Hound of the Baskervilles
Authur Conan Doyle
Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced by P. K.Pehtla
The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mr. Sherlock Holmes
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings,
save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all
night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the
hearth-rug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left
behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood,
bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a "Penang lawyer."
Just under the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch
across. "To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the
C.C.H.," was engraved upon it, with the date "1884." It was just
such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used to
carry--dignified, solid, and reassuring.
"Well, Watson, what do you make of it?"
Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no
sign of my occupation.
"How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in
the back of your head."
"I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in
front of me," said he. "But, tell me, Watson, what do you make of
our visitor's stick? Since we have been so unfortunate as to miss
him and have no notion of his errand, this accidental souvenir
becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruct the man by an
examination of it."
"I think," said I, following as far as I could the methods of my
companion, "that Dr. Mortimer is a successful, elderly medical
man, well-esteemed since those who know him give him this mark of
"Good!" said Holmes. "Excellent!"
"I think also that the probability is in favour of his being a
country practitioner who does a great deal of his visiting on
"Because this stick, though originally a very handsome one has
been so knocked about that I can hardly imagine a town
practitioner carrying it. The thick-iron ferrule is worn down, so
it is evident that he has done a great amount of walking with
"Perfectly sound!" said Holmes.
"And then again, there is the 'friends of the C.C.H.' I should
guess that to be the Something Hunt, the local hunt to whose
members he has possibly given some surgical assistance, and which
has made him a small presentation in return."
"Really, Watson, you excel yourself," said Holmes, pushing back
his chair and lighting a cigarette. "I am bound to say that in
all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own
small achievements you have habitually underrated your own
abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you
are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius
have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear
fellow, that I am very much in your debt."
He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words
gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by his
indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had
made to give publicity to his methods. I was proud, too, to think
that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in a way
which earned his approval. He now took the stick from my hands
and examined it for a few minutes with his naked eyes. Then with
an expression of interest he laid down his cigarette, and
carrying the cane to the window, he looked over it again with a
"Interesting, though elementary," said he as he returned to his
favourite corner of the settee. "There are certainly one or two
indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several
"Has anything escaped me?" I asked with some self-importance. "I
trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have
"I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were
erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be
frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided
towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this
instance. The man is certainly a country practitioner. And he
walks a good deal."
"Then I was right."
"To that extent."
"But that was all."
"No, no, my dear Watson, not all--by no means all. I would
suggest, for example, that a presentation to a doctor is more
likely to come from a hospital than from a hunt, and that when
the initials 'C.C.' are placed before that hospital the words
'Charing Cross' very naturally suggest themselves."
"You may be right."
"The probability lies in that direction. And if we take this as a
working hypothesis we have a fresh basis from which to start our
construction of this unknown visitor."
"Well, then, supposing that 'C.C.H.' does stand for 'Charing
Cross Hospital,' what further inferences may we draw?"
"Do none suggest themselves? You know my methods. Apply them!"
"I can only think of the obvious conclusion that the man has
practised in town before going to the country."
"I think that we might venture a little farther than this. Look
at it in this light. On what occasion would it be most probable
that such a presentation would be made? When would his friends
unite to give him a pledge of their good will? Obviously at the
moment when Dr. Mortimer withdrew from the service of the
hospital in order to start in practice for himself. We know there
has been a presentation. We believe there has been a change from
a town hospital to a country practice. Is it, then, stretching
our inference too far to say that the presentation was on the
occasion of the change?"
"It certainly seems probable."
"Now, you will observe that he could not have been on the staff
of the hospital, since only a man well-established in a London
practice could hold such a position, and such a one would not
drift into the country. What was he, then? If he was in the
hospital and yet not on the staff he could only have been a
house-surgeon or a house-physician--little more than a senior
student. And he left five years ago--the date is on the stick. So
your grave, middle-aged family practitioner vanishes into thin
air, my dear Watson, and there emerges a young fellow under
thirty, amiable, unambitious, absent-minded, and the possessor of
a favourite dog, which I should describe roughly as being larger
than a terrier and smaller than a mastiff."
I laughed incredulously as Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his
settee and blew little wavering rings of smoke up to the ceiling.
"As to the latter part, I have no means of checking you," said I,
"but at least it is not difficult to find out a few particulars
about the man's age and professional career." From my small
medical shelf I took down the Medical Directory and turned up the
name. There were several Mortimers, but only one who could be our
visitor. I read his record aloud.
"Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor,
Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross
Hospital. Winner of the Jackson prize for Comparative Pathology,
with essay entitled 'Is Disease a Reversion?' Corresponding
member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of 'Some
Freaks of Atavism' (Lancet 1882). 'Do We Progress?' (Journal of
Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of
Grimpen, Thorsley, and High Barrow."
"No mention of that local hunt, Watson," said Holmes with a
mischievous smile, "but a country doctor, as you very astutely
observed. I think that I am fairly justified in my inferences. As
to the adjectives, I said, if I remember right, amiable,
unambitious, and absent-minded. It is my experience that it is
only an amiable man in this world who receives testimonials, only
an unambitious one who abandons a London career for the country,
and only an absent-minded one who leaves his stick and not his
visiting-card after waiting an hour in your room."
"And the dog?"
"Has been in the habit of carrying this stick behind his master.
Being a heavy stick the dog has held it tightly by the middle,
and the marks of his teeth are very plainly visible. The dog's
jaw, as shown in the space between these marks, is too broad in
my opinion for a terrier and not broad enough for a mastiff. It
may have been--yes, by Jove, it is a curly-haired spaniel."
He had risen and paced the room as he spoke. Now he halted in the
recess of the window. There was such a ring of conviction in his
voice that I glanced up in surprise.
"My dear fellow, how can you possibly be so sure of that?"
"For the very simple reason that I see the dog himself on our
very door-step, and there is the ring of its owner. Don't move, I
beg you, Watson. He is a professional brother of yours, and your
presence may be of assistance to me. Now is the dramatic moment
of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is
walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill.
What does Dr. James Mortimer, the man of science, ask of Sherlock
Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!"
The appearance of our visitor was a surprise to me, since I had
expected a typical country practitioner. He was a very tall, thin
man, with a long nose like a beak, which jutted out between two
keen, gray eyes, set closely together and sparkling brightly from
behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. He was clad in a
professional but rather slovenly fashion, for his frock-coat was
dingy and his trousers frayed. Though young, his long back was
already bowed, and he walked with a forward thrust of his head
and a general air of peering benevolence. As he entered his eyes
fell upon the stick in Holmes's hand, and he ran towards it with
an exclamation of joy. "I am so very glad," said he. "I was not
sure whether I had left it here or in the Shipping Office. I
would not lose that stick for the world."
"A presentation, I see," said Holmes.
"From Charing Cross Hospital?"
"From one or two friends there on the occasion of my marriage."
"Dear, dear, that's bad!" said Holmes, shaking his head.
Dr. Mortimer blinked through his glasses in mild astonishment.
"Why was it bad?"
"Only that you have disarranged our little deductions. Your
marriage, you say?"
"Yes, sir. I married, and so left the hospital, and with it all
hopes of a consulting practice. It was necessary to make a home
of my own."
"Come, come, we are not so far wrong, after all," said Holmes.
"And now, Dr. James Mortimer ------"
"Mister, sir, Mister--a humble M.R.C.S."
"And a man of precise mind, evidently."
"A dabbler in science, Mr. Holmes, a picker up of shells on the
shores of the great unknown ocean. I presume that it is Mr.
Sherlock Holmes whom I am addressing and not ------"
"No, this is my friend Dr. Watson."
"Glad to meet you, sir. I have heard your name mentioned in
connection with that of your friend. You interest me very much,
Mr. Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull or
such well-marked supra-orbital development. Would you have any
objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A
cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would
be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my
intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull."
Sherlock Holmes waved our strange visitor into a chair. "You are
an enthusiast in your line of thought, I perceive, sir, as I am
in mine," said he. "I observe from your forefinger that you make
your own cigarettes. Have no hesitation in lighting one."
