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Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
14: The Hound of the
of Sherlock Holmes's defects - if, indeed, one may call it a defect - was
that he was exceedingly loath to communicate his full plans to any other
person until the instant of their fullfilment. Partly it came no doubt
from his own masterful nature, which loved to dominate and surprise those
who were around him. Partly also from his professional caution, which
urged him never to take any chances. The result, however, was very trying
for those who were acting as his agents and assistants. I had often
suffered under it, but never more so than during that long drive in the
darkness. The great ordeal was in front of us; at last we were about to
make our final effort, and yet Holmes had said nothing, and I could only
surmise what his course of action would be. My nerves thrilled with
anticipation when at last the cold wind upon our faces and the dark, void
spaces on either side of the narrow road told me that we were back upon
the moor once again. Every stride of the horses and every turn of the
wheels was taking us nearer to our supreme adventure.
conversation was hampered by the presence of the driver of the hired
wagonette, so that we were forced to talk of trivial matters when our
nerves were tense with emotion and anticipation. It was a relief to me,
after that unnatural restraint, when we at last passed Frankland's house
and knew that we were drawing near to the Hall and to the scene of action.
We did not drive up to the door but got down near the gate of the avenue.
The wagonette was paid off and ordered to return to Coombe Tracey
forthwith, while we started to walk to Merripit House.
you armed, Lestrade?'
little detective smiled.
long as I have my trousers I have a hip-pocket, and as long as I have my
hip-pocket I have something in it.'
My friend and I are also ready for emergencies.'
mighty close about this affair, Mr. Holmes. What's the game now?'
word, it does not seem a very cheerful place,' said the detective with a
shiver, glancing round him at the gloomy slopes of the hill and at the
huge lake of fog which lay over the Grimpen Mire. `I see the lights of a
house ahead of us.'
is Merripit House and the end of our journey. I must request you to walk
on tiptoe and not to talk above a whisper.'
moved cautiously along the track as if we were bound for the house, but
Holmes halted us when we were about two hundred yards from it.
will do,' said he. `These rocks upon the right make an admirable screen.'
are to wait here?'
we shall make our little ambush here. Get into this hollow, Lestrade. You
have been inside the house, have you not, Watson? Can you tell the
position of the rooms? What are those latticed windows at this end?'
think they are the kitchen windows.'
the one beyond, which shines so brightly?'
is certainly the dining-room.'
blinds are up. You know the lie of the land best. Creep forward quietly and
see what they are doing - but for heaven's sake don't let them know that
they are watched!'
tiptoed down the path and stooped behind the low wall which surrounded the
stunted orchard. Creeping in its shadow I reached a point whence I could
look straight through the uncurtained window.
were only two men in the room, Sir Henry and Stapleton. They sat with their
profiles towards me on either side of the round table. Both of them were
smoking cigars, and coffee and wine were in front of them. Stapleton was
talking with animation, but the baronet looked pale and distrait. Perhaps
the thought of that lonely walk across the ill-omened moor was weighing
heavily upon his mind.
I watched them Stapleton rose and left the room, while Sir Henry filled his
glass again and leaned back in his chair, puffing at his cigar. I heard the
creak of a door and the crisp sound of boots upon gravel. The steps passed
along the path on the other side of the wall under which I crouched. Looking
over, I saw the naturalist pause at the door of an out-house in the corner
of the orchard. A key turned in a lock, and as he passed in there was a
curious scuffling noise from within. He was only a minute or so inside, and
then I heard the key turn once more and he passed me and reentered the
house. I saw him rejoin his guest, and I crept quietly back to where my
companions were waiting to tell them what I had seen.
say, Watson, that the lady is not there?' Holmes asked when I had finished
can she be, then, since there is no light in any other room except the
cannot think where she is.'
have said that over the great Grimpen Mire there hung a dense, white fog.
was drifting slowly in our direction and banked itself up like a wall on
that side of us, low but thick and well defined. The moon shone on it, and
it looked like a great shimmering ice-field, with the heads of the distant
tors as rocks borne upon its surface. Holmes's face was turned towards it,
and he muttered impatiently as he watched its sluggish drift.
moving towards us, Watson.'
serious, indeed - the one thing upon earth which could have disarranged my
plans. He can't be very long, now. It is already ten o'clock. Our success
and even his life may depend upon his coming out before the fog is over the
night was clear and fine above us. The stars shone cold and bright, while a
half-moon bathed the whole scene in a soft, uncertain light. Before us lay
the dark bulk of the house, its serrated roof and bristling chimneys hard
outlined against the silver-spangled sky. Broad bars of golden light from
the lower windows stretched across the orchard and the moor. One of them was
suddenly shut off. The servants had left the kitchen. There only remained
the lamp in the dining-room where the two men, the murderous host and the
unconscious guest, still chatted over their cigars.
minute that white woolly plain which covered one-half of the moor was
drifting closer and closer to the house. Already the first thin wisps of it
were curling across the golden square of the lighted window. The farther
wall of the orchard was already invisible, and the trees were standing out
of a swirl of white vapour. As we watched it the fog-wreaths came crawling
round both corners of the house and rolled slowly into one dense bank on
which the upper floor and the roof floated like a strange ship upon a
shadowy sea. Holmes struck his hand passionately upon the rock in front of
us and stamped his feet in his impatience.
he isn't out in a quarter of an hour the path will be covered. In half an
hour we won't be able to see our hands in front of us.'
we move farther back upon higher ground?'
