I am off down the river, Watson, said he.
I have been turning it over in my mind, and I can see only one way out of it. It is
worth trying, at all events.
Surely I can come with you, then? said I.
No; you can be much more useful if you will remain here
as my representative. I am loath to go, for it is quite on the cards that some message may
come during  the day,
though Wiggins was despondent about it last night. I want you to open all notes and
telegrams, and to act on your own judgment if any news should come. Can I rely upon
I am afraid that you will not be able to wire to me, for
I can hardly tell yet where I may find myself. If I am in luck, however, I may not be gone
so very long. I shall have news of some sort or other before I get back.
I had heard nothing of him by breakfast time. On opening the Standard,
however, I found that there was a fresh allusion to the business.
- With reference to the Upper Norwood tragedy [it remarked] we
have reason to believe that the matter promises to be even more complex and mysterious
than was originally supposed. Fresh evidence has shown that it is quite impossible that
Mr. Thaddeus Sholto could have been in any way concerned in the matter. He and the
housekeeper, Mrs. Bernstone, were both released yesterday evening. It is believed,
however, that the police have a clue as to the real culprits, and that it is being
prosecuted by Mr. Athelney Jones, of Scotland Yard, with all his well-known energy and
sagacity. Further arrests may be expected at any moment.
That is satisfactory so far as it goes, thought
I. Friend Sholto is safe, at any rate. I wonder what the fresh clue may be, though
it seems to be a stereotyped form whenever the police have made a blunder.
I tossed the paper down upon the table, but at that moment my
eye caught an advertisement in the agony column. It ran in this way:
- LOSTWhereas Mordecai Smith, boatman,
and his son Jim, left Smiths Wharf at or about three oclock last Tuesday
morning in the steam launch Aurora, black with two red stripes, funnel black with
a white band, the sum of five pounds will be paid to anyone who can give information to
Mrs. Smith, at Smiths Wharf, or at 221B, Baker Street, as to the whereabouts of the
said Mordecai Smith and the launch Aurora.
This was clearly Holmess doing. The Baker Street
address was enough to prove that. It struck me as rather ingenious because it might be
read by the fugitives without their seeing in it more than the natural anxiety of a wife
for her missing husband.
It was a long day. Every time that a knock came to the door or
a sharp step passed in the street, I imagined that it was either Holmes returning or an
answer to his advertisement. I tried to read, but my thoughts would wander off to our
strange quest and to the ill-assorted and villainous pair whom we were pursuing. Could
there be, I wondered, some radical flaw in my companions reasoning? Might he not be
suffering from some huge self-deception? Was it not possible that his nimble and
speculative mind had built up this wild theory upon faulty premises? I had never known him
to be wrong, and yet the keenest reasoner may occasionally be deceived. He was likely, I
thought, to fall into error through the over-refinement of his logichis preference
for a subtle and bizarre explanation when a plainer and more commonplace one lay ready to
his hand. Yet, on the other hand, I had myself seen the evidence, and I had heard the
reasons for his deductions. When I looked back on the long chain of curious circumstances,
many of them trivial in themselves but all tending in the same direction, I could not  disguise from myself that
even if Holmess explanation were incorrect the true theory must be equally outre and
At three oclock on the afternoon there was a loud peal
at the bell, an authoritative voice in the hall, and, to my surprise, no less a person
than Mr. Athelney Jones was shown up to me. Very different was he, however, from the
brusque and masterful professor of common sense who had taken over the case so confidently
at Upper Norwood. His expression was downcast, and his bearing meek and even apologetic.
Good-day, sir; good-day, said he. Mr.
Sherlock Holmes is out, I understand.
Yes, and I cannot be sure when he will be back. But
perhaps you would care to wait. Take that chair and try one of these cigars.
Thank you; I dont mind if I do, said he,
mopping his face with a red bandanna handkerchief.
And a whisky and soda?
Well, half a glass. It is very hot for the time of year,
and I have had a good deal to worry and try me. You know my theory about this Norwood
I remember that you expressed one.
Well, I have been obliged to reconsider it. I had my net
drawn tightly round Mr. Sholto, sir, when pop he went through a hole in the middle of it.
He was able to prove an alibi which could not be shaken. From the time that he left his
brothers room he was never out of sight of someone or other. So it could not be he
who climbed over roofs and through trapdoors. Its a very dark case, and my
professional credit is at stake. I should be very glad of a little assistance.
We all need help sometimes, said I.
Your friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, is a wonderful man,
sir, said he in a husky and confidential voice. Hes a man who is not to
be beat. I have known that young man go into a good many cases, but I never saw the case
yet that he could not throw a light upon. He is irregular in his methods and a little
quick perhaps in jumping at theories, but, on the whole, I think he would have made a most
promising officer, and I dont care who knows it. I have had a wire from him this
morning, by which I understand that he has got some clue to this Sholto business. Here is
He took the telegram out of his pocket and handed it to me. It
was dated from Poplar at twelve oclock.
Go to Baker Street at once [it said]. If I have not
returned, wait for me. I am close on the track of the Sholto gang. You can come with us
to-night if you want to be in at the finish.