The man drew out paper and tobacco and twirled the one up in the
other with surprising dexterity. He had long, quivering fingers
as agile and restless as the antennae of an insect.
Holmes was silent, but his little darting glances showed me the
interest which he took in our curious companion.
"I presume, sir," said he at last, "that it was not merely for
the purpose of examining my skull that you have done me the
honour to call here last night and again to-day?"
"No, sir, no; though I am happy to have had the opportunity of
doing that as well. I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I
recognized that I am myself an unpractical man and because I am
suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary
problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest
expert in Europe ------"
"Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?"
asked Holmes with some asperity.
"To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur
Bertillon must always appeal strongly."
"Then had you not better consult him?"
"I said, sir, to the precisely scientific mind. But as a
practical man of affairs it is acknowledged that you stand alone.
I trust, sir, that I have not inadvertently ------"
"Just a little," said Holmes. "I think, Dr. Mortimer, you would
do wisely if without more ado you would kindly tell me plainly
what the exact nature of the problem is in which you demand my
The Curse of the Baskervilles
"I have in my pocket a manuscript," said Dr. James Mortimer.
"I observed it as you entered the room," said Holmes.
"It is an old manuscript."
"Early eighteenth century, unless it is a forgery."
"How can you say that, sir?"
"You have presented an inch or two of it to my examination all
the time that you have been talking. It would be a poor expert
who could not give the date of a document within a decade or so.
You may possibly have read my little monograph upon the subject.
I put that at 1730."
"The exact date is 1742." Dr. Mortimer drew it from his
breast-pocket. "This family paper was committed to my care by Sir
Charles Baskerville, whose sudden and tragic death some three
months ago created so much excitement in Devonshire. I may say
that I was his personal friend as well as his medical attendant.
He was a strong-minded man, sir, shrewd, practical, and as
unimaginative as I am myself. Yet he took this document very
seriously, and his mind was prepared for just such an end as did
eventually overtake him."
Holmes stretched out his hand for the manuscript and flattened it
upon his knee.
"You will observe, Watson, the alternative use of the long s and
the short. It is one of several indications which enabled me to
fix the date."
I looked over his shoulder at the yellow paper and the faded
script. At the head was written: "Baskerville Hall," and below in
large, scrawling figures: "1742."
"It appears to be a statement of some sort."
"Yes, it is a statement of a certain legend which runs in the
"But I understand that it is something more modern and practical
upon which you wish to consult me?"
"Most modern. A most practical, pressing matter, which must be
decided within twenty-four hours. But the manuscript is short and
is intimately connected with the affair. With your permission I
will read it to you."
Holmes leaned back in his chair, placed his finger-tips together,
and closed his eyes, with an air of resignation. Dr. Mortimer
turned the manuscript to the light and read in a high, cracking
voice the following curious, old-world narrative:--
"Of the origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles there have been
many statements, yet as I come in a direct line from Hugo
Baskerville, and as I had the story from my father, who also had
it from his, I have set it down with all belief that it occurred
even as is here set forth. And I would have you believe, my sons,
that the same Justice which punishes sin may also most graciously
forgive it, and that no ban is so heavy but that by prayer and
repentance it may be removed. Learn then from this story not to
fear the fruits of the past, but rather to be circumspect in the
future, that those foul passions whereby our family has suffered
so grievously may not again be loosed to our undoing.
"Know then that in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history
of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend
to your attention) this Manor of Baskerville was held by Hugo of
that name, nor can it be gainsaid that he was a most wild,
profane, and godless man. This, in truth, his neighbours might
have pardoned, seeing that saints have never flourished in those
parts, but there was in him a certain wanton and cruel humour
which made his name a byword through the West. It chanced that
this Hugo came to love (if, indeed, so dark a passion may be
known under so bright a name) the daughter of a yeoman who held
lands near the Baskerville estate. But the young maiden, being
discreet and of good repute, would ever avoid him, for she
feared his evil name. So it came to pass that one Michaelmas
this Hugo, with five or six of his idle and wicked companions,
stole down upon the farm and carried off the maiden, her father
and brothers being from home, as he well knew. When they had
brought her to the Hall the maiden was placed in an upper
chamber, while Hugo and his friends sat down to a long carouse,
as was their nightly custom. Now, the poor lass upstairs was like
to have her wits turned at the singing and shouting and terrible
oaths which came up to her from below, for they say that the
words used by Hugo Baskerville, when he was in wine, were such as
might blast the man who said them. At last in the stress of her
fear she did that which might have daunted the bravest or most
active man, for by the aid of the growth of ivy which covered
(and still covers) the south wall she came down from under the
eaves, and so homeward across the moor, there being three leagues
betwixt the Hall and her father's farm.
"It chanced that some little time later Hugo left his guests to
carry food and drink--with other worse things, perchance--to his
captive, and so found the cage empty and the bird escaped. Then,
as it would seem, he became as one that hath a devil, for,
rushing down the stairs into the dining-hall, he sprang upon the
great table, flagons and trenchers flying before him, and he
cried aloud before all the company that he would that very night
render his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he might but
overtake the wench. And while the revellers stood aghast at the
fury of the man, one more wicked or, it may be, more drunken than
the rest, cried out that they should put the hounds upon her.
Whereat Hugo ran from the house, crying to his grooms that they
should saddle his mare and unkennel the pack, and giving the
hounds a kerchief of the maid's, he swung them to the line, and
so off full cry in the moonlight over the moor.
"Now, for some space the revellers stood agape, unable to
understand all that had been done in such haste. But anon their
bemused wits awoke to the nature of the deed which was like to be
done upon the moorlands. Everything was now in an uproar, some
calling for their pistols, some for their horses, and some for
another flask of wine. But at length some sense came back to
their crazed minds, and the whole of them, thirteen in number,
took horse and started in pursuit. The moon shone clear above
them, and they rode swiftly abreast, taking that course which the
maid must needs have taken if she were to reach her own home.
"They had gone a mile or two when they passed one of the night
shepherds upon the moorlands, and they cried to him to know if he
had seen the hunt. And the man, as the story goes, was so crazed
with fear that he could scarce speak, but at last he said that he
had indeed seen the unhappy maiden, with the hounds upon her
track. 'But I have seen more than that,' said he, 'for Hugo
Baskerville passed me upon his black mare, and there ran mute
behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever be at
my heels.' So the drunken squires cursed the shepherd and rode
onward. But soon their skins turned cold, for there came a
galloping across the moor, and the black mare, dabbled with white
froth, went past with trailing bridle and empty saddle. Then the
revellers rode close together, for a great fear was on them, but
they still followed over the moor, though each, had he been
alone, would have been right glad to have turned his horse's
head. Riding slowly in this fashion they came at last upon the
hounds. These, though known for their valour and their breed,
were whimpering in a cluster at the head of a deep dip or goyal,
as we call it, upon the moor, some slinking away and some, with
starting hackles and staring eyes, gazing down the narrow valley
"The company had come to a halt, more sober men, as you may
guess, than when they started. The most of them would by no means
advance, but three of them, the boldest, or it may be the most
drunken, rode forward down the goyal. Now, it opened into a broad
space in which stood two of those great stones, still to be seen
there, which were set by certain forgotten peoples in the days of
old. The moon was shining bright upon the clearing, and there in
the centre lay the unhappy maid where she had fallen, dead of
fear and of fatigue. But it was not the sight of her body, nor
yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville lying near her,
which raised the hair upon the heads of these three daredevil
roysterers, but it was that, standing over Hugo, and plucking at
his throat, there stood a foul thing, a great, black beast,
shaped like a hound, yet larger than any hound that ever mortal
eye has rested upon. And even as they looked the thing tore the
throat out of Hugo Baskerville, on which, as it turned its
blazing eyes and dripping jaws upon them, the three shrieked with
fear and rode for dear life, still screaming, across the moor.
One, it is said, died that very night of what he had seen, and
the other twain were but broken men for the rest of their days.
