The Science of Deduction
Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-
piece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.
With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate
needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his
eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all
dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he
thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and
sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of
Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this
performance, but custom had not reconciled my mind to it. On
the contrary, from day to day I had become more irritable at the
sight, and my conscience swelled nightly within me at the thought
that I had lacked the courage to protest. Again and again I had
registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject;
but there was that in the cool, nonchalant air of my companion
which made him the last man with whom one would care to take
anything approaching to a liberty. His great powers, his masterly
manner, and the experience which I had had of his many extraor-
dinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossing
Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I
had taken with my lunch or the additional exasperation produced
by the extreme deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I
could hold out no longer.
"Which is it to-day," I asked, "morphine or cocaine?"
He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume
which he had opened.
"It is cocaine," he said, "a seven-per-cent solution. Would
you care to try it?"
"No, indeed," I answered brusquely. "My constitution has
not got over the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw
any extra strain upon it."
He smiled at my vehemence. "Perhaps you are right, Wat-
son," he said. "I suppose that its influence is physically a bad
one. I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarify-
ing to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small
"But consider!" I said earnestly. "Count the cost! Your brain
may, as you say, be roused and excited, but it is a pathological
and morbid process which involves increased tissue-change and
may at least leave a permanent weakness. You know, too, what
a black reaction comes upon you. Surely the game is hardly
worth the candle. Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure,
risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been
endowed? Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to
another but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is
to some extent answerable."
He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his finger-
tips together, and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like
one who has a relish for conversation.
"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me prob-
lems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or
the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmo-
sphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor
the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That
is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather
created it, for I am the only one in the world."
"The only unofficial detective?" I said, raising my eyebrows.
"The only unofficial consulting detective," he answered. "I
am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When Greg-
son, or Lestrade, or Athelney Jones are out of their depths --
which, by the way, is their normal state -- the matter is laid
before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a
specialist's opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My name
figures in no newspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding
a field for my peculiar powers, is my highest reward. But you
have yourself had some experience of my methods of work in the
Jefferson Hope case."
"Yes, indeed," said I cordially. "I was never so struck by
anything in my life. I even embodied it in a small brochure, with
the somewhat fantastic title of 'A Study in Scarlet.' "
He shook his head sadly.
"I glanced over it," said he. "Honestly, I cannot congratulate
you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and
should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You
have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces
much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an
elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid."
"But the romance was there," I remonstrated. "I could not
tamper with the facts."
"Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of
proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point
in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical
reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unrav-
I was annoyed at this criticism of a work which had been
specially designed to please him. I confess, too, that I was
irritated by the egotism which seemed to demand that every line
of my pamphlet should be devoted to his own special doings.
More than once during the years that I had lived with him in
Baker Street I had observed that a small vanity underlay my
companion's quiet and didactic manner. I made no remark
however, but sat nursing my wounded leg. I had had a Jezaii
bullet through it some time before, and though it did not prevent
me from walking it ached wearily at every change of the weather.
"My practice has extended recently to the Continent," said
Holmes after a while, filling up his old brier-root pipe. "I was
consulted last week by Francois le Villard, who, as you
probably know, has come rather to the front lately in the French
detective service. He has all the Celtic power of quick intuition
but he is deficient in the wide range of exact knowledge which is
essential to the higher developments of his art. The case was
concerned with a will and possessed some features of interest. I
was able to refer him to two parallel cases, the one at Riga in
1857, and the other at St. Louis in 1871, which have suggested
to him the true solution. Here is the letter which I had this
morning acknowledging my assistance."
He tossed over, as he spoke, a crumpled sheet of foreign
notepaper. I glanced my eyes down it, catching a profusion of
notes of admiration, with stray magnifiques, coup-de-maitres and
tours-de-force, all testifying to the ardent admiration of the
"He speaks as a pupil to his master," said I.
"Oh, he rates my assistance too highly," said Sherlock Holmes
lightly. "He has coosiderable 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 cried, laughing. "Yes, I have
been guilty of several monographs. They are all upon technical
subjects. Here, for example, is one 'Upon the Distinction be-
tween the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos.' In it I enumerate a
hundred and forty forms of cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobacco,
with coloured plates illustrating the difference in the ash. It is a
point which is continually turning up in criminal trials, and
which is sometimes of supreme importance as a clue. If you can
say definitely, for example, that some murder had been done by
a man who was smoking an Indian lunkah, it obviously narrows
your field of search. To the trained eye there is as much differ-
ence 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, cork-
cutters, compositors, weavers, and diamond-polishers. That is a
matter of great practical interest to the scientific detective --
especially in cases of unclaimed bodies, or in discovering the
antecedents of criminals. But I weary you with my hobby."
"Not at all," I answered earnestly. "It is of the greatest
interest to me, especially since I have had the opportunity of
observing your practical application of it. But you spoke just
now of observation and deduction. Surely the one to some extent
implies the other."
"Why, hardly," he answered, leaning back luxuriously in his
armchair and sending up thick blue wreaths from his pipe. "For
example, observation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore
Street Post-Office this morning, but deduction lets me know that
when there you dispatched a telegram."
"Right!" said I. "Right on both points! But I confess that I
don't see how you arrived at it. It was a sudden impulse upon
my part, and I have mentioned it to no one."
"It is simplicity itself," he remarked, chuckling at my
surprise -- "so absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous;
and yet it may serve to define the limits of observation and of
deduction. Observation tells me that you have a little reddish
mould adhering to your instep. Just opposite the Wigmore Street
Office they have taken up the pavement and thrown up some
earth, which lies in such a way that it is difficult to avoid
treading in it in entering. The earth is of this peculiar reddish tint
which is found, as far as I know, nowhere else in the neigh-
bourhood. 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 replied after a little thought.
"The thing, however, is, as you say, of the simplest. Would you
think me impertinent if I were to put your theories to a more
"On the contrary," he answered, "it would prevent me from
taking a second dose of cocaine. I should be delighted to look
into any problem which you might submit to me."
"I have heard you say it is difficult for a man to have any
object in daily use without leaving the impress of his individual-
ity upon it in such a way that a trained observer might read it.
Now, I have here a watch which has recently come into my
possession. Would you have the kindness to let me have an opinion
upon the character or habits of the late owner?"
I handed him over the watch with some slight feeling of
amusement in my heart, for the test was, as I thought, an
impossible one, and I intended it as a lesson against the some-
what dogmatic tone which he occasionally assumed. He balanced
the watch in his hand, gazed hard at the dial, opened the back,
and examined the works, first with his naked eyes and then with
a powerful convex lens. I could hardly keep from smiling at his
crestfallen face when he finally snapped the case to and handed it
"There are hardly any data," he remarked. "The watch has
been recently cleaned, which robs me of my most suggestive
"You are right," I answered. "It was cleaned before being
sent to me."
In my heart I accused my companion of putting forward a
most lame and impotent excuse to cover his failure. What data
could he expect from an uncleaned watch?
"Though unsatisfactory, my research has not been entirely
barren," he observed, staring up at the ceiling with dreamy,
lack-lustre eyes. "Subject to your correction, I should judge that
the watch belonged to your elder brother, who inherited it from
"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. Jewellery usually
descends to the eldest son, and he is most likely to have the same
name as the father. Your father has, if I remember right, been
dead many years. It has, therefore, been in the hands of your
"Right, so far," said I. "Anything else?"
"He was a man of untidy habits -- very untidy and careless.
He was left with good prospects, but he threw away his chances,
lived for some time in poverty with occasional short intervals of
prosperity, and finally, taking to drink, he died. That is all I can
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
inquiries into the history of my unhappy brother, and you now
pretend to deduce this knowledge in some fanciful way. You
cannot expect me to believe that you have read all this from his
old watch! It is unkind and, to speak plainly, has a touch of
charlatanism in it."
"My dear doctor," said he kindly, "pray accept my apolo-
gies. Viewing the matter as an abstract problem, I had forgotten
how personal and painful a thing it might be to you. I assure
you, however, that I never even knew that you had a brother
until you handed me the watch."
"Then how in the name of all that is wonderful did you get
these facts? They are absolutely correct in every particular."
"Ah, that is good luck. I could only say what was the balance
of probability. I did not at all expect to be so accurate."
"But it was not mere guesswork?"
"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. Nei-
ther is it a very far-fetched inference that a man who inherits one
article of such value is pretty well provided for in other respects."
I nodded to show that I followed his reasoning.
"It is very customary for pawnbrokers in England, when they
take a watch, to scratch the numbers 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 prosper-
ity, or he could not have redeemed the pledge. Finally, I ask you
to look at the inner plate, which contains the keyhole. 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 brainwork.
What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was
ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the
yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-
coloured 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 commonplacc,
existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are
commonplace have any function upon earth."
I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade when, with a
crisp knock, our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass
"A young lady for you, sir," she said, addressing my
"Miss Mary Morstan," he read. "Hum! I have no recollec-
tion of the name. Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. 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 lady, small,
dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste. There
was, however, a plainness and simplicity about her costume
which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was
a sombre grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore
a small turban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion
of white feather in the side. Her face had neither regularity of
feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet
and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual
and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over
many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked
upon a face which gave a clearer promise of a refined and
sensitive nature. I could not but observe that as she took the seat
which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her
hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intense inward
"I have come to you, Mr. Holmes," she said,"because you
once enabled my employer, Mrs. Cecil Forrester, to unravel a
little domestic complication. She was much impressed by your
kindness and skill."
"Mrs. Cecil Forrester," he repeated thoughtfully. "I believe
that I was of some slight service to her. The case, however, as I
remember it, was a very simple one."
"She did not think so. But at least you cannot say the same of
mine. I can hardly imagine anything more strange, more utterly
inexplicable, than the situation in which I find myself."
Holmes rubbed his hands, and his eyes glistened. He leaned
forward in his chair with an expression of extraordinary concen-
tration upon his clear-cut, hawklike features.
"State your case," said he in brisk business tones.
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
"You will, I am sure, excuse me," I said, rising from my
To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to
"If your friend," she said, "would be good enough to stop,
he might be of inestimable service to me."
I relapsed into my chair.
"Briefly," she continued, "the facts are these. My father was
an officer in an Indian regiment, who sent me home when I was
quite a child. My mother was dead, and I had no relative in
England. I was placed, however, in a comfortable boarding
establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained until I was
seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father, who was
senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months' leave
and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had
arrived all safe and directed me to come down at once, giving
the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember,
was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the
Langham and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying
there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not
returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on
the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the
police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our
inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has
ever been heard of my unfortunate father. He came home with
his heart full of hope to find some peace, some comfort, and
She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the
"The date?" asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
"He disappeared upon the third of December, 1878 -- nearly
ten years ago."
"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 regi-
ment, the Thirty-fourth Bombay Infantry. The major had retired
some little time before and lived at Upper Norwood. We com-
municated with him, of course, but he did not even know that his
brother officer was in England."
"A singular case," remarked Holmes.
"I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About
six years ago -- to be exact, upon the fourth 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 advan-
tage 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 cardboard 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 pro-
nounced by an expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable
value. You can see for yourself that they are very hanasome."
She opened a flat box as she spoke and showed me six of the
finest pearls that I had ever seen.
"Your statement is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes.
"Has anything else occurred to you?"
"Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to
you. This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps
read for yourself."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "The envelope, too, please.
Post-mark, London, S. W. Date, July 7. Hum! Man's thumb-
mark on corner -- probably postman. Best quality paper. Enve-
lopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery. No
"Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum
Theatre to-night at seven o'clock. If you are distrustful
bring two friends. You are a wronged woman and shall
have justice. Do not bring police. If you do, all will be in
vain. Your unknown friend.
Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery! What do you
intend to do, Miss Morstan?"
That is exactly what I want to ask you."
"Then we shall most certainly go -- you and I and -- yes. why
Dr. Watson is the very man. Your correspondent says two
friends. He and I have worked together before."
"But would he come?" she asked with something appealing
in her voice and expression.
"I shall be proud and happy," said I fervently, "if I can be of
"You are both very kind," she answered. "I have led a
retired life and have no friends whom I could appeal to. If I am
here at six it will do, I suppose?"
"You must not be later," said Holmes. "There. is one other
point, however. Is this handwriting the same as that upon the
"I have them here," she answered, producing half a dozen
pieces of paper.
"You are certainly a model client. You have the correct
intuition. Let us see, now." He spread out the papers upon the
table and gave little darting glances from one to the other. "They
are disguised hands, except the letter," he said presently; "but
there can be no question as to the authorship. See how the
irrepressible Greek e will break out, and see the twirl of the final
s. They are undoubtedly by the same person. I should not like to
suggest false hopes, Miss Morstan, but is there any resemblance
between this hand and that of your father?"
"Nothing could be more unlike."
"I expected to hear you say so. We shall look out for you,
then, at six. Pray allow me to keep the papers. I may look into
the matter before then. It is only half-past three. Au revoir
"Au revoir," said our visitor; and with a bright, kindly glance
from one to the other of us, she replaced her pearl-box in her
bosom and hurried away.
Standing at the window, I watched her walking briskly down
the street until the gray turban and white feather were but a speck
in the sombre crowd.
"What a very attractive woman!" I exclaimed, turning to my
He had lit his pipe again and was leaning back with drooping
eyelids. "Is she?" he said languidly; "I did not observe."
"You really are an automaton -- a calculating machine," I
cried. "There is something positively inhuman in you at times."
He smiled gently.
"It is of the first importance," he cried, "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 win-
ning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little
children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man
of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a
quarter of a million upon the London poor."
"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 I an e. Men of
character always differentiate their long letters, however illegibly
they may write. There is vacillation in his k's and self-esteem in
his capitals. I am going out now. I have some few references to
make. Let me recommend this book -- one of the most remark-
able ever penned. It is Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man. I
shall be back in an hour."
I sat in the window with the volume in my hand, but my
thoughts were far from the daring speculations of the writer. My
mind ran upon our late visitor -- her smiles, the deep rich tones of
her voice, the strange mystery which overhung her life. If she
were seventeen at the time of her father's disappearance she must
be seven-and-twenty now -- a sweet age, when youth has lost its
self-consciousness and become a little sobered by experience. So
I sat and mused until such dangerous thoughts came into my
head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into
the latest treatise upon pathology. What was I, an army surgeon
with a weak leg and a weaker banking account, that I should
dare to think of such things? She was a unit, a factor -- nothing
more. If my future were black, it was better surely to face it like
a man than to attempt to brighten it by mere will-o'-the-wisps of
In Quest of a Solution
It was half-past five before Holmes returned. He was bright,
eager, and in excellent spirits, a mood which in his case alter-
nated with fits of the blackest depression.
"There is no great mystery in this matter," he said, taking the
cup of tea which I had poured out for him; "the facts appear to
admit of only one explanation."
"What! you have solved it already?"
"Well, that would be too much to say. I have discovered a
suggestive fact, that is all. It is, however, very suggestive. The
details are still to be added. I have just found, on consulting the
back files of the Times, that Major Sholto, of Upper Norwood,
late of the Thirty-fourth Bombay Infantry, died upon the twenty-
eighth 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 of."
"There are difficulties; there are certainly difficulties," said
Sherlock Holmes pensively; "but our expedition of to-night will
solve them all. Ah, here is a four-wheeler, and Miss Morstan is
inside. Are you all ready? Then we had better go down, for it is
a little past the hour."
I picked up my hat and my heaviest stick, but I observed that
Holmes took his revolver from his drawer and slipped it into his
pocket. It was clear that he thought that our night's work might
be a serious one.
Miss Morstan was muffled in a dark cloak, and her sensitive
face was composed but pale. She must have been more than
woman if she did not feel some uneasiness at the strange enter-
prise upon which we were embarking, yet her self-control was
perfect, and she readily answered the few additional questions
which Sherlock Holmes put to her.
"Major Sholto was a very particular friend of Papa's," she
said. "His letters were full of allusions to the major. He and
Papa were in command of the troops at the Andaman Islands, so
they were thrown a great deal together. By the way, a curious
paper was found in Papa's desk which no one could understand.
I don't suppose that it is of the slightest importance, but I
thought you might care to see it, so I brought it with me. It is
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, corridors, and passages. At one point is a small cross done
in red ink, and above it is '3.37 from left,' in faded pencil-
writing. In the left-hand corner is a curious hieroglyphic like four
crosses in a line with their arms touching. Beside it is written, in
very rough and coarse characters, 'The sign of the four -- Jonathan
Small, Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, Dost Akbar.' No, I
confess that I do not see how this bears upon the matter. Yet it is
evidently a document of importance. It has been kept carefully in
a pocketbook, for the one side is as clean as the other."
"It was in his pocketbook that we found it."
"Preserve it carefully, then, Miss Morstan, for it may prove to
be of use to us. I begin to suspect that this matter may turn out to
be much deeper and more subtle than I at first supposed. I must
reconsider my ideas."
He leaned back in the cab, and I could see by his drawn brow
and his vacant eye that he was thinking intently. Miss Morstan
and I chatted in an undertone about our present expedition and its
possible outcome, but our companion maintained his impenetra-
ble reserve until the end of our journey.
It was a September evening and not yet seven o'clock, but the
day had been a dreary one, and a dense drizzly fog lay low upon
the great city. Mud-coloured clouds drooped sadly over the
muddy streets. Down the Strand the lamps were but misty splotches
of diffused light which threw a feeble circular glimmer upon the
slimy pavement. The yellow glare from the shop-windows streamed
out into the steamy, vaporous air and threw a murky, shifting
radiance across the crowded thoroughfare. There was, to my
mind, something eerie and ghostlike in the endless procession of
faces which flitted across these narrow bars of light -- sad faces
and glad, haggard and merry. Like all humankind, they flitted
from the gloom into the light and so back into the gloom once
more. I am not subject to impressions, but the dull, heavy
evening, with the strange business upon which we were engaged,
combined to make me nervous and depressed. I could see from
Miss Morstan's manner that she was suffering from the same
feeling. Holmes alone could rise superior to petty influences. He
held his open notebook upon his knee, and from time to time he
jotted down figures and memoranda in the light of his pocket-
At the Lyceum Theatre the crowds were already thick at the
side-entrances. In front a continuous stream of hansoms and
four-wheelers were rattling up, discharging their cargoes of shirt-
fronted men and beshawled, bediamonded women. We had hardly
reached the third pillar, which was our rendezvous, before a
small, dark, brisk man in the dress of a coachman accosted us.
"Are you the parties who come with Miss Morstan?" he
"I am Miss Morstan, and these two gentlemen are my friends,"
He bent a pair of wonderfully penetrating and questioning eyes
"You will excuse me, miss," he said with a certain dogged
manner, "but I was to ask you to give me your word that neither
of your companions is a police-officer."
"I give you my word on that," she answered.
He gave a shrill whistle, on which a street Arab led across a
four-wheeler and opened the door. The man who had addressed
us mounted to the box, while we took our places inside. We had
hardly done so before the driver whipped up his horse, and we
plunged away at a furious pace through the foggy streets.
