The Sign Of Four
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 it!"
"But I want a dog," I cried.
"I won't be argued with!" shouted Mr. Sherman. "Now stand clear, for when I say 'three,' down goes the wiper."
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes " I began; but the words had a most magical effect, for the window instantly slammed down, and within a minute the door was unbarred and open. Mr. Sherman was a lanky, lean old man, with stooping shoulders, a stringy neck, and blue-tinted glasses.
"A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome," said he. "Step in, sir. Keep clear of the badger, for he bites. Ah, naughty, naughty; would you take a nip at the gentleman?" This to a stoat which thrust its wicked head and red eyes between the bars of its cage. "Don't mind that, sir; it's only a 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 chief difference?"
"Your toes are all cramped together. The other print has each toe distinctly divided."
"Quite so. That is the point. Bear that in mind. Now, would you kindly step over to that flap-window and smell the edge of the 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 tarry smell.
"That is where he put his foot in getting out. If you can trace him, I should think that Toby will have no difficulty. Now run 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, Watson?"
"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 our speed.
The east had been gradually whitening, and we could now see some distance in the cold gray light. The square, massive house, with its black, empty windows and high, bare walls, towered up, sad and forlorn, behind us. Our course led right across the grounds, in and out among the trenches and pits with which they were scarred and intersected. The whole place, with its scattered dirt-heaps and ill-grown shrubs, had a blighted, ill-omened look which harmonized with the black tragedy which hung over it.
On reaching the boundary wall Toby ran along, whining 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 clue."
"There is credit, and to spare," said I. "I assure you, Holmes, that I marvel at the means by which you obtain your results in this case even more than I did in the Jefferson Hope murder. The thing seems to me to be deeper and more inexplicable. How, for example, could you describe with such confidence the wooden- legged man?"
"Pshaw, my dear boy! it was simplicity itself. I don't wish to be theatrical. It is all patent and above-board. Two officers who are in command of a convict-guard learn an important secret as to buried treasure. A map is drawn for them by an Englishman named Jonathan Small. You remember that we saw the name upon the chart in Captain Morstan's possession. He had signed it in behalf of himself and his associates -- the sign of the four, as he somewhat dramatically called it. Aided by this chart, the officers -- or one of them -- gets the treasure and brings it to England, leaving, we will suppose, some condition under which he received it unfulfilled. Now, then, why did not Jonathan Small get the treasure himself? The answer is obvious. The chart is dated at a time when Morstan was brought into close 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 set free."
"Or had escaped. That is much more likely, for he would have known what their term of imprisonment was. It would not have been a surprise to him. What does he do then? He guards himself against a wooden-legged man -- a white man, mark you, for he mistakes a white tradesman for him and actually fires a pistol at him. Now, only one white man's name is on the chart. The others are Hindoos or Mohammedans. There is no other white man. Therefore we may say with confidence that the wooden-legged man is identical with Jonathan Small. Does the reasoning strike you as being faulty?"
"No: it is clear and concise."
"Well, now, let us put ourselves in the place of Jonathan Small. Let us look at it from his point of view. He comes to England with the double idea of regaining what he would 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 tendo Achillis."
"But it was the associate and not Jonathan who committed the crime."
"Quite so. And rather to Jonathan's disgust, to judge by the way he stamped about when he got into the room. He bore no grudge against Bartholomew Sholto and would have preferred if he could have been simply bound and gagged. He did not wish to put his head in a halter. There was no help for it, however: the savage instincts of his companion had broken out, and the poison had done its work: so Jonathan Small left his record, lowered the treasure-box to the ground, and followed it himself. That was the train of events as far as I can decipher them. Of course, as to his personal appearance, he must be middle-aged and must be 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 jacket.
We had during this time been following the guidance of Toby down the half-rural villa-lined roads which lead to the metropolis. Now, however, we were beginning to come among continuous streets, where 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.
(cont. top of next column) Top
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 infallibility."
"He acted according to his lights," said Holmes, lifting him down from the barrel and walking him out of the timber-yard. "If you consider how much 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 boat-here. "
Several small punts and skiffs were lying about in the water and on the edge of the wharf. We took Toby round to each in turn, but though he sniffed earnestly he made no sign.
Close to the rude landing-stage was a small brick house, with a wooden placard slung out through the second window. "Mordecai Smith" was printed across it in large letters, and, underneath, "Boats to hire by the hour or day." A second inscription above the door informed us that a steam launch was kept -- a statement which was confirmed by a great pile of coke upon the jetty. Sherlock Holmes looked slowly round, and his face assumed an ominous expression.
"This looks bad," said he. "These fellows are sharper than I expected. They seem to have covered their tracks. There has, I fear, been preconcerted management here."
He was approaching the door of the house, when it opened, and a little curly-headed lad of six came running out, followed by a stoutish, red-faced woman with a large sponge in her hand.
"You come back and be washed, Jack," she shouted. "Come back, you young imp; for if your father comes home and finds you like that he'll let us hear of it."
