THE SIGN OF FOUR

THE SIGN OF FOUR
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第13章

"It looks as though all the moles in England had been let loose in it.I have seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where the prospectors had been at work.""And from the same cause," said Holmes."These are the traces of the treasure seekers.You must remember that they were six years looking for it.No wonder that the grounds look like a gravel-pit."At that moment the door of the house burst open, and Thaddeus Sholto came running out, with his hands thrown forward and terror in his eyes.

"There is something amiss with Bartholomew!" he cried."I am frightened! My nerves cannot stand it."He was, indeed, half blubbering with fear, and his twitching, feeble face peeping out from the great astrakhan collar had the helpless, appealing expression of a terrified child.

"Come into the house," said Holmes in his crisp, firm way.

"Yes, do!" pleaded Thaddeus Sholto."I really do not feel equal to giving directions."We all followed him into the housekeeper's room, which stood upon the lefthand side of the passage.The old woman was pacing up and down with a scared look and restless, picking fingers, but the sight of Miss Morstan appeared to have a soothing effect upon her.

"God bless your sweet, calm face!" she cried with a hysterical sob."It does me good to see you.Oh, but I have been sorely tried this day!"Our companion patted her thin, work-worn hand and murmured some few words of kindly, womanly comfort which brought the colour back into the other's bloodless cheeks.

"Master has locked himself in and will not answer me," she explained."All day I have waited to hear from him, for he often likes to be alone; but an hour ago I feared that something was amiss, so Iwent up and peeped through the keyhole.You must go up, Mr.

Thaddeus- you must go up and look for yourself.I have seen Mr.

Bartholomew Sholto in joy and in sorrow for ten long years, but Inever saw him with such a face on him as that."Sherlock Holmes took the lamp and led the way, for Thaddeus Sholto's teeth were chattering in his head.So shaken was he that I had to pass my hand under his arm as we went up the stairs, for his knees were trembling under him.Twice as we ascended, Holmes whipped his lens out of his pocket and carefully examined marks which appeared to me to be mere shapeless smudges of dust upon the cocoanut-matting which served as a stair-carpet.He walked slowly from step to step, holding the lamp low, and shooting keen glances to right and left.

Miss Morstan had remained behind with the frightened housekeeper.

The third flight of stairs ended in a straight passage of some length, with a great picture in Indian tapestry upon the right of it and three doors upon the left.Holmes advanced along it in the same slow and methodical way, while we kept close at his heels, with our long black shadows streaming backward down the corridor.The third door was that which we were seeking.Holmes knocked without receiving any answer, and then tried to turn the handle and force it open.It was locked on the inside, however, and by a broad and powerful bolt, as we could see when we set our lamp up against it.The key being turned, however, the hole was not entirely closed.

Sherlock Holmes bent down to it and instantly rose again with a sharp intaking of the breath.

"There is something devilish in this, Watson," said he, more moved than I had ever before seen him."What do you make of it?"I stooped to the hole and recoiled in horror.Moonlight was streaming into the room, and it was bright with a vague and shifty radiance.Looking straight at me and suspended, as it were, in the air, for all beneath was in shadow, there hung a face- the very face of our companion Thaddeus.There was the same high, shining head, the same circular bristle of red hair, the same bloodless countenance.

Arthur Conan Doyle

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