The situation was a curious one. We were driving to an
unknown place, on an unknown errand. Yet our invitation was
either a complete hoax -- which was an inconceivable hypothesis --
or else we had good reason to think that important issues might
hang upon our journey. Miss Morstan's demeanour was as reso-
lute and collected as ever. I endeavoured to cheer and amuse her
by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan; but, to tell
the truth, I was myself so excited at our situation and so curious
as to our destination that my stories were slightly involved. To
this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to
how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how
I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it. At first I had some idea
as to the direction in which we were driving; but soon, what with
our pace, the fog, and my own limited knowledge of London, I
lost my bearings and knew nothing save that we seemed to be
going a very long way. Sherlock Holmes was never at fault,
however, and he muttered the names as the cab rattled through
squares and in and out by tortuous by-streets.
"Rochester Row," said he. "Now Vincent Square. Now we
come out on the Vauxhall Bridge Road. We are making for the
Surrey side apparently. Yes, I thought so. Now we are on the
bridge. You can catch glimpses of the river."
We did indeed get a fleeting view of a stretch of the Thames,
with the lamps shining upon the broad, silent water; but our cab
dashed on and was soon involved in a labyrinth of streets upon
the other side.
"Wordsworth Road," said my companion. "Priory Road.
Lark Hall Lane. Stockwell Place. Robert Street. Cold Harbour
Lane. Our quest does not appear to take us to very fashionable
We had indeed reached a questionable and forbidding neigh-
bourhood. 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 front-
ing of miniature garden, and then again interminable lines of
new, staring brick buildings -- the monster tentacles which the
giant city was throwing out into the country. At last the cab drew
up at the third house in a new terrace. None of the other houses
were inhabited, and that at which we stopped was as dark as its
neighbours, save for a single glimmer in the kitchen-window. On
our knocking, however, the door was instantly thrown open by a
Hindoo servant, clad in a yellow turban, white loose-fitting
clothes, and a yellow sash. There was something strangely in-
congruous in this Oriental figure framed in the commonplace
doorway of a third-rate suburban dwelling-house.
"The sahib awaits you," said he, and even as he spoke, there
came a high, piping voice from some inner room.
"Show them in to-me, khitmutgar," it said. "Show them
straight in to me."
The Story of the Bald-Headed Man
We followed the Indian down a sordid and common passage,
ill-lit and worse furnished, until he came to a door upon the
right, which he threw open. A blaze of yellow light streamed out
upon us, and in the centre of the glare there stood a small man
with a very high head, a bristle of red hair all round the fringe of
it, and a bald, shining scalp which shot out from among it like a
mountain-peak from fir-trees. He writhed his hands together as
he stood, and his features were in a perpetual jerk -- now smiling,
now scowling, but never for an instant in repose. Nature had
given him a pendulous lip, and a too visible line of yellow and
irregular teeth, which he strove feebly to conceal by constantly
passing his hand over the lower part of his face. In spite of his
obtrusive baldness he gave the impression of youth. In point of
fact, he had just turned his thirtieth year.
"Your servant, Miss Morstan," he kept repeating in a thin,
high voice. "Your servant, gentlemen. Pray step into my little
sanctum. A small place, miss, but furnished to my own liking.
An oasis of art in the howling desert of South London."
We were all astonished by the appearance of the apartment
into which he invited us. In that sorry house it looked as out of
place as a diamond of the first water in a setting of brass. The
richest and glossiest of curtains and tapestries draped the walls,
looped back here and there to expose some richly mounted
painting or Oriental vase. The carpet was of amber and black, so
soft and so thick that the foot sank pleasantly into it, as into a
bed of moss. Two great tiger-skins thrown athwart it increased
the suggestion of Eastern luxury, as did a huge hookah which
stood upon a mat in the corner. A lamp in the fashion of a silver
dove was hung from an almost invisible golden wire in the centre
of the room. As it burned it filled the air with a subtle and
"Mr. Thaddeus Sholto," said the little man, still jerking and
smiling. "That is my name. You are Miss Morstan, of course.
And these gentlemen --"
"This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and this Dr. Watson."
"A doctor, eh?" cried he, much excited. "Have you your
stethoscope? Might I ask you -- would you have the kindness? I
have grave doubts as to my mitral valve, if you would be so very
good. The aortic I may rely upon, but I should value your
opinion upon the mitral."
I listened to his heart, as requested, but was unable to find
anything amiss, save, indeed, that he was in an ecstasy of fear,
for he shivered from head to foot.
"It appears to be normal," I said. "You have no cause for
"You will excuse my anxiety, Miss Morstan," he remarked
airily. "I am a great sufferer, and I have long had suspicions as
to that valve. I am delighted to hear that they are unwarranted.
Had your father, Miss Morstan, refrained from throwing a strain
upon his heart, he might have been alive now."
I could have struck the man across the face, so hot was I at
this callous and offhand reference to so delicate a matter. Miss
Morstan sat down, and her face grew white to the lips.
"I knew in my heart that he was dead," said she.
"I can give you every information," said he; "and, what is
more, I can do you justice; and I will, too, whatever Brother
Bartholomew may say. I am so glad to have your friends here
not only as an escort to you but also as witnesses to what I am
about to do and say. The three of us can show a bold front to
Brother Bartholomew. But let us have no outsiders -- no police or
officials. We can settle everything satisfactorily among ourselves
without any interference. Nothing would annoy Brother Bart-
holomew more than any publicity."
He sat down upon a low settee and blinked at us inquiringly with
his weak, watery blue eyes.
"For my part," said Holmes, "whatever you may choose to
say will go no further."
I nodded to show my agreement.
"That is well! That is well" said he. "May I offer you a
glass of Chianti, Miss Morstan? Or of Tokay? I keep no other
wines. Shall I open a flask? No? Well, then, I trust that you have
no objection to tobacco-smoke, to the balsamic odour of the
Eastern tobacco. I am a little nervous, and I find my hookah an
He applied a taper to the great bowl, and the smoke bubbled
merrily through the rose-water. We sat all three in a semicircle,
with our heads advanced and our chins upon our hands, while
the strange, jerky little fellow, with his high, shining head,
puffed uneasily in the centre.
"When I first determined to make this communication to
you," said he, "I might have given you my address; but I feared
that you might disregard my request and bring unpleasant people
with you. I took the liberty, therefore, of making an appointment
in such a way that my man Williams might be able to see you
first. I have complete confidence in his discretion, and he had
orders, if he were dissatisfied, to proceed no further in the
matter. You will excuse these precautions, but I am a man of
somewhat retiring, and I might even say refined, tastes, and
there is nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman. I have a
natural shrinking from all forms of rough materialism. I seldom
come in contact with the rough crowd. I live, as you see, with
some little atmosphere of elegance around me. I may call myself
a patron of the arts. It is my weakness. The landscape is a
genuine Corot, and though a connoisseur might perhaps throw a
doubt upon that Salvator Rosa, there cannot be the least question
about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern French school."
"You will excuse me, Mr. Sholto," said Miss Morstan, "but
I am here at your request to learn something which you desire to
tell me. It is very late, and I should desire the interview to be as
short as possible."
"At the best it must take some time," he answered; "for we
shall certainly have to go to Norwood and see Brother Barth-
olomew. We shall all go and try if we can get the better of
Brother Bartholomew. He is very angry with me for taking the
course which has seemed right to me. I had quite high words
with him last night. You cannot imagine what a terrible fellow
he is when he is angry."
"If we are to go to Norwood, it would perhaps be as well to
start at once," I ventured to remark.
He laughed until his ears were quite red.
"That would hardly do," he cried. "I don't know what he
would say if I brought you in that sudden way. No, I must
prepare you by showing you how we all stand to each other. In
the first place, I must tell you that there are several points in the
story of which I am myself ignorant. I can only lay the facts
before you as far as I know them myself.
"My father was, as you may have guessed, Major John
Sholto, once of the Indian Army. He retired some eleven years
ago and came to live at Pondicherry Lodge in Upper Norwood.
He had prospered in India and brought back with him a con-
siderable sum of money, a large collection of valuable curiosi-
ties, and a staff of native servants. With these advantages he
bought himself a house, and lived in great luxury. My twin-
brother Bartholomew and I were the only children.
"I very well remember the sensation which was caused by the
disappearance of Captain Morstan. We read the details in the
papers, and knowing that he had been a friend of our father's we
discussed the case freely in his presence. He used to join in our
speculations as to what could have happened. Never for an
instant did we suspect that he had the whole secret hidden in his
own breast, that of all men he alone knew the fate of Arthur
"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 tonight,
was one of them. He was once lightweight champion of En-
gland. Our father would never tell us what it was he feared, but
he had a most marked aversion to men with wooden legs. On
one occasion he actually fired his revolver at a wooden-legged
man, who proved to be a harmless tradesman canvassing for
orders. We had to pay a large sum to hush the matter up. My
brother and I used to think this a mere whim of my father's, but
events have since led us to change our opinion.
"Early in 1882 my father received a letter from India which
was a great shock to him. He nearly fainted at the breakfast-table
when he opened it, and from that day he sickened to his death.
What was in the letter we could never discover, but I could see
as he held it that it was short and written in a scrawling hand. He
had suffered for years from an enlarged spleen, but he now
became rapidly worse, and towards the end of April we were
informed that he was beyond all hope, and that he wished to
make a last communication to us.
"When we entered his room he was propped up with pillows
and breathing heavily. He besought us to lock the door and to
come upon either side of the bed. Then grasping our hands he
made a remarkable statement to us in a voice which was broken
as much by emotion as by pain. I shall try and give it to you in
his own very words.
" 'I have only one thing,' he said, 'which weighs upon my
mind at this supreme moment. It is my treatment of poor Morstan's
orphan. The cursed greed which has been my besetting sin
through life has withheld from her the treasure, half at least of
which should have been hers. And yet I have made no use of it
myself, so blind and foolish a thing is avarice. The mere feeling
of possession has been so dear to me that I could not bear to
share it with another. See that chaplet tipped with pearls beside
the quinine-bottle. Even that I could not bear to part with,
although I had got it out with the design of sending it to her.
You, my sons, will give her a fair share of the Agra treasure.
But send her nothing -- not even the chaplet -- until I am gone.
After all, men have been as bad as this and have recovered.
" 'I will tell you how Morstan died,' he continued. 'He had
suffered for years from a weak heart, but he concealed it from
every one. I alone knew it. When in India, he and I, through a
remarkable chain of circumstances, came into possession of a
considerable treasure. I brought it over to England, and on the
night of Morstan's arrival he came straight over here to claim his
share. He walked over from the station and was admitted by my
faithful old 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 backward, cutting
his head against the corner of the treasure-chest. When I stooped
over him I found, to my horror, that he was dead.
" 'For a long time I sat half distracted, wondering what I
should do. My first impulse was, of course, to call for assis-
tance; but I could not but recognize that there was every chance
that I would be accused of his murder. His death at the moment
of a quarrel, and the gash in his head, would be black against
me. Again, an official inquiry could not be made without bring-
ing out some facts about the treasure, which I was particularly
anxious to keep secret. He had told me that no soul upon earth
knew where he had gone. There seemed to be no necessity why
any soul ever should know.
" 'I was still pondering over the matter, when, looking up, I
saw my servant, Lal Chowdar, in the doorway. He stole in and
bolted the door behind him. "Do not fear, sahib," he said; "no
one need know that you have killed him. Let us hide him away,
and who is the wiser?" "I did not kill him," said I. Lal
Chowdar shook his head and smiled. "I heard it all, sahib," said
he; "l heard you quarrel, and I heard the blow. But my lips are
sealed. All are asleep in the house. Let us put him away to-
gether." That was enough to decide me. If my own servant
could not believe my innocence, how could I hope to make it
good before twelve foolish tradesmen in a jury-box? Lal Chowdar
and I disposed of the body that night, and within a few days the
London papers were full of the mysterious disappearance of
Captain Morstan. You will see from what I say that l can hardly
be blamed in the matter. My fault lies in the fact that we
concealed not only the body but also the treasure and that I have
clung to Morstan's share as well as to my own. I wish you,
therefore, to make restitution. Put your ears down to my mouth.
The treasure is hidden in --'
"At this instant a horrible change came over his expression;
his eyes stared wildly, his jaw dropped, and he yelled in a voice
which I can never forget, 'Keep him out! For Christ's sake keep
him out!' We both stared round at the window behind us upon
which his gaze was fixed. A face was looking in at us out of the
darkness. We could see the whitening of the nose where it was
pressed against the glass. It was a bearded, hairy face, with wild
cruel eyes and an expression of concentrated malevolence. My
brother and I rushed towards the window, but the man was gone.
When we returned to my father his head had dropped and his
pulse had ceased to beat.
"We searched the garden that night but found no sign of the
intruder save that just under the window a single footmark was
visible in the flower-bed. But for that one trace, we might have
thought that our imaginations had conjured up that wild, fierce
face. We soon, however, had another and a more striking proof
that there were secret agencies at work all round us. The window
of my father's room was found open in the morning, his cup-
boards 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 thought-
fully for a few moments. We had all sat absorbed, listening to
his extraordinary narrative. At the short account of her father's
death Miss Morstan had turned deadly white, and for a moment I
feared that she was about to faint. She rallied, however, on
drinking a glass of water which I quietly poured out for her from
a Venetian carafe upon the side-table. Sherlock Holmes leaned
back in his chair with an abstracted expression and the lids
drawn low over his glittering eyes. As I glanced at him I could
not but think how on that very day he had complained bitterly of
the commonplaceness of life. Here at least was a problem which
would tax his sagacity to the utmost. Mr. Thaddeus Sholto
looked from one to the other of us with an obvious pride at the
effect which his story had produced and then continued between
the puffs of his overgrown pipe.
"My brother and I," said he, "were, as you may imagine,
much excited as to the treasure which my father had spoken of.
For weeks and for months we dug and delved in every part of the
garden without discovering its whereabouts. It was maddening to
think that the hiding-place was on his very lips at the moment
that he died. We could judge the splendour of the missing riches
by the chaplet which he had taken out. Over this chaplet my
brother Bartholomew and I had some little discussion. The pearls
were evidently of great value, and he was averse to part with
them, for, between friends, my brother was himself a little
inclined to my father's fault. He thought, too, that if we parted
with the chaplet it might give rise to gossip and finally bring us
into trouble. It was all that I could do to persuade him to let me
find out Miss Morstan's address and send her a detached pearl at
fixed intervals so that at least she might never feel destitute."
"It was a kindly thought," said our companion earnestly; "it
was extremely good of you."
The little man waved his hand deprecatingly.
"We were your trustees," he said; "that was the view which I
took of it, though Brother Bartholomew could not altogether see
it in that light. We had plenty of money ourselves. I desired no
more. Besides, it would have been such bad taste to have treated
a young lady in so scurvy a fashion. 'Le mauvais godt mene au
crime.' The French have a very neat way of putting these things.
Our difference of opinion on this subject went so far that I
thought it best to set up rooms for myself; so I left Pondicherry
Lodge, taking the old khitmutgar and Williams with me. Yester-
day, however, I learned that an event of extreme importance has
occurred. The treasure has been discovered. I instantly commu-
nicated with Miss Morstan, and it only remains for us to drive
out to Norwood and demand our share. I explained my views last
night to Brother Bartholomew, so we shall be expected, if not
Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased and sat twitching on his luxurious
settee. We all remained silent, with our thoughts upon the new
development which the mysterious business had taken. Holmes
was the first to spring to his feet.
"You have done well, sir, from first to last," said he. "It is
possible that we may be able to make you some small return by
throwing some light upon that which is still dark to you. But, as
Miss Morstan remarked just now, it is late, and we had best put
the matter through without delay."
Our new acquaintance very deliberately coiled up the tube of
his hookah and produced from behind a curtain a very long
befrogged topcoat with astrakhan collar and cuffs. This he but-
toned tightly up in spite of the extreme closeness of the night and
finished his attire by putting on a rabbit-skin cap with hanging
lappets which covered the ears, so that no part of him was visible
save his mobile and peaky face.
"My health is somewhat fragile," he remarked as he led the
way down the passage. "I am compelled to be a valetudinarian."
Our cab was awaiting us outside, and our programme was
evidently prearranged, for the driver started off at once at a rapid
pace. Thaddeus Sholto talked incessantly in a voice which rose
high above the rattle of the wheels.
"Bartholomew is a clever fellow," said he. "How do you
think he found out where the treasure was? He had come to the
conclusion that it was somewhere indoors, so he worked out all
the cubic space of the house and made measurements everywhere
so that not one inch should be unaccounted for. Among other
things, he found that the height of the building was seventy-four
feet, but on adding together the heights of all the separate rooms
and making every allowance for the space between, which he
ascertained by borings, he could not bring the total to more than
seventy feet. There were four feet unaccounted for. These could
only be at the top of the building. He knocked a hole, therefore,
in the lath and plaster ceiling of the highest room, and there, sure
enough, he came upon another little garret above it, which had
been sealed up and was known to no one. In the centre stood the
treasure-chest resting upon two rafters. He lowered it through the
hole, and there it lies. He computes the value of the jewels at not
less than half a million sterling."
At the mention of this gigantic sum we all stared at one
another open-eyed. Miss Morstan, could we secure her rights,
would change from a needy governess to the richest heiress in
England. Surely it was the place of a loyal friend to rejoice at
such news, yet I am ashamed to say that selfishness took me by
the soul and that my heart turned as heavy as lead within me. I
stammered out some few halting words of congratulation and
then sat downcast, with my head drooped, deaf to the babble of
our new acquaintance. He was clearly a confirmed hypochondriac,
and I was dreamily conscious that he was pouring forth intermi-
nable trains of symptoms, and imploring information as to the
composition and action of innumerable quack nostrums, some of
which he bore about in a leather case in his pocket. I trust that he
may not remember any of the answers which I gave him that
night. Holmes declares that he overheard me caution him against
the great danger of taking more than two drops of castor-oil,
while I recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative.
However that may be, I was certainly relieved when our cab
pulled up with a jerk and the coachman sprang down to open the
"This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry Lodge," said Mr. Thad-
deus Sholto as 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 us, and the night was fairly fine. A warm wind blew
from the westward, and heavy clouds moved slowly across the
sky, with half a moon peeping occasionally through the rifts. It
was clear enough to see for some distance, but Thaddeus Sholto
took down one of the sidelamps from the carriage to give us a
better light upon our way.
Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds and was girt
round with a very high stone wall topped with broken glass. A
single narrow iron-clamped door formed the only means of
entrance. On this our guide knocked with a peculiar postman-like
"Who is there?" cried a gruff voice from within.
"It is I, McMurdo. You surely know my knock by this time."
There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of
keys. The door swung heavily back, and a short, deep-chested
man stood in the opening, with the yellow light of the lantern
shining upon his protruded face and twinkling, distrustful eyes.
"That you, Mr. Thaddeus? But who are the others? I had no
orders about them from the master."
"No, McMurdo? You surprise me! I told my brother last night
that I should bring some friends."
"He hain't been out o' his rooms to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I
have no orders. You know very well that I must stick to regula-
tions. I can let you in, but your friends they must just stop where
This was an unexpected obstacle. Thaddeus Sholto looked
about him in a perplexed and helpless manner.
"This is too bad of you, McMurdo!" he said. "If I guarantee
them, that is enough for you. There is the young lady, too. She
cannot wait on the pubiic road at this hour."
"Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus," said the porter inexorably.
"Folk may be friends o' yours, and yet no friend o' the master's.
He pays me well to do my duty, and my duty I'll do. I don't
know none o' your friends."
"Oh, yes you do, McMurdo," cried Sherlock Holmes ge-
nially. "I don't think you can have forgotten me. Don't you
remember that amateur who fought three rounds with you at
Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?"
"Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" roared the prize-fighter. "God's
truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o' standin' there
so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of
yours under the jaw, I'd ha' known you without a question. Ah,
you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have
aimed high, if you had joined the fancy."
"You see, Watson, if all else fails me, I have still one of the
scientific professions open to me," said Holmes, laughing. "Our
friend won't keep us out in the cold now, I am sure."
"In you come, sir, in you come -- you and your friends," he
answered. "Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus, but orders are very
strict. Had to be certain of your friends before I let them in."
Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a
huge clump of a house, square and prosaic, all plunged in
shadow save where a moonbeam struck one corner and glim-
mered in a garret window. The vast size of the building, with its
gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill to the heart. Even
Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the lantern quivered and
rattled in his hand.
"I cannot understand it," he said. "There must be some
mistake. I distinctly told Bartholomew that we should be here,
and yet there is no light in his window. I do not know what to
make of it."
"Does he always guard the premises in this way?" asked
"Yes; he has followed my father's custom. He was the fa-
vourite 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 had no word of our coming, she may be
alarmed. But, hush! what is that?"
He held up the lantern, and his hand shook until the circles of
light flickered and wavered all round us. Miss Morstan seized
my wrist, and we all stood, with thumping hearts, straining our
ears. From the great black house there sounded through the silent
night the saddest and most pitiful of sounds -- the shrill, broken
whimpering of a frightened woman.
"It is Mrs. Bernstone," said Sholto. "She is the only woman
in the house. Wait here. I shall be back in a moment."
He hurried, for the door and knocked in his peculiar way. We
could see a tall old woman admit him and sway with pleasure at
the very sight of him.
"Oh, Mr. Thaddeus, sir, I am so glad you have come! I am
so glad you have come, Mr. Thaddeus, sir!"
We heard her reiterated rejoicings until the door was closed
and her voice died away into a muffled monotone.
Our guide had left us the lantern. Holmes swung it slowly
round and peered keenly at the house and at the great rubbish-
heaps which cumbered the grounds. Miss Morstan and I stood
together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is
love, for here were we two, who had never seen each other
before that day, between whom no word or even look of affec-
tion had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our
hands instinctively sought for each other. I have marvelled at it
since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I
should go out to her so, and, as she has often told me, there was
in her also the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection.
So we stood hand in hand like two children, and there was peace
in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us.
"What a strange place!" she said, looking round.
"It looks as though all the moles in England had been let
loose in it. I have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill
near Ballarat, where the prospectors had been at work."
"And from the same cause," said Holmes. "These are the
traces of the treasure-seekers. You must remember that they were
six years looking for it. No wonder that the grounds look like a
At that moment the door of the house burst open, and Thad-
deus Sholto came running out, with his hands thrown forward
and terror in his eyes.
"There is something amiss with Bartholomew!" he cried. "I
am frightened! My nerves cannot stand it."
He was, indeed, half blubbering with fear, and his twitching,
feeble face peeping out from the great astrakhan collar had the
helpless, appealing expression of a terrified child.
"Come into the house," said Holmes in his crisp, firm way.
"Yes, do!" pleaded Thaddeus Sholto. "I really do not feel
equal to giving directions."
We all followed him into the housekeeper's room, which
stood upon the lefthand side of the passage. The old woman was
pacing up and down with a scared look and restless, picking
fingers, but the sight of Miss Morstan appeared to have a sooth-
ing effect upon her.
"God bless your sweet, calm face!" she cried with a hysteri-
cal sob. "It does me good to see you. Oh, but I have been sorely
tried this day!"
Our companion patted her thin, work-worn hand and mur-
mured some few words of kindly, womanly comfort which
brought the colour back into the other's bloodless cheeks.
"Master has locked himself in and will not answer me," she
explained. "All day I have waited to hear from him, for he often
likes to be alone- but an hour ago I feared that something was
amiss, so I went up and peeped through the keyhole. You must
go up, Mr. Thaddeus -- you must go up and look for yourself. I
have seen Mr. Bartholomew Sholto in joy and in sorrow for ten
long years, but I never saw him with such a face on him as
Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way, for Thaddeus
Sholto's teeth were chattering in his head. So shaken was he that
I had to pass my hand under his arm as we went up the stairs, for
his knees were trembling under him. Twice as we ascended,
Holmes whipped his lens out of his pocket and carefully exam-
ined marks which appeared to me to be mere shapeless smudges
of dust upon the cocoanut-matting which served as a stair-carpet.
He walked slowly from step to step, holding the lamp low, and
shooting keen glances to right and left. Miss Morstan had re-
mained behind with the frightened housekeeper.
The third flight of stairs ended in a straight passage of some
length, with a great picture in Indian tapestry upon the right of it
and three doors upon the left. Holmes advanced along it in the
same slow and methodical way, while we kept close at his heels,
with our long black shadows streaming backward down the
corridor. The third door was that which we were seeking. Holmes
knocked without receiving any answer, and then tried to turn the
handle and force it open. It was locked on the inside, however,
and by a broad and powerful bolt, as we could see when we set
our lamp up against it. The key being turned, however, the hole
was not entirely closed. Sherlock Holmes bent down to it and
instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of the breath.
"There is something devilish in this, Watson," said he, more
moved than I had ever before seen him. "What do you make of
I stooped to the hole and recoiled in horror. Moonlight was
streaming into the room, and it was bright with a vague and
shifty radiance. Looking straight at me and suspended, as it
were, in the air, for all beneath was in shadow, there hung a
face -- the very face of our companion Thaddeus. There was the
same high, shining head, the same circular bristle of red hair, the
same bloodless countenance. The features were set, however, in
a horrible smile, a fixed and unnatural grin, which in that still
and moonlit room was more jarring to the nerves than any scowl
or contortion. So like was the face to that of our little friend that
I looked round at him to make sure that he was indeed with us.
Then I recalled to mind that he had mentioned to us that his
brother and he were twins.
"This is terrible!" I said to Holmes. "What is to be done?"
"The door must come down," he answered, and springing
against it, he put all his weight upon the lock.
It creaked and groaned but did not yield. Together we flung
ourselves upon it once more, and this time it gave way with a
sudden snap, and we found ourselves within Bartholomew Sholto's
It appeared to have been fitted up as a chemical laboratory. A
double line of glass-stoppered bottles was drawn up upon the
wall opposite the door, and the table was littered over with
Bunsen burners, test-tubes, and retorts. In the corners stood
carboys of acid in wicker baskets. One of these appeared to
leak or to have been broken, for a stream of dark-coloured liquid
had trickled out from it, and the air was heavy with a peculiarly
pungent, tarlike odour. A set of steps stood at one side of the
room in the midst of a litter of lath and plaster, and above them
there was an opening in the ceiling large enough for a man to
pass through. At the foot of the steps a long coil of rope was
thrown carelessly together.
By the table in a wooden armchair the master of the house was
seated all in a heap, with his head sunk upon his left shoulder
and that ghastly, inscrutable smile upon his face. He was stiff
and cold and had clearly been dead many hours. It seemed to me
that not only his features but all his limbs were twisted and
turned in the most fantastic fashion. By his hand upon the table
there lay a peculiar instrument -- a brown, close-grained stick,
with a stone head like a hammer, rudely lashed on with coarse
twine. Beside it was a torn sheet of note-paper with some words
scrawled upon it. Holmes glanced at it and then handed it to me.
''You see," he said with a significant raising of the eyebrows.
In the light of the lantern I read with a thrill of horror, "The
sign of the four."
"In God's name, what does it all mean?" I asked.
"It means murder," said he, stooping over the dead man.
"Ah! I expected it. Look here!"
He pointed to what looked like a long dark thorn stuck in the
skin just above the ear.
"It looks like a thorn," said I.
"It is a thorn. You may pick it out. But be careful, for it is
I took it up between my finger and thumb. It came away from
the skin so readily that hardly any mark was left behind. One
tiny speck of blood showed where the puncture had been.
"This is all an insoluble mystery to me," said I. "It grows
darker instead of clearer."
"On the contrary," he answered, "it clears every instant. I
only require a few missing links to have an entirely connected
We had almost forgotten our companion's presence since we
entered the chamber. He was still standing in the doorway, the
very picture of terror, wringing his hands and moaning to him-
self. Suddenly, however, he broke out into a sharp, querulous
"The treasure is gone!" he said. "They have robbed him of
the treasure! There is the hole through which we lowered it. I
helped him to do it! I was the last person who saw him! I left
him here last night, and I heard him lock the door as I came
"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 l? Is it likely that I would have
brought you here if it were l? Oh, dear! oh, dear! I know that I
shall go mad!"
He jerked his arms and stamped his feet in a kind of convul-
"You have no reason for fear, Mr. Sholto," said Holmes
kindly, putting his hand upon his shoulder; "take my advice and
drive down to the station to report the matter to the police. Offer
to assist them in every way. We shall wait here until your
The little man obeyed in a half-stupefied fashion, and we
heard him stumbling down the stairs in the dark.
Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration
"Now, Watson," said Holmes, rubbing his hands, "we have
half an hour to ourselves. Let us make good use of it. My case
is, as I have told you, almost complete; but we must not err on
the side of overconfidence. Simple as the case seems now, there
may be something deeper underlying it."
"Simple!" I ejaculated.
"Surely," said he with something of the air of a clinical
professor expounding to his class. "Just sit in the corner there,
that your footprints may not complicate matters. Now to work!
In the first place, how did these folk come and how did they go?
The door has not been opened since last night. How of the
window?" He carried the lamp across to it, muttering his obser-
vations aloud the while but addressing them to himself rather
than to me. "Window is snibbed on the inner side. Frame-work is
solid. No hinges at the side. Let us open it. No water-pipe near.
Roof quite out of reach. Yet a man has mounted by the window.
It rained a little last night. Here is the print of a foot in mould
upon the sill. And here is a circular muddy mark, and here again
upon the floor, and here again by the table. See bere, Watson!
This is really a very pretty demonstration."
I looked at the round, well-defined muddy discs.
"That is not a foot-mark," said I.
"It is something much more valuable to us. It is the impres-
sion of a wooden stump. You see here on the sill is the boot-
mark, a heavy boot with a broad metal heel, and beside it is the
mark of the timber-toe."
"It is the wooden-legged man."
"Quite so. But there has been someone else -- a very able and
efficient ally. Could you scale that wall, Doctor?"
I looked out of the open window. The moon still shone
brightiy on that angle of the house. We were a good sixty feet
from the ground, and, look where I would, I could see no
foothold, nor as much as a crevice in the brickwork.
"It is absolutely impossible," I answered.
"Without aid it is so. But suppose you had a friend up here
who lowered you this good stout rope which I see in the corner,
securing one end of it to this great hook in the wall. Then, I
think, if you were an active man, you might swarm up, wooden
leg and all. You would depart, of course, in the same fashion, and
your ally would draw up the rope, untie it from the hook, shut
the window, snib it on the inside, and get away in the way that
he originally came. As a minor point, it may be noted," he
continued, fingering the rope, "that our wooden-legged friend,
though a fair climber, was not a professional sailor. His hands
were far from horny. My lens discloses more than one blood-
mark, especially towards the end of the rope, from which I
gather that he slipped down with such velocity that he took the
skin off his hands."
"This is all very well," said I; "but the thing becomes more
unintelligible than ever. How about this mysterious ally? How
came he into the room?"
"Yes, the ally!" repeated Holmes pensively. "There are fea-
tures 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 sug-
gest themselves from India and, if my memory serves me, from
"How came he, then?" I reiterated. "The door is locked; the
window is inaccessible. Was it through the chimney?"
"The grate is much too small," he answered. "I had already
considered that possibility."
"How, then?" I persisted.
"You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head.
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated
the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the
window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have
been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible.
When, then, did he come?"
"He came through the hole in the roof!" I cried.
"Of course he did. He must have done so. If you will have the
kindness to hold the lamp for me, we shall now extend our
researches to the room above -- the secret room in which the
treasure was found."
He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with either hand,
he swung himself up into the garret. Then, lying on his face, he
reached down for the lamp and held it while I followed him.
The chamber in which we found ourselves was about ten feet
one way and six the other. The floor was formed by the rafters,
with thin lath and plaster between, so that in walking one had to
step from beam to beam. The roof ran up to an apex and was
evidently the inner shell of the true roof of the house. There was
no furniture of any sort, and the accumulated dust of years lay
thick upon the floor.
"Here you are, you see," said Sherlock Holmes, putting his
hand against the sloping wall. "This is a trapdoor which leads
out on to the roof. I can press it back, and here is the roof itself,
sloping at a gentle angle. This, then, is the way by which
Number One entered. Let us see if we can find some other traces
of his individuality?"
He held down the lamp to the floor, and as he did so I saw for
the second time that night a startled, surprised look come over
his face. For myself, as I followed his gaze, my skin was cold
under my clothes. The floor was covered thickly with the prints
of a naked foot -- clear, well-defined, perfectly formed, but scarce
half the size of those of an ordinary man.
"Holmes," I said in a whisper, "a child has done this 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 me, or I should have been able
to foretell it. There is nothing more to be learned here. Let us go
"What is your theory, then, as to those footmarks?" I asked
eagerly when we had regained the lower room once more.
"My dear Watson, try a little analysis yourself," said he with
a touch of impatience. "You know my methods. Apply them,
and it will be instructive to compare results."
"I cannot conceive anything which will cover the facts," I
"It will be clear enough to you soon," he said, in an offhand
way. "I think that there is nothing else of importance here, but I
He whipped out his lens and a tape measure and hurried about
the room on his knees, measuring, comparing, examining, with
his long thin nose only a few inches from the planks and his
beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a bird. So swift,
silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained
bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a
terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy
and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its
defence. As he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and
finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight.
"We are certainly in luck," said he. "We ought to have very
little trouble now. Number One has had the misfortune to tread
in the creosote. You can see the outline of the edge of his small
foot here at the side of this evil-smelling mess. The carboy has
been cracked, you see, and the stuff has leaked out."
"What then?" I asked.
"Why, we have got him, that's all," said he.
"I know a dog that would follow that scent to the world's end.
If a pack can track a trailed herring across a shire, how far can a
specially trained hound follow so pungent a smell as this? It
sounds like a sum in the rule of three. The answer should give us
the -- But hallo! here are the accredited representatives of the
Heavy steps and the clamour of loud voices were audible from
below, and the hall door shut with a loud crash.
"Before they come," said Holmes, "just put your hand here
on this poor fellow's arm, and here on his leg. What do you
The muscles are as hard as a board," I answered.
"Quite so. They are in a state of extreme contraction, far
exceeding the usual rigor mortis. Coupled with this distortion of
the face, this Hippocratic smile, or 'risus sardonicus,' as the old
writers called it, what conclusion would it suggest to your
"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 this
I took it up gingerly and held it in the light of the lantern. It
was long, sharp, and black, with a glazed look near the point as
though some gummy substance had dried upon it. The blunt end
had been trimmed and rounded off with a knife.
"Is that an English thorn?" he asked.
"No, it certainly is not."
"With all these data you should be able to draw some just
inference. But here are the regulars, so the auxiliary forces may
beat a retreat."
As he spoke, the steps which had been coming nearer sounded
loudly on the passage, and a very stout, portly man in a gray suit
strode heavily into the room. He was red-faced, burly, and
plethoric, with a pair of very small twinkling eyes which looked
keenly out from between swollen and puffy pouches. He was
closely followed by an inspector in uniform and by the still
palpitating Thaddeus Sholto.
"Here's a business!" he cried in a muffled, husky voice.
"Here's a pretty business! But who are all these? Why, the
house seems to be as full as a rabbit-warren!"
"I think you must recollect me, Mr. Athelney Jones," said
"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
"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
"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, Ser-
geant, 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 pom-
pously. "House is full of Indian curiosities. Thaddeus brought
this up, and if this splinter be poisonous Thaddeus may as well
have made murderous use of it as any other man. The card is
some hocus-pocus -- a blind, as like as not. The only question is,
how did he depart? Ah, of course, here is a hole in the roof."
With great activity, considering his bulk, he sprang up the
steps and squeezed through into the garret, and immediately
afterwards we heard his exulting voice proclaiming that he had
found the trapdoor.
"He can find something," remarked Holmes, shrugging his
shoulders; "he has occasional glimmerings of reason. ll n'y a
pas des sots si incommodes que ceux qui ont de l'esprit!"
"You see!" said Athelney Jones, reappearing down the steps
again; "facts are better than theories, after all. My view of the
case is confirmed. There is a trapdoor communicating with the
roof, and it is partly open."
"It was I who opened it."
"Oh, indeed! You did notice it, then?" He seemed a little
crestfallen at the discovery. "Well, whoever noticed it, it shows
how our gentleman got away. Inspector!"
"Yes, sir," from the passage.
"Ask Mr. Sholto to step this way. -- Mr. Sholto, it is my duty
to inform you that anything which you may say will be used
against you. I arrest you in the Queen's name as being concerned
in the death of your brother."
"There, now! Didn't I tell you!" cried the poor little man
throwing out his hands and looking from one to the other of us.
"Don't trouble yourself about it, Mr. Sholto," said Holmes;
"I think that I can engage to clear you of the charge."
"Don't promise too much, Mr. Theorist, don't promise too
much!" snapped the detective. "You may find it a harder matter
than you think."
"Not only will I clear him, Mr. Jones, but I will make you a
free present of the name and description of one of the two people
who were in this room last night. His name, I have every reason
to believe, is Jonathan Small. He is a poorly educated man,
small, active, with his right leg off, and wearing a wooden
stump which is worn away upon the inner side. His left boot has
a coarse, square-toed sole, with an iron band round the heel. He
is a middle-aged man, much sunburned, and has been a convict.
These few indications may be of some assistance to you, coupled
with the fact that there is a good deal of skin missing from the
palm of his hand. The other man --"
"Ah! the other man?" asked Athelney Jones in a sneering
voice, but impressed none the less, as I could easily see, by the
precision of the other's manner.
"Is a rather curious person," said Sherlock Holmes, turning
upon his heel. "I hope before very long to be able to introduce
you to the pair of them. A word with you, Watson."
He led me out to the head of the stair.
"This unexpected occurrence," he said, "has caused us rather
to lose sight of the original purpose of our journey."
"I have just been thinking so," I answered; "it is not right
that Miss Morstan should remain in this stricken house."
"No. You must escort her home. She lives with Mrs. Cecil
Forrester in Lower Camberwell, so it is not very far. I will wait
for you here if you will drive out again. Or perhaps you are too
"By no means. I don't think I could rest until I know more of
this fantastic business. I have seen something of the rough side
of life, but I give you my word that this quick succession of
strange surprises to-night has shaken my nerve completely. I
should like, however, to see the matter through with you, now
that I have got so far."
"Your presence will be of great service to me," he answered.
