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The Sign of the Four
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Science of Deduction
Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece
and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.
With his longwhitenervous fingers he adjusted the delicate
needleand 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 homepressed down the tiny
pistonand 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
performancebut custom had not reconciled my mind to it. On the
contraryfrom day to day I had become more irritable at the
sightand 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 coolnonchalant air of my companion
which made him the last man with whom one would care to take
anything approaching to a liberty. His great powershis
masterly mannerand the experience which I had had of his many
extraordinary qualitiesall made me diffident and backward in
Yet upon that afternoonwhether it was the Beaune which I had
taken with my lunchor the additional exasperation produced by
the extreme deliberation of his mannerI 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-percent.
solution. Would you care to try it?"
No, indeed,I answeredbrusquely. "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 rightWatson he
said. I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I
find ithoweverso transcendently stimulating and clarifying to
the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment."
But consider!I saidearnestly. "Count the cost! Your brain
mayas you saybe roused and excitedbut it is a pathological
and morbid processwhich involves increased tissue-change and
may at last leave a permanent weakness. You knowtoowhat a
black reaction comes upon you. Surely the game is hardly worth
the candle. Why should youfor a mere passing pleasurerisk
the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed?
Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to anotherbut as
a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent
He did not seem offended. On the contraryhe put his fingertips
together and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair
like one who has a relish for conversation.
My mind,he saidrebels 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 saidraising 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--whichby
the wayis their normal state--the matter is laid before me. I
examine the dataas an expertand pronounce a specialist's
opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My name figures in no
newspaper. The work itselfthe pleasure of finding a field for
my peculiar powersis my highest reward. But you have yourself
had some experience of my methods of work in the Jefferson Hope
Yes, indeed,said Icordially. "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.
HonestlyI cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection isor
ought to bean exact scienceand should be treated in the same
cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with
romanticismwhich produces much the same effect as if you worked
a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of
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
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been
specially designed to please him. I confesstoothat 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 remarkhoweverbut sat
nursing my wounded leg. I had a Jezail bullet through it some
time beforeandthough it did not prevent me from walkingit
ached wearily at every change of the weather.
My practice has extended recently to the Continent,said
Holmesafter a whilefilling up his old brier-root pipe. "I
was consulted last week by Francois Le Villardwhoas you
probably knowhas come rather to the front lately in the French
detective service. He has all the Celtic power of quick
intuitionbut 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 willand possessed some
features of interest. I was able to refer him to two parallel
casesthe one at Riga in 1857and the other at St. Louis in
1871which have suggested to him the true solution. Here is the
letter which I had this morning acknowledging my assistance." He
tossed overas he spokea crumpled sheet of foreign notepaper.
I glanced my eyes down itcatching a profusion of notes of
admirationwith stray "magnifiques coup-de-maitres and
tours-de-force all testifying to the ardent admiration of the
He speaks as a pupil to his master said I.
Ohhe 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."
Oh, didn't you know?he criedlaughing. "YesI have been
guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical
subjects. Herefor exampleis 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 definitelyfor examplethat some murder has been done
by a man who was smoking an Indian lunkahit 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
Not at all,I answeredearnestly. "It is of the greatest
interest to meespecially 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 answeredleaning back luxuriously in his armchair
and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. "For
exampleobservation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore
Street Post-Office this morningbut 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
partand I have mentioned it to no one."
It is simplicity itself,he remarkedchuckling 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 foundas 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 postcards.
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 repliedafter a little
thought. "The thinghoweverisas you sayof the simplest.
Would yo think me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a
more severe test?"
On the contrary,he answeredit 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 heartfor the test wasas I thoughtan impossible one
and I intended it as a lesson against the somewhat dogmatic tone
which he occasionally assumed. He balanced the watch in his
handgazed hard at the dialopened the backand examined the
worksfirst 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 cleanedwhich 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 observedstaring up at the ceiling with dreamy
lack-lustre eyes. "Subject to your correctionI should judge
that the watch belonged to your elder brotherwho 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
descents 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
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 brotherand 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 unkindandto speak plainlyhas a touch of
charlatanism in it."
My dear doctor,said hekindlypray 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 know 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 noddedto 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 duncolored
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 tiradewhen with a crisp
knock our landlady enteredbearing a card upon the brass salver.
A young lady for you, sir,she saidaddressing my companion.
Miss Mary Morstan,he read. "Hum! I have no recollection of
the name. Ask the young lady to step upMrs. Hudson. Don't go
doctor. I should prefer that you remain."
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 ladysmalldainty
well glovedand dressed in the most perfect taste. There was
howevera plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore
with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was a sombre
grayish beigeuntrimmed and unbraidedand she wore a small
turban of the same dull huerelieved only by a suspicion of
white feather in the side. Her face had neither regularity of
feature nor beauty of complexionbut her expression was sweet
and amiableand her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual
and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over
many nations and three separate continentsI 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 herher lip trembledher
hand quiveredand she showed every sign of intense inward
I have come to you, Mr. Holmes,she saidbecause you once
enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a little
domestic complication. She was much impressed by your kindness
Mrs. Cecil Forrester,he repeated thoughtfully. "I believe
that I was of some slight service to her. The casehoweveras
I remember itwas 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 handsand his eyes glistened. He leaned
forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary
concentration upon his clear-cuthawklike features. "State your
case said he, in brisk, business tones.
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one. You willI am
sureexcuse 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 continuedthe 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 let 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 throatand a choking sob cut short the sentence.
The date?asked Holmesopening his note-book.
He disappeared upon the 3d of December, 1878,--nearly ten years
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
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 spokeand 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
Thank you,said Holmes. "The envelope tooplease. Postmark
LondonS.W. DateJuly 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 distrustfulbring two
friends. You are a wronged womanand shall have justice. Do
not bring police. If you doall will be in vain. Your unknown
friend.' Wellreallythis is a very pretty little mystery.
What do you intend to doMiss 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 askedwith something appealing in her
voice and expression.
I should be proud and happy,said Iferventlyif I can be of
You are both very kind,she answered. "I have led a retired
lifeand have no friends whom I could appeal to. If I am here
at six it will doI 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
I have them here,she answeredproducing half a dozen pieces
You are certainly a model client. You have the correct
intuition. Let us see, now.He spread out the papers upon the
tableand gave little darting glances from one to the other.
They are disguised hands, except the letter,he said
presentlybut 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,
Au revoir,said our visitorandwith a brightkindly glance
from one to the other of usshe replaced her pearl-box in her
bosom and hurried away. Standing at the windowI watched her
walking briskly down the streetuntil the gray turban and white
feather were but a speck in the sombre crowd.
What a very attractive woman!I exclaimedturning to my
He had lit his pipe againand was leaning back with drooping
eyelids. "Is she?" he saidlanguidly. "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-moneyand
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 lettershowever 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
I sat in the window with the volume in my handbut my thoughts
were far from the daring speculations of the writer. My mind ran
upon our late visitor--her smilesthe deep rich tones of her
voicethe 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 agewhen youth has lost its selfconsciousness
and become a little sobered by experience. So I
sat and museduntil 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 Ian army surgeon with
a weak leg and a weaker banking-accountthat I should dare to
think of such things? She was a unita factor--nothing more.
If my future were blackit was better surely to face it like a
man than to attempt to brighten it by mere will-o'-the-wisps of
In Quest of a Solution
It was half-past five before Holmes returned. He was bright
eagerand 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 saidtaking 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
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
There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties,said
Sherlock Holmespensively. "But our expedition of to-night will
solve them all. Ahhere is a four-wheelerand Miss Morstan is
inside. Are you all ready? Then we had better go downfor it
is a little past the hour."
I picked up my hat and my heaviest stickbut 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 cloakand her sensitive face
was composedbut pale. She must have been more than woman if
she did not feel some uneasiness at the strange enterprise upon
which we were embarkingyet her self-control was perfectand
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
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
corridorsand passages. At one point is a small cross done in
red inkand above it is '3.37 from left' in faded pencilwriting.
In the left-hand corner is a curious hieroglyphic like
four crosses in a line with their arms touching. Beside it is
writtenin very rough and coarse characters'The sign of the
four--Jonathan SmallMahomet SinghAbdullah KhanDost Akbar.'
