The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge
It was nearly eleven oclock when we reached this final stage of our nights adventures. We had left the damp fog of the great city behind us, and the night was fairly fine. A warm wind blew from the westward, and heavy clouds moved slowly across the sky, with half a moon peeping occasionally through the rifts. It was clear enough to see for some distance, but Thaddeus Sholto took down one of the side-lamps from the carriage to give us a better light upon our way.
Pondicherry Lodge stood in its own grounds and was girt round with a very high stone wall topped with broken glass. A single narrow iron-clamped door formed the only means of entrance. On this our guide knocked with a peculiar postman-like rat-tat.
Who is there? cried a gruff voice from within.
It is I, McMurdo. You surely know my knock by this time.
There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of keys. The door swung heavily back, and a short, deep-chested man stood in the opening, with the yellow light of the lantern shining upon his protruded face and twinkling, distrustful eyes.
That you, Mr. Thaddeus? But who are the others? I had no orders about them from the master.
No, McMurdo? You surprise me! I told my brother last night that I should bring some friends.
He haint been out o his rooms to-day, Mr. Thaddeus, and I have no orders. You know very well that I must stick to regulations. I can let you in, but your friends they must just stop where they are.
This was an unexpected obstacle. Thaddeus Sholto looked about him in a perplexed and helpless manner.
This is too bad of you, McMurdo! he said. If I guarantee them, that is enough for you. There is the young lady, too. She cannot wait on the public road at this hour.
Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus, said the porter inexorably. Folk may be friends o yours, and yet no friend o the masters. He pays me well to do my duty, and my duty Ill do. I dont know none o your friends.
Oh, yes you do, McMurdo, cried Sherlock Holmes genially. I dont think you can have forgotten me. Dont you remember that amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alisons rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?
Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes! roared the prize-fighter. Gods truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o standin there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, Id ha known you without a question. Ah, youre one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.
You see, Watson, if all else fails me, I have still one of the scientific professions open to me, said Holmes, laughing. Our friend wont keep us out in the cold now, I am sure.
In you come, sir, in you comeyou and your friends, he answered. Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus, but orders are very strict. Had to be certain of your friends before I let them in.
Inside, a gravel path wound through desolate grounds to a huge clump of a house, square and prosaic, all plunged in shadow save where a moonbeam struck one corner and glimmered in a garret window. The vast size of the building, with its gloom and its deathly silence, struck a chill to the heart. Even Thaddeus Sholto seemed ill at ease, and the lantern quivered and rattled in his hand.
I cannot understand it, he said. There must be some mistake. I distinctly told Bartholomew that we should be here, and yet there is no light in his window. I do not know what to make of it.
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