The Hound of the Baskervilles
A. Conan Doyle
Part 2 out of 4
"But Dr. Mortimer has his practice to attend to, and his house
is miles away from yours. With all the goodwill in the world he
may be unable to help you. No, Sir Henry, you must take with you
someone, a trusty man, who will be always by your side."
"Is it possible that you could come yourself, Mr. Holmes?"
"If matters came to a crisis I should endeavour to be present in
person; but you can understand that, with my extensive consulting
practice and with the constant appeals which reach me from many
quarters, it is impossible for me to be absent from London for
an indefinite time. At the present instant one of the most
revered names in England is being besmirched by a blackmailer,
and only I can stop a disastrous scandal. You will see how
impossible it is for me to go to Dartmoor."
"Whom would you recommend, then?"
Holmes laid his hand upon my arm. "If my friend would undertake
it there is no man who is better worth having at your side when
you are in a tight place. No one can say so more confidently
The proposition took me completely by surprise, but before I had
time to answer, Baskerville seized me by the hand and wrung it
"Well, now, that is real kind of you, Dr. Watson," said he. "You
see how it is with me, and you know just as much about the matter
as I do. If you will come down to Baskerville Hall and see me
through I'll never forget it."
The promise of adventure had always a fascination for me, and I
was complimented by the words of Holmes and by the eagerness with
which the baronet hailed me as a companion.
"I will come, with pleasure," said I. "I do not know how I could
employ my time better."
"And you will report very carefully to me," said Holmes. "When
a crisis comes, as it will do, I will direct how you shall act.
I suppose that by Saturday all might be ready?"
"Would that suit Dr. Watson?"
"Then on Saturday, unless you hear to the contrary, we shall meet
at the ten-thirty train from Paddington."
We had risen to depart when Baskerville gave a cry, of triumph,
and diving into one of the corners of the room he drew a brown
boot from under a cabinet.
"My missing boot!" he cried.
"May all our difficulties vanish as easily!" said Sherlock Holmes.
"But it is a very singular thing," Dr. Mortimer remarked. "I
searched this room carefully before lunch."
"And so did I," said Baskerville. "Every inch of it."
"There was certainly no boot in it then."
"In that case the waiter must have placed it there while we were
The German was sent for but professed to know nothing of the
matter, nor could any inquiry clear it up. Another item had
been added to that constant and apparently purposeless series
of small mysteries which had succeeded each other so rapidly.
Setting aside the whole grim story of Sir Charles's death, we
had a line of inexplicable incidents all within the limits of
two days, which included the receipt of the printed letter, the
black-bearded spy in the hansom, the loss of the new brown boot,
the loss of the old black boot, and now the return of the new
brown boot. Holmes sat in silence in the cab as we drove back
to Baker Street, and I knew from his drawn brows and keen face
that his mind, like my own, was busy in endeavouring to frame
some scheme into which all these strange and apparently disconnected
episodes could be fitted. All afternoon and late into the
evening he sat lost in tobacco and thought.
Just before dinner two telegrams were handed in. The first ran:
Have just heard that Barrymore is at the Hall.
Visited twenty-three hotels as directed, but sorry, to report
unable to trace cut sheet of Times.
"There go two of my threads, Watson. There is nothing more
stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. We
must cast round for another scent."
"We have still the cabman who drove the spy."
"Exactly. I have wired to get his name and address from the
Official Registry. I should not be surprised if this were an
answer to my question."
The ring at the bell proved to be something even more satisfactory
than an answer, however, for the door opened and a rough-looking
fellow entered who was evidently the man himself.
"I got a message from the head office that a gent at this address
had been inquiring for No. 2704," said he. "I've driven my cab this
seven years and never a word of complaint. I came here straight
from the Yard to ask you to your face what you had against me."
"I have nothing in the world against you, my good man," said
Holmes. "On the contrary, I have half a sovereign for you if you
will give me a clear answer to my questions."
"Well, I've had a good day and no mistake," said the cabman with
a grin. "What was it you wanted to ask, sir?"
"First of all your name and address, in case I want you again."
"John Clayton, 3 Turpey Street, the Borough. My cab is out of
Shipley's Yard, near Waterloo Station."
Sherlock Holmes made a note of it.
"Now, Clayton, tell me all about the fare who came and watched
this house at ten o'clock this morning and afterwards followed
the two gentlemen down Regent Street."
The man looked surprised and a little embarrassed. "Why, there's
no good my telling you things, for you seem to know as much as I
do already," said he. "The truth is that the gentleman told me
that he was a detective and that I was to say nothing about him
"My good fellow; this is a very serious business, and you may find
yourself in a pretty bad position if you try to hide anything from
me. You say that your fare told you that he was a detective?"
"Yes, he did."
"When did he say this?"
"When he left me."
"Did he say anything more?"
"He mentioned his name."
Holmes cast a swift glance of triumph at me. "Oh, he mentioned
his name, did he? That was imprudent. What was the name that
"His name," said the cabman, "was Mr. Sherlock Holmes."
Never have I seen my friend more completely taken aback than by
the cabman's reply. For an instant he sat in silent amazement.
Then he burst into a hearty laugh.
"A touch, Watson--an undeniable touch!" said he. "I feel a foil
as quick and supple as my own. He got home upon me very prettily
that time. So his name was Sherlock Holmes, was it?"
"Yes, sir, that was the gentleman's name."
"Excellent! Tell me where you picked him up and all that occurred."
"He hailed me at half-past nine in Trafalgar Square. He said that
he was a detective, and he offered me two guineas if I would do
exactly what he wanted all day and ask no questions. I was glad
enough to agree. First we drove down to the Northumberland Hotel
and waited there until two gentlemen came out and took a cab from
the rank. We followed their cab until it pulled up somewhere
"This very door," said Holmes.
"Well, I couldn't be sure of that, but I dare say my fare knew
all about it. We pulled up halfway down the street and waited
an hour and a half. Then the two gentlemen passed us, walking,
and we followed down Baker Street and along--"
"I know," said Holmes.
"Until we got three-quarters down Regent Street. Then my gentleman
threw up the trap, and he cried that I should drive right away
to Waterloo Station as hard as I could go. I whipped up the mare
and we were there under the ten minutes. Then he paid up his two
guineas, like a good one, and away he went into the station.
Only just as he was leaving he turned round and he said: 'It
might interest you to know that you have been driving Mr. Sherlock
Holmes.' That's how I come to know the name."
"I see. And you saw no more of him?"
"Not after he went into the station."
"And how would you describe Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
The cabman scratched his head. "Well, he wasn't altogether such
an easy gentleman to describe. I'd put him at forty years of age,
and he was of a middle height, two or three inches shorter than
you, sir. He was dressed like a toff, and he had a black beard,
cut square at the end, and a pale face. I don't know as I could
say more than that."
"Colour of his eyes?"
"No, I can't say that."
"Nothing more that you can remember?"
"No, sir; nothing."
"Well, then, here is your half-sovereign. There's another one
waiting for you if you can bring any more information. Good-night!"
"Good-night, sir, and thank you!"
John Clayton departed chuckling, and Holmes turned to me with a
shrug of his shoulders and a rueful smile.
"Snap goes our third thread, and we end where we began," said he.
"The cunning rascal! He knew our number, knew that Sir Henry
Baskerville had consulted me, spotted who I was in Regent Street,
conjectured that I had got the number of the cab and would lay
my hands on the driver, and so sent back this audacious message.
I tell you, Watson, this time we have got a foeman who is worthy
of our steel. I've been checkmated in London. I can only wish
you better luck in Devonshire. But I'm not easy in my mind about
"About sending you. It's an ugly business, Watson, an ugly
dangerous business, and the more I see of it the less I like it.
Yes, my dear fellow, you may laugh, but I give you my word that
I shall be very glad to have you back safe and sound in Baker
Street once more."
Sir Henry Baskerville and Dr. Mortimer were ready upon the appointed
day, and we started as arranged for Devonshire. Mr. Sherlock Holmes
drove with me to the station and gave me his last parting injunctions
"I will not bias your mind by suggesting theories or suspicions,
Watson," said he; "I wish you simply to report facts in the fullest
possible manner to me, and you can leave me to do the theorizing."
"What sort of facts?" I asked.
"Anything which may seem to have a bearing however indirect upon
the case, and especially the relations between young Baskerville
and his neighbours or any fresh particulars concerning the death
of Sir Charles. I have made some inquiries myself in the last
few days, but the results have, I fear, been negative. One thing
only appears to be certain, and that is that Mr. James Desmond,
who is the next heir, is an elderly gentleman of a very amiable
disposition, so that this persecution does not arise from him.
I really think that we may eliminate him entirely from our
calculations. There remain the people who will actually surround
Sir Henry Baskerville upon the moor."
"Would it not be well in the first place to get rid of this
"By no means. You could not make a greater mistake. If they are
innocent it would be a cruel injustice, and if they are guilty
we should be giving up all chance of bringing it home to them.
No, no, we will preserve them upon our list of suspects. Then
there is a groom at the Hall, if I remember right. There are
two moorland farmers. There is our friend Dr. Mortimer, whom I
believe to be entirely honest, and there is his wife, of whom we
know nothing. There is this naturalist, Stapleton, and there is
his sister, who is said to be a young lady of attractions. There
is Mr. Frankland, of Lafter Hall, who is also an unknown factor,
and there are one or two other neighbours. These are the folk
who must be your very special study."
