At eight oclock that evening two persons were groping their way past Flint Buckners cabin in the frosty gloom. They were Sherlock Holmes and his nephew.
Stop here in the road a moment, uncle, said Fetlock, while I run to my cabin; I wont be gone a minute.
He asked for somethingthe uncle furnished itthen he disappeared in the darkness, but soon returned, and the talking-walk was resumed. By nine oclock they had wandered back to the tavern. They worked their way through the billiard-room, where a crowd had gathered in the hope of getting a glimpse of the Extraordinary Man. A royal cheer was raised. Mr. Holmes acknowledged the compliment with a series of courtly bows, and as he was passing out his nephew said to the assemblage,
Uncle Sherlocks got some work to do, gentlemen, that ll keep him till twelve or one; but hell be down again then, or earlier if he can, and hopes some of youll be left to take a drink with him.
By George, hes just a duke, boys! Three cheers for Sherlock Holmes, the greatest man that ever lived! shouted Ferguson. Hip, hip hip
Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! Tiger!
The uproar shook the building, so hearty was the feeling the boys put into their welcome. Upstairs the uncle reproached the nephew gently, saying,
What did you get me into the engagement for?
I reckon you dont want to be unpopular, do you, uncle? Well, then, dont you put on any exclusiveness in a mining-camp, thats all. The boys admire you; but if you was to leave without taking a drink with them, theyd set you down for a snob. And besides, you said you had home talk enough in stock to keep us up and at it half the night.
The boy was right, and wisethe uncle acknowledged it. The boy was wise in another detail which he did not mention,except to himself: Uncle and the others will come handyin the way of nailing an alibi where it cant be budged.
He and his uncle talked diligently about three hours. Then, about midnight, Fetlock stepped downstairs and took a position in the dark a dozen steps from the tavern, and waited. Five minutes later Flint Buckner came rocking out of the billiard-room and almost brushed him as he passed.
Ive got him! muttered the boy. He continued to himself, looking after the shadowy form:
Good-bygood-by for good, Flint Buckner; you called my mother awell, never mind what: its all right, now; youre taking your last walk, friend.
He went musing back into the tavern. From now till one is an hour. Well spend it with the boys: its good for the alibi.
He brought Sherlock Holmes to the billiard-room, which was jammed with eager and admiring miners; the guest called the drinks, and the fun began. Everybody was happy; everybody was complimentary; the ice was soon broken, songs, anecdotes, and more drinks followed, and the pregnant minutes flew. At six minutes to one, when the jollity was at its highest
There was silence instantly. The deep sound came rolling and rumbling from peak to peak up the gorge, then died down, and ceased. The spell broke, then, and the men made a rush for the door, saying,
Somethings blown up!
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