|The Sign of Four|
THE STATEMENT OF THE CASE
MISS MORSTAN entered the room with a firm step and an
outward composure of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and
dressed in the most perfect taste. There was, however, a plainness and simplicity about
her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was a sombre
grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban of the same dull hue,
relieved only by a suspicion of white feather in the side. Her face had neither regularity
of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet and amiable, and her
large blue eyes were singularly spiritual and sympathetic. In an experience of women which
extends over many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face
which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature. I could not but observe
that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her hand
quivered, and she showed every sign of intense inward agitation.
State your case, said he in brisk business tones.
I felt that my position was an embarrassing one.
You will, I am sure, excuse me, I said, rising from my chair.
To my surprise, the young lady held up her gloved hand to detain me.
If your friend, she said, would be good enough to stop, he might be of inestimable service to me.
I relapsed into my chair.
Briefly, she continued, the facts are these. My father was an officer in an Indian regiment, who sent me home when I was quite a child. My mother was dead, and I had no relative in England. I was placed, however, in a comfortable boarding establishment at Edinburgh, and there I remained until I was seventeen years of age. In the year 1878 my father, who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months leave and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived all safe and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember, was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the Langham and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the  advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate father. He came home with his heart full of hope to find some peace, some comfort, and instead
She put her hand to her throat, and a choking sob cut short the sentence.
The date? asked Holmes, opening his notebook.
He disappeared upon the third of December, 1878nearly ten years ago.
Remained at the hotel. There was nothing in it to suggest a cluesome clothes, some books, and a considerable number of curiosities from the Andaman Islands. He had been one of the officers in charge of the convict-guard there.
Had he any friends in town?
Only one that we know ofMajor Sholto, of his own regiment, the Thirty-fourth Bombay Infantry. The major had retired some little time before and lived at Upper Norwood. We communicated with him, of course, but he did not even know that his brother officer was in England.
A singular case, remarked Holmes.
I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About six years agoto be exact, upon the fourth of May, 1882an advertisement appeared in the Times asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan, and stating that it would be to her advantage to come forward. There was no name or address appended. I had at that time just entered the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of governess. By her advice I published my address in the advertisement column. The same day there arrived through the post a small cardboard box addressed to me, which I found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl. No word of writing was enclosed. Since then every year upon the same date there has always appeared a similar box, containing a similar pearl, without any clue as to the sender. They have been pronounced by an expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable value. You can see for yourself that they are very handsome.
She opened a flat box as she spoke and showed me six of the finest pearls that I had ever seen.
Your statement is most interesting, said Sherlock Holmes. Has anything else occurred to you?
Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to you. This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself.
Thank you, said Holmes. The envelope, too, please. Post-mark, London, S. W. Date, July 7. Hum! Mans thumb-mark on cornerprobably postman. Best quality paper. Envelopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery. No address.
Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery! What do
you intend to do, Miss Morstan?
|David Soucek, 1998|