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´╗┐Title: The Sign of the Four
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Sign of the Four" ***

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The Sign of the Four


By

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



Contents



Chapter I

The Science of Deduction

Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and
his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long,
white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back
his left shirt-cuff.  For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully
upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with
innumerable puncture-marks. 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.

Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance, but
custom had not reconciled my mind to it.  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.  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.  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.

Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken
deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I could hold out no
longer.

"Which is it to-day?" I asked,--"morphine or cocaine?"

He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he
had opened.  "It is cocaine," he said,--"a seven-per-cent. solution.
Would you care to try it?"

"No, indeed," I answered, brusquely.  "My constitution has not got over
the Afghan campaign yet.  I cannot afford to throw any extra strain
upon it."

He smiled at my vehemence.  "Perhaps you are right, Watson," he said.
"I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one.  I find it,
however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that
its secondary action is a matter of small moment."

"But consider!" I said, earnestly.  "Count the cost!  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.  You know, too, what a black reaction comes upon
you.  Surely the game is hardly worth the candle.  Why should you, for
a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which
you have been endowed? 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."

He did not seem offended.  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.

"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation.  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.  I can dispense then
with artificial stimulants.  But I abhor the dull routine of existence.
I crave for mental exaltation.  That is why I have chosen my own
particular profession,--or rather created it, for I am the only one in
the world."

"The only unofficial detective?" I said, raising my eyebrows.

"The only unofficial consulting detective," he answered.  "I am the
last and highest court of appeal in detection.  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.  I examine the
data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist's opinion.  I claim no
credit in such cases.  My name figures in no newspaper.  The work
itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my peculiar powers, is my
highest reward.  But you have yourself had some experience of my
methods of work in the Jefferson Hope case."

"Yes, indeed," said I, cordially.  "I was never so struck by anything
in my life.  I even embodied it in a small brochure with the somewhat
fantastic title of 'A Study in Scarlet.'"

He shook his head sadly.  "I glanced over it," said he. "Honestly, I
cannot congratulate you upon it.  Detection is, or ought to be, an
exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional
manner.  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."

"But the romance was there," I remonstrated.  "I could not tamper with
the facts."

"Some facts should be suppressed, or at least a just sense of
proportion should be observed in treating them.  The only point in the
case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from
effects to causes by which I succeeded in unraveling it."

I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been specially
designed to please him.  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.  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.  I made no
remark, however, but sat nursing my wounded leg.  I 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.

"My practice has extended recently to the Continent," said Holmes,
after a while, filling up his old brier-root pipe.  "I was consulted
last week by Francois Le Villard, who, as you probably know, has come
rather to the front lately in the French detective service.  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.  The case was concerned with a will, and possessed some
features of interest.  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.  Here is the letter which I had
this morning acknowledging my assistance."  He tossed over, as he
spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper. I glanced my eyes down
it, catching a profusion of notes of admiration, with stray
"magnifiques," "coup-de-maitres," and "tours-de-force," all testifying
to the ardent admiration of the Frenchman.

"He speaks as a pupil to his master," said I.

"Oh, he rates my assistance too highly," said Sherlock Holmes, lightly.
"He has considerable gifts himself.  He possesses two out of the three
qualities necessary for the ideal detective.  He has the power of
observation and that of deduction.  He is only wanting in knowledge;
and that may come in time.  He is now translating my small works into
French."

"Your works?"

"Oh, didn't you know?" he cried, laughing.  "Yes, I have been guilty of
several monographs.  They are all upon technical subjects.  Here, for
example, is one 'Upon the Distinction between the Ashes of the Various
Tobaccoes.'  In it I enumerate a hundred and forty forms of cigar-,
cigarette-, and pipe-tobacco, with colored plates illustrating the
difference in the ash.  It is a point which is continually turning up
in criminal trials, and which is sometimes of supreme importance as a
clue.  If you can say definitely, for example, that some murder has
been done by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously
narrows your field of search.  To the trained eye 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."

"You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae," I remarked.

"I appreciate their importance.  Here is my monograph upon the tracing
of footsteps, with some remarks upon the uses of plaster of Paris as a
preserver of impresses. 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.  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.  But I weary you with my
hobby."

"Not at all," I answered, earnestly.  "It is of the greatest interest
to me, especially since I have had the opportunity of observing your
practical application of it.  But you spoke just now of observation and
deduction.  Surely the one to some extent implies the other."

"Why, hardly," he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his arm-chair,
and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe.  "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."

"Right!" said I.  "Right on both points!  But I confess that I don't
see how you arrived at it.  It was a sudden impulse upon my part, and I
have mentioned it to no one."

"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.
Observation tells me that you have a little reddish mould adhering to
your instep.  Just opposite the Seymour 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.  The earth is of
this peculiar reddish tint which is found, as far as I know, nowhere
else in the neighborhood.  So much is observation.  The rest is
deduction."

"How, then, did you deduce the telegram?"

"Why, of course I knew that you had not written a letter, since I sat
opposite to you all morning.  I see also in your open desk there that
you have a sheet of stamps and a thick bundle of post-cards.  What
could you go into the post-office for, then, but to send a wire?
Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the
truth."

"In this case it certainly is so," I replied, after a little thought.
"The thing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. Would you think
me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more severe test?"

"On the contrary," he answered, "it would prevent me from taking a
second dose of cocaine.  I should be delighted to look into any problem
which you might submit to me."

"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.  Now, I have here
a watch which has recently come into my possession.  Would you have the
kindness to let me have an opinion upon the character or habits of the
late owner?"

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.  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.  I could hardly keep from
smiling at his crestfallen face when he finally snapped the case to and
handed it back.

"There are hardly any data," he remarked.  "The watch has been recently
cleaned, which robs me of my most suggestive facts."

"You are right," I answered.  "It was cleaned before being sent to me."
In my heart I accused my companion of putting forward a most lame and
impotent excuse to cover his failure.  What data could he expect from
an uncleaned watch?

"Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely barren," he
observed, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy, lack-lustre eyes.
"Subject to your correction, I should judge that the watch belonged to
your elder brother, who inherited it from your father."

"That you gather, no doubt, from the H. W. upon the back?"

"Quite so.  The W. suggests your own name.  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.  Jewelry usually descends to the
eldest son, and he is most likely to have the same name as the father.
Your father has, if I remember right, been dead many years.  It has,
therefore, been in the hands of your eldest brother."

"Right, so far," said I.  "Anything else?"

"He was a man of untidy habits,--very untidy and careless.  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.  That is all I can gather."

I sprang from my chair and limped impatiently about the room with
considerable bitterness in my heart.

"This is unworthy of you, Holmes," I said.  "I could not have believed
that you would have descended to this.  You have made inquires into the
history of my unhappy brother, and you now pretend to deduce this
knowledge in some fanciful way.  You cannot expect me to believe that
you have read all this from his old watch!  It is unkind, and, to speak
plainly, has a touch of charlatanism in it."

"My dear doctor," said he, kindly, "pray accept my apologies. Viewing
the matter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten how personal and
painful a thing it might be to you.  I assure you, however, that I
never even knew that you had a brother until you handed me the watch."

"Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get these facts?
They are absolutely correct in every particular."

"Ah, that is good luck.  I could only say what was the balance of
probability.  I did not at all expect to be so accurate."

"But it was not mere guess-work?"

"No, no:  I never guess.  It is a shocking habit,--destructive to the
logical faculty.  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.  For example, I began by stating that your
brother was careless.  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.  Surely it is no
great feat to assume that a man who treats a fifty-guinea watch so
cavalierly must be a careless man.  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."

I nodded, to show that I followed his reasoning.

"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.  It is more handy than a label, as there is no risk
of the number being lost or transposed.  There are no less than four
such numbers visible to my lens on the inside of this case.
Inference,--that your brother was often at low water.  Secondary
inference,--that he had occasional bursts of prosperity, or he could
not have redeemed the pledge. Finally, I ask you to look at the inner
plate, which contains the key-hole.  Look at the thousands of scratches
all round the hole,--marks where the key has slipped.  What sober man's
key could have scored those grooves?  But you will never see a
drunkard's watch without them.  He winds it at night, and he leaves
these traces of his unsteady hand.  Where is the mystery in all this?"

"It is as clear as daylight," I answered.  "I regret the injustice
which I did you.  I should have had more faith in your marvellous
faculty.  May I ask whether you have any professional inquiry on foot
at present?"

"None.  Hence the cocaine.  I cannot live without brain-work. What else
is there to live for?  Stand at the window here.  Was ever such a
dreary, dismal, unprofitable world?  See how the yellow fog swirls down
the street and drifts across the dun-colored houses.  What could be
more hopelessly prosaic and material?  What is the use of having
powers, doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them?  Crime
is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those
which are commonplace have any function upon earth."

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.

"A young lady for you, sir," she said, addressing my companion.

"Miss Mary Morstan," he read.  "Hum!  I have no recollection of the
name.  Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson.  Don't go, doctor.
I should prefer that you remain."



Chapter II

The Statement of the Case

Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure
of manner.  She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved,
and dressed in the most perfect taste.  There was, however, a plainness
and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a suggestion of
limited means.  The dress was a sombre grayish 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.  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.  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. I could
not but observe that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed
for her, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign
of intense inward agitation.

"I have come to you, Mr. Holmes," she said, "because you once enabled
my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a little domestic
complication.  She was much impressed by your kindness and skill."

"Mrs. Cecil Forrester," he repeated thoughtfully.  "I believe that I
was of some slight service to her.  The case, however, as I remember
it, was a very simple one."

"She did not think so.  But at least you cannot say the same of mine.
I can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly inexplicable,
than the situation in which I find myself."

Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened.  He leaned forward in
his chair with an expression of extraordinary concentration upon his
clear-cut, hawklike features.  "State your case," said he, in brisk,
business tones.

I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.  "You will, I am sure,
excuse me," I said, rising from my chair.

To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to detain me.
"If your friend," she said, "would be good enough to stop, he might be
of inestimable service to me."

I relapsed into my chair.

"Briefly," she continued, "the facts are these.  My father was an
officer in an Indian regiment who sent me home when I was quite a
child.  My mother was dead, and I had no relative in England.  I was
placed, however, in a comfortable boarding establishment at Edinburgh,
and there I remained until I was seventeen years of age.  In the year
1878 my father, who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve
months' leave and came home.  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.  His message, as I remember, was full of
kindness and love.  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 yet returned. I waited all day without
news of him.  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.  Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no
word has ever been heard of my unfortunate father.  He came home with
his heart full of hope, to find some peace, some comfort, and
instead--"  She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short
the sentence.

"The date?" asked Holmes, opening his note-book.

"He disappeared upon the 3d of December, 1878,--nearly ten years ago."

"His luggage?"

"Remained at the hotel.  There was nothing in it to suggest a
clue,--some clothes, some books, and a considerable number of
curiosities from the Andaman Islands.  He had been one of the officers
in charge of the convict-guard there."

"Had he any friends in town?"

"Only one that we know of,--Major Sholto, of his own regiment, the 34th
Bombay Infantry.  The major had retired some little time before, and
lived at Upper Norwood.  We communicated with him, of course, but he
did not even know that his brother officer was in England."

"A singular case," remarked Holmes.

"I have not yet described to you the most singular part.  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.  There was
no name or address appended.  I had at that time just entered the
family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of governess.  By her
advice I published my address in the advertisement column.  The same
day there arrived through the post a small card-board box addressed to
me, which I found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl.  No word
of writing was enclosed.  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.  They have been pronounced by an
expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable value.  You can see
for yourselves that they are very handsome."  She opened a flat box as
she spoke, and showed me six of the finest pearls that I had ever seen.

"Your statement is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes.  "Has
anything else occurred to you?"

"Yes, and no later than to-day.  That is why I have come to you. This
morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for
yourself."

"Thank you," said Holmes.  "The envelope too, please.  Postmark,
London, S.W.  Date, July 7.  Hum!  Man's thumb-mark on
corner,--probably postman.  Best quality paper.  Envelopes at sixpence
a packet.  Particular man in his stationery.  No address.  'Be at the
third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre to-night at seven
o'clock.  If you are distrustful, bring two friends.  You are a wronged
woman, and shall have justice.  Do not bring police.  If you do, all
will be in vain.  Your unknown friend.'  Well, really, this is a very
pretty little mystery. What do you intend to do, Miss Morstan?"

"That is exactly what I want to ask you."

"Then we shall most certainly go.  You and I and--yes, why, Dr. Watson
is the very man.  Your correspondent says two friends.  He and I have
worked together before."

"But would he come?" she asked, with something appealing in her voice
and expression.

"I should be proud and happy," said I, fervently, "if I can be of any
service."

"You are both very kind," she answered.  "I have led a retired life,
and have no friends whom I could appeal to.  If I am here at six it
will do, I suppose?"

"You must not be later," said Holmes.  "There is one other point,
however.  Is this handwriting the same as that upon the pearl-box
addresses?"

"I have them here," she answered, producing half a dozen pieces of
paper.

"You are certainly a model client.  You have the correct intuition.
Let us see, now."  He spread out the papers upon the table, and gave
little darting glances from one to the other. "They are disguised
hands, except the letter," he said, presently, "but there can be no
question as to the authorship. See how the irrepressible Greek e will
break out, and see the twirl of the final s.  They are undoubtedly by
the same person. I should not like to suggest false hopes, Miss
Morstan, but is there any resemblance between this hand and that of
your father?"

"Nothing could be more unlike."

"I expected to hear you say so.  We shall look out for you, then, at
six.  Pray allow me to keep the papers.  I may look into the matter
before then.  It is only half-past three.  Au revoir, then."

"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.  Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly
down the street, until the gray turban and white feather were but a
speck in the sombre crowd.

"What a very attractive woman!" I exclaimed, turning to my companion.

He had lit his pipe again, and was leaning back with drooping eyelids.
"Is she?" he said, languidly.  "I did not observe."

"You really are an automaton,--a calculating-machine!" I cried. "There
is something positively inhuman in you at times."

He smiled gently.  "It is of the first importance," he said, "not to
allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities.  A client is to
me a mere unit,--a factor in a problem.  The emotional qualities are
antagonistic to clear reasoning.  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 repellant man of my acquaintance is
a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the
London poor."

"In this case, however--"

"I never make exceptions.  An exception disproves the rule.  Have you
ever had occasion to study character in handwriting?  What do you make
of this fellow's scribble?"

"It is legible and regular," I answered.  "A man of business habits and
some force of character."

Holmes shook his head.  "Look at his long letters," he said. "They
hardly rise above the common herd.  That d might be an a, and that l an
e.  Men of character always differentiate their long letters, however
illegibly they may write.  There is vacillation in his k's and
self-esteem in his capitals.  I am going out now.  I have some few
references to make.  Let me recommend this book,--one of the most
remarkable ever penned.  It is Winwood Reade's 'Martyrdom of Man.'  I
shall be back in an hour."

I sat in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were
far from the daring speculations of the writer.  My mind ran upon our
late visitor,--her smiles, the deep rich tones of her voice, the
strange mystery which overhung her life.  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.  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.  What was I, an army
surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking-account, that I should
dare to think of such things?  She was a unit, a factor,--nothing more.
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.



Chapter III

In Quest of a Solution

It was half-past five before Holmes returned.  He was bright, eager,
and in excellent spirits,--a mood which in his case alternated with
fits of the blackest depression.

"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."

"What! you have solved it already?"

"Well, that would be too much to say. I have discovered a suggestive
fact, that is all.  It is, however, VERY suggestive. The details are
still to be added.  I have just found, on consulting the back files of
the Times, that Major Sholto, of Upper Norword, late of the 34th Bombay
Infantry, died upon the 28th of April, 1882."

"I may be very obtuse, Holmes, but I fail to see what this suggests."

"No?  You surprise me.  Look at it in this way, then.  Captain Morstan
disappears.  The only person in London whom he could have visited is
Major Sholto.  Major Sholto denies having heard that he was in London.
Four years later Sholto dies.  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.  What wrong can it refer to except this deprivation of
her father?  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?  Have you any alternative
theory which will meet the facts?"

"But what a strange compensation!  And how strangely made!  Why, too,
should he write a letter now, rather than six years ago? Again, the
letter speaks of giving her justice.  What justice can she have?  It is
too much to suppose that her father is still alive.  There is no other
injustice in her case that you know of."

"There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties," said
Sherlock Holmes, pensively.  "But our expedition of to-night will solve
them all.  Ah, here is a four-wheeler, and Miss Morstan is inside.  Are
you all ready?  Then we had better go down, for it is a little past the
hour."

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.  It
was clear that he thought that our night's work might be a serious one.

Miss Morstan was muffled in a dark cloak, and her sensitive face was
composed, but pale.  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.

