"By Heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried. "Yes, yes, it must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?"
"Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again on the path, and again near where poor Heidegger met his death."
"Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?"
"I don't remember seeing any."
"Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our line, but never a cow on the whole moor; very strange, Watson, eh?"
"Yes, it is strange."
"Now, Watson, make an effort; throw your mind back! Can you see those tracks upon the path?"
"Yes, I can."
"Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that, Watson" -- he arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion -- : : : : : -- "and sometimes like this" -- : . : . : . : . -- "and occasionally like this" -- . ` . ` . ` . "Can you remember that?"
"No, I cannot."
"But I can. I could swear to it. However, we will go back at our leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been not to draw my conclusion!"
"And what is your conclusion?"
"Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and gallops. By George, Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought out such a blind as that! The coast seems to be clear, save for that lad in the smithy. Let us slip out and see what we can see."
There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable. Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
"Old shoes, but newly shod -- old shoes, but new nails. This case deserves to be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy."
The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw Holmes's eye darting to right and left among the litter of iron and wood which was scattered about the floor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step behind us, and there was the landlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes, his swarthy features convulsed with passion. He held a short, metal-headed stick in his hand, and he advanced in so menacing a fashion that I was right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
"You infernal spies!" the man cried. "What are you doing there?"
"Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, "one might think that you were afraid of our finding something out."
The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and his grim mouth loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
"You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he. "But look here, mister, I don't care for folk poking about my place without my leave, so the sooner you pay your score and get out of this the better I shall be pleased."
"All right, Mr. Hayes -- no harm meant," said Holmes. "We have been having a look at your horses, but I think I'll walk after all. It's not far, I believe."
"Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the road to the left." He watched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the instant that the curve hid us from the landlord's view.
"We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he. "I seem to grow colder every step that I take away from it. No, no; I can't possibly leave it."