"We shall work the case out independently and leave this fellow
Jones to exult over any mare's-nest which he may choose to
construct. When you have dropped Miss Morstan, I wish you to
go on to No. 3 Pinchin Lane, down near the water's edge at
Lambeth. The third house on the right-hand side is a bird-
stuffer's; Sherman is the name. You will see a weasel holding a
young rabbit in the window. Knock old Sherman up and tell
him, with my compliments, that I want Toby at once. You will
bring Toby back in the cab with you."
"A dog, I suppose."
"Yes, a queer mongrel with a most amazing power of scent. I
would rather have Toby's help than that of the whole detective
force of London."
"I shall bring him then," said I. "It is one now. I ought to be
back before three if I can get a fresh horse."
"And I," said Holmes, "shall see what I can learn from Mrs.
Bernstone and from the Indian servant, who, Mr. Thaddeus tells
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 dass die Menschen verhohnen was sie
"Goethe is always pithy."
The Episode of the Barrel
The police had brought a cab with them, and in this I escorted
Miss Morstan back to her home. After the angelic fashion of
women, she had borne trouble with a calm face as long as there
was someone weaker than herself to support, and I had found her
bright and placid by the side of the frightened housekeeper. ln
the cab, however, she first turned faint and then burst into a
passion of weeping -- so sorely had she been tried by the adven-
tures of the night. She has told me since that she thought me cold
and distant upon that journey. She little guessed the struggle
within my breast, or the effort of self-restraint which held me
back. My sympathies and my love went out to her, even as my
hand had in the garden. I felt that years of the conventionalities
of life could not teach me to know her sweet, brave nature as had
this one day of strange experiences. Yet there were two thoughts
which sealed the words of affection upon my lips. She was weak
and helpless, shaken in mind and nerve. It was to take her at a
disadvantage to obtrude love upon her at such a time. Worse
still, she was rich. If Holmes's researches were successful, she
would be an heiress. Was it fair, was it honourable, that a
half-pay surgeon should take such advantage of an intimacy
which chance had brought about? Might she not look upon me as
a mere vulgar fortune-seeker? I could not bear to risk that such a
thought should cross her mind. This Agra treasure intervened
like an impassable barrier between us.
It was nearly two o'clock when we reached Mrs. Cecil
Forrester's. The servants had retired hours ago, but Mrs. Forrester
had been so interested by the strange message which Miss Morstan
had received that she had sat up in the hope of her return. She
opened the door herself, a middle-aged, graceful woman, and it
gave me joy to see how tenderly her arm stole round the other's
waist and how motherly was the voice in which she greeted her.
She was clearly no mere paid dependant but an honoured friend.
I was introduced, and Mrs. Forrester earnestly begged me to step
in and tell her our adventures. I explained, however, the impor-
tance of my errand and promised faithfully to call and report any
progress which we might make with the case. As we drove away
I stole a glance back, and I still seem to see that little group on
the step -- the two graceful, clinging figures, the half-opened
door, the hall-light shining through stained glass, the barometer,
and the bright stair-rods. It was soothing to catch even that
passing glimpse of a tranquil English home in the midst of the
wild, dark business which had absorbed us.
And the more I thought of what had happened, the wilder and
darker it grew. I reviewed the whole extraordinary sequence of
events as I rattled on through the silent, gas-lit streets. There was
the original problem: that at least was pretty clear now. The
death of Captain Morstan, the sending of the pearls, the adver-
tisement, the letter -- we had had light upon all those events.
They had only led us, however, to a deeper and far more tragic
mystery. The Indian treasure, the curious plan found among
Morstan's baggage, the strange scene at Major Sholto's death,
the rediscovery of the treasure immediately followed by the
murder of the discoverer, the very singular accompaniments to
the crime, the footsteps, the remarkable weapons, the words upon
the card, corresponding with those upon Captain Morstan's chart --
here was indeed a labyrinth in which a man less singularly
endowed than my fellow-lodger might well despair of ever find-
ing 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 any impression. At last, however,
there was the glint of a candle behind the blind, and a face
looked out at the upper window.
"Go on, you drunken vagabond," said the face. "If you kick
up any more row, I'll open the kennels and let out forty-three
dogs upon you."
"If you'll let one out, it's just what I have come for," said I.
"Go on!" yelled the voice. "So help me gracious, I have a
wiper in this bag, and I'll drop it on your 'ead if you don't hook
"But I want a dog," I cried.
"I won't be argued with!" shouted Mr. Sherman. "Now stand
clear, for when I say 'three,' down goes the wiper."
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes " I began; but the words had a most
magical effect, for the window instantly slammed down, and
within a minute the door was unbarred and open. Mr. Sherman
was a lanky, lean old man, with stooping shoulders, a stringy
neck, and blue-tinted glasses.
"A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome," said he.
"Step in, sir. Keep clear of the badger, for he bites. Ah,
naughty, naughty; would you take a nip at the gentleman?" This
to a stoat which thrust its wicked head and red eyes between the
bars of its cage. "Don't mind that, sir; it's only a slowworm. It
hain't got no fangs, so I gives it the run o' the room, for it keeps
the beetles down. You must not mind my bein' just a little short
wi' you at first, for I'm guyed at by the children, and there's
many a one just comes down this lane to knock me up. What
was it that Mr. Sherlock Holmes wanted, sir?"
"He wanted a dog of yours."
"Ah! that would be Toby."
"Yes, Toby was the name."
"Toby lives at No. 7 on the left here."
He moved slowly forward with his candle among the queer
animal family which he had gathered round him. In the uncer-
tain, shadowy light I could see dimly that there were glancing,
glimmering eyes peeping down at us from every cranny and
corner. Even the rafters above our heads were lined by solemn
fowls, who lazily shifted their weight from one leg to the other
as our voices disturbed their slumbers.
Toby proved to be an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature,
half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a
very clumsy, waddling gait. It accepted, after some hesitation, a
lump of sugar which the old naturalist handed to me, and, having
thus sealed an alliance, it followed me to the cab and made no
difficulties about accompanying me. It had just struck three on
the Palace clock when I found myself back once more at
Pondicherry Lodge. The ex-prize-fighter McMurdo had, I found,
been arrested as an accessory, and both he and Mr. Sholto had
been marched off to the station. Two constables guarded the
narrow gate, but they allowed me to pass with the dog on my
mentioning the detective's name.
Holmes was standing on the doorstep with his hands in his
pockets, smoking his pipe.
"Ah, you have him there!" said he. "Good dog, then! Athelney
Jones has gone. We have had an immense display of energy
since you left. He has arrested not only friend Thaddeus but the
gatekeeper, the housekeeper, and the Indian servant. We have
the place to ourselves but for a sergeant upstairs. Leave the dog
here and come up."
We tied Toby to the hall table and reascended the stairs. The
room was as we had left it, save that a sheet had been draped
over the central figure. A weary-looking police-sergeant reclined
in the corner.
"Lend me your bull's eye, Sergeant," said my companion.
"Now tie this bit of card round my neck, so as to hang it in front
of me. Thank you. Now I must kick off my boots and stockings.
Just you carry them down with you, Watson. I am going to do a
little climbing. And dip my handkerchief into the creosote. That
will do. Now come up into the garret with me for a moment."
We clambered up through the hole. Holmes turned his light
once more upon the footsteps in the dust.
"I wish you particularly to notice these footmarks," he said.
"Do you observe anything noteworthy about them?"
"They belong," I said, "to a child or a small woman."
"Apart from their size, though. Is there nothing else?"
"They appear to be much as other footmarks."
"Not at all. Look here! This is the print of a right foot in the
dust. Now I make one with my naked foot beside it. What is the
"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 woodwork? I shall stay over here, as I have this handkerchief
in my hand."
I did as he directed and 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
downstairs, loose the dog, and look out for Blondin."
By the time that I got out into the grounds Sherlock Holmes
was on the roof, and I could see him like an enormous glow-
worm crawling very slowly along the ridge. I lost sight of him
behind a stack of chimneys, but he presently reappeared and then
vanished once more upon the opposite side. When I made my
way round there I found him seated at one of the corner eaves.
"That you, Watson?" he cried.
"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 breakneck place. I ought to
be able to come down where he could climb up. The water-pipe
feels pretty firm. Here goes, anyhow."
There was a scuffling of feet, and the lantern began to come
steadily down the side of the wall. Then with a light spring he
came on to the barrel, and from there to the earth.
"It was easy to follow him," he said, drawing on his stock-
ings and boots. "Tiles were loosened the whole way along, and
in his hurry he had dropped this. It confirms my diagnosis, as
you doctors express it."
The object which he held up to me was a small pocket or
pouch woven out of coloured grasses and with a few tawdry
beads strung round it. In shape and size it was not unlike a
cigarette-case. Inside were half a dozen spines of dark wood,
sharp at one end and rounded at the other, like that which had
struck Bartholomew Sholto.
"They are hellish things," said he. "Look out that you don't
prick yourself. I'm delighted to have them, for the chances are
that they are all he has. There is the less fear of you or me
finding one in our skin before long. I would sooner face a
Martini bullet, myself. Are you game for a six-mile trudge,
"Certainly," I answered.
"Your leg will stand it?"
"Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell it, Toby, smell
it!" He pushed the creosote handkerchief under the dog's nose,
while the creature stood with its fluffy legs separated, and with a
most comical cock to its head, like a connoisseur sniffing the
bouquet of a famous vintage. Holmes then threw the handker-
chief to a distance, fastened a stout cord to the mongrel's collar,
and led him to the foot of the water-barrel. The creature instantly
broke into a succession of high, tremulous yelps and, with his
nose on the ground and his tail in the air, pattered off upon the
trail at a pace which strained his leash and kept us at the top of
The east had been gradually whitening, and we could now see
some distance in the cold gray light. The square, massive house,
with its black, empty windows and high, bare walls, towered up,
sad and forlorn, behind us. Our course led right across the
grounds, in and out among the trenches and pits with which they
were scarred and intersected. The whole place, with its scattered
dirt-heaps and ill-grown shrubs, had a blighted, ill-omened look
which harmonized with the black tragedy which hung over it.
On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along, whining ea-
gerly, underneath its shadow, and stopped finally in a corner
screened by a young beech. Where the two walls joined, several
bricks had been loosened, and the crevices left were worn down
and rounded upon the lower side, as though they had frequently
been used as a ladder. Holmes clambered up, and taking the dog
from me he dropped it over upon the other side.
"There's the print of Wooden-leg's hand," he remarked as I
mounted up beside him. "You see the slight smudge of blood
upon the white plaster. What a lucky thing it is that we have had
no very heavy rain since yesterday! The scent wili lie upon the
road in spite of their eight-and-twenty hours' start."
I confess that I had my doubts myself when I reflected upon
the great traffic which had passed along the London road in the
interval. My fears were soon appeased, however. Toby never
hesitated or swerved but waddled on in his peculiar rolling
fashion. Clearly the pungent smell of the creosote rose high
above all other contending scents.
"Do not imagine," said Holmes, "that I depend for my
success in this case upon the mere chance of one of these fellows
having put his foot in the chemical. I have knowledge now
which would enable me to trace them in many different ways.
This, however, is the readiest, and, since fortune has put it into
our hands, I should be culpable if I neglected it. It has, however
prevented the case from becoming the pretty little intellectuai
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
"There is credit, and to spare," said I. "I assure you, Holmes,
that I marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in
this case even more than I did in the Jefferson Hope murder. The
thing seems to me to be deeper and more inexplicable. How, for
example, could you describe with such confidence the wooden-
"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 associa-
tion with convicts. Jonathan Small did not get the treasure
because he and his associates were themselves convicts and
could not get away."
"But this 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
"Or had escaped. That is much more likely, for he would
have known what their term of imprisonment was. It would not
have been a surprise to him. What does he do then? He guards
himself against a wooden-legged man -- a white man, mark you,
for he mistakes a white tradesman for him and actually fires a
pistol at him. Now, only one white man's name is on the chart.
The others are Hindoos or Mohammedans. There is no other
white man. Therefore we may say with confidence that the
wooden-legged man is identical with Jonathan Small. Does the
reasoning strike you as being faulty?"
"No: it is clear and concise."
"Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of Jonathan
Small. Let us look at it from his point of view. He comes to
England with the double idea of regaining what he would con-
sider 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 someone in-
side 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 deathbed. ln
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 win-
dow, 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 memento 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 valu-
able 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 creosote, 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 he stamped about when he got into the room. He bore no
grudge against Bartholomew Sholto and would have preferred if
he could have been simply bound and gagged. He did not wish
to put his head in a halter. There was no help for it, however: the
savage instincts of his companion had broken out, and the poison
had done its work: so Jonathan Small left his record, lowered the
treasure-box to the ground, and followed it himself. That was the
train of events as far as I can decipher them. Of course, as to his
personal appearance, he must be middle-aged and must be sun-
burned 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 small-
ness. It argues, you see, a power of comparison and of apprecia-
tion which is in itself a proof of nobility. There is much food for
thought in Richter. You have not a pistol, have you?"
"I have my stick."
"It is just possible that we may need something of the sort if
we get to their lair. Jonathan I shall leave to you, but if the other
turns nasty I shall shoot him dead."
He took out his revolver as he spoke, and, having loaded two
of the chambers, he put it back into the right-hand pocket of his
We had during this time been following the guidance of Toby
down the half-rural villa-lined roads which lead to the metropolis.
Now, however, we were beginning to come among continuous
streets, where labourers and dockmen were already astir, and
slatternly women were taking down shutters and brushing door-
steps. At the square-topped corner public-houses business was
just beginning, and rough-looking men were emerging, rubbing
their sleeves across their beards after their morning wet. Strange
dogs sauntered up and stared wonderingly at us as we passed,
but our inimitable Toby looked neither to the right nor to the left
but trotted onward with his nose to the ground and an occasional
eager whine which spoke of a hot scent.
We had traversed Streatham, Brixton, Camberwell, and now
found ourselves in Kennington Lane, having borne away through
the side streets to the east of the Oval. The men whom we
pursued seemed to have taken a curiously zigzag road, with the
idea probably of escaping observation. They had never kept to
the main road if a parallel side street would serve their turn. At
the foot of Kennington Lane they had edged away to the left
through Bond Street and Miles Street. Where the latter street
turns into Knight's Place, Toby ceased to advance but began to
run backward and forward with one ear cocked and the other
drooping, the very picture of canine indecision. Then he waddled
round in circles, looking up to us from time to time, as if to ask
for sympathy in his embarrassment.
"What the deuce is the matter with the dog?" growled Holmes.
"They surely would not take a cab or go off in a balloon."
"Perhaps they stood here for some time," I suggested.
"Ah! it's all right. He's off again," said my companion in a
tone of relief.
He was indeed off, for after sniffing round again he suddenly
made up his mind and darted away with an energy and determi-
nation such as he had not yet shown. The scent appeared to be
much hotter than before, for he had not even to put his nose on
the ground but tugged at his leash and tried to break into a run. I
could see by the gleam in Holmes's eyes that he thought we were
nearing the end of our journey.
Our course now ran down Nine Elms until we came to Broderick
and Nelson's large timber-yard just past the White Eagle tavern.
Here the dog, frantic with excitement, turned down through the
side gate into the enclosure, where the sawyers were already at
work. On the dog raced through sawdust and shavings, down an
alley, round a passage, between two wood-piles, and finally,
with a triumphant yelp, sprang upon a large barrel which still
stood upon the hand-trolley on which it had been brought. With
lolling tongue and blinking eyes Toby stood upon the cask,
looking from one to the other of us for some sign of apprecia-
tion. The staves of the barrel and the wheels of the trolley were
smeared with a dark liquid, and the whole air was heavy with the
smell of creosote.
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and 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 Holmes, lifting him
down from the barrel and walking him out of the timber-yard.
"If you consider how much creosote is carted about London in
one day, it is no great wonder that our trail should have been
crossed. It is much used now, especially for the seasoning of
wood. Poor Toby is not to blame."
"We must get on the main scent again, I suppose."
"Yes. And, fortunately, we have no distance to go. Evidently
what puzzled the dog at the corner of Knight's Place was that
there were two different trails running in opposite directions. We
took the wrong one. It only remains to follow the other."
There was no difficulty about this. On leading Toby to the
place where he had committed his fault, he cast about in a wide
circle and finally dashed off in a fresh direction.
"We must take care that he does not now bring us to the place
where the creosote-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 riverside, running through Bel-
mont Place and Prince's Street. At the end of Broad Street it ran
right down to the water's edge, where there was a small wooden
wharf. Toby led us to the very edge of this and there stood
whining, looking out on the dark current beyond.
"We are out of luck," said Holmes. "They have taken to a
Several small punts and skiffs were lying about in the water
and on the edge of the wharf. We took Toby round to each in
turn, but though he sniffed earnestly he made no sign.
Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick house, with
a wooden placard slung out through the second window. "Mordecai
Smith" was printed across it in large letters, and, underneath,
"Boats to hire by the hour or day." A second inscription above
the door informed us that a steam launch was kept -- a statement
which was confirmed by a great pile of coke upon the jetty.
Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and his face assumed an
"This looks bad," said he. "These fellows are sharper than I
expected. They seem to have covered their tracks. There has, I
fear, been preconcerted management here."
He was approaching the door of the house, when it opened,
and a little curly-headed lad of six came running out, followed by
a stoutish, red-faced woman with a large sponge in her hand.
"You come back and be washed, Jack," she shouted. "Come
back, you young imp; for if your father comes home and finds
you like that he'll let us hear of it."
"Dear little chap!" said Holmes strategically. "What a rosy-
cheeked young rascal! Now, Jack, is there anything you would
The youth pondered for a moment.
"I'd like a shillin'," said he.
"Nothing you would like better?"
"I'd like two shillin' better," the prodigy answered after some
"Here you are, then! Catch! -- A fine child, Mrs. Smith!"
"Lor' bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. He gets a'most
too much for me to manage, 'specially when my man is away
days at a time."
"Away, is he?" said Holmes in a disappointed voice. "I am
sorry for that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith."
"He's been away since yesterday mornin', sir, and, truth to
tell, I am beginnin' to feel frightened about him. But if it was
about a boat, sir, maybe I could serve as well."
"I wanted to hire his steam launch."
"Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has
gone. That's what puzzles me, for I know there ain't more coals
in her than would take her to about Woolwich and back. If he's
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
"A wooden-legged man?" said Holmes with bland surprise.
"Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that's called more'n
once for my old man. It was him that roused him up yesternight
and, what's more, my man knew he was comin', for he had
steam up in the launch. I tell you straight, sir, I don't feel easy in
my mind about it."
"But, my dear Mrs. Smith," said Holmes, shrugging his
shoulders, "you are frightening yourself about nothing. How
could you possibly tell that it was the wooden-legged man who
came in the night? I don't quite understand how you can be so
"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. Good-
morning, Mrs. Smith. There is a boatman here with a wherry,
Watson. We shall take it and cross the river."
"The main thing with people of that sort," said Holmes as we
sat in the sheets of the wherry, "is never to let them think that
their information can be of the slightest importance to you. If
you do they will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you listen to
them under protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what
"Our course now seems pretty clear," said I.
"What would you do, then?"
"I would engage a launch and go down the river on the track
of the Aurora."