"I will do my best."
"You have arms, I suppose?"
"Yes, I thought it as well to take them."
"Most certainly. Keep your revolver near you night and day, and
never relax your precautions."
Our friends had already secured a first-class carriage and were
waiting for us upon the platform.
"No, we have no news of any kind," said Dr. Mortimer in answer
to my friend's questions. "I can swear to one thing, and that
is that we have not been shadowed during the last two days. We
have never gone out without keeping a sharp watch, and no one
could have escaped our notice."
"You have always kept together, I presume?"
"Except yesterday afternoon. I usually give up one day to pure
amusement when I come to town, so I spent it at the Museum of the
College of Surgeons."
"And I went to look at the folk in the park," said Baskerville.
"But we had no trouble of any kind."
"It was imprudent, all the same," said Holmes, shaking his head
and looking very grave. "I beg, Sir Henry, that you will not go
about alone. Some great misfortune will befall you if you do.
Did you get your other boot?"
"No, sir, it is gone forever."
"Indeed. That is very interesting. Well, good-bye," he added
as the train began to glide down the platform. "Bear in mind,
Sir Henry, one of the phrases in that queer old legend which Dr.
Mortimer has read to us, and avoid the moor in those hours of
darkness when the powers of evil are exalted."
I looked back at the platform when we had left it far behind and
saw the tall, austere figure of Holmes standing motionless and
gazing after us.
The journey was a swift and pleasant one, and I spent it in
making the more intimate acquaintance of my two companions and
in playing with Dr. Mortimer's spaniel. In a very few hours the
brown earth had become ruddy, the brick had changed to granite,
and red cows grazed in well-hedged fields where the lush grasses
and more luxuriant vegetation spoke of a richer, if a damper,
climate. Young Baskerville stared eagerly out of the window and
cried aloud with delight as he recognized the familiar features
of the Devon scenery.
"I've been over a good part of the world since I left it, Dr.
Watson," said he; "but I have never seen a place to compare with
"I never saw a Devonshire man who did not swear by his county,"
"It depends upon the breed of men quite as much as on the county,"
said Dr. Mortimer. "A glance at our friend here reveals the
rounded head of the Celt, which carries inside it the Celtic
enthusiasm and power of attachment. Poor Sir Charles's head was of
a very rare type, half Gaelic, half Ivernian in its characteristics.
But you were very young when you last saw Baskerville Hall, were
"I was a boy in my teens at the time of my father's death and had
never seen the Hall, for he lived in a little cottage on the South
Coast. Thence I went straight to a friend in America. I tell
you it is all as new to me as it is to Dr. Watson, and I'm as
keen as possible to see the moor."
"Are you? Then your wish is easily granted, for there is your
first sight of the moor," said Dr. Mortimer, pointing out of the
Over the green squares of the fields and the low curve of a wood
there rose in the distance a gray, melancholy hill, with a strange
jagged summit, dim and vague in the distance, like some fantastic
landscape in a dream. Baskerville sat for a long time, his eyes
fixed upon it, and I read upon his eager face how much it meant
to him, this first sight of that strange spot where the men of
his blood had held sway so long and left their mark so deep.
There he sat, with his tweed suit and his American accent, in the
corner of a prosaic railway-carriage, and yet as I looked at his
dark and expressive face I felt more than ever how true a descendant
he was of that long line of high-blooded, fiery, and masterful
men. There were pride, valour, and strength in his thick brows,
his sensitive nostrils, and his large hazel eyes. If on that
forbidding moor a difficult and dangerous quest should lie before
us, this was at least a comrade for whom one might venture to take
a risk with the certainty that he would bravely share it.
The train pulled up at a small wayside station and we all
descended. Outside, beyond the low, white fence, a wagonette
with a pair of cobs was waiting. Our coming was evidently a great
event, for station-master and porters clustered round us to carry
out our luggage. It was a sweet, simple country spot, but I was
surprised to observe that by the gate there stood two soldierly
men in dark uniforms who leaned upon their short rifles and glanced
keenly at us as we passed. The coachman, a hard-faced, gnarled
little fellow, saluted Sir Henry Baskerville, and in a few minutes
we were flying swiftly down the broad, white road. Rolling pasture
lands curved upward on either side of us, and old gabled houses
peeped out from amid the thick green foliage, but behind the
peaceful and sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the
evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the
jagged and sinister hills.
The wagonette swung round into a side road, and we curved upward
through deep lanes worn by centuries of wheels, high banks on
either side, heavy with dripping moss and fleshy hart's-tongue
ferns. Bronzing bracken and mottled bramble gleamed in the light
of the sinking sun. Still steadily rising, we passed over a
narrow granite bridge and skirted a noisy stream which gushed
swiftly down, foaming and roaring amid the gray boulders. Both
road and stream wound up through a valley dense with scrub oak
and fir. At every turn Baskerville gave an exclamation of delight,
looking eagerly about him and asking countless questions. To his
eyes all seemed beautiful, but to me a tinge of melancholy lay
upon the countryside, which bore so clearly the mark of the waning
year. Yellow leaves carpeted the lanes and fluttered down upon
us as we passed. The rattle of our wheels died away as we drove
through drifts of rotting vegetation--sad gifts, as it seemed to
me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir
of the Baskervilles.
"Halloa!" cried Dr. Mortimer, "what is this?"
A steep curve of heath-clad land, an outlying spur of the moor,
lay in front of us. On the summit, hard and clear like an
equestrian statue upon its pedestal, was a mounted soldier, dark
and stern, his rifle poised ready over his forearm. He was
watching the road along which we travelled.
"What is this, Perkins?" asked Dr. Mortimer.
Our driver half turned in his seat. "There's a convict escaped
from Princetown, sir. He's been out three days now, and the
warders watch every road and every station, but they've had no
sight of him yet. The farmers about here don't like it, sir,
and that's a fact."
"Well, I understand that they get five pounds if they can give
"Yes, sir, but the chance of five pounds is but a poor thing
compared to the chance of having your throat cut. You see, it
isn't like any ordinary convict. This is a man that would stick
"Who is he, then?"
"It is Selden, the Notting Hill murderer."
I remembered the case well, for it was one in which Holmes had
taken an interest on account of the peculiar ferocity of the crime
and the wanton brutality which had marked all the actions of the
assassin. The commutation of his death sentence had been due to
some doubts as to his complete sanity, so atrocious was his conduct.
Our wagonette had topped a rise and in front of us rose the huge
expanse of the moor, mottled with gnarled and craggy cairns and
tors. A cold wind swept down from it and set us shivering.
Somewhere there, on that desolate plain, was lurking this fiendish
man, hiding in a burrow like a wild beast, his heart full of
malignancy against the whole race which had cast him out. It
needed but this to complete the grim suggestiveness of the barren
waste, the chilling wind, and the darkling sky. Even Baskerville
fell silent and pulled his overcoat more closely around him.
We had left the fertile country behind and beneath us. We looked
back on it now, the slanting rays of a low sun turning the streams
to threads of gold and glowing on the red earth new turned by the
plough and the broad tangle of the woodlands. The road in front
of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet and olive slopes,
sprinkled with giant boulders. Now and then we passed a moorland
cottage, walled and roofed with stone, with no creeper to break
its harsh outline. Suddenly we looked down into a cuplike
depression, patched with stunted oaks and firs which had been
twisted and bent by the fury of years of storm. Two high, narrow
towers rose over the trees. The driver pointed with his whip.
"Baskerville Hall," said he.
Its master had risen and was staring with flushed cheeks and
shining eyes. A few minutes later we had reached the lodge-gates,
a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten
pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by
the boars' heads of the Baskervilles. The lodge was a ruin of
black granite and bared ribs of rafters, but facing it was a
new building, half constructed, the first fruit of Sir Charles's
South African gold.
Through the gateway we passed into the avenue, where the wheels
were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their
branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered
as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered
like a ghost at the farther end.
"Was it here?" he asked in a low voice.
"No, no, the yew alley is on the other side."
The young heir glanced round with a gloomy face.
"It's no wonder my uncle felt as if trouble were coming on him in
such a place as this," said he. "It's enough to scare any man.
I'll have a row of electric lamps up here inside of six months,
and you won't know it again, with a thousand candle-power Swan
and Edison right here in front of the hall door."
The avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house
lay before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre
was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected.
The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare
here and there where a window or a coat of arms broke through
the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers,
ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right
and left of the turrets were more modern wings of black granite.
A dull light shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the
high chimneys which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there
sprang a single black column of smoke.
"Welcome, Sir Henry! Welcome to Baskerville Hall!"
A tall man had stepped from the shadow of the porch to open the
door of the wagonette. The figure of a woman was silhouetted
against the yellow light of the hall. She came out and helped
the man to hand down our bags.
"You don't mind my driving straight home, Sir Henry?" said Dr.
Mortimer. "My wife is expecting me."
"Surely you will stay and have some dinner?"
"No, I must go. I shall probably find some work awaiting me.
I would stay to show you over the house, but Barrymore will be
a better guide than I. Good-bye, and never hesitate night or
day to send for me if I can be of service."