"Major Sholto was a very particular friend of papa's," she said. "His
letters were full of allusions to the major.  He and papa were in
command of the troops at the Andaman Islands, so they were thrown a
great deal together.  By the way, a curious paper was found in papa's
desk which no one could understand.  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.  It is here."

Holmes unfolded the paper carefully and smoothed it out upon his knee.
He then very methodically examined it all over with his double lens.

"It is paper of native Indian manufacture," he remarked.  "It has at
some time been pinned to a board.  The diagram upon it appears to be a
plan of part of a large building with numerous halls, corridors, and
passages.  At one point is a small cross done in red ink, and above it
is '3.37 from left,' in faded pencil-writing. In the left-hand corner
is a curious hieroglyphic like four crosses in a line with their arms
touching.  Beside it is written, in very rough and coarse characters,
'The sign of the four,--Jonathan Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan,
Dost Akbar.' No, I confess that I do not see how this bears upon the
matter. Yet it is evidently a document of importance.  It has been kept
carefully in a pocket-book; for the one side is as clean as the other."

"It was in his pocket-book that we found it."

"Preserve it carefully, then, Miss Morstan, for it may prove to be of
use to us.  I begin to suspect that this matter may turn out to be much
deeper and more subtle than I at first supposed. I must reconsider my
ideas."  He leaned back in the cab, and I could see by his drawn brow
and his vacant eye that he was thinking intently.  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.

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.
Mud-colored clouds drooped sadly over the muddy streets.  Down the
Strand the lamps were but misty splotches of diffused light which threw
a feeble circular glimmer upon the slimy pavement.  The yellow glare
from the shop-windows streamed out into the steamy, vaporous air, and
threw a murky, shifting radiance across the crowded thoroughfare.
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.  Like all human kind,
they flitted from the gloom into the light, and so back into the gloom
once more. 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.  I could see from Miss Morstan's
manner that she was suffering from the same feeling.  Holmes alone
could rise superior to petty influences.  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.

At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already thick at the
side-entrances.  In front a continuous stream of hansoms and
four-wheelers were rattling up, discharging their cargoes of
shirt-fronted men and beshawled, bediamonded women.  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.

"Are you the parties who come with Miss Morstan?" he asked.

"I am Miss Morstan, and these two gentlemen are my friends," said she.

He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and questioning eyes upon us.
"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."

"I give you my word on that," she answered.

He gave a shrill whistle, on which a street Arab led across a
four-wheeler and opened the door.  The man who had addressed us mounted
to the box, while we took our places inside.  We had hardly done so
before the driver whipped up his horse, and we plunged away at a
furious pace through the foggy streets.

The situation was a curious one.  We were driving to an unknown place,
on an unknown errand.  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.
Miss Morstan's demeanor was as resolute and collected as ever.  I
endeavored 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.  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.  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.  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.

"Rochester Row," said he.  "Now Vincent Square.  Now we come out on the
Vauxhall Bridge Road.  We are making for the Surrey side, apparently.
Yes, I thought so.  Now we are on the bridge.  You can catch glimpses
of the river."

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.

"Wordsworth Road," said my companion.  "Priory Road.  Lark Hall Lane.
Stockwell Place.  Robert Street.  Cold Harbor Lane.  Our quest does not
appear to take us to very fashionable regions."

We had, indeed, reached a questionable and forbidding neighborhood.
Long lines of dull brick houses were only relieved by the coarse glare
and tawdry brilliancy of public houses at the corner.  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.  At last the cab drew up at the third house in a new terrace.
None of the other houses were inhabited, and that at which we stopped
was as dark as its neighbors, save for a single glimmer in the kitchen
window.  On our knocking, however, the door was instantly thrown open
by a Hindoo servant clad in a yellow turban, white loose-fitting
clothes, and a yellow sash.  There was something strangely incongruous
in this Oriental figure framed in the commonplace door-way of a
third-rate suburban dwelling-house.

"The Sahib awaits you," said he, and even as he spoke there came a high
piping voice from some inner room.  "Show them in to me, khitmutgar,"
it cried.  "Show them straight in to me."



Chapter IV

The Story of the Bald-Headed Man

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.  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.  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.
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.  In spite of his
obtrusive baldness, he gave the impression of youth.  In point of fact
he had just turned his thirtieth year.

"Your servant, Miss Morstan," he kept repeating, in a thin, high voice.
"Your servant, gentlemen.  Pray step into my little sanctum.  A small
place, miss, but furnished to my own liking. An oasis of art in the
howling desert of South London."

We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment into which he
invited us.  In that sorry house it looked as out of place as a diamond
of the first water in a setting of brass.  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.  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.  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.  A lamp in the fashion of a
silver dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre
of the room.  As it burned it filled the air with a subtle and aromatic
odor.

"Mr. Thaddeus Sholto," said the little man, still jerking and smiling.
"That is my name.  You are Miss Morstan, of course. And these
gentlemen--"

"This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this is Dr. Watson."

"A doctor, eh?" cried he, much excited.  "Have you your stethoscope?
Might I ask you--would you have the kindness?  I have grave doubts as
to my mitral valve, if you would be so very good.  The aortic I may
rely upon, but I should value your opinion upon the mitral."

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.  "It appears to be normal," I said.  "You have no
cause for uneasiness."

"You will excuse my anxiety, Miss Morstan," he remarked, airily. "I am
a great sufferer, and I have long had suspicions as to that valve.  I
am delighted to hear that they are unwarranted.  Had your father, Miss
Morstan, refrained from throwing a strain upon his heart, he might have
been alive now."

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.  Miss Morstan
sat down, and her face grew white to the lips.  "I knew in my heart
that he was dead," said she.

"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.
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.  The three of
us can show a bold front to Brother Bartholomew.  But let us have no
outsiders,--no police or officials.  We can settle everything
satisfactorily among ourselves, without any interference.  Nothing
would annoy Brother Bartholomew more than any publicity."  He sat down
upon a low settee and blinked at us inquiringly with his weak, watery
blue eyes.

"For my part," said Holmes, "whatever you may choose to say will go no
further."

I nodded to show my agreement.

"That is well!  That is well!" said he.  "May I offer you a glass of
Chianti, Miss Morstan?  Or of Tokay?  I keep no other wines. Shall I
open a flask?  No?  Well, then, I trust that you have no objection to
tobacco-smoke, to the mild balsamic odor of the Eastern tobacco.  I am
a little nervous, and I find my hookah an invaluable sedative."  He
applied a taper to the great bowl, and the smoke bubbled merrily
through the rose-water.  We sat all three in a semicircle, 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.

"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. I took the
liberty, therefore, of making an appointment in such a way that my man
Williams might be able to see you first.  I have complete confidence in
his discretion, and he had orders, if he were dissatisfied, to proceed
no further in the matter.  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 unaesthetic than a policeman.  I have a natural
shrinking from all forms of rough materialism. I seldom come in contact
with the rough crowd.  I live, as you see, with some little atmosphere
of elegance around me.  I may call myself a patron of the arts.  It is
my weakness.  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.  I am partial to the
modern French school."

"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.  It is
very late, and I should desire the interview to be as short as
possible."

"At the best it must take some time," he answered; "for we shall
certainly have to go to Norwood and see Brother Bartholomew.  We shall
all go and try if we can get the better of Brother Bartholomew.  He is
very angry with me for taking the course which has seemed right to me.
I had quite high words with him last night.  You cannot imagine what a
terrible fellow he is when he is angry."

"If we are to go to Norwood it would perhaps be as well to start at
once," I ventured to remark.

He laughed until his ears were quite red.  "That would hardly do," he
cried.  "I don't know what he would say if I brought you in that sudden
way.  No, I must prepare you by showing you how we all stand to each
other. In the first place, I must tell you that there are several
points in the story of which I am myself ignorant.  I can only lay the
facts before you as far as I know them myself.

"My father was, as you may have guessed, Major John Sholto, once of the
Indian army.  He retired some eleven years ago, and came to live at
Pondicherry Lodge in Upper Norwood.  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.  With these
advantages he bought himself a house, and lived in great luxury.  My
twin-brother Bartholomew and I were the only children.

"I very well remember the sensation which was caused by the
disappearance of Captain Morstan.  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.  He used to join in our speculations
as to what could have happened.  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.

"We did know, however, that some mystery--some positive
danger--overhung our father.  He was very fearful of going out alone,
and he always employed two prize-fighters to act as porters at
Pondicherry Lodge.  Williams, who drove you to-night, was one of them.
He was once light-weight champion of England.  Our father would never
tell us what it was he feared, but he had a most marked aversion to men
with wooden legs.  On one occasion he actually fired his revolver at a
wooden-legged man, who proved to be a harmless tradesman canvassing for
orders.  We had to pay a large sum to hush the matter up.  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.

"Early in 1882 my father received a letter from India which was a great
shock to him.  He nearly fainted at the breakfast-table when he opened
it, and from that day he sickened to his death. 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. 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.

"When we entered his room he was propped up with pillows and breathing
heavily.  He besought us to lock the door and to come upon either side
of the bed.  Then, grasping our hands, he made a remarkable statement
to us, in a voice which was broken as much by emotion as by pain.  I
shall try and give it to you in his own very words.

"'I have only one thing,' he said, 'which weighs upon my mind at this
supreme moment.  It is my treatment of poor Morstan's orphan.  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.
And yet I have made no use of it myself,--so blind and foolish a thing
is avarice.  The mere feeling of possession has been so dear to me that
I could not bear to share it with another.  See that chaplet dipped
with pearls beside the quinine-bottle.  Even that I could not bear to
part with, although I had got it out with the design of sending it to
her. You, my sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure. But
send her nothing--not even the chaplet--until I am gone. After all, men
have been as bad as this and have recovered.

"'I will tell you how Morstan died,' he continued.  'He had suffered
for years from a weak heart, but he concealed it from every one.  I
alone knew it.  When in India, he and I, through a remarkable chain of
circumstances, came into possession of a considerable treasure.  I
brought it over to England, and on the night of Morstan's arrival he
came straight over here to claim his share.  He walked over from the
station, and was admitted by my faithful Lal Chowdar, who is now dead.
Morstan and I had a difference of opinion as to the division of the
treasure, and we came to heated words.  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.  When I stooped over him
I found, to my horror, that he was dead.

"'For a long time I sat half distracted, wondering what I should do.
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.  His death at the moment of a quarrel, and the gash in
his head, would be black against me. Again, an official inquiry could
not be made without bringing out some facts about the treasure, which I
was particularly anxious to keep secret. He had told me that no soul
upon earth knew where he had gone.  There seemed to be no necessity why
any soul ever should know.

"'I was still pondering over the matter, when, looking up, I saw my
servant, Lal Chowdar, in the doorway.  He stole in and bolted the door
behind him.  "Do not fear, Sahib," he said.  "No one need know that you
have killed him.  Let us hide him away, and who is the wiser?" "I did
not kill him," said I.  Lal Chowdar shook his head and smiled.  "I
heard it all, Sahib," said he.  "I heard you quarrel, and I heard the
blow.  But my lips are sealed. All are asleep in the house.  Let us put
him away together." That was enough to decide me.  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?  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.  You will see from
what I say that I can hardly be blamed in the matter.  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.  I wish
you, therefore, to make restitution.  Put your ears down to my mouth.
The treasure is hidden in--'  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!  For
Christ's sake keep him out!'  We both stared round at the window behind
us upon which his gaze was fixed.  A face was looking in at us out of
the darkness.  We could see the whitening of the nose where it was
pressed against the glass.  It was a bearded, hairy face, with wild
cruel eyes and an expression of concentrated malevolence. My brother
and I rushed towards the window, but the man was gone.  When we
returned to my father his head had dropped and his pulse had ceased to
beat.

"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.  But for that one trace, we might have thought that our
imaginations had conjured up that wild, fierce face.  We soon, however,
had another and a more striking proof that there were secret agencies
at work all round us.  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.  What the phrase meant, or who our secret
visitor may have been, we never knew.  As far as we can judge, none of
my father's property had been actually stolen, though everything had
been turned out.  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."

The little man stopped to relight his hookah and puffed thoughtfully
for a few moments.  We had all sat absorbed, listening to his
extraordinary narrative.  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.  She rallied however, on drinking a glass of
water which I quietly poured out for her from a Venetian carafe upon
the side-table.  Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair with an
abstracted expression and the lids drawn low over his glittering eyes.
As I glanced at him I could not but think how on that very day he had
complained bitterly of the commonplaceness of life.  Here at least was
a problem which would tax his sagacity to the utmost.  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.

"My brother and I," said he, "were, as you may imagine, much excited as
to the treasure which my father had spoken of.  For weeks and for
months we dug and delved in every part of the garden, without
discovering its whereabouts.  It was maddening to think that the
hiding-place was on his very lips at the moment that he died.  We could
judge the splendor of the missing riches by the chaplet which he had
taken out.  Over this chaplet my brother Bartholomew and I had some
little discussion.  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.  He thought, too, that
if we parted with the chaplet it might give rise to gossip and finally
bring us into trouble.  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."

"It was a kindly thought," said our companion, earnestly.  "It was
extremely good of you."

The little man waved his hand deprecatingly.  "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.  We had plenty
of money ourselves.  I desired no more. Besides, it would have been
such bad taste to have treated a young lady in so scurvy a fashion. 'Le
mauvais gout mene au crime.'  The French have a very neat way of
putting these things. 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.
Yesterday, however, I learn that an event of extreme importance has
occurred.  The treasure has been discovered.  I instantly communicated
with Miss Morstan, and it only remains for us to drive out to Norwood
and demand our share.  I explained my views last night to Brother
Bartholomew:  so we shall be expected, if not welcome, visitors."

Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased, and sat twitching on his luxurious settee.
We all remained silent, with our thoughts upon the new development
which the mysterious business had taken.  Holmes was the first to
spring to his feet.

"You have done well, sir, from first to last," said he.  "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.  But, as Miss Morstan
remarked just now, it is late, and we had best put the matter through
without delay."

Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled up the tube of his
hookah, and produced from behind a curtain a very long befrogged
topcoat with Astrakhan collar and cuffs.  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.  "My health is somewhat fragile," he remarked, as he led the way
down the passage.  "I am compelled to be a valetudinarian."

Our cab was awaiting us outside, and our programme was evidently
prearranged, for the driver started off at once at a rapid pace.
Thaddeus Sholto talked incessantly, in a voice which rose high above
the rattle of the wheels.

"Bartholomew is a clever fellow," said he.  "How do you think he found
out where the treasure was?  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.  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. There were four feet unaccounted for.  These
could only be at the top of the building.  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.  In the centre stood the
treasure-chest, resting upon two rafters.  He lowered it through the
hole, and there it lies.  He computes the value of the jewels at not
less than half a million sterling."

At the mention of this gigantic sum we all stared at one another
open-eyed.  Miss Morstan, could we secure her rights, would change from
a needy governess to the richest heiress in England. 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.  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.  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.  I trust that he may not
remember any of the answers which I gave him that night.  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. 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.

"This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry Lodge," said Mr. Thaddeus Sholto,
as he handed her out.



Chapter V

The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge

It was nearly eleven o'clock when we reached this final stage of our
night's adventures.  We had left the damp fog of the great city behind
us, and the night was fairly fine.  A warm wind blew from the westward,
and heavy clouds moved slowly across the sky, with half a moon peeping
occasionally through the rifts.  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.

Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds, and was girt round with a
very high stone wall topped with broken glass.  A single narrow
iron-clamped door formed the only means of entrance. On this our guide
knocked with a peculiar postman-like rat-tat.

"Who is there?" cried a gruff voice from within.

"It is I, McMurdo.  You surely know my knock by this time."

There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of keys. 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.

"That you, Mr. Thaddeus?  But who are the others?  I had no orders
about them from the master."

"No, McMurdo?  You surprise me!  I told my brother last night that I
should bring some friends."

"He ain't been out o' his room to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I have no
orders.  You know very well that I must stick to regulations. I can let
you in, but your friends must just stop where they are."

This was an unexpected obstacle.  Thaddeus Sholto looked about him in a
perplexed and helpless manner.  "This is too bad of you, McMurdo!" he
said.  "If I guarantee them, that is enough for you. There is the young
lady, too.  She cannot wait on the public road at this hour."

"Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus," said the porter, inexorably.  "Folk may be
friends o' yours, and yet no friends o' the master's.  He pays me well
to do my duty, and my duty I'll do.  I don't know none o' your friends."

"Oh, yes you do, McMurdo," cried Sherlock Holmes, genially.  "I don't
think you can have forgotten me.  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?"

"Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" roared the prize-fighter.  "God's truth! how
could I have mistook you?  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. Ah, you're one that has wasted
your gifts, you have!  You might have aimed high, if you had joined the
fancy."

