the sign of four chapter 9


The Dog That Loved Creosote

‘The police don’t want my help, Watson,’ said Holmes, as soon as the Inspector had gone. ‘Inspector Jones thinks he has solved the crime and caught the murderer. But they have arrested the wrong man.’

I agreed with Holmes. I was sure that Thaddeus Sholto was not the murderer.

‘We must be quick, Watson,’ said Holmes. ‘I want you to do two things. First, take Miss Morstan home. Second, go to this address — 3 Pinchin Lane. Ask for Mr Sherman. He has an old dog called Toby. I want you to bring Toby here. Meet me here in two hours’ time.’

I took Miss Morstan home in Thaddeus Sholto’s cab. She was very upset by what had happened and spoke very little. I promised that I would visit her the next day. Then I went to the address which Holmes had given me.

It was the middle of the night, and the streets of London were black and silent. As the cab went along, I thought about everything that had happened.

We had discovered the truth about some things — the death of Captain Morstan, the sending of the pearls to Miss Morstan, the advertisement, the letter. All these things were clear.

Now there were other mysteries which we had to solve. Where was the Indian treasure? What was the plan found in Morstan’s luggage? Who wanted Bartholomew Sholto to die? Where were the pygmy and the wooden-legged man?

What did all these things mean? And what was the mysterious Sign of Four? I hoped that Sherlock Holmes would discover the answer to these questions.

Soon I arrived in Pinchin Lane — the address where Holmes had sent me. It was a very poor street and the houses were old and dirty. I found house number three and knocked on the door.

After some time, a face looked out from a window above. It was not a friendly face.

‘Who are you?’ said the face angrily. ‘What do you want?’

‘Come down and open the door,’ I said. ‘I have something to ask you.’

‘Go away at once,’ said the face. ‘If you don’t, I’ll let out fifty dogs upon you.’

‘My friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes…’ I began.

At these words, the window suddenly shut and a few minutes later the door opened. I saw an old man with grey hair and a beard, holding a candle in his hand.

‘Come in, sir,’ he said. ‘I’m Mr Sherman. I’m sorry that I was rude. I didn’t know that you were a friend of Sherlock Holmes.’

I went into the small dirty house and stopped in astonishment. There were cages everywhere I looked. All the cages contained different kinds of animals. I could see their eyes shining in the candlelight.

‘What does Mr Holmes want?’ asked the old man.

‘A dog called Toby,’ I answered.

‘Toby is my best dog,’ said Mr Sherman. ‘He loves to follow strong smells. Especially the smell of creosote. That’s his favourite.’

‘That’s why Mr Holmes wants him,’ I said.

‘Wait here. I’ll go and get him.’

The old man came back after a few minutes. He was pulling a dog on a lead. The dog looked very strange. It had very long ears and very short legs and its eyes were large and sad.

‘This is Toby,’ said Mr Sherman. ‘He’ll go with you. He’s a friendly dog.’

The dog licked my hand and wagged its tail. I put some money into Mr Sherman’s hand and the old man gave me Toby’s lead.

When I got back to Pondicherry Lodge, I found Sherlock Holmes standing outside the door. He was smoking his pipe.

‘Excellent, Watson!’ he said when he saw me. ‘You have done well. Good dog, Toby! Come here! Good dog!’

Holmes took a handkerchief out of his pocket and gave it to Toby to smell. The handkerchief was covered with creosote. The dog went mad with excitement. His sad eyes shone with happiness and his tail wagged.

‘See how he loves the smell,’ said Holmes. ‘We won’t have any problems now.’

Holmes pointed at a drain pipe which went down from the roof of the house.

‘While you were away, Watson,’ he said, ‘I went up onto the roof and discovered how the pygmy climbed up and climbed down again. He used that drain-pipe.’

The drain-pipe ran all the way down from the roof to the garden below. There was a large barrel full of water under the end of the drain-pipe.

‘He climbed down that drain-pipe and onto the barrel beneath,’ said Holmes. ‘It was very easy to follow his trail. He left marks everywhere. He also dropped this.’

Holmes put his hand in his pocket and took out a small bag made of dried grass. I looked inside. To my horror, I saw five or six long dark thorns. They were the same as the one which killed Bartholomew Sholto.

‘The murderer has lost these,’ said Holmes. ‘Let’s hope that he doesn’t have any more. Don’t touch them, Watson. They are poisoned. But come. Where’s Toby? We must begin.’

Holmes took Toby’s lead and pulled the dog to the bottom of the water barrel. Toby smelled all round carefully. Suddenly, he began to bark excitedly. He had found his favourite smell — the smell of creosote. Then he started to pull at his lead. ‘He’s on the trail!’ cried Holmes. ‘Let’s go!’


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