A Terrible Murder
Thaddeus Sholto began to shake with fear. His face was very white.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked the housekeeper. ‘What is the matter with my brother?’
‘He locked himself in his room. He was there all day. When I knocked on the door he would not answer me,’ she said. ‘I knew that something must be wrong. A short time ago, I went upstairs. I looked through the keyhole of the door of his room. I saw your brother’s face, Mr Thaddeus. It looks terrible. You must go up Mr Thaddeus and see for yourself.’
The housekeeper started to cry again.
‘You must all go upstairs,’ said Miss Morstan. ‘I’ll stay here and look after this poor woman.’
We left the two women — Miss Morstan and the housekeeper — downstairs. Holmes took the lamp and led the way. Thaddeus Sholto and I followed him.
We climbed up the stairs. There was a passage at the top of the stairs. At the end of the passage was a door. Thaddeus Sholto pointed to this door.
‘That’s the door of my brother’s room,’ he whispered.
We hurried forwards. Holmes turned the handle but the door was locked. Then he bent down and looked through the keyhole. He stood up again quickly.
‘My God!’ he cried. ‘It’s the work of the Devil!’
I bent down and put my eye to the keyhole. I felt very sick and afraid. The bright moonlight was shining into the room. I could clearly see a face. This face was looking straight at me. It did not move. There was a horrible smile on the face.
‘This is terrible,’ I said to Holmes. ‘What shall we do?’
‘We must break down the door,’ he replied.
We threw ourselves at the door and it broke with a sudden crack. We were inside Bartholomew Sholto’s room.
Bartholomew Sholto was dead. He was sitting in a chair by a table. His body was stiff and cold. I could see that he had been dead for many hours. The dead man’s body was twisted with pain. There was a horrible smile on his face.
There was a piece of paper on the body. Holmes picked it up and read it.
‘Look,’ he said.
In the light of the lamp, I read with horror — «The Sign of Four».
‘What does it mean?’ I asked.
‘It means murder,’ Holmes replied. He pointed to Bartholomew Sholto’s ear. ‘Look.’
I looked. I saw something sticking in the dead man’s skin near his ear.
‘It looks like a thorn,’ I said.
‘It is a thorn,’ said Holmes. ‘You can take it out. But be careful. It is poison.’
I took the thorn between my finger and thumb. I pulled it away easily from the dead man’s skin. I looked at it. It was hard and sharp. I saw that it had poison on it.
‘So this is how Bartholomew Sholto died,’ I said. ‘What a terrible death. But who killed him? And why?’
We had forgotten about Thaddeus Sholto. He was still standing in the doorway. Suddenly he gave a cry.
‘The treasure has gone!’ he cried. ‘They have stolen the treasure. Look. Do you see that hole in the ceiling? We lowered the treasure down through that hole last night. After I had helped my brother with the treasure, I left him here in this room. I was the last person to see my brother alive. I heard him lock the door as I came downstairs.’
‘What time was that?’ asked Holmes.
‘It was ten o’clock. And now my brother, Bartholomew, is dead and the Great Agra Treasure has gone!’