"You see, Watson, if all else fails me I have still one of the
scientific professions open to me," said Holmes, laughing.  "Our friend
won't keep us out in the cold now, I am sure."

"In you come, sir, in you come,--you and your friends," he answered.
"Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus, but orders are very strict. Had to be
certain of your friends before I let them in."

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.  The vast
size of the building, with its gloom and its deathly silence, struck a
chill to the heart.  Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the
lantern quivered and rattled in his hand.

"I cannot understand it," he said.  "There must be some mistake. I
distinctly told Bartholomew that we should be here, and yet there is no
light in his window.  I do not know what to make of it."

"Does he always guard the premises in this way?" asked Holmes.

"Yes; he has followed my father's custom.  He was the favorite son, you
know, and I sometimes think that my father may have told him more than
he ever told me.  That is Bartholomew's window up there where the
moonshine strikes.  It is quite bright, but there is no light from
within, I think."

"None," said Holmes.  "But I see the glint of a light in that little
window beside the door."

"Ah, that is the housekeeper's room.  That is where old Mrs. Bernstone
sits.  She can tell us all about it.  But perhaps you would not mind
waiting here for a minute or two, for if we all go in together and she
has no word of our coming she may be alarmed. But hush! what is that?"

He held up the lantern, and his hand shook until the circles of light
flickered and wavered all round us.  Miss Morstan seized my wrist, and
we all stood with thumping hearts, straining our ears. 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.

"It is Mrs. Bernstone," said Sholto.  "She is the only woman in the
house.  Wait here.  I shall be back in a moment."  He hurried for the
door, and knocked in his peculiar way.  We could see a tall old woman
admit him, and sway with pleasure at the very sight of him.

"Oh, Mr. Thaddeus, sir, I am so glad you have come!  I am so glad you
have come, Mr. Thaddeus, sir!"  We heard her reiterated rejoicings
until the door was closed and her voice died away into a muffled
monotone.

Our guide had left us the lantern.  Holmes swung it slowly round, and
peered keenly at the house, and at the great rubbish-heaps which
cumbered the grounds.  Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand
was in mine.  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.  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.  So we stood
hand in hand, like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for
all the dark things that surrounded us.

"What a strange place!" she said, looking round.

"It looks as though all the moles in England had been let loose in it.
I have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat,
where the prospectors had been at work."

"And from the same cause," said Holmes.  "These are the traces of the
treasure-seekers.  You must remember that they were six years looking
for it.  No wonder that the grounds look like a gravel-pit."

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.

"There is something amiss with Bartholomew!" he cried.  "I am
frightened!  My nerves cannot stand it."  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.

"Come into the house," said Holmes, in his crisp, firm way.

"Yes, do!" pleaded Thaddeus Sholto.  "I really do not feel equal to
giving directions."

We all followed him into the housekeeper's room, which stood upon the
left-hand side of the passage.  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.

"God bless your sweet calm face!" she cried, with an hysterical sob.
"It does me good to see you.  Oh, but I have been sorely tried this
day!"

Our companion patted her thin, work-worn hand, and murmured some few
words of kindly womanly comfort which brought the color back into the
others bloodless cheeks.

"Master has locked himself in and will not answer me," she explained.
"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 key-hole.  You must go up, Mr. Thaddeus,--you
must go up and look for yourself.  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."

Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way, for Thaddeus Sholto's
teeth were chattering in his head.  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.  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 cocoa-nut matting which served
as a stair-carpet. He walked slowly from step to step, holding the
lamp, and shooting keen glances to right and left.  Miss Morstan had
remained behind with the frightened housekeeper.

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.  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.  The third door was that
which we were seeking.  Holmes knocked without receiving any answer,
and then tried to turn the handle and force it open.  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.  The key being turned, however, the
hole was not entirely closed.  Sherlock Holmes bent down to it, and
instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of the breath.

"There is something devilish in this, Watson," said he, more moved than
I had ever before seen him.  "What do you make of it?"

I stooped to the hole, and recoiled in horror.  Moonlight was streaming
into the room, and it was bright with a vague and shifty radiance.
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.  There was the same high, shining head, the same
circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance.  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.  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.  Then I recalled to mind that he had mentioned to us
that his brother and he were twins.

"This is terrible!" I said to Holmes.  "What is to be done?"

"The door must come down," he answered, and, springing against it, he
put all his weight upon the lock.  It creaked and groaned, but did not
yield.  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.

It appeared to have been fitted up as a chemical laboratory.  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.  In the corners stood carboys of acid in wicker baskets.
One of these appeared to leak or to have been broken, for a stream of
dark-colored liquid had trickled out from it, and the air was heavy
with a peculiarly pungent, tar-like odor.  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.  At the foot of the steps a long coil of rope was
thrown carelessly together.

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.  He was stiff and cold, and
had clearly been dead many hours.  It seemed to me that not only his
features but all his limbs were twisted and turned in the most
fantastic fashion.  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.  Beside it was a torn sheet
of note-paper with some words scrawled upon it.  Holmes glanced at it,
and then handed it to me.

"You see," he said, with a significant raising of the eyebrows.

In the light of the lantern I read, with a thrill of horror, "The sign
of the four."

"In God's name, what does it all mean?" I asked.

"It means murder," said he, stooping over the dead man.  "Ah, I
expected it.  Look here!"  He pointed to what looked like a long, dark
thorn stuck in the skin just above the ear.

"It looks like a thorn," said I.

"It is a thorn.  You may pick it out.  But be careful, for it is
poisoned."

I took it up between my finger and thumb.  It came away from the skin
so readily that hardly any mark was left behind.  One tiny speck of
blood showed where the puncture had been.

"This is all an insoluble mystery to me," said I.  "It grows darker
instead of clearer."

"On the contrary," he answered, "it clears every instant.  I only
require a few missing links to have an entirely connected case."

We had almost forgotten our companion's presence since we entered the
chamber.  He was still standing in the door-way, the very picture of
terror, wringing his hands and moaning to himself. Suddenly, however,
he broke out into a sharp, querulous cry.

"The treasure is gone!" he said.  "They have robbed him of the
treasure!  There is the hole through which we lowered it.  I helped him
to do it!  I was the last person who saw him!  I left him here last
night, and I heard him lock the door as I came down-stairs."

"What time was that?"

"It was ten o'clock.  And now he is dead, and the police will be called
in, and I shall be suspected of having had a hand in it. Oh, yes, I am
sure I shall.  But you don't think so, gentlemen? Surely you don't
think that it was I?  Is it likely that I would have brought you here
if it were I?  Oh, dear! oh, dear!  I know that I shall go mad!"  He
jerked his arms and stamped his feet in a kind of convulsive frenzy.

"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 this matter to the police.  Offer to assist them in
every way.  We shall wait here until your return."

The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashion, and we heard him
stumbling down the stairs in the dark.



Chapter VI

Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration

"Now, Watson," said Holmes, rubbing his hands, "we have half an hour to
ourselves.  Let us make good use of it.  My case is, as I have told
you, almost complete; but we must not err on the side of
over-confidence.  Simple as the case seems now, there may be something
deeper underlying it."

"Simple!" I ejaculated.

"Surely," said he, with something of the air of a clinical professor
expounding to his class.  "Just sit in the corner there, that your
footprints may not complicate matters.  Now to work!  In the first
place, how did these folk come, and how did they go?  The door has not
been opened since last night.  How of the window?"  He carried the lamp
across to it, muttering his observations aloud the while, but
addressing them to himself rather than to me.  "Window is snibbed on
the inner side. Framework is solid.  No hinges at the side.  Let us
open it.  No water-pipe near.  Roof quite out of reach.  Yet a man has
mounted by the window. It rained a little last night.  Here is the
print of a foot in mould upon the sill.  And here is a circular muddy
mark, and here again upon the floor, and here again by the table. See
here, Watson!  This is really a very pretty demonstration."

I looked at the round, well-defined muddy discs.  "This is not a
footmark," said I.

"It is something much more valuable to us. It is the impression of a
wooden stump.  You see here on the sill is the boot-mark, a heavy boot
with the broad metal heel, and beside it is the mark of the timber-toe."

"It is the wooden-legged man."

"Quite so.  But there has been some one else,--a very able and
efficient ally.  Could you scale that wall, doctor?"

I looked out of the open window.  The moon still shone brightly on that
angle of the house.  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 brick-work.

"It is absolutely impossible," I answered.

"Without aid it is so.  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.  Then, I think, if you
were an active man, You might swarm up, wooden leg and all.  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.  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.  His hands were far from horny.  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."

"This is all very well," said I, "but the thing becomes more
unintelligible than ever.  How about this mysterious ally?  How came he
into the room?"

"Yes, the ally!" repeated Holmes, pensively.  "There are features of
interest about this ally.  He lifts the case from the regions of the
commonplace.  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."

"How came he, then?"  I reiterated.  "The door is locked, the window is
inaccessible.  Was it through the chimney?"

"The grate is much too small," he answered.  "I had already considered
that possibility."

"How then?" I persisted.

"You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head.  "How often
have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible
whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth?  We know that
he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney.  We also
know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no
concealment possible. Whence, then, did he come?"

"He came through the hole in the roof," I cried.

"Of course he did.  He must have done so. 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."

He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with either hand, he swung
himself up into the garret.  Then, lying on his face, he reached down
for the lamp and held it while I followed him.

The chamber in which we found ourselves was about ten feet one way and
six the other.  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.  The roof ran up to an apex, and was evidently the inner shell
of the true roof of the house.  There was no furniture of any sort, and
the accumulated dust of years lay thick upon the floor.

"Here you are, you see," said Sherlock Holmes, putting his hand against
the sloping wall.  "This is a trap-door which leads out on to the roof.
I can press it back, and here is the roof itself, sloping at a gentle
angle.  This, then, is the way by which Number One entered.  Let us see
if we can find any other traces of his individuality."

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.
For myself, as I followed his gaze my skin was cold under my clothes.
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.

"Holmes," I said, in a whisper, "a child has done the horrid thing."

He had recovered his self-possession in an instant.  "I was staggered
for the moment," he said, "but the thing is quite natural.  My memory
failed me, or I should have been able to foretell it.  There is nothing
more to be learned here.  Let us go down."

"What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?" I asked, eagerly,
when we had regained the lower room once more.

"My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself," said he, with a touch
of impatience.  "You know my methods.  Apply them, and it will be
instructive to compare results."

"I cannot conceive anything which will cover the facts," I answered.

"It will be clear enough to you soon," he said, in an off-hand way.  "I
think that there is nothing else of importance here, but I will look."
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.  So swift, silent, and furtive were his
movements, like those of a trained blood-hound 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 defense.  As he hunted about, he kept muttering to
himself, and finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight.

"We are certainly in luck," said he.  "We ought to have very little
trouble now.  Number One has had the misfortune to tread in the
creosote.  You can see the outline of the edge of his small foot here
at the side of this evil-smelling mess.  The carboy has been cracked,
You see, and the stuff has leaked out."

"What then?" I asked.

"Why, we have got him, that's all," said he.  "I know a dog that would
follow that scent to the world's end.  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?  It sounds like a sum in the rule of three.
The answer should give us the--But halloo! here are the accredited
representatives of the law."

Heavy steps and the clamor of loud voices were audible from below, and
the hall door shut with a loud crash.

"Before they come," said Holmes, "just put your hand here on this poor
fellow's arm, and here on his leg.  What do you feel?"

"The muscles are as hard as a board," I answered.

"Quite so.  They are in a state of extreme contraction, far exceeding
the usual rigor mortis.  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?"

"Death from some powerful vegetable alkaloid," I answered,--"some
strychnine-like substance which would produce tetanus."

"That was the idea which occurred to me the instant I saw the drawn
muscles of the face.  On getting into the room I at once looked for the
means by which the poison had entered the system. As you saw, I
discovered a thorn which had been driven or shot with no great force
into the scalp.  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.  Now examine the thorn."

I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of the lantern. It was
long, sharp, and black, with a glazed look near the point as though
some gummy substance had dried upon it.  The blunt end had been trimmed
and rounded off with a knife.

"Is that an English thorn?" he asked.

"No, it certainly is not."

"With all these data you should be able to draw some just inference.
But here are the regulars:  so the auxiliary forces may beat a retreat."

As he spoke, the steps which had been coming nearer sounded loudly on
the passage, and a very stout, portly man in a gray suit strode heavily
into the room.  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. He was closely followed by an inspector in uniform,
and by the still palpitating Thaddeus Sholto.

"Here's a business!" he cried, in a muffled, husky voice. "Here's a
pretty business!  But who are all these?  Why, the house seems to be as
full as a rabbit-warren!"

"I think you must recollect me, Mr. Athelney Jones," said Holmes,
quietly.

"Why, of course I do!" he wheezed.  "It's Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the
theorist.  Remember you!  I'll never forget how you lectured us all on
causes and inferences and effects in the Bishopgate jewel case.  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."

"It was a piece of very simple reasoning."

"Oh, come, now, come!  Never be ashamed to own up.  But what is all
this?  Bad business!  Bad business!  Stern facts here,--no room for
theories.  How lucky that I happened to be out at Norwood over another
case!  I was at the station when the message arrived.  What d'you think
the man died of?"

"Oh, this is hardly a case for me to theorize over," said Holmes, dryly.

"No, no.  Still, we can't deny that you hit the nail on the head
sometimes.  Dear me!  Door locked, I understand.  Jewels worth half a
million missing.  How was the window?"

"Fastened; but there are steps on the sill."

"Well, well, if it was fastened the steps could have nothing to do with
the matter.  That's common sense.  Man might have died in a fit; but
then the jewels are missing.  Ha!  I have a theory. These flashes come
upon me at times.--Just step outside, sergeant, and you, Mr. Sholto.
Your friend can remain.--What do you think of this, Holmes?  Sholto
was, on his own confession, with his brother last night.  The brother
died in a fit, on which Sholto walked off with the treasure.  How's
that?"

"On which the dead man very considerately got up and locked the door on
the inside."

"Hum!  There's a flaw there.  Let us apply common sense to the matter.
This Thaddeus Sholto WAS with his brother; there WAS a quarrel; so much
we know.  The brother is dead and the jewels are gone.  So much also we
know.  No one saw the brother from the time Thaddeus left him.  His bed
had not been slept in.  Thaddeus is evidently in a most disturbed state
of mind.  His appearance is--well, not attractive.  You see that I am
weaving my web round Thaddeus.  The net begins to close upon him."

"You are not quite in possession of the facts yet," said Holmes. "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.  How does all that fit into
your theory?"

"Confirms it in every respect," said the fat detective, pompously.
"House is full of Indian curiosities.  Thaddeus brought this up, and if
this splinter be poisonous Thaddeus may as well have made murderous use
of it as any other man.  The card is some hocus-pocus,--a blind, as
like as not.  The only question is, how did he depart?  Ah, of course,
here is a hole in the roof."  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.

"He can find something," remarked Holmes, shrugging his shoulders.  "He
has occasional glimmerings of reason.  _Il n'y a pas des sots si
incommodes que ceux qui ont de l'esprit!_"

"You see!" said Athelney Jones, reappearing down the steps again.
"Facts are better than mere theories, after all.  My view of the case
is confirmed.  There is a trap-door communicating with the roof, and it
is partly open."

"It was I who opened it."

"Oh, indeed!  You did notice it, then?"  He seemed a little crestfallen
at the discovery.  "Well, whoever noticed it, it shows how our
gentleman got away.  Inspector!"

"Yes, sir," from the passage.

"Ask Mr. Sholto to step this way.--Mr. Sholto, it is my duty to inform
you that anything which you may say will be used against you.  I arrest
you in the queen's name as being concerned in the death of your
brother."

"There, now!  Didn't I tell you!" cried the poor little man, throwing
out his hands, and looking from one to the other of us.

"Don't trouble yourself about it, Mr. Sholto," said Holmes.  "I think
that I can engage to clear you of the charge."

"Don't promise too much, Mr. Theorist,--don't promise too much!"
snapped the detective.  "You may find it a harder matter than you
think."

"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.  His name, I have every reason to believe, is
Jonathan Small.  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.  His left boot has a coarse, square-toed sole, with an iron
band round the heel.  He is a middle-aged man, much sunburned, and has
been a convict.  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.  The other man--"

"Ah! 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.

"Is a rather curious person," said Sherlock Holmes, turning upon his
heel.  "I hope before very long to be able to introduce you to the pair
of them.--A word with you, Watson."

He led me out to the head of the stair.  "This unexpected occurrence,"
he said, "has caused us rather to lose sight of the original purpose of
our journey."

"I have just been thinking so," I answered.  "It is not right that Miss
Morstan should remain in this stricken house."