NoI 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
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 caband 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 outcomebut our
companion maintained his impenetrable reserve until the end of
It was a September eveningand not yet seven o'clockbut the
day had been a dreary oneand 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 steamyvaporous airand threw a murkyshifting
radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There wasto my mind
something eerie and ghost-like in the endless procession of faces
which flitted across these narrow bars of light--sad faces and
gladhaggard and merry. Like all human kindthey flitted from
the gloom into the lightand so back into the gloom once more.
I am not subject to impressionsbut the dullheavy evening
with the strange business upon which we were engagedcombined 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 kneeand 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 sideentrances.
In front a continuous stream of hansoms and fourwheelers
were rattling updischarging their cargoes of shirtfronted
men and beshawledbediamonded women. We had hardly
reached the third pillarwhich was our rendezvousbefore a
smalldarkbrisk 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
He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and questioning eyes
upon us. "You will excuse memiss 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 whistleon which a street Arab led across a
four-wheeler and opened the door. The man who had addressed us
mounted to the boxwhile we took our places inside. We had
hardly done so before the driver whipped up his horseand we
plunged away at a furious pace through the foggy streets.
The situation was a curious one. We were driving to an unknown
placeon 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; butto tell the
truthI 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 nightand 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 soonwhat
with our pacethe fogand my own limited knowledge of LondonI
lost my bearingsand knew nothingsave that we seemed to be
going a very long way. Sherlock Holmes was never at fault
howeverand 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. YesI thought so. Now we are on the bridge. You
can catch glimpses of the river."
We did indeed bet a fleeting view of a stretch of the Thames with
the lamps shining upon the broadsilent water; but our cab
dashed onand 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 hadindeedreached 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 gardenand 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 inhabitedand that at which we stopped was as dark
as its neighborssave for a single glimmer in the kitchen
window. On our knockinghoweverthe door was instantly thrown
open by a Hindoo servant clad in a yellow turbanwhite loosefitting
clothesand 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 heand 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."
The Story of the Bald-Headed Man
We followed the Indian down a sordid and common passageill lit
and worse furnisheduntil he came to a door upon the right
which he threw open. A blaze of yellow light streamed out upon
usand in the centre of the glare there stood a small man with a
very high heada bristle of red hair all round the fringe of it
and a baldshining scalp which shot out from among it like a
mountain-peak from fir-trees. He writhed his hands together as
he stoodand his features were in a perpetual jerknow smiling
now scowlingbut never for an instant in repose. Nature had
given him a pendulous lipand a too visible line of yellow and
irregular teethwhich he strove feebly to conceal by constantly
passing his hand over the lower part of his face. In spite of
his obtrusive baldnesshe gave the impression of youth. In
point of fact he had just turned his thirtieth year.
Your servant, Miss Morstan,he kept repeatingin a thinhigh
voice. "Your servantgentlemen. Pray step into my little
sanctum. A small placemissbut furnished to my own liking.
An oasis of art in the howling desert of South London."
We were all astonished by the appearance o 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
wallslooped back here and there to expose some richly-mounted
painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber-and-blackso
soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into itas into
a bed of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased
the suggestion of Eastern luxuryas 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 manstill jerking and
smiling. "That is my name. You are Miss Morstanof course.
And these gentlemen--"
This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this is Dr. Watson.
A doctor, eh?cried hemuch excited. "Have you your
stethoscope? Might I ask you--would you have the kindness?
have grave doubts as to my mitral valveif you would be so very
good. The aortic I may rely uponbut I should value your
opinion upon the mitral."
I listened to his heartas requestedbut was unable to find
anything amisssave 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 remarkedairily.
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 faceso hot was I at this
callous and off-hand reference to so delicate a matter. Miss
Morstan sat downand 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, andwhat is more
I can do you justice; and I willtoowhatever Brother
Bartholomew may say. I am so glad to have your friends herenot
only as an escort to youbut 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
ourselveswithout 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 weakwatery blue
For my part,said Holmeswhatever 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 ChiantiMiss Morstan? Or of Tokay? I keep no other wines.
Shall I open a flask? No? WellthenI trust that you have no
objection to tobacco-smoketo the mild balsamic odor of the
Eastern tobacco. I am a little nervousand I find my hookah an
invaluable sedative." He applied a taper to the great bowland
the smoke bubbled merrily through the rose-water. We sat all
three in a semicirclewith our heads advancedand our chins
upon our handswhile the strangejerky little fellowwith his
highshining headpuffed uneasily in the centre.
When I first determined to make this communication to you,said
heI 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 Morstanbut 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. NoI must prepare you by showing you how we
all stand to each other. In the first placeI 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
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
papersandknowing 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
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 itand from that day he sickened to his death.
What was in the letter we could never discoverbut 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 spleenbut he now
became rapidly worseand towards the end of April we were
informed that he was beyond all hopeand 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
'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 treasurehalf 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.
Youmy sonswill give her a fair share of the Agra treasure.
But send her nothing--not even the chaplet--until I am gone.
After allmen 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 distractedwondering what I should
do. My first impulse wasof courseto 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
quarreland the gash in his headwould be black against me.
Againan official inquiry could not be made without bringing out
some facts about the treasurewhich 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
'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 fearSahib he said. No one
need know that you have killed him. Let us hide him awayand
who is the wiser?" "I did not kill him said I. Lal Chowdar
shook his head and smiled. I heard it allSahib said he. I
heard you quarreland 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 met. If my own servant could not
believe my innocencehow could I hope to make it good before
twelve foolish tradesmen in a jury-box? Lal Chowdar and I
disposed of the body that nightand 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 bodybut also the treasureand that I
have clung to Morstan's share as well as to my own. I wish you
thereforeto 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 wildlyhis jaw
droppedand he yelledin 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 beardedhairy facewith wild cruel eyes and an expression
of concentrated malevolence. My brother and I rushed towards the
windowbut 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 whiteand
for a moment I feared that she was about to faint. She rallied
howeveron 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 producedand then continued
between the puffs of his overgrown pipe.
My brother and I,said hewere, 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 companionearnestly. "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.
Besidesit 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 Lodgetaking the old khitmutgar and Williams with
me. YesterdayhoweverI learn that an event of extreme
importance has occurred. The treasure has been discovered. I
instantly communicated with Miss Morstanand 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
expectedif not welcomevisitors."
Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceasedand sat twitching on his luxurious
settee. We all remained silentwith 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 nowit is lateand we had best
put the matter through without delay."
Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled up the tube of his
hookahand produced from behind a curtain a very long befrogged
topcoat with Astrakhan collar and cuffs. This he buttoned
tightly upin spite of the extreme closeness of the nightand
finished his attire by putting on a rabbit-skin cap with hanging
lappets which covered the earsso 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 outsideand our programme was evidently
prearrangedfor the driver started off at once at a rapid pace.
Thaddeus Sholto talked incessantlyin 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 houseand made measurements everywhereso that not
one inch should be unaccounted for. Among other thingshe found
that the height of the building was seventy-four feetbut on
adding together the heights of all the separate roomsand making
every allowance for the space betweenwhich he ascertained by
boringshe 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 holethereforein the lathand-
plaster ceiling of the highest roomand theresure enough
he came upon another little garret above itwhich had been
sealed up and was known to no one. In the centre stood the
treasure-chestresting upon two rafters. He lowered it through
the holeand 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 Morstancould we secure her rightswould
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
souland that my heart turned as heavy as lead within me. I
stammered out some few halting words of congratulationand then
sat downcastwith my head droopeddeaf to the babble of our new
acquaintance. He was clearly a confirmed hypochondriacand I
was dreamily conscious that he was pouring forth interminable
trains of symptomsand imploring information as to the
composition and action of innumerable quack nostrumssome 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 beI 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
Sholtoas he handed her out.
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 usand the night was fairly fine. A warm wind blew
from the westwardand heavy clouds moved slowly across the sky
with half a moon peeping occasionally through the rifts. It was
clear enough to see for some distancebut 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 groundsand 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 backand a shortdeep-chested man stood
in the openingwith 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
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 themthat is enough for you.
There is the young ladytoo. She cannot wait on the public road
at this hour."
Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,said the porterinexorably. "Folk
may be friends o' yoursand yet no friends o' the master's. He
pays me well to do my dutyand my duty I'll do. I don't know
none o' your friends."
