lay, and the swirl of white foam behind her spoke of the pace at which she was going. 2078 We flashed past barges, steamers, merchant-vessels, in and out, behind this one and round the other. 2079 Voices hailed us out of the darkness, but still the Aurora thundered on, and still we followed close upon her track.
2080 'Pile it on, men, pile it on!' cried Holmes, looking down into the engine-room, while the fierce glow from below beat upon his eager, aquiline face. 2081 'Get every pound of steam you can.'2082 'I think we gain a little,' said Jones, with his eyes on the Aurora.
2083 'I am sure of it,' said I. 2084 'We shall be up with her in a very few minutes.'
2085 At that moment, however, as our evil fate would have it, a tug with three barges in tow blundered in between us. 2086 It was only by putting our helm hard down that we avoided a collision, and before we could round them and recover our way the Aurora had gained a good two hundred yards. 2087 She was still, however, well in view, and the murky, uncertain twilight was settling into a clear, starlit night. 2088 Our boilers were strained to their utmost, and the frail shell vibrated and creaked with the fierce energy which was driving us along. 2089 We had shot through the Pool, past the West India Docks, down the long Deptford Reach, and up again after rounding the Isle of Dogs. 2090 The dull blur in front of us resolved itself now clearly enough into the dainty Aurora. 2091 Jones turned our searchlight upon her, so that we could plainly see the figures upon her deck. 2092 One man sat by the stern, with something black between his knees, over which he stooped. 2093 Beside him lay a dark mass, which looked like a Newfoundland dog. 2094 The boy held the tiller, while against the red glare of the furnace I could see old Smith, stripped to the waist, and shovelling coals for dear life. 2095 They may have had some doubt at first as to whether we were really pursuing them, but now as we followed every winding and turning which they took there could no longer be any question about it. 2096 At Greenwich we were about three hundred paces behind them. 2097 At Blackwall we could not have been more than two hundred and fifty. 2098 I have coursed many creatures in many countries during my chequered career, but never did sport give me such a wild thrill as this mad, flying man-hunt down the Thames. 2099 Steadily we drew in upon them, yard by yard. 2100 In the silence of the night we could hear the panting and clanking of their machinery. 2101 The man in the stern still crouched upon the deck, and his arms were moving as though he were busy, while every now and then he would look up and measure with a glance the distance which still separated us. 2102 Nearer we came and nearer. 2103 Jones yelled to them to stop. 2104 We were not more than four boats' lengths behind them, both boats flying at a tremendous pace. 2105 It was a clear reach of the river, with Barking Level upon one side and the melancholy Plumstead Marshes upon the other. 2106 At our hail the man in the stern sprang up from the deck and shook his two clenched fists at us, cursing the while in a high, cracked voice. 2107 He was a good-sized, powerful man, and as he stood poising himself with legs astride, I could see that, from the thigh downwards, there was but a wooden stump upon the right side. 2108 At the sound of his strident, angry cries, there was a movement in the huddled bundle upon the deck. 2109 It straightened itself into a little black man - the smallest I have ever seen - with a great, misshapen head and a shock of tangled dishevelled hair. 2110 Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of this savage, distorted creature. 2111 He was wrapped in some sort of a dark ulster or blanket, which left only his face exposed; but that face was enough to give a man a sleepless night. 2112 Never have I seen features so deeply marked with all bestiality and cruelty. 2113 His small eyes glowed and burned with a sombre light, and his thick lips were writhed back from his teeth, which grinned and chattered at us with half-animal fury.
2114 'Fire if he raises his hand,' said Holmes quietly.
2115 We were within a boat's-length by this time, and almost within touch of our quarry. 2116 I can see the two of them now as they stood: the white man with his legs far apart, shrieking out curses, and the unhallowed dwarf with his hideous face, and his strong, yellow teeth gnashing at us in the light of our lantern.
2117 It was well that we had so clear a view of him. 2118 Even as we looked he plucked out from under his covering a short, round piece of wood, like a school-ruler, and clapped it to his lips. 2119 Our pistols rang out together. 2120 He whirled round, threw up his arms, and, with a kind of choking cough, fell sideways into the stream. 2121 I caught one glimpse of his venomous, menacing eyes amid the white swirl of the waters. 2122 At the same moment the wooden-legged man threw himself upon the rudder and put it hard down, so that his boat made straight in for the southern bank, while we shot past her stern, only clearing her by a few feet. 2123 We were round after her in an instant, but she was already nearly at the bank. 2124 It was a wild and desolate place, where the moon glimmered upon a wide expanse of marsh-land, with pools of stagnant water and beds of decaying vegetation. 2125 The launch, with a dull thud, ran up upon the mud-bank, with her bow in the air and her stern flush with the water. 2126 The fugitive sprang out, but his stump instantly sank its whole length into the sodden soil. 2127 In vain he struggled and writhed. 2128 Not one step could he possibly take either forwards or backwards. 2129 He yelled in impotent rage, and kicked frantically into the mud with his other foot; but his struggles only bored his wooden pin the deeper into the sticky bank. 2130 When we brought our launch alongside he was so firmly anchored that it was only by throwing the end of a rope over his shoulders that we were able to haul him out, and to drag him, like some evil fish, over our side. 2131 The two Smiths, father and son, sat sullenly in their launch, but came aboard meekly enough when commanded. 2132 The Aurora herself we hauled off and made fast to our stern. 2133 A solid iron chest of Indian workmanship stood upon the deck. 2134 This, there could be no question, was the same that had contained the ill-omened treasure of the Sholtos. 2135 There was no key, but it was of considerable weight, so we transferred it carefully to our own little cabin. 2136 As we steamed slowly upstream again, we flashed our searchlight in every direction, but there was no sign of the Islander. 2137 Somewhere in the dark ooze at the bottom of the Thames lie the bones of that strange visitor to our shores.
2138 'See here,' said Holmes, pointing to the wooden hatchway. 2139 'We were hardly quick enough with our pistols.' 2140 There, sure enough, just behind where we had been standing, stuck one of those murderous darts which we knew so well. 2141 It must have whizzed between us at the instant we fired. 2142 Holmes smiled at it and shrugged his shoulders in his easy fashion, but I confess that it turned me sick to think of the horrible death which had passed so close to us that night.

2143 11. The Great Agra Treasure

2144 Our captive sat in the cabin opposite to the iron box which he had done so much and waited so long to gain. 2145 He was a sunburned, reckless-eyed fellow, with a network of lines and wrinkles all over his mahogany features, which told of a hard, open-air life. 2146 There was a singular prominence about his bearded chin which marked a man who was not to be easily turned from his purpose. 2147 His age may have been fifty or thereabouts, for his black, curly hair was thickly shot with grey. 2148 His face in repose was not an unpleasing one, though his heavy brows and aggressive chin gave him, as I had lately seen, a terrible expression when moved to anger. 2149 He sat now with his handcuffed hands upon his lap, and his head sunk upon his breast, while he looked with his keen, twinkling eyes at the box which had been the cause of his ill-doings. 2150 It seemed to me that there was more sorrow than anger in his rigid and contained countenance. 2151 Once he looked up at me with a gleam of something like humour in his eyes.
2152 'Well, Jonathan Small,' said Holmes, lighting a cigar, 'I am sorry that it has come to this.'
2153 'And so am I, sir,' he answered, frankly. 2154 'I don't believe that I can swing over the job. 2155 I give you my word on the Book that I never raised hand against Mr. Sholto. 2156 It was that little hell-hound Tonga who shot one of his cursed darts into him. 2157 I had no part in it, sir. 2158 I was as grieved as if it had been my bloodrelation. 2159 I welted the little devil with the slack end of the rope for it, but it was done, and I could not undo it again.'
2160 'Have a cigar,' said Holmes; 'and you had best take a pull out of my flask, for you are very wet. 2161 How could you expect so small and weak a man as this black fellow to overpower Mr. Sholto and hold him while you were climbing the rope?'