"No.  You must escort her home.  She lives with Mrs. Cecil Forrester,
in Lower Camberwell:  so it is not very far.  I will wait for you here
if you will drive out again.  Or perhaps you are too tired?"

"By no means.  I don't think I could rest until I know more of this
fantastic business.  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.  I should like, however, to
see the matter through with you, now that I have got so far."

"Your presence will be of great service to me," he answered.  "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.  When you have
dropped Miss Morstan I wish you to go on to No. 3 Pinchin Lane, down
near the water's edge at Lambeth. The third house on the right-hand
side is a bird-stuffer's: Sherman is the name.  You will see a weasel
holding a young rabbit in the window.  Knock old Sherman up, and tell
him, with my compliments, that I want Toby at once.  You will bring
Toby back in the cab with you."

"A dog, I suppose."

"Yes,--a queer mongrel, with a most amazing power of scent.  I would
rather have Toby's help than that of the whole detective force of
London."

"I shall bring him, then," said I.  "It is one now.  I ought to be back
before three, if I can get a fresh horse."

"And I," said Holmes, "shall see what I can learn from Mrs. Bernstone,
and from the Indian servant, who, Mr. Thaddeus tell me, sleeps in the
next garret.  Then I shall study the great Jones's methods and listen
to his not too delicate sarcasms. 'Wir sind gewohnt das die Menschen
verhoehnen was sie nicht verstehen.'  Goethe is always pithy."



Chapter VII

The Episode of the Barrel

The police had brought a cab with them, and in this I escorted Miss
Morstan back to her home.  After the angelic fashion of women, she had
borne trouble with a calm face as long as there was some one weaker
than herself to support, and I had found her bright and placid by the
side of the frightened housekeeper.  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.  She has told me since
that she thought me cold and distant upon that journey.  She little
guessed the struggle within my breast, or the effort of self-restraint
which held me back.  My sympathies and my love went out to her, even as
my hand had in the garden.  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.  Yet there were two thoughts which
sealed the words of affection upon my lips.  She was weak and helpless,
shaken in mind and nerve. It was to take her at a disadvantage to
obtrude love upon her at such a time.  Worse still, she was rich.  If
Holmes's researches were successful, she would be an heiress.  Was it
fair, was it honorable, that a half-pay surgeon should take such
advantage of an intimacy which chance had brought about?  Might she not
look upon me as a mere vulgar fortune-seeker?  I could not bear to risk
that such a thought should cross her mind.  This Agra treasure
intervened like an impassable barrier between us.

It was nearly two o'clock when we reached Mrs. Cecil Forrester's. 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.  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. She was clearly no mere paid dependant, but an
honored friend.  I was introduced, and Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged
me to step in and tell her our adventures.  I explained, however, the
importance of my errand, and promised faithfully to call and report any
progress which we might make with the case.  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.  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.

And the more I thought of what had happened, the wilder and darker it
grew.  I reviewed the whole extraordinary sequence of events as I
rattled on through the silent gas-lit streets.  There was the original
problem:  that at least was pretty clear now. The death of Captain
Morstan, the sending of the pearls, the advertisement, the letter,--we
had had light upon all those events.  They had only led us, however, to
a deeper and far more tragic mystery.  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.

Pinchin Lane was a row of shabby two-storied brick houses in the lower
quarter of Lambeth.  I had to knock for some time at No. 3 before I
could make my impression.  At last, however, there was the glint of a
candle behind the blind, and a face looked out at the upper window.

"Go on, you drunken vagabone," said the face.  "If you kick up any more
row I'll open the kennels and let out forty-three dogs upon you."

"If you'll let one out it's just what I have come for," said I.

"Go on!" yelled the voice.  "So help me gracious, I have a wiper in the
bag, an' I'll drop it on your 'ead if you don't hook it."

"But I want a dog," I cried.

"I won't be argued with!" shouted Mr. Sherman.  "Now stand clear, for
when I say 'three,' down goes the wiper."

"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.  Mr. Sherman was a lanky, lean old man,
with stooping shoulders, a stringy neck, and blue-tinted glasses.

"A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome," said he.  "Step in, sir.
Keep clear of the badger; for he bites.  Ah, naughty, naughty, would
you take a nip at the gentleman?"  This to a stoat which thrust its
wicked head and red eyes between the bars of its cage.  "Don't mind
that, sir:  it's only a slow-worm.  It hain't got no fangs, so I gives
it the run o' the room, for it keeps the beetles down.  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.  What was it that Mr. Sherlock Holmes wanted, sir?"

"He wanted a dog of yours."

"Ah! that would be Toby."

"Yes, Toby was the name."

"Toby lives at No. 7 on the left here."  He moved slowly forward with
his candle among the queer animal family which he had gathered round
him.  In the uncertain, shadowy light I could see dimly that there were
glancing, glimmering eyes peeping down at us from every cranny and
corner.  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.

Toby proved to be an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel
and half lurcher, brown-and-white in color, with a very clumsy waddling
gait.  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.
It had just struck three on the Palace clock when I found myself back
once more at Pondicherry Lodge.  The ex-prize-fighter McMurdo had, I
found, been arrested as an accessory, and both he and Mr. Sholto had
been marched off to the station.  Two constables guarded the narrow
gate, but they allowed me to pass with the dog on my mentioning the
detective's name.

Holmes was standing on the door-step, with his hands in his pockets,
smoking his pipe.

"Ah, you have him there!" said he.  "Good dog, then!  Atheney Jones has
gone.  We have had an immense display of energy since you left.  He has
arrested not only friend Thaddeus, but the gatekeeper, the housekeeper,
and the Indian servant.  We have the place to ourselves, but for a
sergeant up-stairs.  Leave the dog here, and come up."

We tied Toby to the hall table, and reascended the stairs.  The room
was as he had left it, save that a sheet had been draped over the
central figure.  A weary-looking police-sergeant reclined in the corner.

"Lend me your bull's-eye, sergeant," said my companion.  "Now tie this
bit of card round my neck, so as to hang it in front of me. Thank you.
Now I must kick off my boots and stockings.--Just you carry them down
with you, Watson.  I am going to do a little climbing.  And dip my
handkerchief into the creasote.  That will do.  Now come up into the
garret with me for a moment."

We clambered up through the hole.  Holmes turned his light once more
upon the footsteps in the dust.

"I wish you particularly to notice these footmarks," he said. "Do you
observe anything noteworthy about them?"

"They belong," I said, "to a child or a small woman."

"Apart from their size, though.  Is there nothing else?"

"They appear to be much as other footmarks."

"Not at all.  Look here!  This is the print of a right foot in the
dust.  Now I make one with my naked foot beside it.  What is the chief
difference?"

"Your toes are all cramped together.  The other print has each toe
distinctly divided."

"Quite so.  That is the point.  Bear that in mind.  Now, would you
kindly step over to that flap-window and smell the edge of the
wood-work?  I shall stay here, as I have this handkerchief in my hand."

I did as he directed, and was instantly conscious of a strong tarry
smell.

"That is where he put his foot in getting out.  If YOU can trace him, I
should think that Toby will have no difficulty.  Now run down-stairs,
loose the dog, and look out for Blondin."

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.  I lost sight of him behind a stack of
chimneys, but he presently reappeared, and then vanished once more upon
the opposite side.  When I made my way round there I found him seated
at one of the corner eaves.

"That you, Watson?" he cried.

"Yes."

"This is the place.  What is that black thing down there?"

"A water-barrel."

"Top on it?"

"Yes."

"No sign of a ladder?"

"No."

"Confound the fellow!  It's a most break-neck place.  I ought to be
able to come down where he could climb up.  The water-pipe feels pretty
firm.  Here goes, anyhow."

There was a scuffling of feet, and the lantern began to come steadily
down the side of the wall.  Then with a light spring he came on to the
barrel, and from there to the earth.

"It was easy to follow him," he said, drawing on his stockings and
boots.  "Tiles were loosened the whole way along, and in his hurry he
had dropped this.  It confirms my diagnosis, as you doctors express it."

The object which he held up to me was a small pocket or pouch woven out
of colored grasses and with a few tawdry beads strung round it.  In
shape and size it was not unlike a cigarette-case. 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.

"They are hellish things," said he.  "Look out that you don't prick
yourself.  I'm delighted to have them, for the chances are that they
are all he has.  There is the less fear of you or me finding one in our
skin before long.  I would sooner face a Martini bullet, myself.  Are
you game for a six-mile trudge, Watson?"

"Certainly," I answered.

"Your leg will stand it?"

"Oh, yes."

"Here you are, doggy!  Good old Toby!  Smell it, Toby, smell it!" He
pushed the creasote 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.  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.  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.

The east had been gradually whitening, and we could now see some
distance in the cold gray light.  The square, massive house, with its
black, empty windows and high, bare walls, towered up, sad and forlorn,
behind us.  Our course led right across the grounds, in and out among
the trenches and pits with which they were scarred and intersected.
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.

On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along, whining eagerly,
underneath its shadow, and stopped finally in a corner screened by a
young beech.  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.
Holmes clambered up, and, taking the dog from me, he dropped it over
upon the other side.

"There's the print of wooden-leg's hand," he remarked, as I mounted up
beside him.  "You see the slight smudge of blood upon the white
plaster.  What a lucky thing it is that we have had no very heavy rain
since yesterday!  The scent will lie upon the road in spite of their
eight-and-twenty hours' start."

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.  My
fears were soon appeased, however.  Toby never hesitated or swerved,
but waddled on in his peculiar rolling fashion.  Clearly, the pungent
smell of the creasote rose high above all other contending scents.

"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.  I have knowledge now which would enable me to trace
them in many different ways.  This, however, is the readiest and, since
fortune has put it into our hands, I should be culpable if I neglected
it.  It has, however, prevented the case from becoming the pretty
little intellectual problem which it at one time promised to be. There
might have been some credit to be gained out of it, but for this too
palpable clue."

"There is credit, and to spare," said I.  "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. The thing seems to me to
be deeper and more inexplicable.  How, for example, could you describe
with such confidence the wooden-legged man?"

"Pshaw, my dear boy! it was simplicity itself.  I don't wish to be
theatrical.  It is all patent and above-board.  Two officers who are in
command of a convict-guard learn an important secret as to buried
treasure.  A map is drawn for them by an Englishman named Jonathan
Small.  You remember that we saw the name upon the chart in Captain
Morstan's possession.  He had signed it in behalf of himself and his
associates,--the sign of the four, as he somewhat dramatically called
it.  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.  Now, then, why did
not Jonathan Small get the treasure himself?  The answer is obvious.
The chart is dated at a time when Morstan was brought into close
association with convicts.  Jonathan Small did not get the treasure
because he and his associates were themselves convicts and could not
get away."

"But that is mere speculation," said I.

"It is more than that.  It is the only hypothesis which covers the
facts.  Let us see how it fits in with the sequel.  Major Sholto
remains at peace for some years, happy in the possession of his
treasure.  Then he receives a letter from India which gives him a great
fright.  What was that?"

"A letter to say that the men whom he had wronged had been set free."

"Or had escaped.  That is much more likely, for he would have known
what their term of imprisonment was.  It would not have been a surprise
to him.  What does he do then?  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.  Now, only one
white man's name is on the chart.  The others are Hindoos or
Mohammedans.  There is no other white man. Therefore we may say with
confidence that the wooden-legged man is identical with Jonathan Small.
Does the reasoning strike you as being faulty?"

"No:  it is clear and concise."

"Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of Jonathan Small. Let us
look at it from his point of view.  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.  He found out where
Sholto lived, and very possibly he established communications with some
one inside the house.  There is this butler, Lal Rao, whom we have not
seen.  Mrs. Bernstone gives him far from a good character. 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.  Suddenly
Small learns that the major is on his death-bed.  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.  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 momento of his visit in the short
inscription upon the card.  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.
Whimsical and bizarre conceits of this kind are common enough in the
annals of crime, and usually afford valuable indications as to the
criminal.  Do you follow all this?"

"Very clearly."

"Now, what could Jonathan Small do?  He could only continue to keep a
secret watch upon the efforts made to find the treasure. Possibly he
leaves England and only comes back at intervals. Then comes the
discovery of the garret, and he is instantly informed of it.  We again
trace the presence of some confederate in the household.  Jonathan,
with his wooden leg, is utterly unable to reach the lofty room of
Bartholomew Sholto.  He takes with him, however, a rather curious
associate, who gets over this difficulty, but dips his naked foot into
creasote, whence comes Toby, and a six-mile limp for a half-pay officer
with a damaged tendo Achillis."

"But it was the associate, and not Jonathan, who committed the crime."

"Quite so.  And rather to Jonathan's disgust, to judge by the way he
stamped about when he got into the room.  He bore no grudge against
Bartholomew Sholto, and would have preferred if he could have been
simply bound and gagged.  He did not wish to put his head in a halter.
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.  That was the train of events as far as I can
decipher them.  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. His height is readily calculated from the length
of his stride, and we know that he was bearded.  His hairiness was the
one point which impressed itself upon Thaddeus Sholto when he saw him
at the window.  I don't know that there is anything else."

"The associate?"

"Ah, well, there is no great mystery in that.  But you will know all
about it soon enough.  How sweet the morning air is!  See how that one
little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo.
Now the red rim of the sun pushes itself over the London cloud-bank.
It shines on a good many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on a
stranger errand than you and I. How small we feel with our petty
ambitions and strivings in the presence of the great elemental forces
of nature!  Are you well up in your Jean Paul?"

"Fairly so.  I worked back to him through Carlyle."

"That was like following the brook to the parent lake.  He makes one
curious but profound remark.  It is that the chief proof of man's real
greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness. It argues, you
see, a power of comparison and of appreciation which is in itself a
proof of nobility.  There is much food for thought in Richter.  You
have not a pistol, have you?"

"I have my stick."

"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."  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.

We had during this time been following the guidance of Toby down the
half-rural villa-lined roads which lead to the metropolis. Now,
however, we were beginning to come among continuous streets, where
laborers and dockmen were already astir, and slatternly women were
taking down shutters and brushing door-steps.  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.  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.

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.  The men whom we pursued seemed
to have taken a curiously zigzag road, with the idea probably of
escaping observation.  They had never kept to the main road if a
parallel side-street would serve their turn.  At the foot of Kennington
Lane they had edged away to the left through Bond Street and Miles
Street.  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.  Then he
waddled round in circles, looking up to us from time to time, as if to
ask for sympathy in his embarrassment.

"What the deuce is the matter with the dog?" growled Holmes. "They
surely would not take a cab, or go off in a balloon."

"Perhaps they stood here for some time," I suggested.

"Ah! it's all right.  He's off again," said my companion, in a tone of
relief.

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.  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.  I cold see by the gleam in
Holmes's eyes that he thought we were nearing the end of our journey.

Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick and
Nelson's large timber-yard, just past the White Eagle tavern. Here the
dog, frantic with excitement, turned down through the side-gate into
the enclosure, where the sawyers were already at work.  On the dog
raced through sawdust and shavings, down an alley, round a passage,
between two wood-piles, and finally, with a triumphant yelp, sprang
upon a large barrel which still stood upon the hand-trolley on which it
had been brought.  With lolling tongue and blinking eyes, Toby stood
upon the cask, looking from one to the other of us for some sign of
appreciation.  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 creasote.

Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other, and then burst
simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.



Chapter VIII

The Baker Street Irregulars

"What now?" I asked.  "Toby has lost his character for infallibility."

"He acted according to his lights," said Holmes, lifting him down from
the barrel and walking him out of the timber-yard.  "If you consider
how much creasote is carted about London in one day, it is no great
wonder that our trail should have been crossed.  It is much used now,
especially for the seasoning of wood.  Poor Toby is not to blame."

"We must get on the main scent again, I suppose."

"Yes.  And, fortunately, we have no distance to go.  Evidently what
puzzled the dog at the corner of Knight's Place was that there were two
different trails running in opposite directions. We took the wrong one.
It only remains to follow the other."

There was no difficulty about this.  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.

"We must take care that he does not now bring us to the place where the
creasote-barrel came from," I observed.

"I had thought of that.  But you notice that he keeps on the pavement,
whereas the barrel passed down the roadway.  No, we are on the true
scent now."

It tended down towards the river-side, running through Belmont Place
and Prince's Street.  At the end of Broad Street it ran right down to
the water's edge, where there was a small wooden wharf.  Toby led us to
the very edge of this, and there stood whining, looking out on the dark
current beyond.

"We are out of luck," said Holmes.  "They have taken to a boat here."
Several small punts and skiffs were lying about in the water and on the
edge of the wharf.  We took Toby round to each in turn, but, though he
sniffed earnestly, he made no sign.

Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick house, with a wooden
placard slung out through the second window.  "Mordecai Smith" was
printed across it in large letters, and, underneath, "Boats to hire by
the hour or day."  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. Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and
his face assumed an ominous expression.

