The Hound of the Baskervilles
A. Conan Doyle
Part 3 out of 4
That was why he broke prison, sir. He knew that I was here and
that we could not refuse to help him. When he dragged himself
here one night, weary and starving, with the warders hard at his
heels, what could we do? We took him in and fed him and cared
for him. Then you returned, sir, and my brother thought he would
be safer on the moor than anywhere else until the hue and cry
was over, so he lay in hiding there. But every second night we
made sure if he was still there by putting a light in the window,
and if there was an answer my husband took out some bread and meat
to him. Every day we hoped that he was gone, but as long as he
was there we could not desert him. That is the whole truth, as
I am an honest Christian woman and you will see that if there is
blame in the matter it does not lie with my husband but with me,
for whose sake he has done all that he has."
The woman's words came with an intense earnestness which carried
conviction with them.
"Is this true, Barrymore?"
"Yes, Sir Henry. Every word of it."
"Well, I cannot blame you for standing by your own wife. Forget
what I have said. Go to your room, you two, and we shall talk
further about this matter in the morning."
When they were gone we looked out of the window again. Sir Henry
had flung it open, and the cold night wind beat in upon our faces.
Far away in the black distance there still glowed that one tiny
point of yellow light.
"I wonder he dares," said Sir Henry.
"It may be so placed as to be only visible from here."
"Very likely. How far do you think it is?"
"Out by the Cleft Tor, I think."
"Not more than a mile or two off."
"Well, it cannot be far if Barrymore had to carry out the food
to it. And he is waiting, this villain, beside that candle. By
thunder, Watson, I am going out to take that man!"
The same thought had crossed my own mind. It was not as if the
Barrymores had taken us into their confidence. Their secret had
been forced from them. The man was a danger to the community,
an unmitigated scoundrel for whom there was neither pity nor
excuse. We were only doing our duty in taking this chance of
putting him back where he could do no harm. With his brutal and
violent nature, others would have to pay the price if we held our
hands. Any night, for example, our neighbours the Stapletons
might be attacked by him, and it may have been the thought of
this which made Sir Henry so keen upon the adventure.
"I will come," said I.
"Then get your revolver and put on your boots. The sooner we
start the better, as the fellow may put out his light and be off."
In five minutes we were outside the door, starting upon our
expedition. We hurried through the dark shrubbery, amid the
dull moaning of the autumn wind and the rustle of the falling
leaves. The night air was heavy with the smell of damp and
decay. Now and again the moon peeped out for an instant, but
clouds were driving over the face of the sky, and just as we
came out on the moor a thin rain began to fall. The light still
burned steadily in front.
"Are you armed?" I asked.
"I have a hunting-crop."
"We must close in on him rapidly, for he is said to be a desperate
fellow. We shall take him by surprise and have him at our mercy
before he can resist."
"I say, Watson," said the baronet, "what would Holmes say to this?
How about that hour of darkness in which the power of evil is
As if in answer to his words there rose suddenly out of the vast
gloom of the moor that strange cry which I had already heard upon
the borders of the great Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind
through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a
rising howl, and then the sad moan in which it died away. Again
and again it sounded, the whole air throbbing with it, strident,
wild, and menacing. The baronet caught my sleeve and his face
glimmered white through the darkness.
"My God, what's that, Watson?"
"I don't know. It's a sound they have on the moor. I heard it
It died away, and an absolute silence closed in upon us. We stood
straining our ears, but nothing came.
"Watson," said the baronet, "it was the cry of a hound."
My blood ran cold in my veins, for there was a break in his voice
which told of the sudden horror which had seized him.
"What do they call this sound?" he asked.
"The folk on the countryside."
"Oh, they are ignorant people. Why should you mind what they
"Tell me, Watson. What do they say of it?"
I hesitated but could not escape the question.
"They say it is the cry of the Hound of the Baskervilles."
He groaned and was silent for a few moments.
"A hound it was," he said at last, "but it seemed to come from
miles away, over yonder, I think."
"It was hard to say whence it came."
"It rose and fell with the wind. Isn't that the direction of
the great Grimpen Mire?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well, it was up there. Come now, Watson, didn't you think
yourself that it was the cry of a hound? I am not a child. You
need not fear to speak the truth."
"Stapleton was with me when I heard it last. He said that it
might be the calling of a strange bird."
"No, no, it was a hound. My God, can there be some truth in all
these stories? Is it possible that I am really in danger from so
dark a cause? You don't believe it, do you, Watson?"
"And yet it was one thing to laugh about it in London, and it is
another to stand out here in the darkness of the moor and to hear
such a cry as that. And my uncle! There was the footprint of the
hound beside him as he lay. It all fits together. I don't think
that I am a coward, Watson, but that sound seemed to freeze my
very blood. Feel my hand!"
It was as cold as a block of marble.
"You'll be all right tomorrow."
"I don't think I'll get that cry out of my head. What do you
advise that we do now?"
"Shall we turn back?"
"No, by thunder; we have come out to get our man, and we will
do it. We after the convict, and a hell-hound, as likely as not,
after us. Come on! We'll see it through if all the fiends of
the pit were loose upon the moor."
We stumbled slowly along in the darkness, with the black loom of
the craggy hills around us, and the yellow speck of light burning
steadily in front. There is nothing so deceptive as the distance
of a light upon a pitch-dark night, and sometimes the glimmer
seemed to be far away upon the horizon and sometimes it might
have been within a few yards of us. But at last we could see
whence it came, and then we knew that we were indeed very close.
A guttering candle was stuck in a crevice of the rocks which
flanked it on each side so as to keep the wind from it and also
to prevent it from being visible, save in the direction of
Baskerville Hall. A boulder of granite concealed our approach,
and crouching behind it we gazed over it at the signal light.
It was strange to see this single candle burning there in the
middle of the moor, with no sign of life near it--just the one
straight yellow flame and the gleam of the rock on each side of it.
"What shall we do now?" whispered Sir Henry.
"Wait here. He must be near his light. Let us see if we can get
a glimpse of him."
The words were hardly out of my mouth when we both saw him. Over
the rocks, in the crevice of which the candle burned, there was
thrust out an evil yellow face, a terrible animal face, all seamed
and scored with vile passions. Foul with mire, with a bristling
beard, and hung with matted hair, it might well have belonged to
one of those old savages who dwelt in the burrows on the hillsides.
The light beneath him was reflected in his small, cunning eyes
which peered fiercely to right and left through the darkness like
a crafty and savage animal who has heard the steps of the hunters.
Something had evidently aroused his suspicions. It may have been
that Barrymore had some private signal which we had neglected to
give, or the fellow may have had some other reason for thinking
that all was not well, but I could read his fears upon his wicked
face. Any instant he might dash out the light and vanish in the
darkness. I sprang forward therefore, and Sir Henry did the same.
At the same moment the convict screamed out a curse at us and
hurled a rock which splintered up against the boulder which had
sheltered us. I caught one glimpse of his short, squat, strongly
built figure as he sprang to his feet and turned to run. At the
same moment by a lucky chance the moon broke through the clouds.
We rushed over the brow of the hill, and there was our man running
with great speed down the other side, springing over the stones
in his way with the activity of a mountain goat. A lucky long
shot of my revolver might have crippled him, but I had brought
it only to defend myself if attacked and not to shoot an unarmed
man who was running away.
We were both swift runners and in fairly good training, but we
soon found that we had no chance of overtaking him. We saw him
for a long time in the moonlight until he was only a small speck
moving swiftly among the boulders upon the side of a distant hill.
We ran and ran until we were completely blown, but the space
between us grew ever wider. Finally we stopped and sat panting
on two rocks, while we watched him disappearing in the distance.
And it was at this moment that there occurred a most strange and
unexpected thing. We had risen from our rocks and were turning
to go home, having abandoned the hopeless chase. The moon was
low upon the right, and the jagged pinnacle of a granite tor
stood up against the lower curve of its silver disc. There,
outlined as black as an ebony statue on that shining background,
I saw the figure of a man upon the tor. Do not think that it
was a delusion, Holmes. I assure you that I have never in my
life seen anything more clearly. As far as I could judge, the
figure was that of a tall, thin man. He stood with his legs a
little separated, his arms folded, his head bowed, as if he were
brooding over that enormous wilderness of peat and granite which
lay before him. He might have been the very spirit of that
terrible place. It was not the convict. This man was far from
the place where the latter had disappeared. Besides, he was a
much taller man. With a cry of surprise I pointed him out to
the baronet, but in the instant during which I had turned to
grasp his arm the man was gone. There was the sharp pinnacle of
granite still cutting the lower edge of the moon, but its peak
bore no trace of that silent and motionless figure.
