the sign of four chapter 2


Miss Morstan’s Story

Holmes rubbed his hands together excitedly. His eyes shone and he leant forward in his chair.

‘Tell us your story,’ he said.

Miss Morstan began her story and we listened.

‘My father,’ she began, ‘was a captain in the army. When I was very young, he was sent to India. My mother was dead and I had no other relatives in England. So, while my father was away, I was sent to school.

‘When I was seventeen, I received a letter from my father. He said that he was leaving India and coming back to England. He gave me the address of a hotel in London. He asked me to meet him there.

‘I was very happy and excited about seeing my dear father again. I went to London and arrived at the hotel. I asked for Captain Morstan, my father. But I was told by the hotel manager that my father was not there. He had gone out the night before and not returned.

‘I waited all day and all night, but my father didn’t come back to the hotel. Finally, I went to the police. They advertised for Captain Morstan in all the newspapers, but without success. I never saw my dear father again.’

Miss Morstan began to cry.

Holmes opened his notebook. ‘What was the date that your father disappeared?’ he asked.

‘It was 3rd December 1878 — nearly ten years ago.’

‘What happened to his luggage?’

‘It was still at the hotel,’ replied Miss Morstan. ‘The cases contained some books and clothes, and some paintings and ornaments from the Andaman Islands.’

‘The Andaman Islands. What are they?’ I asked.

‘A small group of islands near the coast of India,’ said Miss Morstan. ‘There is a prison on one of the islands. My father was one of the officers in charge of the prisoners. He worked there for many years.’

‘Did your father have any friends in London?’ asked Holmes.

‘Only one — Major Sholto. He was also in charge of the prisoners in the Andaman Islands. The Major had retired from the army some time before my father disappeared. He was living in London and, of course, I went to see him. But he didn’t know that my father had arrived in England.’

‘Your story is very interesting,’ said Holmes, rubbing his hands together once more. ‘Please, go on.’

‘Four years after my father disappeared,’ continued Miss Morstan, ‘I saw an advertisement in the newspaper. The date was 4th May 1882. To my surprise, the advertisement asked for the address of Miss Mary Morstan. It said that if I advertised my address, I would receive some very good news.’

‘What did you do?’ asked Holmes.

‘I advertised my address in the same newspaper. The next day, I received a small cardboard box. Inside the box was a lovely pearl. And I have received another five pearls since that day. They arrive every year on the same day. Look.’

She opened a flat box and showed us six beautiful pearls.

‘There was no letter with the pearls?’ asked Holmes.

‘Nothing at all,’ replied Miss Morstan. Then she continued. ‘But the strangest thing of all happened this morning. That is why I came to see you. This morning, I received a letter. Please read it.’

‘Thank you,’ said Holmes He took the letter and studied it carefully. Then he handed it to me.

London 17th November 1887

Dear Miss Morstan,

Go to the Lyceum Theatre tonight at seven o’clock. Stand outside the entrance, on the left. If you are afraid, bring two friends. Do not bring the police.

You have been deceived, but you will learn the truth tonight.

Your Unknown Friend

‘What can this letter mean?’ asked Miss Morstan. ‘I am afraid. What should I do, Mr Holmes? You are a clever man and can give me good advice.’

Holmes jumped up excitedly.

‘We shall go tonight to the Lyceum Theatre — the three of us you and me and Doctor Watson. The letter asks you to bring two friends with you. You will come with us, won’t you, Watson?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘I’ll be very happy to come.’

I was speaking the truth. I wanted to help Miss Morstan.

‘You are both very kind,’ said Miss Morstan. ‘Since my father disappeared, I have been alone in the world. I have no friends whom I can ask for help. What time shall we meet this evening?’

Holmes looked at his watch.

‘It’s now half past three,’ he said. ‘Come back at six o’clock. Don’t be afraid, Miss Morstan. This evening we’ll come with you to the Lyceum Theatre. We’ll meet your unknown friend. And we’ll try to solve the mystery.’

‘Thank you,’ said Miss Morstan. She smiled at us and left the room.

‘What a lovely woman,’ I remarked.

‘I’m going out now,’ said Holmes. ‘I’ll be back in about an hour.’

When Holmes had gone I sat down by the window and tried to read a book. But I could stop thinking about Miss Morstan. I hoped that we would be able to help her.


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