Here you are, then! Catch!A fine child, Mrs. Smith!
Lor bless you, sir, he is that, and forward. He gets amost too much for me to manage, specially when my man is away days at a time.
Away, is he? said Holmes in a disappointed voice. I am sorry for that, for I wanted to speak to Mr. Smith.
Hes been away since yesterday mornin, sir, and, truth to tell, I am beginnin to feel frightened about him. But if it was about a boat, sir, maybe I could serve as well.
I wanted to hire his steam launch.
Why, bless you, sir, it is in the steam launch that he has gone. Thats what puzzles me; for I know there aint more coals in her than would take her to about Woolwich and back. If hes been away in the barge Id ha thought nothin; for many a time a job has taken him as far as Gravesend, and then if there was much doin there he might ha stayed over. But what good is a steam launch without coals?
He might have bought some at a wharf down the river.
He might, sir, but it werent his way. Many a time Ive heard him call out at the prices they charge for a few odd bags. Besides, I dont like that wooden-legged man, wi his ugly face and outlandish talk. What did he want always knockin about here for?
A wooden-legged man? said Holmes with bland surprise.
Yes, sir, a brown, monkey-faced chap thats called moren once for my old man. It was him that roused him up yesternight, and, whats more, my man knew he was comin, for he had steam up in the launch. I tell you straight, sir, I dont feel easy in my mind about it.
But, my dear Mrs. Smith, said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders, you are frightening yourself about nothing. How could you possibly tell that it was the wooden-legged man who came in the night? I dont quite understand how you can be so sure.
His voice, sir. I knew his voice, which is kind o thick and foggy. He tapped at the winderabout three it would be. Show a leg, matey, says he: time to turn out guard. My old man woke up Jimthats my eldestand away they went without so much as a word to me. I could hear the wooden leg clackin on the stones.
And was this wooden-legged man alone?
Couldnt say, I am sure, sir. I didnt hear no one else.
I am sorry, Mrs. Smith, for I wanted a steam launch, and I have heard good reports of theLet me see, what is her name?
The Aurora, sir.
Ah! Shes not that old green launch with a yellow line, very broad in the beam?
No, indeed. Shes as trim a little thing as any on the river. Shes been fresh painted, black with two red streaks.
Thanks. I hope that you will hear soon from Mr. Smith. I am going down the river, and if I should see anything of the Aurora I shall let him know that you are uneasy. A black funnel, you say?
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