I wished to go in that direction and to search the tor, but it
was some distance away. The baronet's nerves were still quivering
from that cry, which recalled the dark story of his family, and
he was not in the mood for fresh adventures. He had not seen
this lonely man upon the tor and could not feel the thrill which
his strange presence and his commanding attitude had given to me.
"A warder, no doubt," said he. "The moor has been thick with
them since this fellow escaped." Well, perhaps his explanation
may be the right one, but I should like to have some further proof
of it. Today we mean to communicate to the Princetown people
where they should look for their missing man, but it is hard lines
that we have not actually had the triumph of bringing him back
as our own prisoner. Such are the adventures of last night, and
you must acknowledge, my dear Holmes, that I have done you very
well in the matter of a report. Much of what I tell you is no
doubt quite irrelevant, but still I feel that it is best that I
should let you have all the facts and leave you to select for
yourself those which will be of most service to you in helping
you to your conclusions. We are certainly making some progress.
So far as the Barrymores go we have found the motive of their
actions, and that has cleared up the situation very much. But
the moor with its mysteries and its strange inhabitants remains
as inscrutable as ever. Perhaps in my next I may be able to throw
some light upon this also. Best of all would it be if you could
come down to us. In any case you will hear from me again in the
course of the next few days.
Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson
So far I have been able to quote from the reports which I have
forwarded during these early days to Sherlock Holmes. Now,
however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am
compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to my
recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A
few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes
which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I
proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase
of the convict and our other strange experiences upon the moor.
October 16th. A dull and foggy day with a drizzle of rain. The
house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then
to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins
upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming
where the light strikes upon their wet faces. It is melancholy
outside and in. The baronet is in a black reaction after the
excitements of the night. I am conscious myself of a weight at
my heart and a feeling of impending danger--ever present danger,
which is the more terrible because I am unable to define it.
And have I not cause for such a feeling? Consider the long
sequence of incidents which have all pointed to some sinister
influence which is at work around us. There is the death of the
last occupant of the Hall, fulfilling so exactly the conditions
of the family legend, and there are the repeated reports from
peasants of the appearance of a strange creature upon the moor.
Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resembled the
distant baying of a hound. It is incredible, impossible, that it
should really be outside the ordinary laws of nature. A spectral
hound which leaves material footmarks and fills the air with its
howling is surely not to be thought of. Stapleton may fall in
with such a superstition, and Mortimer also, but if I have one
quality upon earth it is common sense, and nothing will persuade
me to believe in such a thing. To do so would be to descend to
the level of these poor peasants, who are not content with a mere
fiend dog but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting from
his mouth and eyes. Holmes would not listen to such fancies, and
I am his agent. But facts are facts, and I have twice heard this
crying upon the moor. Suppose that there were really some huge
hound loose upon it; that would go far to explain everything. But
where could such a hound lie concealed, where did it get its food,
where did it come from, how was it that no one saw it by day? It
must be confessed that the natural explanation offers almost as
many difficulties as the other. And always, apart from the hound,
there is the fact of the human agency in London, the man in the
cab, and the letter which warned Sir Henry against the moor. This
at least was real, but it might have been the work of a protecting
friend as easily as of an enemy. Where is that friend or enemy
now? Has he remained in London, or has he followed us down here?
Could he--could he be the stranger whom I saw upon the tor?
It is true that I have had only the one glance at him, and yet
there are some things to which I am ready to swear. He is no
one whom I have seen down here, and I have now met all the
neighbours. The figure was far taller than that of Stapleton,
far thinner than that of Frankland. Barrymore it might possibly
have been, but we had left him behind us, and I am certain that
he could not have followed us. A stranger then is still dogging
us, just as a stranger dogged us in London. We have never shaken
him off. If I could lay my hands upon that man, then at last we
might find ourselves at the end of all our difficulties. To this
one purpose I must now devote all my energies.
My first impulse was to tell Sir Henry all my plans. My second
and wisest one is to play my own game and speak as little as
possible to anyone. He is silent and distrait. His nerves have
been strangely shaken by that sound upon the moor. I will say
nothing to add to his anxieties, but I will take my own steps to
attain my own end.
We had a small scene this morning after breakfast. Barrymore
asked leave to speak with Sir Henry, and they were closeted in
his study some little time. Sitting in the billiard-room I more
than once heard the sound of voices raised, and I had a pretty
good idea what the point was which was under discussion. After
a time the baronet opened his door and called for me.
"Barrymore considers that he has a grievance," he said. "He
thinks that it was unfair on our part to hunt his brother-in-law
down when he, of his own free will, had told us the secret."
The butler was standing very pale but very collected before us.
"I may have spoken too warmly, sir," said he, "and if I have, I
am sure that I beg your pardon. At the same time, I was very
much surprised when I heard you two gentlemen come back this
morning and learned that you had been chasing Selden. The poor
fellow has enough to fight against without my putting more upon
"If you had told us of your own free will it would have been a
different thing," said the baronet, "you only told us, or rather
your wife only told us, when it was forced from you and you could
not help yourself."
"I didn't think you would have taken advantage of it, Sir Henry--
indeed I didn't."
"The man is a public danger. There are lonely houses scattered
over the moor, and he is a fellow who would stick at nothing.
You only want to get a glimpse of his face to see that. Look at
Mr. Stapleton's house, for example, with no one but himself to
defend it. There's no safety for anyone until he is under lock
"He'll break into no house, sir. I give you my solemn word upon
that. But he will never trouble anyone in this country again.
I assure you, Sir Henry, that in a very few days the necessary
arrangements will have been made and he will be on his way to
South America. For God's sake, sir, I beg of you not to let the
police know that he is still on the moor. They have given up the
chase there, and he can lie quiet until the ship is ready for him.
You can't tell on him without getting my wife and me into trouble.
I beg you, sir, to say nothing to the police."
"What do you say, Watson?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "If he were safely out of the country
it would relieve the tax-payer of a burden."
"But how about the chance of his holding someone up before he goes?"
"He would not do anything so mad, sir. We have provided him with
all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to show where
he was hiding."
"That is true," said Sir Henry. "Well, Barrymore--"
"God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would have
killed my poor wife had he been taken again."
"I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But, after
what we have heard I don't feel as if I could give the man up, so
there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go."
With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he
hesitated and then came back.
"You've been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the
best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and
perhaps I should have said it before, but it was long after the
inquest that I found it out. I've never breathed a word about
it yet to mortal man. It's about poor Sir Charles's death."
The baronet and I were both upon our feet. "Do you know how he
"No, sir, I don't know that."
"I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a
"To meet a woman! He?"
"And the woman's name?"
"I can't give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials.
Her initials were L. L."
"How do you know this, Barrymore?"
"Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He had
usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and well
known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in trouble was
glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced, there was
only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It was
from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman's hand."
"Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would have
done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago she was
cleaning out Sir Charles's study--it had never been touched since
his death--and she found the ashes of a burned letter in the back
of the grate. The greater part of it was charred to pieces, but
one little slip, the end of a page, hung together, and the writing
could still be read, though it was gray on a black ground. It
seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter and it
said: 'Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter,
and be at the gate by ten o clock. Beneath it were signed the
initials L. L."
"Have you got that slip?"
"No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it."
"Had Sir Charles received any other letters in the same writing?"
"Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should
not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone."
"And you have no idea who L. L. is?"
"No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay
our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charles's
"I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal this
"Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came
to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir
Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for
us. To rake this up couldn't help our poor master, and it's well
to go carefully when there's a lady in the case. Even the best
"You thought it might injure his reputation?"
"Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you have
been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you unfairly
not to tell you all that I know about the matter."
"Very good, Barrymore; you can go." When the butler had left us
Sir Henry turned to me. "Well, Watson, what do you think of this
"It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before."
"So I think. But if we can only trace L. L. it should clear up
the whole business. We have gained that much. We know that
there is someone who has the facts if we can only find her. What
do you think we should do?"
"Let Holmes know all about it at once. It will give him the clue
for which he has been seeking. I am much mistaken if it does not
bring him down."
I went at once to my room and drew up my report of the morning's
conversation for Holmes. It was evident to me that he had been
very busy of late, for the notes which I had from Baker Street
were few and short, with no comments upon the information which
I had supplied and hardly any reference to my mission. No doubt
his blackmailing case is absorbing all his faculties. And yet
this new factor must surely arrest his attention and renew his
interest. I wish that he were here.