The wheels died away down the drive while Sir Henry and I turned
into the hall, and the door clanged heavily behind us. It was a
fine apartment in which we found ourselves, large, lofty, and
heavily raftered with huge baulks of age-blackened oak. In the
great old-fashioned fireplace behind the high iron dogs a log-fire
crackled and snapped. Sir Henry and I held out our hands to it,
for we were numb from our long drive. Then we gazed round us at
the high, thin window of old stained glass, the oak panelling,
the stags' heads, the coats of arms upon the walls, all dim and
sombre in the subdued light of the central lamp.
"It's just as I imagined it," said Sir Henry. "Is it not the very
picture of an old family home? To think that this should be the
same hall in which for five hundred years my people have lived.
It strikes me solemn to think of it."
I saw his dark face lit up with a boyish enthusiasm as he gazed
about him. The light beat upon him where he stood, but long
shadows trailed down the walls and hung like a black canopy
above him. Barrymore had returned from taking our luggage
to our rooms. He stood in front of us now with the subdued
manner of a well-trained servant. He was a remarkable-looking
man, tall, handsome, with a square black beard and pale,
"Would you wish dinner to be served at once, sir?"
"Is it ready?"
"In a very few minutes, sir. You will find hot water in your
rooms. My wife and I will be happy, Sir Henry, to stay with you
until you have made your fresh arrangements, but you will
understand that under the new conditions this house will require
a considerable staff."
"What new conditions?"
"I only meant, sir, that Sir Charles led a very retired life,
and we were able to look after his wants. You would, naturally,
wish to have more company, and so you will need changes in your
"Do you mean that your wife and you wish to leave?"
"Only when it is quite convenient to you, sir."
"But your family have been with us for several generations, have
they not? I should be sorry to begin my life here by breaking
an old family connection."
I seemed to discern some signs of emotion upon the butler's white
"I feel that also, sir, and so does my wife. But to tell the
truth, sir, we were both very much attached to Sir Charles, and
his death gave us a shock and made these surroundings very painful
to us. I fear that we shall never again be easy in our minds at
"But what do you intend to do?"
"I have no doubt, sir, that we shall succeed in establishing
ourselves in some business. Sir Charles's generosity has given
us the means to do so. And now, sir, perhaps I had best show you
to your rooms."
A square balustraded gallery ran round the top of the old hall,
approached by a double stair. From this central point two long
corridors extended the whole length of the building, from which
all the bedrooms opened. My own was in the same wing as
Baskerville's and almost next door to it. These rooms appeared
to be much more modern than the central part of the house, and
the bright paper and numerous candles did something to remove
the sombre impression which our arrival had left upon my mind.
But the dining-room which opened out of the hall was a place of
shadow and gloom. It was a long chamber with a step separating
the dais where the family sat from the lower portion reserved for
their dependents. At one end a minstrel's gallery overlooked it.
Black beams shot across above our heads, with a smoke-darkened
ceiling beyond them. With rows of flaring torches to light it
up, and the colour and rude hilarity of an old-time banquet, it
might have softened; but now, when two black-clothed gentlemen
sat in the little circle of light thrown by a shaded lamp, one's
voice became hushed and one's spirit subdued. A dim line of
ancestors, in every variety of dress, from the Elizabethan knight
to the buck of the Regency, stared down upon us and daunted us
by their silent company. We talked little, and I for one was
glad when the meal was over and we were able to retire into the
modern billiard-room and smoke a cigarette.
"My word, it isn't a very cheerful place," said Sir Henry. "I
suppose one can tone down to it, but I feel a bit out of the
picture at present. I don't wonder that my uncle got a little
jumpy if he lived all alone in such a house as this. However,
if it suits you, we will retire early tonight, and perhaps
things may seem more cheerful in the morning."
I drew aside my curtains before I went to bed and looked out
from my window. It opened upon the grassy space which lay in
front of the hall door. Beyond, two copses of trees moaned and
swung in a rising wind. A half moon broke through the rifts of
racing clouds. In its cold light I saw beyond the trees a broken
fringe of rocks, and the long, low curve of the melancholy moor.
I closed the curtain, feeling that my last impression was in
keeping with the rest.
And yet it was not quite the last. I found myself weary and yet
wakeful, tossing restlessly from side to side, seeking for the
sleep which would not come. Far away a chiming clock struck out
the quarters of the hours, but otherwise a deathly silence lay
upon the old house. And then suddenly, in the very dead of the
night, there came a sound to my ears, clear, resonant, and
unmistakable. It was the sob of a woman, the muffled, strangling
gasp of one who is torn by an uncontrollable sorrow. I sat up
in bed and listened intently. The noise could not have been far
away and was certainly in the house. For half an hour I waited
with every nerve on the alert, but there came no other sound save
the chiming clock and the rustle of the ivy on the wall.
The Stapletons of Merripit House
The fresh beauty of the following morning did something to efface
from our minds the grim and gray impression which had been left
upon both of us by our first experience of Baskerville Hall. As
Sir Henry and I sat at breakfast the sunlight flooded in through
the high mullioned windows, throwing watery patches of colour from
the coats of arms which covered them. The dark panelling glowed
like bronze in the golden rays, and it was hard to realize that
this was indeed the chamber which had struck such a gloom into
our souls upon the evening before.
"I guess it is ourselves and not the house that we have to blame!"
said the baronet. "We were tired with our journey and chilled
by our drive, so we took a gray view of the place. Now we are
fresh and well, so it is all cheerful once more."
"And yet it was not entirely a question of imagination," I
answered. "Did you, for example, happen to hear someone, a woman
I think, sobbing in the night?"
"That is curious, for I did when I was half asleep fancy that I
heard something of the sort. I waited quite a time, but there
was no more of it, so I concluded that it was all a dream."
"I heard it distinctly, and I am sure that it was really the sob
of a woman."
"We must ask about this right away." He rang the bell and asked
Barrymore whether he could account for our experience. It seemed
to me that the pallid features of the butler turned a shade paler
still as he listened to his master's question.
"There are only two women in the house, Sir Henry," he answered.
"One is the scullery-maid, who sleeps in the other wing. The other
is my wife, and I can answer for it that the sound could not have
come from her."
And yet he lied as he said it, for it chanced that after breakfast
I met Mrs. Barrymore in the long corridor with the sun full upon
her face. She was a large, impassive, heavy-featured woman with
a stern set expression of mouth. But her telltale eyes were red
and glanced at me from between swollen lids. It was she, then,
who wept in the night, and if she did so her husband must know it.
Yet he had taken the obvious risk of discovery in declaring that
it was not so. Why had he done this? And why did she weep so
bitterly? Already round this pale-faced, handsome, black-bearded
man there was gathering an atmosphere of mystery and of gloom.
It was he who had been the first to discover the body of Sir Charles,
and we had only his word for all the circumstances which led up
to the old man's death. Was it possible that it was Barrymore,
after all, whom we had seen in the cab in Regent Street? The
beard might well have been the same. The cabman had described
a somewhat shorter man, but such an impression might easily have
been erroneous. How could I settle the point forever? Obviously
the first thing to do was to see the Grimpen postmaster and find
whether the test telegram had really been placed in Barrymore's
own hands. Be the answer what it might, I should at least have
something to report to Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Henry had numerous papers to examine after breakfast, so that
the time was propitious for my excursion. It was a pleasant walk
of four miles along the edge of the moor, leading me at last to
a small gray hamlet, in which two larger buildings, which proved
to be the inn and the house of Dr. Mortimer, stood high above the
rest. The postmaster, who was also the village grocer, had a
clear recollection of the telegram.
"Certainly, sir," said he, "I had the telegram delivered to Mr.
Barrymore exactly as directed."
"Who delivered it?"
"My boy here. James, you delivered that telegram to Mr. Barrymore
at the Hall last week, did you not?"
"Yes, father, I delivered it."
"Into his own hands?" I asked.
"Well, he was up in the loft at the time, so that I could not
put it into his own hands, but I gave it into Mrs. Barrymore's
hands, and she promised to deliver it at once."
"Did you see Mr. Barrymore?"
"No, sir; I tell you he was in the loft."
"If you didn't see him, how do you know he was in the loft?"
"Well, surely his own wife ought to know where he is," said the
postmaster testily. "Didn't he get the telegram? If there is
any mistake it is for Mr. Barrymore himself to complain."
It seemed hopeless to pursue the inquiry any farther, but it was
clear that in spite of Holmes's ruse we had no proof that Barrymore
had not been in London all the time. Suppose that it were so--
suppose that the same man had been the last who had seen Sir
Charles alive, and the first to dog the new heir when he returned
to England. What then? Was he the agent of others or had he
some sinister design of his own? What interest could he have in
persecuting the Baskerville family? I thought of the strange
warning clipped out of the leading article of the Times. Was that
his work or was it possibly the doing of someone who was bent upon
counteracting his schemes? The only conceivable motive was that
which had been suggested by Sir Henry, that if the family could
be scared away a comfortable and permanent home would be secured
for the Barrymores. But surely such an explanation as that would
be quite inadequate to account for the deep and subtle scheming
which seemed to be weaving an invisible net round the young
baronet. Holmes himself had said that no more complex case had
come to him in all the long series of his sensational
investigations. I prayed, as I walked back along the gray, lonely
road, that my friend might soon be freed from his preoccupations
and able to come down to take this heavy burden of responsibility
from my shoulders.
Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of running
feet behind me and by a voice which called me by name. I turned,
expecting to see Dr. Mortimer, but to my surprise it was a stranger
who was pursuing me. He was a small, slim, clean-shaven, prim-
faced man, flaxen-haired and leanjawed, between thirty and forty
years of age, dressed in a gray suit and wearing a straw hat. A
tin box for botanical specimens hung over his shoulder and he
carried a green butterfly-net in one of his hands.
