Chapter 8

The tavern dining-room had been cleared of all its furniture save one six-foot pine table and a chair. This table was against one end of the room; the chair was on it; Sherlock Holmes, stately, imposing, impressive, sat in the chair. The public stood. The room was full. The tobacco smoke was dense, the stillness profound.

The Extraordinary Man raised his hand to command additional silence; held it in the air a few moments; then, in brief, crisp terms he put forward question after question, and noted the answers with “Um-ums,” nods of the head, and so on. By this process he learned all about Flint Buckner, his character, conduct, and habits, that the people were able to tell him. It thus transpired that the Extraordinary Man’s nephew was the only person in the camp who had a killing-grudge against Flint Buckner. Mr. Holmes smiled compassionately upon the witness, and asked, languidly—

“Do any of you gentlemen chance to know where the lad Fetlock Jones was at the time of the explosion?”

A thunderous response followed—

“In the billiard-room of this house!”

“Ah. And had he just come in?”

“Been there all of an hour!”

“Ah. It is about—about—well, about how far might it be to the scene of the explosion?”

“All of a mile!”

“Ah. It isn’t much of an alibi, ’tis true, but—” A storm-burst of laughter, mingled with shouts of “By jiminy, but he’s chain-lightning!” and “Ain’t you sorry you spoke, Sandy?” shut off the rest of the sentence, and the crushed witness drooped his blushing face in pathetic shame. The inquisitor resumed:

“The lad Jones’s somewhat distant connection with the case” (laughter) “having been disposed of, let us now call the eye-witnesses of the tragedy, and listen to what they have to say.”

He got out his fragmentary clews and arranged them on a sheet of cardboard on his knee. The house held its breath and watched.

“We have the longitude and the latitude, corrected for magnetic variation, and this gives us the exact location of the tragedy. We have the altitude, the temperature, and the degree of humidity prevailing—inestimably valuable, since they enable us to estimate with precision the degree of influence which they would exercise upon the mood and disposition of the assassin at that time of the night.”

(Buzz of admiration; muttered remark, “By George, but he’s deep!”) He fingered his clews. “And now let us ask these mute witnesses to speak to us.

“Here we have an empty linen shotbag. What is its message? This: that robbery was the motive, not revenge. What is its further message? This: that the assassin was of inferior intelligence—shall we say light-witted, or perhaps approaching that? How do we know this? Because a person of sound intelligence would not have proposed to rob the man Buckner, who never had much money with him. But the assassin might have been a stranger? Let the bag speak again. I take from it this article. It is a bit of silver-bearing quartz. It is peculiar. Examine it, please—you—and you—and you. Now pass it back, please. There is but one lode on this coast which produces just that character and color of quartz; and that is a lode which crops out for nearly two miles on a stretch, and in my opinion is destined, at no distant day, to confer upon its locality a globe-girdling celebrity, and upon its two hundred owners riches beyond the dreams of avarice. Name that lode, please.”

“The Consolidated Christian Science and Mary Ann!” was the prompt response.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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