"This looks bad," said he.  "These fellows are sharper than I expected.
They seem to have covered their tracks.  There has, I fear, been
preconcerted management here."

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.

"You come back and be washed, Jack," she shouted.  "Come back, you
young imp; for if your father comes home and finds you like that, he'll
let us hear of it."

"Dear little chap!" said Holmes, strategically.  "What a rosy-cheeked
young rascal!  Now, Jack, is there anything you would like?"

The youth pondered for a moment.  "I'd like a shillin'," said he.

"Nothing you would like better?"

"I'd like two shillin' better," the prodigy answered, after some
thought.

"Here you are, then!  Catch!--A fine child, Mrs. Smith!"

"Lor' bless you, sir, he is that, and forward.  He gets a'most too much
for me to manage, 'specially when my man is away days at a time."

"Away, is he?" said Holmes, in a disappointed voice.  "I am sorry for
that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith."

"He's been away since yesterday mornin', sir, and, truth to tell, I am
beginnin' to feel frightened about him.  But if it was about a boat,
sir, maybe I could serve as well."

"I wanted to hire his steam launch."

"Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has gone.
That's what puzzles me; for I know there ain't more coals in her than
would take her to about Woolwich and back.  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.  But what good is a steam launch without coals?"

"He might have bought some at a wharf down the river."

"He might, sir, but it weren't his way.  Many a time I've heard him
call out at the prices they charge for a few odd bags. Besides, I don't
like that wooden-legged man, wi' his ugly face and outlandish talk.
What did he want always knockin' about here for?"

"A wooden-legged man?" said Holmes, with bland surprise.

"Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that's called more'n once for my
old man.  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.  I tell
you straight, sir, I don't feel easy in my mind about it."

"But, my dear Mrs. Smith," said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, "You
are frightening yourself about nothing.  How could you possibly tell
that it was the wooden-legged man who came in the night?  I don't quite
understand how you can be so sure."

"His voice, sir.  I knew his voice, which is kind o' thick and foggy.
He tapped at the winder,--about three it would be.  'Show a leg,
matey,' says he:  'time to turn out guard.'  My old man woke up
Jim,--that's my eldest,--and away they went, without so much as a word
to me.  I could hear the wooden leg clackin' on the stones."

"And was this wooden-legged man alone?"

"Couldn't say, I am sure, sir.  I didn't hear no one else."

"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?"

"The Aurora, sir."

"Ah!  She's not that old green launch with a yellow line, very broad in
the beam?"

"No, indeed.  She's as trim a little thing as any on the river. She's
been fresh painted, black with two red streaks."

"Thanks.  I hope that you will hear soon from Mr. Smith.  I am going
down the river; and if I should see anything of the Aurora I shall let
him know that you are uneasy.  A black funnel, you say?"

"No, sir.  Black with a white band."

"Ah, of course.  It was the sides which were black. Good-morning, Mrs.
Smith.--There is a boatman here with a wherry, Watson.  We shall take
it and cross the river.

"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.  If you do, they
will instantly shut up like an oyster.  If you listen to them under
protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what you want."

"Our course now seems pretty clear," said I.

"What would you do, then?"

"I would engage a launch and go down the river on the track of the
Aurora."

"My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task.  She may have touched at
any wharf on either side of the stream between here and Greenwich.
Below the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of landing-places for
miles.  It would take you days and days to exhaust them, if you set
about it alone."

"Employ the police, then."

"No.  I shall probably call Athelney Jones in at the last moment. He is
not a bad fellow, and I should not like to do anything which would
injure him professionally.  But I have a fancy for working it out
myself, now that we have gone so far."

"Could we advertise, then, asking for information from wharfingers?"

"Worse and worse!  Our men would know that the chase was hot at their
heels, and they would be off out of the country.  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.  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 every one is off on the wrong
scent."

"What are we to do, then?" I asked, as we landed near Millbank
Penitentiary.

"Take this hansom, drive home, have some breakfast, and get an hour's
sleep.  It is quite on the cards that we may be afoot to-night again.
Stop at a telegraph-office, cabby!  We will keep Toby, for he may be of
use to us yet."

We pulled up at the Great Peter Street post-office, and Holmes
despatched his wire.  "Whom do you think that is to?" he asked, as we
resumed our journey.

"I am sure I don't know."

"You remember the Baker Street division of the detective police force
whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?"

"Well," said I, laughing.

"This is just the case where they might be invaluable.  If they fail, I
have other resources; but I shall try them first.  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."

It was between eight and nine o'clock now, and I was conscious of a
strong reaction after the successive excitements of the night. I was
limp and weary, befogged in mind and fatigued in body.  I had not the
professional enthusiasm which carried my companion on, nor could I look
at the matter as a mere abstract intellectual problem.  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.  The treasure,
however, was a different matter.  That, or part of it, belonged
rightfully to Miss Morstan.  While there was a chance of recovering it
I was ready to devote my life to the one object.  True, if I found it
it would probably put her forever beyond my reach.  Yet it would be a
petty and selfish love which would be influenced by such a thought as
that.  If Holmes could work to find the criminals, I had a tenfold
stronger reason to urge me on to find the treasure.

A bath at Baker Street and a complete change freshened me up
wonderfully.  When I came down to our room I found the breakfast laid
and Homes pouring out the coffee.

"Here it is," said he, laughing, and pointing to an open newspaper.
"The energetic Jones and the ubiquitous reporter have fixed it up
between them.  But you have had enough of the case. Better have your
ham and eggs first."

I took the paper from him and read the short notice, which was headed
"Mysterious Business at Upper Norwood."

"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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  This fact,
which has been very clearly made out, proves conclusively that it was
no mere haphazard burglary.  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.  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."

"Isn't it gorgeous!" said Holmes, grinning over his coffee-cup. "What
do you think of it?"

"I think that we have had a close shave ourselves of being arrested for
the crime."

"So do I.  I wouldn't answer for our safety now, if he should happen to
have another of his attacks of energy."

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.

"By heaven, Holmes," I said, half rising, "I believe that they are
really after us."

"No, it's not quite so bad as that.  It is the unofficial force,--the
Baker Street irregulars."

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.  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.  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.

"Got your message, sir," said he, "and brought 'em on sharp. Three bob
and a tanner for tickets."

"Here you are," said Holmes, producing some silver.  "In future they
can report to you, Wiggins, and you to me.  I cannot have the house
invaded in this way.  However, it is just as well that you should all
hear the instructions.  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.  She is down the river
somewhere.  I want one boy to be at Mordecai Smith's landing-stage
opposite Millbank to say if the boat comes back.  You must divide it
out among yourselves, and do both banks thoroughly.  Let me know the
moment you have news.  Is that all clear?"

"Yes, guv'nor," said Wiggins.

"The old scale of pay, and a guinea to the boy who finds the boat.
Here's a day in advance.  Now off you go!"  He handed them a shilling
each, and away they buzzed down the stairs, and I saw them a moment
later streaming down the street.

"If the launch is above water they will find her," said Holmes, as he
rose from the table and lit his pipe.  "They can go everywhere, see
everything, overhear every one.  I expect to hear before evening that
they have spotted her.  In the mean while, we can do nothing but await
results.  We cannot pick up the broken trail until we find either the
Aurora or Mr. Mordecai Smith."

"Toby could eat these scraps, I dare say.  Are you going to bed,
Holmes?"

"No:  I am not tired.  I have a curious constitution.  I never remember
feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.  I am
going to smoke and to think over this queer business to which my fair
client has introduced us.  If ever man had an easy task, this of ours
ought to be.  Wooden-legged men are not so common, but the other man
must, I should think, be absolutely unique."

"That other man again!"

"I have no wish to make a mystery of him,--to you, anyway.  But you
must have formed your own opinion.  Now, do consider the data.
Diminutive footmarks, toes never fettered by boots, naked feet,
stone-headed wooden mace, great agility, small poisoned darts.  What do
you make of all this?"

"A savage!" I exclaimed.  "Perhaps one of those Indians who were the
associates of Jonathan Small."

"Hardly that," said he.  "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.  Some of the inhabitants of the
Indian Peninsula are small men, but none could have left such marks as
that.  The Hindoo proper has long and thin feet.  The sandal-wearing
Mohammedan has the great toe well separated from the others, because
the thong is commonly passed between.  These little darts, too, could
only be shot in one way. They are from a blow-pipe.  Now, then, where
are we to find our savage?"

"South American," I hazarded.

He stretched his hand up, and took down a bulky volume from the shelf.
"This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published.
It may be looked upon as the very latest authority.  What have we here?
'Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Sumatra, in the
Bay of Bengal.'  Hum! hum! What's all this?  Moist climate, coral
reefs, sharks, Port Blair, convict-barracks, Rutland Island,
cottonwoods--Ah, here we are. '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 Terra del Fuegians.  The average
height is rather below four feet, although many full-grown adults may
be found who are very much smaller than this.  They are a fierce,
morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted
friendships when their confidence has once been gained.'  Mark that,
Watson.  Now, then, listen to this.  'They are naturally hideous,
having large, misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted
features.  Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small.  So
intractable and fierce are they that all the efforts of the British
official have failed to win them over in any degree.  They have always
been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their
stone-headed clubs, or shooting them with their poisoned arrows.  These
massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.'  Nice, amiable
people, Watson!  If this fellow had been left to his own unaided
devices this affair might have taken an even more ghastly turn.  I
fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not to
have employed him."

"But how came he to have so singular a companion?"

"Ah, that is more than I can tell.  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.  No doubt we shall
know all about it in time.  Look here, Watson; you look regularly done.
Lie down there on the sofa, and see if I can put you to sleep."

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 improvisation.  I have a vague remembrance
of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face, and the rise and fall of his bow.
Then I seemed to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of sound,
until I found myself in dream-land, with the sweet face of Mary Morstan
looking down upon me.



Chapter IX

A Break in the Chain

It was late in the afternoon before I woke, strengthened and refreshed.
Sherlock Holmes still sat exactly as I had left him, save that he had
laid aside his violin and was deep in a book. He looked across at me,
as I stirred, and I noticed that his face was dark and troubled.

"You have slept soundly," he said.  "I feared that our talk would wake
you."

"I heard nothing," I answered.  "Have you had fresh news, then?"

"Unfortunately, no.  I confess that I am surprised and disappointed.  I
expected something definite by this time. Wiggins has just been up to
report.  He says that no trace can be found of the launch.  It is a
provoking check, for every hour is of importance."

"Can I do anything?  I am perfectly fresh now, and quite ready for
another night's outing."

"No, we can do nothing.  We can only wait.  If we go ourselves, the
message might come in our absence, and delay be caused.  You can do
what you will, but I must remain on guard."

"Then I shall run over to Camberwell and call upon Mrs. Cecil
Forrester.  She asked me to, yesterday."

"On Mrs. Cecil Forrester?" asked Holmes, with the twinkle of a smile in
his eyes.

"Well, of course Miss Morstan too.  They were anxious to hear what
happened."

"I would not tell them too much," said Holmes.  "Women are never to be
entirely trusted,--not the best of them."

I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment.  "I shall be
back in an hour or two," I remarked.

"All right!  Good luck!  But, I say, if you are crossing the river 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."

I took our mongrel accordingly, and left him, together with a
half-sovereign, at the old naturalist's in Pinchin Lane.  At Camberwell
I found Miss Morstan a little weary after her night's adventures, but
very eager to hear the news.  Mrs. Forrester, too, was full of
curiosity.  I told them all that we had done, suppressing, however, the
more dreadful parts of the tragedy. Thus, although I spoke of Mr.
Sholto's death, I said nothing of the exact manner and method of it.
With all my omissions, however, there was enough to startle and amaze
them.

"It is a romance!" cried Mrs. Forrester.  "An injured lady, half a
million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged ruffian.
They take the place of the conventional dragon or wicked earl."

"And two knight-errants to the rescue," added Miss Morstan, with a
bright glance at me.

"Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this search. I don't
think that you are nearly excited enough.  Just imagine what it must be
to be so rich, and to have the world at your feet!"

It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she showed no
sign of elation at the prospect.  On the contrary, she gave a toss of
her proud head, as though the matter were one in which she took small
interest.

"It is for Mr. Thaddeus Sholto that I am anxious," she said. "Nothing
else is of any consequence; but I think that he has behaved most kindly
and honorably throughout.  It is our duty to clear him of this dreadful
and unfounded charge."

It was evening before I left Camberwell, and quite dark by the time I
reached home.  My companion's book and pipe lay by his chair, but he
had disappeared.  I looked about in the hope of seeing a note, but
there was none.

"I suppose that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has gone out," I said to Mrs.
Hudson as she came up to lower the blinds.

"No, sir.  He has gone to his room, sir.  Do you know, sir," sinking
her voice into an impressive whisper, "I am afraid for his health?"

"Why so, Mrs. Hudson?"

"Well, he's that strange, sir.  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.  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?'  And now he has slammed off to his room, but I can
hear him walking away the same as ever.  I hope he's not going to be
ill, sir.  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 how ever I
got out of the room."

"I don't think that you have any cause to be uneasy, Mrs. Hudson," I
answered.  "I have seen him like this before.  He has some small matter
upon his mind which makes him restless."  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.

At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggard, with a little fleck of
feverish color upon either cheek.

"You are knocking yourself up, old man," I remarked.  "I heard you
marching about in the night."

"No, I could not sleep," he answered.  "This infernal problem is
consuming me.  It is too much to be balked by so petty an obstacle,
when all else had been overcome.  I know the men, the launch,
everything; and yet I can get no news.  I have set other agencies at
work, and used every means at my disposal.  The whole river has been
searched on either side, but there is no news, nor has Mrs. Smith heard
of her husband.  I shall come to the conclusion soon that they have
scuttled the craft.  But there are objections to that."

"Or that Mrs. Smith has put us on a wrong scent."

"No, I think that may be dismissed.  I had inquiries made, and there is
a launch of that description."

"Could it have gone up the river?"

"I have considered that possibility too, and there is a search-party
who will work up as far as Richmond.  If no news comes to-day, I shall
start off myself to-morrow, and go for the men rather than the boat.
But surely, surely, we shall hear something."

We did not, however.  Not a word came to us either from Wiggins or from
the other agencies.  There were articles in most of the papers upon the
Norwood tragedy.  They all appeared to be rather hostile to the
unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto.  No fresh details were to be found,
however, in any of them, save that an inquest was to be held upon the
following day.  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.  He would hardly reply to my questions, and busied
himself all evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which involved
much heating of retorts and distilling of vapors, ending at last in a
smell which fairly drove me out of the apartment. 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.

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.

"I am off down the river, Watson," said he.  "I have been turning it
over in my mind, and I can see only one way out of it.  It is worth
trying, at all events."

"Surely I can come with you, then?" said I.

"No; you can be much more useful if you will remain here as my
representative.  I am loath 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. I want you to open all notes and telegrams, and to
act on your own judgment if any news should come.  Can I rely upon you?"

"Most certainly."

"I am afraid that you will not be able to wire to me, for I can hardly
tell yet where I may find myself.  If I am in luck, however, I may not
be gone so very long.  I shall have news of some sort or other before I
get back."

I had heard nothing of him by breakfast-time.  On opening the Standard,
however, I found that there was a fresh allusion to the business.
"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. Fresh evidence has shown that
it is quite impossible that Mr. Thaddeus Sholto could have been in any
way concerned in the matter.  He and the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone,
were both released yesterday evening.  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.  Further arrests may be expected at any
moment."

"That is satisfactory so far as it goes," thought I.  "Friend Sholto is
safe, at any rate.  I wonder what the fresh clue may be; though it
seems to be a stereotyped form whenever the police have made a blunder."

I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at that moment my eye
caught an advertisement in the agony column.  It ran in this way:

"Lost.--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 any one 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."

This was clearly Holmes's doing.  The Baker Street address was enough
to prove that.  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.

It was a long day.  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.  I tried to read, but my
thoughts would wander off to our strange quest and to the ill-assorted
and villainous pair whom we were pursuing. Could there be, I wondered,
some radical flaw in my companion's reasoning.  Might he be suffering
from some huge self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble and
speculative mind had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises?  I
had never known him to be wrong; and yet the keenest reasoner may
occasionally be deceived.  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.  Yet, on the other hand, I had myself seen the
evidence, and I had heard the reasons for his deductions.  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 outre and startling.

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.  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.  His
expression was downcast, and his bearing meek and even apologetic.

"Good-day, sir; good-day," said he.  "Mr. Sherlock Holmes is out, I
understand."

"Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back.  But perhaps you would
care to wait.  Take that chair and try one of these cigars."

"Thank you; I don't mind if I do," said he, mopping his face with a red
bandanna handkerchief.

