`So it was, sir. And now it's an old black one.'

`What! you don't mean to say?'

`That's just what I do mean to say. I only had three pairs in the world - the new brown, the old black, and the patent leathers, which I am wearing. Last night they took one of my brown ones, and to-day they have sneaked one of the black. Well, have you got it? Speak out, man, and don't stand staring!'

An agitated German waiter had appeared upon the scene.

`No, sir; I have made inquiry all over the hotel, but I can hear no word of it.'

`Well, either that boot comes back before sundown or I'll see the manager and tell him that I go right straight out of this hotel.'

`It shall be found, sir - I promise you that if you will have a little patience it will be found.'

`Mind it is, for it's the last thing of mine that I'll lose in this den of thieves. Well, well, Mr. Holmes, you'll excuse my troubling you about such a trifle - '

`I think it's well worth troubling about.'

`Why, you look very serious over it.'

`How do you explain it?'

`I just don't attempt to explain it. It seems the very maddest, queerest thing that ever happened to me.'

`The queerest perhaps - ` said Holmes thoughtfully.

`What do you make of it yourself?'

`Well, I don't profess to understand it yet. This case of yours is very complex, Sir Henry. When taken in conjunction with your uncle's death I am not sure that of all the five hundred cases of capital importance which I have handled there is one which cuts so deep. But we hold several threads in our hands, and the odds are that one or other of them guides us to the truth. We may waste time in following the wrong one, but sooner or later we must come upon the right.'

We had a pleasant luncheon in which little was said of the business which had brought us together. It was in the private sitting-room to which we afterwards repaired that Holmes asked Baskerville what were his intentions.

`To go to Baskerville Hall.'

`And when?'

`At the end of the week.'

`On the whole,' said Holmes, `I think that your decision is a wise one. I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in London, and amid the millions of this great city it is difficult to discover who these people are or what their object can be. If their intentions are evil they might do you a mischief, and we should be powerless to prevent it. You did not know, Dr. Mortimer, that you were followed this morning from my house?'

Dr. Mortimer started violently.

`Followed! By whom?'

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