"Such is the tale, my sons, of the coming of the hound which is
said to have plagued the family so sorely ever since. If I have
set it down it is because that which is clearly known hath less
terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed. Nor can it
be denied that many of the family have been unhappy in their
deaths, which have been sudden, bloody, and mysterious. Yet may
we shelter ourselves in the infinite goodness of Providence,
which would not forever punish the innocent beyond that third or
fourth generation which is threatened in Holy Writ. To that
Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by
way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark
hours when the powers of evil are exalted.
"[This from Hugo Baskerville to his sons Rodger and John, with
instructions that they say nothing thereof to their sister
When Dr. Mortimer had finished reading this singular narrative he
pushed his spectacles up on his forehead and stared across at Mr.
Sherlock Holmes. The latter yawned and tossed the end of his
cigarette into the fire.
"Well?" said he.
"Do you not find it interesting?"
"To a collector of fairy tales."
Dr. Mortimer drew a folded newspaper out of his pocket.
"Now, Mr. Holmes, we will give you something a little more
recent. This is the Devon County Chronicle of May 14th of this
year. It is a short account of the facts elicited at the death of
Sir Charles Baskerville which occurred a few days before that
My friend leaned a little forward and his expression became
intent. Our visitor readjusted his glasses and began:--
"The recent sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose name
has been mentioned as the probable Liberal candidate for
Mid-Devon at the next election, has cast a gloom over the county.
Though Sir Charles had resided at Baskerville Hall for a
comparatively short period his amiability of character and
extreme generosity had won the affection and respect of all who
had been brought into contact with him. In these days of nouveaux
riches it is refreshing to find a case where the scion of an old
county family which has fallen upon evil days is able to make his
own fortune and to bring it back with him to restore the fallen
grandeur of his line. Sir Charles, as is well known, made large
sums of money in South African speculation. More wise than those
who go on until the wheel turns against them, he realized his
gains and returned to England with them. It is only two years
since he took up his residence at Baskerville Hall, and it is
common talk how large were those schemes of reconstruction and
improvement which have been interrupted by his death. Being
himself childless, it was his openly expressed desire that the
whole country-side should, within his own lifetime, profit by his
good fortune, and many will have personal reasons for bewailing
his untimely end. His generous donations to local and county
charities have been frequently chronicled in these columns.
"The circumstances connected with the death of Sir Charles
cannot be said to have been entirely cleared up by the inquest,
but at least enough has been done to dispose of those rumours to
which local superstition has given rise. There is no reason
whatever to suspect foul play, or to imagine that death could be
from any but natural causes. Sir Charles was a widower, and a man
who may be said to have been in some ways of an eccentric habit
of mind. In spite of his considerable wealth he was simple in his
personal tastes, and his indoor servants at Baskerville Hall
consisted of a married couple named Barrymore, the husband acting
as butler and the wife as housekeeper. Their evidence,
corroborated by that of several friends, tends to show that Sir
Charles's health has for some time been impaired, and points
especially to some affection of the heart, manifesting itself in
changes of colour, breathlessness, and acute attacks of nervous
depression. Dr. James Mortimer, the friend and medical attendant
of the deceased, has given evidence to the same effect.
"The facts of the case are simple. Sir Charles Baskerville was in
the habit every night before going to bed of walking down the
famous Yew Alley of Baskerville Hall. The evidence of the
Barrymores shows that this had been his custom. On the 4th of May
Sir Charles had declared his intention of starting next day for
London, and had ordered Barrymore to prepare his luggage. That
night he went out as usual for his nocturnal walk, in the course
of which he was in the habit of smoking a cigar. He never
returned. At twelve o'clock Barrymore, finding the hall door
still open, became alarmed, and, lighting a lantern, went in
search of his master. The day had been wet, and Sir Charles's
footmarks were easily traced down the Alley. Half-way down this
walk there is a gate which leads out on to the moor. There were
indications that Sir Charles had stood for some little time here.
He then proceeded down the Alley, and it was at the far end of it
that his body was discovered. One fact which has not been
explained is the statement of Barrymore that his master's
footprints altered their character from the time that he passed
the moor-gate, and that he appeared from thence onward to have
been walking upon his toes. One Murphy, a gipsy horse-dealer, was
on the moor at no great distance at the time, but he appears by
his own confession to have been the worse for drink. He declares
that he heard cries, but is unable to state from what
direction they came. No signs of violence were to be discovered
upon Sir Charles's person, and though the doctor's evidence
pointed to an almost incredible facial distortion--so great that
Dr. Mortimer refused at first to believe that it was indeed his
friend and patient who lay before him--it was explained that that
is a symptom which is not unusual in cases of dyspnoea and death
from cardiac exhaustion. This explanation was borne out by the
post-mortem examination, which showed long-standing organic
disease, and the coroner's jury returned a verdict in accordance
with the medical evidence. It is well that this is so, for it is
obviously of the utmost importance that Sir Charles's heir should
settle at the Hall and continue the good work which has been so
sadly interrupted. Had the prosaic finding of the coroner not
finally put an end to the romantic stories which have been
whispered in connection with the affair, it might have been
difficult to find a tenant for Baskerville Hall. It is understood
that the next of kin is Mr. Henry Baskerville, if he be still
alive, the son of Sir Charles Baskerville's younger brother. The
young man when last heard of was in America, and inquiries are
being instituted with a view to informing him of his good
Dr. Mortimer refolded his paper and replaced it in his pocket.
"Those are the public facts, Mr. Holmes, in connection with the
death of Sir Charles Baskerville."
"I must thank you," said Sherlock Holmes, "for calling my
attention to a case which certainly presents some features of
interest. I had observed some newspaper comment at the time, but
I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the
Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch
with several interesting English cases. This article, you say,
contains all the public facts?"
"Then let me have the private ones." He leaned back, put his
finger-tips together, and assumed his most impassive and judicial
"In doing so," said Dr. Mortimer, who had begun to show signs of
some strong emotion, "I am telling that which I have not confided
to anyone. My motive for withholding it from the coroner's
inquiry is that a man of science shrinks from placing himself in
the public position of seeming to indorse a popular superstition.
I had the further motive that Baskerville Hall, as the paper
says, would certainly remain untenanted if anything were done to
increase its already rather grim reputation. For both these
reasons I thought that I was justified in telling rather less
than I knew, since no practical good could result from it, but
with you there is no reason why I should not be perfectly frank.
"The moor is very sparsely inhabited, and those who live near
each other are thrown very much together. For this reason I saw a
good deal of Sir Charles Baskerville. With the exception of Mr.
Frankland, of Lafter Hall, and Mr. Stapleton, the naturalist,
there are no other men of education within many miles. Sir
Charles was a retiring man, but the chance of his illness brought
us together, and a community of interests in science kept us so.
He had brought back much scientific information from South
Africa, and many a charming evening we have spent together
discussing the comparative anatomy of the Bushman and the
"Within the last few months it became increasingly plain to me
that Sir Charles's nervous system was strained to the breaking
point. He had taken this legend which I have read you exceedingly
to heart--so much so that, although he would walk in his own
grounds, nothing would induce him to go out upon the moor at
night. Incredible as it may appear to you, Mr. Holmes, he was
honestly convinced that a dreadful fate overhung his family, and
certainly the records which he was able to give of his ancestors
were not encouraging. The idea of some ghastly presence
constantly haunted him, and on more than one occasion he has
asked me whether I had on my medical journeys at night ever seen
any strange creature or heard the baying of a hound. The latter
question he put to me several times, and always with a voice
which vibrated with excitement.
"I can well remember driving up to his house in the evening some
three weeks before the fatal event. He chanced to be at his hall
door. I had descended from my gig and was standing in front of
him, when I saw his eyes fix themselves over my shoulder, and
stare past me with an expression of the most dreadful horror. I
whisked round and had just time to catch a glimpse of something
which I took to be a large black calf passing at the head of the
drive. So excited and alarmed was he that I was compelled to go
down to the spot where the animal had been and look around for
it. It was gone, however, and the incident appeared to make the
worst impression upon his mind. I stayed with him all the
evening, and it was on that occasion, to explain the emotion
which he had shown, that he confided to my keeping that narrative
which I read to you when first I came. I mention this small
episode because it assumes some importance in view of the tragedy
which followed, but I was convinced at the time that the matter
was entirely trivial and that his excitement had no
"It was at my advice that Sir Charles was about to go to London.