"You will, I am sure, excuse my presumption, Dr. Watson," said
he as he came panting up to where I stood. "Here on the moor we
are homely folk and do not wait for formal introductions. You
may possibly have heard my name from our mutual friend, Mortimer.
I am Stapleton, of Merripit House."
"Your net and box would have told me as much," said I, "for I knew
that Mr. Stapleton was a naturalist. But how did you know me?"
"I have been calling on Mortimer, and he pointed you out to me
from the window of his surgery as you passed. As our road lay
the same way I thought that I would overtake you and introduce
myself. I trust that Sir Henry is none the worse for his journey?"
"He is very well, thank you."
"We were all rather afraid that after the sad death of Sir Charles
the new baronet might refuse to live here. It is asking much of
a wealthy man to come down and bury himself in a place of this
kind, but I need not tell you that it means a very great deal to
the countryside. Sir Henry has, I suppose, no superstitious
fears in the matter?"
"I do not think that it is likely."
"Of course you know the legend of the fiend dog which haunts the
"I have heard it."
"It is extraordinary how credulous the peasants are about here!
Any number of them are ready to swear that they have seen such
a creature upon the moor." He spoke with a smile, but I seemed
to read in his eyes that he took the matter more seriously. "The
story took a great hold upon the imagination of Sir Charles, and
I have no doubt that it led to his tragic end."
"His nerves were so worked up that the appearance of any dog might
have had a fatal effect upon his diseased heart. I fancy that
he really did see something of the kind upon that last night in
the yew alley. I feared that some disaster might occur, for I
was very fond of the old man, and I knew that his heart was weak."
"How did you know that?"
"My friend Mortimer told me."
"You think, then, that some dog pursued Sir Charles, and that he
died of fright in consequence?"
"Have you any better explanation?"
"I have not come to any conclusion."
"Has Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
The words took away my breath for an instant but a glance at the
placid face and steadfast eyes of my companion showed that no
surprise was intended.
"It is useless for us to pretend that we do not know you, Dr.
Watson," said he. "The records of your detective have reached
us here, and you could not celebrate him without being known
yourself. When Mortimer told me your name he could not deny
your identity. If you are here, then it follows that Mr. Sherlock
Holmes is interesting himself in the matter, and I am naturally
curious to know what view he may take."
"I am afraid that I cannot answer that question."
"May I ask if he is going to honour us with a visit himself?"
"He cannot leave town at present. He has other cases which engage
"What a pity! He might throw some light on that which is so dark
to us. But as to your own researches, if there is any possible
way in which I can be of service to you I trust that you will
command me. If I had any indication of the nature of your
suspicions or how you propose to investigate the case, I might
perhaps even now give you some aid or advice."
"I assure you that I am simply here upon a visit to my friend,
Sir Henry, and that I need no help of any kind."
"Excellent!" said Stapleton. "You are perfectly right to be
wary and discreet. I am justly reproved for what I feel was an
unjustifiable intrusion, and I promise you that I will not mention
the matter again."
We had come to a point where a narrow grassy path struck off from
the road and wound away across the moor. A steep, boulder-sprinkled
hill lay upon the right which had in bygone days been cut into a
granite quarry. The face which was turned towards us formed a
dark cliff, with ferns and brambles growing in its niches. From
over a distant rise there floated a gray plume of smoke.
"A moderate walk along this moor-path brings us to Merripit House,"
said he. "Perhaps you will spare an hour that I may have the
pleasure of introducing you to my sister."
My first thought was that I should be by Sir Henry's side. But
then I remembered the pile of papers and bills with which his
study table was littered. It was certain that I could not help
with those. And Holmes had expressly said that I should study
the neighbours upon the moor. I accepted Stapleton's invitation,
and we turned together down the path.
"It is a wonderful place, the moor," said he, looking round over
the undulating downs, long green rollers, with crests of jagged
granite foaming up into fantastic surges. "You never tire of the
moor. You cannot think the wonderful secrets which it contains.
It is so vast, and so barren, and so mysterious."
"You know it well, then?"
"I have only been here two years. The residents would call me
a newcomer. We came shortly after Sir Charles settled. But my
tastes led me to explore every part of the country round, and I
should think that there are few men who know it better than I do."
"Is it hard to know?"
"Very hard. You see, for example, this great plain to the north
here with the queer hills breaking out of it. Do you observe
anything remarkable about that?"
"It would be a rare place for a gallop."
"You would naturally think so and the thought has cost several
their lives before now. You notice those bright green spots
scattered thickly over it?"
"Yes, they seem more fertile than the rest."
Stapleton laughed. "That is the great Grimpen Mire," said he.
"A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday
I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came out.
I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole,
but it sucked him down at last. Even in dry seasons it is a danger
to cross it, but after these autumn rains it is an awful place.
And yet I can find my way to the very heart of it and return
alive. By George, there is another of those miserable ponies!"
Something brown was rolling and tossing among the green sedges.
Then a long, agonized, writhing neck shot upward and a dreadful
cry echoed over the moor. It turned me cold with horror, but my
companion's nerves seemed to be stronger than mine.
"It's gone!" said he. "The mire has him. Two in two days, and
many more, perhaps, for they get in the way of going there in the
dry weather and never know the difference until the mire has them
in its clutches. It's a bad place, the great Grimpen Mire."
"And you say you can penetrate it?"
"Yes, there are one or two paths which a very active man can
take. I have found them out."
"But why should you wish to go into so horrible a place?"
"Well, you see the hills beyond? They are really islands cut off
on all sides by the impassable mire, which has crawled round them
in the course of years. That is where the rare plants and the
butterflies are, if you have the wit to reach them."
"I shall try my luck some day."
He looked at me with a surprised face. "For God's sake put such
an idea out of your mind," said he. "Your blood would be upon
my head. I assure you that there would not be the least chance
of your coming back alive. It is only by remembering certain
complex landmarks that I am able to do it."
"Halloa!" I cried. "What is that?"
A long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. It
filled the whole air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it
came. From a dull murmur it swelled into a deep roar, and then
sank back into a melancholy, throbbing murmur once again. Stapleton
looked at me with a curious expression in his face.
"Queer place, the moor!" said he.
"But what is it?"
"The peasants say it is the Hound of the Baskervilles calling for
its prey. I've heard it once or twice before, but never quite
I looked round, with a chill of fear in my heart, at the huge
swelling plain, mottled with the green patches of rushes. Nothing
stirred over the vast expanse save a pair of ravens, which croaked
loudly from a tor behind us.
"You are an educated man. You don't believe such nonsense as
that?" said I. "What do you think is the cause of so strange a
"Bogs make queer noises sometimes. It's the mud settling, or
the water rising, or something."
"No, no, that was a living voice."
"Well, perhaps it was. Did you ever hear a bittern booming?"
"No, I never did."
"It's a very rare bird--practically extinct--in England now,
but all things are possible upon the moor. Yes, I should not be
surprised to learn that what we have heard is the cry of the last
of the bitterns."
"It's the weirdest, strangest thing that ever I heard in my life."
"Yes, it's rather an uncanny place altogether. Look at the hillside
yonder. What do you make of those?"
The whole steep slope was covered with gray circular rings of
stone, a score of them at least.
"What are they? Sheep-pens?"
"No, they are the homes of our worthy ancestors. Prehistoric man
lived thickly on the moor, and as no one in particular has lived
there since, we find all his little arrangements exactly as he
left them. These are his wigwams with the roofs off. You can
even see his hearth and his couch if you have the curiosity to
"But it is quite a town. When was it inhabited?"
"Neolithic man--no date."
"What did he do?"
"He grazed his cattle on these slopes, and he learned to dig for
tin when the bronze sword began to supersede the stone axe. Look
at the great trench in the opposite hill. That is his mark. Yes,
you will find some very singular points about the moor, Dr. Watson.
Oh, excuse me an instant! It is surely Cyclopides."
A small fly or moth had fluttered across our path, and in an
instant Stapleton was rushing with extraordinary energy and speed
in pursuit of it. To my dismay the creature flew straight for
the great mire, and my acquaintance never paused for an instant,
bounding from tuft to tuft behind it, his green net waving in the
air. His gray clothes and jerky, zigzag, irregular progress made
him not unlike some huge moth himself. I was standing watching
his pursuit with a mixture of admiration for his extraordinary
activity and fear lest he should lose his footing in the treacherous
mire, when I heard the sound of steps and, turning round, found
a woman near me upon the path. She had come from the direction in
which the plume of smoke indicated the position of Merripit House,
but the dip of the moor had hid her until she was quite close.
I could not doubt that this was the Miss Stapleton of whom I had
been told, since ladies of any sort must be few upon the moor,
and I remembered that I had heard someone describe her as being
a beauty. The woman who approached me was certainly that, and
of a most uncommon type. There could not have been a greater
contrast between brother and sister, for Stapleton was neutral
tinted, with light hair and gray eyes, while she was darker than
any brunette whom I have seen in England--slim, elegant, and tall.
She had a proud, finely cut face, so regular that it might have
seemed impassive were it not for the sensitive mouth and the
beautiful dark, eager eyes. With her perfect figure and elegant
dress she was, indeed, a strange apparition upon a lonely moorland
path. Her eyes were on her brother as I turned, and then she
quickened her pace towards me. I had raised my hat and was about
to make some explanatory remark when her own words turned all my
thoughts into a new channel.