"And a whiskey-and-soda?"

"Well, half a glass.  It is very hot for the time of year; and I have
had a good deal to worry and try me.  You know my theory about this
Norwood case?"

"I remember that you expressed one."

"Well, I have been obliged to reconsider it.  I had my net drawn
tightly round Mr. Sholto, sir, when pop he went through a hole in the
middle of it.  He was able to prove an alibi which could not be shaken.
From the time that he left his brother's room he was never out of sight
of some one or other.  So it could not be he who climbed over roofs and
through trap-doors.  It's a very dark case, and my professional credit
is at stake.  I should be very glad of a little assistance."

"We all need help sometimes," said I.

"Your friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful man, sir," said he, in
a husky and confidential voice.  "He's a man who is not to be beat.  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.  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.  I have had a wire from him this morning, by
which I understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto business.
Here is the message."

He took the telegram out of his pocket, and handed it to me.  It was
dated from Poplar at twelve o'clock.  "Go to Baker Street at once," it
said.  "If I have not returned, wait for me.  I am close on the track
of the Sholto gang.  You can come with us to-night if you want to be in
at the finish."

"This sounds well.  He has evidently picked up the scent again," said I.

"Ah, then he has been at fault too," exclaimed Jones, with evident
satisfaction.  "Even the best of us are thrown off sometimes.  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. But there is some one at
the door.  Perhaps this is he."

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. 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.  His appearance
corresponded to the sounds which we had heard.  He was an aged man,
clad in seafaring garb, with an old pea-jacket buttoned up to his
throat.  His back was bowed, his knees were shaky, and his breathing
was painfully asthmatic.  As he leaned upon a thick oaken cudgel his
shoulders heaved in the effort to draw the air into his lungs.  He had
a colored 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 gray
side-whiskers. Altogether he gave me the impression of a respectable
master mariner who had fallen into years and poverty.

"What is it, my man?" I asked.

He looked about him in the slow methodical fashion of old age.

"Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?" said he.

"No; but I am acting for him.  You can tell me any message you have for
him."

"It was to him himself I was to tell it," said he.

"But I tell you that I am acting for him.  Was it about Mordecai
Smith's boat?"

"Yes.  I knows well where it is.  An' I knows where the men he is after
are.  An' I knows where the treasure is.  I knows all about it."

"Then tell me, and I shall let him know."

"It was to him I was to tell it," he repeated, with the petulant
obstinacy of a very old man.

"Well, you must wait for him."

"No, no; I ain't goin' to lose a whole day to please no one.  If Mr.
Holmes ain't here, then Mr. Holmes must find it all out for himself.  I
don't care about the look of either of you, and I won't tell a word."

He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney Jones got in front of him.

"Wait a bit, my friend," said he.  "You have important information, and
you must not walk off.  We shall keep you, whether you like or not,
until our friend returns."

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.

"Pretty sort o' treatment this!" he cried, stamping his stick. "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!"

"You will be none the worse," I said.  "We shall recompense you for the
loss of your time.  Sit over here on the sofa, and you will not have
long to wait."

He came across sullenly enough, and seated himself with his face
resting on his hands.  Jones and I resumed our cigars and our talk.
Suddenly, however, Holmes's voice broke in upon us.

"I think that you might offer me a cigar too," he said.

We both started in our chairs.  There was Holmes sitting close to us
with an air of quiet amusement.

"Holmes!" I exclaimed.  "You here!  But where is the old man?"

"Here is the old man," said he, holding out a heap of white hair. "Here
he is,--wig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all.  I thought my disguise was
pretty good, but I hardly expected that it would stand that test."

"Ah, You rogue!" cried Jones, highly delighted.  "You would have made
an actor, and a rare one.  You had the proper workhouse cough, and
those weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a week. I thought I knew
the glint of your eye, though.  You didn't get away from us so easily,
You see."

"I have been working in that get-up all day," said he, lighting his
cigar.  "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.  You got my wire?"

"Yes; that was what brought me here."

"How has your case prospered?"

"It has all come to nothing.  I have had to release two of my
prisoners, and there is no evidence against the other two."

"Never mind.  We shall give you two others in the place of them. But
you must put yourself under my orders.  You are welcome to all the
official credit, but you must act on the line that I point out.  Is
that agreed?"

"Entirely, if you will help me to the men."

"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."

"That is easily managed.  There is always one about there; but I can
step across the road and telephone to make sure."

"Then I shall want two stanch men, in case of resistance."

"There will be two or three in the boat.  What else?"

"When we secure the men we shall get the treasure.  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.  Let her be the first
to open it.--Eh, Watson?"

"It would be a great pleasure to me."

"Rather an irregular proceeding," said Jones, shaking his head.
"However, the whole thing is irregular, and I suppose we must wink at
it.  The treasure must afterwards be handed over to the authorities
until after the official investigation."

"Certainly.  That is easily managed.  One other point.  I should much
like to have a few details about this matter from the lips of Jonathan
Small himself.  You know I like to work the detail of my cases out.
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?"

"Well, you are master of the situation.  I have had no proof yet of the
existence of this Jonathan Small.  However, if you can catch him I
don't see how I can refuse you an interview with him."

"That is understood, then?"

"Perfectly.  Is there anything else?"

"Only that I insist upon your dining with us.  It will be ready in half
an hour.  I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little
choice in white wines.--Watson, you have never yet recognized my merits
as a housekeeper."



Chapter X

The End of the Islander

Our meal was a merry one.  Holmes could talk exceedingly well when he
chose, and that night he did choose.  He appeared to be in a state of
nervous exaltation.  I have never known him so brilliant.  He spoke on
a quick succession of subjects,--on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery,
on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the
war-ships of the future,--handling each as though he had made a special
study of it.  His bright humor marked the reaction from his black
depression of the preceding days.  Athelney Jones proved to be a
sociable soul in his hours of relaxation, and faced his dinner with the
air of a bon vivant.  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.  None of us alluded during dinner to the cause which had
brought us together.

When the cloth was cleared, Holmes glanced at his watch, and filled up
three glasses with port.  "One bumper," said he, "to the success of our
little expedition.  And now it is high time we were off.  Have you a
pistol, Watson?"

"I have my old service-revolver in my desk."

"You had best take it, then.  It is well to be prepared.  I see that
the cab is at the door.  I ordered it for half-past six."

It was a little past seven before we reached the Westminster wharf, and
found our launch awaiting us.  Holmes eyed it critically.

"Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?"

"Yes,--that green lamp at the side."

"Then take it off."

The small change was made, we stepped on board, and the ropes were cast
off.  Jones, Holmes, and I sat in the stern.  There was one man at the
rudder, one to tend the engines, and two burly police-inspectors
forward.

"Where to?" asked Jones.

"To the Tower.  Tell them to stop opposite Jacobson's Yard."

Our craft was evidently a very fast one.  We shot past the long lines
of loaded barges as though they were stationary.  Holmes smiled with
satisfaction as we overhauled a river steamer and left her behind us.

"We ought to be able to catch anything on the river," he said.

"Well, hardly that.  But there are not many launches to beat us."

"We shall have to catch the Aurora, and she has a name for being a
clipper.  I will tell you how the land lies, Watson.  You recollect how
annoyed I was at being balked by so small a thing?"

"Yes."

"Well, I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a chemical
analysis.  One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work
is the best rest.  So it is.  When I had succeeded in dissolving the
hydrocarbon which I was at work at, I came back to our problem of the
Sholtos, and thought the whole matter out again.  My boys had been up
the river and down the river without result.  The launch was not at any
landing-stage or wharf, nor had it returned.  Yet it could hardly have
been scuttled to hide their traces,--though that always remained as a
possible hypothesis if all else failed.  I knew 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.  That is usually a product
of higher education.  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.  That was the balance of probability, at any rate."

"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."

"No, I hardly think so.  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.  But a second consideration struck me.  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.  He was quite sharp
enough to see that.  They had started from their head-quarters under
cover of darkness, and he would wish to get back before it was broad
light.  Now, it was past three o'clock, according to Mrs. Smith, when
they got the boat.  It would be quite bright, and people would be about
in an hour or so.  Therefore, I argued, they did not go very far.  They
paid Smith well to hold his tongue, reserved his launch for the final
escape, and hurried to their lodgings with the treasure-box. 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."

"But the launch?  They could not have taken that to their lodgings."

"Quite so.  I argued that the launch must be no great way off, in spite
of its invisibility.  I then put myself in the place of Small, and
looked at it as a man of his capacity would.  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.  How,
then, could he conceal the launch and yet have her at hand when wanted?
I wondered what I should do myself if I were in his shoes.  I could
only think of one way of doing it.  I might land the launch over to
some boat-builder or repairer, with directions to make a trifling
change in her.  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."

"That seems simple enough."

"It is just these very simple things which are extremely liable to be
overlooked.  However, I determined to act on the idea.  I started at
once in this harmless seaman's rig and inquired at all the yards down
the river.  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.  'There ain't naught amiss with her
rudder,' said the foreman.  'There she lies, with the red streaks.'  At
that moment who should come down but Mordecai Smith, the missing owner?
He was rather the worse for liquor.  I should not, of course, have
known him, but he bellowed out his name and the name of his launch.  '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.'  They had
evidently paid him well, for he was very flush of money, chucking
shillings about to the men.  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.  He is to stand at water's edge and wave his handkerchief
to us when they start.  We shall be lying off in the stream, and it
will be a strange thing if we do not take men, treasure, and all."

"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."

"Which would have been never.  This man Small is a pretty shrewd
fellow.  He would send a scout on ahead, and if anything made him
suspicious lie snug for another week."

"But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith, and so been led to their
hiding-place," said I.

"In that case I should have wasted my day. I think that it is a hundred
to one against Smith knowing where they live.  As long as he has liquor
and good pay, why should he ask questions?  They send him messages what
to do.  No, I thought over every possible course, and this is the best."

While this conversation had been proceeding, we had been shooting the
long series of bridges which span the Thames.  As we passed the City
the last rays of the sun were gilding the cross upon the summit of St.
Paul's.  It was twilight before we reached the Tower.

"That is Jacobson's Yard," said Holmes, pointing to a bristle of masts
and rigging on the Surrey side.  "Cruise gently up and down here under
cover of this string of lighters."  He took a pair of night-glasses
from his pocket and gazed some time at the shore. "I see my sentry at
his post," he remarked, "but no sign of a handkerchief."

"Suppose we go down-stream a short way and lie in wait for them," said
Jones, eagerly.  We were all eager by this time, even the policemen and
stokers, who had a very vague idea of what was going forward.

"We have no right to take anything for granted," Holmes answered. "It
is certainly ten to one that they go down-stream, but we cannot be
certain.  From this point we can see the entrance of the yard, and they
can hardly see us.  It will be a clear night and plenty of light.  We
must stay where we are.  See how the folk swarm over yonder in the
gaslight."

"They are coming from work in the yard."

"Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one has some little
immortal spark concealed about him.  You would not think it, to look at
them.  There is no a priori probability about it.  A strange enigma is
man!"

"Some one calls him a soul concealed in an animal," I suggested.

"Winwood Reade is good upon the subject," said Holmes.  "He remarks
that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate
he becomes a mathematical certainty.  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.  Individuals vary, but percentages
remain constant.  So says the statistician. But do I see a
handkerchief?  Surely there is a white flutter over yonder."

"Yes, it is your boy," I cried.  "I can see him plainly."

"And there is the Aurora," exclaimed Holmes, "and going like the devil!
Full speed ahead, engineer.  Make after that launch with the yellow
light.  By heaven, I shall never forgive myself if she proves to have
the heels of us!"

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.  Now she was flying down the stream, near in to the shore,
going at a tremendous rate.  Jones looked gravely at her and shook his
head.

"She is very fast," he said.  "I doubt if we shall catch her."

"We MUST catch her!" cried Holmes, between his teeth.  "Heap it on,
stokers!  Make her do all she can!  If we burn the boat we must have
them!"

We were fairly after her now.  The furnaces roared, and the powerful
engines whizzed and clanked, like a great metallic heart.  Her sharp,
steep prow cut through the river-water and sent two rolling waves to
right and to left of us.  With every throb of the engines we sprang and
quivered like a living thing. One great yellow lantern in our bows
threw a long, flickering funnel of light in front of us.  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.  We
flashed past barges, steamers, merchant-vessels, in and out, behind
this one and round the other.  Voices hailed us out of the darkness,
but still the Aurora thundered on, and still we followed close upon her
track.

"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.  "Get every pound of steam you can."

"I think we gain a little," said Jones, with his eyes on the Aurora.

"I am sure of it," said I.  "We shall be up with her in a very few
minutes."

At that moment, however, as our evil fate would have it, a tug with
three barges in tow blundered in between us.  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.  She was still, however, well in view, and the murky uncertain
twilight was setting into a clear starlit night.  Our boilers were
strained to their utmost, and the frail shell vibrated and creaked with
the fierce energy which was driving us along.  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.  The dull blur in front of us
resolved itself now clearly enough into the dainty Aurora.  Jones
turned our search-light upon her, so that we could plainly see the
figures upon her deck.  One man sat by the stern, with something black
between his knees over which he stooped.  Beside him lay a dark mass
which looked like a Newfoundland dog.  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.  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.  At Greenwich we were about three
hundred paces behind them.  At Blackwall we could not have been more
than two hundred and fifty.  I have coursed many creatures in many
countries during my checkered career, but never did sport give me such
a wild thrill as this mad, flying man-hunt down the Thames.  Steadily
we drew in upon them, yard by yard.  In the silence of the night we
could hear the panting and clanking of their machinery.  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.  Nearer we came
and nearer. Jones yelled to them to stop.  We were not more than four
boat's lengths behind them, both boats flying at a tremendous pace.  It
was a clear reach of the river, with Barking Level upon one side and
the melancholy Plumstead Marshes upon the other.  At our hail the man
in the stern sprang up from the deck and shook his two clinched fists
at us, cursing the while in a high, cracked voice. 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.  At the sound of his strident, angry cries there was
movement in the huddled bundle upon the deck.  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.  Holmes had
already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of this
savage, distorted creature.  He was wrapped in some sort of dark ulster
or blanket, which left only his face exposed; but that face was enough
to give a man a sleepless night.  Never have I seen features so deeply
marked with all bestiality and cruelty.  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 a half animal fury.

"Fire if he raises his hand," said Holmes, quietly.  We were within a
boat's-length by this time, and almost within touch of our quarry.  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.

It was well that we had so clear a view of him.  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. Our pistols rang out
together.  He whirled round, threw up his arms, and with a kind of
choking cough fell sideways into the stream.  I caught one glimpse of
his venomous, menacing eyes amid the white swirl of the waters.  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.  We were
round after her in an instant, but she was already nearly at the bank.
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.  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.
The fugitive sprang out, but his stump instantly sank its whole length
into the sodden soil.  In vain he struggled and writhed.  Not one step
could he possibly take either forwards or backwards.  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.  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.  The two Smiths, father and son, sat sullenly in their
launch, but came aboard meekly enough when commanded.  The Aurora
herself we hauled off and made fast to our stern.  A solid iron chest
of Indian workmanship stood upon the deck.  This, there could be no
question, was the same that had contained the ill-omened treasure of
the Sholtos.  There was no key, but it was of considerable weight, so
we transferred it carefully to our own little cabin.  As we steamed
slowly up-stream again, we flashed our search-light in every direction,
but there was no sign of the Islander.  Somewhere in the dark ooze at
the bottom of the Thames lie the bones of that strange visitor to our
shores.


"See here," said Holmes, pointing to the wooden hatchway.  "We were
hardly quick enough with our pistols."  There, sure enough, just behind
where we had been standing, stuck one of those murderous darts which we
knew so well.  It must have whizzed between us at the instant that we
fired.  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.



Chapter XI

The Great Agra Treasure

Our captive sat in the cabin opposite to the iron box which he had done
so much and waited so long to gain.  He was a sunburned, reckless-eyed
fellow, with a net-work of lines and wrinkles all over his mahogany
features, which told of a hard, open-air life. There was a singular
prominence about his bearded chin which marked a man who was not to be
easily turned from his purpose. His age may have been fifty or
thereabouts, for his black, curly hair was thickly shot with gray.  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.  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.
It seemed to me that there was more sorrow than anger in his rigid and
contained countenance.  Once he looked up at me with a gleam of
something like humor in his eyes.

"Well, Jonathan Small," said Holmes, lighting a cigar, "I am sorry that
it has come to this."

"And so am I, sir," he answered, frankly.  "I don't believe that I can
swing over the job.  I give you my word on the book that I never raised
hand against Mr. Sholto.  It was that little hell-hound Tonga who shot
one of his cursed darts into him.  I had no part in it, sir.  I was as
grieved as if it had been my blood-relation.  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."