October 17th. All day today the rain poured down, rustling on
the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict
out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever
his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. And
then I thought of that other one--the face in the cab, the figure
against the moon. Was he also out in that deluged--the unseen
watcher, the man of darkness? In the evening I put on my
waterproof and I walked far upon the sodden moor, full of dark
imaginings, the rain beating upon my face and the wind whistling
about my ears. God help those who wander into the great mire now,
for even the firm uplands are becoming a morass. I found the
black tor upon which I had seen the solitary watcher, and from
its craggy summit I looked out myself across the melancholy downs.
Rain squalls drifted across their russet face, and the heavy,
slate-coloured clouds hung low over the landscape, trailing in
gray wreaths down the sides of the fantastic hills. In the
distant hollow on the left, half hidden by the mist, the two
thin towers of Baskerville Hall rose above the trees. They were
the only signs of human life which I could see, save only those
prehistoric huts which lay thickly upon the slopes of the hills.
Nowhere was there any trace of that lonely man whom I had seen
on the same spot two nights before.
As I walked back I was overtaken by Dr. Mortimer driving in his
dog-cart over a rough moorland track which led from the outlying
farmhouse of Foulmire. He has been very attentive to us, and
hardly a day has passed that he has not called at the Hall to
see how we were getting on. He insisted upon my climbing into
his dog-cart, and he gave me a lift homeward. I found him much
troubled over the disappearance of his little spaniel. It had
wandered on to the moor and had never come back. I gave him such
consolation as I might, but I thought of the pony on the Grimpen
Mire, and I do not fancy that he will see his little dog again.
"By the way, Mortimer," said I as we jolted along the rough road,
"I suppose there are few people living within driving distance of
this whom you do not know?"
"Hardly any, I think."
"Can you, then, tell me the name of any woman whose initials are
He thought for a few minutes.
"No," said he. "There are a few gipsies and labouring folk for
whom I can't answer, but among the farmers or gentry there is no
one whose initials are those. Wait a bit though," he added after
a pause. "There is Laura Lyons--her initials are L. L.--but she
lives in Coombe Tracey."
"Who is she?" I asked.
"She is Frankland's daughter."
"What! Old Frankland the crank?"
"Exactly. She married an artist named Lyons, who came sketching
on the moor. He proved to be a blackguard and deserted her. The
fault from what I hear may not have been entirely on one side. Her
father refused to have anything to do with her because she had
married without his consent and perhaps for one or two other
reasons as well. So, between the old sinner and the young one
the girl has had a pretty bad time."
"How does she live?"
"I fancy old Frankland allows her a pittance, but it cannot be
more, for his own affairs are considerably involved. Whatever
she may have deserved one could not allow her to go hopelessly
to the bad. Her story got about, and several of the people here
did something to enable her to earn an honest living. Stapleton
did for one, and Sir Charles for another. I gave a trifle myself.
It was to set her up in a typewriting business."
He wanted to know the object of my inquiries, but I managed to
satisfy his curiosity without telling him too much, for there is
no reason why we should take anyone into our confidence. Tomorrow
morning I shall find my way to Coombe Tracey, and if I can see
this Mrs. Laura Lyons, of equivocal reputation, a long step will
have been made towards clearing one incident in this chain of
mysteries. I am certainly developing the wisdom of the serpent,
for when Mortimer pressed his questions to an inconvenient extent
I asked him casually to what type Frankland's skull belonged, and
so heard nothing but craniology for the rest of our drive. I have
not lived for years with Sherlock Holmes for nothing.
I have only one other incident to record upon this tempestuous
and melancholy day. This was my conversation with Barrymore
just now, which gives me one more strong card which I can play
in due time.
Mortimer had stayed to dinner, and he and the baronet played
ecarte afterwards. The butler brought me my coffee into the
library, and I took the chance to ask him a few questions.
"Well," said I, "has this precious relation of yours departed,
or is he still lurking out yonder?"
"I don't know, sir. I hope to heaven that he has gone, for he
has brought nothing but trouble here! I've not heard of him
since I left out food for him last, and that was three days ago."
"Did you see him then?"
"No, sir, but the food was gone when next I went that way."
"Then he was certainly there?"
"So you would think, sir, unless it was the other man who took it."
I sat with my coffee-cup halfway to my lips and stared at Barrymore.
"You know that there is another man then?"
"Yes, sir; there is another man upon the moor."
"Have you seen him?"
"How do you know of him then?"
"Selden told me of him, sir, a week ago or more. He's in hiding,
too, but he's not a convict as far as I can make out. I don't
like it, Dr. Watson--I tell you straight, sir, that I don't like
it." He spoke with a sudden passion of earnestness.
"Now, listen to me, Barrymore! I have no interest in this matter
but that of your master. I have come here with no object except to
help him. Tell me, frankly, what it is that you don't like."
Barrymore hesitated for a moment, as if he regretted his outburst
or found it difficult to express his own feelings in words.
"It's all these goings-on, sir," he cried at last, waving his hand
towards the rain-lashed window which faced the moor. "There's foul
play somewhere, and there's black villainy brewing, to that I'll
swear! Very glad I should be, sir, to see Sir Henry on his way
back to London again!"
"But what is it that alarms you?"
"Look at Sir Charles's death! That was bad enough, for all that
the coroner said. Look at the noises on the moor at night. There's
not a man would cross it after sundown if he was paid for it. Look
at this stranger hiding out yonder, and watching and waiting!
What's he waiting for? What does it mean? It means no good to
anyone of the name of Baskerville, and very glad I shall be to
be quit of it all on the day that Sir Henry's new servants are
ready to take over the Hall."
"But about this stranger," said I. "Can you tell me anything
about him? What did Selden say? Did he find out where he hid,
or what he was doing?"
"He saw him once or twice, but he is a deep one and gives nothing
away. At first he thought that he was the police, but soon he
found that he had some lay of his own. A kind of gentleman he
was, as far as he could see, but what he was doing he could not
"And where did he say that he lived?"
"Among the old houses on the hillside--the stone huts where the
old folk used to live."
"But how about his food?"
"Selden found out that he has got a lad who works for him and
brings all he needs. I dare say he goes to Coombe Tracey for
what he wants."
"Very good, Barrymore. We may talk further of this some other
time." When the butler had gone I walked over to the black window,
and I looked through a blurred pane at the driving clouds and at
the tossing outline of the wind-swept trees. It is a wild night
indoors, and what must it be in a stone hut upon the moor. What
passion of hatred can it be which leads a man to lurk in such a
place at such a time! And what deep and earnest purpose can he
have which calls for such a trial! There, in that hut upon the
moor, seems to lie the very centre of that problem which has
vexed me so sorely. I swear that another day shall not have
passed before I have done all that man can do to reach the heart
of the mystery.
The Man on the Tor
The extract from my private diary which forms the last chapter
has brought my narrative up to the eighteenth of October, a time
when these strange events began to move swiftly towards their
terrible conclusion. The incidents of the next few days are
indelibly graven upon my recollection, and I can tell them without
reference to the notes made at the time. I start them from the
day which succeeded that upon which I had established two facts
of great importance, the one that Mrs. Laura Lyons of Coombe Tracey
had written to Sir Charles Baskerville and made an appointment with
him at the very place and hour that he met his death, the other
that the lurking man upon the moor was to be found among the stone
huts upon the hillside. With these two facts in my possession I
felt that either my intelligence or my courage must be deficient
if I could not throw some further light upon these dark places.
I had no opportunity to tell the baronet what I had learned about
Mrs. Lyons upon the evening before, for Dr. Mortimer remained with
him at cards until it was very late. At breakfast, however, I
informed him about my discovery and asked him whether he would
care to accompany me to Coombe Tracey. At first he was very
eager to come, but on second thoughts it seemed to both of us
that if I went alone the results might be better. The more
formal we made the visit the less information we might obtain. I
left Sir Henry behind, therefore, not without some prickings of
conscience, and drove off upon my new quest.
When I reached Coombe Tracey I told Perkins to put up the horses,
and I made inquiries for the lady whom I had come to interrogate.
I had no difficulty in finding her rooms, which were central and
well appointed. A maid showed me in without ceremony, and as I
entered the sitting-room a lady, who was sitting before a Remington
typewriter, sprang up with a pleasant smile of welcome. Her face
fell, however, when she saw that I was a stranger, and she sat
down again and asked me the object of my visit.
The first impression left by Mrs. Lyons was one of extreme beauty.