"Go back!" she said. "Go straight back to London, instantly."
I could only stare at her in stupid surprise. Her eyes blazed
at me, and she tapped the ground impatiently with her foot.
"Why should I go back?" I asked.
"I cannot explain." She spoke in a low, eager voice, with a
curious lisp in her utterance. "But for God's sake do what I
ask you. Go back and never set foot upon the moor again."
"But I have only just come."
"Man, man!" she cried. "Can you not tell when a warning is for
your own good? Go back to London! Start tonight! Get away
from this place at all costs! Hush, my brother is coming! Not
a word of what I have said. Would you mind getting that orchid
for me among the mare's-tails yonder? We are very rich in orchids
on the moor, though, of course, you are rather late to see the
beauties of the place."
Stapleton had abandoned the chase and came back to us breathing
hard and flushed with his exertions.
"Halloa, Beryl!" said he, and it seemed to me that the tone of
his greeting was not altogether a cordial one.
"Well, Jack, you are very hot."
"Yes, I was chasing a Cyclopides. He is very rare and seldom
found in the late autumn. What a pity that I should have missed
him!" He spoke unconcernedly, but his small light eyes glanced
incessantly from the girl to me.
"You have introduced yourselves, I can see."
"Yes. I was telling Sir Henry that it was rather late for him
to see the true beauties of the moor."
"Why, who do you think this is?"
"I imagine that it must be Sir Henry Baskerville."
"No, no," said I. "Only a humble commoner, but his friend. My
name is Dr. Watson."
A flush of vexation passed over her expressive face. "We have
been talking at cross purposes," said she.
"Why, you had not very much time for talk," her brother remarked
with the same questioning eyes.
"I talked as if Dr. Watson were a resident instead of being merely
a visitor," said she. "It cannot much matter to him whether it
is early or late for the orchids. But you will come on, will you
not, and see Merripit House?"
A short walk brought us to it, a bleak moorland house, once the
farm of some grazier in the old prosperous days, but now put into
repair and turned into a modern dwelling. An orchard surrounded
it, but the trees, as is usual upon the moor, were stunted and
nipped, and the effect of the whole place was mean and melancholy.
We were admitted by a strange, wizened, rusty-coated old manservant,
who seemed in keeping with the house. Inside, however, there were
large rooms furnished with an elegance in which I seemed to
recognize the taste of the lady. As I looked from their windows
at the interminable granite-flecked moor rolling unbroken to the
farthest horizon I could not but marvel at what could have brought
this highly educated man and this beautiful woman to live in such
"Queer spot to choose, is it not?" said he as if in answer to my
thought. "And yet we manage to make ourselves fairly happy, do
we not, Beryl?"
"Quite happy," said she, but there was no ring of conviction in
"I had a school," said Stapleton. "It was in the north country.
The work to a man of my temperament was mechanical and
uninteresting, but the privilege of living with youth, of helping
to mould those young minds, and of impressing them with one's own
character and ideals was very dear to me. However, the fates were
against us. A serious epidemic broke out in the school and three
of the boys died. It never recovered from the blow, and much of
my capital was irretrievably swallowed up. And yet, if it were
not for the loss of the charming companionship of the boys, I
could rejoice over my own misfortune, for, with my strong tastes
for botany and zoology, I find an unlimited field of work here,
and my sister is as devoted to Nature as I am. All this, Dr.
Watson, has been brought upon your head by your expression as
you surveyed the moor out of our window."
"It certainly did cross my mind that it might be a little dull--
less for you, perhaps, than for your sister."
"No, no, I am never dull," said she quickly.
"We have books, we have our studies, and we have interesting
neighbours. Dr. Mortimer is a most learned man in his own line.
Poor Sir Charles was also an admirable companion. We knew him
well and miss him more than I can tell. Do you think that I should
intrude if I were to call this afternoon and make the acquaintance
of Sir Henry?"
"I am sure that he would be delighted."
"Then perhaps you would mention that I propose to do so. We may
in our humble way do something to make things more easy for him
until he becomes accustomed to his new surroundings. Will you
come upstairs, Dr. Watson, and inspect my collection of Lepidoptera?
I think it is the most complete one in the south-west of England.
By the time that you have looked through them lunch will be almost
But I was eager to get back to my charge. The melancholy of the
moor, the death of the unfortunate pony, the weird sound which
had been associated with the grim legend of the Baskervilles, all
these things tinged my thoughts with sadness. Then on the top
of these more or less vague impressions there had come the definite
and distinct warning of Miss Stapleton, delivered with such intense
earnestness that I could not doubt that some grave and deep reason
lay behind it. I resisted all pressure to stay for lunch, and I
set off at once upon my return journey, taking the grass-grown
path by which we had come.
It seems, however, that there must have been some short cut for
those who knew it, for before I had reached the road I was
astounded to see Miss Stapleton sitting upon a rock by the side
of the track. Her face was beautifully flushed with her exertions
and she held her hand to her side.
"I have run all the way in order to cut you off, Dr. Watson," said
she. "I had not even time to put on my hat. I must not stop, or
my brother may miss me. I wanted to say to you how sorry I am
about the stupid mistake I made in thinking that you were Sir
Henry. Please forget the words I said, which have no application
whatever to you."
"But I can't forget them, Miss Stapleton," said I. "I am Sir
Henry's friend, and his welfare is a very close concern of mine.
Tell me why it was that you were so eager that Sir Henry should
return to London."
"A woman's whim, Dr. Watson. When you know me better you will
understand that I cannot always give reasons for what I say or do."
"No, no. I remember the thrill in your voice. I remember the
look in your eyes. Please, please, be frank with me, Miss
Stapleton, for ever since I have been here I have been conscious
of shadows all round me. Life has become like that great Grimpen
Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may
sink and with no guide to point the track. Tell me then what it
was that you meant, and I will promise to convey your warning to
An expression of irresolution passed for an instant over her face,
but her eyes had hardened again when she answered me.
"You make too much of it, Dr. Watson," said she. "My brother and
I were very much shocked by the death of Sir Charles. We knew
him very intimately, for his favourite walk was over the moor to
our house. He was deeply impressed with the curse which hung over
the family, and when this tragedy came I naturally felt that there
must be some grounds for the fears which he had expressed. I was
distressed therefore when another member of the family came down
to live here, and I felt that he should be warned of the danger
which he will run. That was all which I intended to convey.
"But what is the danger?"
"You know the story of the hound?"
"I do not believe in such nonsense."
"But I do. If you have any influence with Sir Henry, take him
away from a place which has always been fatal to his family. The
world is wide. Why should he wish to live at the place of danger?"
"Because it is the place of danger. That is Sir Henry's nature.
I fear that unless you can give me some more definite information
than this it would be impossible to get him to move."
"I cannot say anything definite, for I do not know anything
"I would ask you one more question, Miss Stapleton. If you meant
no more than this when you first spoke to me, why should you not
wish your brother to overhear what you said? There is nothing
to which he, or anyone else, could object."
"My brother is very anxious to have the Hall inhabited, for he
thinks it is for the good of the poor folk upon the moor. He
would be very angry if he knew that I have said anything which
might induce Sir Henry to go away. But I have done my duty now
and I will say no more. I must go back, or he will miss me and
suspect that I have seen you. Good-bye!" She turned and had
disappeared in a few minutes among the scattered boulders, while
I, with my soul full of vague fears, pursued my way to Baskerville
First Report of Dr. Watson
>From this point onward I will follow the course of events by
transcribing my own letters to Mr. Sherlock Holmes which lie
before me on the table. One page is missing, but otherwise they
are exactly as written and show my feelings and suspicions of
the moment more accurately than my memory, clear as it is upon
these tragic events, can possibly do.
Baskerville Hall, October 13th.
MY DEAR HOLMES:
My previous letters and telegrams have kept you pretty well up
to date as to all that has occurred in this most God-forsaken
corner of the world. The longer one stays here the more does
the spirit of the moor sink into one's soul, its vastness, and
also its grim charm. When you are once out upon its bosom you
have left all traces of modern England behind you, but, on the
other hand, you are conscious everywhere of the homes and the
work of the prehistoric people. On all sides of you as you walk
are the houses of these forgotten folk, with their graves and the
huge monoliths which are supposed to have marked their temples.
As you look at their gray stone huts against the scarred hillsides
you leave your own age behind you, and if you were to see a skin-
clad, hairy man crawl out from the low door fitting a flint-tipped
arrow on to the string of his bow, you would feel that his presence
there was more natural than your own. The strange thing is that
they should have lived so thickly on what must always have been
most unfruitful soil. I am no antiquarian, but I could imagine
that they were some unwarlike and harried race who were forced
to accept that which none other would occupy.
All this, however, is foreign to the mission on which you sent
me and will probably be very uninteresting to your severely
practical mind. I can still remember your complete indifference
as to whether the sun moved round the earth or the earth round
the sun. Let me, therefore, return to the facts concerning Sir
If you have not had any report within the last few days it is
because up to today there was nothing of importance to relate.
Then a very surprising circumstance occurred, which I shall tell
you in due course. But, first of all, I must keep you in touch
with some of the other factors in the situation.