2162 'You seem to know as much about it as if you were there, sir. 2163 The truth is that I hoped to find the room clear. 2164 I knew the habits of the house pretty well, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto usually went down to his supper. 2165 I shall make no secret of the business. 2166 The best defence that I can make is just the simple truth. 2167 Now, if it had been the old major I would have swung for him with a light heart. 2168 I would have thought no more of knifing him than of smoking this cigar. 2169 But it's cursed hard that I should be lagged over this young Sholto, with whom I had no quarrel whatever.'
2170 'You are under the charge of Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard. 2171 He is going to bring you up to my rooms, and I shall ask you for a true account of the matter. 2172 You must make a clean breast of it, for if you do I hope that I may be of use to you. 2173 I think I can prove that the poison acts so quickly that the man was dead before ever you reached the room.'
2174 'That he was, sir. 2175 I never got such a turn in my life as when I saw him grinning at me with his head on his shoulder as I climbed through the window. 2176 It fairly shook me, sir. 2177 I'd have half killed Tonga for it if he had not scrambled off. 2178 That was how he came to leave his club, and some of his darts, too, as he tells me, which I dare say helped to put you on our track; though how you kept on it is more than I can tell. 2179 I don't feel no malice against you for it. 2180 But it does seem a queer thing,' he added, with a bitter smile, 'that I, who have a fair claim to half a million of money, should spend the first half of my life building a breakwater in the Andamans, and am like to spend the other half digging drains at Dartmoor. 2181 It was an evil day for me when first I clapped eyes upon the merchant Achmet and had to do with the Agra treasure, which never brought anything but a curse yet upon the man who owned it. 2182 To him, it brought murder, to Major Sholto it brought fear and guilt, to me it has meant slavery for life.'
2183 At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his face and shoulders into the tiny cabin.
2184 'Quite a family party,' he remarked. 2185 'I think I shall have a pull at that flask, Holmes. 2186 Well, I think we may all congratulate each other. 2187 Pity we didn't take the other alive; but there was no choice. 2188 I say, Holmes, you must confess that you cut it rather fine. 2189 It was all we could do to overhaul her.'
2190 'All is well that ends well,' said Holmes. 2191 'But I certainly did not know that the Aurora was such a dipper.'
2192 'Smith says she is one of the fastest launches on the river, and that if he had had another man to help him with the engines we should never have caught her. 2193 He swears he knew nothing of this Norwood business.'
2194 'Neither he did,' cried our prisoner - 'not a word. 2195 I chose his launch because I heard that she was a flier. 2196 We told him nothing; but we paid him well, and he was to get something handsome if we reached our vessel, the Esmeralda, at Gravesend, outward bound for the Brazils.'
2197 'Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see that no wrong comes to him. 2198 If we are pretty quick in catching our men, we are not so quick in condemning them.' 2199 It was amusing to notice how the consequential Jones was already beginning to give himself airs on the strength of the capture. 2200 From the slight smile which played over Sherlock Holmes's face, I could see that the speech had not been lost upon him.
2201 'We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently,' said Jones, 'and shall land you, Dr. Watson, with the treasure-box. 2202 I need hardly tell you that I am taking a very grave responsibility upon myself in doing this. 2203 It is most irregular; but of course an agreement is an agreement. 2204 I must, however, as a matter of duty, send an inspector with you, since you have so valuable a charge. 2205 You will drive, no doubt?'
2206 'Yes, I shall drive.'
2207 'It is a pity there is no key, that we may make an inventory first. 2208 You will have to break it open. 2209 Where is the key, my man?'
2210 'At the bottom of the river,' said Small shortly.
2211 'Hum! 2212 There was no use your giving this unnecessary trouble. 2213 We have had work enough already through you. 2214 However, doctor, I need not warn you to be careful. 2215 Bring the box back with you to the Baker Street rooms. 2216 You will find us there, on our way to the station.'
2217 They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy iron box, and with a bluff, genial inspector as my companion. 2218 A quarter of an hour's drive brought us to Mrs. Cecil Forrester's. 2219 The servant seemed surprised at so late a visitor. 2220 Mrs. Cecil Forrester was out for the evening, she explained, and likely to be very late. 2221 Miss Morstan however, was in the drawing-room; so to the drawing-room I went, box in hand, leaving the obliging inspector in the cab.
2222 She was seated by the open window, dressed in some sort of white diaphanous material, with a little touch of scarlet at the neck and waist. 2223 The soft light of a shaded lamp fell upon her as she leaned back in the basket chair, playing over her sweet, grave face, and tinting with a dull, metallic sparkle the rich coils of her luxuriant hair. 2224 One white arm and hand drooped over the side of the chair, and her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing melancholy. 2225 At the sound of my footfall she sprang to her feet, however, and a bright flush of surprise and of pleasure coloured her pale cheeks.
2226 'I heard a cab drive up,' she said. 2227 'I thought that Mrs. Forrester had come back very early, but I never dreamed that it might be you. 2228 What news have you brought me?'
2229 'I have brought something better than news,' said I, putting down the box upon the table and speaking jovially and boisterously, though my heart was heavy within me. 2230 'I have brought you something which is worth all the news in the world. 2231 I have brought you a fortune.'
2232 She glanced at the iron box.
2233 'Is that the treasure, then?' she asked, coolly enough.
2234 'Yes, this is the great Agra treasure. 2235 Half of it is yours and half is Thaddeus Sholto's. 2236 You will have a couple of hundred thousand each. 2237 Think of that! 2238 An annuity of ten thousand pounds. 2239 There will be few richer young ladies in England. 2240 Is it not glorious?'
2241 I think that I must have been rather overacting my delight, and that she detected a hollow ring in my congratulations, for I saw her eyebrows rise a little, and she glanced at me curiously.
2242 'If I have it,' said she, 'I owe it to you.'
2243 'No, no,' I answered, 'not to me, but to my friend Sherlock Holmes. 2244 With all the will in the world, I could never have followed up a clue which has taxed even his analytical genius. 2245 As it was, we very nearly lost it at the last moment.'
2246 'Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson,' said she.
2247 I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had seen her last. 2248 Holmes's new method of search, the discovery of the Aurora, the appearance of Athelney Jones, our expedition in the evening, and the wild chase down the Thames. 2249 She listened with parted lips and shining eyes to my recital of our adventures. 2250 When I spoke of the dart which had so narrowly missed us, she turned so white that I feared that she was about to faint.
2251 'It is nothing,' she said, as I hastened to pour her out some water. 2252 'I am all right again. 2253 It was a shock to me to hear that I had placed my friends in such horrible peril.'
2254 'That is all over,' I answered. 2255 'It was nothing. 2256 I will tell you no more gloomy details. 2257 Let us turn to something brighter. 2258 There is the treasure. 2259 What could be brighter than that? 2260 I got leave to bring it with me, thinking that it would interest you to be the first to see it.'
2261 'It would be of the greatest interest to me,' she said. 2262 There was no eagerness in her voice, however. 2263 It had struck her, doubtless, that it might seem ungracious upon her part to be indifferent to a prize which had cost so much to win.
2264 'What a pretty box!' she said, stooping over it. 2265 'This is Indian work, I suppose?'
2266 'Yes; it is Benares metal-work.'
2267 'And so heavy!' she exclaimed, trying to raise it. 2268 'The box alone must be of some value. 2269 Where is the key?'
2270 'Small threw it into the Thames,' I answered. 2271 'I must borrow Mrs. Forrester's poker.'
2272 There was in the front a thick and broad hasp, wrought in the image of a sitting Buddha. 2273 Under this I thrust the end of the poker and twisted it outward as a lever. 2274 The hasp sprang open with a loud snap. 2275 With trembling fingers I flung back the lid. 2276 We both stood gazing in astonishment. 2277 The box was empty!
2278 No wonder that it was heavy. 2279 The iron-work was two-thirds of an inch thick all round. 2280 It was massive, well made, and solid, like a chest constructed to carry things of great price, but not one shred or crumb of metal or jewellery lay within it. 2281 It was absolutely and completely empty.