Oh, yes you do, McMurdo,cried Sherlock Holmesgenially. "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 crosshit
of yours under the jawI'd ha' known you without a question.
Ahyou're one that has wasted your giftsyou have! You might
have aimed highif 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 Holmeslaughing. "Our
friend won't keep us out in the cold nowI am sure."
In you come, sir, in you come,--you and your friends,he
answered. "Very sorryMr. Thaddeusbut orders are very strict.
Had to be certain of your friends before I let them in."
Insidea gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a huge
clump of a housesquare and prosaicall plunged in shadow save
where a moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret
window. The vast size of the buildingwith its gloom and its
deathly silencestruck a chill to the heart. Even Thaddeus
Sholto seemed ill at easeand 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 hereand yet
there is no light in his window. I do not know what to make of
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 lanternand his hand shook until the circles of
light flickered and wavered all round us. Miss Morstan seized my
wristand we all stood with thumping heartsstraining our ears.
>From the great black house there sounded through the silent night
the saddest and most pitiful of sounds--the shrillbroken
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 doorand knocked in his peculiar way. We could see a
tall old woman admit himand 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 houseand 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 lovefor
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 sincebut at the time it
seemed the most natural thing that I should go out to her so
andas she has often told methere was in her also the instinct
to turn to me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in
handlike two childrenand there was peace in our hearts for
all the dark things that surrounded us.
What a strange place!she saidlooking 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 gravelpit."
At that moment the door of the house burst openand Thaddeus
Sholto came running outwith 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 wasindeedhalf
blubbering with fearand 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 Holmesin his crispfirm way.
Yes, do!pleaded Thaddeus Sholto. "I really do not feel equal
to giving directions."
We all followed him into the housekeeper's roomwhich stood upon
the left-hand side of the passage. The old woman was pacing up
and down with a scared look and restless picking fingersbut the
sight of Miss Morstan appeared to have a soothing effect upon
God bless your sweet calm face!she criedwith an hysterical
sob. "It does me good to see you. Ohbut I have been sorely
tried this day!"
Our companion patted her thinwork-worn handand 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 now answer me,she
explained. "All day I have waited to hear from himfor he often
likes to be alone; but an hour ago I feared that something was
amissso I went up and peeped through the key-hole. You must go
upMr. Thaddeus--you must go up and look for yourself. I have
seen Mr. Bartholomew Sholto in joy and in sorrow for ten long
yearsbut I never saw him with such a face on him as that."
Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the wayfor 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
stairsfor 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 staircarpet.
He walked slowly from step to stepholding 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
lengthwith 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 waywhile we kept close at his
heelswith our long black shadows streaming backwards down the
corridor. The third door was that which we were seeking. Holmes
knocked without receiving any answerand then tried to turn the
handle and force it open. It was locked on the insidehowever
and by a broad and powerful boltas we could see when we set our
lamp up against it. The key being turnedhoweverthe hole was
not entirely closed. Sherlock Holmes bent down to itand
instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of the breath.
There is something devilish in this, Watson,said hemore
moved than I had ever before seen him. "What do you make of it?"
I stooped to the holeand recoiled in horror. Moonlight was
streaming into the roomand it was bright with a vague and
shifty radiance. Looking straight at meand suspendedas it
werein the airfor all beneath was in shadowthere hung a
face--the very face of our companion Thaddeus. There was the
same highshining headthe same circular bristle of red hair
the same bloodless countenance. The features were sethowever
in a horrible smilea fixed and unnatural grinwhich 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 answeredandspringing against
ithe put all his weight upon the lock. It creaked and groaned
but did not yield. Together we flung ourselves upon it once
moreand this time it gave way with a sudden snapand 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 doorand the table was littered over with Bunsen
burnerstest-tubesand retorts. In the corners stood carboys
of acid in wicker baskets. One of these appeared to leak or to
have been brokenfor a stream of dark-colored liquid had
trickled out from itand the air was heavy with a peculiarly
pungenttar-like odor. A set of steps stood at one side of the
roomin the midst of a litter of lath and plasterand 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 tablein a wooden arm-chairthe master of the house was
seated all in a heapwith his head sunk upon his left shoulder
and that ghastlyinscrutable smile upon his face. He was stiff
and coldand 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 brownclose-grained stick
with a stone head like a hammerrudely lashed on with coarse
twine. Beside it was a torn sheet of note-paper with some words
scrawled upon it. Holmes glanced at itand then handed it to
You see,he saidwith a significant raising of the eyebrows.
In the light of the lantern I readwith a thrill of horrorThe
sign of the four.
In God's name, what does it all mean?I asked.
It means murder,said hestooping over the dead man. "AhI
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
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 answeredit 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-waythe very
picture of terrorwringing his hands and moaning to himself.
Suddenlyhoweverhe broke out into a sharpquerulous 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 nightand I heard him lock the door as I came
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 Holmeskindly
putting his hand upon his shoulder. "Take my adviceand 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
The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashionand we heard
him stumbling down the stairs in the dark.
Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration
Now, Watson,said Holmesrubbing his handswe 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.
Surely,said hewith something of the air of a clinical
professor expounding to his class. "Just sit in the corner
therethat your footprints may not complicate matters. Now to
work! In the first placehow did these folk comeand how did
they go? The door has not been opened since last night. How of
the window?" He carried the lamp across to itmuttering his
observations aloud the whilebut 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
markand here again upon the floorand here again by the table.
See hereWatson! This is really a very pretty demonstration."
I looked at the roundwell-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-marka
heavy boot with the broad metal heeland 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
roundandlook where I wouldI could see no footholdnor 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
continuedfingering the ropethat 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
This is all very well,said Ibut the thing becomes more
unintelligible than ever. How about this mysterious ally? How
came he into the room?
Yes, the ally!repeated Holmespensively. "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 Indiaandif my memory serves mefrom
How came he, then?I reiterated. "The door is lockedthe
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 saidshaking his head. "How
often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the
impossible whatever remainsHOWEVER IMPROBABLEmust be the
truth? We know that he did not come through the doorthe
windowor the chimney. We also know that he could not have been
concealed in the roomas there is no concealment possible.
Whencethendid 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 stepsandseizing a rafter with either handhe
swung himself up into the garret. Thenlying on his facehe
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 rafterswith
thin lath-and-plaster betweenso that in walking one had to step
from beam to beam. The roof ran up to an apexand was evidently
the inner shell of the true roof of the house. There was no
furniture of any sortand the accumulated dust of years lay
thick upon the floor.
Here you are, you see,said Sherlock Holmesputting his hand
against the sloping wall. "This is a trap-door which leads out
on to the roof. I can press it backand here is the roof
itselfsloping at a gentle angle. Thisthenis the way by
which Number One entered. Let us see if we can find one other
traces of his individuality."
He held down the lamp to the floorand as he did so I saw for
the second time that night a startledsurprised look come over
his face. For myselfas I followed his gaze my skin was cold
under my clothes. The floor was covered thickly with the prints
of a naked foot--clearwell definedperfectly formedbut
scarce half the size of those of an ordinary man.
Holmes,I saidin a whispera child has done the horrid
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 meor I should have been able to
foretell it. There is nothing more to be learned here. Let us
What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?I asked
eagerlywhen we had regained the lower room once more.
My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself,said hewith a
touch of impatience. "You know my methods. Apply themand it
will be instructive to compare results."
I cannot conceive anything which will cover the facts,I
It will be clear enough to you soon,he saidin an off-hand
way. "I think that there is nothing else of importance herebut
I will look." He whipped out his lens and a tape measureand
hurried about the room on his kneesmeasuringcomparing
examiningwith his long thin nose only a few inches from the
planksand his beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a
bird. So swiftsilentand furtive were his movementslike
those of a trained blood-hound picking out a scentthat I could
not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he
turned his energy and sagacity against the lawinstead of
exerting them in its defense. As he hunted abouthe kept
muttering to himselfand finally he broke out into a loud crow
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 crackedYou seeand 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 shirehow 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
belowand the hall door shut with a loud crash.
Before they come,said Holmesjust 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
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
I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of the lantern.