One of these, concerning which I have said little, is the escaped
convict upon the moor. There is strong reason now to believe
that he has got right away, which is a considerable relief to
the lonely householders of this district. A fortnight has passed
since his flight, during which he has not been seen and nothing
has been heard of him. It is surely inconceivable that he could
have held out upon the moor during all that time. Of course, so
far as his concealment goes there is no difficulty at all. Any
one of these stone huts would give him a hiding-place. But there
is nothing to eat unless he were to catch and slaughter one of
the moor sheep. We think, therefore, that he has gone, and the
outlying farmers sleep the better in consequence.
We are four able-bodied men in this household, so that we could
take good care of ourselves, but I confess that I have had uneasy
moments when I have thought of the Stapletons. They live miles
from any help. There are one maid, an old manservant, the sister,
and the brother, the latter not a very strong man. They would
be helpless in the hands of a desperate fellow like this Notting
Hill criminal if he could once effect an entrance. Both Sir
Henry and I were concerned at their situation, and it was suggested
that Perkins the groom should go over to sleep there, but Stapleton
would not hear of it.
The fact is that our friend, the baronet, begins to display a
considerable interest in our fair neighbour. It is not to be
wondered at, for time hangs heavily in this lonely spot to an
active man like him, and she is a very fascinating and beautiful
woman. There is something tropical and exotic about her which
forms a singular contrast to her cool and unemotional brother.
Yet he also gives the idea of hidden fires. He has certainly a
very marked influence over her, for I have seen her continually
glance at him as she talked as if seeking approbation for what
she said. I trust that he is kind to her. There is a dry glitter
in his eyes and a firm set of his thin lips, which goes with a
positive and possibly a harsh nature. You would find him an
He came over to call upon Baskerville on that first day, and the
very next morning he took us both to show us the spot where the
legend of the wicked Hugo is supposed to have had its origin.
It was an excursion of some miles across the moor to a place which
is so dismal that it might have suggested the story. We found a
short valley between rugged tors which led to an open, grassy space
flecked over with the white cotton grass. In the middle of it
rose two great stones, worn and sharpened at the upper end until
they looked like the huge corroding fangs of some monstrous beast.
In every way it corresponded with the scene of the old tragedy.
Sir Henry was much interested and asked Stapleton more than once
whether he did really believe in the possibility of the interference
of the supernatural in the affairs of men. He spoke lightly,
but it was evident that he was very much in earnest. Stapleton
was guarded in his replies, but it was easy to see that he said
less than he might, and that he would not express his whole opinion
out of consideration for the feelings of the baronet. He told
us of similar cases, where families had suffered from some evil
influence, and he left us with the impression that he shared the
popular view upon the matter.
On our way back we stayed for lunch at Merripit House, and it was
there that Sir Henry made the acquaintance of Miss Stapleton. From
the first moment that he saw her he appeared to be strongly
attracted by her, and I am much mistaken if the feeling was not
mutual. He referred to her again and again on our walk home,
and since then hardly a day has passed that we have not seen
something of the brother and sister. They dine here tonight, and
there is some talk of our going to them next week. One would
imagine that such a match would be very welcome to Stapleton,
and yet I have more than once caught a look of the strongest
disapprobation in his face when Sir Henry has been paying some
attention to his sister. He is much attached to her, no doubt,
and would lead a lonely life without her, but it would seem the
height of selfishness if he were to stand in the way of her making
so brilliant a marriage. Yet I am certain that he does not wish
their intimacy to ripen into love, and I have several times
observed that he has taken pains to prevent them from being tete-
a-tete. By the way, your instructions to me never to allow Sir
Henry to go out alone will become very much more onerous if a
love affair were to be added to our other difficulties. My
popularity would soon suffer if I were to carry out your orders
to the letter.
The other day--Thursday, to be more exact--Dr. Mortimer lunched
with us. He has been excavating a barrow at Long Down and has
got a prehistoric skull which fills him with great joy. Never
was there such a single-minded enthusiast as he! The Stapletons
came in afterwards, and the good doctor took us all to the yew
alley at Sir Henry's request to show us exactly how everything
occurred upon that fatal night. It is a long, dismal walk, the
yew alley, between two high walls of clipped hedge, with a narrow
band of grass upon either side. At the far end is an old tumble-
down summer-house. Halfway down is the moor-gate, where the old
gentleman left his cigar-ash. It is a white wooden gate with a
latch. Beyond it lies the wide moor. I remembered your theory
of the affair and tried to picture all that had occurred. As
the old man stood there he saw something coming across the moor,
something which terrified him so that he lost his wits and ran
and ran until he died of sheer horror and exhaustion. There was
the long, gloomy tunnel down which he fled. And from what? A
sheep-dog of the moor? Or a spectral hound, black, silent, and
monstrous? Was there a human agency in the matter? Did the pale,
watchful Barrymore know more than he cared to say? It was all dim
and vague, but always there is the dark shadow of crime behind it.
One other neighbour I have met since I wrote last. This is Mr.
Frankland, of Lafter Hall, who lives some four miles to the south
of us. He is an elderly man, red-faced, white-haired, and choleric.
His passion is for the British law, and he has spent a large
fortune in litigation. He fights for the mere pleasure of fighting
and is equally ready to take up either side of a question, so that
it is no wonder that he has found it a costly amusement. Sometimes
he will shut up a right of way and defy the parish to make him
open it. At others he will with his own hands tear down some
other man's gate and declare that a path has existed there from
time immemorial, defying the owner to prosecute him for trespass.
He is learned in old manorial and communal rights, and he applies
his knowledge sometimes in favour of the villagers of Fernworthy
and sometimes against them, so that he is periodically either
carried in triumph down the village street or else burned in
effigy, according to his latest exploit. He is said to have
about seven lawsuits upon his hands at present, which will probably
swallow up the remainder of his fortune and so draw his sting
and leave him harmless for the future. Apart from the law he
seems a kindly, good-natured person, and I only mention him because
you were particular that I should send some description of the
people who surround us. He is curiously employed at present,
for, being an amateur astronomer, he has an excellent telescope,
with which he lies upon the roof of his own house and sweeps the
moor all day in the hope of catching a glimpse of the escaped
convict. If he would confine his energies to this all would be
well, but there are rumours that he intends to prosecute Dr.
Mortimer for opening a grave without the consent of the next of
kin because he dug up the Neolithic skull in the barrow on Long
Down. He helps to keep our lives from being monotonous and gives
a little comic relief where it is badly needed.
And now, having brought you up to date in the escaped convict,
the Stapletons, Dr. Mortimer, and Frankland, of Lafter Hall, let
me end on that which is most important and tell you more about
the Barrymores, and especially about the surprising development
of last night.
First of all about the test telegram, which you sent from London
in order to make sure that Barrymore was really here. I have
already explained that the testimony of the postmaster shows that
the test was worthless and that we have no proof one way or the
other. I told Sir Henry how the matter stood, and he at once,
in his downright fashion, had Barrymore up and asked him whether
he had received the telegram himself. Barrymore said that he had.
"Did the boy deliver it into your own hands?" asked Sir Henry.
Barrymore looked surprised, and considered for a little time.
"No," said he, "I was in the box-room at the time, and my wife
brought it up to me."
"Did you answer it yourself?"
"No; I told my wife what to answer and she went down to write it."
In the evening he recurred to the subject of his own accord.
"I could not quite understand the object of your questions this
morning, Sir Henry," said he. "I trust that they do not mean
that I have done anything to forfeit your confidence?"
Sir Henry had to assure him that it was not so and pacify him by
giving him a considerable part of his old wardrobe, the London
outfit having now all arrived.
Mrs. Barrymore is of interest to me. She is a heavy, solid person,
very limited, intensely respectable, and inclined to be puritanical.
You could hardly conceive a less emotional subject. Yet I have
told you how, on the first night here, I heard her sobbing bitterly,
and since then I have more than once observed traces of tears upon
her face. Some deep sorrow gnaws ever at her heart. Sometimes
I wonder if she has a guilty memory which haunts her, and sometimes
I suspect Barrymore of being a domestic tyrant. I have always
felt that there was something singular and questionable in this
man's character, but the adventure of last night brings all my
suspicions to a head.
And yet it may seem a small matter in itself. You are aware that
I am not a very sound sleeper, and since I have been on guard in
this house my slumbers have been lighter than ever. Last night,
about two in the morning, I was aroused by a stealthy step passing
my room. I rose, opened my door, and peeped out. A long black
shadow was trailing down the corridor. It was thrown by a man
who walked softly down the passage with a candle held in his hand.
He was in shirt and trousers, with no covering to his feet. I
could merely see the outline, but his height told me that it was
Barrymore. He walked very slowly and circumspectly, and there was
something indescribably guilty and furtive in his whole appearance.
I have told you that the corridor is broken by the balcony which
runs round the hall, but that it is resumed upon the farther side.
I waited until he had passed out of sight and then I followed him.
When I came round the balcony he had reached the end of the farther
corridor, and I could see from the glimmer of light through an
open door that he had entered one of the rooms. Now, all these
rooms are unfurnished and unoccupied so that his expedition became
more mysterious than ever. The light shone steadily as if he were
standing motionless. I crept down the passage as noiselessly as I
could and peeped round the corner of the door.