His heart was, I knew, affected, and the constant anxiety in
which he lived, however chimerical the cause of it might be, was
evidently having a serious effect upon his health. I thought that
a few months among the distractions of town would send him back a
new man. Mr. Stapleton, a mutual friend who was much concerned at
his state of health, was of the same opinion. At the last instant
came this terrible catastrophe.
"On the night of Sir Charles's death Barrymore the butler, who
made the discovery, sent Perkins the groom on horseback to me,
and as I was sitting up late I was able to reach Baskerville Hall
within an hour of the event. I checked and corroborated all the
facts which were mentioned at the inquest. I followed the
footsteps down the Yew Alley, I saw the spot at the moor-gate
where he seemed to have waited, I remarked the change in the
shape of the prints after that point, I noted that there were no
other footsteps save those of Barrymore on the soft gravel, and
finally I carefully examined the body, which had not been touched
until my arrival. Sir Charles lay on his face, his arms out, his
fingers dug into the ground, and his features convulsed with some
strong emotion to such an extent that I could hardly have sworn
to his identity. There was certainly no physical injury of any
kind. But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the
inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round
the body. He did not observe any. But I did--some little distance
off, but fresh and clear."
"A man's or a woman's?"
Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice
sank almost to a whisper as he answered:--
"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"
I confess at these words a shudder passed through me. There was a
thrill in the doctor's voice which showed that he was himself
deeply moved by that which he told us. Holmes leaned forward in
his excitement and his eyes had the hard, dry glitter which shot
from them when he was keenly interested.
"You saw this?"
"As clearly as I see you."
"And you said nothing?"
"What was the use?"
"How was it that no one else saw it?"
"The marks were some twenty yards from the body and no one gave
them a thought. I don't suppose I should have done so had I not
known this legend."
"There are many sheep-dogs on the moor?"
"No doubt, but this was no sheep-dog."
"You say it was large?"
"But it had not approached the body?"
"What sort of night was it?'
"Damp and raw."
"But not actually raining?"
"What is the Alley like?"
"There are two lines of old yew hedge, twelve feet high and
impenetrable. The walk in the centre is about eight feet across."
"Is there anything between the hedges and the walk?"
"Yes, there is a strip of grass about six feet broad on either
"I understand that the yew hedge is penetrated at one point by a
"Yes, the wicket-gate which leads on to the moor."
"Is there any other opening?"
"So that to reach the Yew Alley one either has to come down it
from the house or else to enter it by the moor-gate?"
"There is an exit through a summer-house at the far end."
"Had Sir Charles reached this?"
"No; he lay about fifty yards from it."
"Now, tell me, Dr. Mortimer--and this is important--the
marks which you saw were on the path and not on the grass?"
"No marks could show on the grass."
"Were they on the same side of the path as the moor-gate?"
"Yes; they were on the edge of the path on the same side as the
"You interest me exceedingly. Another point. Was the wicket-gate
"Closed and padlocked."
"How high was it?"
"About four feet high."
"Then anyone could have got over it?"
"And what marks did you see by the wicket-gate?"
"None in particular."
"Good heaven! Did no one examine?"
"Yes, I examined myself."
"And found nothing?"
"It was all very confused. Sir Charles had evidently stood there
for five or ten minutes."
"How do you know that?"
"Because the ash had twice dropped from his cigar."
"Excellent! This is a colleague, Watson, after our own heart. But
"He had left his own marks all over that small patch of gravel. I
could discern no others."
Sherlock Holmes struck his hand against his knee with an
"If I had only been there!" he cried. "It is evidently a case of
extraordinary interest, and one which presented immense
opportunities to the scientific expert. That gravel page upon
which I might have read so much has been long ere this smudged by
the rain and defaced by the clogs of curious peasants. Oh, Dr.
Mortimer, Dr. Mortimer, to think that you should not have called
me in! You have indeed much to answer for."
"I could not call you in, Mr. Holmes, without disclosing these
facts to the world, and I have already given my reasons for not
wishing to do so. Besides, besides --"
"Why do you hesitate?"
"There is a realm in which the most acute and most experienced of
detectives is helpless."
"You mean that the thing is supernatural?"
"I did not positively say so."
"No, but you evidently think it."
"Since the tragedy, Mr. Holmes, there have come to my ears
several incidents which are hard to reconcile with the settled
order of Nature."
"I find that before the terrible event occurred several people
had seen a creature upon the moor which corresponds with this
Baskerville demon, and which could not possibly be any animal
known to science. They all agreed that it was a huge creature,
luminous, ghastly, and spectral. I have cross-examined these men,
one of them a hard-headed countryman, one a farrier, and one a
moorland farmer, who all tell the same story of this dreadful
apparition, exactly corresponding to the hell-hound of the
legend. I assure you that there is a reign of terror in the
district, and that it is a hardy man who will cross the moor at
"And you, a trained man of science, believe it to be
"I do not know what to believe."
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"I have hitherto confined my investigations to this world," said
he. "In a modest way I have combated evil, but to take on the
Father of Evil himself would, perhaps, be too ambitious a task.
Yet you must admit that the footmark is material."
"The original hound was material enough to tug a man's throat
out, and yet he was diabolical as well."
"I see that you have quite gone over to the supernaturalists. But
now, Dr. Mortimer, tell me this. If you hold these views, why
have you come to consult me at all? You tell me in the same
breath that it is useless to investigate Sir Charles's death, and
that you desire me to do it."
"I did not say that I desired you to do it."
"Then, how can I assist you?"
"By advising me as to what I should do with Sir Henry
Baskerville, who arrives at Waterloo Station"--Dr. Mortimer
looked at his watch--"in exactly one hour and a quarter."
"He being the heir?"
"Yes. On the death of Sir Charles we inquired for this young
gentleman and found that he had been farming in Canada. From the
accounts which have reached us he is an excellent fellow in every
way. I speak not as a medical man but as a trustee and executor
of Sir Charles's will."
"There is no other claimant, I presume?"
"None. The only other kinsman whom we have been able to trace was
Rodger Baskerville, the youngest of three brothers of whom poor
Sir Charles was the elder. The second brother, who died young, is
the father of this lad Henry. The third, Rodger, was the black
sheep of the family. He came of the old masterful Baskerville
strain, and was the very image, they tell me, of the family
picture of old Hugo. He made England too hot to hold him, fled to
Central America, and died there in 1876 of yellow fever. Henry is
the last of the Baskervilles. In one hour and five minutes I meet
him at Waterloo Station. I have had a wire that he arrived at
Southampton this morning. Now, Mr. Holmes, what would you advise
me to do with him?"
"Why should he not go to the home of his fathers?"
"It seems natural, does it not? And yet, consider that every
Baskerville who goes there meets with an evil fate. I feel sure
that if Sir Charles could have spoken with me before his death he
would have warned me against bringing this, the last of the old
race, and the heir to great wealth, to that deadly place. And yet
it cannot be denied that the prosperity of the whole poor, bleak
country-side depends upon his presence. All the good work which
has been done by Sir Charles will crash to the ground if there is
no tenant of the Hall. I fear lest I should be swayed too much by
my own obvious interest in the matter, and that is why I bring
the case before you and ask for your advice."
Holmes considered for a little time.
"Put into plain words, the matter is this," said he. "In your
opinion there is a diabolical agency which makes Dartmoor an
unsafe abode for a Baskerville--that is your opinion?"
"At least I might go the length of saying that there is some
evidence that this may be so."
"Exactly. But surely, if your supernatural theory be correct, it
could work the young man evil in London as easily as in
Devonshire. A devil with merely local powers like a parish
vestry would be too inconceivable a thing."
"You put the matter more flippantly, Mr. Holmes, than you would
probably do if you were brought into personal contact with these
things. Your advice, then, as I understand it, is that the young
man will be as safe in Devonshire as in London. He comes in fifty
minutes. What would you recommend?"