2282 'The treasure is lost,' said Miss Morstan, calmly.
2283 As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a great shadow seemed to pass from my soul. 2284 I did not know how this Agra treasure had weighed me down, until now that it was finally removed. 2285 It was selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I could realize nothing save that the golden barrier was gone from between us.
2286 'Thank God!' I ejaculated from my very heart.
2287 She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile.
2288 'Why do you say that?' she asked.
2289 'Because you are within my reach again,' I said, taking her hand. 2290 She did not withdraw it. 2291 'Because I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man loved a woman. 2292 Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips. 2293 Now that they are gone I can tell you how I love you. 2294 That is why I said, "Thank God."'
2295 'Then I say "Thank God," too,' she whispered, as I drew her to my side.
2296 Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained one.

2297 12. The Strange Story of Jonathan Small

2298 A very patient man was that inspector in the cab, for it was a weary time before I rejoined him. 2299 His face clouded over when I showed him the empty box.
2300 'There goes the reward!' said he, gloomily. 2301 'Where there is no money there is no pay. 2302 This night's work would have been worth a tenner each to Sam Brown and me if the treasure had been there.'
2303 'Mr. Thaddeus Sholto is a rich man,' I said; 'he will see that you are rewarded, treasure or no.'
2304 The inspector shook his head despondently, however.
2305 'It's a bad job,' he repeated; 'and so Mr. Athelney Jones will think.'
2306 His forecast proved to be correct, for the detective looked blank enough when I got to Baker Street and showed him the empty box. 2307 They had only just arrived, Holmes, the prisoner, and he, for they had changed their plans so far as to report themselves at a station upon the way. 2308 My companion lounged in his arm-chair with his usual listless expression, while Small sat stolidly opposite to him with his wooden leg cocked over his sound one. 2309 As I exhibited the empty box he leaned back in his chair and laughed aloud.
2310 'This is your doing, Small,' said Athelney Jones, angrily.
2311 'Yes, I have put it away where you shall never lay hand on it,' he cried, exultantly. 2312 'It is my treasure, and if I can't have the loot I'll take darned good care that no one else does. 2313 I tell you that no living man has any right to it, unless it is three men who are in the Andaman convict-barracks and myself. 2314 I know now that I cannot have the use of it, and I know that they cannot. 2315 I have acted all through for them as much as for myself. 2316 It's been the sign of four with us always. 2317 Well, I know that they would have had me do just what I have done, and throw the treasure into the Thames rather than let it go to kith or kin of Sholto or Morstan. 2318 It was not to make them rich that we did for Achmet. 2319 You'll find the treasure where the key is, and where little Tonga is. 2320 When I saw that your launch must catch us, I put the loot away in a safe place. 2321 There are no rupees for you this journey.'
2322 'You are deceiving us, Small,' said Athelney Jones, sternly. 2323 'If you had wished to throw the treasure into the Thames, it would have been easier for you to have thrown box and all.'
2324 'Easier for me to throw, and easier for you to recover,' he answered, with a shrewd, side-long look. 2325 'The man that was clever enough to hunt me down is clever enough to pick an iron box from the bottom of a river. 2326 Now that they are scattered over five miles or so, it may be a harder job. 2327 It went to my heart to do it, though. 2328 I was half mad when you came up with us. 2329 However, there's no good grieving over it. 2330 I've had ups in my life, and I've had downs, but I've learned not to cry over spilled milk.'
2331 'This is a very serious matter, Small,' said the detective. 2332 'If you had helped justice, instead of thwarting it in this way, you would have had a better chance at your trial.'
2333 'Justice!' snarled the ex-convict. 2334 'A pretty justice! 2335 Whose loot is this, if it is not ours? 2336 Where is the justice that I should give it up to those who have never earned it? 2337 Look how I have earned it! 2338 Twenty long years in that fever-ridden swamp, all day at work under the mangrove-tree, all night chained up in the filthy convict-huts, bitten by mosquitoes, racked with ague, bullied by every cursed black-faced policeman who loved to take it out of a white man. 2339 That was how I earned the Agra treasure, and you talk to me of justice because I cannot bear to feel that I have paid this price only that another may enjoy it! 2340 I would rather swing a score of times, or have one of Tonga's darts in my hide, than live in a convict's cell and feel that another man is at his ease in a palace with the money that should be mine.'
2341 Small had dropped his mask of stoicism, and all this came out in a wild whirl of words, while his eyes blazed and the handcuffs clanked together with the impassioned movement of his hands. 2342 I could understand, as I saw the fury and the passion of the man, that it was no groundless or unnatural terror which had possessed Major Sholto when he first learned that the injured convict was upon his track.
2343 'You forget that we know nothing of all this,' said Holmes, quietly. 2344 'We have not heard your story, and we cannot tell how far justice may originally have been on your side.'
2345 'Well, sir, you have been very fair-spoken to me, though I can see that I have you to thank that I have these bracelets upon my wrists. 2346 Still, I bear no grudge for that. 2347 It is all fair and above-board. 2348 If you want to hear my story, I have no wish to hold it back. 2349 What I say to you is God's truth, every word of it. 2350 Thank you, you can put the glass beside me here, and I'll put my lips to it if I am dry.
2351 'I am a Worcestershire man myself, born near Pershore. 2352 I dare say you would find a heap of Smalls living there now if you were to look. 2353 I have often thought of taking a look round there, but the truth is that I was never much of a credit to the family, and I doubt if they would be so very glad to see me. 2354 They were all steady, chapel-going folk, small farmers, well known and respected over the country-side, while I was always a bit of a rover. 2355 At last, however, when I was about eighteen, I gave them no more trouble, for I got into a mess over a girl, and could only get out of it again by taking the Queen's shilling and joining the 3rd Buffs, which was just starting for India.
2356 'I wasn't destined to do much soldiering, however. 2357 I had just got past the goose-step, and learned to handle my musket, when I was fool enough to go swimming in the Ganges. 2358 Luckily for me, my company sergeant, John Holder, was in the water at the same time, and he was one of the finest swimmers in the Service. 2359 A crocodile took me, just as I was halfway across, and nipped off my right leg as clean as a surgeon could have done it, just above the knee. 2360 What with the shock and the loss of blood, I fainted, and should have been drowned if Holder had not caught hold of me and paddled for the bank. 2361 I was five months in hospital over it, and when at last I was able to limp out of it with this timber toe strapped to my stump I found myself invalided out of the army and unfitted for any active occupation.
2362 'I was, as you can imagine, pretty down on my luck at this time, for I was a useless cripple, though not yet in my twentieth year. 2363 However, my misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in disguise. 2364 A man named Abel White, who had come out there as an indigo-planter, wanted an overseer to look after his coolies and keep them up to their work. 2365 He happened to be a friend of our colonel's who had taken an interest in me since the accident. 2366 To make a long story short, the colonel recommended me strongly for the post, and, as the work was mostly to be done on horseback, my leg was no great obstacle, for I had enough knee left to keep a good grip on the saddle. 2367 What I had to do was to ride over the plantation, to keep an eye on the men as they worked, and to report the idlers. 2368 The pay was fair, I had comfortable quarters, and altogether I was content to spend the remainder of my life in indigo-planting. 2369 Mr. Abel White was a kind man, and he would often drop into my little shanty and smoke a pipe with me, for white folk out there feel their hearts warm to each other as they never do here at home.