"Have a cigar," said Holmes; "and you had best take a pull out of my
flask, for you are very wet.  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?"

"You seem to know as much about it as if you were there, sir. The truth
is that I hoped to find the room clear.  I knew the habits of the house
pretty well, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto usually went down to
his supper.  I shall make no secret of the business.  The best defence
that I can make is just the simple truth.  Now, if it had been the old
major I would have swung for him with a light heart.  I would have
thought no more of knifing him than of smoking this cigar.  But it's
cursed hard that I should be lagged over this young Sholto, with whom I
had no quarrel whatever."

"You are under the charge of Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard.  He
is going to bring you up to my rooms, and I shall ask you for a true
account of the matter.  You must make a clean breast of it, for if you
do I hope that I may be of use to you. I think I can prove that the
poison acts so quickly that the man was dead before ever you reached
the room."

"That he was, sir.  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.  It fairly shook me, sir.  I'd have half killed Tonga for
it if he had not scrambled off.  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.  I don't feel no malice against you for it.  But it does
seem a queer thing," he added, with a bitter smile, "that I who have a
fair claim to nigh upon 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.  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.  To him it brought murder, to Major Sholto
it brought fear and guilt, to me it has meant slavery for life."

At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his broad face and heavy shoulders
into the tiny cabin.  "Quite a family party," he remarked.  "I think I
shall have a pull at that flask, Holmes. Well, I think we may all
congratulate each other.  Pity we didn't take the other alive; but
there was no choice.  I say, Holmes, you must confess that you cut it
rather fine.  It was all we could do to overhaul her."

"All is well that ends well," said Holmes.  "But I certainly did not
know that the Aurora was such a clipper."

"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.  He swears he knew nothing of this Norwood business."

"Neither he did," cried our prisoner,--"not a word.  I chose his launch
because I heard that she was a flier.  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."

"Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see that no wrong comes to him.
If we are pretty quick in catching our men, we are not so quick in
condemning them."  It was amusing to notice how the consequential Jones
was already beginning to give himself airs on the strength of the
capture.  From the slight smile which played over Sherlock Holmes's
face, I could see that the speech had not been lost upon him.

"We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently," said Jones, "and shall land
you, Dr. Watson, with the treasure-box.  I need hardly tell you that I
am taking a very grave responsibility upon myself in doing this.  It is
most irregular; but of course an agreement is an agreement.  I must,
however, as a matter of duty, send an inspector with you, since you
have so valuable a charge.  You will drive, no doubt?"

"Yes, I shall drive."

"It is a pity there is no key, that we may make an inventory first.
You will have to break it open.  Where is the key, my man?"

"At the bottom of the river," said Small, shortly.

"Hum!  There was no use your giving this unnecessary trouble.  We have
had work enough already through you.  However, doctor, I need not warn
you to be careful.  Bring the box back with you to the Baker Street
rooms.  You will find us there, on our way to the station."

They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy iron box, and with a bluff,
genial inspector as my companion.  A quarter of an hour's drive brought
us to Mrs. Cecil Forrester's.  The servant seemed surprised at so late
a visitor.  Mrs. Cecil Forrester was out for the evening, she
explained, and likely to be very late.  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.

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.  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.  One white arm and hand drooped over the side of the chair, and
her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing melancholy.  At the
sound of my foot-fall she sprang to her feet, however, and a bright
flush of surprise and of pleasure colored her pale cheeks.

"I heard a cab drive up," she said.  "I thought that Mrs. Forrester had
come back very early, but I never dreamed that it might be you.  What
news have you brought me?"

"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.  "I have brought you something which is
worth all the news in the world.  I have brought you a fortune."

She glanced at the iron box.  "Is that the treasure, then?" she asked,
coolly enough.

"Yes, this is the great Agra treasure.  Half of it is yours and half is
Thaddeus Sholto's.  You will have a couple of hundred thousand each.
Think of that!  An annuity of ten thousand pounds.  There will be few
richer young ladies in England.  Is it not glorious?"

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.

"If I have it," said she, "I owe it to you."

"No, no," I answered, "not to me, but to my friend Sherlock Holmes.
With all the will in the world, I could never have followed up a clue
which has taxed even his analytical genius. As it was, we very nearly
lost it at the last moment."

"Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson," said she.

I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had seen her
last,--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.  She listened with parted lips and shining
eyes to my recital of our adventures.  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.

"It is nothing," she said, as I hastened to pour her out some water.
"I am all right again.  It was a shock to me to hear that I had placed
my friends in such horrible peril."

"That is all over," I answered.  "It was nothing.  I will tell you no
more gloomy details.  Let us turn to something brighter. There is the
treasure.  What could be brighter than that?  I got leave to bring it
with me, thinking that it would interest you to be the first to see it."

"It would be of the greatest interest to me," she said.  There was no
eagerness in her voice, however.  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.

"What a pretty box!" she said, stooping over it.  "This is Indian work,
I suppose?"

"Yes; it is Benares metal-work."

"And so heavy!" she exclaimed, trying to raise it.  "The box alone must
be of some value.  Where is the key?"

"Small threw it into the Thames," I answered.  "I must borrow Mrs.
Forrester's poker."  There was in the front a thick and broad hasp,
wrought in the image of a sitting Buddha.  Under this I thrust the end
of the poker and twisted it outward as a lever. The hasp sprang open
with a loud snap.  With trembling fingers I flung back the lid.  We
both stood gazing in astonishment.  The box was empty!

No wonder that it was heavy.  The iron-work was two-thirds of an inch
thick all round.  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 jewelry lay within it.  It was absolutely and completely
empty.

"The treasure is lost," said Miss Morstan, calmly.

As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a great shadow
seemed to pass from my soul.  I did not know how this Agra treasure had
weighed me down, until now that it was finally removed.  It was
selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I could realize nothing save
that the golden barrier was gone from between us.  "Thank God!" I
ejaculated from my very heart.

She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile.  "Why do you say
that?" she asked.

"Because you are within my reach again," I said, taking her hand. She
did not withdraw it.  "Because I love you, Mary, as truly as ever a man
loved a woman.  Because this treasure, these riches, sealed my lips.
Now that they are gone I can tell you how I love you.  That is why I
said, 'Thank God.'"

"Then I say, 'Thank God,' too," she whispered, as I drew her to my
side.  Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had gained
one.



Chapter XII

The Strange Story of Jonathan Small

A very patient man was that inspector in the cab, for it was a weary
time before I rejoined him.  His face clouded over when I showed him
the empty box.

"There goes the reward!" said he, gloomily.  "Where there is no money
there is no pay.  This night's work would have been worth a tenner each
to Sam Brown and me if the treasure had been there."

"Mr. Thaddeus Sholto is a rich man," I said.  "He will see that you are
rewarded, treasure or no."

The inspector shook his head despondently, however.  "It's a bad job,"
he repeated; "and so Mr. Athelney Jones will think."

His forecast proved to be correct, for the detective looked blank
enough when I got to Baker Street and showed him the empty box. 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.  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.  As I exhibited the empty box he leaned
back in his chair and laughed aloud.

"This is your doing, Small," said Athelney Jones, angrily.

"Yes, I have put it away where you shall never lay hand upon it," he
cried, exultantly.  "It is my treasure; and if I can't have the loot
I'll take darned good care that no one else does.  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.  I know now that I cannot have the
use of it, and I know that they cannot.  I have acted all through for
them as much as for myself. It's been the sign of four with us always.
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 of Morstan.  It was not to make them rich that we did for
Achmet.  You'll find the treasure where the key is, and where little
Tonga is.  When I saw that your launch must catch us, I put the loot
away in a safe place.  There are no rupees for you this journey."

"You are deceiving us, Small," said Athelney Jones, sternly.  "If you
had wished to throw the treasure into the Thames it would have been
easier for you to have thrown box and all."

"Easier for me to throw, and easier for you to recover," he answered,
with a shrewd, sidelong look.  "The man that was clever enough to hunt
me down is clever enough to pick an iron box from the bottom of a
river.  Now that they are scattered over five miles or so, it may be a
harder job.  It went to my heart to do it, though.  I was half mad when
you came up with us.  However, there's no good grieving over it.  I've
had ups in my life, and I've had downs, but I've learned not to cry
over spilled milk."

"This is a very serious matter, Small," said the detective.  "If you
had helped justice, instead of thwarting it in this way, you would have
had a better chance at your trial."

"Justice!" snarled the ex-convict.  "A pretty justice!  Whose loot is
this, if it is not ours?  Where is the justice that I should give it up
to those who have never earned it?  Look how I have earned it!  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.  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!  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." 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.  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.

"You forget that we know nothing of all this," said Holmes quietly.
"We have not heard your story, and we cannot tell how far justice may
originally have been on your side."

"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.  Still,
I bear no grudge for that.  It is all fair and above-board.  If you
want to hear my story I have no wish to hold it back. What I say to you
is God's truth, every word of it. Thank you; you can put the glass
beside me here, and I'll put my lips to it if I am dry.

"I am a Worcestershire man myself,--born near Pershore.  I dare say you
would find a heap of Smalls living there now if you were to look.  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.  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.  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 3d Buffs, which was just starting for India.

"I wasn't destined to do much soldiering, however.  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.  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.  A crocodile took me, just as I was
half-way across, and nipped off my right leg as clean as a surgeon
could have done it, just above the knee.  What with the shock and the
loss of blood, I fainted, and should have drowned if Holder had not
caught hold of me and paddled for the bank. 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.

"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. However, my
misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in disguise. A man named
Abelwhite, who had come out there as an indigo-planter, wanted an
overseer to look after his coolies and keep them up to their work.  He
happened to be a friend of our colonel's, who had taken an interest in
me since the accident. 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 good grip on the saddle.  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.  The pay was fair, I had comfortable quarters, and
altogether I was content to spend the remainder of my life in
indigo-planting.  Mr. Abelwhite 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.

"Well, I was never in luck's way long.  Suddenly, without a note of
warning, the great mutiny broke upon us.  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.  Of course you know all about it, gentlemen,--a deal more
than I do, very like, since reading is not in my line.  I only know
what I saw with my own eyes.  Our plantation was at a place called
Muttra, near the border of the Northwest Provinces.  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.  Mr. Abelwhite was an obstinate man.  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.  There he sat on his veranda, drinking
whiskey-pegs and smoking cheroots, while the country was in a blaze
about him.  Of course we stuck by him, I and Dawson, who, with his
wife, used to do the book-work and the managing.  Well, one fine day
the crash came.  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.  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.  A little further 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.  I reined up my horse,
wondering which way I should turn, but at that moment I saw thick smoke
curling up from Abelwhite's bungalow and the flames beginning to burst
through the roof.  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.  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.  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.

"As it proved, however, there was no great safety there, either. The
whole country was up like a swarm of bees.  Wherever the English could
collect in little bands they held just the ground that their guns
commanded.  Everywhere else they were helpless fugitives.  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.  At Agra there were
the 3d Bengal Fusiliers, some Sikhs, two troops of horse, and a battery
of artillery.  A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants had been
formed, and this I joined, wooden leg and all.  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.
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.  Lucknow is rather better than a hundred
miles to the east, and Cawnpore about as far to the south.  From every
point on the compass there was nothing but torture and murder and
outrage.

"The city of Agra is a great place, swarming with fanatics and fierce
devil-worshippers of all sorts.  Our handful of men were lost among the
narrow, winding streets.  Our leader moved across the river, therefore,
and took up his position in the old fort at Agra.  I don't know if any
of you gentlemen have ever read or heard anything of that old fort.  It
is a very queer place,--the queerest that ever I was in, and I have
been in some rum corners, too.  First of all, it is enormous in size.
I should think that the enclosure must be acres and acres.  There is a
modern part, which took all our garrison, women, children, stores, and
everything else, with plenty of room over.  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.  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.  For
this reason it was seldom that any one went into it, though now and
again a party with torches might go exploring.

"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.  We were short-handed, with hardly men
enough to man the angles of the building and to serve the guns.  It was
impossible for us, therefore, to station a strong guard at every one of
the innumerable gates.  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.  I was selected to
take charge during certain hours of the night of a small isolated door
upon the southwest side of the building.  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.  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.

"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.  For two nights I
kept the watch with my Punjaubees.  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.  They could talk
English pretty well, but I could get little out of them.  They
preferred to stand together and jabber all night in their queer Sikh
lingo.  For myself, I used to stand outside the gate-way, looking down
on the broad, winding river and on the twinkling lights of the great
city.  The beating of drums, the rattle of tomtoms, and the yells and
howls of the rebels, drunk with opium and with bang, were enough to
remind us all night of our dangerous neighbors across the stream.
Every two hours the officer of the night used to come round to all the
posts, to make sure that all was well.

"The third night of my watch was dark and dirty, with a small, driving
rain.  It was dreary work standing in the gate-way hour after hour in
such weather.  I tried again and again to make my Sikhs talk, but
without much success.  At two in the morning the rounds passed, and
broke for a moment the weariness of the night. Finding that my
companions would not be led into conversation, I took out my pipe, and
laid down my musket to strike the match. In an instant the two Sikhs
were upon me.  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.

"My first thought was that these fellows were in league with the
rebels, and that this was the beginning of an assault.  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.  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.  The man who
held me seemed to know my thoughts; for, even as I braced myself to it,
he whispered, 'Don't make a noise.  The fort is safe enough.  There are
no rebel dogs on this side of the river.'  There was the ring of truth
in what he said, and I knew that if I raised my voice I was a dead man.
I could read it in the fellow's brown eyes.  I waited, therefore, in
silence, to see what it was that they wanted from me.

"'Listen to me, Sahib,' said the taller and fiercer of the pair, the
one whom they called Abdullah Khan.  'You must either be with us now or
you must be silenced forever.  The thing is too great a one for us to
hesitate.  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.
There is no middle way.  Which is it to be, death or life?  We can only
give you three minutes to decide, for the time is passing, and all must
be done before the rounds come again.'

"'How can I decide?' said I.  'You have not told me what you want of
me.  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.'

"'It is nothing against the fort,' said he.  'We only ask you to do
that which your countrymen come to this land for.  We ask you to be
rich.  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.  A quarter
of the treasure shall be yours.  We can say no fairer.'

"'But what is the treasure, then?' I asked.  'I am as ready to be rich
as you can be, if you will but show me how it can be done.'

"'You will swear, then,' said he, 'by the bones of your father, by the
honor of your mother, by the cross of your faith, to raise no hand and
speak no word against us, either now or afterwards?'

"'I will swear it,' I answered, 'provided that the fort is not
endangered.'

"'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.'

"'There are but three,' said I.

"'No; Dost Akbar must have his share.  We can tell the tale to you
while we await them.  Do you stand at the gate, Mahomet Singh, and give
notice of their coming.  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.  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.  But the Sikh knows the
Englishman, and the Englishman knows the Sikh.  Hearken, then, to what
I have to say.

"'There is a rajah in the northern provinces who has much wealth,
though his lands are small.  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.  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.  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.  Yet, being a careful man, he made
such plans that, come what might, half at least of his treasure should
be left to him.  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. Thus, if the rebels
won he would have his money, but if the Company conquered his jewels
would be saved to him.  Having thus divided his hoard, he threw himself
into the cause of the Sepoys, since they were strong upon his borders.
By doing this, mark you, Sahib, his property becomes the due of those
who have been true to their salt.

"'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.  He has
with him as travelling-companion my foster-brother Dost Akbar, who
knows his secret.  Dost Akbar has promised this night to lead him to a
side-postern of the fort, and has chosen this one for his purpose.
Here he will come presently, and here he will find Mahomet Singh and
myself awaiting him.  The place is lonely, and none shall know of his
coming.  The world shall know of the merchant Achmet no more, but the
great treasure of the rajah shall be divided among us.  What say you to
it, Sahib?'

"In Worcestershire the life of a man seems a great and a 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. 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-well coming back with his pockets full of gold
moidores.  I had, therefore, already made up my mind.  Abdullah Khan,
however, thinking that I hesitated, pressed the matter more closely.

"'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. Now,
since we do the taking of him, why should we not do the rest as well?
The jewels will be as well with us as in the Company's coffers.  There
will be enough to make every one of us rich men and great chiefs.  No
one can know about the matter, for here we are cut off from all men.
What could be better for the purpose? Say again, then, Sahib, whether
you are with us, or if we must look upon you as an enemy.'

"'I am with you heart and soul,' said I.

"'It is well,' he answered, handing me back my firelock.  'You see that
we trust you, for your word, like ours, is not to be broken.  We have
now only to wait for my brother and the merchant.'

"'Does your brother know, then, of what you will do?' I asked.

"'The plan is his.  He has devised it.  We will go to the gate and
share the watch with Mahomet Singh.'

