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Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Broken Threads
Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind
at will. For two hours the strange business in which we had been involved
appeared to be forgotten, and he was entirely absorbed in the pictures of
the modern Belgian masters. He would talk of nothing but art, of which he
had the crudest ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found
ourselves at the Northumberland Hotel.
Henry Baskerville is upstairs expecting you,' said the clerk. `He asked me
to show you up at once when you came.'
you any objection to my looking at your register?' said Holmes.
in the least.'
book showed that two names had been added after that of Baskerville. One
was Theophilus Johnson and family, of Newcastle; the other Mrs. Oldmore
and maid, of High Lodge, Alton.
that must be the same Johnson whom I used to know,' said Holmes to the
porter. `A lawyer, is he not, gray-headed, and walks with a limp?'
'No, sir; this is Mr. Johnson, the coal-owner, a very active gentleman, not older than yourself.'
you are mistaken about his trade?'
sir! he has used this hotel for many years, and he is very well known to
that settles it. Mrs. Oldmore, too; I seem to remember the name. Excuse my
curiosity, but often in calling upon one friend one finds another.'
is an invalid lady, sir. Her husband was once mayor of Gloucester. She
always comes to us when she is in town.'
you; I am afraid I cannot claim her acquaintance. We have established a most
important fact by these questions, Watson,' he continued in a low voice as
we went upstairs together. `We know now that the people who are so
interested in our friend have not settled down in his own hotel. That means
that while they are, as we have seen, very anxious to watch him, they are
equally anxious that he should not see them. Now, this is a most suggestive
does it suggest?'
suggests - halloa, my dear fellow, what on earth is the matter?'
we came round the top of the stairs we had run up against Sir Henry
Baskerville himself. His face was flushed with anger, and he held an old and
dusty boot in one of his hands. So furious was he that he was hardly
articulate, and when he did speak it was in a much broader and more Western
dialect than any which we had heard from him in the morning.
to me they are playing me for a sucker in this hotel,' he cried. `They'll
find they've started in to monkey with the wrong man unless they are
careful. By thunder, if that chap can't find my missing boot there will be
trouble. I can take a joke with the best, Mr. Holmes, but they've got a bit
over the mark this time.'
looking for your boot?'
sir, and mean to find it.'
surely, you said that it was a new brown boot?'
it was, sir. And now it's an old black one.'
you don't mean to say?'
just what I do mean to say. I only had three pairs in the world - the new
brown, the old black, and the patent leathers, which I am wearing. Last
night they took one of my brown ones, and to-day they have sneaked one of
the black. Well, have you got it? Speak out, man, and don't stand staring!'
agitated German waiter had appeared upon the scene.
sir; I have made inquiry all over the hotel, but I can hear no word of it.'
either that boot comes back before sundown or I'll see the manager and tell
him that I go right straight out of this hotel.'
shall be found, sir - I promise you that if you will have a little patience
it will be found.'
it is, for it's the last thing of mine that I'll lose in this den of
thieves. Well, well, Mr. Holmes, you'll excuse my troubling you about such a
trifle - '
think it's well worth troubling about.'
you look very serious over it.'
do you explain it?'
just don't attempt to explain it. It seems the very maddest, queerest thing
that ever happened to me.'
queerest perhaps - ` said Holmes thoughtfully.
do you make of it yourself?'
I don't profess to understand it yet. This case of yours is very complex,
Sir Henry. When taken in conjunction with your uncle's death I am not sure
that of all the five hundred cases of capital importance which I have
handled there is one which cuts so deep. But we hold several threads in our
hands, and the odds are that one or other of them guides us to the truth. We
may waste time in following the wrong one, but sooner or later we must come
upon the right.'
had a pleasant luncheon in which little was said of the business which had
brought us together. It was in the private sitting-room to which we
afterwards repaired that Holmes asked Baskerville what were his intentions.
go to Baskerville Hall.'
the end of the week.'
the whole,' said Holmes, `I think that your decision is a wise one. I have
ample evidence that you are being dogged in London, and amid the millions of
this great city it is difficult to discover who these people are or what
their object can be. If their intentions are evil they might do you a
mischief, and we should be powerless to prevent it. You did not know, Dr.
Mortimer, that you were followed this morning from my house?'
Mortimer started violently.
unfortunately, is what I cannot tell you. Have you among your neighbours or
acquaintances on Dartmoor any man with a black, full beard?'
- or, let me see - why, yes. Barrymore, Sir Charles's butler, is a man with
a full, black beard.'
Where is Barrymore?'
is in charge of the Hall.'
had best ascertain if he is really there, or if by any possibility he might
be in London.'
can you do that?'
me a telegraph form. ``Is all ready for Sir Henry?'' That will do. Address
to Mr. Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. What is the nearest telegraph-office?