2370 'Well, I was never in luck's way long. 2371 Suddenly, without a note of warning, the great mutiny broke upon us. 2372 One month India lay as still and peaceful, to all appearance, as Surrey or Kent; the next there were two hundred thousand black devils let loose, and the country was a perfect hell. 2373 Of course you know all about it, gentlemen - a deal more than I do, very like, since reading is not in my line. 2374 I only know what I saw with my own eyes. 2375 Our plantation was at a place called Muttra, near the border of the Northwest Provinces. 2376 Night after night the whole sky was alight with the burning bungalows, and day after day we had small companies of Europeans passing through our estate with their wives and children, on their way to Agra, where were the nearest troops. 2377 Mr. Abel White was an obstinate man. 2378 He had it in his head that the affair had been exaggerated, and that it would blow over as suddenly as it had sprung up. 2379 There he sat on his veranda, drinking whisky-pegs and smoking cheroots, while the country was in a blaze about him. 2380 Of course, we stuck by him, I and Dawson, who, with his wife, used to do the book-work and the managing. 2381 Well, one fine day the crash came. 2382 I had been away on a distant plantation, and was riding slowly home in the evening, when my eye fell upon something all huddled together at the bottom of a steep nullah. 2383 I rode down to see what it was, and the cold struck through my heart when I found it was Dawson's wife, all cut into ribbons and half-eaten by jackals and native dogs. 2384 A little farther up the road Dawson himself was lying on his face, quite dead, with an empty revolver in his hand, and four Sepoys lying across each other in front of him. 2385 I reined up my horse, wondering which way I should turn; but at that moment I saw thick smoke curling up from Abel White's bungalow, and the flames beginning to burst through the roof. 2386 I knew then that I could do my employer no good, but would only throw my own life away if I meddled in the matter. 2387 From where I stood I could see hundreds of the black fiends, with their red coats still on their backs, dancing and howling round the burning house. 2388 Some of them pointed at me, and a couple of bullets sang past my head: so I broke away across the paddy-fields, and found myself late at night safe within the walls at Agra.
2389 'As it proved, however, there was no great safety here, either. 2390 The whole country was up like a swarm of bees. 2391 Wherever the English could collect in little bands, they held just the ground that their guns commanded. 2392 Everywhere else they were helpless fugitives. 2393 It was a fight of the millions against the hundreds; and the cruellest part of it was that these men that we fought against, foot, horse, and gunners, were our own picked troops, whom we had taught and trained, handling our own weapons and blowing our own bugle-calls. 2394 At Agra there were the 3rd Bengal Fusiliers, some Sikhs, two troops of horse, and a battery of artillery. 2395 A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants had been formed, and this I joined, wooden leg and all. 2396 We went out to meet the rebels at Shahgunge early in July, and we beat them back for a time, but our powder gave out, and we had to fall back upon the city.
2397 'Nothing but the worst news came to us from every side - which is not to be wondered at, for if you look at the map you will see that we were right in the heart of it. 2398 Lucknow is rather better than a hundred miles to the east, and Cawnpore about as far to the south. 2399 From every point on the compass there was nothing but torture and murder and outrage.
2400 'The city of Agra is a great place, swarming with fanatics and fierce devil-worshippers of all sorts. 2401 Our handful of men were lost among the narrow, winding streets. 2402 Our leader moved across the river, therefore, and took up his position in the old fort of Agra. 2403 I don't know if any of you gentlemen have ever read or heard anything of that old fort. 2404 It is a very queer place - the queerest that ever I was in, and I have been in some rum corners, too. 2405 First of all, it is enormous in size. 2406 I should think that the enclosure must be acres and acres. 2407 There is a modern part, which took all our garrison, women, children, stores, and everything else, with plenty of room over. 2408 But the modern part is nothing like the size of the old quarter, where nobody goes, and which is given over to the scorpions and the centipedes. 2409 It is all full of great, deserted halls, and winding passages, and long corridors twisting in and out, so that it is easy enough for folk to get lost in it. 2410 For this reason it was seldom that anyone went into it, though now and again a party with torches might go exploring.
2411 'The river washes along the front of the old fort, and so protects it, but on the sides and behind there are many doors, and these had to be guarded, of course, in the old quarter as well as in that which was actually held by our troops. 2412 We were short-handed, with hardly men enough to man the angles of the building and to serve the guns. 2413 It was impossible for us, therefore, to station a strong guard at every one of the innumerable gates. 2414 What we did was to organize a central guard-house in the middle of the fort, and to leave each gate under the charge of one white man and two or three natives. 2415 I was selected to take charge during certain hours of the night of a small isolated door upon the south-west side of the building. 2416 Two Sikh troopers were placed under my command, and I was instructed if anything went wrong to fire my musket, when I might rely upon help coming at once from the central guard. 2417 As the guard was a good two hundred paces away, however, and as the space between was cut up into a labyrinth of passages and corridors, I had great doubts as to whether they could arrive in time to be of any use in case of an actual attack.
2418 'Well, I was pretty proud at having this small command given me, since I was a raw recruit, and a game-legged one at that. 2419 For two nights I kept the watch with my Punjaubees. 2420 They were tall, fierce-looking chaps, Mahomet Singh and Abdullah Khan by name, both old fighting-men, who had borne arms against us at Chilian Wallah. 2421 They could talk English pretty well, but I could get little out of them. 2422 They preferred to stand together and jabber all night in their queer Sikh lingo. 2423 For myself, I used to stand outside the gateway looking down on the broad, winding river and on the twinkling lights of the great city. 2424 The beating of drums, the rattle of tom-toms, and the yells and howls of the rebels, drunk with opium and with bang, were enough to remind us all night of our dangerous neighbours across the stream. 2425 Every two hours the officer of the night used to come round to all the posts, to make sure that all was well.
2426 'The third night of my watch was dark and dirty, with a small, driving rain. 2427 It was dreary work standing in the gateway hour after hour in such weather. 2428 I tried again and again to make my Sikhs talk, but without much success. 2429 At two in the morning the rounds passed, and broke for a moment the weariness of the night. 2430 Finding that my companions would not be led into conversation, I took out my pipe, and laid down my musket to strike a match. 2431 In an instant the two Sikhs were upon me. 2432 One of them snatched my firelock up and levelled it at my head, while the other held a great knife to my throat and swore between his teeth that he would plunge it into me if I moved a step.
2433 'My first thought was that these fellows were in league with the rebels, and that this was the beginning of an assault. 2434 If our door were in the hands of the Sepoys the place must fall, and the women and children be treated as they were in Cawnpore. 2435 Maybe you gentlemen think that I am just making out a case for myself, but I give you my word that when I thought of that, though I felt the point of the knife at my throat, I opened my mouth with the intention of giving a scream, if it was my last one, which might alarm the main guard. 2436 The man who held me seemed to know my thoughts; for, even as I braced myself to it, he whispered: 2437 "Don't make a noise. 2438 The fort is safe enough. 2439 There are no rebel dogs on this side of the river." 2440 There was the ring of truth in what he said, and I knew that if I raised my voice I was a dead man. 2441 I could read it in the fellow's brown eyes. 2442 I waited, therefore, in silence, to see what it was that they wanted from me.
2443 '"Listen to me, Sahib," said the taller and fiercer of the pair, the one whom they called Abdullah Khan. 2444 "You must either be with us now, or you must be silenced for ever. 2445 The thing is too great a one for us to hesitate. 2446 Either you are heart and soul with us on your oath on the cross of the Christians, or your body this night shall be thrown into the ditch, and we shall pass over to our brothers in the rebel army. 2447 There is no middle way. 2448 Which is it to be - death or life? 2449 We can only give you three minutes to decide, for the time is passing, and all must be done before the rounds come again."
2450 '"How can I decide?" said I. 2451 "You have not told me what you want of me. 2452 But I tell you now that if it is anything against the safety of the fort I will have no truck with it, so you can drive home your knife, and welcome."
2453 '"It is nothing against the fort," said he. 2454 "We only ask you to do that which your countrymen come to this land for. 2455 We ask you to be rich. 2456 If you will be one of us this night, we will swear to you upon the naked knife, and by the threefold oath, which no Sikh was ever known to break, that you shall have your fair share of the loot. 2457 A quarter of the treasure shall be yours. 2458 We can say no fairer."
2459 '"But what is the treasure, then?" I asked. 2460 "I am as ready to be rich as you can be, if you will but show me how it can be done."