It was longsharpand blackwith 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 spokethe steps which had been coming nearer sounded
loudly on the passageand a very stoutportly man in a gray
suit strode heavily into the room. He was red-facedburly and
plethoricwith 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 uniformand by the still palpitating
Here's a business!he criedin a muffledhusky 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
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
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 upand 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 blindas like as not. The only question
ishow did he depart? Ahof coursehere is a hole in the
roof." With great activityconsidering his bulkhe sprang up
the steps and squeezed through into the garretand immediately
afterwards we heard his exulting voice proclaiming that he had
found the trap-door.
He can find something,remarked Holmesshrugging 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 Jonesreappearing 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. "Wellwhoever noticed itit
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 handsand 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
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 Jonesin a sneering voice
but impressed none the lessas I could easily seeby the
precision of the other's manner.
Is a rather curious person,said Sherlock Holmesturning upon
his heel. "I hope before very long to be able to introduce you
to the pair of them.--A word with youWatson."
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 independentlyand 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 Lanedown 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 upand tell himwith
my complimentsthat 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.
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 threeif I can get a fresh horse."
And I,said Holmesshall 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.
The Episode of the Barrel
The police had brought a cab with themand in this I escorted
Miss Morstan back to her home. After the angelic fashion of
womenshe had borne trouble with a calm face as long as there
was some one weaker than herself to supportand I had found her
bright and placid by the side of the frightened housekeeper. In
the cabhowevershe first turned faintand 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 breastor the effort of self-restraint which
held me back. My sympathies and my love went out to hereven 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 helplessshaken in mind and nerve.
It was to take her at a disadvantage to obtrude love upon her at
such a time. Worse stillshe was rich. If Holmes's researches
were successfulshe would be an heiress. Was it fairwas it
honorablethat 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 agobut 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 herselfa middle-agedgraceful womanand 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 dependantbut an honored friend. I
was introducedand Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged me to step in
and tell her our adventures. I explainedhoweverthe
importance of my errandand promised faithfully to call and
report any progress which we might make with the case. As we
drove away I stole a glance backand I still seem to see that
little group on the stepthe two gracefulclinging figuresthe
half-opened doorthe hall light shining through stained glass
the barometerand the bright stair-rods. It was soothing to
catch even that passing glimpse of a tranquil English home in the
midst of the wilddark business which had absorbed us.
And the more I thought of what had happenedthe 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 Morstanthe sending of the pearlsthe
advertisementthe letter--we had had light upon all those
events. They had only led ushoweverto a deeper and far more
tragic mystery. The Indian treasurethe curious plan found
among Morstan's baggagethe strange scene at Major Sholto's
deaththe rediscovery of the treasure immediately followed by
the murder of the discovererthe very singular accompaniments to
the crimethe footstepsthe remarkable weaponsthe words upon
the cardcorresponding 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 lasthoweverthere was
the glint of a candle behind the blindand 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
If you'll let one out it's just what I have come for,said I.
Go on!yelled the voice. "So help me graciousI have a wiper
in the bagan' 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 beganbut the words had a most magical
effectfor the window instantly slammed downand within a
minute the door was unbarred and open. Mr. Sherman was a lanky
lean old manwith stooping shouldersa stringy neckand bluetinted
A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome,said he. "Step in
sir. Keep clear of the badger; for he bites. Ahnaughty
naughtywould 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 thatsir: it's only a slow-worm. It hain't
got no fangsso I gives it the run o' the roomfor it keeps the
bettles down. You must not mind my bein' just a little short wi'
you at firstfor I'm guyed at by the childrenand there's many
a one just comes down this lane to knock me up. What was it that
Mr. Sherlock Holmes wantedsir?"
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 uncertainshadowy light I could see
dimly that there were glancingglimmering eyes peeping down at
us from every cranny and corner. Even the rafters above our
heads were lined by solemn fowlswho lazily shifted their weight
from one leg to the other as our voices disturbed their slumbers.
Toby proved to an uglylong-hairedlop-eared creaturehalf
spaniel and half lurcherbrown-and-white in colorwith a very
clumsy waddling gait. It accepted after some hesitation a lump
of sugar which the old naturalist handed to meandhaving thus
sealed an allianceit followed me to the caband 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 hadI found
been arrested as an accessoryand both he and Mr. Sholto had
been marched off to the station. Two constables guarded the
narrow gatebut they allowed me to pass with the dog on my
mentioning the detective's name.
Holmes was standing on the door-stepwith his hands in his
pocketssmoking his pipe.
Ah, you have him there!said he. "Good dogthen! Atheney
Jones has gone. We have had an immense display of energy since
you left. He has arrested not only friend Thaddeusbut the
gatekeeperthe housekeeperand the Indian servant. We have the
place to ourselvesbut for a sergeant up-stairs. Leave the dog
hereand come up."
We tied Toby to the hall tableand reascended the stairs. The
room was as he had left itsave 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 neckso 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 youWatson. 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 saidto 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
I did as he directedand was instantly conscious of a strong
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 roofand I could see him like an enormous glow-worm
crawling very slowly along the ridge. I lost sight of him behind
a stack of chimneysbut he presently reappearedand 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.
This is the place. What is that black thing down there?
Top on it?
No sign of a ladder?
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 feetand the lantern began to come
steadily down the side of the wall. Then with a light spring he
came on to the barreland from there to the earth.
It was easy to follow him,he saiddrawing on his stockings
and boots. "Tiles were loosened the whole way alongand in his
hurry he had dropped this. It confirms my diagnosisas 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 woodsharp at one end
and rounded at the otherlike that which had struck Bartholomew
They are hellish things,said he. "Look out that you don't
prick yourself. I'm delighted to have themfor 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 bulletmyself. Are you game for a six-mile trudge
Your leg will stand it?
Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell it, Toby, smell it!
He pushed the creasote handkerchief under the dog's nosewhile
the creature stood with its fluffy legs separatedand with a
most comical cock to its headlike a connoisseur sniffing the
bouquet of a famous vintage. Holmes then threw the handkerchief
to a distancefastened a stout cord to the mongrel's collarand
let him to the foot of the water-barrel. The creature instantly
broke into a succession of hightremulous yelpsandwith his
nose on the groundand his tail in the airpattered 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 whiteningand we could now see some
distance in the cold gray light. The squaremassive housewith
its blackempty windows and highbare wallstowered upsad
and forlornbehind us. Our course let right across the grounds
in and out among the trenches and pits with which they were
scarred and intersected. The whole placewith its scattered
dirt-heaps and ill-grown shrubshad a blightedill-omened look
which harmonized with the black tragedy which hung over it.
On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran alongwhining eagerly
underneath its shadowand stopped finally in a corner screened
by a young beech. Where the two walls joinedseveral bricks had
been loosenedand the crevices left were worn down and rounded
upon the lower sideas though they had frequently been used as a
ladder. Holmes clambered upandtaking the dog from mehe
dropped it over upon the other side.
There's the print of wooden-leg's hand,he remarkedas 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 appeasedhowever. Toby never
hesitated or swervedbut waddled on in his peculiar rolling
fashion. Clearlythe pungent smell of the creasote rose high
above all other contending scents.
Do not imagine,said Holmesthat 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 youHolmes
that I marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in
this caseeven more than I did in the Jefferson Hope Murder.
The thing seems to me to be deeper and more inexplicable. How
for examplecould you describe with such confidence the woodenlegged
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
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
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 yo
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?
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 come
Toby, and a six-mile limp for a half-pay officer with a damaged
But it was the associate, and not Jonathan, who committed the
Quite so. And rather to Jonathan's disgust, to judge by the way
the 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.
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 spokeandhaving loaded two of the chambershe
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.
Nowhoweverwe were beginning to come among continuous streets
where laborers and dockmen were already astirand 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 emergingrubbing their sleeves across
their beards after their morning wet. Strange dogs sauntered up
and stared wonderingly at us as we passedbut our inimitable
Toby looked neither to the right nor to the leftbut trotted
onwards with his nose to the ground and an occasional eager whine
which spoke of a hot scent.
We had traversed StreathamBrixtonCamberwelland now found
ourselves in Kennington Lanehaving borne away through the sidestreets
to the east of the Oval. The men whom we pursued seemed
to have taken a curiously zigzag roadwith 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 PlaceToby ceased to advancebut began to run
backwards and forwards with one ear cocked and the other
droopingthe very picture of canine indecision. Then he waddled
round in circleslooking up to us from time to timeas 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 companionin a
tone of relief.