Her eyes and hair were of the same rich hazel colour, and her
cheeks, though considerably freckled, were flushed with the
exquisite bloom of the brunette, the dainty pink which lurks at
the heart of the sulphur rose. Admiration was, I repeat, the first
impression. But the second was criticism. There was something
subtly wrong with the face, some coarseness of expression, some
hardness, perhaps, of eye, some looseness of lip which marred its
perfect beauty. But these, of course, are afterthoughts. At the
moment I was simply conscious that I was in the presence of a
very handsome woman, and that she was asking me the reasons for
my visit. I had not quite understood until that instant how
delicate my mission was.
"I have the pleasure," said I, "of knowing your father."
It was a clumsy introduction, and the lady made me feel it. "There
is nothing in common between my father and me," she said. "I owe
him nothing, and his friends are not mine. If it were not for
the late Sir Charles Baskerville and some other kind hearts I might
have starved for all that my father cared."
"It was about the late Sir Charles Baskerville that I have come
here to see you."
The freckles started out on the lady's face.
"What can I tell you about him?" she asked, and her fingers played
nervously over the stops of her typewriter.
"You knew him, did you not?"
"I have already said that I owe a great deal to his kindness. If
I am able to support myself it is largely due to the interest
which he took in my unhappy situation."
"Did you correspond with him?"
The lady looked quickly up with an angry gleam in her hazel eyes.
"What is the object of these questions?" she asked sharply.
"The object is to avoid a public scandal. It is better that I
should ask them here than that the matter should pass outside
She was silent and her face was still very pale. At last she
looked up with something reckless and defiant in her manner.
"Well, I'll answer," she said. "What are your questions?"
"Did you correspond with Sir Charles?"
"I certainly wrote to him once or twice to acknowledge his delicacy
and his generosity."
"Have you the dates of those letters?"
"Have you ever met him?"
"Yes, once or twice, when he came into Coombe Tracey. He was a
very retiring man, and he preferred to do good by stealth."
"But if you saw him so seldom and wrote so seldom, how did he
know enough about your affairs to be able to help you, as you
say that he has done?"
She met my difficulty with the utmost readiness.
"There were several gentlemen who knew my sad history and united
to help me. One was Mr. Stapleton, a neighbour and intimate friend
of Sir Charles's. He was exceedingly kind, and it was through
him that Sir Charles learned about my affairs."
I knew already that Sir Charles Baskerville had made Stapleton
his almoner upon several occasions, so the lady's statement bore
the impress of truth upon it.
"Did you ever write to Sir Charles asking him to meet you?" I
Mrs. Lyons flushed with anger again. "Really, sir, this is a
very extraordinary question."
"I am sorry, madam, but I must repeat it."
"Then I answer, certainly not."
"Not on the very day of Sir Charles's death?"
The flush had faded in an instant, and a deathly face was before
me. Her dry lips could not speak the "No" which I saw rather
"Surely your memory deceives you," said I. "I could even quote a
passage of your letter. It ran 'Please, please, as you are a
gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o'clock.'"
I thought that she had fainted, but she recovered herself by a
"Is there no such thing as a gentleman?" she gasped.
"You do Sir Charles an injustice. He did burn the letter. But
sometimes a letter may be legible even when burned. You acknowledge
now that you wrote it?"
"Yes, I did write it," she cried, pouring out her soul in a torrent
of words. "I did write it. Why should I deny it? I have no
reason to be ashamed of it. I wished him to help me. I believed
that if I had an interview I could gain his help, so I asked him
to meet me."
"But why at such an hour?"
"Because I had only just learned that he was going to London next
day and might be away for months. There were reasons why I could
not get there earlier."
"But why a rendezvous in the garden instead of a visit to the
"Do you think a woman could go alone at that hour to a bachelor's
"Well, what happened when you did get there?"
"I never went."
"No, I swear it to you on all I hold sacred. I never went.
Something intervened to prevent my going."
"What was that?"
"That is a private matter. I cannot tell it."
"You acknowledge then that you made an appointment with Sir Charles
at the very hour and place at which he met his death, but you deny
that you kept the appointment."
"That is the truth."
Again and again I cross-questioned her, but I could never get past
"Mrs. Lyons," said I as I rose from this long and inconclusive
interview, "you are taking a very great responsibility and putting
yourself in a very false position by not making an absolutely
clean breast of all that you know. If I have to call in the aid
of the police you will find how seriously you are compromised.
If your position is innocent, why did you in the first instance
deny having written to Sir Charles upon that date?"
"Because I feared that some false conclusion might be drawn from
it and that I might find myself involved in a scandal."
"And why were you so pressing that Sir Charles should destroy
"If you have read the letter you will know."
"I did not say that I had read all the letter."
"You quoted some of it."
"I quoted the postscript. The letter had, as I said, been burned
and it was not all legible. I ask you once again why it was that
you were so pressing that Sir Charles should destroy this letter
which he received on the day of his death."
"The matter is a very private one."
"The more reason why you should avoid a public investigation."
"I will tell you, then. If you have heard anything of my unhappy
history you will know that I made a rash marriage and had reason
to regret it."
"I have heard so much."
"My life has been one incessant persecution from a husband whom
I abhor. The law is upon his side, and every day I am faced by
the possibility that he may force me to live with him. At the
time that I wrote this letter to Sir Charles I had learned that
there was a prospect of my regaining my freedom if certain expenses
could be met. It meant everything to me--peace of mind, happiness,
self-respect--everything. I knew Sir Charles's generosity, and
I thought that if he heard the story from my own lips he would
"Then how is it that you did not go?"
"Because I received help in the interval from another source."
"Why then, did you not write to Sir Charles and explain this?"
"So I should have done had I not seen his death in the paper next
The woman's story hung coherently together, and all my questions
were unable to shake it. I could only check it by finding if she
had, indeed, instituted divorce proceedings against her husband
at or about the time of the tragedy.
It was unlikely that she would dare to say that she had not been
to Baskerville Hall if she really had been, for a trap would be
necessary to take her there, and could not have returned to
Coombe Tracey until the early hours of the morning. Such an
excursion could not be kept secret. The probability was,
therefore, that she was telling the truth, or, at least, a part
of the truth. I came away baffled and disheartened. Once again
I had reached that dead wall which seemed to be built across
every path by which I tried to get at the object of my mission.
And yet the more I thought of the lady's face and of her manner
the more I felt that something was being held back from me. Why
should she turn so pale? Why should she fight against every
admission until it was forced from her? Why should she have been
so reticent at the time of the tragedy? Surely the explanation
of all this could not be as innocent as she would have me believe.
For the moment I could proceed no farther in that direction, but
must turn back to that other clue which was to be sought for
among the stone huts upon the moor.
And that was a most vague direction. I realized it as I drove
back and noted how hill after hill showed traces of the ancient
people. Barrymore's only indication had been that the stranger
lived in one of these abandoned huts, and many hundreds of them
are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the moor. But
I had my own experience for a guide since it had shown me the man
himself standing upon the summit of the Black Tor. That, then,
should be the centre of my search. From there I should explore
every hut upon the moor until I lighted upon the right one. If
this man were inside it I should find out from his own lips, at
the point of my revolver if necessary, who he was and why he had
dogged us so long. He might slip away from us in the crowd of
Regent Street, but it would puzzle him to do so upon the lonely
moor. On the other hand, if I should find the hut and its tenant
should not be within it I must remain there, however long the
vigil, until he returned. Holmes had missed him in London. It
would indeed be a triumph for me if I could run him to earth
where my master had failed.
Luck had been against us again and again in this inquiry, but now
at last it came to my aid. And the messenger of good fortune was
none other than Mr. Frankland, who was standing, gray-whiskered
and red-faced, outside the gate of his garden, which opened on
to the highroad along which I travelled.
"Good-day, Dr. Watson," cried he with unwonted good humour, "you
must really give your horses a rest and come in to have a glass
of wine and to congratulate me."
My feelings towards him were very far from being friendly after
what I had heard of his treatment of his daughter, but I was
anxious to send Perkins and the wagonette home, and the opportunity
was a good one. I alighted and sent a message to Sir Henry that
I should walk over in time for dinner. Then I followed Frankland
into his dining-room.
"It is a great day for me, sir--one of the red-letter days of my
life," he cried with many chuckles. "I have brought off a double
event. I mean to teach them in these parts that law is law, and
that there is a man here who does not fear to invoke it. I have
established a right of way through the centre of old Middleton's
park, slap across it, sir, within a hundred yards of his own front
door. What do you think of that? We'll teach these magnates that
they cannot ride roughshod over the rights of the commoners,
confound them! And I've closed the wood where the Fernworthy folk
used to picnic. These infernal people seem to think that there
are no rights of property, and that they can swarm where they like
with their papers and their bottles. Both cases decided, Dr.