2461 '"You will swear, then," said he, "by the bones of your father, by the honour of your mother, by the cross of your faith, to raise no hand and speak no word against us, either now or afterwards?"
2462 '"I will swear it," I answered, "provided that the fort is not endangered."
2463 '"Then, my comrade and I will swear that you shall have a quarter of the treasure, which shall be equally divided among the four of us."
2464 '"There are but three," said I.
2465 '"No; Dost Akbar must have his share. 2466 We can tell the tale to you while we await them. 2467 Do you stand at the gate, Mahomet Singh, and give notice of their coming. 2468 The thing stands thus, Sahib, and I tell it to you because I know that an oath is binding upon a Feringhee, and that we may trust you. 2469 Had you been a lying Hindoo, though you had sworn by all the gods in their false temples, your blood would have been upon the knife and your body in the water. 2470 But the Sikh knows the Englishman, and the Englishman knows the Sikh. 2471 Hearken, then, to what I have to say.
2472 '"There is a rajah in the northern provinces who has much wealth, though his lands are small. 2473 Much has come to him from his father, and more still he has set by himself, for he is of a low nature, and hoards his gold rather than spend it. 2474 When the troubles broke out he would be friends both with the lion and the tiger - with the Sepoy and with the Company's Raj. 2475 Soon, however, it seemed to him that the white men's day was come, for through all the land he could hear of nothing but of their death and their overthrow. 2476 Yet, being a careful man, he made such plans that, come what might, half at least of his treasure should be left to him. 2477 That which was in gold and silver he kept by him in the vaults of his palace; but the most precious stones and the choicest pearls that he had he put in an iron box, and sent it by a trusty servant, who, under the guise of a merchant, should take it to the fort at Agra, there to lie until the land is at peace. 2478 Thus, if the rebels won he would have his money; but if the Company conquered, his jewels would be saved to him. 2479 Having thus divided his hoard, he threw himself into the cause of the Sepoys, since they were strong upon his borders. 2480 By his doing this, mark you, Sahib, his property becomes the due of those who have been true to their salt.
2481 '"This pretended merchant, who travels under the name of Achmet, is now in the city of Agra, and desires to gain his way into the fort. 2482 He has with him as travelling-companion my foster-brother, Dost Akbar, who knows his secret. 2483 Dost Akbar has promised this night to lead him to a side-postern of the fort, and has chosen this one for his purpose. 2484 Here he will come presently and here he will find Mahomet Singh and myself awaiting him. 2485 The place is lonely, and none shall know of his coming. 2486 The world shall know of the merchant, Achmet, no more, but the great treasure of the rajah shall be divided among us. 2487 What say you to it, Sahib?"
2488 'In Worcestershire the life of a man seems a great and sacred thing; but it is very different when there is fire and blood all round you, and you have been used to meeting death at every turn. 2489 Whether Achmet, the merchant, lived or died was a thing as light as air to me, but at the talk about the treasure my heart turned to it, and I thought of what I might do in the old country with it, and how my folk would stare when they saw their ne'er-do-weel coming back with his pockets full of gold moidores. 2490 I had, therefore, already made up my mind. 2491 Abdullah Khan, however, thinking that I hesitated, pressed the matter more closely.
2492 '"Consider, Sahib," said he, "that if this man is taken by the commandant he will be hung or shot, and his jewels taken by the Government, so that no man will be a rupee the better for them. 2493 Now, since we do the taking of him, why should we not do the rest as well? 2494 The jewels will be as well with us as in the Company's coffers. 2495 There will be enough to make every one of us rich men and great chiefs. 2496 No one can know about the matter, for here we are cut off from all men. 2497 What could be better for the purpose? 2498 Say again, then, Sahib, whether you are with us, or if we must look upon you as an enemy."
2499 '"I am with you heart and soul," said I.
2500 '"It is well," he answered, handing me back my firelock. 2501 "You see that we trust you, for your word, like ours, is not to be broken. 2502 We have now only to wait for my brother and the merchant."
2503 '"Does your brother know, then, of what you will do?" I asked.
2504 '"The plan is his. 2505 He has devised it. 2506 We will go to the gate and share the watch with Mahomet Singh."
2507 'The rain was still falling steadily, for it was just the beginning of the wet season. 2508 Brown, heavy clouds were drifting across the sky, and it was hard to see more than a stone-cast. 2509 A deep moat lay in front of our door, but the water was in places nearly dried up, and it could easily be crossed. 2510 It was strange to me to be standing there with those two wild Punjaubees waiting for the man who was coming to his death.
2511 'Suddenly my eve caught the glint of a shaded lantern at the other side of the moat. 2512 It vanished among the mound-heaps, and then appeared again coming slowly in our direction.
2513 '"Here they are!" I exclaimed.
2514 '"You will challenge him, Sahib, as usual," whispered Abdullah. 2515 "Give him no cause for fear. 2516 Send us in with him, and we shall do the rest while you stay here on guard. 2517 Have the lantern ready to uncover, that we may be sure that it is indeed the man."
2518 'The light had flickered onwards, now stopping and now advancing, until I could see two dark figures upon the other side of the moat. 2519 I let them scramble down the sloping bank, splash through the mire, and climb half-way up to the gate, before I challenged them.
2520 '"Who goes there?" said I, in a subdued voice.
2521 '"Friends," came the answer. 2522 I uncovered my lantern and threw a flood of light upon them. 2523 The first was an enormous Sikh, with a black beard which swept nearly down to his cummerbund. 2524 Outside of a show I have never seen so tall a man. 2525 The other was a little, fat, round fellow, with a great yellow turban, and a bundle in his hand, done up in a shawl. 2526 He seemed to be all in a quiver with fear, for his hands twitched as if he had the ague, and his head kept turning to left and right with two bright little twinkling eyes, like a mouse when he ventures out from his hole. 2527 It gave me the chills to think of killing him, but I thought of the treasure, and my heart set as hard as a flint within me. 2528 When he saw my white face he gave a little chirrup of joy, and came running up towards me.
2529 '"Your protection, Sahib," he panted; "your protection for the unhappy merchant Achmet. 2530 I have travelled across Rajpootana that I might seek the shelter of the fort at Agra. 2531 I have been robbed and beaten and abused because I have been the friend of the Company. 2532 It is a blessed night this when I am once more in safety - I and my poor possessions."
2533 '"What have you in the bundle?" I asked.
2534 '"An iron box," he answered, "which contains one or two little family matters which are of no value to others, but which I should be sorry to lose. 2535 Yet I am not a beggar; and I shall reward you, young Sahib, and your governor also, if he will give me the shelter I ask."
2536 'I could not trust myself to speak longer with the man. 2537 The more I looked at his fat, frightened face, the harder did it seem that we should slay him in cold blood. 2538 It was best to get it over.
2539 '"Take him to the main guard," said I. 2540 The two Sikhs closed in upon him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while they marched in through the dark gateway. 2541 Never was a man so compassed round with death. 2542 I remained at the gateway with the lantern.
2543 'I could hear the measured tramp of their footsteps sounding through the lonely corridors. 2544 Suddenly it ceased, and I heard voices, and a scuffle, with the sound of blows. 2545 A moment later there came, to my horror, a rush of footsteps coming in my direction, with a loud breathing of a running man. 2546 I turned my lantern down the long, straight passage, and there was the fat man, running like the wind, with a smear of blood across his face, and close at his heels, bounding like a tiger, the great, black-bearded Sikh, with a knife flashing in his hand. 2547 I have never seen a man run so fast as that little merchant. 2548 He was gaining on the Sikh, and I could see that if he once passed me and got to the open air he would save himself yet. 2549 My heart softened to him, but again the thought of his treasure turned me hard and bitter. 2550 I cast my firelock between his legs as he raced past, and he rolled twice over like a shot rabbit. 2551 Ere he could stagger to his feet the Sikh was upon him, and buried his knife twice in his side. 2552 The man never uttered moan nor moved muscle, but lay where he had fallen. 2553 I think myself that he may have broken his neck with the fall. 2554 You see, gentlemen, that I am keeping my promise. 2555 I am telling you every word of the business just exactly as it happened, whether it is in my favour or not.'
