the sign of four chapter 11


Mastery on the River

‘I’m very sorry to hear that, Mrs Smith,’ said Holmes. ‘Tell me, was this wooden-legged man alone?’

‘I don’t know, sir. I didn’t see anyone else. But it was very dark — it was three o’clock in the morning. I could not be sure.’

‘What does the Aurora look like?’ asked Holmes.

‘The Aurora is black, sir, with two red stripes down each side. It has a black funnel with a white stripe. The Aurora is the fastest boat on the river,’ answered Mrs Smith.

Holmes looked worried.

‘That’s very interesting,’ he said. ‘Try not to worry about your husband, Mrs Smith. I am going up the river myself. If I see Mr Smith, I will tell him that I have seen you. Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye and thank you,’ said Mordecai Smith’s wife. She had stopped crying. She went inside her house and closed the door.

‘Watson, we must find Mordecai Smith and the Aurora as soon as possible,’ said Holmes. ‘Mordecai Smith and the wooden-legged man are working together. Smith has taken the two murderers in his steam launch. They are all hiding somewhere on the river.’

‘It will be easy to find them,’ I said. ‘You must tell the police at once.’

Holmes shook his head.

‘No. I don’t want these criminals to know that anyone is looking for them. They will try to escape again.

‘I have a better idea,’ Holmes went on. ‘I have many agents everywhere up and down the river. These agents are clever. I pay them to bring me information. They always know what is happening on the river. I will ask my agents to look for Mordecai

Smith and the Aurora. But you look tired, Watson. Let’s go home and have breakfast.’

It was now nearly eight o’clock in the morning. I did feel very tired. I was glad to go home to Baker Street.

When I had had a bath and changed my clothes, I came downstairs to breakfast. Holmes was drinking coffee and reading a newspaper. ‘Look, Watson,’ he said. ‘Here is a report about the murder of Bartholomew Sholto at Pondicherry Lodge. And about the arrest of Thaddeus Sholto by Inspector Jones last night.’

I took the paper and read the report. I felt sorry for Thaddeus Sholto. Inspector Jones had made a stupid mistake by arresting him. I knew that Sholto was not guilty of the murder of his brother. I hoped that we would be able to help Thaddeus. But would we be able to find the murderers?

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. A few minutes later, twelve children ran into the room.

Their clothes were dirty and ragged. They had no shoes on their feet. Their hair was untidy and their faces had not been washed for a very long time. But they seemed happy and cheerful.

‘Good morning, Mr Holmes,’ said the children together.

‘Who are these children, Holmes?’ I asked in astonishment.

Holmes laughed.

‘These are my agents,’ he said. ‘I sent a message for them to come. Look at them. They can go anywhere, see everything, hear everything. Nobody is afraid of children.’

Holmes gave each of the children some money. Then he told them what he wanted them to do.

‘You must find a steam launch called the Aurora,’ he said.

‘It is on the river somewhere and belongs to Mordecai Smith. The Aurora is black with two red stripes down each side. It has a black funnel with a white stripe. You must find it. Now go!’

The children ran out of the room, all talking together. They went down the stairs and out into the street.

‘My agents will find Mordecai Smith and the Aurora,’ said Holmes. ‘Now we must wait.’


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