Chapter 6

The next afternoon the village was electrified with an immense sensation. A grave and dignified foreigner of distinguished bearing and appearance had arrived at the tavern, and entered this formidable name upon the register:

Sherlock Holmes

The news buzzed from cabin to cabin, from claim to claim; tools were dropped, and the town swarmed toward the centre of interest. A man passing out at the northern end of the village shouted it to Pat Riley, whose claim was the next one to Flint Buckner’s. At that time Fetlock Jones seemed to turn sick. He muttered to himself:

“Uncle Sherlock! The mean luck of it!—that he should come just when.…” He dropped into a reverie, and presently said to himself: “But what’s the use of being afraid of him? Anybody that knows him the way I do knows he can’t detect a crime except where he plans it all out beforehand and arranges the clews and hires some fellow to commit it according to instructions. …Now there ain’t going to be any clews this time—so, what show has he got? None at all. No, sir; everything’s ready. If I was to risk putting it off—…No, I won’t run any risk like that. Flint Buckner goes out of this world to-night, for sure.” Then another trouble presented itself. “Uncle Sherlock ’ll be wanting to talk home matters with me this evening, and how am I going to get rid of him? for I’ve got to be at my cabin a minute or two about eight o’clock.” This was an awkward matter, and cost him much thought. But he found a way to beat the difficulty. “We’ll go for a walk, and I’ll leave him in the road a minute, so that he won’t see what it is I do: the best way to throw a detective off the track, anyway, is to have him along when you are preparing the thing. Yes, that’s the safest—I’ll take him with me.”

Meantime the road in front of the tavern was blocked with villagers waiting and hoping for a glimpse of the great man. But he kept his room, and did not appear. None but Ferguson, Jake Parker the blacksmith, and Ham Sandwich had any luck. These enthusiastic admirers of the great scientific detective hired the tavern’s detained-baggage lockup, which looked into the detective’s room across a little alleyway ten or twelve feet wide, ambushed themselves in it, and cut some peep-holes in the window-blind. Mr. Holmes’s blinds were down; but by and by he raised them. It gave the spies a hair-lifting but pleasurable thrill to find themselves face to face with the Extraordinary Man who had filled the world with the fame of his more than human ingenuities. There he sat—not a myth, not a shadow, but real, alive, compact of substance, and almost within touching distance with the hand.

“Look at that head!” said Ferguson, in an awed voice. “By gracious! that’s a head!”

“You bet!” said the blacksmith, with deep reverence. “Look at his nose! look at his eyes! Intellect? Just a battery of it!”

“And that paleness,” said Ham Sandwich. “Comes from thought—that’s what it comes from. Hell! duffers like us don’t know what real thought is.

“No more we don’t,” said Ferguson. “What we take for thinking is just blubber-and-slush.”

“Right you are, Wells-Fargo. And look at that frown—that’s deep thinking—away down, down, forty fathom into the bowels of things. He’s on the track of something.”

“Well, he is, and don’t you forget it. Say—look at that awful gravity—look at that pallid solemnness—there ain’t any corpse can lay over it.”

“No, sir, not for dollars! And it’s his’n by hereditary rights, too; he’s been dead four times a’ready, and there’s history for it. Three times natural, once by accident. I’ve heard say he smells damp and cold, like a grave. And he—”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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