2556 He stopped, and held out his manacled hands for the whisky-and-water which Holmes had brewed for him. 2557 For myself, I confess that I had now conceived the utmost horror of the man, not only for this coldblooded business in which he had been concerned, but even more for the somewhat flippant and careless way in which he narrated it. 2558 Whatever punishment was in store for him, I felt that he might expect no sympathy from me. 2559 Sherlock Holmes and Jones sat with their hands upon their knees, deeply interested in the story, but with the same disgust written upon their faces. 2560 He may have observed it, for there was a touch of defiance in his voice and manner as he proceeded.
2561 'It was all very bad, no doubt,' said he. 2562 'I should like to know how many fellows in my shoes would have refused a share of this loot when they knew that they would have their throats cut for their pains. 2563 Besides, it was my life or his when once he was in the fort. 2564 If he had got out, the whole business would come to light, and I should have been court-martialled and shot as likely as not; for people were not very lenient at a time like that.'
2565 'Go on with your story,' said Holmes, shortly.
2566 'Well, we carried him in, Abdullah, Akbar and I. 2567 A fine weight he was, too, for all that he was so short. 2568 Mahomet Singh was left to guard the door. 2569 We took him to a place which the Sikhs had already prepared. 2570 It was some distance off, where a winding passage leads to a great empty hall, the brick walls of which were all crumbling to pieces. 2571 The earth floor had sunk in at one place, making a natural grave, so we left Achmet the merchant there, having first covered him over with loose bricks. 2572 This done, we all went back to the treasure.
2573 'It lay where he had dropped it when he was first attacked. 2574 The box was the same which now lies open upon your table. 2575 A key was hung by a silken cord to that carved handle upon the top. 2576 We opened it, and the light of the lantern gleamed upon a collection of gems such as I have read of and thought about when I was a little lad at Pershore. 2577 It was blinding to look upon them. 2578 When we had feasted our eyes we took them all out and made a list of them. 2579 There were one hundred and forty-three diamonds of the first water, including one which has been called, I believe, "the Great Mogul," and is said to be the second largest stone in existence. 2580 Then there were ninety-seven very fine emeralds, and one hundred and seventy rubies, some of which, however, were small. 2581 There were forty carbuncles, two hundred and ten sapphires, sixty-one agates, and a great quantity of beryls, onyxes, cats'-eyes, turquoises, and other stones, the very names of which I did not know at the time, though I have become more familiar with them since. 2582 Besides this, there were nearly three hundred very fine pearls, twelve of which were set in a gold coronet. 2583 By the way, these last had been taken out of the chest, and were not there when I recovered it.
2584 'After we had counted our treasures we put them back into the chest and carried them to the gateway to show them to Mahomet Singh. 2585 Then we solemnly renewed our oath to stand by each other and be true to our secret. 2586 We agreed to conceal our loot in a safe place until the country should be at peace again, and then to divide it equally among ourselves. 2587 There was no use dividing it at present, for if gems of such value were found upon us it would cause suspicion, and there was no privacy in the fort nor any place where we could keep them. 2588 We carried the box, therefore, into the same hall where we had buried the body, and there, under certain bricks in the best-preserved wall, we made a hollow and put our treasure. 2589 We made careful note of the place, and next day I drew four plans, one for each of us, and put the sign of the four of us at the bottom, for we had sworn that we should each always act for all, so that none might take advantage. 2590 That is an oath that I can put my hand to my heart and swear that I have never broken.
2591 'Well, there's no use my telling you gentlemen what came of the Indian Mutiny. 2592 After Wilson took Delhi and Sir Colin relieved Lucknow the back of the business was broken. 2593 Fresh troops came pouring in, and Nana Sahib made himself scarce over the frontier. 2594 A flying column under Colonel Greathed came round to Agra and cleared the Pandies away from it. 2595 Peace seemed to be settling upon the country, and we four were beginning to hope that the time was at hand when we might safely go off with our share of the plunder. 2596 In a moment, however, our hopes were shattered by our being arrested as the murderers of Achmet.
2597 'It came about in this way. 2598 When the rajah put his jewels into the hands of Achmet, he did it because he knew that he was a trusty man. 2599 They are suspicious folk in the East, however; so what does this rajah do but take a second even more trusty servant and set him to play the spy upon the first? 2600 The second man was ordered never to let Achmet out of his sight, and he followed him like his shadow. 2601 He went after him that night, and saw him pass through the doorway. 2602 Of course, he thought he had taken refuge in the fort, and applied for admission there himself next day, but could find no trace of Achmet. 2603 This seemed to him so strange that he spoke about it to a sergeant of guides, who brought it to the ears of the commandant. 2604 A thorough search was quickly made and the body was discovered. 2605 Thus at the very moment that we thought that all was safe we were all four seized and brought to trial on a charge of murder - three of us because we had held the gate that night, and the fourth because he was known to have been in the company of the murdered man. 2606 Not a word about the jewels came out at the trial, for the rajah had been deposed and driven out of India; so no one had any particular interest in them. 2607 The murder, however, was clearly made out, and it was certain that we must all have been concerned in it. 2608 The three Sikhs got penal servitude for life, and I was condemned to death, though my sentence was afterwards commuted into the same as the others.
2609 'It was rather a queer position that we found ourselves in then. 2610 There we were all four tied by the leg and with precious little chance of ever getting out again, while we each held a secret which might have put each of us in a palace if we could only have made use of it. 2611 It was enough to make a man eat his heart out to have to stand the kick and the cuff of every petty jack-in-office, to have rice to eat and water to drink, when that gorgeous fortune was ready for him outside, just waiting to be picked up. 2612 It might have driven me mad; but I was always a pretty stubborn one, so I just held on and bided my time.
2613 'At last it seemed to me to have come. 2614 I was changed from Agra to Madras, and from there to Blair Island in the Andamans. 2615 There are very few white convicts at this settlement, and, as I had behaved well from the first, I soon found myself a sort of privileged person.
2616 I was given a hut in Hope Town, which is a small place, on the slopes of Mount Harriet, and I was left pretty much to myself. 2617 It is a dreary, fever-stricken place, and all beyond our little clearings was infested with wild cannibal natives, who were ready enough to blow a poisoned dart at us if they saw a chance. 2618 There was digging and ditching and yam-planting, and a dozen other things to be done, so we were busy enough all day; though in the evening we had a little time to ourselves. 2619 Among other things, I learned to dispense drugs for the surgeon, and picked up a smattering of his knowledge. 2620 All the time I was on the took-out for a chance of escape; but it is hundreds of miles from any other land, and there is little or no wind in those seas: so it was a terribly difficult job to get away.
2621 'The surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young chap, and the other young officers would meet in his rooms of an evening and play cards. 2622 The surgery, where I used to make up my drugs, was next to his sitting-room, with a small window between us. 2623 Often, if I felt lonesome, I used to turn out the lamp in the surgery, and then, standing there, I could hear their talk and watch their play. 2624 I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others. 2625 There was Major Sholto, Captain Morstan, and Lieutenant Bromley Brown, who were in command of the native troops, and there was the surgeon himself, and two or three prison-officials, crafty old hands who played a nice, sly, safe game. 2626 A very snug little party they used to make.
2627 'Well, there was one thing which very soon struck me, and that was that the soldiers used always to lose and the civilians to win. 2628 Mind, I don't say there was anything unfair, but so it was. 2629 These prison-chaps had done little else than play cards ever since they had been at the Andamans, and they knew each other's game to a point, while the others just played to pass the time and threw their cards down anyhow. 2630 Night after night the soldiers got up poorer men, and the poorer they got the more keen they were to play. 2631 Major Sholto was the hardest hit. 2632 He used to pay in notes and gold at first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for big sums. 2633 He sometimes would win for a few deals, just to give him heart, and then the luck would set in against him worse than ever. 2634 All day he would wander about as black as thunder, and he took to drinking a deal more than was good for him.
