the sign of four chapter 13


The Chase on the River

At seven o’clock that evening, the three of us — Inspector Jones, Holmes and I — went down to the river. Both Holmes and I had guns in our pockets.

Inspector Jones had promised to let us use the police launch. This launch was now waiting. Four strong men were on board the launch.

Soon we were moving quickly down the River Thames. The police launch was very fast. We passed all the other boats on the river without difficulty. This pleased Holmes very much.

By eight o’clock, we had arrived opposite the boatyard where the Aurora was hidden. It was now dark. We waited. Ten minutes passed.

Suddenly a launch came out of the boatyard. It was black with two red stripes. It was moving very quickly.

‘That’s the Aurora!’ cried Holmes. ‘Follow it quickly! Faster, faster! We must catch them!’

We were going so fast that the police launch started to shake. But we could not get near to the Aurora.

The chase became more and more exciting. We went in and out between other boats. Many times I closed my eyes. I was sure that we would hit something.

At last we got closer to the Aurora. Inspector Jones turned on a light and shone it on the Aurora.

‘Stop!’ he said. ‘Stop. We are the police!’

In the lamplight we could see some men on board the Aurora. One man was sitting at the back of the launch. Beside him was a strange dark shape.

We could also see Mordecai Smith, the owner of the Aurora.

He was working as hard as he could. He was trying to make the engine of the launch go faster.

Inspector Jones shouted again. ‘Stop!’

Suddenly, the man at the back of the Aurora stood up. He shouted at us angrily. He was a big strong man. Then I noticed that his right leg was missing. There was a wooden stump in its place. This was the wooden-legged man!

At the sound of the man’s voice, the strange dark shape beside him moved. It was a small dark man — the smallest man I have ever seen. But the pygmy’s head was large. His face was hard and cruel.

As soon as Holmes saw the pygmy, he took out his gun. I did the same.

‘Shoot him if he moves his hand,’ said Holmes.

At that moment, the pygmy put a short piece of wood to his lips.

We fired our guns together. The pygmy fell backwards into the water with a terrible cry.

The wooden-legged man turned the Aurora towards the bank of the river. As soon as the Aurora touched the bank of the river, he jumped out. It happened so quickly that we were not able to slow down and stop the police launch. The man had landed in the soft, wet mud of the river bank. But his wooden leg had stuck in the mud. He could not move.

We managed to turn the police launch round. We went towards the wooden-legged man and threw him a rope. Then we pulled him up over the side of our launch.

Mordecai Smith was still on the Aurora. But he did not try to escape. We tied the Aurora to our launch. The chase was over.

On the deck of the Aurora there was a big, heavy chest. We were sure that it contained the Agra Treasure. We carried the heavy box onto the police launch.

Suddenly Holmes stopped and pointed.

‘Look,’ he said.

I looked where Holmes was pointing. I saw one of the pygmy’s poisoned toms. It was fixed in the wood where Holmes and I had been standing. The poisoned thorn had passed through the air between us.

Holmes was smiling, but I felt cold and sick. We had escaped a horrible death.

As we went back up the river, we shone our light on the water. We were looking for the body of the pygmy. But we saw nothing. His body still lies somewhere at the bottom of the River Thames.


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