Grimpen. Very good, we will send a second wire to the postmaster, Grimpen:
``Telegram to Mr. Barrymore to be delivered into his own hand. If absent,
please return wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.'' That
should let us know before evening whether Barrymore is at his post in
Devonshire or not.'
so,' said Baskerville. `By the way, Dr. Mortimer, who is this Barrymore,
is the son of the old caretaker, who is dead. They have looked after the
Hall for four generations now. So far as I know, he and his wife are as
respectable a couple as any in the county.'
the same time,' said Baskerville, `it's clear enough that so long as there
are none of the family at the Hall these people have a mighty fine home and
nothing to do.'
Barrymore profit at all by Sir Charles's will?' asked Holmes.
and his wife had five hundred pounds each.'
Did they know that they would receive this?'
Sir Charles was very fond of talking about the provisions of his will.'
is very interesting.'
hope,' said Dr. Mortimer, `that you do not look with suspicious eyes upon
everyone who received a legacy from Sir Charles, for I also had a thousand
pounds left to me.'
And anyone else?'
were many insignificant sums to individuals, and a large number of public
charities. The residue all went to Sir Henry.'
how much was the residue?'
hundred and forty thousand pounds.'
raised his eyebrows in surprise. `I had no idea that so gigantic a sum was
involved,' said he.
Charles had the reputation of being rich, but we did not know how very rich
he was until we came to examine his securities. The total value of the
estate was close on to a million.'
me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a desperate game. And one
more question, Dr. Mortimer. Supposing that anything happened to our young
friend here - you will forgive the unpleasant hypothesis! - who would
inherit the estate?'
Rodger Baskerville, Sir Charles's younger brother died unmarried, the estate
would descend to the Desmonds, who are distant cousins. James Desmond is an
elderly clergyman in Westmoreland.'
you. These details are all of great interest. Have you met Mr. James
he once came down to visit Sir Charles. He is a man of venerable appearance
and of saintly life. I remember that he refused to accept any settlement
from Sir Charles, though he pressed it upon him.'
this man of simple tastes would be the heir to Sir Charles's thousands.'
would be the heir to the estate because that is entailed. He would also be
the heir to the money unless it were willed otherwise by the present owner,
who can, of course, do what he likes with it.'
have you made your will, Sir Henry?'
Mr. Holmes, I have not. I've had no time, for it was only yesterday that I
learned how matters stood. But in any case I feel that the money should go
with the title and estate. That was my poor uncle's idea. How is the owner
going to restore the glories of the Baskervilles if he has not money enough
to keep up the property? House, land, and dollars must go together.'
so. Well, Sir Henry, I am of one mind with you as to the advisability of
your going down to Devonshire without delay. There is only one provision
which I must make. You certainly must not go alone.'
Mortimer returns with me.'
Dr. Mortimer has his practice to attend to, and his house is miles away from
yours. With all the good will 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.'
it possible that you could come yourself, Mr. Holmes?'
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.'
would you recommend, then?'
laid his hand upon my arm.
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
proposition took me completely by surprise, but before I had time to answer,
Baskerville seized me by the hand and wrung it heartily.
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.'
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.
will come, with pleasure,' said I. `I do not know how I could employ my time
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?'
that suit Dr. Watson?'
on Saturday, unless you hear to the contrary, we shall meet at the
ten-thirty train from Paddington.'
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.
missing boot!' he cried.
all our difficulties vanish as easily!' said Sherlock Holmes.
it is a very, singular thing,' Dr. Mortimer remarked. `I searched this room
carefully before lunch.'
so did I,' said Baskerville. `Every, inch of it.'
was certainly no boot in it then.'
that case the waiter must have placed it there while we were lunching.'
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.
before dinner two telegrams were handed in. The first ran:
just heard that Barrymore is at the Hall. BASKERVILLE.
twenty-three hotels as directed, but sorry, to report unable to trace cut
sheet of Times. CARTWRlGHT.
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.'
have still the cabman who drove the spy.'
I haw wired to get his name and address from the Official Registry. I should
not be surprised if this were an answer to my question.'
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.
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.'
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.'
I've had a good day and no mistake,' said the cabman with a grin. `What was
it you wanted to ask, sir?'
of all your name and address, in case I want you again.'
Clayton, 3 Turpey Street, the Borough. My cab is out of Shipley's Yard, near
Holmes made a note of it.
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
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 to anyone.'
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?'
did he say this?'
he left me.'
he say anything more?'
mentioned his name.'
cast a swift glance of triumph at me. `Oh, he mentioned his name, did he?
That was imprudent. What was the name that he mentioned?'
name,' said the cabman, `was Mr. Sherlock Holmes.'
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
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?'
sir, that was the gentleman's name.'
Tell me where you picked him up and all that occurred.'
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 near here.'
very door,' said Holmes.
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 - '
know,' said Holmes.
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.'
see. And you saw no more of him?'
after he went into the station.'
how would you describe Mr. Sherlock Holmes?'
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.'
of his eyes?'
I can't say that.'
more that you can remember?'
then, here is your half-sovereign. There's another one waiting for you if
you can bring any more information. Good-night!'
sir, and thank you!'
Clayton departed chuckling, and Holmes turned to me with a shrug of his
shoulders and a rueful smile.
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 it.'
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.'
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