2635 'One night he lost even more heavily than usual. 2636 I was sitting in my hut when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along on the way to their quarters. 2637 They were bosom friends, those two, and never far apart. 2638 The Major was raving about his losses.
2639 '"It's all up, Morstan," he was saying, as they passed my hut. 2640 "I shall have to send in my papers. 2641 I am a ruined man."
2642 '"Nonsense, old chap!" said the other, slapping him upon the shoulder. 2643 "I've had a nasty facer myself, but-" That was all I could hear, but it was enough to set me thinking.
2644 'A couple of days later Major Sholto was strolling on the beach: so I took the chance of speaking to him.
2645 '"I wish to have your advice, Major," said I.
2646 '"Well, Small, what is it?" he asked, taking his cheroot from his lips.
2647 '"I wanted to ask you, sir," said I, "who is the proper person to whom hidden treasure should be handed over. 2648 I know where half a million worth lies, and, as I cannot use it myself, I thought perhaps the best thing that I could do would be to hand it over to the proper authorities, and then perhaps they would get my sentence shortened for me."
2649 '"Half a million, Small?" he gasped, looking hard at me to see if I was in earnest.
2650 '"Quite that, sir - in jewels and pearls. 2651 It lies there ready for anyone. 2652 And the queer thing about it is that the real owner is outlawed and cannot hold property, so that it belongs to the first comer."
2653 '"To Government, Small," he stammered, "to Government." 2654 But he said it in a halting fashion, and I knew in my heart that I had got him.
2655 '"You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to the Governor-General?" said I, quietly.
2656 '"Well, well, you must not do anything rash, or that you might repent. 2657 Let me hear all about it, Small. 2658 Give me the facts."
2659 'I told him the whole story, with small changes, so that he could not identify the places. 2660 When I had finished he stood stock-still and full of thought. 2661 I could see by the twitch of his lip that there was a struggle going on within him.
2662 '"This is a very important matter, Small," he said at last. 2663 "You must not say a word to anyone about it, and I shall see you again soon."
2664 'Two nights later he and his friend, Captain Morstan, came to my hut in the dead of the night with a lantern.
2665 '"I want you just to let Captain Morstan hear that story from your own lips, Small," said he.
2666 'I repeated it as I had told it before.
2667 '"It rings true, eh?" said he. 2668 "It's good enough to act upon?"
2669 'Captain Morstan nodded.
2670 '"Look here, Small," said the Major. 2671 "We have been talking it over, my friend here and I, and we have come to the conclusion that this secret of yours is hardly a Government matter, after all, but is a private concern of your own, which, of course, you have the power of disposing of as you think best. 2672 Now the question is: What price would you ask for it? 2673 We might be inclined to take it up, and at least look into it, if we could agree as to terms." 2674 He tried to speak in a cool, careless way, but his eyes. 2675 were shining with excitement and greed.
2676 '"Why, as to that, gentlemen," I answered, trying also to be cool, but feeling as excited as he did, "there is only one bargain which a man in my position can make, I shall want you to help me to my freedom, and to help my three companions to theirs. 2677 We shall then take you into partnership, and give you a fifth share to divide between you."
2678 '"Hum!" said he. 2679 "A fifth share! 2680 That it not very tempting."
2681 '"It would come to fifty thousand apiece," said I.
2682 '"But how can we gain your freedom? 2683 You know very well that you ask an impossibility."
2684 '"Nothing of the sort," I answered. 2685 "I have thought it all out to the last detail. 2686 The only bar to our escape is that we can get no boat fit for the voyage, and no provisions to last us for so long a time. 2687 There are plenty of little yachts and yawls at Calcutta or Madras which would serve our turn well. 2688 Do you bring one over. 2689 We shall engage to get aboard her by night, and if you will drop us on any part of the Indian coast you will have done your part of the bargain."
2690 '"If there were only one," he said.
2691 '"None or all," I answered. 2692 "We have sworn it. 2693 The four of us must always act together."
2694 '"You see, Morstan," said he, "Small is a man of his word. 2695 He does not flinch from his friends. 2696 I think we may very well trust him."
2697 '"It's a dirty business," the other answered. 2698 "Yet, as you say, the money will save our commissions handsomely."
2699 '"Well, Small," said the Major, "we must, I suppose, try and meet you. 2700 We must first, of course, test the truth of your story. 2701 Tell me where the box is hid, and I shall get leave of absence and go back to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into the affair."
2702 '"Not so fast," said I, growing colder as he got hot. 2703 "I must have the consent of my three comrades. 2704 I tell you that it is four or none with us."
2705 '"Nonsense!" he broke in. 2706 "What have three black fellows to do with our agreement?"
2707 '"Black or blue," said I, "they are in with me, and we all go together."
2708 'Well, the matter ended by a second meeting, at which Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, and Dost Akbar were all present. 2709 We talked the matter over again, and at last we came to an arrangement. 2710 We were to provide both the officers with charts of the part of the Agra fort, and mark the place in the wall where the treasure was hid. 2711 Major Sholto was to go to India to test our story. 2712 If he found the box he was to leave it there, to send out a small yacht provisioned for a voyage, which was to lie off Rutland Island, and to which we were to make our way, and finally to return to his duties. 2713 Captain Morstan was then to apply for leave of absence, to meet us at Agra, and there we were to have a final division of the treasure, he taking the Major's share as well as his own. 2714 All this we sealed by the most solemn oaths that the mind could think or the lips utter. 2715 I sat up all night with paper and ink, and by the morning I had the two charts all ready, signed with the sign of four-that is, of Abdullah, Akbar, Mahomet, and myself.
2716 'Well, gentlemen, I weary you with my long story, and I know that my friend Mr. Jones is impatient to get me safely stowed in chokey. 2717 I'll make it as short as I can. 2718 The villain Sholto went off to India, but he never came back again. 2719 Captain Morstan showed me his name among a list of passengers in one of the mailboats very shortly afterwards. 2720 His uncle had died, leaving him a fortune, and he had left the army; yet he could stoop to treat five men as he had treated us. 2721 Morstan went over to Agra shortly afterwards, and found, as we expected, that the treasure was indeed gone. 2722 The scoundrel had stolen it all, without carrying out one of the conditions on which we had sold him the secret. 2723 From that day I lived only for vengeance. 2724 I thought of it by day and I nursed it by night. 2725 It became an overpowering, absorbing passion with me. 2726 I cared nothing for the law - nothing for the gallows. 2727 To escape, to track down Sholto, to have my hand upon his throat - that was my one thought. 2728 Even the Agra treasure had come to be a smaller thing in my mind than the slaving of Sholto.
2729 'Well, I have set my mind on many things in this life, and never one which I did not carry out. 2730 But it was weary years before my time came. 2731 I have told you that I had picked up something of medicine. 2732 One day when Dr. Somerton was down with a fever a little Andaman Islander was picked up by a convict-gang in the woods. 2733 He was sick to death, and had gone to a lonely place to die. 2734 I took him in hand, though he was as venomous as a young snake, and after a couple of months I got him all right and able to walk. 2735 He took a kind of fancy to me then, and would hardly go back to his woods, but was always hanging about my hut. 2736 I learned a little of his lingo from him, and this made him all the fonder of me.
2737 'Tonga - for that was his name - was a fine boatman, and owned a big, roomy canoe of his own. 2738 When I found that he was devoted to me and would do anything to serve me, I saw my chance of escape. 2739 I talked it over with him. 2740 He was to bring his boat round on a certain night to an old wharf which was never guarded, and there he was to pick me up. 2741 I gave him directions to have several gourds of water and a lot of yams, coco-nuts, and sweet potatoes.