"I recommend, sir, that you take a cab, call off your spaniel who
is scratching at my front door, and proceed to Waterloo to meet
Sir Henry Baskerville."
"And then you will say nothing to him at all until I have made up
my mind about the matter."
"How long will it take you to make up your mind?"
"Twenty-four hours. At ten o'clock to-morrow, Dr. Mortimer, I
will be much obliged to you if you will call upon me here, and it
will be of help to me in my plans for the future if you will
bring Sir Henry Baskerville with you."
"I will do so, Mr. Holmes." He scribbled the appointment on his
shirtcuff and hurried off in his strange, peering, absent-minded
fashion. Holmes stopped him at the head of the stair.
"Only one more question, Dr. Mortimer. You say that before Sir
Charles Baskerville's death several people saw this apparition
upon the moor?"
"Three people did."
"Did any see it after?"
"I have not heard of any."
"Thank you. Good morning."
Holmes returned to his seat with that quiet look of inward
satisfaction which meant that he had a congenial task before him.
"Going out, Watson?"
"Unless I can help you."
"No, my dear fellow, it is at the hour of action that I turn to
you for aid. But this is splendid, really unique from some points
of view. When you pass Bradley's, would you ask him to send up a
pound of the strongest shag tobacco? Thank you. It would be as
well if you could make it convenient not to return before
evening. Then I should be very glad to compare impressions as to
this most interesting problem which has been submitted to us this
I knew that seclusion and solitude were very necessary for my
friend in those hours of intense mental concentration during
which he weighed every particle of evidence, constructed
alternative theories, balanced one against the other, and made up
his mind as to which points were essential and which immaterial.
I therefore spent the day at my club and did not return to Baker
Street until evening. It was nearly nine o'clock when I found
myself in the sitting-room once more.
My first impression as I opened the door was that a fire had
broken out, for the room was so filled with smoke that the light
of the lamp upon the table was blurred by it. As I entered,
however, my fears were set at rest, for it was the acrid fumes of
strong coarse tobacco which took me by the throat and set me
coughing. Through the haze I had a vague vision of Holmes in his
dressing-gown coiled up in an armchair with his black clay pipe
between his lips. Several rolls of paper lay around him.
"Caught cold, Watson?" said he.
"No, it's this poisonous atmosphere."
"I suppose it is pretty thick, now that you mention it."
"Thick! It is intolerable."
"Open the window, then! You have been at your club all day, I
"My dear Holmes!"
"Am I right?"
"Certainly, but how?"
He laughed at my bewildered expression.
"There is a delightful freshness about you, Watson, which makes
it a pleasure to exercise any small powers which I possess at
your expense. A gentleman goes forth on a showery and miry day.
He returns immaculate in the evening with the gloss still on his
hat and his boots. He has been a fixture therefore all day. He is
not a man with intimate friends. Where, then, could he have been?
Is it not obvious?"
"Well, it is rather obvious."
"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance
ever observes. Where do you think that I have been?"
"A fixture also."
"On the contrary, I have been to Devonshire."
"Exactly. My body has remained in this arm-chair and has, I
regret to observe, consumed in my absence two large pots of
coffee and an incredible amount of tobacco. After you left I sent
down to Stamford's for the Ordnance map of this portion of the
moor, and my spirit has hovered over it all day. I flatter myself
that I could find my way about."
"A large scale map, I presume?"
"Very large." He unrolled one section and held it over his knee.
"Here you have the particular district which concerns us. That is
Baskerville Hall in the middle."
"With a wood round it?"
"Exactly. I fancy the Yew Alley, though not marked under that
name, must stretch along this line, with the moor, as you
perceive, upon the right of it. This small clump of buildings
here is the hamlet of Grimpen, where our friend Dr. Mortimer has
his headquarters. Within a radius of five miles there are, as you
see, only a very few scattered dwellings. Here is Lafter Hall,
which was mentioned in the narrative. There is a house indicated
here which may be the residence of the naturalist--Stapleton, if
I remember right, was his name. Here are two moorland
farm-houses, High Tor and Foulmire. Then fourteen miles away the
great convict prison of Princetown. Between and around these
scattered points extends the desolate, lifeless moor. This, then,
is the stage upon which tragedy has been played, and upon which
we may help to play it again."
"It must be a wild place."
"Yes, the setting is a worthy one. If the devil did desire to
have a hand in the affairs of men ----"
"Then you are yourself inclining to the supernatural
"The devil's agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?
There are two questions waiting for us at the outset. The one is
whether any crime has been committed at all; the second is, what
is the crime and how was it committed? Of course, if Dr.
Mortimer's surmise should be correct, and we are dealing with
forces outside the ordinary laws of Nature, there is an end of
our investigation. But we are bound to exhaust all other
hypotheses before falling back upon this one. I think we'll shut
that window again, if you don't mind. It is a singular thing, but
I find that a concentrated atmosphere helps a concentration of
thought. I have not pushed it to the length of getting into a box
to think, but that is the logical outcome of my convictions. Have
you turned the case over in your mind?"
"Yes, I have thought a good deal of it in the course of the day."
"What do you make of it?"
"It is very bewildering."
"It has certainly a character of its own. There are points of
distinction about it. That change in the footprints, for example.
What do you make of that?"
"Mortimer said that the man had walked on tiptoe down that
portion of the alley."
"He only repeated what some fool had said at the inquest. Why
should a man walk on tiptoe down the alley?"
"He was running, Watson--running desperately, running for his
life, running until he burst his heart and fell dead upon his
"Running from what?"
"There lies our problem. There are indications that the man was
crazed with fear before ever he began to run."
"How can you say that?"
"I am presuming that the cause of his fears came to him across
the moor. If that were so, and it seems most probable, only a man
who had lost his wits would have run from the house instead of
towards it. If the gipsy's evidence may be taken as true, he ran
with cries for help in the direction where help was least likely
to be. Then, again, whom was he waiting for that night, and why
was he waiting for him in the Yew Alley rather than in his own
"You think that he was waiting for someone?"
"The man was elderly and infirm. We can understand his taking an
evening stroll, but the ground was damp and the night inclement.
Is it natural that he should stand for five or ten minutes, as
Dr. Mortimer, with more practical sense than I should have given
him credit for, deduced from the cigar ash?"
"But he went out every evening."
"I think it unlikely that he waited at the moor-gate every
evening. On the contrary, the evidence is that he avoided the
moor. That night he waited there. It was the night before he made
his departure for London. The thing takes shape, Watson. It
becomes coherent. Might I ask you to hand me my violin, and we
will postpone all further thought upon this business until we
have had the advantage of meeting Dr. Mortimer and Sir Henry
Baskerville in the morning."
Sir Henry Baskerville
Our breakfast-table was cleared early, and Holmes waited in his
dressing-gown for the promised interview. Our clients were
punctual to their appointment, for the clock had just struck ten
when Dr. Mortimer was shown up, followed by the young baronet.
The latter was a small, alert, dark-eyed man about thirty years
of age, very sturdily built, with thick black eyebrows and a
strong, pugnacious face. He wore a ruddy-tinted tweed suit and
had the weather-beaten appearance of one who has spent most of
his time in the open air, and yet there was something in his
steady eye and the quiet assurance of his bearing which indicated
"This is Sir Henry Baskerville," said Dr. Mortimer.
"Why, yes," said he, "and the strange thing is, Mr. Sherlock
Holmes, that if my friend here had not proposed coming round to
you this morning I should have come on my own account. I
understand that you think out little puzzles, and I've had one
this morning which wants more thinking out than I am able to give
"Pray take a seat, Sir Henry. Do I understand you to say that you
have yourself had some remarkable experience since you arrived in
"Nothing of much importance, Mr. Holmes. Only a joke, as like as
not. It was this letter, if you can call it a letter, which
reached me this morning."
He laid an envelope upon the table, and we all bent over it. It
was of common quality, grayish in colour. The address, "Sir Henry
Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel," was printed in rough
characters; the postmark "Charing Cross," and the date of posting
the preceding evening.
"Who knew that you were going to the Northumberland Hotel?" asked
Holmes, glancing keenly across at our visitor.