"My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task. She may have
touched at any wharf on either side of the stream between here
and Greenwich. Below the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of
landing-places for miles. It would take you days and days to
exhaust them if you set about it alone."
"Employ the police, then."
"No. I shall probably call Athelney Jones in at the last mo-
ment. 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 everyone is
off on the wrong scent."
"What are we to do, then?" I asked as we landed near
"Take this hansom, drive home, have some breakfast, and get
an hour's sleep. It is quite on the cards that we may be afoot
to-night again. Stop at a telegraph office, cabby! We will keep
Toby, for he may be of use to us yet."
We pulled up at the Great Peter Street Post-Office, and Holmes
dispatched his wire.
"Whom do you think that is to?" he asked as we resumed our
"I am sure I don't know."
"You remember the Baker Street division of the detective
police force whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?"
"Well," said I, laughing.
"This is just the case where they might be invaluable. If they
fail I have other resources, but I shall try them first. That wire
was to my dirty little lieutenant, Wiggins, and I expect that he
and his gang will be with us before we have finished our
It was between eight and nine o'clock now, and I was con-
scious of a strong reaction after the successive excitements of the
night. I was limp and weary, befogged in mind and fatigued in
body. I had not the professional enthusiasm which carried my
companion on, nor could I look at the matter as a mere abstract
intellectual problem. As far as the death of Bartholomew Sholto
went, I had heard little good of him and could feel no intense
antipathy to his murderers. The treasure, however, was a differ-
ent matter. That, or part of it, belonged rightfully to Miss
Morstan. While there was a chance of recovering it I was ready
to devote my life to the one object. True, if I found it, it would
probably put her forever beyond my reach. Yet it would be a
petty and selfish love which would be influenced by such a
thought as that. If Holmes could work to find the criminals, I
had a tenfold stronger reason to urge me on to find the treasure.
A bath at Baker Street and a complete change freshened me up
wonderfully. When I came down to our room I found the break-
fast laid and Holmes pouring out the coffee.
"Here it is," said he, laughing and pointing to an open
newspaper. "The energetic Jones and the ubiquitous reporter
have fixed it up between them. But you have had enough of the
case. Better have your ham and eggs first."
I took the paper from him and read the short notice, Which
was headed "Mysterious Business at Upper Norwood."
About twelve o'clock last night [said the Standard] Mr.
Bartholomew Sholto, of Pondicherry Lodge, Upper Nor-
wood, 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.Thad-
deus 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 trapdoor into a room which
communicated with that in which the body was found. This
fact, which has been very clearly made out, proves con-
clusively that it was no mere haphazard burglary. The prompt
and energetic action of the officers of the law shows the
great advantage of the presence on such occasions of a
single vigorous and masterful mind. We cannot but think
that it supplies an argument to those who would wish to see
our detectives more decentralized, and so brought into closer
and more effective touch with the cases which it is their
duty to investigate.
"Isn't it gorgeous!" said Holmes, grinning over his coffee
cup. "What do you think of it?"
"I think that we have had a close shave ourselves of being
arrested for the crime."
"So do I. I wouldn't answer for our safety now if he should
happen to have another of his attacks of energy."
At this moment there was a loud ring at the bell, and I could
hear Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, raising her voice in a wail of
expostulation and dismay.
"By heavens, Holmes," I said, half rising, "I believe that
they are really after us."
"No, it's not quite so bad as that. It is the unofficial force --
the Baker Street irregulars."
As he spoke, there came a swift pattering of naked feet upon
the stairs, a clatter of high voices, and in rushed a dozen dirty
and ragged little street Arabs. There was some show of discipline
among them, despite their tumultuous entry, for they instantly
drew up in line and stood facing us with expectant faces. One of
their number, taller and older than the others, stood forward with
an air of lounging superiority which was very funny in such a
disreputable little scarecrow.
"Got your message, sir," said he, "and brought 'em on sharp.
Three bob and a tanner for tickets."
"Here you are," said Holmes, producing some silver. "In
future they can report to you, Wiggins, and you to me. I cannot
have the house invaded in this way. However, it is just as well
that you should all hear the instructions. I want to find the
whereabouts of a steam launch called the Aurora, owner Mordecai
Smith, black with two red streaks, funnel black with a white
band. She is down the river somewhere. I want one boy to be at
Mordecai Smith's landing-stage opposite Millbank to say if the
boat comes back. You must divide it out among yourselves and
do both banks thoroughly. Let me know the moment you have
news. Is that all clear?"
"Yes, guv'nor," said Wiggins.
"The old scale of pay, and a guinea to the boy who finds the
boat. Here's a day in advance. Now off you go!"
He handed them a shilling each, and away they buzzed down
the stairs, and I saw them a moment later streaming down the
"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 every-
where, see everything, overhear everyone. I expect to hear be-
fore evening that they have spotted her. In the meanwhile, we
can do nothing but await results. We cannot pick up the broken
trail until we find either the Aurora or Mr. Mordecai Smith."
"Toby could eat these scraps, I dare say. Are you going to
"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 poi-
soned darts. What do you make of all this?"
"A savage!" I exclaimed. "Perhaps one of those Indians who
were the associates of Jonathan Small."
"Hardly that," said he. "When first I saw signs of strange
weapons I was inclined to think so, but the remarkable character
of the footmarks caused me to reconsider my views. Some of the
inhabitants of the Indian Peninsula are small men, but none
could have left such marks as that. The Hindoo proper has long
and thin feet. The sandal-wearing Mohammedan has the great
toe well separated from the others because the thong is com-
monly passed between. These little darts, too, could only be shot
in one way. They are from a blow-pipe. Now, then, where are
we to find our savage?"
"South America," I hazarded.
He stretched his hand up and took down a bulky volume from
"This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being
published. It may be looked upon as the very latest authority.
What have we here?
"Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Su-
matra, in the Bay of Bengal.
Hum! hum! What's all this? Moist climate, coral reefs, sharks,
Port Blair. convict barracks, Rutland Island, cottonwoods -- Ah
here we are!
"The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps
claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon this
earth, though some anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of
Africa, the Digger Indians of America, and the Terra del
Fuegians. The average height is rather below four feet,
although many full-grown adults may be found who are
very much smaller than this. They are a fierce, morose,
and intractable people, though capable of forming most
devoted friendships when their confidence has once been
Mark that, Watson. Now, then listen to this.
"They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads,
small fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and
hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and
fierce are they, that all the efforts of the British officials
have failed to win them over in any degree. They have
always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the
survivors with their stone-headed clubs or shooting them
with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are invariably
concluded by a cannibal feast.
Nice, amiable people, Watson! If this fellow had been left to his
own unaided devices, this affair might have taken an even more
ghastly turn. I fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would
give a good deal not to have employed him."
"But how came he to have so singular a companion?"
"Ah, that is more than I can tell. Since, however, we had
already determined that Small had come from the Andamans, it
is not so very wonderful that this islander should be with him.
No doubt we shall know all about it in time. Look here, Watson;
you look regularly done. Lie down there on the sofa and see if I
can put you to sleep."
He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched
myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious
air -- his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvi-
sation. I have a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his
earnest face and the rise and fall of his bow. Then I seemed to be
floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of sound until I found
myself in 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 woke, strengthened and
refreshed. Sherlock Holmes still sat exactly as I had left him
save that he had laid aside his violin and was deep in a book. He
looked across at me as I stirred, and I noticed that his face was
dark and troubled.
"You have slept soundly," he said. "I feared that our talk
would wake you."
"I heard nothing," I answered. "Have you had fresh news,
"Unfortunately, no. I confess that I am surprised and disap-
pointed. I expected something definite by this time. Wiggins has
just been up to report. He says that no trace can be found of the
launch. It is a provoking check, for every hour is of importance."
"Can I do anything? I am perfectly fresh now, and quite ready
for another night's outing."
"No; we can do nothing. We can only wait. If we go our-
selves the message might come in our absence and delay be
caused. You can do what you will. but I must remain on guard."
"Then I shall run over to Camberwell and call upon Mrs.
Cecil Forrester. She asked me to, yesterday."
"On Mrs. Cecil Forrester?" asked Holmes with the twinkle of
a smile in his eyes.
"Well, of course on Miss Morstan, too. They were anxious to
hear what happened."
"I would not tell them too much," said Holmes. "Women
are never to be entirely trusted -- not the best of them."
I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment.
"I shall be back in an hour or two," I remarked.
"All right! Good luck! But, I say, if you are crossing the river
you may as well return Toby, for I don't think it is at all likely
that we shall have any use for him now."
I took our mongrel accordingly and left him, together with a
half-sovereign, at the old naturalist's in Pinchin Lane. At
Camberwell I found Miss Morstan a little weary after her night's
adventures but very eager to hear the news. Mrs. Forrester, too,
was full of curiosity. I told them all that we had done, suppress-
ing, however, the more dreadful parts of the tragedy. Thus
although I spoke of Mr. Sholto's death, I said nothing of the
exact manner and method of it. With all my omissions, however,
there was enough to startle and amaze them.
"It is a romance!" cried Mrs. Forrester. "An injured lady,
half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden-legged
ruffian. They take the place of the conventional dragon or wicked
"And two knight-errants to the rescue," added Miss Morstan
with a bright glance at me.
"Why, Mary, your fortune depends upon the issue of this
search. I don't think that you are nearly excited enough. Just
imagine what it must be to be so rich and to have the world at
It sent a little thrill of joy to my heart to notice that she
showed no sign of elation at the prospect. On the contrary, she
gave a toss of her proud head, as though the matter were one in
which she took small interest.
"It is for Mr. Thaddeus Sholto that I am anxious," she said.
"Nothing else is of any consequence; but I think that he has
behaved most kindly and honourably throughout. It is our duty to
clear him of this dreadful and unfounded charge."
It was evening before I left Camberwell, and quite dark by the
time I reached home. My companion's book and pipe lay by his
chair, but he had disappeared. I looked about in the hope of
seeing a note, but there was none.
"I suppose that Mr. Sherlock Holmes has gone out," I said to
Mrs. Hudson as she came up to lower the blinds.
"No, sir. He has gone to his room, sir. Do you know, sir,"
sinking her voice into an impressive whisper, "I am afraid for
"Why so, Mrs. Hudson?"
"Well, he's that strange, sir. After you was gone he walked
and he walked, up and down, and up and down, until I was
weary of the sound of his footstep. Then I heard him talking to
himself and muttering, and every time the bell rang out he came
on the stairhead, with 'What is that, Mrs. Hudson?' And now he
has slammed off to his room, but I can hear him walking away
the same as ever. I hope he's not going to be ill, sir. I ventured
to say something to him about cooling medicine, but he turned
on me, sir, with such a look that I don't know how ever I got out
of the room."
"I don't think that you have any cause to be uneasy, Mrs.
Hudson," I answered. "I have seen him like this before. He has
some small matter upon his mind which makes him restless."
I tried to speak lightly to our worthy landlady, but I was
myself somewhat uneasy when through the long night I still from
time to time heard the dull sound of his tread, and knew how his
keen spirit was chafing against this involuntary inaction.
At breakfast-time he looked worn and haggard, with a little
fleck of feverish colour 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 prob-
lem is consuming me. It is too much to be balked by so petty an
obstacle, when all else had been overcome. I know the men, the
launch, everything; and yet I can get no news. I have set other
agencies at work and used every means at my disposal. The
whole river has been searched on either side, but there is no
news, nor has Mrs. Smith heard of her husband. I shall come to
the conclusion soon that they have scuttled the craft. But there
are objections to that."
"Or that Mrs. Smith has put us on a wrong scent."
"No, I think that may be dismissed. I had inquiries made, and
there is a launch of that description."
"Could it have gone up the river?"
"I have considered that possibility, too, and there is a search-
party who will work up as far as Richmond. If no news comes
to-day I shall start off myself tomorrow and go for the men
rather than the boat. But surely, surely, we shall hear something."
We did not, however. Not a word came to us either from
Wiggins or from the other agencies. There were articles in most
of the papers upon the Norwood tragedy. They all appeared to be
rather hostile to the unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto. No fresh
details were to be found, however, in any of them, save that an
inquest was to be held upon the following day. I walked over to
Camberwell in the evening to report our ill-success to the ladies,
and on my return I found Holmes dejected and somewhat mo-
rose. He would hardly reply to my questions and busied himself
all the evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which involved
much heating of retorts and distilling of vapours, ending at last
in a smell which fairly drove me out of the apartment. 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 mal-
In the early dawn I woke with a start and was surprised to find
him standing by my bedside, clad in a rude sailor dress with a
peajacket and a coarse red scarf round his neck.
"I am off down the river, Watson," said he. "I have been
turning it over in my mind, and I can see only one way out of it.
It is worth trying, at all events."
"Surely I can come with you, then?" said I.
"No; you can be much more useful if you will remain here as
my representative. I am loath to go, for it is quite on the cards
that some message may come during the day, though Wiggins
was despondent about it last night. I want you to open all notes
and telegrams, and to act on your own judgment if any news
should come. Can I rely upon you?"
"I am afraid that you will not be able to wire to me, for I can
hardly tell yet where I may find myself. If I am in luck,
however, I may not be gone so very long. I shall have news of
some sort or other before I get back."
I had heard nothing of him by breakfast time. On opening the
Standard, however, I found that there was a fresh allusion to the
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 impossi-
ble that Mr. Thaddeus Sholto could have been in any way
concerned in the matter. He and the housekeeper, Mrs.
Bernstone, were both released yesterday evening. It is be-
lieved, however, that the police have a clue as to the real
culprits, and that it is being prosecuted by Mr. Athelney
Jones, of Scotland Yard, with all his well-known energy
and sagacity. Further arrests may be expected at any
"That is satisfactory so far as it goes," thought I. "Friend
Sholto is safe, at any rate. I wonder what the fresh clue may be
though it seems to be a stereotyped form whenever the police
have made a blunder."
I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at that moment my
eye caught an advertisement in the agony column. It ran in this
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 anyone who can give information to
Mrs. Smith, at Smith's Wharf, or at 22lB, Baker Street, as
to the whereabouts of the said Mordecai Smith and the
This was clearly Holmes's doing. The Baker Street address
was enough to prove that. It struck me as rather ingenious
because it might be read by the fugitives without their seeing in
it more than the natural anxiety of a wife for her missing
It was a long day. Every time that a knock came to the door or
a sharp step passed in the street, I imagined that it was either
Holmes returning or an answer to his advertisement. I tried to
read, but my thoughts would wander off to our strange quest and
to the ill-assorted and villainous pair whom we were pursuing.
Could there be, I wondered, some radical flaw in my compan-
ion's reasoning? Might he not be suffering from some huge
self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble and specula-
tive mind had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises? I
had never known him to be wrong, and yet the keenest reasoner
may occasionally be deceived. He was likely, I thought, to fall
into error through the over-refinement of his logic -- his prefer-
ence for a subtle and bizarre explanation when a plainer and
more commonplace one lay ready to his hand. Yet, on the other
hand, I had myself seen the evidence, and I had heard the
reasons for his deductions. When I looked back on the long
chain of curious circumstances, many of them trivial in them-
selves but all tending in the same direction, I could not disguise
from myself that even if Holmes's explanation were incorrect the
true theory must be equally outre and startling.
At three o'clock on the afternoon there was a loud peal at the
bell, an authoritative voice in the hall, and, to my surprise, no
less a person than Mr. Athelney Jones was shown up to me.
Very different was he, however, from the brusque and masterful
professor of common sense who had taken over the case so
confidently at Upper Norwood. His expression was downcast,
and his bearing meek and even apologetic.
"Good-day, sir; good-day," said he. "Mr. Sherlock Holmes is
out, I understand."
"Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back. But
perhaps you would care to wait. Take that chair and try one of
"Thank you; I don't mind if I do," said he, mopping his face
with a red bandanna handkerchief.
"And a whisky 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 someone or other. So it could
not be he who climbed over roofs and through trapdoors. It's a
very dark case, and my professional credit is at stake. I should
be very glad of a little assistance."
"We all need help sometimes," said I.
"Your friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, is a wonderful man,
sir," said he in a husky and confidential voice. "He's a man
who is not to be beat. I have known that young man go into a
good many cases, but I never saw the case yet that he could not
throw a light upon. He is irregular in his methods and a little
quick perhaps in jumping at theories, but, on the whole, I think
he would have made a most promising officer, and I don't care
who knows it. I have had a wire from him this morning, by
which I understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto
business. Here is his message."
He took the telegram out of his pocket and handed it to me. It
was dated from Poplar at twelve o'clock.
Go to Baker Street at once [it said]. If I have not returned,
wait for me. I am close on the track of the Sholto gang.
You can come with us to-night if you want to be in at the
"This sounds well. He has evidently picked up the scent
again," said I.
"Ah, then he has been at fault too," exclaimed Jones with
evident satisfaction. "Even the best of us are thrown off some-
times. 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 someone at the door. Perhaps this is he."
A heavy step was heard ascending the stair, with a great
wheezing and rattling as from a man who was sorely put to it for
breath. Once or twice he stopped, as though the climb were too
much for him, but at last he made his way to our door and
entered. His appearance corresponded to the sounds which we
had heard. He was an aged man, clad in seafaring garb, with an
old pea-jacket buttoned up to his throat. His back was bowed
his knees were shaky, and his breathing was painfully asthmatic.
As he leaned upon a thick oaken cudgel his shoulders heaved in
the effort to draw the air into his lungs. He had a coloured scarf
round his chin, and I could see little of his face save a pair of
keen dark eyes, overhung by bushy white brows and long gray
side-whiskers. Altogether he gave me the impression of a re-
spectable 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
"Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?" said he.
"No; but I am acting for him. You can tell me any message
you have for him."
"It was to him himself I was to tell it," said he.
"But I tell you that I am acting for him. Was it about
Mordecai Smith's boat?''
"Yes. I knows well where it is. An' I knows where the men
he is after are. An' I knows where the treasure is. I knows all
"Then tell me, and I shall let him know."
"It was to him I was to tell it," he repeated with the petulant
obstinacy of a very old man.
"Well, you must wait for him."
"No, no; I ain't goin' to lose a whole day to please no one. If
Mr. Holmes ain't here, then Mr. Holmes must find it all out for
himself. I don't care about the look of either of you, and I won't
tell a word."
He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney Jones got in front
"Wait a bit, my friend," said he. "You have important
information, and you must not walk off. We shall keep you,
whether you like or not, until our friend returns."
The old man made a little run towards the door, but, as
Athelney Jones put his broad back up against it, he recognized
the uselessness of resistance.
"Pretty sort o' treatment this!" he cried, stamping his stick.
"I come here to see a gentleman, and you two, who I never saw
in my life, seize me and treat me in this fashion!"
"You will be none the worse," I said. "We shall recompense
you for the loss of your time. Sit over here on the sofa, and you
will not have long to wait."
He came across sullenly enough and seated himself with his
face resting on his hands. Jones and I resumed our cigars and our
talk. Suddenly, however, Holmes's voice broke in upon us.
"I think that you might offer me a cigar too," he said.
We both started in our chairs. There was Holmes sitting close
to us with an air of quiet amusement.
