the sign of four chapter 10


The Hunt Begins

Toby pulled at his lead and ran quickly through the grass. He ran so quickly that it was difficult to follow him.

The sky was beginning to get light now. Toby ran along the paths in the garden under the trees and bushes. Then he reached the garden wall and ran along beside it. Finally, he stopped at a place in the wall where the bricks were loose.

‘This is the place where they got into the garden,’ said Holmes. ‘It is easy to climb up and down here. Look. Do you see this mark? It is the print of a man’s hand.’

He pointed at a flat stone. I saw a dirty hand print on the stone.

Holmes picked up the dog and climbed over the wall. I followed. Toby soon found the trail again.

Toby did not look to the right or the left. He ran straight ahead with his nose to the ground. He loved the smell of creosote. Nothing could stop him from following it.

As we hurried along, I thought about the wooden-legged man and the pygmy. I wondered what would happen when we found them. I knew that they were dangerous. I wished that I had brought my gun with me.

Toby was still following the trail. Now we were passing through small narrow streets. The people were just beginning to wake up. The men were going on their way to work. The women were opening the windows and cleaning their houses.

Suddenly, Toby ran down a path. This path led straight down towards the River Thames. Soon the river appeared in front of us. Toby ran faster and faster.

The path went down to the water’s edge. It ended at a small wooden jetty. Toby stopped. He ran backwards and forwards trying to find the smell. He looked up at us sadly with his large eyes. He did not know what to do.

‘They have got into a boat here,’ said Holmes.

There was a small house beside the jetty. A notice was hanging from one of the windows. On it was written in large letters:

MORDECAI SMITH: Boats and steam launch for hire.

There was no one on the jetty. Several small boats were near the jetty on the bank of the river. Holmes looked at these boats.

‘I wonder where the steam launch is,’ he said. ‘I think we must ask a few questions.’

He knocked loudly at the door of the house. A large woman with a red face opened it. A child was crying somewhere inside the house. I saw that the woman was very upset about something. She had been crying.

‘Good morning,’ said Holmes politely. ‘Are you Mordecai Smith’s wife?’

‘Yes,’ replied the woman. ‘What do you want?’

‘Could I speak to your husband, please?’ asked Holmes.

‘No, you can’t. He isn’t here. I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning.’

‘Oh,’ said Holmes, ‘I wanted to hire a boat.’

‘Well, perhaps I can help you,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘Which boat do you want?’

‘I wanted to hire the steam launch. I have heard it is a very good boat. Let me see. What’s the name? The…’

‘The Aurora, sir,’ said Mrs Smith.

‘Oh, yes, that’s right. I remember now. But where is the Aurora?.’ said Holmes, looking around. ‘I don’t see a steam launch anywhere.’

‘Oh, sir. My husband has gone in the Aurora,’ Mrs Smith replied and burst into tears. ‘I’m very worried about him. I don’t trust that wooden-legged man.’

‘What wooden-legged man, Mrs Smith?’ asked Holmes in a surprised voice.

‘I don’t know who he is, sir. But my husband went with a wooden-legged man in the Aurora yesterday morning and hasn’t come back!’


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