"No one could have known. We only decided after I met Dr.
"But Dr. Mortimer was no doubt already stopping there?"
"No, I had been staying with a friend," said the doctor. "There
was no possible indication that we intended to go to this hotel."
"Hum! Someone seems to be very deeply interested in your
movements." Out of the envelope he took a half-sheet of foolscap
paper folded into four. This he opened and spread flat upon the
table. Across the middle of it a single sentence had been formed
by the expedient of pasting printed words upon it. It ran: "As
you value your life or your reason keep away from the moor." The
word "moor" only was printed in ink.
"Now," said Sir Henry Baskerville, "perhaps you will tell me, Mr.
Holmes, what in thunder is the meaning of that, and who it is
that takes so much interest in my affairs?"
"What do you make of it, Dr. Mortimer? You must allow that there
is nothing supernatural about this, at any rate?"
"No, sir, but it might very well come from someone who was
convinced that the business is supernatural."
"What business?" asked Sir Henry sharply. "It seems to me that
all you gentlemen know a great deal more than I do about my own
"You shall share our knowledge before you leave this room, Sir
Henry. I promise you that," said Sherlock Holmes. "We will
confine ourselves for the present with your permission to this
very interesting document, which must have been put together and
posted yesterday evening. Have you yesterday's Times, Watson?"
"It is here in the corner."
"Might I trouble you for it--the inside page, please, with the
leading articles?" He glanced swiftly over it, running his eyes
up and down the columns. "Capital article this on free trade.
Permit me to give you an extract from it. 'You may be cajoled
into imagining that your own special trade or your own industry
will be encouraged by a protective tariff, but it stands to
reason that such legislation must in the long run keep away
wealth from the country, diminish the value of our imports, and
lower the general conditions of life in this island.' What do you
think of that, Watson?" cried Holmes in high glee, rubbing his
hands together with satisfaction. "Don't you think that is an
Dr. Mortimer looked at Holmes with an air of professional
interest, and Sir Henry Baskerville turned a pair of puzzled dark
eyes upon me.
"I don't know much about the tariff and things of that kind,"
said he; "but it seems to me we've got a bit off the trail so far
as that note is concerned."
"On the contrary, I think we are particularly hot upon the trail,
Sir Henry. Watson here knows more about my methods than you do,
but I fear that even he has not quite grasped the significance of
"No, I confess that I see no connection."
"And yet, my dear Watson, there is so very close a connection
that the one is extracted out of the other. 'You,' 'your,'
'your,' 'life,' 'reason,' 'value,' 'keep away,' 'from the.' Don't
you see now whence these words have been taken?"
"By thunder, you're right! Well, if that isn't smart!" cried Sir
"If any possible doubt remained it is settled by the fact that
'keep away' and 'from the' are cut out in one piece."
"Well, now--so it is!"
"Really, Mr. Holmes, this exceeds anything which I could have
imagined," said Dr. Mortimer, gazing at my friend in amazement.
"I could understand anyone saying that the words were from a
newspaper; but that you should name which, and add that it came
from the leading article, is really one of the most remarkable
things which I have ever known. How did you do it?"
"I presume, Doctor, that you could tell the skull of a negro from
that of an Esquimau?"
"Because that is my special hobby. The differences are obvious.
The supra-orbital crest, the facial angle, the maxillary curve,
"But this is my special hobby, and the differences are equally
obvious. There is as much difference to my eyes between the
leaded bourgeois type of a Times article and the slovenly print
of an evening half-penny paper as there could be between your
negro and your Esquimau. The detection of types is one of the
most elementary branches of knowledge to the special expert in
crime, though I confess that once when I was very young I
confused the Leeds Mercury with the Western Morning News. But a
Times leader is entirely distinctive, and these words could have
been taken from nothing else. As it was done yesterday the strong
probability was that we should find the words in yesterday's
"So far as I can follow you, then, Mr. Holmes," said Sir Henry
Baskerville, "someone cut out this message with a scissors--"
"Nail-scissors," said Holmes. "You can see that it was a very
short-bladed scissors, since the cutter had to take two snips
over 'keep away.'"
"That is so. Someone, then, cut out the message with a pair of
short-bladed scissors, pasted it with paste--"
"Gum," said Holmes.
"With gum on to the paper. But I want to know why the word 'moor'
should have been written?"
"Because he could not find it in print. The other words were all
simple and might be found in any issue, but 'moor' would be less
"Why, of course, that would explain it. Have you read anything
else in this message, Mr. Holmes?"
"There are one or two indications, and yet the utmost pains have
been taken to remove all clues. The address, you observe is
printed in rough characters. But the Times is a paper which is
seldom found in any hands but those of the highly educated. We
may take it, therefore, that the letter was composed by an
educated man who wished to pose as an uneducated one, and his
effort to conceal his own writing suggests that that writing
might be known, or come to be known, by you. Again, you will
observe that the words are not gummed on in an accurate line, but
that some are much higher than others. 'Life,' for example is
quite out of its proper place. That may point to carelessness or
it may point to agitation and hurry upon the part of the cutter.
On the whole I incline to the latter view, since the matter was
evidently important, and it is unlikely that the composer of such
a letter would be careless. If he were in a hurry it opens up the
interesting question why he should be in a hurry, since any
letter posted up to early morning would reach Sir Henry before he
would leave his hotel. Did the composer fear an interruption--and
"We are coming now rather into the region of guesswork," said Dr.
"Say, rather, into the region where we balance probabilities and
choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the
imagination, but we have always some material basis on which to
start our speculation. Now, you would call it a guess, no doubt,
but I am almost certain that this address has been written in a
"How in the world can you say that?"
"If you examine it carefully you will see that both the pen and
the ink have given the writer trouble. The pen has spluttered
twice in a single word, and has run dry three times in a short
address, showing that there was very little ink in the bottle.
Now, a private pen or ink-bottle is seldom allowed to be in such
a state, and the combination of the two must be quite rare. But
you know the hotel ink and the hotel pen, where it is rare to get
anything else. Yes, I have very little hesitation in saying that
could we examine the waste-paper baskets of the hotels around
Charing Cross until we found the remains of the mutilated Times
leader we could lay our hands straight upon the person who sent
this singular message. Halloa! Halloa! What's this?"
He was carefully examining the foolscap, upon which the words
were pasted, holding it only an inch or two from his eyes.
"Nothing," said he, throwing it down. "It is a blank half-sheet
of paper, without even a water-mark upon it. I think we have
drawn as much as we can from this curious letter; and now, Sir
Henry, has anything else of interest happened to you since you
have been in London?"
"Why, no, Mr. Holmes. I think not."
"You have not observed anyone follow or watch you?"
"I seem to have walked right into the thick of a dime novel,"
said our visitor. "Why in thunder should anyone follow or watch
"We are coming to that. You have nothing else to report to us
before we go into this matter?"
"Well, it depends upon what you think worth reporting."
"I think anything out of the ordinary routine of life well worth
Sir Henry smiled.
"I don't know much of British life yet, for I have spent nearly
all my time in the States and in Canada. But I hope that to lose
one of your boots is not part of the ordinary routine of life
"You have lost one of your boots?"
"My dear sir," cried Dr. Mortimer, "it is only mislaid. You will
find it when you return to the hotel. What is the use of
troubling Mr. Holmes with trifles of this kind?"
"Well, he asked me for anything outside the ordinary routine."
"Exactly," said Holmes, "however foolish the incident may seem.
You have lost one of your boots, you say?"
"Well, mislaid it, anyhow. I put them both outside my door last
night, and there was only one in the morning. I could get no
sense out of the chap who cleans them. The worst of it is that I
only bought the pair last night in the Strand, and I have never
had them on."
"If you have never worn them, why did you put them out to be
"They were tan boots and had never been varnished. That was why I
put them out."
"Then I understand that on your arrival in London yesterday you
went out at once and bought a pair of boots?"