"Holmes!" I exclaimed. "You here! But where is the old
"Here is the old man," said he, holding out a heap of white
hair. "Here he is -- wig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all. I thought
my disguise was pretty good, but I hardly expected that it would
stand that test."
"Ah, you rogue!" cried Jones, highly delighted. "You would
have made an actor and a rare one. You had the proper work-
house cough, and those weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a
week. I thought I knew the glint of your eye, though. You didn't
get away from us so easily, you see."
"I have been working in that get-up all day," said he, lighting
his cigar. "You see, a good many of the criminal classes begin
to know me -- especially since our friend here took to publishing
some of my cases: so I can only go on the war-path under some
simple disguise like this. You got my wire?"
"Yes; that was what brought me here."
"How has your case prospered?"
"It has all come to nothing. I have had to release two of my
prisoners, and there is no evidence against the other two."
"Never mind. We shall give you two others in the place of
them. But you must put yourself under my orders. You are
welcome to all the official credit, but you must act on the lines
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 staunch men in case of resistance."
"There will be two or three in the boat. What else?"
"When we secure the men we shall get the treasure. I think
that it would be a pleasure to my friend here to take the box
round to the young lady to whom half of it rightfully belongs.
Let her be the first to open it. Eh, Watson?"
"It would be a great pleasure to me."
"Rather an irregular proceeding," said Jones, shaking his
head. "However, the whole thing is irregular, and I suppose we
must wink at it. The treasure must afterwards be handed over to
the authorities until after the official investigation."
"Certainly. That is easily managed. One other point. I should
much like to have a few details about this matter from the lips of
Jonathan Small himself. You know I like to work the details 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 could talk exceedingly well
when he chose, and that night he did choose. He appeared to be
in a state of nervous exaltation. I have never known him so
brilliant. He spoke on a quick succession of subjects -- on miracle
plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the
Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the warships of the future -- handling
each as though he had made a special study of it. His bright
humour marked the reaction from his black depression of the
preceding days. Athelney Jones proved to be a sociable soul in
his hours of relaxation and faced his dinner with the air of a bon
vivant. For myself, I felt elated at the thought that we were
nearing the end of our task, and I caught something of Holmes's
gaiety. None of us alluded during dinner to the cause which had
brought us together.
When the cloth was cleared Holmes glanced at his watch and
filled up three glasses with port.
"One bumper," said he, "to the success of our little expedi-
tion. And now it is high time we were off. Have you a pistol
"I have my old service-revolver in my desk."
"You had best take it, then. It is well to be prepared. I see
that the cab is at the door. I ordered it for half-past six."
It was a little past seven before we reached the Westminster
wharf and found our launch awaiting us. Holmes eyed it critically.
"Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?"
"Yes, that green lamp at the side."
"Then take it off."
The small change was made, we stepped on board, and the
ropes were cast off. Jones, Holmes, and I sat in the stern. There
was one man at the rudder, one to tend the engines, and two
burly police-inspectors forward.
"Where to?" asked Jones.
"To the Tower. Tell them to stop opposite to Jacobson's
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
"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 baulked by so small a
"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 hypothe-
sis if all else failed. I knew that this man Small had a certain
degree of low cunning, but I did not think him capable of
anything in the nature of delicate finesse. 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 headquarters under cover of darkness, and
he would wish to get back before it was broad light. Now, it was
past three o'clock, according to Mrs. Smith, when they got the
boat. It would be quite bright, and people would be about in an
hour or so. Therefore, I argued, they did not go very far. They
paid Smith well to hold his tongue, reserved his launch for the
final escape, and hurried to their lodgings with the treasure-box.
In a couple of nights, when they had time to see what view the
papers took, and whether there was any suspicion, they would
make their way under cover of darkness to some ship at Gravesend
or in the Downs, where no doubt they had already arranged for
passages to America or the Colonies."
"But the launch? They could not have taken that to their
"Quite so. l 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 hand the launch over to some boat-builder or repairer,
with directions to make a trifling change in her. She would then
be removed to his shed or yard, and so be effectually concealed,
while at the same time I could have her at a few hours' notice."
"That seems simple enough."
"It is just these very simple things which are extremely liable
to be overlooked. However, I determined to act on the idea. I
started at once in this harmless seaman's rig and inquired at all
the yards down the river. I drew blank at fifteen, but at the
sixteenth -- Jacobson's -- I learned that the Aurora had been handed
over to them two days ago by a wooden-legged man, with some
trivial directions as to her rudder. 'There ain't naught amiss with
her rudder,' said the foreman. 'There she lies, with the red
streaks.' At that moment who should come down but Mordecai
Smith, the missing owner. He was rather the worse for liquor. I
should not, of course, have known him, but he bellowed out his
name and the name of his launch. 'I want her to-night at eight
o'clock,' said he -- 'eight o'clock sharp, mind, for I have two
gentlemen who won't be kept waiting.' They had evidently paid
him well, for he was very flush of money, chucking shillings
about to the men. I followed him some distance, but he subsided
into an alehouse; 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 the water's edge and wave his
handkerchief to us when they start. We shall be lying off in the
stream, and it will be a strange thing if we do not take men,
treasure, and all."
"You have planned it all very neatly, whether they are the
right men or not," said Jones; "but if the affair were in my
hands I should have had a body of police in Jacobson's Yard and
arrested them when they came down."
"Which would have been never. This man Small is a pretty
shrewd fellow. He would send a scout on ahead, and if anything
made him suspicious he would lie snug for another week."
"But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith, and so been
led to their hiding-place," said I.
"In that case I should have wasted my day. I think that it is a
hundred to one against Smith knowing where they live. As long
as he has liquor and good pay, why should he ask questions?
They send him messages what to do. No, I thought over every
possible course, and this is the best."
While this conversation had been proceeding, we had been
shooting the long series of bridges which span the Thames. As
we passed the City the last rays of the sun were gilding the cross
upon the summit of St. Paul's. It was twilight before we reached
"That is Jacobson's Yard," said Holmes, pointing to a bristle
of masts and rigging on the Surrey side. "Cruise gently up and
down here under cover of this string of lighters." He took a pair
of night-glasses from his pocket and gazed some time at the
shore. "I see my sentry at his post," he remarked, "but no sign
of a handkerchief."
"Suppose we go downstream a short way and lie in wait for
them," said Jones eagerly.
We were all eager by this time, even the policemen and
stokers, who had a very vague idea of what was going forward.
"We have no right to take anything for granted," Holmes
answered. "It is certainly ten to one that they go downstream,
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!"
"Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal," I
"Winwood Reade is good upon the subject," said Holmes.
"He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble
puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.
You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do,
but you can say with precision what an average number will be
up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says
the statistician. But do I see a handkerchief? Surely there is a
white flutter over yonder."
"Yes, it is your boy," I cried. "I can see him plainly."
"And there is the Aurora," exclaimed Holmes, "and going
like the devil! Full speed ahead, engineer. Make after that launch
with the yellow light. By heaven, I shall never forgive myself if
she proves to have the heels of us!"
She had slipped unseen through the yard-entrance and passed
between two or three small craft, so that she had fairly got her
speed up before we saw her. Now she was flying down the
stream, near in to the shore, going at a tremendous rate. Jones
looked gravely at her and shook his head.
"She is very fast," he said. "I doubt if we shall catch her."
"We must catch her!" cried Holmes between his teeth. "Heap
it on, stokers! Make her do all she can! If we burn the boat we
must have them!"
We were fairly after her now. The furnaces roared, and the
powerful engines whizzed and clanked like a great metallic
heart. Her sharp, steep prow cut through the still river-water and
sent two rolling waves to right and to left of us. With every throb
of the engines we sprang and quivered like a living thing. One
great yellow lantern in our bows threw a long, flickering funnel
of light in front of us. Right ahead a dark blur upon the water
showed where the Aurora lay, and the swirl of white foam
behind her spoke of the pace at which she was going. We flashed
past barges, steamers, merchant-vessels, in and out, behind this
one and round the other. Voices hailed us out of the darkness,
but still the Aurora thundered on, and still we followed close
upon her track.
"Pile it on, men, pile it on!" cried Holmes, looking down
into the engine-room, while the fierce glow from below beat
upon his eager, aquiline face. "Get every pound of steam you
"I think we gain a little," said Jones with his eyes on the
"I am sure of it," said I. "We shall be up with her in a very
At that moment, however, as our evil fate would have it, a tug
with three barges in tow blundered in between us. It was only by
putting our helm hard down that we avoided a collision, and
before we could round them and recover our way the Aurora had
gained a good two hundred yards. She was still, however, well
in view, and the murky, uncertain twilight was settling into a
clear, starlit night. Our boilers were strained to their utmost, and
the frail shell vibrated and creaked with the fierce energy which
was driving us along. We had shot through the pool, past the
West India Docks, down the long Deptford Reach, and up again
after rounding the Isle of Dogs. The dull blur in front of us
resolved itself now clearly into the dainty Aurora. Jones turned
our searchlight upon her, so that we could plainly see the figures
upon her deck. One man sat by the stern, with something black
between his knees, over which he stooped. Beside him lay a dark
mass, which looked like a Newfoundland dog. The boy held the
tiller, while against the red glare of the furnace I could see old
Smith, stripped to the waist, and shovelling coals for dear life.
They may have had some doubt at first as to whether we were
really pursuing them, but now as we followed every winding and
turning which they took there could no longer be any question
about it. At Greenwich we were about three hundred paces
behind them. At Blackwall we could not have been more than
two hundred and fifty. I have coursed many creatures in many
countries during my checkered career, but never did sport give
me such a wild thrill as this mad, flying man-hunt down the
Thames. Steadily we drew in upon them, yard by yard. In the
silence of the night we could hear the panting and clanking of
their machinery. The man in the stern still crouched upon the
deck, and his arms were moving as though he were busy, while
every now and then he would look up and measure with a glance
the distance which still separated us. Nearer we came and nearer.
Jones yelled to them to stop. We were not more than four
boat's-lengths behind them, both boats flying at a tremendous
pace. It was a clear reach of the river, with Barking Level upon
one side and the melancholy Plumstead Marshes upon the other.
At our hail the man in the stern sprang up from the deck and
shook his two clenched fists at us, cursing the while in a high,
cracked voice. He was a good-sized, powerful man, and as he
stood poising himself with legs astride I could see that from the
thigh downward there was but a wooden stump upon the right
side. At the sound of his strident, angry cries, there was move-
ment in the huddled bundle upon the deck. It straightened itself
into a little black man -- the smallest I have ever seen -- with a
great, misshapen head and a shock of tangled, dishevelled hair.
Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine
at the sight of this savage, distorted creature. He was wrapped in
some sort of dark ulster or blanket, which left only his face
exposed, but that face was enough to give a man a sleepless
night. Never have I seen features so deeply marked with all
bestiality and cruelty. His small eyes glowed and burned with a
sombre light, and his thick lips were writhed back from his teeth,
Which grinned and chattered at us with half animal fury.
"Fire if he raises his hand," said Holmes quietly.
We were within a boat's-length by this time, and almost
within touch of our quarry. I can see the two of them now as
they stood, the white man with his legs far apart, shrieking out
curses, and the unhallowed dwarf with his hideous face, and his
strong yellow teeth gnashing at us in the light of our lantern.
It was well that we had so clear a view of him. Even as we
looked he plucked out from under his covering a short, round
piece of wood, like a school-ruler, and clapped it to his lips. Our
pistols rang out together. He whirled round, threw up his arms
and, with a kind of choking cough, fell sideways into the stream.
I caught one glimpse of his venomous, menacing eyes amid the
white swirl of the waters. At the same moment the wooden-
legged man threw himself upon the rudder and put it hard down
so that his boat made straight in for the southern bank, while we
shot past her stern, only clearing her by a few feet. We were
round after her in an instant, but she was already nearly at the
bank. It was a wild and desolate place, where the moon glim-
mered upon a wide expanse of marsh-land, with pools of stag-
nant water and beds of decaying vegetation. The launch, with a
dull thud, ran up upon the mud-bank, with her bow in the air and
her stern flush with the water. The fugitive sprang out, but his
stump instantly sank its whole length into the sodden soil. In
vain he struggled and writhed. Not one step could he possibly
take either forward or backward. He yelled in impotent rage and
kicked frantically into the mud with his other foot, but his
struggles only bored his wooden pin the deeper into the sticky
bank. When we brought our launch alongside he was so firmly
anchored that it was only by throwing the end of a rope over his
shoulders that we were able to haul him out and to drag him, like
some evil fish, over our side. The two Smiths, father and son,
sat sullenly in their launch but came aboard meekly enough when
commanded. The Aurora herself we hauled off and made fast to
our stern. A solid iron chest of Indian workmanship stood upon
the deck. This, there could be no question, was the same that
had contained the ill-omened treasure of the Sholtos. There was
no key, but it was of considerable weight, so we transferred it
carefully to our own little cabin. As we steamed slowly upstream
again, we flashed our searchlight in every direction, but there
was no sign of the Islander. Somewhere in the dark ooze at the
bottom of the Thames lie the bones of that strange visitor to our
"See here," said Holmes, pointing to the wooden hatchway.
"We were hardly quick enough with our pistols;" There, sure
enough, just behind where we had been standing, stuck one of
those murderous darts which we knew so well. It must have
whizzed between us at the instant we fired. Holmes smiled at it
and shrugged his shoulders in his easy fashion, but I confess that
it turned me sick to think of the horrible death which had passed
so close to us that night.
The Great Agra Treasure
Oor captive sat in the cabin opposite to the iron box which he
had done so much and waited so long to gain. He was a
sunburned reckless-eyed fellow, with a network of lines and
wrinkles all over his mahogany features, which told of a hard,
open-air life. There was a singular prominence about his bearded
chin which marked a man who was not to be easily turned from
his purpose. His age may have been fifty or thereabouts, for his
black, curly hair was thickly shot with gray. His face in repose
was not an unpleasing one, though his heavy brows and aggres-
sive chin gave him, as I had lately seen, a terrible expression
when moved to anger. He sat now with his handcuffed hands
upon his lap, and his head sunk upon his breast, while he looked
with his keen, twinkling eyes at the box which had been the
cause of his ill-doings. It seemed to me that there was more
sorrow than anger in his rigid and contained countenance. Once
he looked up at me with a gleam of something like humour in his
"Well, Jonathan Small," said Holmes, lighting a cigar, "I am
sorry that it has come to this."
"And so am I, sir," he answered frankly. "I don't believe
that I can swing over the job. I give you my word on the book
that I never raised hand against Mr. Sholto. It was that little
hell-hound; Tonga, who shot one of his cursed darts into him. I
had no part in it, sir. I was as grieved as if it had been my
blood-relation. I welted the little devil with the slack end of the
rope for it, but it was done, and I could not undo it again."
"Have a cigar," said Holmes; "and you had best take a pull
out of my flask, for you are very wet. How could you expect so
small and weak a man as this black fellow to overpower Mr.
Sholto and hold him while you were climbing the rope?"
"You seem to know as much about it as if you were there, sir.
The truth is that I hoped to find the room clear. I knew the habits
of the house pretty well, and it was the time when Mr. Sholto
usually went down to his supper. I shall make no secret of the
business. The best defence that I can make is just the simple
truth. Now, if it had been the old major I would have swung for
him with a light heart. I would have thought no more of knifing
him than of smoking this cigar. But it's cursed hard that I should
be lagged over this young Sholto, with whom I had no quarrel
"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 T can prove that the poison acts so quickly that the man was
dead before ever you reached the room."
"That he was, sir. I never got such a turn in my life as when I
saw him grinning at me with his head on his shoulder as I
climbed through the window. It fairly shook me, sir. I'd have
half killed Tonga for it if he had not scrambled off. That was
how he came to leave his club, and some of his darts too, as he
tells me, which I dare say helped to put you on our track; though
how you kept on it is more than I can tell. I don't feel no malice
against you for it. But it does seem a queer thing," he added
with a bitter smile, "that I, who have a fair claim to 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
At this moment Athelney Jones thrust his broad face and
heavy shoulders into the tiny cabin.
"Quite a family party," he remarked. "I think I shall have a
pull at that flask, Holmes. Well, I think we may all congratulate
each other. Pity we didn't take the other alive, but there was no
choice. I say, Holmes, you must confess that you cut it rather
fine. It was all we could do to overhaul her."
"All is well that ends well," said Holmes. "But I certainly
did not know that the Aurora was such a clipper."
"Smith says she is one of the fastest launches on the river,
and that if he had had another man to help him with the engines
we should never have caught her. He swears he knew nothing of
this Norwood business."
"Neither he did," cried our prisoner -- "not a word. I chose
his launch because I heard that she was a flier. We told him
nothing; but we paid him well, and he was to get something
handsome if we reached our vessel, the Esmeralda, at Graves-
end, outward bound for the Brazils."
"Well, if he has done no wrong we shall see that no wrong
comes to him. If we are pretty quick in catching our men, we are
not so quick in condemning them." It was amusing to notice
how the consequential Jones was already beginning to give
himself airs on the strength of the capture. From the slight smile
which played over Sherlock Holmes's face, I could see that the
speech had not been lost upon him.
"'We will be at Vauxhall Bridge presently," said Jones, "and
shall land you, Dr. Watson, with the treasure-box. I need hardly
tell you that I am taking a very grave responsibility upon myself
in doing this. It is most irregular, but of course an agreement is
an agreement. I must, however, as a matter of duty, send an
inspector with you, since you have so valuable a charge. You
will drive, no doubt?"
"Yes, I shall drive."
"It is a pity there is no key, that we may make an inventory
first. You will have to break it open. Where is the key, my
"At the bottom of the river," said Small shortly.
"Hum! There was no use your giving this unnecessary trou-
ble. We have had work enough already through you. However,
Doctor, I need not warn you to be careful. Bring the box back
with you to the Baker Street rooms. You will find us there, on
our way to the station."
They landed me at Vauxhall, with my heavy iron box, and
with a bluff, genial inspector as my companion. A quarter of an
hour's drive brought us to Mrs. Cecil Forrester's. The servant
seemed surprised at so late a visitor. Mrs. Cecil Forrester was
out for the evening, she explained, and likely to be very late.
Miss Morstan, however, was in the drawing-room, so to the
drawing-room I went, box in hand, leaving the obliging inspec-
tor in the cab.
She was seated by the open window, dressed in some sort of
white diaphanous material, with a little touch of scarlet at the
neck and waist. The soft light of a shaded lamp fell upon her as
she leaned back in the basket chair, playing over her sweet grave
face, and tinting with a dull, metallic sparkle the rich coils of her
luxuriant hair. One white arm and hand drooped over the side of
the chair, and her whole pose and figure spoke of an absorbing
melancholy. At the sound of my footfall she sprang to her feet,
however, and a bright flush of surprise and of pleasure coloured
her pale cheeks.
"I heard a cab drive up," she said. "I thought that Mrs.
Forrester had come back very early, but I never dreamed that it
might be you. What news have you brought me?"
"I have brought something better than news," said I, putting
down the box upon the table and speaking jovially and boister-
ously, though my heart was heavy within me. "I have brought
you something which is worth all the news in the world. I have
brought you a fortune."
She glanced at the iron box.
"Is that the treasure then?" she asked, coolly enough.