He was indeed offfor after sniffing round again he suddenly
made up his mindand darted away with an energy and
determination such as he had not yet shown. The scent appeared
to be much hotter than beforefor he had not even to put his
nose on the groundbut 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-yardjust past the White Eagle tavern.
Here the dogfrantic with excitementturned down through the
side-gate into the enclosurewhere the sawyers were already at
work. On the dog raced through sawdust and shavingsdown an
alleyround a passagebetween two wood-pilesand finallywith
a triumphant yelpsprang upon a large barrel which still stood
upon the hand-trolley on which it had been brought. With lolling
tongue and blinking eyesToby stood upon the casklooking 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 liquidand the whole air was heavy with the smell of
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each otherand then
burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
The Baker Street Irregulars
What now?I asked. "Toby has lost his character for
He acted according to his lights,said Holmeslifting 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 dayit
is no great wonder that our trail should have been crossed. It
is much used nowespecially 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 faulthe 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-siderunning through Belmont
Place and Prince's Street. At the end of Broad Street it ran
right down to the water's edgewhere there was a small wooden
wharf. Toby led us to the very edge of thisand there stood
whininglooking 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 turnbutthough he sniffed earnestlyhe made no sign.
Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick housewith a
wooden placard slung out through the second window. "Mordecai
Smith" was printed across it in large lettersandunderneath
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 roundand his face assumed an
This looks bad,said he. "These fellows are sharper than I
expected. They seem to have covered their tracks. There hasI
fearbeen preconcerted management here."
He was approaching the door of the housewhen it openedand a
littlecurly-headed lad of six came running outfollowed by a
stoutishred-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
thathe'll let us hear of it."
Dear little chap!said Holmesstrategically. "What a rosycheeked
young rascal! NowJackis there anything you would
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 answeredafter some
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
Away, is he?said Holmesin a disappointed voice. "I am sorry
for thatfor 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
A wooden-legged man?said Holmeswith 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 Holmesshrugging 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
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
No, sir. Black with a white band.
Ah, of course. It was the sides which were black. Goodmorning,
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 dothey will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you
listen to them under protestas it wereyou 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
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 yo 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
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 askedas we landed near Millbank
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-officeand 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?
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
It was between eight and nine o'clock nowand I was conscious of
a strong reaction after the successive excitements of the night.
I was limp and wearybefogged in mind and fatigued in body. I
had not the professional enthusiasm which carried my companion
onnor could I look at the matter as a mere abstract
intellectual problem. As far as the death of Bartholomew Sholto
wentI had heard little good of himand could feel no intense
antipathy to his murderers. The treasurehoweverwas a
different matter. Thator part of itbelonged rightfully to
Miss Morstan. While there was a chance of recovering it I was
ready to devote my life to the one object. Trueif 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 criminalsI
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 helaughingand 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 noticewhich was
headed "Mysterious Business at Upper Norwood."
About twelve o'clock last night,said the StandardMr.
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 Holmesgrinning 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 belland I could
hear Mrs. Hudsonour landladyraising her voice in a wail of
expostulation and dismay.
By heaven, Holmes,I saidhalf risingI 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 spokethere came a swift pattering of naked feet upon the
stairsa clatter of high voicesand in rushed a dozen dirty and
ragged little street-Arabs. There was some show of discipline
among themdespite their tumultuous entryfor they instantly
drew up in line and stood facing us with expectant faces. One of
their numbertaller and older than the othersstood forward
with an air of lounding superiority which was very funny in such
a disreputable little carecrow.
Got your message, sir,said heand brought 'em on sharp.
Three bob and a tanner for tickets.
Here you are,said Holmesproducing some silver. "In future
they can report to youWigginsand you to me. I cannot have
the house invaded in this way. Howeverit is just as well that
you should all hear the instructions. I want to find the
whereabouts of a steam launch called the Auroraowner Mordecai
Smithblack with two red streaksfunnel 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 yourselvesand do
both banks thoroughly. Let me know the moment yo 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 eachand away they buzzed down the stairsand 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
everywheresee everythingoverhear every one. I expect to hear
before evening that they have spotted her. In the mean whilewe
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,
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
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 menbut 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 othersbecause the thong is commonly passed
between. These little dartstoocould only be shot in one way.
They are from a blow-pipe. Nowthenwhere are we to find our
South American,I hazarded.
He stretched his hand upand 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 Islandssituated 340
miles to the north of Sumatrain the Bay of Bengal.' Hum! hum!
What's all this? Moist climatecoral reefssharksPort Blair
convict-barracksRutland Islandcottonwoods--Ahhere we are.
'The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the
distinction of being the smallest race upon this earththough
some anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of Africathe Digger
Indians of Americaand the Terra del Fuegians. The average
height is rather below four feetalthough many full-grown adults
may be found who are very much smaller than this. They are a
fiercemoroseand intractable peoplethough capable of forming
most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been
gained.' Mark thatWatson. Nowthenlisten to this. 'They
are naturally hideoushaving largemisshapen headssmall
fierce eyesand distorted features. Their feet and hands
howeverare 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 crewsbraining the survivors with their stone-headed
clubsor shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These
massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.' Nice
amiable peopleWatson! If this fellow had been left to his own
unaided devices this affair might have taken an even more ghastly
turn. I fancy thateven as it isJonathan 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 now 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 cornerand as I stretched myself
out he began to play some lowdreamymelodious air--his own
no doubtfor he had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have
a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbshis earnest faceand the
rise and fall of his bow. Then I seemed to be floated peacefully
away upon a soft sea of sounduntil I found myself in dreamland
with the sweet face of Mary Morstan looking down upon me.
A Break in the Chain
It was late in the afternoon before I wokestrengthened 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 meas I stirredand I noticed that his face
was dark and troubled.
You have slept soundly,he said. "I feared that our talk would
I heard nothing,I answered. "Have you had fresh newsthen?"
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
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 Holmeswith the twinkle of a
smile in his eyes.
Well, of course Miss Morstan too. They were anxious to hear
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! ButI sayif you are crossing the
river you may as well return Tobyfor I don't think it is at all
likely that we shall have any use for him now."
I took our mongrel accordinglyand left himtogether with a
half-sovereignat the old naturalist's in Pinchin Lane. At
Camberwell I found Miss Morstan a little weary after her night's
adventuresbut very eager to hear the news. Mrs. Forrester
toowas full of curiosity. I told them all that we had done
suppressinghoweverthe more dreadful parts of the tragedy.
Thusalthough I spoke of Mr. Sholto's deathI said nothing of
the exact manner and method of it. With all my omissions
howeverthere was enough to startle and amaze them.
It is a romance!cried Mrs. Forrester. "An injured ladyhalf
a million in treasurea black cannibaland a wooden-legged
ruffian. They take the place of the conventional dragon or
And two knight-errants to the rescue,added Miss Morstanwith
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
It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she
showed no sign of elation at the prospect. On the contraryshe
gave a toss of her proud headas 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 Camberwelland quite dark by the
time I reached home. My companion's book and pipe lay by his
chairbut he had disappeared. I looked about in the hope of
seeing a notebut 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 whisperI am afraid for
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
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 landladybut I was myself
somewhat uneasy when through the long night I still from time to
time heard the dull sound of his treadand knew how his keen
spirit was chafing against this involuntary inaction.
At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggardwith 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
obstaclewhen all else had been overcome. I know the menthe
launcheverything; and yet I can get no news. I have set other
agencies at workand used every means at my disposal. The whole
river has been searched on either sidebut there is no newsnor
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 searchparty
who will work up as far as Richmond. If no news comes today,
I shall start off myself to-morrow, and go for the men
rather than the boat. But surely, surely, we shall hear
We did nothowever. 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 foundhoweverin any of themsave 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
ladiesand on my return I found Holmes dejected and somewhat
morose. He would hardly reply to my questionsand busied
himself all evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which
involved much heating of retorts and distilling of vaporsending
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
In the early dawn I woke with a startand was surprised to find
him standing by my bedsideclad in a rude sailor dress with a
pea-jacketand a coarse red scarf round his neck.
I am off down the river, Watson,said he. "I have been turning
it over in my mindand I can see only one way out of it. It is
worth tryingat 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?
