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
We were all astonished by the
appearance of the apartment into
which he invited us. In that
sorry house it looked as out
of place as a diamond of the
first water in a setting of brass.
The richest and glossiest of
curtains and tapestries draped
the walls, looped back here and
there to expose some richly mounted
painting or Oriental vase. The
carpet was of amber and black,
so soft and so thick that the
foot sank pleasantly into it,
as into a bed of moss. Two great
tiger-skins thrown athwart it
increased the suggestion of Eastern
luxury, as did a huge hookah
which stood upon a mat in the
corner. A lamp in the fashion
of a silver dove was hung from
an almost invisible golden wire
in the centre of the room. As
it burned it filled the air with
a subtle and aromatic odour.
"Mr. Thaddeus Sholto," said
the little man, still jerking
and smiling. "That is my name.
You are Miss Morstan, of course.
And these gentlemen --"
is Mr. Sherlock
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
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
"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
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
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 invaluable
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
He laughed until his ears were
"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.
as you may
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.
very well remember
which was caused by the disappearance
of Captain Morstan. We read the
details in the papers, and knowing
that he had been a friend of
our father's we discussed the
case freely in his presence.
He used to join in our speculations
as to what could have happened.
Never for an instant did we suspect
that he had the whole secret
hidden in his own breast, that
of all men he alone knew the
fate of Arthur Morstan.
did know, however,
that some mystery,
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
in 1882 my
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.
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.
have only one
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.
will tell you
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.
a long time
I sat half
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 --'
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.
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
"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 welcome, visitors."
Mr. Thaddeus Sholto ceased
and sat twitching on his luxurious
settee. We all remained silent,
with our thoughts upon the new
development which the mysterious
business had taken. Holmes was
the first to spring to his feet.
"You have done well, sir, from
first to last," said he. "It
is possible that we may be able
to make you some small return
by throwing some light upon that
which is still dark to you. But,
as Miss Morstan remarked just
now, it is late, and we had best
put the matter through without
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 door.
"This, Miss Morstan, is Pondicherry
Lodge," said Mr. Thad- deus Sholto
as he handed her out.