"Yes, this is the great Agra treasure. Half of it is yours and
half is Thaddeus Sholto's. You will have a couple of hundred
thousand each. Think of that! An annuity of ten thousand pounds.
There will be few richer young ladies in England. Is it not
I think I must have been rather over-acting my delight, and
that she defected a hollow ring in my congratulations, for I saw
her eyebrows rise a little, and she glanced at me curiously.
"If I have it," said she, "I owe it to you."
"No, no," I answered, "not to me but to my friend Sherlock
Holmes. With all the will in the world, I could never have
followed up-a clue which has taxed even his analytical genius.
As it was, we very nearly lost it at the last moment."
"Pray sit down and tell me all about it, Dr. Watson," said
I narrated briefly what had occurred since I had seen her last.
Holmes's new method of search, the discovery of the Aurora,
the appearance of Athelney Jones, our expedition in the evening,
and the wild chase down the Thames. She listened with parted
lips and shining eyes to my recital of our adventures. When I
spoke of the dart which had so narrowly missed us, she turned so
white that I feared that she was about to faint.
"It is nothing," she said as I hastened to pour her out some
water. "I am all right again. It was a shock to me to hear that I
had placed my friends in such horrible peril."
"That is all over," I answered. "It was nothing. I will tell
you no more gloomy details. Let us turn to something brighter.
There is the treasure. What could be brighter than that? I got
leave to bring it with me, thinking that it would interest you to
be the first to see it."
"It would be of the greatest interest to me," she said. There
was no eagerness in her voice, however. It had struck her,
doubtless, that it might seem ungracious upon her part to be
indifferent to a prize which had cost so much to win.
"What a pretty box!" she said, stooping over it. "This is
Indian work, I suppose?"
"Yes; it is Benares metal-work."
"And so heavy!" she exclaimed, trying to raise it. "The box
alone must be of some value. Where is the key?"
"Small threw it into the Thames," I answered. "I must
borrow Mrs. Forrester's poker."
There was in the front a thick and broad hasp, wrought in the
image of a sitting Buddha. Under this I thrust the end of the
poker and twisted it outward as a lever. The hasp sprang open
with a loud snap. With trembling fingers I flung back the lid. We
both stood gazing in astonishment. The box was empty!
No wonder that it was heavy. The ironwork was two-thirds of
an inch thick all round. It was massive, well made, and solid,
like a chest constructed to carry things of great price, but not one
shred or crumb of metal or jewellery lay within it. It was
absolutely and completely empty.
"The treasure is lost," said Miss Morstan calmly.
As I listened to the words and realized what they meant, a
great shadow seemed to pass from my soul. I did not know how
this Agra treasure had weighed me down until now that it was
finally removed. It was selfish, no doubt, disloyal, wrong, but I
could realize nothing save that the golden barrier was gone from
"Thank God!" I ejaculated from my very heart.
She looked at me with a quick, questioning smile.
"Why do you say that?" she asked.
"Because you are within my reach again," I said, taking her
hand. She did not withdraw it. "Because I love you, Mary, as
truly as ever a man loved a woman. Because this treasure, these
riches, sealed my lips. Now that they are gone I can tell you how
I love you. That is why I said, 'Thank God.' "
"Then I say 'Thank God,' too," she whispered as I drew her
to my side.
Whoever had lost a treasure, I knew that night that I had
The Strange Story of Jonathan Small
A very patient man was that inspector in the cab, for it was a
weary time before I rejoined him. His face clouded over when I
showed him the empty box.
"There goes the reward!" said he gloomily. "Where there is
no money there is no pay. This night's work would have been
worth a tenner each to Sam Brown and me if the treasure had
"Mr. Thaddeus Sholto is a rich man," I said; "he will see
that you are rewarded, treasure or no."
The inspector shook his head despondently, however.
"It's a bad job," he repeated; "and so Mr. Athelney Jones
His forecast proved to be correct, for the detective looked
blank enough when I got to Baker Street and showed him the
empty box. They had only just arrived, Holmes, the prisoner,
and he, for they had changed their plans so far as to report
themselves at a station upon the way. My companion lounged in
his armchair with his usual listless expression, while Small sat
stolidly opposite to him with his wooden leg cocked over his
sound one. As I exhibited the empty box he leaned back in his
chair and laughed aloud.
"This is your doing, Small," said Athelney Jones angrily.
"Yes, I have put it away where you shall never lay hand upon
it," he cried exultantly. "It is my treasure, and if I can't have
the loot I'll take darned good care that no one else does. I tell
you that no living man has any right to it, unless it is three men
who are in the Andaman convict-barracks and myself. I know
now that I cannot have the use of it, and I know that they cannot.
I have acted all through for them as much as for myself. It's
been the sign of four with us always. Well, I know that they
would have had me do just what I have done, and throw the
treasure into the Thames rather than let it go to kith or kin of
Sholto or Morstan. It was not to make them rich that we did for
Achmet. You'll find the treasure where the key is and where
little Tonga is. When I saw that your launch must catch us, I put
the loot away in a safe place. There are no rupees for you this
"You are deceiving us, Small," said Athelney Jones sternly;
"if you had wished to throw the treasure into the Thames, it
would have been easier for you to have thrown box and all."
"Easier for me to throw and easier for you to recover," he
answered with a shrewd, side-long look. "The man that was
clever enough to hunt me down is clever enough to pick an iron
box from the bottom of a river. Now that they are scattered over
five miles or so, it may be a harder job. It went to my heart to do
it though. I was half mad when you came up with us. However,
there's no good grieving over it. I've had ups in my life, and
I've had downs, but I've learned not to cry over spilled milk."
"This is a very serious matter, Small," said the detective. "If
you had helped justice, instead of thwarting it in this way, you
would have had a better chance at your trial."
"Justice!" snarled the ex-convict. "A pretty justice! Whose
loot is this, if it is not ours? Where is the justice that I should
give it up to those who have never earned it? Look how I have
earned it! Twenty long years in that fever-ridden swamp, all day
at work under the mangrove-tree, all night chained up in the
filthy convict-huts, bitten by mosquitoes, racked with ague,
bullied by every cursed black-faced policeman who loved to take
it out of a white man. That was how I earned the Agra treasure,
and you talk to me of justice because I cannot bear to feel that I
have paid this price only that another may enjoy it! I would
rather swing a score of times, or have one of Tonga's darts in my
hide, than live in a convict's cell and feel that another man is at
his ease in a palace with the money that should be mine."
Small had dropped his mask of stoicism, and all this came out
in a wild whirl of words, while his eyes blazed, and the hand-
cuffs clanked together with the impassioned movement of his
hands. I could understand, as I saw the fury and the passion of
the man, that it was no groundless or unnatural terror which had
possessed Major Sholto when he first learned that the injured
convict was upon his track.
"You forget that we know nothing of all this," said Holmes
quietly. "We have not heard your story, and we cannot tell how
far justice may originally have been on your side."
"Well, sir, you have been very fair-spoken to me, though I
can see that I have you to thank that I have these bracelets upon
my wrists. Still, I bear no grudge for that. It is all fair and
above-board. If you want to hear my story, I have no wish to
hold it back. What I say to you is God's truth, every word of it.
Thank you, you can put the glass beside me here, and I'll put my
lips to it if I am dry.
"I am a Worcestershire man myself, born near Pershore. I
dare say you would find a heap of Smalls living there now if you
were to look. I have often thought of taking a look round there,
but the truth is that I was never much of a credit to the family,
and I doubt if they would be so very glad to see me. They were
all steady, chapel-going folk, small farmers, well known and
respected over the countryside, while I was always a bit of a
rover. At last, however, when I was about eighteen, I gave them
no more trouble, for I got into a mess over a girl and could only
get out of it again by taking the Queen's shilling and joining the
Third Buffs, which was just starting for India.
"I wasn't destined to do much soldiering, however. I had just
got past the goose-step and learned to handle my musket, when I
was fool enough to go swimming in the Ganges. Luckily for me,
my company sergeant, John Holder, was in the water at the same
time, and he was one of the finest swimmers in the service. A
crocodile took me just as I was halfway 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 been drowned if Holder had not caught hold of
me and paddled for the bank. I was five months in hospital over
it, and when at last I was able to limp out of it with this timber
toe strapped to my stump, I found myself invalided out of the
Army and unfitted for any active occupation.
"I was, as you can imagine, pretty down on my luck at this
time, for I was a useless cripple, though not yet in my twentieth
year. However, my misfortune soon proved to be a blessing in
disguise. A man named Abel White, who had come out there as
an indigo-planter, wanted an overseer to look after his coolies
and keep them up to their work. He happened to be a friend of
our colonel's, who had taken an interest in me since the acci-
dent. To make a long story shon, the colonel recommended me
strongly for the post, and, as the work was mostly to be done on
horseback, my leg was no great obstacle, for I had enough thigh
left to keep a good grip on the saddle. What I had to do was to
ride over the plantation, to keep an eye on the men as they
worked, and to report the idlers. The pay was fair, I had com-
fortable quarters, and altogether I was content to spend the
remainder of my life in indigo-planting. Mr. Abel White was a
kind man, and he would often drop into my little shanty and
smoke a pipe with me, for white folk out there feel their hearts
warm to each other as they never do here at home.
"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 Nonhwest 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. Abel White 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 whisky-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 re-
volver 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 Abel White's bungalow and the flames beginning to burst
through the roof. I knew then that I could do my employer no
good, but would only throw my own life away if I meddled in
the matter. From where I stood I could see hundreds of the black
fiends, with their red coats still on their backs, dancing and
howling round the burning house. Some of them pointed at me,
and a couple of bullets sang past my head: so I broke away
across the paddy-fields, and found myself late at night safe
within the walls at Agra.
"As it proved, however, there was no great safety there,
either. The whole country was up like a swarm of bees. Wher-
ever the English could collect in little bands they held just the
ground that their guns commanded. Everywhere else they were
helpless fugitives. It was a fight of the millions against the
hundreds; and the cruellest part of it was that these men that we
fought against, foot, horse, and gunners, were our own picked
troops, whom we had taught and trained, handling our own
weapons and blowing our own bugle-calls. At Agra there were
the Third Bengal Fusiliers, some Sikhs, two troops of horse, and
a battery of artillery. A volunteer corps of clerks and merchants
had been formed, and this I joined, wooden leg and all. We went
out to meet the rebels at Shahgunge early in July, and we beat
them back for a time, but our powder gave out, and we had to
fall back upon the city.
"Nothing but the worst news came to us from every side --
which is not to be wondered at, for if you look at the map you
will see that we were right in the heart of it. Lucknow is rather
better than a hundred miles to the east, and Cawnpore about as
far to the south. From every point on the compass there was
nothing but torture and murder and outrage.
"The city of Agra is a great place, swarming with fanatics and
fierce devil-worshippers of all sorts. Our handful of men were
lost among the narrow, winding streets. Our leader moved across
the river, therefore, and took up his position in the old fort of
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 anyone went into it,
though now and again a party with torches might go exploring.
"The river washes along the front of the old fort, and so
protects it, but on the sides and behind there are many doors, and
these had to be guarded, of course, in the old quarter as well as
in that which was actually held by our troops. We were short-
handed, with hardly men enough to man the angles of the
building and to serve the guns. It was impossible for us, there-
fore, to 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 fort, and to leave each gate under the charge of one
white man and two or three natives. I was selected to take charge
during certain hours of the night of a small isolated door upon
the south-west side of the building. Two Sikh troopers were
placed under my command, and I was instructed if anything
went wrong to fire my musket, when I might rely upon help
coming at once from the central guard. As the guard was a good
two hundred paces away, however, and as the space between
was cut up into a labyrinth of passages and corridors, I had great
doubts as to whether they could arrive in time to be of any use in
case of an actual attack.
"Well, I was pretty proud at having this small command given
me, since I was a raw recruit, and a game-legged one at that. For
two nights I kept the watch with my Punjabees. They were tall,
fierce-looking chaps, Mahomet Singh and Abdullah Khan by
name, both old fighting men, who had borne arms against us at
Chilian Wallah. They could talk English pretty well, but I could
get little out of them. They preferred to stand together, and
jabber all night in their queer Sikh lingo. For myself, I used to
stand outside the gateway, 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 neighbours across the stream.
Every two hours the officer of the night used to come round to
all the posts to make sure that all was well.
"The third night of my watch was dark and dirty, with a small
driving rain. It was dreary work standing in the gateway hour
after hour in such weather. I tried again and again to make my
Sikhs talk, but without much success. At two in the morning the
rounds passed and broke for a moment the weariness of the
night. Finding that my companions would not be led into conver-
sation, I took out my pipe and laid down my musket to strike the
match. In an instant the two Sikhs were upon me. One of them
snatched my firelock up and levelled it at my head, while the
other held a great knife to my throat and swore between his teeth
that he would plunge it into me if I moved a step.
"My first thought was that these fellows were in league with
the rebels, and that this was the beginning of an assault. If our
door were in the hands of the sepoys the place must fall, and the
women and children be treated as they were in Cawnpore.
Maybe you gentlemen think that I am just making out a case for
myself, but I give you my word that when I thought of that,
though I felt the point of the knife at my throat, I opened my
mouth with the intention of giving a scream, if it was my last
one, which might alarm the main guard. The man who held me
seemed to know my thoughts; for, even as I braced myself to it,
he whispered: 'Don't make a noise. The fort is safe enough.
There are no rebel dogs on this side of the river.' There was the
ring of truth in what he said, and I knew that if I raised my voice
I was a dead man. I could read it in the fellow's brown eyes. I
waited, therefore, in silence, to see what it was that they wanted
" 'Listen to me, sahib,' said the taller and fiercer of the pair,
the one whom they called Abdullah Khan. 'You must either be
with us now, or you must be silenced forever. The thing is too
great a one for us to hesitate. Either you are heart and soul with
us on your oath on the cross of the Christians, or your body this
night shall be thrown into the ditch, and we shall pass over to
our brothers in the rebel army. There is no middle way. Which is
it to be -- death or life? We can only give you three minutes to
decide, for the time is passing, and all must be done before the
rounds come again.'
" 'How can I decide?' said I. 'You have not told me what you
want of me. But I tell you now that if it is anything against the
safety of the fort I will have no truck with it, so you can drive
home your knife and welcome.'
" 'It is nothing against the fort,' said he. 'We only ask you to
do that which your countrymen come to this land for. We ask
you to be rich. If you will be one of us this night, we will swear
to you upon the naked knife, and by the threefold oath which no
Sikh was ever known to break, that you shall have your fair
share of the loot. A quarter of the treasure shall be yours. We
can say no fairer.'
" 'But what is the treasure then?' I asked. 'I am as ready to be
rich as you can be if you will but show me how it can be done.'
" 'You will swear, then,' said he, 'by the bones of your
father, by the honour of your mother, by the cross of your faith,
to raise no hand and speak no word against us, either now or
" '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 us.'
" 'There are but three,' said I.
" 'No; Dost Akbar must have his share. We can tell the tale to
you while we wait them. Do you stand at the gate, Mahomet
Singh, and give notice of their coming. The thing stands thus,
sahib, and I tell it to you because I know that an oath is binding
upon a Feringhee, and that we may trust you. Had you been a
lying Hindoo, though you had sworn by all the gods in their false
temples, your blood would have been upon the knife and your
body in the water. But the Sikh knows the Englishman, and the
Englishman knows the Sikh. Hearken, then, to what I have to
" '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, how-
ever, 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 his doing this, mark
you, sahib, his property becomes the due of those who have been
true to their salt.
" 'This pretended merchant, who travels under the name of
Achmet, is now in the city of Agra and desires to gain his way
into the fort. He has with him as travelling-companion my
foster-brother Dost Akbar, who knows his secret. Dost Akbar
has promised this night to lead him to a side-postern of the fort,
and has chosen this one for his purpose. Here he will come
presently, and here he will find Mahomet Singh and myself
awaiting him. The place is lonely, and none shall know of his
coming. The world shall know the merchant Achmet no more,
but the great treasure of the rajah shall be divided among us.
What say you to it, sahib?'
"In Worcestershire the life of a man seems a great and a
sacred thing; but it is very different when there is fire and blood
all round you, and you have been used to meeting death at every
turn. Whether Achmet the merchant lived or died was a thing as
light as air to me, but at the talk about the treasure my heart
turned to it, and I thought of what I might do in the old country
with it, and how my folk would stare when they saw their
ne'er-do-well coming back with his pockets full of gold moi-
dores. I had, therefore, already made up my mind. Abdullah
Khan, however, thinking that I hesitated, pressed the matter
" 'Consider, sahib,' said he, 'that if this man is taken by the
commandant he will be hung or shot, and his jewels taken by the
government, so that no man will be a rupee the better for them.
Now, since we do the taking of him, why should we not do the
rest as well? The jewels will be as well with us as in the
Company's coffers. There will be enough to make every one of
us rich men and great chiefs. No one can know about the matter,
for here we are cut off from all men. What could be better for
the purpose? Say again, then, sahib, whether you are with us, or
if we must look upon you as an enemy.'
" 'I am with you heart and soul,' said I.
" 'It is well,' he answered, handing me back my firelock.
'You see that we trust you, for your word, like ours, is not to be
broken. We have now only to wait for my brother and the
" 'Does your brother know, then, of what you will do?' I
" '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 begin-
ning of the wet season. Brown, heavy clouds were drifting
across the sky, and it was hard to see more than a stonecast. 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 Punjabees waiting
for the man who was coming to his death.
"Suddenly my eye caught the glint of a shaded lantern at the
other side of the moat. It vanished among the mound-heaps, and
then appeared again coming slowly in our direction.
" 'Here they are!' I exclaimed.
" 'You will challenge him, sahib, as usual,' whispered Abdul-
lah. 'Give him no cause for fear. Send us in with him, and we
shall do the rest while you stay here on guard. Have the lantern
ready to uncover, that we may be sure that it is indeed the man.'
"The light had flickered onward, 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 halfway up to the gate before I
" 'Who goes there?' said I in a subdued voice.
" 'Friends,' came the answer. I uncovered my lantern and
threw a flood of light upon them. The first was an enormous
Sikh with a black beard which swept nearly down to his cum-
merbund. Outside of a show I have never seen so tall a man. The
other was a little fat, round fellow with a great yellow turban and
a bundle in his hand, done up in a shawl. He seemed to be all in
a quiver with fear, for his hands twitched as if he had the ague,
and his head kept turning to left and right with two bright little
twinkling eyes, like a mouse when he ventures out from his hole.
It gave me the chills to think of killing him, but I thought of the
treasure, and my heart set as hard as a flint within me. When he
saw my white face he gave a little chirrup of joy and came
running up towards me.
" 'Your protection, sahib,' he panted, 'your protection for the
unhappy merchant Achmet. I have travelled across Rajpootana,
that I might seek the shelter of the fort at Agra. I have been
robbed and beaten and abused because I have been the friend of
the Company. It is a blessed night this when I am once more in
safety -- I and my poor possessions.'
" 'What have you in the bundle?' I asked.
" 'An iron box,' he answered, 'which contains one or two
little family matters which are of no value to others but which I
should be sorry to lose. Yet I am not a beggar; and I shall reward
you, young sahib, and your governor also if he will give me the
shelter I ask.'