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
StandardhoweverI 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 housekeeperMrs. Bernstonewere both
released yesterday evening. It is believedhoweverthat the
police have a clue as to the real culpritsand that it is being
prosecuted by Mr. Athelney Jonesof Scotland Yardwith 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 safeat 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 tablebut 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 ingeniousbecause
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 dooror
a sharp step passed in the streetI imagined that it was either
Holmes returning or an answer to his advertisement. I tried to
readbut my thoughts would wander off to our strange quest and
to the ill-assorted and villainous pair whom we were pursuing.
Could there beI wonderedsome 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 likelyI thoughtto 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. Yeton the other handI
had myself seen the evidenceand I had heard the reasons for his
deductions. When I looked back on the long chain of curious
circumstancesmany of them trivial in themselvesbut all
tending in the same directionI 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
bellan authoritative voice in the hallandto my surpriseno
less a person than Mr. Athelney Jones was shown up to me. Very
different was hehoweverfrom the brusque and masterful
professor of common sense who had taken over the case so
confidently at Upper Norwood. His expression was downcastand
his bearing meek and even apologetic.
Good-day, sir; good-day,said he. "Mr. Sherlock Holmes is out
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
Thank you; I don't mind if I do,said hemopping 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
hein 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 methodsand a little quick perhaps
in jumping at theoriesbuton the wholeI think he would have
made a most promising officerand I don't care who knows it. I
have had a wire from him this morningby which I understand that
he has got some clue to this Sholto business. Here is the
He took the telegram out of his pocketand 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 returnedwait 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,
Ah, then he has been at fault too,exclaimed Joneswith
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 stairwith a great wheezing
and rattling as from a man who was sorely put to it for breath.
Once or twice he stoppedas though the climb were too much for
himbut 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 manclad in seafaring garbwith an old pea-jacket
buttoned up to his throat. His back was bowedhis knees were
shakyand 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
chinand I could see little of his face save a pair of keen dark
eyesoverhung by bushy white browsand 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
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
Then tell me, and I shall let him know.
It was to him I was to tell it,he repeatedwith 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 doorbut Athelney Jones got in front of
Wait a bit, my friend,said he. "You have important
informationand you must not walk off. We shall keep you
whether you like or notuntil our friend returns."
The old man made a little run towards the doorbutas Athelney
Jones put his broad back up against ithe recognized the
uselessness of resistance.
Pretty sort o' treatment this!he criedstamping 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 sofaand you
will not have long to wait."
He came across sullenly enoughand seated himself with his face
resting on his hands. Jones and I resumed our cigars and our
talk. SuddenlyhoweverHolmes'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 heholding 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 Joneshighly delighted. "You would have
made an actorand a rare one. You had the proper workhouse
coughand those weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a week.
I thought I knew the glint of your eyethough. You didn't get
away from us so easilyYou see."
I have been working in that get-up all day,said helighting
his cigar. "You seea 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
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 Jonesshaking 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
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.
The End of the Islander
Our meal was a merry one. Holmes coud talk exceedingly well when
he choseand 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-playson medieval potteryon Stradivarius violinson
the Buddhism of Ceylonand 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 relaxationand face his dinner with the air of a
bon vivant. For myselfI felt elated at the thought that we
were nearing the end of our taskand 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 clearedHolmes glanced at this watchand
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 pistolWatson?"
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
wharfand found our launch awaiting us. Holmes eyed it
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 madewe stepped on boardand the ropes
were cast off. JonesHolmesand I sat in the stern. There was
one man at the rudderone to tend the enginesand two burly
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?
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 treasurebox.
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
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 hard, 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 Yardand 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 proceedingwe 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
That is Jacobson's Yard,said Holmespointing 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 remarkedbut no sign of a
Suppose we go down-stream a short way and lie in wait for them,
said Joneseagerly. We were all eager by this timeeven the
policemen and stokerswho had a very vague idea of what was
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 thatwhile the individual man is an insoluble puzzlein
the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You canfor
examplenever foretell what any one man will dobut you can say
with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals
varybut percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.
But do I see a handkerchief? Surely there is a white flutter
Yes, it is your boy,I cried. "I can see him plainly."
And there is the Aurora,exclaimed Holmesand 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 craftso that she had fairly got her
speed up before we saw her. Now she was flying down the stream
near in to the shoregoing 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 Holmesbetween his teeth. "Heap it
onstokers! Make her do all she can! If we burn the boat we
must have them!"
We were fairly after her now. The furnaces roaredand the
powerful engines whizzed and clankedlike a great metallic
heart. Her sharpsteep 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 longflickering
funnel of light in front of us. Right ahead a dark blur upon the
water showed where the Aurora layand the swirl of white foam
behind her spoke of the pace at which she was going. We flashed
past bargessteamersmerchant-vesselsin and outbehind this
one and round the other. Voices hailed us out of the darkness
but still the Aurora thundered onand still we followed close
upon her track.
Pile it on, men, pile it on!cried Holmeslooking down into
the engine-roomwhile the fierce glow from below beat upon his
eageraquiline face. "Get every pound of steam you can."
I think we gain a little,said Joneswith his eyes on the
I am sure of it,said I. "We shall be up with her in a very
At that momenthoweveras our evil fate would have ita tug
with three barges in tow blundered in between us. It was only by
putting our helm hard down that we avoided a collisionand
before we could round them and recover our way the Aurora had
gained a good two hundred yards. She was stillhoweverwell in
viewand the murky uncertain twilight was setting into a clear
starlit night. Our boilers were strained to their utmostand
the frail shell vibrated and creaked with the fierce energy which
was driving us along. We had shot through the Poolpast the
West India Docksdown the long Deptford Reachand 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 herso that we could plainly see
the figures upon her deck. One man sat by the sternwith
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 tillerwhile against the red glare of the furnace I
could see old Smithstripped to the waistand shovelling coals
for dear life. They may have had some doubt at first as to
whether we were really pursuing thembut 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 careerbut never did sport
give me such a wild thrill as this madflying man-hunt down the
Thames. Steadily we drew in upon themyard 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
deckand his arms were moving as though he were busywhile
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 themboth boats flying at a tremendous pace. It
was a clear reach of the riverwith 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 uscursing the while in a highcracked voice.
He was a good-sizedpowerful manand 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 stridentangry 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 tangleddishevelled hair. Holmes
had already drawn his revolverand I whipped out mine at the
sight of this savagedistorted creature. He was wrapped in some
sort of dark ulster or blanketwhich 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 teethwhich
grinned and chattered at us with a half animal fury.
Fire if he raises his hand,said Holmesquietly. We were
within a boat's-length by this timeand almost within touch of
our quarry. I can see the two of them now as they stoodthe
white man with his legs far apartshrieking out cursesand the
unhallowed dwarf with his hideous faceand 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 shortround
piece of woodlike a school-rulerand clapped it to his lips.
Our pistols rang out together. He whirled roundthrew up his
armsand with a kind of choking cough fell sideways into the
stream. I caught one glimpse of his venomousmenacing eyes amid
the white swirl of the waters. At the same moment the woodenlegged
man threw himself upon the rudder and put it hard downso
that his boat made straight in for the southern bankwhile we
shot past her sternonly clearing her by a few feet. We were
round after her in an instantbut she was already nearly at the
bank. It was a wild and desolate placewhere the moon glimmered
upon a wide expanse of marsh-landwith pools of stagnant water
and beds of decaying vegetation. The launch with a dull thud ran
up upon the mud-bankwith her bow in the air and her stern flush
with the water. The fugitive sprang outbut 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 rageand kicked frantically
into the mud with his other footbut 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 outand to drag himlike some evil fishover
our side. The two Smithsfather and sonsat sullenly in their
launchbut 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. Thisthere
could be no questionwas the same that had contained the illomened
treasure of the Sholtos. There was no keybut it was of
considerable weightso we transferred it carefully to our own
little cabin. As we steamed slowly up-stream againwe flashed
our search-light in every directionbut 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 Holmespointing to the wooden hatchway. "We
were hardly quick enough with our pistols." Theresure enough
just behind where we had been standingstuck 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 fashionbut I confess that it
turned me sick to think of the horrible death which had passed so
close to us that night.