2742 'He was stanch and true, was little Tonga. 2743 No man ever had a more faithful mate. 2744 On the night named he had his boat at the wharf. 2745 As it chanced, however, there was one of the convict-guard down there - a vile Pathan who had never missed a chance of insulting and injuring me. 2746 I had always vowed vengeance, and now I had my chance. 2747 It was as if fate had placed him in my way that I might pay my debt before I left the island. 2748 He stood on the bank with his back to me, and his carbine on his shoulder. 2749 I looked about for a stone to beat out his brains with, but none could I see.
2750 'Then a queer thought came into my head, and showed me where I could lay my hand on a weapon. 2751 I sat down in the darkness and unstrapped my wooden leg. 2752 With three long hops I was on him. 2753 He put his carbine to his shoulder, but I struck him full, and knocked the whole front of his skull in. 2754 You can see the split in the wood now where I hit him. 2755 We both went down together, for I could not keep my balance; but when I got up I found him lying quiet enough. 2756 I made for the boat, and in an hour we were well out at sea. 2757 Tonga had brought all his earthly possessions with him, his arms and his gods. 2758 Among other things, he had a long bamboo spear, and some Andaman coco-nut matting, with which I made a sort of a sail. 2759 For ten days we were beating about, trusting to luck, and on the eleventh we were picked up by a trader which was going from Singapore to Jiddah with a cargo of Malay pilgrims. 2760 They were a rum crowd, and Tonga and I soon managed to settle down among them. 2761 They had one very good quality: they let you alone and asked no questions.
2762 'Well, if I were to tell you all the adventures that my little chum and I went through, you would not thank me, for I would have you here until the sun was shining. 2763 Here and there we drifted about the world, something always turning up to keep us from London. 2764 All the time, however, I never lost sight of my purpose. 2765 I would dream of Sholto at night. 2766 A hundred times I have killed him in my sleep. 2767 At last, however, some three or four years ago, we found ourselves in England. 2768 I had no great difficulty in finding where Sholto lived, and I set to work to discover whether he had realized the treasure, or if he still had it. 2769 I made friends with someone who could help me - I name no names, for I don't want to get anyone else in a hole-and I soon found that he still had the jewels. 2770 Then I tried to get at him in many ways; but he was pretty sly, and had always two prize-fighters, besides his sons and his khitmutgar on guard over him.
2771 'One day, however, I got word that he was dying. 2772 I hurried at once to the garden, mad that he should slip out of my clutches like that, and, looking through the window, I saw him lying in his bed, with his sons on each side of him. 2773 I'd have come through and taken my chance with the three of them, only even as I looked at him his jaw dropped, and I knew that he was gone. 2774 I got into his room the same night, though, and I searched his papers to see if there was any record of where he had hidden our jewels. 2775 There was not a line, however, so I came away, bitter and savage as a man could be. 2776 Before I left I bethought me that if I ever met my Sikh friends again it would be a satisfaction to know that I had left some mark of our hatred; so I scrawled down the sign of the four of us, as it had been on the chart, and I pinned it on his bosom. 2777 It was too much that he should be taken to the grave without some token from the men whom he had robbed and befooled.
2778 'We earned a living at this time by my exhibiting poor Tonga at fairs and other such places as the black cannibal. 2779 He would eat raw meat and dance his wardance: so we always had a hatful of pennies after a day's work. 2780 I still heard all the news from Pondicherry Lodge, and for some years there was no news to hear, except that they were hunting for the treasure. 2781 At last, however, came what we had waited for so long. 2782 The treasure had been found. 2783 It was up at the top of the house, in Mr. Bartholomew Sholto's chemical laboratory. 2784 I came at once and had a look at the place, but I could not see how, with my wooden leg, I was to make my way up to it. 2785 I learned, however, about a trap-door in the roof, and also about Mr. Sholto's supper-hour. 2786 It seemed to me that I could manage the thing easily through Tonga. 2787 I brought him out with me with a long rope wound round his waist. 2788 He could climb like a cat, and he soon made his way through the roof, but, as ill-luck would have it, Bartholomew Sholto was still in the room, to his cost. 2789 Tonga thought he had done something very clever in killing him, for when I came up by the rope I found him strutting about as proud as a peacock. 2790 Very much surprised was he when I made at him with the rope's end and cursed him for a little, bloodthirsty imp. 2791 I took the treasure box and let it down, and then slid down myself, having first left the sign of the four upon the table, to show that the jewels had come back at last to those who had most right to them. 2792 Tonga then pulled up the rope, closed the window, and made off the way that he had come.
2793 'I don't know that I have anything else to tell you. 2794 I had heard a waterman speak of the speed of Smith's launch, the Aurora, so I thought she would be a handy craft for our escape. 2795 I engaged with old Smith, and was to give him a big sum if he got us safe to our ship. 2796 He knew, no doubt, that there was some screw loose, but he was not in our secrets. 2797 All this is the truth, and if I tell it to you, gentlemen, it is not to amuse you - for you have not done me a very good turn - but it is because I believe the best defence I can make is just to hold back nothing, but let all the world know how badly I have myself been served by Major Sholto, and how innocent I am of the death of his son.'
2798 'A very remarkable account,' said Sherlock Holmes. 2799 'A fitting wind-up to an extremely interesting case. 2800 There is nothing at all new to me in the latter part of your narrative, except that you brought your own rope. 2801 That I did not know. 2802 By the way, I had hoped that Tonga had lost all his darts; yet he managed to shoot one at us in the boat.'
2803 'He had lost them all, sir, except the one which was in his blow-pipe at the time.'
2804 'Ah, of course,' said Holmes. 2805 'I had not thought of that.'
2806 'Is there any other point which you would like to ask about?' asked the convict, affably.
2807 'I think not, thank you,' my companion answered.
2808 'Well, Holmes,' said Athelney Jones, 'you are a man to be humoured, and we all know that you are a connoisseur of crime; but duty is duty, and I have gone rather far in doing what you and your friend asked me. 2809 I shall feel more at case when we have our storyteller here safe under lock and key. 2810 The cab still waits, and there are two inspectors downstairs. 2811 I am much obliged to you both for your assistance. 2812 Of course, you will be wanted at the trial. 2813 Good night to you.'
2814 'Good night, gentlemen both,' said Jonathan Small.
2815 'You first, Small,' remarked the wary Jones as they left the room. 2816 'I'll take particular care that you don't club me with your wooden leg, whatever you may have done to the gentleman at the Andaman Isles.'
2817 'Well, and there is the end of our little drama,' I remarked, after we had sat some time smoking in silence. 2818 'I fear that it may be the last investigation in which I shall have the chance of studying your methods. 2819 Miss Morstan has done me the honour to accept me as a husband in prospective.'
2820
He gave a most dismal groan.
2821 'I feared as much,' said he. 2822 'I really cannot congratulate you.'
2823 I was a little hurt.
2824 'Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my choice?' I asked.
2825 'Not at all. 2826 I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. 2827 She had a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father. 2828 But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true, cold reason which I place above all things. 2829 I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment.'
2830 'I trust,' said I, laughing, 'that my judgment may survive the ordeal. 2831 But you look weary.'
2832 'Yes, the reaction is already upon me. 2833 I shall be as limp as a rag for a week.'
2834 'Strange,' said I, 'how terms of what in another man I should call laziness alternate with your fits of splendid energy and vigour.'
2835 'Yes,' he answered, 'there are in me the makings of a very fine loafer, and also of a pretty spry sort of a fellow. 2836 I often think of those lines of old Goethe:-
2837 Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schuf, Denn zum würdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.
2838 By the way, apropos of this Norwood business, you see that they had, as I surmised, a confederate in the house, who could be none other than Lal Rao, the butler: so Jones actually has the undivided honour of having caught one fish in his great haul.'
2839 'The division seems rather unfair,' I remarked. 2840 'You have done all the work in this business. 2841 I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit; pray what remains for you?'
2842 'For me,' said Sherlock Holmes, 'there still remains the cocaine-bottle.' 2843 And he stretched his long, white hand up for it.


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