"I did a good deal of shopping. Dr. Mortimer here went round with
me. You see, if I am to be squire down there I must dress the
part, and it may be that I have got a little careless in my ways
out West. Among other things I bought these brown boots--gave six
dollars for them--and had one stolen before ever I had them on my
"It seems a singularly useless thing to steal," said Sherlock
Holmes. "I confess that I share Dr. Mortimer's belief that it
will not be long before the missing boot is found."
"And, now, gentlemen," said the baronet with decision, "it seems
to me that I have spoken quite enough about the little that I
know. It is time that you kept your promise and gave me a full
account of what we are all driving at."
"Your request is a very reasonable one," Holmes answered. "Dr.
Mortimer, I think you could not do better than to tell your story
as you told it to us."
Thus encouraged, our scientific friend drew his papers from his
pocket, and presented the whole case as he had done upon the
morning before. Sir Henry Baskerville listened with the deepest
attention, and with an occasional exclamation of surprise.
"Well, I seem to have come into an inheritance with a vengeance,"
said he when the long narrative was finished. "Of course, I've
heard of the hound ever since I was in the nursery. It's the pet
story of the family, though I never thought of taking it
seriously before. But as to my uncle's death--well, it all seems
boiling up in my head, and I can't get it clear yet. You don't
seem quite to have made up your mind whether it's a case for a
policeman or a clergyman."
"And now there's this affair of the letter to me at the hotel. I
suppose that fits into its place."
"It seems to show that someone knows more than we do about what
goes on upon the moor," said Dr. Mortimer.
"And also," said Holmes, "that someone is not ill-disposed
towards you, since they warn you of danger."
"Or it may be that they wish, for their own purposes, to scare me
"Well, of course, that is possible also. I am very much indebted
to you, Dr. Mortimer, for introducing me to a problem which
presents several interesting alternatives. But the practical
point which we now have to decide, Sir Henry, is whether it is or
is not advisable for you to go to Baskerville Hall."
"Why should I not go?"
"There seems to be danger."
"Do you mean danger from this family fiend or do you mean danger
from human beings?"
"Well, that is what we have to find out."
"Whichever it is, my answer is fixed. There is no devil in hell,
Mr. Holmes, and there is no man upon earth who can prevent me
from going to the home of my own people, and you may take that to
be my final answer." His dark brows knitted and his face flushed
to a dusky red as he spoke. It was evident that the fiery temper
of the Baskervilles was not extinct in this their last
representative. "Meanwhile," said he, "I have hardly had time to
think over all that you have told me. It's a big thing for a man
to have to understand and to decide at one sitting. I should like
to have a quiet hour by myself to make up my mind. Now, look
here, Mr. Holmes, it's half-past eleven now and I am going back
right away to my hotel. Suppose you and your friend, Dr. Watson,
come round and lunch with us at two. I'll be able to tell you
more clearly then how this thing strikes me."
"Is that convenient to you, Watson?"
"Then you may expect us. Shall I have a cab called?"
"I'd prefer to walk, for this affair has flurried me rather."
"I'll join you in a walk, with pleasure," said his companion.
"Then we meet again at two o'clock. Au revoir, and good-morning!"
We heard the steps of our visitors descend the stair and the bang
of the front door. In an instant Holmes had changed from the
languid dreamer to the man of action.
"Your hat and boots, Watson, quick! Not a moment to lose!" He
rushed into his room in his dressing-gown and was back again in a
few seconds in a frock-coat. We hurried together down the stairs
and into the street. Dr. Mortimer and Baskerville were still
visible about two hundred yards ahead of us in the direction of
"Shall I run on and stop them?"
"Not for the world, my dear Watson. I am perfectly satisfied with
your company if you will tolerate mine. Our friends are wise, for
it is certainly a very fine morning for a walk."
He quickened his pace until we had decreased the distance which
divided us by about half. Then, still keeping a hundred yards
behind, we followed into Oxford Street and so down Regent Street.
Once our friends stopped and stared into a shop window, upon
which Holmes did the same. An instant afterwards he gave a little
cry of satisfaction, and, following the direction of his eager
eyes, I saw that a hansom cab with a man inside which had halted
on the other side of the street was now proceeding slowly onward
"There's our man, Watson! Come along! We'll have a good look at
him, if we can do no more."
At that instant I was aware of a bushy black beard and a pair of
piercing eyes turned upon us through the side window of the cab.
Instantly the trapdoor at the top flew up, something was screamed
to the driver, and the cab flew madly off down Regent Street.
Holmes looked eagerly round for another, but no empty one was in
sight. Then he dashed in wild pursuit amid the stream of the
traffic, but the start was too great, and already the cab was out
"There now!" said Holmes bitterly as he emerged panting and white
with vexation from the tide of vehicles. "Was ever such bad luck
and such bad management, too? Watson, Watson, if you are an
honest man you will record this also and set it against my
"Who was the man?"
"I have not an idea."
"Well, it was evident from what we have heard that Baskerville
has been very closely shadowed by someone since he has been in
town. How else could it be known so quickly that it was the
Northumberland Hotel which he had chosen? If they had followed
him the first day I argued that they would follow him also the
second. You may have observed that I twice strolled over to the
window while Dr. Mortimer was reading his legend."
"Yes, I remember."
"I was looking out for loiterers in the street, but I saw none.
We are dealing with a clever man, Watson. This matter cuts very
deep, and though I have not finally made up my mind whether it is
a benevolent or a malevolent agency which is in touch with us, I
am conscious always of power and design. When our friends left I
at once followed them in the hopes of marking down their
invisible attendant. So wily was he that he had not trusted
himself upon foot, but he had availed himself of a cab so that he
could loiter behind or dash past them and so escape their notice.
His method had the additional advantage that if they were to take
a cab he was all ready to follow them. It has, however, one
"It puts him in the power of the cabman."
"What a pity we did not get the number!"
"My dear Watson, clumsy as I have been, you surely do not
seriously imagine that I neglected to get the number? No. 2704 is
our man. But that is no use to us for the moment."
"I fail to see how you could have done more."
"On observing the cab I should have instantly turned and walked
in the other direction. I should then at my leisure have hired a
second cab and followed the first at a respectful distance, or,
better still, have driven to the Northumberland Hotel and waited
there. When our unknown had followed Baskerville home we should
have had the opportunity of playing his own game upon himself and
seeing where he made for. As it is, by an indiscreet eagerness,
which was taken advantage of with extraordinary quickness and
energy by our opponent, we have betrayed ourselves and lost our
We had been sauntering slowly down Regent Street during this
conversation, and Dr. Mortimer, with his companion, had long
vanished in front of us.
"There is no object in our following them," said Holmes. "The
shadow has departed and will not return. We must see what further
cards we have in our hands and play them with decision. Could you
swear to that man's face within the cab?"
"I could swear only to the beard."
"And so could I--from which I gather that in all probability it
was a false one. A clever man upon so delicate an errand has no
use for a beard save to conceal his features. Come in here,
He turned into one of the district messenger offices, where he
was warmly greeted by the manager.
"Ah, Wilson, I see you have not forgotten the little case in
which I had the good fortune to help you?"
"No, sir, indeed I have not. You saved my good name, and perhaps
"My dear fellow, you exaggerate. I have some recollection,
Wilson, that you had among your boys a lad named Cartwright, who
showed some ability during the investigation."
"Yes, sir, he is still with us."
"Could you ring him up?--thank you! And I should be glad to have
change of this five-pound note."
A lad of fourteen, with a bright, keen face, had obeyed the
summons of the manager. He stood now gazing with great reverence
at the famous detective.
"Let me have the Hotel Directory," said Holmes. "Thank you! Now,
Cartwright, there are the names of twenty-three hotels here, all
in the immediate neighbourhood of Charing Cross. Do you see?"
"You will visit each of these in turn."
"You will begin in each case by giving the outside porter one
shilling. Here are twenty-three shillings."
"You will tell him that you want to see the waste-paper of
yesterday. You will say that an important telegram has miscarried
and that you are looking for it. You understand?"