Watson, and both in my favour. I haven't had such a day since I
had Sir John Morland for trespass because he shot in his own warren."
"How on earth did you do that?"
"Look it up in the books, sir. It will repay reading--Frankland
v. Morland, Court of Queen's Bench. It cost me 200 pounds, but
I got my verdict."
"Did it do you any good?"
"None, sir, none. I am proud to say that I had no interest in
the matter. I act entirely from a sense of public duty. I have
no doubt, for example, that the Fernworthy people will burn me
in effigy tonight. I told the police last time they did it that
they should stop these disgraceful exhibitions. The County
Constabulary is in a scandalous state, sir, and it has not afforded
me the protection to which I am entitled. The case of Frankland
v. Regina will bring the matter before the attention of the
public. I told them that they would have occasion to regret their
treatment of me, and already my words have come true."
"How so?" I asked.
The old man put on a very knowing expression. "Because I could
tell them what they are dying to know; but nothing would induce
me to help the rascals in any way."
I had been casting round for some excuse by which I could get
away from his gossip, but now I began to wish to hear more of it.
I had seen enough of the contrary nature of the old sinner to
understand that any strong sign of interest would be the surest
way to stop his confidences.
"Some poaching case, no doubt?" said I with an indifferent manner.
"Ha, ha, my boy, a very much more important matter than that!
What about the convict on the moor?"
I stared. "You don't mean that you know where he is?" said I.
"I may not know exactly where he is, but I am quite sure that I
could help the police to lay their hands on him. Has it never
struck you that the way to catch that man was to find out where
he got his food and so trace it to him?"
He certainly seemed to be getting uncomfortably near the truth.
"No doubt," said I; "but how do you know that he is anywhere upon
"I know it because I have seen with my own eyes the messenger who
takes him his food."
My heart sank for Barrymore. It was a serious thing to be in the
power of this spiteful old busybody. But his next remark took a
weight from my mind.
"You'll be surprised to hear that his food is taken to him by a
child. I see him every day through my telescope upon the roof.
He passes along the same path at the same hour, and to whom should
he be going except to the convict?"
Here was luck indeed! And yet I suppressed all appearance of
interest. A child! Barrymore had said that our unknown was
supplied by a boy. It was on his track, and not upon the convict's,
that Frankland had stumbled. If I could get his knowledge it
might save me a long and weary hunt. But incredulity and
indifference were evidently my strongest cards.
"I should say that it was much more likely that it was the son
of one of the moorland shepherds taking out his father's dinner."
The least appearance of opposition struck fire out of the old
autocrat. His eyes looked malignantly at me, and his gray whiskers
bristled like those of an angry cat.
"Indeed, sir!" said he, pointing out over the wide-stretching
moor. "Do you see that Black Tor over yonder? Well, do you see
the low hill beyond with the thornbush upon it? It is the stoniest
part of the whole moor. Is that a place where a shepherd would
be likely to take his station? Your suggestion, sir, is a most
I meekly answered that I had spoken without knowing all the facts.
My submission pleased him and led him to further confidences.
"You may be sure, sir, that I have very good grounds before I
come to an opinion. I have seen the boy again and again with
his bundle. Every day, and sometimes twice a day, I have been
able--but wait a moment, Dr. Watson. Do my eyes deceive me, or
is there at the present moment something moving upon that hillside?"
It was several miles off, but I could distinctly see a small dark
dot against the dull green and gray.
"Come, sir, come!" cried Frankland, rushing upstairs. "You will
see with your own eyes and judge for yourself."
The telescope, a formidable instrument mounted upon a tripod,
stood upon the flat leads of the house. Frankland clapped his
eye to it and gave a cry of satisfaction.
"Quick, Dr. Watson, quick, before he passes over the hill!"
There he was, sure enough, a small urchin with a little bundle
upon his shoulder, toiling slowly up the hill. When he reached
the crest I saw the ragged uncouth figure outlined for an instant
against the cold blue sky. He looked round him with a furtive
and stealthy air, as one who dreads pursuit. Then he vanished
over the hill.
"Well! Am I right?"
"Certainly, there is a boy who seems to have some secret errand."
"And what the errand is even a county constable could guess. But
not one word shall they have from me, and I bind you to secrecy
also, Dr. Watson. Not a word! You understand!"
"Just as you wish."
"They have treated me shamefully--shamefully. When the facts
come out in Frankland v. Regina I venture to think that a thrill
of indignation will run through the country. Nothing would induce
me to help the police in any way. For all they cared it might
have been me, instead of my effigy, which these rascals burned
at the stake. Surely you are not going! You will help me to
empty the decanter in honour of this great occasion!"
But I resisted all his solicitations and succeeded in dissuading
him from his announced intention of walking home with me. I kept
the road as long as his eye was on me, and then I struck off
across the moor and made for the stony hill over which the boy
had disappeared. Everything was working in my favour, and I swore
that it should not be through lack of energy or perseverance
that I should miss the chance which fortune had thrown in my way.
The sun was already sinking when I reached the summit of the hill,
and the long slopes beneath me were all golden-green on one side
and gray shadow on the other. A haze lay low upon the farthest
sky-line, out of which jutted the fantastic shapes of Belliver
and Vixen Tor. Over the wide expanse there was no sound and no
movement. One great gray bird, a gull or curlew, soared aloft
in the blue heaven. He and I seemed to be the only living things
between the huge arch of the sky and the desert beneath it. The
barren scene, the sense of loneliness, and the mystery and urgency
of my task all struck a chill into my heart. The boy was nowhere
to be seen. But down beneath me in a cleft of the hills there
was a circle of the old stone huts, and in the middle of them
there was one which retained sufficient roof to act as a screen
against the weather. My heart leaped within me as I saw it. This
must be the burrow where the stranger lurked. At last my foot
was on the threshold of his hiding place--his secret was within
As I approached the hut, walking as warily as Stapleton would do
when with poised net he drew near the settled butterfly, I satisfied
myself that the place had indeed been used as a habitation. A
vague pathway among the boulders led to the dilapidated opening
which served as a door. All was silent within. The unknown
might be lurking there, or he might be prowling on the moor. My
nerves tingled with the sense of adventure. Throwing aside my
cigarette, I closed my hand upon the butt of my revolver and,
walking swiftly up to the door, I looked in. The place was empty.
But there were ample signs that I had not come upon a false scent.
This was certainly where the man lived. Some blankets rolled in
a waterproof lay upon that very stone slab upon which Neolithic
man had once slumbered. The ashes of a fire were heaped in a
rude grate. Beside it lay some cooking utensils and a bucket
half-full of water. A litter of empty tins showed that the place
had been occupied for some time, and I saw, as my eyes became
accustomed to the checkered light, a pannikin and a half-full
bottle of spirits standing in the corner. In the middle of the
hut a flat stone served the purpose of a table, and upon this
stood a small cloth bundle--the same, no doubt, which I had seen
through the telescope upon the shoulder of the boy. It contained
a loaf of bread, a tinned tongue, and two tins of preserved
peaches. As I set it down again, after having examined it, my
heart leaped to see that beneath it there lay a sheet of paper
with writing upon it. I raised it, and this was what I read,
roughly scrawled in pencil: "Dr. Watson has gone to Coombe Tracey."
For a minute I stood there with the paper in my hands thinking
out the meaning of this curt message. It was I, then, and not
Sir Henry, who was being dogged by this secret man. He had not
followed me himself, but he had set an agent--the boy, perhaps--
upon my track, and this was his report. Possibly I had taken no
step since I had been upon the moor which had not been observed
and reported. Always there was this feeling of an unseen force,
a fine net drawn round us with infinite skill and delicacy,
holding us so lightly that it was only at some supreme moment
that one realized that one was indeed entangled in its meshes.
If there was one report there might be others, so I looked round
the hut in search of them. There was no trace, however, of
anything of the kind, nor could I discover any sign which might
indicate the character or intentions of the man who lived in
this singular place, save that he must be of Spartan habits and
cared little for the comforts of life. When I thought of the
heavy rains and looked at the gaping roof I understood how strong
and immutable must be the purpose which had kept him in that
inhospitable abode. Was he our malignant enemy, or was he by
chance our guardian angel? I swore that I would not leave the
hut until I knew.
