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 solemness--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--"
"'Sh! Watch him! There--he's got his thumb on the bump on the near corner of his forehead, and his forefinger on the off one. His think- works is just a-grinding now, you bet your other shirt."
"That's so. And now he's gazing up toward heaven and stroking his mustache slow, and--"
"Now he has rose up standing, and is putting his clues together on his left fingers with his right finger. See? he touches the forefinger--now middle finger--now ring-finger--"
"Look at him scowl! He can't seem to make out that clue. So he--"
"See him smile!--like a tiger--and tally off the other fingers like nothing! He's got it, boys; he's got it sure!"
"Well, I should say! I'd hate to be in that man's place that he's after."
Mr. Holmes drew a table to the window, sat down with his back to the spies, and proceeded to write. The spies withdrew their eyes from the peep-holes, lit their pipes, and settled themselves for a comfortable smoke and talk. Ferguson said, with conviction:
"Boys, it's no use talking, he's a wonder! He's got the signs of it all over him."
"You hain't ever said a truer word than that, Wells-Fargo," said Jake Parker. "Say, wouldn't it 'a' been nuts if he'd a-been here last night?"
"Oh, by George, but wouldn't it!" said Ferguson. "Then we'd have seen scientific work. Intellect--just pure intellect--away up on the upper levels, dontchuknow. Archy is all right, and it don't become anybody to belittle him, I can tell you. But his gift is only just eyesight, sharp as an owl's, as near as I can make it out just a grand natural animal talent, no more, no less, and prime as far as it goes, but no intellect in it, and for awfulness and marvelousness no more to be compared to what this man does than--than--Why, let me tell you what he'd have done. He'd have stepped over to Hogan's and glanced--just glanced, that's all--at the premises, and that's enough. See everything? Yes, sir, to the last little detail; and he'll know more about that place than the Hogans would know in seven years. Next, he would sit down on the bunk, just as ca'm, and say to Mrs. Hogan--Say, Ham, consider that you are Mrs. Hogan. I'll ask the questions; you answer them."
"All right; go on."
"'Madam, if you please--attention--do not let your mind wander. Now, then--sex of the child?'
"'Female, your Honor.'
"'Um--female. Very good, very good. Age?'
"'Turned six, your Honor.'
"'Um--young, weak--two miles. Weariness will overtake it then. It will sink down and sleep. We shall find it two miles away, or less. Teeth?'
"'Five, your Honor, and one a-coming.'
"'Very good, very good, very good, indeed.' You see, boys, he knows a clue when he sees it, when it wouldn't mean a dern thing to anybody else. 'Stockings, madam? Shoes?'
"'Yes, your Honor--both.'
"'Yarn, perhaps? Morocco?'
"'Yarn, your Honor.