Barrymore was crouching at the window with the candle held against
the glass. His profile was half turned towards me, and his face
seemed to be rigid with expectation as he stared out into the
blackness of the moor. For some minutes he stood watching
intently. Then he gave a deep groan and with an impatient
gesture he put out the light. Instantly I made my way back to
my room, and very shortly came the stealthy steps passing once
more upon their return journey. Long afterwards when I had fallen
into a light sleep I heard a key turn somewhere in a lock, but I
could not tell whence the sound came. What it all means I cannot
guess, but there is some secret business going on in this house
of gloom which sooner or later we shall get to the bottom of. I
do not trouble you with my theories, for you asked me to furnish
you only with facts. I have had a long talk with Sir Henry this
morning, and we have made a plan of campaign founded upon my
observations of last night. I will not speak about it just now,
but it should make my next report interesting reading.
The Light upon the Moor
[Second Report of Dr. Watson]
Baskerville Hall, Oct. 15th.
MY DEAR HOLMES:
If I was compelled to leave you without much news during the early
days of my mission you must acknowledge that I am making up for
lost time, and that events are now crowding thick and fast upon
us. In my last report I ended upon my top note with Barrymore
at the window, and now I have quite a budget already which will,
unless I am much mistaken, considerably surprise you. Things
have taken a turn which I could not have anticipated. In some
ways they have within the last forty-eight hours become much
clearer and in some ways they have become more complicated. But
I will tell you all and you shall judge for yourself.
Before breakfast on the morning following my adventure I went
down the corridor and examined the room in which Barrymore had
been on the night before. The western window through which he
had stared so intently has, I noticed, one peculiarity above all
other windows in the house--it commands the nearest outlook on to
the moor. There is an opening between two trees which enables
one from this point of view to look right down upon it, while
from all the other windows it is only a distant glimpse which
can be obtained. It follows, therefore, that Barrymore, since
only this window would serve the purpose, must have been looking
out for something or somebody upon the moor. The night was very
dark, so that I can hardly imagine how he could have hoped to
see anyone. It had struck me that it was possible that some
love intrigue was on foot. That would have accounted for his
stealthy movements and also for the uneasiness of his wife. The
man is a striking-looking fellow, very well equipped to steal
the heart of a country girl, so that this theory seemed to have
something to support it. That opening of the door which I had
heard after I had returned to my room might mean that he had
gone out to keep some clandestine appointment. So I reasoned
with myself in the morning, and I tell you the direction of my
suspicions, however much the result may have shown that they were
But whatever the true explanation of Barrymore's movements might
be, I felt that the responsibility of keeping them to myself until
I could explain them was more than I could bear. I had an interview
with the baronet in his study after breakfast, and I told him all
that I had seen. He was less surprised than I had expected.
"I knew that Barrymore walked about nights, and I had a mind to
speak to him about it," said he. "Two or three times I have heard
his steps in the passage, coming and going, just about the hour
"Perhaps then he pays a visit every night to that particular
window," I suggested.
"Perhaps he does. If so, we should be able to shadow him and see
what it is that he is after. I wonder what your friend Holmes
would do if he were here."
"I believe that he would do exactly what you now suggest," said
I. "He would follow Barrymore and see what he did."
"Then we shall do it together."
"But surely he would hear us."
"The man is rather deaf, and in any case we must take our chance
of that. We'll sit up in my room tonight and wait until he
passes." Sir Henry rubbed his hands with pleasure, and it was
evident that he hailed the adventure as a relief to his somewhat
quiet life upon the moor.
The baronet has been in communication with the architect who
prepared the plans for Sir Charles, and with a contractor from
London, so that we may expect great changes to begin here soon.
There have been decorators and furnishers up from Plymouth, and
it is evident that our friend has large ideas and means to spare
no pains or expense to restore the grandeur of his family. When
the house is renovated and refurnished, all that he will need
will be a wife to make it complete. Between ourselves there are
pretty clear signs that this will not be wanting if the lady is
willing, for I have seldom seen a man more infatuated with a
woman than he is with our beautiful neighbour, Miss Stapleton.
And yet the course of true love does not run quite as smoothly
as one would under the circumstances expect. Today, for example,
its surface was broken by a very unexpected ripple, which has
caused our friend considerable perplexity and annoyance.
After the conversation which I have quoted about Barrymore, Sir
Henry put on his hat and prepared to go out. As a matter of
course I did the same.
"What, are you coming, Watson?" he asked, looking at me in a
"That depends on whether you are going on the moor," said I.
"Yes, I am."
"Well, you know what my instructions are. I am sorry to intrude,
but you heard how earnestly Holmes insisted that I should not leave
you, and especially that you should not go alone upon the moor."
Sir Henry put his hand upon my shoulder with a pleasant smile.
"My dear fellow," said he, "Holmes, with all his wisdom, did not
foresee some things which have happened since I have been on the
moor. You understand me? I am sure that you are the last man
in the world who would wish to be a spoil-sport. I must go out
It put me in a most awkward position. I was at a loss what to
say or what to do, and before I had made up my mind he picked up
his cane and was gone.
But when I came to think the matter over my conscience reproached
me bitterly for having on any pretext allowed him to go out of
my sight. I imagined what my feelings would be if I had to return
to you and to confess that some misfortune had occurred through
my disregard for your instructions. I assure you my cheeks flushed
at the very thought. It might not even now be too late to overtake
him, so I set off at once in the direction of Merripit House.
I hurried along the road at the top of my speed without seeing
anything of Sir Henry, until I came to the point where the moor
path branches off. There, fearing that perhaps I had come in the
wrong direction after all, I mounted a hill from which I could
command a view--the same hill which is cut into the dark quarry.
Thence I saw him at once. He was on the moor path about a quarter
of a mile off, and a lady was by his side who could only be Miss
Stapleton. It was clear that there was already an understanding
between them and that they had met by appointment. They were
walking slowly along in deep conversation, and I saw her making
quick little movements of her hands as if she were very earnest
in what she was saying, while he listened intently, and once or
twice shook his head in strong dissent. I stood among the rocks
watching them, very much puzzled as to what I should do next.
To follow them and break into their intimate conversation seemed
to be an outrage, and yet my clear duty was never for an instant
to let him out of my sight. To act the spy upon a friend was a
hateful task. Still, I could see no better course than to observe
him from the hill, and to clear my conscience by confessing to
him afterwards what I had done. It is true that if any sudden
danger had threatened him I was too far away to be of use, and
yet I am sure that you will agree with me that the position was
very difficult, and that there was nothing more which I could do.
Our friend, Sir Henry, and the lady had halted on the path and
were standing deeply absorbed in their conversation, when I was
suddenly aware that I was not the only witness of their interview.
A wisp of green floating in the air caught my eye, and another
glance showed me that it was carried on a stick by a man who was
moving among the broken ground. It was Stapleton with his
butterfly-net. He was very much closer to the pair than I was,
and he appeared to be moving in their direction. At this instant
Sir Henry suddenly drew Miss Stapleton to his side. His arm was
round her, but it seemed to me that she was straining away from
him with her face averted. He stooped his head to hers, and she
raised one hand as if in protest. Next moment I saw them spring
apart and turn hurriedly round. Stapleton was the cause of the
interruption. He was running wildly towards them, his absurd
net dangling behind him. He gesticulated and almost danced with
excitement in front of the lovers. What the scene meant I could
not imagine, but it seemed to me that Stapleton was abusing Sir
Henry, who offered explanations, which became more angry as the
other refused to accept them. The lady stood by in haughty silence.
Finally Stapleton turned upon his heel and beckoned in a peremptory
way to his sister, who, after an irresolute glance at Sir Henry,
walked off by the side of her brother. The naturalist's angry
gestures showed that the lady was included in his displeasure.
The baronet stood for a minute looking after them, and then he
walked slowly back the way that he had come, his head hanging,
the very picture of dejection.
What all this meant I could not imagine, but I was deeply ashamed
to have witnessed so intimate a scene without my friend's knowledge.
I ran down the hill therefore and met the baronet at the bottom.
His face was flushed with anger and his brows were wrinkled, like
one who is at his wit's ends what to do.
"Halloa, Watson! Where have you dropped from?" said he. "You
don't mean to say that you came after me in spite of all?"
I explained everything to him: how I had found it impossible to
remain behind, how I had followed him, and how I had witnessed
all that had occurred. For an instant his eyes blazed at me,
but my frankness disarmed his anger, and he broke at last into
a rather rueful laugh.
"You would have thought the middle of that prairie a fairly safe
place for a man to be private," said he, "but, by thunder, the
whole countryside seems to have been out to see me do my wooing--
and a mighty poor wooing at that! Where had you engaged a seat?"
"I was on that hill."
"Quite in the back row, eh? But her brother was well up to the
front. Did you see him come out on us?"
"Yes, I did."
"Did he ever strike you as being crazy--this brother of hers?"
"I can't say that he ever did."
"I dare say not. I always thought him sane enough until today,
but you can take it from me that either he or I ought to be in
a straitjacket. What's the matter with me, anyhow? You've lived
near me for some weeks, Watson. Tell me straight, now! Is there
anything that would prevent me from making a good husband to a
woman that I loved?"
"I should say not."
"He can't object to my worldly position, so it must be myself
that he has this down on. What has he against me? I never hurt
man or woman in my life that I know of. And yet he would not so
much as let me touch the tips of her fingers."
"Did he say so?"