Outside the sun was sinking low and the west was blazing with
scarlet and gold. Its reflection was shot back in ruddy patches
by the distant pools which lay amid the great Grimpen Mire. There
were the two towers of Baskerville Hall, and there a distant blur
of smoke which marked the village of Grimpen. Between the two,
behind the hill, was the house of the Stapletons. All was sweet
and mellow and peaceful in the golden evening light, and yet as
I looked at them my soul shared none of the peace of Nature but
quivered at the vagueness and the terror of that interview which
every instant was bringing nearer. With tingling nerves but a
fixed purpose, I sat in the dark recess of the hut and waited
with sombre patience for the coming of its tenant.
And then at last I heard him. Far away came the sharp clink of
a boot striking upon a stone. Then another and yet another, coming
nearer and nearer. I shrank back into the darkest corner and
cocked the pistol in my pocket, determined not to discover myself
until I had an opportunity of seeing something of the stranger.
There was a long pause which showed that he had stopped. Then
once more the footsteps approached and a shadow fell across the
opening of the hut.
"It is a lovely evening, my dear Watson," said a well-known voice.
"I really think that you will be more comfortable outside than in."
Death on the Moor
For a moment or two I sat breathless, hardly able to believe my
ears. Then my senses and my voice came back to me, while a
crushing weight of responsibility seemed in an instant to be lifted
from my soul. That cold, incisive, ironical voice could belong
to but one man in all the world.
"Holmes!" I cried--"Holmes!"
"Come out," said he, "and please be careful with the revolver."
I stooped under the rude lintel, and there he sat upon a stone
outside, his gray eyes dancing with amusement as they fell upon
my astonished features. He was thin and worn, but clear and
alert, his keen face bronzed by the sun and roughened by the
wind. In his tweed suit and cloth cap he looked like any other
tourist upon the moor, and he had contrived, with that catlike
love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics,
that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if
he were in Baker Street.
"I never was more glad to see anyone in my life," said I as I
wrung him by the hand.
"Or more astonished, eh?"
"Well, I must confess to it."
"The surprise was not all on one side, I assure you. I had no
idea that you had found my occasional retreat, still less that
you were inside it, until I was within twenty paces of the door."
"My footprint, I presume?"
"No, Watson, I fear that I could not undertake to recognize your
footprint amid all the footprints of the world. If you seriously
desire to deceive me you must change your tobacconist; for when
I see the stub of a cigarette marked Bradley, Oxford Street, I
know that my friend Watson is in the neighbourhood. You will see
it there beside the path. You threw it down, no doubt, at that
supreme moment when you charged into the empty hut."
"I thought as much--and knowing your admirable tenacity I was
convinced that you were sitting in ambush, a weapon within reach,
waiting for the tenant to return. So you actually thought that
I was the criminal?"
"I did not know who you were, but I was determined to find out."
"Excellent, Watson! And how did you localize me? You saw me,
perhaps, on the night of the convict hunt, when I was so imprudent
as to allow the moon to rise behind me?"
"Yes, I saw you then."
"And have no doubt searched all the huts until you came to this
"No, your boy had been observed, and that gave me a guide where
"The old gentleman with the telescope, no doubt. I could not make
it out when first I saw the light flashing upon the lens." He
rose and peeped into the hut. "Ha, I see that Cartwright has
brought up some supplies. What's this paper? So you have been
to Coombe Tracey, have you?"
"To see Mrs. Laura Lyons?"
"Well done! Our researches have evidently been running on parallel
lines, and when we unite our results I expect we shall have a
fairly full knowledge of the case."
"Well, I am glad from my heart that you are here, for indeed the
responsibility and the mystery were both becoming too much for
my nerves. But how in the name of wonder did you come here, and
what have you been doing? I thought that you were in Baker Street
working out that case of blackmailing."
"That was what I wished you to think."
"Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!" I cried with some
bitterness. "I think that I have deserved better at your hands,
"My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this as in
many other cases, and I beg that you will forgive me if I have
seemed to play a trick upon you. In truth, it was partly for
your own sake that I did it, and it was my appreciation of the
danger which you ran which led me to come down and examine the
matter for myself. Had I been with Sir Henry and you it is
confident that my point of view would have been the same as yours,
and my presence would have warned our very formidable opponents
to be on their guard. As it is, I have been able to get about
as I could not possibly have done had I been living in the Hall,
and I remain an unknown factor in the business, ready to throw
in all my weight at a critical moment."
"But why keep me in the dark?"
"For you to know could not have helped us and might possibly have
led to my discovery. You would have wished to tell me something,
or in your kindness you would have brought me out some comfort
or other, and so an unnecessary risk would be run. I brought
Cartwright down with me--you remember the little chap at the
express office--and he has seen after my simple wants: a loaf of
bread and a clean collar. What does man want more? He has given
me an extra pair of eyes upon a very active pair of feet, and both
have been invaluable."
"Then my reports have all been wasted!" --My voice trembled as I
recalled the pains and the pride with which I had composed them.
Holmes took a bundle of papers from his pocket.
"Here are your reports, my dear fellow, and very well thumbed,
I assure you. I made excellent arrangements, and they are only
delayed one day upon their way. I must compliment you exceedingly
upon the zeal and the intelligence which you have shown over an
extraordinarily difficult case."
I was still rather raw over the deception which had been practised
upon me, but the warmth of Holmes's praise drove my anger from
my mind. I felt also in my heart that he was right in what he
said and that it was really best for our purpose that I should
not have known that he was upon the moor.
"That's better," said he, seeing the shadow rise from my face.
"And now tell me the result of your visit to Mrs. Laura Lyons--
it was not difficult for me to guess that it was to see her that
you had gone, for I am already aware that she is the one person
in Coombe Tracey who might be of service to us in the matter.
In fact, if you had not gone today it is exceedingly probable
that I should have gone tomorrow."
The sun had set and dusk was settling over the moor. The air
had turned chill and we withdrew into the hut for warmth. There,
sitting together in the twilight, I told Holmes of my conversation
with the lady. So interested was he that I had to repeat some
of it twice before he was satisfied.
"This is most important," said he when I had concluded. "It fills
up a gap which I had been unable to bridge in this most complex
affair. You are aware, perhaps, that a close intimacy exists
between this lady and the man Stapleton?"
"I did not know of a close intimacy."
"There can be no doubt about the matter. They meet, they write,
there is a complete understanding between them. Now, this puts
a very powerful weapon into our hands. If I could only use it
to detach his wife--"
"I am giving you some information now, in return for all that you
have given me. The lady who has passed here as Miss Stapleton
is in reality his wife."
"Good heavens, Holmes! Are you sure of what you say? How could
he have permitted Sir Henry to fall in love with her?"
"Sir Henry's falling in love could do no harm to anyone except
Sir Henry. He took particular care that Sir Henry did not make
love to her, as you have yourself observed. I repeat that the
lady is his wife and not his sister."
"But why this elaborate deception?"
"Because he foresaw that she would be very much more useful to
him in the character of a free woman."
All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took shape
and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive colourless
man, with his straw hat and his butterfly-net, I seemed to see
something terrible--a creature of infinite patience and craft,
with a smiling face and a murderous heart.
"It is he, then, who is our enemy--it is he who dogged us in
"So I read the riddle."
"And the warning--it must have come from her!"
The shape of some monstrous villainy, half seen, half guessed,
loomed through the darkness which had girt me so long.
"But are you sure of this, Holmes? How do you know that the
woman is his wife?"
"Because he so far forgot himself as to tell you a true piece
of autobiography upon the occasion when he first met you, and
I dare say he has many a time regretted it since. He was once
a schoolmaster in the north of England. Now, there is no one
more easy to trace than a schoolmaster. There are scholastic
agencies by which one may identify any man who has been in the
profession. A little investigation showed me that a school had
come to grief under atrocious circumstances, and that the man who
had owned it--the name was different--had disappeared with his
wife. The descriptions agreed. When I learned that the missing
man was devoted to entomology the identification was complete."
The darkness was rising, but much was still hidden by the shadows.
"If this woman is in truth his wife, where does Mrs. Laura Lyons
come in?" I asked.
"That is one of the points upon which your own researches have
shed a light. Your interview with the lady has cleared the
situation very much. I did not know about a projected divorce
between herself and her husband. In that case, regarding Stapleton
as an unmarried man, she counted no doubt upon becoming his wife."
"And when she is undeceived?"
"Why, then we may find the lady of service. It must be our first
duty to see her--both of us--tomorrow. Don't you think, Watson,
that you are away from your charge rather long? Your place should
be at Baskerville Hall."
The last red streaks had faded away in the west and night had
settled upon the moor. A few faint stars were gleaming in a
"One last question, Holmes," I said as I rose. "Surely there is
no need of secrecy between you and me. What is the meaning of it
all? What is he after?"