"Dear little chap!" said Holmes strategically. "What a rosy- cheeked young rascal! Now, Jack, is there anything you would like?"
The youth pondered for a moment.
"I'd like a shillin'," said he.
"Nothing you would like better?"
"I'd like two shillin' better," the prodigy answered after some thought.
"Here you are, then! Catch! -- A fine child, Mrs. Smith!"
"Lor' bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. He gets a'most too much for me to manage, 'specially when my man is away days at a time."
"Away, is he?" said Holmes in a disappointed voice. "I am sorry for that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith."
"He's been away since yesterday mornin', sir, and, truth to tell, I am beginnin' to feel frightened about him. But if it was about a boat, sir, maybe I could serve as well."
"I wanted to hire his steam launch."
"Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has gone. That's what puzzles me, for I know there ain't more coals in her than would take her to about Woolwich and back. If he'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 here for?"
"A wooden-legged man?" said Holmes with bland surprise.
"Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap that's called more'n once for my old man. It was him that roused him up yesternight and, what's more, my man knew he was comin', for he had steam up in the launch. I tell you straight, sir, I don't feel easy in my mind about it."
"But, my dear Mrs. Smith," said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, "you are frightening yourself about nothing. How could you possibly tell that it was the wooden-legged man who came in the night? I don't quite understand how you can be so sure."
"His voice, sir. I knew his voice, which is kind o' thick and foggy. He tapped at the winder -- about three it would be. 'Show a leg, matey,' says he: 'time to turn out guard.' My old man woke up Jim -- that's my eldest -- and away they went without so much as a word to me. I could hear the wooden leg clackin' on the stones."
"And was this wooden-legged man alone?"
"Couldn't say, I am sure, sir. I didn't hear no one else."
"I am sorry, Mrs. Smith, for I wanted a steam launch, and I have heard good reports of the -- Let me see, what is her name?"
"The Aurora, sir."
"Ah! She's not that old green launch with a yellow line, very broad in the beam?"
"No, indeed. She's as trim a little thing as any on the river. She's been fresh painted, black with two red streaks."
"Thanks. I hope that you will hear soon from Mr. Smith. I am going down the river, and if I should see anything of the Aurora I shall let him know that you are uneasy. A black funnel, you say?"
"No, sir. Black with a white band."
"Ah, of course. It was the sides which were black. Good- morning, Mrs. Smith. There is a boatman here with a wherry, Watson. We shall take it and cross the river."
"The main thing with people of that sort," said Holmes as we sat in the sheets of the wherry, "is never to let them think that their information can be of the slightest importance to you. If you do they will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you listen to them under protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what you want."
"Our course now seems pretty clear," said I.
"What would you do, then?"
"I would engage a launch and go down the river on the track of the Aurora."
"My dear fellow, it would be a colossal task. She may have touched at any wharf on either side of the stream between here and Greenwich. Below the bridge there is a perfect labyrinth of landing-places for miles. It would take you days and days to exhaust them if you set about it alone."
"Employ the police, then."
"No. I shall probably call Athelney Jones in at the last 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 wharfingers?
"Worse and worse! Our men would know that the chase was hot at their heels, and they would be off out of the country. As it is, they are likely enough to leave, but as long as they think they are perfectly safe they will be in no hurry. Jones's energy will be of use to us there, for his view of the case is sure to push itself into the daily press, and the runaways will think that everyone is off on the wrong scent."
"What are we to do, then?" I asked as we landed near Millbank Penitentiary.
"Take this hansom, drive home, have some breakfast, and get an hour's sleep. It is quite on the cards that we may be afoot to-night again. Stop at a telegraph office, cabby! We will keep Toby, for he may be of use to us yet."
We pulled up at the Great Peter Street Post-Office, and Holmes dispatched his wire.
"Whom do you think that is to?" he asked as we resumed our journey.
"I am sure I don't know."
"You remember the Baker Street division of the detective police force whom I employed in the Jefferson Hope case?"
"Well," said I, laughing.
"This is just the case where they might be invaluable. If they fail I have other resources, but I shall try them first. That wire was to my dirty little lieutenant, Wiggins, and I expect that he and his gang will be with us before we have finished our breakfast."
It was between eight and nine o'clock now, and I was 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 street.
"If the launch is above water they will find her," said Holmes as he rose from the table and lit his pipe. "They can go 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 bed, Holmes?"
"No: I am not tired. I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely. I am going to smoke and to think over this queer business to which my fair client has introduced us. If ever man had an easy task, this of ours ought to be. Wooden-legged men are not so common, but the other man must, I should think, be absolutely unique."
"That other man again!"
"I have no wish to make a mystery of him to you, anyway. But you must have formed your own opinion. Now, do consider the data. Diminutive footmarks, toes never fettered by boots, naked feet, stone-headed wooden mace, great agility, small 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 the shelf.
"This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published. It may be looked upon as the very latest authority. What have we here?
"Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of 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.