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 fellowwith a net-work of lines and wrinkles all
over his mahogany featureswhich told of a hardopen-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 thereaboutsfor his blackcurly
hair was thickly shot with gray. His face in repose was not an
unpleasing onethough his heavy brows and aggressive chin gave
himas I had lately seena terrible expression when moved to
anger. He sat now with his handcuffed hands upon his lapand
his head sunk upon his breastwhile he looked with his keen
twinkling eyes at the box which had been the cause of his illdoings.
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 Holmeslighting a cigarI am
sorry that it has come to this.
And so am I, sir,he answeredfrankly. "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 hellhound
Tonga who shot one of his cursed darts into him. I had no
part in itsir. I was as grieved as if it had been my bloodrelation.
I welted the little devil with the slack end of the
rope for itbut it was doneand I could not undo it again."
Have a cigar,said Holmes; "and you had best take a pull out of
my flaskfor 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 smilethat 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 flaskHolmes.
WellI think we may all congratulate each other. Pity we didn't
take the other alive; but there was no choice. I sayHolmes
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
Neither he did,cried our prisoner--"not a word. I chose his
launch because I heard that she was a flier. We told him
nothingbut we paid him welland he was to get something
handsome if we reached our vesselthe Esmeraldaat 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 faceI could see that the speech had not
been lost upon him.
We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently,said Jonesand 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
At the bottom of the river,said Smallshortly.
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
They landed me at Vauxhallwith my heavy iron boxand with a
bluffgenial 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 eveningshe explainedand likely to be very late. Miss
Morstanhoweverwas in the drawing-room: so to the drawingroom
I wentbox in handleaving the obliging inspector in the
She was seated by the open windowdressed n some sort of white
diaphanous materialwith 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 chairplaying over her sweetgrave
faceand tinting with a dullmetallic sparkle the rich coils of
her luxuriant hair. One white arm and hand drooped over the side
of the chairand her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing
melancholy. At the sound of my foot-fall she sprang to her feet
howeverand 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 earlybut I never dreamed that it
might be you. What news have you brought me?"
I have brought something better than news,said Iputting 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 iron box. "Is that the treasurethen?" she
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
I think that I must have been rather overacting my delightand
that she detected a hollow ring in my congratulationsfor I saw
her eyebrows rise a littleand she glanced at me curiously.
If I have it,said sheI owe it to you.
No, no,I answerednot 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 searchthe discovery of the Aurorathe
appearance of Athelney Jonesour expedition in the eveningand
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 usshe turned so white
that I feared that she was about to faint.
It is nothing,she saidas 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 methinking 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 voicehowever. It had struck her
doubtlessthat 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 saidstooping over it. This is Indian
Yes; it is Benares metal-work.
And so heavy!" she exclaimedtrying 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 haspwrought 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 massivewell madeand solidlike
a chest constructed to carry things of great pricebut not one
shred or crumb of metal or jewelry lay within it. It was
absolutely and completely empty.
The treasure is lost,said Miss Morstancalmly.
As I listened to the words and realized what they meanta great
shadow seemed to pass from my soul. I did not know how this Agra
treasure had weighed me downuntil now that it was finally
removed. It was selfishno doubtdisloyalwrongbut 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 quickquestioning smile. "Why do you
say that?" she asked.
Because you are within my reach again,I saidtaking her hand.
She did not withdraw it. "Because I love youMaryas truly as
ever a man loved a woman. Because this treasurethese 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 whisperedas I drew her to
my side. Whoever had lost a treasureI knew that night that I
had gained one.
The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
A very patient man was that inspector in the cabfor 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 hegloomily. "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 rewardedtreasure or no."
The inspector shook his head despondentlyhowever. "It's a bad
job he repeated; and so Mr. Athelney Jones will think."
His forecast proved to be correctfor the detective looked blank
enough when I got to Baker Street and showed him the empty box.
They had only just arrivedHolmesthe prisonerand hefor
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 expressionwhile 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
This is your doing, Small,said Athelney Jonesangrily.
Yes, I have put it away where you shall never lay hand upon it,
he criedexultantly. "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 itunless it is
three men who are in the Andaman convict-barracks and myself. I
know now that I cannot have the use of itand 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 doneand 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 isand where
little Tonga is. When I saw that your launch must catch usI
put the loot away in a safe place. There are no rupees for you
You are deceiving us, Small,said Athelney Jonessternly. "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
answeredwith a shrewdsidelong 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 soit may be a harder job. It went to my heart to do
itthough. I was half mad when you came up with us. However
there's no good grieving over it. I've had ups in my lifeand
I've had downsbut I've learned not to cry over spilled milk."
This is a very serious matter, Small,said the detective. "If
you had helped justiceinstead of thwarting it in this wayyou
would have had a better chance at your trial."
Justice!snarled the ex-convict. "A pretty justice! Whose
loot is thisif 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-treeall night chained up in
the filthy convict-hutsbitten by mosquitoesracked 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 timesor have one of Tonga's darts in my
hidethan 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 stoicismand all this came out in
a wild whirl of wordswhile his eyes blazedand the handcuffs
clanked together with the impassioned movement of his hands. I
could understandas 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 storyand 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 therebut
the truth is that I was never much of a credit to the familyand
I doubt if they would be so very glad to see me. They were all
steadychapel-going folksmall farmerswell known and
respected over the country-sidewhile I was always a bit of a
rover. At lasthoweverwhen I was about eighteenI gave them
no more troublefor I got into a mess over a girland could
only get out of it again by taking the queen's shilling and
joining the 3d Buffswhich 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 wasas you can imaginepretty down on my luck at this time
for I was a useless cripple though not yet in my twentieth year.
Howevermy misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in disguise.
A man named Abelwhitewho had come out there as an indigoplanter
wanted an overseer to look after his coolies and keep
them up to their work. He happened to be a friend of our
colonel'swho had taken an interest in me since the accident.
To make a long story shortthe colonel recommended me strongly
for the post andas the work was mostly to be done on horseback
my leg was no great obstaclefor I had enough knee left to keep
good grip on the saddle. What I had to do was to ride over the
plantationto keep an eye on the men as they workedand to
report the idlers. The pay was fairI had comfortable quarters
and altogether I was content to spend the remainder of my life in
indigo-planting. Mr. Abelwhite was a kind manand he would
often drop into my little shanty and smoke a pipe with mefor
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 provedhoweverthere was no great safety thereeither.
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
againstfoothorseand gunnerswere our own picked troops
whom we had taught and trainedhandling our own weaponsand
blowing our own bugle-calls. At Agra there were the 3d Bengal
Fusilierssome Sikhstwo troops of horseand a battery of
artillery. A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants had been
formedand this I joinedwooden leg and all. We went out to
meet the rebels at Shahgunge early in Julyand we beat them back
for a timebut our powder gave outand 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 atfor 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 eastand 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
The river washes along the front of the old fortand so
protects itbut on the sides and behind there are many doors
and these had to be guardedof coursein the old quarter as
well as in that which was actually held by our troops. We were
short-handedwith hardly men enough to man the angles of the
building and to serve the guns. It was impossible for us
thereforeto station a strong guard at every one of the
innumerable gates. What we did was to organize a central guardhouse
in the middle of the fortand 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 commandand I was instructed if
anything went wrong to fire my musketwhen I might rely upon
help coming at once from the central guard. As the guard was a
good two hundred paces awayhoweverand as the space between
was cut up into a labyrinth of passages and corridorsI 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 Chilianwallah.
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 dirtywith 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 talkbut without much success. At two in the morning the
rounds passedand broke for a moment the weariness of the night.
Finding that my companions would not be led into conversationI
took out my pipeand 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 headwhile 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 meSahib' 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 Christiansor 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 bedeath or life? We can only give you three minutes to
decidefor the time is passingand 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 know 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 nightwe will swear
to you upon the naked knifeand by the threefold oath which no
Sikh was ever known to breakthat 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 swearthen' said he'by the bones of your father
by the honor of your motherby the cross of your faithto raise
no hand and speak no word against useither now or afterwards?'