Holmes's voice sank as he answered:
"It is murder, Watson--refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder.
Do not ask me for particulars. My nets are closing upon him, even
as his are upon Sir Henry, and with your help he is already almost
at my mercy. There is but one danger which can threaten us. It
is that he should strike before we are ready to do so. Another
day--two at the most--and I have my case complete, but until then
guard your charge as closely as ever a fond mother watched her
ailing child. Your mission today has justified itself, and yet
I could almost wish that you had not left his side. Hark!"
A terrible scream--a prolonged yell of horror and anguish--burst
out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned the
blood to ice in my veins.
"Oh, my God!" I gasped. "What is it? What does it mean?"
Holmes had sprung to his feet, and I saw his dark, athletic outline
at the door of the hut, his shoulders stooping, his head thrust
forward, his face peering into the darkness.
"Hush!" he whispered. "Hush!"
The cry had been loud on account of its vehemence, but it had
pealed out from somewhere far off on the shadowy plain. Now it
burst upon our ears, nearer, louder, more urgent than before.
"Where is it?" Holmes whispered; and I knew from the thrill of
his voice that he, the man of iron, was shaken to the soul.
"Where is it, Watson?"
"There, I think." I pointed into the darkness.
Again the agonized cry swept through the silent night, louder
and much nearer than ever. And a new sound mingled with it, a
deep, muttered rumble, musical and yet menacing, rising and falling
like the low, constant murmur of the sea.
"The hound!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, come! Great heavens,
if we are too late!"
He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had followed
at his heels. But now from somewhere among the broken ground
immediately in front of us there came one last despairing yell,
and then a dull, heavy thud. We halted and listened. Not another
sound broke the heavy silence of the windless night.
I saw Holmes put his hand to his forehead like a man distracted.
He stamped his feet upon the ground.
"He has beaten us, Watson. We are too late."
"No, no, surely not!"
"Fool that I was to hold my hand. And you, Watson, see what comes
of abandoning your charge! But, by Heaven, if the worst has
happened we'll avenge him!"
Blindly we ran through the gloom, blundering against boulders,
forcing our way through gorse bushes, panting up hills and rushing
down slopes, heading always in the direction whence those dreadful
sounds had come. At every rise Holmes looked eagerly round him,
but the shadows were thick upon the moor, and nothing moved upon
its dreary face.
"Can you see anything?"
"But, hark, what is that?"
A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon
our left! On that side a ridge of rocks ended in a sheer cliff
which overlooked a stone-strewn slope. On its jagged face was
spread-eagled some dark, irregular object. As we ran towards it
the vague outline hardened into a definite shape. It was a
prostrate man face downward upon the ground, the head doubled
under him at a horrible angle, the shoulders rounded and the body
hunched together as if in the act of throwing a somersault. So
grotesque was the attitude that I could not for the instant realize
that that moan had been the passing of his soul. Not a whisper,
not a rustle, rose now from the dark figure over which we stooped.
Holmes laid his hand upon him and held it up again with an
exclamation of horror. The gleam of the match which he struck
shone upon his clotted fingers and upon the ghastly pool which
widened slowly from the crushed skull of the victim. And it shone
upon something else which turned our hearts sick and faint within
us--the body of Sir Henry Baskerville!
There was no chance of either of us forgetting that peculiar ruddy
tweed suit--the very one which he had worn on the first morning
that we had seen him in Baker Street. We caught the one clear
glimpse of it, and then the match flickered and went out, even
as the hope had gone out of our souls. Holmes groaned, and his
face glimmered white through the darkness.
"The brute! The brute!" I cried with clenched hands. "Oh Holmes,
I shall never forgive myself for having left him to his fate."
"I am more to blame than you, Watson. In order to have my case
well rounded and complete, I have thrown away the life of my
client. It is the greatest blow which has befallen me in my
career. But how could I know--how could l know--that he would
risk his life alone upon the moor in the face of all my warnings?"
"That we should have heard his screams--my God, those screams!--and
yet have been unable to save him! Where is this brute of a hound
which drove him to his death? It may be lurking among these rocks
at this instant. And Stapleton, where is he? He shall answer
for this deed."
"He shall. I will see to that. Uncle and nephew have been
murdered--the one frightened to death by the very sight of a
beast which he thought to be supernatural, the other driven to
his end in his wild flight to escape from it. But now we have
to prove the connection between the man and the beast. Save from
what we heard, we cannot even swear to the existence of the latter,
since Sir Henry has evidently died from the fall. But, by heavens,
cunning as he is, the fellow shall be in my power before another
day is past!"
We stood with bitter hearts on either side of the mangled body,
overwhelmed by this sudden and irrevocable disaster which had
brought all our long and weary labours to so piteous an end.
Then as the moon rose we climbed to the top of the rocks over
which our poor friend had fallen, and from the summit we gazed
out over the shadowy moor, half silver and half gloom. Far away,
miles off, in the direction of Grimpen, a single steady yellow
light was shining. It could only come from the lonely abode of
the Stapletons. With a bitter curse I shook my fist at it as I
"Why should we not seize him at once?"
"Our case is not complete. The fellow is wary and cunning to the
last degree. It is not what we know, but what we can prove. If
we make one false move the villain may escape us yet."
"What can we do?"
"There will be plenty for us to do tomorrow. Tonight we can only
perform the last offices to our poor friend."
Together we made our way down the precipitous slope and approached
the body, black and clear against the silvered stones. The agony
of those contorted limbs struck me with a spasm of pain and
blurred my eyes with tears.
"We must send for help, Holmes! We cannot carry him all the way
to the Hall. Good heavens, are you mad?"
He had uttered a cry and bent over the body. Now he was dancing
and laughing and wringing my hand. Could this be my stern, self-
contained friend? These were hidden fires, indeed!
"A beard! A beard! The man has a beard!"
"It is not the baronet--it is--why, it is my neighbour, the convict!"
With feverish haste we had turned the body over, and that dripping
beard was pointing up to the cold, clear moon. There could be no
doubt about the beetling forehead, the sunken animal eyes. It
was indeed the same face which had glared upon me in the light
of the candle from over the rock--the face of Selden, the criminal.
Then in an instant it was all clear to me. I remembered how the
baronet had told me that he had handed his old wardrobe to
Barrymore. Barrymore had passed it on in order to help Selden
in his escape. Boots, shirt, cap--it was all Sir Henry's. The
tragedy was still black enough, but this man had at least deserved
death by the laws of his country. I told Holmes how the matter
stood, my heart bubbling over with thankfulness and joy.
"Then the clothes have been the poor devil's death," said he.
"It is clear enough that the hound has been laid on from some
article of Sir Henry's--the boot which was abstracted in the
hotel, in all probability--and so ran this man down. There is
one very singular thing, however: How came Selden, in the darkness,
to know that the hound was on his trail?"
"He heard him."
"To hear a hound upon the moor would not work a hard man like this
convict into such a paroxysm of terror that he would risk recapture
by screaming wildly for help. By his cries he must have run a
long way after he knew the animal was on his track. How did he know?"
"A greater mystery to me is why this hound, presuming that all
our conjectures are correct--"
"I presume nothing."
"Well, then, why this hound should be loose tonight. I suppose
that it does not always run loose upon the moor. Stapleton would
not let it go unless he had reason to think that Sir Henry would
"My difficulty is the more formidable of the two, for I think that
we shall very shortly get an explanation of yours, while mine may
remain forever a mystery. The question now is, what shall we do
with this poor wretch's body? We cannot leave it here to the
foxes and the ravens."
"I suggest that we put it in one of the huts until we can
communicate with the police."
"Exactly. I have no doubt that you and I could carry it so far.
Halloa, Watson, what's this? It's the man himself, by all that's
wonderful and audacious! Not a word to show your suspicions--not
a word, or my plans crumble to the ground."
A figure was approaching us over the moor, and I saw the dull red
glow of a cigar. The moon shone upon him, and I could distinguish
the dapper shape and jaunty walk of the naturalist. He stopped
when he saw us, and then came on again.
"Why, Dr. Watson, that's not you, is it? You are the last man
that I should have expected to see out on the moor at this time
of night. But, dear me, what's this? Somebody hurt? Not--don't
tell me that it is our friend Sir Henry!" He hurried past me and
stooped over the dead man. I heard a sharp intake of his breath
and the cigar fell from his fingers.
"Who--who's this?" he stammered.
"It is Selden, the man who escaped from Princetown."