"The rain was still falling steadily, for it was just the beginning of
the wet season.  Brown, heavy clouds were drifting across the sky, and
it was hard to see more than a stone-cast.  A deep moat lay in front of
our door, but the water was in places nearly dried up, and it could
easily be crossed.  It was strange to me to be standing there with
those two wild Punjaubees waiting for the man who was coming to his
death.

"Suddenly my eye caught the glint of a shaded lantern at the other side
of the moat.  It vanished among the mound-heaps, and then appeared
again coming slowly in our direction.

"'Here they are!' I exclaimed.

"'You will challenge him, Sahib, as usual,' whispered Abdullah. 'Give
him no cause for fear.  Send us in with him, and we shall do the rest
while you stay here on guard.  Have the lantern ready to uncover, that
we may be sure that it is indeed the man.'

"The light had flickered onwards, now stopping and now advancing, until
I could see two dark figures upon the other side of the moat.  I let
them scramble down the sloping bank, splash through the mire, and climb
half-way up to the gate, before I challenged them.

"'Who goes there?' said I, in a subdued voice.

"'Friends,' came the answer.  I uncovered my lantern and threw a flood
of light upon them.  The first was an enormous Sikh, with a black beard
which swept nearly down to his cummerbund.  Outside of a show I have
never seen so tall a man.  The other was a little, fat, round fellow,
with a great yellow turban, and a bundle in his hand, done up in a
shawl.  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.  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.  When he saw my white face he gave a little chirrup of joy
and came running up towards me.

"'Your protection, Sahib,' he panted,--'your protection for the unhappy
merchant Achmet.  I have travelled across Rajpootana that I might seek
the shelter of the fort at Agra.  I have been robbed and beaten and
abused because I have been the friend of the Company.  It is a blessed
night this when I am once more in safety,--I and my poor possessions.'

"'What have you in the bundle?' I asked.

"'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.  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.'

"I could not trust myself to speak longer with the man.  The more I
looked at his fat, frightened face, the harder did it seem that we
should slay him in cold blood.  It was best to get it over.

"'Take him to the main guard,' said I.  The two Sikhs closed in upon
him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while they marched in
through the dark gate-way.  Never was a man so compassed round with
death.  I remained at the gate-way with the lantern.

"I could hear the measured tramp of their footsteps sounding through
the lonely corridors.  Suddenly it ceased, and I heard voices, and a
scuffle, with the sound of blows.  A moment later there came, to my
horror, a rush of footsteps coming in my direction, with the loud
breathing of a running man.  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.  I have never seen a man run so fast as that little merchant.
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.  My heart softened
to him, but again the thought of his treasure turned me hard and
bitter.  I cast my firelock between his legs as he raced past, and he
rolled twice over like a shot rabbit.  Ere he could stagger to his feet
the Sikh was upon him, and buried his knife twice in his side.  The man
never uttered moan nor moved muscle, but lay were he had fallen.  I
think myself that he may have broken his neck with the fall.  You see,
gentlemen, that I am keeping my promise.  I am telling you every work
of the business just exactly as it happened, whether it is in my favor
or not."

He stopped, and held out his manacled hands for the whiskey-and-water
which Holmes had brewed for him.  For myself, I confess that I had now
conceived the utmost horror of the man, not only for this cold-blooded
business in which he had been concerned, but even more for the somewhat
flippant and careless way in which he narrated it.  Whatever punishment
was in store for him, I felt that he might expect no sympathy from me.
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. He may have observed it, for there was a touch of defiance in
his voice and manner as he proceeded.

"It was all very bad, no doubt," said he.  "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.
Besides, it was my life or his when once he was in the fort.  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."

"Go on with your story," said Holmes, shortly.

"Well, we carried him in, Abdullah, Akbar, and I.  A fine weight he
was, too, for all that he was so short.  Mahomet Singh was left to
guard the door.  We took him to a place which the Sikhs had already
prepared.  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.  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.  This done, we all went back to the treasure.

"It lay where he had dropped it when he was first attacked.  The box
was the same which now lies open upon your table.  A key was hung by a
silken cord to that carved handle upon the top.  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.  It was
blinding to look upon them.  When we had feasted our eyes we took them
all out and made a list of them.  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.  Then there were ninety-seven very fine
emeralds, and one hundred and seventy rubies, some of which, however,
were small.  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.  Besides this, there were nearly three hundred very fine pearls,
twelve of which were set in a gold coronet.  By the way, these last had
been taken out of the chest and were not there when I recovered it.

"After we had counted our treasures we put them back into the chest and
carried them to the gate-way to show them to Mahomet Singh.  Then we
solemnly renewed our oath to stand by each other and be true to our
secret.  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.  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.  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.  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.  That is an oath
that I can put my hand to my heart and swear that I have never broken.

"Well, there's no use my telling you gentlemen what came of the Indian
mutiny.  After Wilson took Delhi and Sir Colin relieved Lucknow the
back of the business was broken.  Fresh troops came pouring in, and
Nana Sahib made himself scarce over the frontier. A flying column under
Colonel Greathed came round to Agra and cleared the Pandies away from
it.  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 shares of the plunder.  In a moment, however, our hopes were
shattered by our being arrested as the murderers of Achmet.

"It came about in this way.  When the rajah put his jewels into the
hands of Achmet he did it because he knew that he was a trusty man.
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?  This second man was ordered never to let Achmet
out of his sight, and he followed him like his shadow.  He went after
him that night and saw him pass through the doorway.  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.  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.  A thorough search was
quickly made, and the body was discovered.  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.  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.  The murder, however,
was clearly made out, and it was certain that we must all have been
concerned in it.  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.

"It was rather a queer position that we found ourselves in then. 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.  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.  It might have driven me mad; but I was
always a pretty stubborn one, so I just held on and bided my time.

"At last it seemed to me to have come.  I was changed from Agra to
Madras, and from there to Blair Island in the Andamans.  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.  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.  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.  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.  Among other things, I learned to dispense drugs for the
surgeon, and picked up a smattering of his knowledge.  All the time I
was on the lookout 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.

"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.  The surgery, where I used to make up my drugs, was next to his
sitting-room, with a small window between us. 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.  I am
fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one
to watch the others.  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.  A very snug little
party they used to make.

"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.  Mind, I
don't say that there was anything unfair, but so it was.  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.  Night after night the soldiers got up poorer men, and the
poorer they got the more keen they were to play.  Major Sholto was the
hardest hit.  He used to pay in notes and gold at first, but soon it
came to notes of hand and for big sums.  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.  All day he would wander about as black as
thunder, and he took to drinking a deal more than was good for him.

"One night he lost even more heavily than usual.  I was sitting in my
hut when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along on the way to
their quarters.  They were bosom friends, those two, and never far
apart.  The major was raving about his losses.

"'It's all up, Morstan,' he was saying, as they passed my hut. 'I shall
have to send in my papers.  I am a ruined man.'

"'Nonsense, old chap!' said the other, slapping him upon the shoulder.
'I've had a nasty facer myself, but--'  That was all I could hear, but
it was enough to set me thinking.

"A couple of days later Major Sholto was strolling on the beach: so I
took the chance of speaking to him.

"'I wish to have your advice, major,' said I.

"'Well, Small, what is it?' he asked, taking his cheroot from his lips.

"'I wanted to ask you, sir,' said I, 'who is the proper person to whom
hidden treasure should be handed over.  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.'

"'Half a million, Small?' he gasped, looking hard at me to see if I was
in earnest.

"'Quite that, sir,--in jewels and pearls.  It lies there ready for any
one.  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.'

"'To government, Small,' he stammered,--'to government.'  But he said
it in a halting fashion, and I knew in my heart that I had got him.

"'You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to the
Governor-General?' said I, quietly.

"'Well, well, you must not do anything rash, or that you might repent.
Let me hear all about it, Small.  Give me the facts.'

"I told him the whole story, with small changes so that he could not
identify the places.  When I had finished he stood stock still and full
of thought.  I could see by the twitch of his lip that there was a
struggle going on within him.

"'This is a very important matter, Small,' he said, at last. 'You must
not say a word to any one about it, and I shall see you again soon.'

"Two nights later he and his friend Captain Morstan came to my hut in
the dead of the night with a lantern.

"'I want you just to let Captain Morstan hear that story from your own
lips, Small,' said he.

"I repeated it as I had told it before.

"'It rings true, eh?' said he.  'It's good enough to act upon?'

"Captain Morstan nodded.

"'Look here, Small,' said the major.  '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.  Now, the question is, what price would you ask for
it?  We might be inclined to take it up, and at least look into it, if
we could agree as to terms.'  He tried to speak in a cool, careless
way, but his eyes were shining with excitement and greed.

"'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. We shall then take you into
partnership, and give you a fifth share to divide between you.'

"'Hum!' said he.  'A fifth share!  That is not very tempting.'

"'It would come to fifty thousand apiece,' said I.

"'But how can we gain your freedom?  You know very well that you ask an
impossibility.'

"'Nothing of the sort,' I answered.  'I have thought it all out to the
last detail.  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.  There
are plenty of little yachts and yawls at Calcutta or Madras which would
serve our turn well.  Do you bring one over. 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.'

"'If there were only one,' he said.

"'None or all,' I answered.  'We have sworn it.  The four of us must
always act together.'

"'You see, Morstan,' said he, 'Small is a man of his word.  He does not
flinch from his friend.  I think we may very well trust him.'

"'It's a dirty business,' the other answered.  'Yet, as you say, the
money would save our commissions handsomely.'

"'Well, Small,' said the major, 'we must, I suppose, try and meet you.
We must first, of course, test the truth of your story. 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.'

"'Not so fast,' said I, growing colder as he got hot.  'I must have the
consent of my three comrades.  I tell you that it is four or none with
us.'

"'Nonsense!' he broke in.  'What have three black fellows to do with
our agreement?'

"'Black or blue,' said I, 'they are in with me, and we all go together.'

"Well, the matter ended by a second meeting, at which Mahomet Singh,
Abdullah Khan, and Dost Akbar were all present.  We talked the matter
over again, and at last we came to an arrangement.  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.  Major Sholto was to go
to India to test our story.  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.  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.  All this we sealed by the most solemn oaths that the mind could
think or the lips utter.  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.

"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.  I'll
make it as short as I can.  The villain Sholto went off to India, but
he never came back again.  Captain Morstan showed me his name among a
list of passengers in one of the mail-boats very shortly afterwards.
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.  Morstan
went over to Agra shortly afterwards, and found, as we expected, that
the treasure was indeed gone.  The scoundrel had stolen it all, without
carrying out one of the conditions on which we had sold him the secret.
From that day I lived only for vengeance.  I thought of it by day and I
nursed it by night.  It became an overpowering, absorbing passion with
me.  I cared nothing for the law,--nothing for the gallows.  To escape,
to track down Sholto, to have my hand upon his throat,--that was my one
thought.  Even the Agra treasure had come to be a smaller thing in my
mind than the slaying of Sholto.

"Well, I have set my mind on many things in this life, and never one
which I did not carry out.  But it was weary years before my time came.
I have told you that I had picked up something of medicine.  One day
when Dr. Somerton was down with a fever a little Andaman Islander was
picked up by a convict-gang in the woods.  He was sick to death, and
had gone to a lonely place to die.  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.  He took a kind of fancy to me then, and
would hardly go back to his woods, but was always hanging about my hut.
I learned a little of his lingo from him, and this made him all the
fonder of me.

"Tonga--for that was his name--was a fine boatman, and owned a big,
roomy canoe of his own.  When I found that he was devoted to me and
would do anything to serve me, I saw my chance of escape. I talked it
over with him.  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.  I
gave him directions to have several gourds of water and a lot of yams,
cocoa-nuts, and sweet potatoes.

"He was stanch and true, was little Tonga.  No man ever had a more
faithful mate.  At the night named he had his boat at the wharf.  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.
I had always vowed vengeance, and now I had my chance.  It was as if
fate had placed him in my way that I might pay my debt before I left
the island.  He stood on the bank with his back to me, and his carbine
on his shoulder.  I looked about for a stone to beat out his brains
with, but none could I see.  Then a queer thought came into my head and
showed me where I could lay my hand on a weapon.  I sat down in the
darkness and unstrapped my wooden leg.  With three long hops I was on
him.  He put his carbine to his shoulder, but I struck him full, and
knocked the whole front of his skull in.  You can see the split in the
wood now where I hit him.  We both went down together, for I could not
keep my balance, but when I got up I found him still lying quiet
enough.  I made for the boat, and in an hour we were well out at sea.
Tonga had brought all his earthly possessions with him, his arms and
his gods.  Among other things, he had a long bamboo spear, and some
Andaman cocoa-nut matting, with which I made a sort of sail.  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.  They were a rum crowd, and Tonga and I
soon managed to settle down among them.  They had one very good
quality:  they let you alone and asked no questions.

"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.  Here and there we drifted about the world,
something always turning up to keep us from London.  All the time,
however, I never lost sight of my purpose. I would dream of Sholto at
night.  A hundred times I have killed him in my sleep.  At last,
however, some three or four years ago, we found ourselves in England.
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.  I made friends with someone who could help me,--I name no
names, for I don't want to get any one else in a hole,--and I soon
found that he still had the jewels.  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.

"One day, however, I got word that he was dying.  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.  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.  I got into his room that same night, though,
and I searched his papers to see if there was any record of where he
had hidden our jewels.  There was not a line, however:  so I came away,
bitter and savage as a man could be.  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.  It was too much that he should be taken to the grave without
some token from the men whom he had robbed and befooled.

"We earned a living at this time by my exhibiting poor Tonga at fairs
and other such places as the black cannibal.  He would eat raw meat and
dance his war-dance:  so we always had a hatful of pennies after a
day's work.  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.  At last, however, came what we had waited for so long.
The treasure had been found.  It was up at the top of the house, in Mr.
Bartholomew Sholto's chemical laboratory.  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.  I learned, however, about a trap-door in the
roof, and also about Mr. Sholto's supper-hour.  It seemed to me that I
could manage the thing easily through Tonga. I brought him out with me
with a long rope wound round his waist. 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.  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.  Very much
surprised was he when I made at him with the rope's end and cursed him
for a little blood-thirsty imp.  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.  Tonga then pulled up the rope, closed the
window, and made off the way that he had come.

"I don't know that I have anything else to tell you.  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.  I engaged with old Smith,
and was to give him a big sum if he got us safe to our ship.  He knew,
no doubt, that there was some screw loose, but he was not in our
secrets.  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."

"A very remarkable account," said Sherlock Holmes.  "A fitting wind-up
to an extremely interesting case.  There is nothing at all new to me in
the latter part of your narrative, except that you brought your own
rope.  That I did not know.  By the way, I had hoped that Tonga had
lost all his darts; yet he managed to shoot one at us in the boat."

"He had lost them all, sir, except the one which was in his blow-pipe
at the time."

"Ah, of course," said Holmes.  "I had not thought of that."

"Is there any other point which you would like to ask about?" asked the
convict, affably.

"I think not, thank you," my companion answered.

"Well, Holmes," said Athelney Jones, "You are a man to be humored, 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.  I
shall feel more at ease when we have our story-teller here safe under
lock and key.  The cab still waits, and there are two inspectors
down-stairs.  I am much obliged to you both for your assistance.  Of
course you will be wanted at the trial.  Good-night to you."

"Good-night, gentlemen both," said Jonathan Small.

"You first, Small," remarked the wary Jones as they left the room.
"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."

"Well, and there is the end of our little drama," I remarked, after we
had set some time smoking in silence.  "I fear that it may be the last
investigation in which I shall have the chance of studying your
methods.  Miss Morstan has done me the honor to accept me as a husband
in prospective."

He gave a most dismal groan.  "I feared as much," said he.  "I really
cannot congratulate you."

I was a little hurt.  "Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my
choice?" I asked.

"Not at all.  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.  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.  But
love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to
that true cold reason which I place above all things.  I should never
marry myself, lest I bias my judgment."

"I trust," said I, laughing, "that my judgment may survive the ordeal.
But you look weary."

"Yes, the reaction is already upon me.  I shall be as limp as a rag for
a week."

"Strange," said I, "how terms of what in another man I should call
laziness alternate with your fits of splendid energy and vigor."

"Yes," he answered, "there are in me the makings of a very fine loafer
and also of a pretty spry sort of fellow.  I often think of those lines
of old Goethe,--

  Schade dass die Natur nur EINEN Mensch aus Dir schuf,
  Denn zum wuerdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.

"By the way, a propos 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 honor of
having caught one fish in his great haul."

"The division seems rather unfair," I remarked.  "You have done all the
work in this business.  I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit,
pray what remains for you?"

"For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the
cocaine-bottle."  And he stretched his long white hand up for it.





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