'I will swear it,' I answered, 'provided that the fort is not
'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
'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 gateMahomet
Singhand give notice of their coming. The thing stands thus
Sahiband I tell it to you because I know that an oath is
binding upon a Feringheeand that we may trust you. Had you
been a lying Hindoothough you had sworn by all the gods in
their false templesyour 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. Hearkenthento what I have
'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 merchantwho travels under the name of Achmet
is now in the city of Agraand desires to gain his way into the
fort. He has with him as travelling-companion my foster-brother
Dost Akbarwho knows his secret. Dost Akbar has promised this
night to lead him to a side-postern of the fortand has chosen
this one for his purpose. Here he will come presentlyand here
he will find Mahomet Singh and myself awaiting him. The place is
lonelyand none shall know of his coming. The world shall know
of the merchant Achmet no morebut the great treasure of the
rajah shall be divided among us. What say you to itSahib?'
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.
'ConsiderSahib' said he'that if this man is taken by the
commandant he will be hung or shotand his jewels taken by the
governmentso that no man will be a rupee the better for them.
Nowsince we do the taking of himwhy 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 matterfor here we
are cut off from all men. What could be better for the purpose?
Say againthenSahibwhether you are with usor if we must
look upon you as an enemy.'
'I am with you heart and soul,' said I.
'It is well' he answeredhanding me back my firelock. 'You
see that we trust youfor your wordlike oursis not to be
broken. We have now only to wait for my brother and the
'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-heapsand
then appeared again coming slowly in our direction.
'Here they are!' I exclaimed.
'You will challenge himSahibas usual' whispered Abdullah.
'Give him no cause for fear. Send us in with himand we shall
do the rest while you stay here on guard. Have the lantern ready
to uncoverthat 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
'Who goes there?' said Iin 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 protectionSahib' 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 othersbut which I
should be sorry to lose. Yet I am not a beggar; and I shall
reward youyoung Sahiband your governor alsoif 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 sideand the giant walked behindwhile 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
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 stoppedand held out his manacled hands for the whiskey-andwater
which Holmes had brewed for him. For myselfI confess
that I had now conceived the utmost horror of the mannot 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 himI felt
that he might expect no sympathy from me. Sherlock Holmes and
Jones sat with their hands upon their kneesdeeply interested in
the storybut with the same disgust written upon their faces.
He may have observed itfor 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. Besidesit was my life or his when once he was in
the fort. If he had got outthe whole business would come to
lightand 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 Holmesshortly.
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 itand 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 waterincluding one which has been calledI believe'the
Great Mogul' and is said to be the second largest stone in
existence. Then there were ninety-seven very fine emeraldsand
one hundred and seventy rubiessome of whichhoweverwere
small. There were forty carbunclestwo hundred and ten
sapphiressixty-one agatesand a great quantity of beryls
onyxescats'-eyesturquoisesand other stonesthe very names
of which I did not know at the timethough I have become more
familiar with them since. Besides thisthere were nearly three
hundred very fine pearlstwelve of which were set in a gold
coronet. By the waythese 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.
Wellthere'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 inand 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 countryand 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 momenthoweverour 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 againwhile 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-inoffice
to have rice to eat and water to drinkwhen that
gorgeous fortune was ready for him outsidejust waiting to be
picked up. It might have driven me mad; but I was always a
pretty stubborn oneso 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 yamplanting,
and a dozen other things to be done, so we were busy
enough al 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
The surgeonDr. Somertonwas a fastsporting young chapand
the other young officers would meet in his rooms of an evening
and play cards. The surgerywhere I used to make up my drugs
was next to his sitting-roomwith a small window between us.
Oftenif I felt lonesomeI used to turn out the lamp in the
surgeryand thenstanding thereI could hear their talk and
watch their play. I am fond of a hand at cards myselfand it
was almost as good as having one to watch the others. There was
Major SholtoCaptain Morstanand Lieutenant Bromley Brownwho
were in command of the native troopsand there was the surgeon
himselfand two or three prison-officialscrafty old hands who
played a nice sly safe game. A very snug little party they used
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
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 friendsthose twoand
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.'
'Nonsenseold chap!' said the otherslapping him upon the
shoulder. 'I've had a nasty facer myselfbut--' That was all I
could hearbut 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.
'WellSmallwhat is it?' he askedtaking his cheroot from his
'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 millionSmall?' he gaspedlooking 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
'To governmentSmall' he stammered--'to government.' But he
said it in a halting fashionand I knew in my heart that I had
'You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to the
Governor-General?' said I, quietly.
'Wellwellyou must not do anything rashor that you might
repent. Let me hear all about itSmall. 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 matterSmall' he saidat last.
'You must not say a word to any one about itand I shall see you
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 lipsSmall' said he.
I repeated it as I had told it before.
'It rings trueeh?' said he. 'It's good enough to act upon?'
Captain Morstan nodded.
'Look hereSmall' said the major. 'We have been talking it
overmy friend here and Iand we have come to the conclusion
that this secret of yours is hardly a government matterafter
allbut is a private concern of your ownwhich of course you
have the power of disposing of as you think best. Nowthe
question iswhat price would you ask for it? We might be
inclined to take it upand at least look into itif we could
agree as to terms.' He tried to speak in a coolcareless 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 yo to
help me to my freedom, and to help my three companions to theirs.
We shall then take yo 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 seeMorstan' said he'Small is a man of his word. He
does not flinch from his friend. I think we may very well trust
'It's a dirty business,' the other answered. 'Yet, as you say,
the money would save our commissions handsomely.'
'WellSmall' said the major'we mustI supposetry and meet
you. We must firstof coursetest the truth of your story.
Tell me where the box is hidand I shall get leave of absence
and go back to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into
'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
Wellthe matter ended by a second meetingat which Mahomet
SinghAbdullah Khanand Dost Akbar were all present. We talked
the matter over againand 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 thereto send out a small yacht
provisioned for a voyagewhich was to lie off Rutland Island
and to which we were to make our wayand finally to return to
his duties. Captain Morstan was then to apply for leave of
absenceto meet us at Agraand there we were to have a final
division of the treasurehe 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 inkand by the morning I had the two charts all ready
signed with the sign of four--that isof AbdullahAkbar
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 mailboats
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.
WellI have set my mind on many things in this lifeand 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 deathand had gone to a lonely place to
die. I took him in handthough he was as venomous as a young
snakeand after a couple of months I got him all right and able
to walk. He took a kind of fancy to me thenand would hardly go
back to his woodsbut was always hanging about my hut. I
learned a little of his lingo from himand 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
He was stanch and truewas little Tonga. No man ever had a
more faithful mate. At the night named he had his boat at the
wharf. As it chancedhoweverthere was one of the convictguard
down there--a vile Pathan who had never missed a chance of
insulting and injuring me. I had always vowed vengeanceand 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 meand his carbine on his shoulder. I
looked abut for a stone to beat out his brains withbut 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 shoulderbut I struck him
fulland 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
togetherfor I could not keep my balancebut when I got up I
found him still lying quiet enough. I made for the boatand in
an hour we were well out at sea. Tonga had brought all his
earthly possessions with himhis arms and his gods. Among other
thingshe had a long bamboo spearand some Andaman cocoa-nut
mattingwith which I make a sort of sail. For ten days we were
beating abouttrusting to luckand 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 crowdand 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 dayhoweverI got word that he was dying. I hurried at
once to the gardenmad that he should slip out of my clutches
like thatandlooking through the windowI saw him lying in
his bedwith his sons on each side of him. I'd have come
through and taken my chance with the three of themonly even as
I looked at him his jaw droppedand I knew that he was gone. I
got into his room that same nightthoughand I searched his
papers to see if there was any record of where he had hidden our
jewels. There was not a linehowever: so I came awaybitter
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 usas it had been on the chartand 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
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 trapdoor
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 treasurebox
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 Auroraso I
thought she would be a handy craft for our escape. I engaged
with old Smithand was to give him a big sum if he got us safe
to our ship. He knewno doubtthat there was some screw loose
but he was not in our secrets. All this is the truthand if I
tell it to yougentlemenit 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 nothingbut let all
the wold know how badly I have myself been served by Major
Sholtoand 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 narrativeexcept that
you brought your own rope. That I did not know. By the wayI
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 blowpipe
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 convictaffably.
I think not, thank you,my companion answered.
Well, Holmes,said Athelney JonesYou 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 legwhatever 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 Ilaughingthat 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 Ihow terms of what in another man I should
call laziness alternate with your fits of splendid energy and
Yes,he answeredthere 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 itJones
gets the creditpray what remains for you?"
For me,said Sherlock Holmesthere still remains the cocainebottle.
And he stretched his long white hand up for it.