Stapleton turned a ghastly face upon us, but by a supreme effort he
had overcome his amazement and his disappointment. He looked
sharply from Holmes to me. "Dear me! What a very shocking affair!
How did he die?"
"He appears to have broken his neck by falling over these rocks.
My friend and I were strolling on the moor when we heard a cry."
"I heard a cry also. That was what brought me out. I was uneasy
about Sir Henry."
"Why about Sir Henry in particular?" I could not help asking.
"Because I had suggested that he should come over. When he did
not come I was surprised, and I naturally became alarmed for his
safety when I heard cries upon the moor. By the way"--his eyes
darted again from my face to Holmes's--"did you hear anything
else besides a cry?"
"No," said Holmes; "did you?"
"What do you mean, then?"
"Oh, you know the stories that the peasants tell about a phantom
hound, and so on. It is said to be heard at night upon the moor.
I was wondering if there were any evidence of such a sound tonight."
"We heard nothing of the kind," said I.
"And what is your theory of this poor fellow's death?"
"I have no doubt that anxiety and exposure have driven him off
his head. He has rushed about the moor in a crazy state and
eventually fallen over here and broken his neck."
"That seems the most reasonable theory," said Stapleton, and he
gave a sigh which I took to indicate his relief. "What do you
think about it, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
My friend bowed his compliments. "You are quick at identification,"
"We have been expecting you in these parts since Dr. Watson came
down. You are in time to see a tragedy."
"Yes, indeed. I have no doubt that my friend's explanation will
cover the facts. I will take an unpleasant remembrance back to
London with me tomorrow."
"Oh, you return tomorrow?"
"That is my intention."
"I hope your visit has cast some light upon those occurrences which
have puzzled us?"
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"One cannot always have the success for which one hopes. An
investigator needs facts and not legends or rumours. It has not
been a satisfactory case."
My friend spoke in his frankest and most unconcerned manner.
Stapleton still looked hard at him. Then he turned to me.
"I would suggest carrying this poor fellow to my house, but it
would give my sister such a fright that I do not feel justified
in doing it. I think that if we put something over his face he
will be safe until morning."
And so it was arranged. Resisting Stapleton's offer of hospitality,
Holmes and I set off to Baskerville Hall, leaving the naturalist
to return alone. Looking back we saw the figure moving slowly
away over the broad moor, and behind him that one black smudge
on the silvered slope which showed where the man was lying who
had come so horribly to his end.
Fixing the Nets
"We're at close grips at last," said Holmes as we walked together
across the moor. "What a nerve the fellow has! How he pulled
himself together in the face of what must have been a paralyzing
shock when he found that the wrong man had fallen a victim to his
plot. I told you in London, Watson, and I tell you now again,
that we have never had a foeman more worthy of our steel."
"I am sorry that he has seen you."
"And so was I at first. But there was no getting out of it."
"What effect do you think it will have upon his plans now that
he knows you are here?"
"It may cause him to be more cautious, or it may drive him to
desperate measures at once. Like most clever criminals, he may
be too confident in his own cleverness and imagine that he has
completely deceived us."
"Why should we not arrest him at once?"
"My dear Watson, you were born to be a man of action. Your
instinct is always to do something energetic. But supposing,
for argument's sake, that we had him arrested tonight, what on
earth the better off should we be for that? We could prove
nothing against him. There's the devilish cunning of it! If he
were acting through a human agent we could get some evidence,
but if we were to drag this great dog to the light of day it would
not help us in putting a rope round the neck of its master."
"Surely we have a case."
"Not a shadow of one--only surmise and conjecture. We should be
laughed out of court if we came with such a story and such evidence."
"There is Sir Charles's death."
"Found dead without a mark upon him. You and I know that he died
of sheer fright, and we know also what frightened him, but how are
we to get twelve stolid jurymen to know it? What signs are there
of a hound? Where are the marks of its fangs? Of course we know
that a hound does not bite a dead body and that Sir Charles was
dead before ever the brute overtook him. But we have to prove
all this, and we are not in a position to do it."
"Well, then, tonight?"
"We are not much better off tonight. Again, there was no direct
connection between the hound and the man's death. We never saw
the hound. We heard it, but we could not prove that it was
running upon this man's trail. There is a complete absence of
motive. No, my dear fellow; we must reconcile ourselves to the
fact that we have no case at present, and that it is worth our
while to run any risk in order to establish one."
"And how do you propose to do so?"
"I have great hopes of what Mrs. Laura Lyons may do for us when
the position of affairs is made clear to her. And I have my own
plan as well. Sufficient for tomorrow is the evil thereof; but
I hope before the day is past to have the upper hand at last."
I could draw nothing further from him, and he walked, lost in
thought, as far as the Baskerville gates.
"Are you coming up?"
"Yes; I see no reason for further concealment. But one last
word, Watson. Say nothing of the hound to Sir Henry. Let him
think that Selden's death was as Stapleton would have us believe.
He will have a better nerve for the ordeal which he will have to
undergo tomorrow, when he is engaged, if I remember your report
aright, to dine with these people."
"And so am I."
"Then you must excuse yourself and he must go alone. That will
be easily arranged. And now, if we are too late for dinner, I
think that we are both ready for our suppers."
Sir Henry was more pleased than surprised to see Sherlock Holmes,
for he had for some days been expecting that recent events would
bring him down from London. He did raise his eyebrows, however,
when he found that my friend had neither any luggage nor any
explanations for its absence. Between us we soon supplied his
wants, and then over a belated supper we explained to the baronet
as much of our experience as it seemed desirable that he should
know. But first I had the unpleasant duty of breaking the news
to Barrymore and his wife. To him it may have been an unmitigated
relief, but she wept bitterly in her apron. To all the world he
was the man of violence, half animal and half demon; but to her
he always remained the little wilful boy of her own girlhood, the
child who had clung to her hand. Evil indeed is the man who has
not one woman to mourn him.
"I've been moping in the house all day since Watson went off in
the morning," said the baronet. "I guess I should have some
credit, for I have kept my promise. If I hadn't sworn not to go
about alone I might have had a more lively evening, for I had a
message from Stapleton asking me over there."
"I have no doubt that you would have had a more lively evening,"
said Holmes drily. "By the way, I don't suppose you appreciate
that we have been mourning over you as having broken your neck?"
Sir Henry opened his eyes. "How was that?"
"This poor wretch was dressed in your clothes. I fear your servant
who gave them to him may get into trouble with the police."
"That is unlikely. There was no mark on any of them, as far as
"That's lucky for him--in fact, it's lucky for all of you, since
you are all on the wrong side of the law in this matter. I am
not sure that as a conscientious detective my first duty is not
to arrest the whole household. Watson's reports are most
"But how about the case?" asked the baronet. "Have you made
anything out of the tangle? I don't know that Watson and I are
much the wiser since we came down."
"I think that I shall be in a position to make the situation rather
more clear to you before long. It has been an exceedingly difficult
and most complicated business. There are several points upon which
we still want light--but it is coming all the same."
"We've had one experience, as Watson has no doubt told you. We
heard the hound on the moor, so I can swear that it is not all
empty superstition. I had something to do with dogs when I was
out West, and I know one when I hear one. If you can muzzle that
one and put him on a chain I'll be ready to swear you are the
greatest detective of all time."
"I think I will muzzle him and chain him all right if you will
give me your help."
"Whatever you tell me to do I will do."
"Very good; and I will ask you also to do it blindly, without
always asking the reason."
"Just as you like."
"If you will do this I think the chances are that our little
problem will soon be solved. I have no doubt--"
He stopped suddenly and stared fixedly up over my head into the
air. The lamp beat upon his face, and so intent was it and so
still that it might have been that of a clear-cut classical statue,
a personification of alertness and expectation.
"What is it?" we both cried.
I could see as he looked down that he was repressing some internal
emotion. His features were still composed, but his eyes shone with
"Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur," said he as he waved
his hand towards the line of portraits which covered the opposite
wall. "Watson won't allow that I know anything of art but that
is mere jealousy because our views upon the subject differ. Now,
these are a really very fine series of portraits."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so," said Sir Henry, glancing
with some surprise at my friend. "I don't pretend to know much
about these things, and I'd be a better judge of a horse or a
steer than of a picture. I didn't know that you found time for
"I know what is good when I see it, and I see it now. That's a
Kneller, I'll swear, that lady in the blue silk over yonder, and
the stout gentleman with the wig ought to be a Reynolds. They
are all family portraits, I presume?"
"Do you know the names?"
"Barrymore has been coaching me in them, and I think I can say
my lessons fairly well."
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