This sounds well. He has evidently picked up the
scent again, said I.
Ah, then he has been at fault too, exclaimed Jones
with evident satisfaction. Even the best of us are thrown off sometimes. Of course
this may prove to be a false alarm but it is my duty as an officer of the law to allow no
chance to slip. But there is someone at the door. Perhaps this is he.
A heavy step was heard ascending the stair, with a great
wheezing and rattling as from a man who was sorely put to it for breath. Once or twice he
stopped, as though the climb were too much for him, but at last he made his way to our
door and entered. His appearance corresponded to the sounds which we had heard. He was an
aged man, clad in seafaring garb, with an old pea-jacket buttoned up to his throat. His
back was bowed, his knees were shaky, and his breathing was  painfully asthmatic. As he leaned upon a thick oaken
cudgel his shoulders heaved in the effort to draw the air into his lungs. He had a
coloured scarf round his chin, and I could see little of his face save a pair of keen dark
eyes, overhung by bushy white brows and long gray side-whiskers. Altogether he gave me the
impression of a respectable master mariner who had fallen into years and poverty.
What is it, my man? I asked.
He looked about him in the slow methodical fashion of old age.
Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here? said he.
No; but I am acting for him. You can tell me any message
you have for him.
It was to him himself I was to tell it, said he.
But I tell you that I am acting for him. Was it about
Mordecai Smiths boat?
Yes. I knows well where it is. An I knows where
the men he is after are. An I knows where the treasure is. I knows all about
Then tell me, and I shall let him know.
It was to him I was to tell it, he repeated with
the petulant obstinacy of a very old man.
Well, you must wait for him.
No, no; I aint goin to lose a whole day to
please no one. If Mr. Holmes aint here, then Mr. Holmes must find it all out for
himself. I dont care about the look of either of you, and I wont tell a
He shuffled towards the door, but Athelney Jones got in front
Wait a bit, my friend, said he. You have
important information, and you must not walk off. We shall keep you, whether you like or
not, until our friend returns.
The old man made a little run towards the door, but, as
Athelney Jones put his broad back up against it, he recognized the uselessness of
Pretty sort o treatment this! he cried,
stamping his stick. I come here to see a gentleman, and you two, who I never saw in
my life, seize me and treat me in this fashion!
You will be none the worse, I said. We shall
recompense you for the loss of your time. Sit over here on the sofa, and you will not have
long to wait.
He came across sullenly enough and seated himself with his
face resting on his hands. Jones and I resumed our cigars and our talk. Suddenly, however,
Holmess voice broke in upon us.
I think that you might offer me a cigar too, he
We both started in our chairs. There was Holmes sitting close
to us with an air of quiet amusement.
Holmes! I exclaimed. You here! But where is
the old man?
Here is the old man, said he, holding out a
heap of white hair. Here he iswig, whiskers, eyebrows, and all. I thought my
disguise was pretty good, but I hardly expected that it would stand that test.
Ah, you rogue! cried Jones, highly delighted.
You would have made an actor and a rare one. You had the proper workhouse cough, and
those weak legs of yours are worth ten pound a week. I thought I knew the glint of your
eye, though. You didnt get away from us so easily, you see.
I have been working in that get-up all day, said
he, lighting his cigar. You see, a good many of the criminal classes begin to know
meespecially since our friend here took to publishing some of my cases: so I can
only go on the war-path under some simple disguise like this. You got my wire?
that was what brought me here.
How has your case prospered?
It has all come to nothing. I have had to release two of
my prisoners, and there is no evidence against the other two.
Never mind. We shall give you two others in the place of
them. But you must put yourself under my orders. You are welcome to all the official
credit, but you must act on the lines that I point out. Is that agreed?
Entirely, if you will help me to the men.
Well, then, in the first place I shall want a fast
police-boata steam launchto be at the Westminster Stairs at seven
That is easily managed. There is always one about there,
but I can step across the road and telephone to make sure.
Then I shall want two staunch men in case of
There will be two or three in the boat. What else?
When we secure the men we shall get the treasure. I
think that it would be a pleasure to my friend here to take the box round to the young
lady to whom half of it rightfully belongs. Let her be the first to open it. Eh,
It would be a great pleasure to me.
Rather an irregular proceeding, said Jones,
shaking his head. However, the whole thing is irregular, and I suppose we must wink
at it. The treasure must afterwards be handed over to the authorities until after the
Certainly. That is easily managed. One other point. I
should much like to have a few details about this matter from the lips of Jonathan Small
himself. You know I like to work the details of my cases out. There is no objection to my
having an unofficial interview with him, either here in my rooms or elsewhere, as long as
he is efficiently guarded?
Well, you are master of the situation. I have had no
proof yet of the existence of this Jonathan Small. However, if you can catch him, I
dont see how I can refuse you an interview with him.
That is understood, then?
Perfectly. Is there anything else?
Only that I insist upon your dining with us. It will be
ready in half an hour. I have oysters and a brace of grouse, with something a little
choice in white wines.Watson, you have never yet recognized my merits as a