"But what you are really looking for is the centre page of the
Times with some holes cut in it with scissors. Here is a copy of
the Times. It is this page. You could easily recognize it, could
"In each case the outside porter will send for the hall porter,
to whom also you will give a shilling. Here are twenty-three
shillings. You will then learn in possibly twenty cases out of
the twenty-three that the waste of the day before has been burned
or removed. In the three other cases you will be shown a heap of
paper and you will look for this page of the Times among it. The
odds are enormously against your finding it. There are ten
shillings over in case of emergencies. Let me have a report by
wire at Baker Street before evening. And now, Watson, it only
remains for us to find out by wire the identity of the cabman,
No. 2704, and then we will drop into one of the Bond Street
picture galleries and fill in the time until we are due at the
Three Broken Threads
Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of
detaching his mind at will. For two hours the strange business in
which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he was
entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian masters.
He would talk of nothing but art, of which he had the crudest
ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found ourselves at
the Northumberland Hotel.
"Sir Henry Baskerville is upstairs expecting you," said the
clerk. "He asked me to show you up at once when you came."
"Have you any objection to my looking at your register?" said
"Not in the least."
The book showed that two names had been added after that of
Baskerville. One was Theophilus Johnson and family, of Newcastle;
the other Mrs. Oldmore and maid, of High Lodge, Alton.
"Surely that must be the same Johnson whom I used to know," said
Holmes to the porter. "A lawyer, is he not, gray-headed, and
walks with a limp?"
"No, sir; this is Mr. Johnson, the coal-owner, a very active
gentleman, not older than yourself."
"Surely you are mistaken about his trade?"
"No, sir! he has used this hotel for many years, and he is very
well known to us."
"Ah, that settles it. Mrs. Oldmore, too; I seem to remember the
name. Excuse my curiosity, but often in calling upon one friend
one finds another."
"She is an invalid lady, sir. Her husband was once mayor of
Gloucester. She always comes to us when she is in town."
"Thank you; I am afraid I cannot claim her acquaintance. We have
established a most important fact by these questions, Watson," he
continued in a low voice as we went upstairs together. "We know
now that the people who are so interested in our friend have not
settled down in his own hotel. That means that while they are, as
we have seen, very anxious to watch him, they are equally anxious
that he should not see them. Now, this is a most suggestive
"What does it suggest?"
"It suggests--halloa, my dear fellow, what on earth is the
As we came round the top of the stairs we had run up against Sir
Henry Baskerville himself. His face was flushed with anger, and
he held an old and dusty boot in one of his hands. So furious was
he that he was hardly articulate, and when he did speak it was in
a much broader and more Western dialect than any which we had
heard from him in the morning.
"Seems to me they are playing me for a sucker in this hotel," he
cried. "They'll find they've started in to monkey with the wrong
man unless they are careful. By thunder, if that chap can't find
my missing boot there will be trouble. I can take a joke with the
best, Mr. Holmes, but they've got a bit over the mark this time."
"Still looking for your boot?"
"Yes, sir, and mean to find it."
"But, surely, you said that it was a new brown boot?"
"So it was, sir. And now it's an old black one."
"What! you don't mean to say----?"
"That's just what I do mean to say. I only had three pairs in the
world--the new brown, the old black, and the patent leathers,
which I am wearing. Last night they took one of my brown ones,
and to-day they have sneaked one of the black. Well, have you got
it? Speak out, man, and don't stand staring!"
An agitated German waiter had appeared upon the scene.
"No, sir; I have made inquiry all over the hotel, but I can hear
no word of it."
"Well, either that boot comes back before sundown or I'll see the
manager and tell him that I go right straight out of this hotel."
"It shall be found, sir--I promise you that if you will have a
little patience it will be found."
"Mind it is, for it's the last thing of mine that I'll lose in
this den of thieves. Well, well, Mr. Holmes, you'll excuse my
troubling you about such a trifle----"
"I think it's well worth troubling about."
"Why, you look very serious over it."
"How do you explain it?"
"I just don't attempt to explain it. It seems the very maddest,
queerest thing that ever happened to me."
"The queerest perhaps----" said Holmes, thoughtfully.
"What do you make of it yourself?"
"Well, I don't profess to understand it yet. This case of yours
is very complex, Sir Henry. When taken in conjunction with your
uncle's death I am not sure that of all the five hundred cases of
capital importance which I have handled there is one which cuts
so deep. But we hold several threads in our hands, and the odds
are that one or other of them guides us to the truth. We may
waste time in following the wrong one, but sooner or later we
must come upon the right."
We had a pleasant luncheon in which little was said of the
business which had brought us together. It was in the private
sitting-room to which we afterwards repaired that Holmes asked
Baskerville what were his intentions.
"To go to Baskerville Hall."
"At the end of the week."
"On the whole," said Holmes, "I think that your decision is a
wise one. I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in
London, and amid the millions of this great city it is difficult
to discover who these people are or what their object can be. If
their intentions are evil they might do you a mischief, and we
should be powerless to prevent it. You did not know, Dr. Mortimer,
that you were followed this morning from my house?"
Dr. Mortimer started violently.
"Followed! By whom?"
"That, unfortunately, is what I cannot tell you. Have you among
your neighbours or acquaintances on Dartmoor any man with a
black, full beard?"
"No--or, let me see--why, yes. Barrymore, Sir Charles's butler,
is a man with a full, black beard."
"Ha! Where is Barrymore?"
"He is in charge of the Hall."
"We had best ascertain if he is really there, or if by any
possibility he might be in London."
"How can you do that?"
"Give me a telegraph form. 'Is all ready for Sir Henry?' That
will do. Address to Mr. Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. What is the
nearest telegraph-office? Grimpen. Very good, we will send a
second wire to the postmaster, Grimpen: 'Telegram to Mr.
Barrymore to be delivered into his own hand. If absent, please
return wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.' That
should let us know before evening whether Barrymore is at his
post in Devonshire or not."
"That's so," said Baskerville. "By the way, Dr. Mortimer, who is
this Barrymore, anyhow?"
"He is the son of the old caretaker, who is dead. They have
looked after the Hall for four generations now. So far as I know,
he and his wife are as respectable a couple as any in the
"At the same time," said Baskerville, "it's clear enough that so
long as there are none of the family at the Hall these people
have a mighty fine home and nothing to do."
"That is true."
"Did Barrymore profit at all by Sir Charles's will?" asked
"He and his wife had five hundred pounds each."
"Ha! Did they know that they would receive this?"
"Yes; Sir Charles was very fond of talking about the provisions
of his will."
"That is very interesting."
"I hope," said Dr. Mortimer, "that you do not look with
suspicious eyes upon everyone who received a legacy from Sir
Charles, for I also had a thousand pounds left to me."
"Indeed! And anyone else?"
"There were many insignificant sums to individuals, and a large
number of public charities. The residue all went to Sir Henry."
"And how much was the residue?"
"Seven hundred and forty thousand pounds."
Holmes raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I had no idea that so
gigantic a sum was involved," said he.
"Sir Charles had the reputation of being rich, but we did not
know how very rich he was until we came to examine his
securities. The total value of the estate was close on to a
"Dear me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a
desperate game. And one more question, Dr. Mortimer. Supposing
that anything happened to our young friend here--you will forgive
the unpleasant hypothesis!--who would inherit the estate?"
"Since Rodger Baskerville, Sir Charles's younger brother died
unmarried, the estate would descend to the Desmonds, who are
distant cousins. James Desmond is an elderly clergyman in
"Thank you. These details are all of great interest. Have you met
Mr. James Desmond?"
"Yes; he once came down to visit Sir Charles. He is a man of
venerable appearance and of saintly life. I remember that he
refused to accept any settlement from Sir Charles, though he
pressed it upon him."
"And this man of simple tastes would be the heir to Sir Charles's
"He would be the heir to the estate because that is entailed. He
would also be the heir to the money unless it were willed
otherwise by the present owner, who can, of course, do what he
likes with it."
"And have you made your will, Sir Henry?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, I have not. I've had no time, for it was only
yesterday that I learned how matters stood. But in any case I
feel that the money should go with the title and estate. That was
my poor uncle's idea. How is the owner going to restore the
glories of the Baskervilles if he has not money enough to keep up
the property? House, land, and dollars must go together."
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