"That, and a deal more. I tell you, Watson, I've only known her
these few weeks, but from the first I just felt that she was made
for me, and she, too--she was happy when she was with me, and that
I'll swear. There's a light in a woman's eyes that speaks louder
than words. But he has never let us get together and it was only
today for the first time that I saw a chance of having a few words
with her alone. She was glad to meet me, but when she did it
was not love that she would talk about, and she wouldn't have let
me talk about it either if she could have stopped it. She kept
coming back to it that this was a place of danger, and that she
would never be happy until I had left it. I told her that since
I had seen her I was in no hurry to leave it, and that if she
really wanted me to go, the only way to work it was for her to
arrange to go with me. With that I offered in as many words to
marry her, but before she could answer, down came this brother
of hers, running at us with a face on him like a madman. He was
just white with rage, and those light eyes of his were blazing
with fury. What was I doing with the lady? How dared I offer
her attentions which were distasteful to her? Did I think that
because I was a baronet I could do what I liked? If he had not
been her brother I should have known better how to answer him.
As it was I told him that my feelings towards his sister were
such as I was not ashamed of, and that I hoped that she might
honour me by becoming my wife. That seemed to make the matter
no better, so then I lost my temper too, and I answered him
rather more hotly than I should perhaps, considering that she
was standing by. So it ended by his going off with her, as you
saw, and here am I as badly puzzled a man as any in this county.
Just tell me what it all means, Watson, and I'll owe you more
than ever I can hope to pay."
I tried one or two explanations, but, indeed, I was completely
puzzled myself. Our friend's title, his fortune, his age, his
character, and his appearance are all in his favour, and I know
nothing against him unless it be this dark fate which runs in his
family. That his advances should be rejected so brusquely without
any reference to the lady's own wishes and that the lady should
accept the situation without protest is very amazing. However,
our conjectures were set at rest by a visit from Stapleton himself
that very afternoon. He had come to offer apologies for his
rudeness of the morning, and after a long private interview with
Sir Henry in his study the upshot of their conversation was that
the breach is quite healed, and that we are to dine at Merripit
House next Friday as a sign of it.
"I don't say now that he isn't a crazy man," said Sir Henry; "I
can't forget the look in his eyes when he ran at me this morning,
but I must allow that no man could make a more handsome apology
than he has done."
"Did he give any explanation of his conduct?"
"His sister is everything in his life, he says. That is natural
enough, and I am glad that he should understand her value. They
have always been together, and according to his account he has
been a very lonely man with only her as a companion, so that the
thought of losing her was really terrible to him. He had not
understood, he said, that I was becoming attached to her, but
when he saw with his own eyes that it was really so, and that
she might be taken away from him, it gave him such a shock that
for a time he was not responsible for what he said or did. He
was very sorry for all that had passed, and he recognized how
foolish and how selfish it was that he should imagine that he
could hold a beautiful woman like his sister to himself for her
whole life. If she had to leave him he had rather it was to a
neighbour like myself than to anyone else. But in any case it
was a blow to him and it would take him some time before he could
prepare himself to meet it. He would withdraw all opposition upon
his part if I would promise for three months to let the matter
rest and to be content with cultivating the lady's friendship
during that time without claiming her love. This I promised,
and so the matter rests."
So there is one of our small mysteries cleared up. It is something
to have touched bottom anywhere in this bog in which we are
floundering. We know now why Stapleton looked with disfavour upon
his sister's suitor--even when that suitor was so eligible a one
as Sir Henry. And now I pass on to another thread which I have
extricated out of the tangled skein, the mystery of the sobs in
the night, of the tear-stained face of Mrs. Barrymore, of the
secret journey of the butler to the western lattice window.
Congratulate me, my dear Holmes, and tell me that I have not
disappointed you as an agent--that you do not regret the confidence
which you showed in me when you sent me down. All these things
have by one night's work been thoroughly cleared.
I have said "by one night's work," but, in truth, it was by two
nights' work, for on the first we drew entirely blank. I sat up
with Sir Henry in his rooms until nearly three o'clock in the
morning, but no sound of any sort did we hear except the chiming
clock upon the stairs. It was a most melancholy vigil and ended
by each of us falling asleep in our chairs. Fortunately we were
not discouraged, and we determined to try again. The next night
we lowered the lamp and sat smoking cigarettes without making the
least sound. It was incredible how slowly the hours crawled by,
and yet we were helped through it by the same sort of patient
interest which the hunter must feel as he watches the trap into
which he hopes the game may wander. One struck, and two, and we
had almost for the second time given it up in despair when in an
instant we both sat bolt upright in our chairs with all our weary
senses keenly on the alert once more. We had heard the creak of
a step in the passage.
Very stealthily we heard it pass along until it died away in the
distance. Then the baronet gently opened his door and we set out
in pursuit. Already our man had gone round the gallery and the
corridor was all in darkness. Softly we stole along until we had
come into the other wing. We were just in time to catch a glimpse
of the tall, black-bearded figure, his shoulders rounded as he
tiptoed down the passage. Then he passed through the same door
as before, and the light of the candle framed it in the darkness
and shot one single yellow beam across the gloom of the corridor.
We shuffled cautiously towards it, trying every plank before we
dared to put our whole weight upon it. We had taken the precaution
of leaving our boots behind us, but, even so, the old boards snapped
and creaked beneath our tread. Sometimes it seemed impossible
that he should fail to hear our approach. However, the man is
fortunately rather deaf, and he was entirely preoccupied in that
which he was doing. When at last we reached the door and peeped
through we found him crouching at the window, candle in hand, his
white, intent face pressed against the pane, exactly as I had seen
him two nights before.
We had arranged no plan of campaign, but the baronet is a man to
whom the most direct way is always the most natural. He walked
into the room, and as he did so Barrymore sprang up from the
window with a sharp hiss of his breath and stood, livid and
trembling, before us. His dark eyes, glaring out of the white
mask of his face, were full of horror and astonishment as he gazed
from Sir Henry to me.
"What are you doing here, Barrymore?"
"Nothing, sir." His agitation was so great that he could hardly
speak, and the shadows sprang up and down from the shaking of his
candle. "It was the window, sir. I go round at night to see that
they are fastened."
"On the second floor?"
"Yes, sir, all the windows."
"Look here, Barrymore," said Sir Henry sternly, "we have made up
our minds to have the truth out of you, so it will save you trouble
to tell it sooner rather than later. Come, now! No lies! What
were you doing at that window?"
The fellow looked at us in a helpless way, and he wrung his hands
together like one who is in the last extremity of doubt and misery.
"I was doing no harm, sir. I was holding a candle to the window."
"And why were you holding a candle to the window?"
"Don't ask me, Sir Henry--don't ask me! I give you my word, sir,
that it is not my secret, and that I cannot tell it. If it
concerned no one but myself I would not try to keep it from you."
A sudden idea occurred to me, and I took the candle from the
trembling hand of the butler.
"He must have been holding it as a signal," said I. "Let us see
if there is any answer." I held it as he had done, and stared
out into the darkness of the night. Vaguely I could discern the
black bank of the trees and the lighter expanse of the moor, for
the moon was behind the clouds. And then I gave a cry of exultation,
for a tiny pinpoint of yellow light had suddenly transfixed the
dark veil, and glowed steadily in the centre of the black square
framed by the window.
"There it is!" I cried.
"No, no, sir, it is nothing--nothing at all!" the butler broke
in; "I assure you, sir--"
"Move your light across the window, Watson!" cried the baronet.
"See, the other moves also! Now, you rascal, do you deny that
it is a signal? Come, speak up! Who is your confederate out
yonder, and what is this conspiracy that is going on?"
The man's face became openly defiant. "It is my business, and
not yours. I will not tell."
"Then you leave my employment right away."
"Very good, sir. If I must I must."
"And you go in disgrace. By thunder, you may well be ashamed of
yourself. Your family has lived with mine for over a hundred
years under this roof, and here I find you deep in some dark plot
"No, no, sir; no, not against you!" It was a woman's voice, and
Mrs. Barrymore, paler and more horrorstruck than her husband, was
standing at the door. Her bulky figure in a shawl and skirt
might have been comic were it not for the intensity of feeling
upon her face.
"We have to go, Eliza. This is the end of it. You can pack our
things," said the butler.
"Oh, John, John, have I brought you to this? It is my doing,
Sir Henry--all mine. He has done nothing except for my sake and
because I asked him."
"Speak out, then! What does it mean?"
"My unhappy brother is starving on the moor. We cannot let him
perish at our very gates. The light is a signal to him that food
is ready for him, and his light out yonder is to show the spot
to which to bring it."
"Then your brother is--"
"The escaped convict, sir--Selden, the criminal."
"That's the truth, sir," said Barrymore. "I said that it was not
my secret and that I could not tell it to you. But now you have
heard it, and you will see that if there was a plot it was not
This, then, was the explanation of the stealthy expeditions at
night and the light at the window. Sir Henry and I both stared
at the woman in amazement. Was it possible that this stolidly
respectable person was of the same blood as one of the most
notorious criminals in the country?
"Yes, sir, my name was Selden, and he is my younger brother. We
humoured him too much when he was a lad and gave him his own way
in everything until he came to think that the world was made for
his pleasure, and that he could do what he liked in it. Then as
he grew older he met wicked companions, and the devil entered
into him until he broke my mother's heart and dragged our name
in the dirt. From crime to crime he sank lower and lower until
it is only the mercy of God which has snatched him from the
scaffold; but to me, sir, he was always the little curly-headed
boy that I had nursed and played with as an elder sister would.
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