"I could not trust myself to speak longer with the man. The
more I looked at his fat, frightened face, the harder did it seem
that we should slay him in cold blood. It was best to get it over.
" 'Take him to the main guard,' said I. The two Sikhs closed
in upon him on each side, and the giant walked behind, while
they marched in through the dark gateway. Never was a man so
compassed round with death. I remained at the gateway 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 a 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 where 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 word of the business
just exactly as it happened, whether it is in my favour or not."
He stopped and held out his manacled hands for the whisky
and water which Holmes had brewed for him. For myself, I
confess that I had now conceived the utmost horror of the man
not only for this cold-blooded business in which he had been
concerned but even more for the somewhat flippant and careless
way in which he narrated it. Whatever punishment was in store
for him, I felt that he might expect no sympathy from me.
Sherlock Holmes and Jones sat with their hands upon their
knees, deeply interested in the story but with the same disgust
written upon their faces. He may have observed it, for there was
a touch of defiance in his voice and manner as he proceeded.
"It was all very bad, no doubt," said he. "I should like to
know how many fellows in my shoes would have refused a share
of this loot when they knew that they would have their throats
cut for their pains. Besides, it was my life or his when once he
was in the fort. If he had got out, the whole business would
come to light, and I should have been court-martialled and shot
as likely as not; for people were not very lenient at a time like
"Go on with your story," said Holmes shortly.
"Well, we carried him in, Abdullah, Akbar, and I. A fine
weight he was, too, for all that he was so shorrt. Mahomet Singh
was left to guard the door. We took him to a place which the
Sikhs had already prepared. It was some distance off, where a
winding passage leads to a great empty hall, the brick walls of
which were all crumbling to pieces. The earth floor had sunk in
at one place, making a natural grave, so we left Achmet the
merchant there, having first covered him over with loose bricks.
This done, we all went back to the treasure.
"It lay where he had dropped it when he was first attacked.
The box was the same which now lies open upon your table. A
key was hung by a silken cord to that carved handle upon the
top. We opened it, and the light of the lantern gleamed upon a
collection of gems such as I have read of and thought about
when I was a little lad at Pershore. It was blinding to look
upon them. When we had feasted our eyes we took them all out
and made a list of them. There were one hundred and forty-
three diamonds of the first water, including one which has been
called, I believe, 'the Great Mogul,' and is said to be the second
largest stone in existence. Then there were ninety-seven very
fine emeralds, and one hundred and seventy rubies, some of
which, however, were small. There were forty carbuncles, two
hundred and ten sapphires, sixty-one agates, and a great quantity
of beryls, onyxes, cats'-eyes, turquoises, and other stones, the
very names of which I did not know at the time, though I have
become more familiar with them since. Besides this, there were
nearly three hundred very fine pearls, twelve of which were set
in a gold coronet. By the way, these last had been taken out of
the chest, and were not there when I recovered it.
"After we had counted our treasures we put them back into
the chest and carried them to the gateway 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 advan-
tage. That is an oath that I can put my hand to my heart and
swear that I have never broken.
"Well, there's no use my telling you gentlemen what came of
the Indian mutiny. After Wilson took Delhi and Sir Colin re-
lieved Lucknow the back of the business was broken. Fresh
troops came pouring in, and Nana Sahib made himself scarce over
the frontier. A flying column under Colonel Greathed came
round to Agra and cleared the Pandies away from it. Peace
seemed to be settling upon the country, and we four were
beginning to hope that the time was at hand when we might
safely go off with our shares of the plunder. In a moment,
however, our hopes were shattered by our being arrested as the
murderers of Achmet.
"It came about in this way. When the rajah put his jewels into
the hands of Achmet he did it because he knew that he was a
trusty man. They are suspicious folk in the East, however: so
what does this rajah do but take a second even more trusty
servant and set him to play the spy upon the first. This second
man was ordered never to let Achmet out of his sight, and he
followed him like his shadow. He went after him that night and
saw him pass through the doorway. Of course he thought he had
taken refuge in the fort and applied for admission there himself
next day, but could find no trace of Achmet. This seemed to him
so strange that he spoke about it to a sergeant of guides, who
brought it to the ears of the commandant. A thorough search was
quickly made, and the body was discovered. Thus at the very
moment that we thought that all was safe we were all four seized
and brought to trial on a charge of murder -- three of us because
we had held the gate that night, and the fourth because he was
known to have been in the company of the murdered man. Not a
word about the jewels came out at the trial, for the rajah had
been deposed and driven out of India: so no one had any
particular interest in them. The murder, however, was clearly
made out, and it was certain that we must all have been con-
cerned in it. The three Sikhs got penal servitude for life, and I
was condemned to death, though my sentence was afterwards
commuted to the same as the others.
"It was rather a queer position that we found ourselves in
then. There we were all four tied by the leg and with precious
little chance of ever getting out again, while we each held a
secret which might have put each of us in a palace if we could
only have made use of it. It was enough to make a man eat his
heart out to have to stand the kick and the cuff of every petty
jack-in-office. to have rice to eat and water to drink, when that
gorgeous fortune was ready for him outside, just waiting to be
picked up. It might have driven me mad; but I was always a
pretty stubborn one, so I just held on and bided my time.
"At last it seemed to me to have come. I was changed from
Agra to Madras, and from there to Blair Island in the Andamans.
There are very few white convicts at this settlement, and, as I
had behaved well from the first, I soon found myself a son 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 na-
tives, who were ready enough to blow a poisoned dart at us if
they saw a chance. There was digging and ditching and yam-
planting, and a dozen other things to be done, so we were busy
enough all day; though in the evening we had a little time to
ourselves. Among other things, I, learned to dispense drugs for
the surgeon, and picked up a smattering of his knowledge. All
the time I was on the lookout for a chance to escape; but it is
hundreds of miles from any other land, and there is little or no
wind in those seas: so it was a terribly difficult job to get away.
"The surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young
chap, and the other young officers would meet in his rooms of an
evening and play cards. The surgery, where I used to make up
my drugs, was next to his sitting-room, with a small window
between us. Often, if I felt lonesome, I used to turn out the lamp
in the surgery, and then, standing there, I could hear their talk
and watch their play. I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it
was almost as good as having one to watch the others. There was
Major Sholto, Captain Morstan, and Lieutenant Bromley Brown,
who were in command of the native troops, and there was the
surgeon himself, and two or three prison-officials, crafty old
hands who played a nice sly safe game. A very snug little party
they used to make.
"Well, there was one thing which very soon struck me, and
that was that the soldiers used always to lose and the civilians to
win. Mind, I don't say there was anything unfair, but so it was.
These prison-chaps had done little else than play cards ever since
they had been at the Andamans, and they knew each other's
game to a point, while the others just played to pass the time and
threw their cards down anyhow. Night after night the soldiers got
up poorer men, and the poorer they got the more keen they were
to play. Major Sholto was the hardest hit. He used to pay in
notes and gold at first, but soon it came to notes of hand and for
big sums. He sometimes would win for a few deals just to give
him heart, and then the luck would set in against him worse than
ever. All day he would wander about as black as thunder, and he
took to drinking a deal more than was good for him.
"One night he lost even more heavily than usual. I was sitting
in my hut when he and Captain Morstan came stumbling along
on the way to their quarters. They were bosom friends, those
two, and never far apart. The major was raving about his losses.
" 'It's all up, Morstan,' he was saying as they passed my hut.
'I shall have to send in my papers. I am a ruined man.'
" 'Nonsense, old chap!' said the other, slapping him upon the
shoulder. ~I've had a nasty facer myself. but --' That was all I
could hear, but it was enough to set me thinking.
"A couple of days later Major Sholto was strolling on the
beach: so I took the chance of speaking to him.
" 'I wish to have your advice, Major,' said I.
" 'Well, Small, what is it?' he asked, taking his cheroot from
" 'I wanted to ask you, sir,' said I, 'who is the proper person
to whom hidden treasure should be handed over. I know where
half a million worth lies, and, as I cannot use it myself, I thought
perhaps the best thing that I could do would be to hand it over to
the proper authorities, and then perhaps they would get my
sentence shortened for me.'
" 'Half a million, Small?' he gasped, looking hard at me to
see if I was in earnest.
" 'Quite that, sir -- in jewels and pearls. It lies there ready for
anyone. And the queer thing about it is that the real owner is
outlawed and cannot hold property, so that it belongs to the first
" 'To government, Small,' he stammered, 'to government.'
But he said it in a halting fashion, and I knew in my heart that I
had got him.
" 'You think, then, sir, that I should give the information to
the governor-general?' said I quietly.
" 'Well, well, you must not do anything rash, or that you
might repent. Let me hear all about it, Small. Give me the facts.'
"I told him the whole story, with small changes, so that he
could not identify the places. When I had finished he stood stock
still and full of thought. I could see by the twitch of his lip that
there was a struggle going on within him.
" 'This is a very important matter, Small,' he said at last.
'You must not say a word to anyone about it, and 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 lips, Small,' said he.
"I repeated it as I had told it before.
" 'It rings true, eh?' said he. 'It's good enough to act upon?'
"Captain Morstan nodded.
" 'Look here, Small,' said the major. 'We have been talking
it over, my friend here and I, and we have come to the conclu-
sion that this secret of yours is hardly a government matter, after
all, but is a private concern of your own, which of course you
have the power of disposing of as you think best. Now the
question is, What price would you ask for it? We might be
inclined to take it up, and at least look into it, if we could agree
as to terms.' He tried to speak in a cool, careless way, but his
eyes were shining with excitement and greed.
" 'Why, as to that, gentlemen,' I answered, trying also to be
cool but feeling as excited as he did, 'there is only one bargain
which a man in my position can make. I shall want you to help
me to my freedom, and to help my three companions to theirs.
We shall then take you into partnership and give you a fifth share
to divide between you.'
" 'Hum!' said he. 'A fifth share! That is not very tempting.'
" 'It would come to fifty thousand apiece,' said I.
" 'But how can we gain your freedom? You know very well
that you ask an impossibility.'
" 'Nothing of the sort,' I answered. 'I have thought it all out
to the last detail. The only bar to our escape is that we can get no
boat fit for the voyage, and no provisions to last us for so long a
time. There are plenty of little yachts and yawls at Calcutta or
Madras which would serve our turn well. Do you bring one over.
We shall engage to get aboard her by night, and if you will drop
us on any part of the Indian coast you will have done your part
of the bargain.'
" 'If there were only one,' he said.
" 'None or all,' I answered. 'We have sworn it. The four of
us must always act together.'
" 'You see, Morstan,' said he, 'Small is a man of his word.
He does not flinch from his friends. I think we may very well
" 'It's a dirty business,' the other answered. 'Yet, as you say,
the money will save our commissions handsomely.'
" 'Well, Small,' said the major, 'we must, I suppose, try and
meet you. We must first, of course, test the truth of your story.
Tell me where the box is hid, and I shall get leave of absence
and go back to India in the monthly relief-boat to inquire into the
" '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
"Well, the matter ended by a second meeting, at which
Mahomet Singh, Abdullah Khan, and Dost Akbar were all pres-
ent. We talked the matter over again, and at last we came to an
arrangement. We were to provide both the officers with charts of
the part of the Agra fort, and mark the place in the wall where
the treasure was hid. Major Sholto was to go to India to test our
story. If he found the box he was to leave it there, to send out a
small yacht provisioned for a voyage, which was to lie off
Rutland Island, and to which we were to make our way, and
finally to return to his duties. Captain Morstan was then to apply
for leave of absence, to meet us at Agra, and there we were to
have a final division of the treasure, he taking the major's share
as well as his own. All this we sealed by the most solemn oaths
that the mind could think or the lips utter. I sat up all night with
paper and ink, and by the morning I had the two charts all ready,
signed with the sign of four -- that is, of Abdullah, Akbar,
Mahomet, and myself.
"Well, gentlemen, I weary you with my long story, and I
know that my friend Mr. Jones is impatient to get me safely
stowed in chokey. I'll make it as short as I can. The villain
Sholto went off to India, but he never came back again. Captain
Morstan showed me his name among a list of passengers in one
of the mail-boats very shortly afterwards. His uncle had died,
leaving him a fortune, and he had left the Army; yet he could
stoop to treat five men as he had treated us. Morstan went over
to Agra shortly afterwards and found, as we expected, that the
treasure was indeed gone. The scoundrel had stolen it all without
carrying out one of the conditions on which we had sold him the
secret. From that I lived only for vengeance. I thought of it by
day and I nursed it by night. It became an overpowering, absorb-
ing 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
"Well, I have set my mind on many things in this life, and
never one which I did not carry out. But it was weary years
before my time came. I have told you that I had picked up
something of medicine. One day when Dr. Somerton was down
with a fever a little Andaman Islander was picked up by a
convict-gang in the woods. He was sick to death and had gone to
a lonely place to die. I took him in hand, though he was as
venomous as a young snake, and after a couple of months I got
him all right and able to walk. He took a kind of fancy to me
then, and would hardly go back to his woods, but was always
hanging about my hut. I learned a little of his lingo from him,
and this made him all the fonder of me.
"Tonga -- for that was his name -- was a fine boatman and
owned a big, roomy canoe of his own. When I found that he was
devoted to me and would do anything to serve me, I saw my
chance of escape. I talked it over with him. He was to bring his
boat round on a certain night to an old wharf which was never
guarded, and there he was to pick me up. I gave him directions
to have several gourds of water and a lot of yams, cocoanuts,
and sweet potatoes.
"He was staunch and true, was little Tonga. No man ever had
a more faithful mate. At the night named he had his boat at the
wharf. As it chanced, however, there was one of the convict-
guard down there -- a vile Pathan who had never missed a chance
of insulting and injuring me. I had always vowed vengeance, and
now I had my chance. It was as if fate had placed him in my way
that I might pay my debt before I left the island. He stood on the
bank with his back to me, and his carbine on his shoulder. I
looked about for a stone to beat out his brains with, but none
could I see.
"Then a queer thought came into my head and showed me
where I could lay my hand on a weapon. I sat down in the
darkness and unstrapped my wooden leg. With three long hops I
was on him. He put his carbine to his shoulder, but I struck him
full, and knocked the whole front of his skull in. You can see the
split in the wood now where I hit him. We both went down
together, for I could not keep my balance; but when I got up I
found him still lying quiet enough. I made for the boat, and in an
hour we were well out at sea. Tonga had brought all his earthly
possessions with him, his arms and his gods. Among other
things, he had a long bamboo spear, and some Andaman cocoa-
nut matting, with which I made a sort of a sail. For ten days we
were beating about, trusting to luck, and on the eleventh we
were picked up by a trader which was going from Singapore to
Jiddah with a cargo of Malay pilgrims. They were a rum crowd,
and Tonga and I soon managed to settle down among them.
They had one very good quality: they let you alone and asked no
"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 on 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 anyone else in a hole -- and I
soon found that he still had the jewels. Then I tried to get at him
in many ways; but he was pretty sly and had always two prize-
fighters, besides his sons and his khitmutgar, on guard over him.
"One day, however, I got word that he was dying. I hurried at
once to the garden, mad that he should slip out of my clutches
like that, and, looking through the window, I saw him lying in
his bed, with his sons on each side of him. I'd have come
through and taken my chance with the three of them, only even
as I looked at him his jaw dropped, and I knew that he was gone.
I got into his room that same night, though, and I searched his
papers to see if there was any record of where he had hidden our
jewels. There was not a line, however, so I came away, bitter
and savage as a man could be. Before I left I bethought me that
if I ever met my Sikh friends again it would be a satisfaction to
know that I had left some mark of our hatred; so I scrawled
down the sign of the four of us, as it had been on the chart, and I
pinned it on his bosom. It was too much that he should be taken
to the grave without some token from the men whom he had
robbed and befooled.
"We earned a living at this time by my exhibiting poor Tonga
at fairs and other such places as the black cannibal. He would eat
raw meat and dance his war-dance: so we always had a hatful of
pennies after a day's work. I still heard all the news from
Pondicherry Lodge, and for some years there was no news to
hear, except that they were hunting for the treasure. At last,
however, came what we had waited for so long. The treasure had
been found. It was up at the top of the house in Mr. Banholomew
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 bloodthirsty imp. I took the treasure box
and let it down, and then slid down myself, having first left the
sign of the four upon the table to show that the jewels had come
back at last to those who had most right to them. Tonga then
pulled up the rope, closed the window, and made off the way
that he had come
"I don't know that I have anything else to tell you. I had
heard a waterman speak of the speed of Smith's launch, the
Aurora, so l thought she would be a handy craft for our escape
with old Smith, and was to give him a big sum if he got us safe
to our ship. He knew, no doubt, that there was some screw
loose, but he was not in our secrets. All this is the truth, and if I
tell it to you, gentlemen, it is not to amuse you -- for you have
not done me a very good turn -- but it is because I believe the
best defence I can make is just to hold back nothing, but let all
the world know how badly I have myself been served by Major
Sholto, and how innocent I am of the death of his son."
"A very remarkable account," said Sherlock Holmes. "A
fitting windup to an extremely interesting case. There is nothing
at all new to me in the latter part of your narrative except that you
brought your own rope. That I did not know. By the way, I had
hoped that Tonga had lost all his darts; yet he managed to shoot
one at us in the boat."
"He had lost them all, sir, except the one which was in his
blow-pipe at the time."
"Ah, of course," said Holmes. "I had not thought of that."
"Is there any other point which you would like to ask about?"
asked the convict affably.
"I think not, thank you," my companion answered.
"Well, Holmes," said Athelney Jones, "you are a man to be
humoured, and we all know that you are a connoisseur of crime;
but duty is duty, and I have gone rather far in doing what you
and your friend asked me. 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 downstairs. I am much
obliged to you both for your assistance. Of course you will be
wanted at the trial. Good-night to you."
"Good-night, gentlemen both," said Jonathan Small.
"You first, Small," remarked the wary, Jones as they left the
room. "I'll take particular care that you don't club me with your
wooden leg, whatever you may have done to the gentleman at
the Andaman Isles."
"Well, and there is the end of our little drama," I remarked
after we had sat 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 honour to
accept me as a husband in prospective."
He gave a most dismal groan.
"I feared as much," said he. "I really cannot congratulate
I was a little hurt.
"Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my choice?" I
"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 ali
the other papers of her father. But love is an emotional thing,
and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason
which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest
I bias my judgment."
"I trust," said I, laughing, "that my judgment may survive
the ordeal. But you look weary."
"Yes, the reaction is already upon me. I shall be as limp as a
rag for a week."
"Strange," said I, "how terms of what in another man I
should call laziness alternate with your fits of splendid energy
"Yes," he answered, "there are in me the makings of a very
fine loafer, and also of a pretty spry, sort of a fellow. I often
think of those lines of old Goethe:
"Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schuf,
Denn zum wurdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.
By the way, apropos of this Norwood business, you see that they
had, as I surmised, a confederate in the house, who could be
none other than Lal Rao, the butler: so Jones actually has the
undivided honour of having caught one fish in his great haul."
"The division seems rather unfair," I remarked. "You have
done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones
gets the credit, pray what remains for you?"
"For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the
cocaine-bottle." And he stretched his long white hand up for it.