I think it would be as well.'
as the fog-bank flowed onward we fell back before it until we were half a
mile from the house, and still that dense white sea, with the moon silvering
its upper edge, swept slowly and inexorably on.
are going too far,' said Holmes. `We dare not take the chance of his being
overtaken before he can reach us.
all costs we must hold our ground where we are.' He dropped on his knees and
clapped his ear to the ground. `Thank God, I think that I hear him coming.'
sound of quick steps broke the silence of the moor. Crouching among the
stones we stared intently at the silver-tipped bank in front of us. The
steps grew louder, and through the fog, as through a curtain, there stepped
the man whom we were awaiting. He looked round him in surprise as he emerged
into the clear, starlit night.
he came swiftly along the path, passed close to where we lay, and went on up
the long slope behind us. As he walked he glanced continually over either
shoulder, like a man who is ill at ease.
cried Holmes, and I heard the sharp click of a cocking pistol. `Look out!
was a thin, crisp, continuous patter from somewhere in the heart of that
crawling bank. The cloud was within fifty yards of where we lay, and we
glared at it, all three, uncertain what horror was about to break from the
heart of it. I was at Holmes's elbow, and I glanced for an instant at his
face. It was pale and exultant, his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight.
But suddenly they started forward in a rigid, fixed stare, and his lips
parted in amazement. At the same instant Lestrade gave a yell of terror and
threw himself face downward upon the ground. I sprang to my feet, my inert
hand grasping my pistol, my mind paralyzed by the dreadful shape which had
sprung out upon us from the shadows of the fog. A hound it was, an enormous
coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire
burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its
muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in
the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more
appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face
which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.
long bounds the huge black creature was leaping down the track, following
hard upon the footsteps of our friend. So paralyzed were we by the
apparition that we allowed him to pass before we had recovered our nerve.
Then Holmes and I both fired together, and the creature gave a hideous howl,
which showed that one at least had hit him. He did not pause, however, but
bounded onward. Far away on the path we saw Sir Henry looking back, his face
white in the moonlight, his hands raised in horror, glaring helplessly at
the frightful thing which was hunting him down.
that cry of pain from the hound had blown all our fears to the winds. If he
was vulnerable he was mortal, and if we could wound him we could kill him.
Never have I seen a man run as Holmes ran that night. I am reckoned fleet of
foot, but he outpaced me as much as I outpaced the little professional. In
front of us as we flew up the track we heard scream after scream from Sir
Henry and the deep roar of the hound. I was in time to see the beast spring
upon its victim, hurl him to the ground, and worry at his throat. But the
next instant Holmes had emptied five barrels of his revolver into the
creature's flank. With a last howl of agony and a vicious snap in the air,
it rolled upon its back, four feet pawing furiously, and then fell limp upon
its side. I stooped, panting, and pressed my pistol to the dreadful,
shimmering head, but it was useless to press the trigger. The giant hound
Henry lay insensible where he had fallen. We tore away his collar, and
Holmes breathed a prayer of gratitude when we saw that there was no sign of
a wound and that the rescue had been in time.
our friend's eyelids shivered and he made a feeble effort to move. Lestrade
thrust his brandy-flask between the baronet's teeth, and two frightened eyes
were looking up at us.
God!' he whispered. `What was it? What, in heaven's name, was it?'
dead, whatever it is,' said Holmes. `We've laid the family ghost once and
mere size and strength it was a terrible creature which was lying stretched
before us. It was not a pure bloodhound and it was not a pure mastiff; but
it appeared to be a combination of the two - gaunt, savage, and as large as
a small lioness. Even now in the stillness of death, the huge jaws seemed to
be dripping with a bluish flame and the small, deep-set, cruel eyes were
ringed with fire. I placed my hand upon the glowing muzzle, and as I held
them up my own fingers smouldered and gleamed in the darkness.
cunning preparation of it,' said Holmes, sniffing at the dead animal. `There
is no smell which might have interfered with his power of scent. We owe you
a deep apology, Sir Henry, for having exposed you to this fright. I was
prepared for a hound, but not for such a creature as this. And the fog gave
us little time to receive him.'
have saved my life.'
first endangered it. Are you strong enough to stand?'
me another mouthful of that brandy and I shall be ready for anything.
Now, if you will help me up. What do you propose to do?'
leave you here. You are not fit for further adventures to-night. If you will
wait, one or other of us will go back with you to the Hall.'
tried to stagger to his feet; but he was still ghastly pale and trembling in
every limb. We helped him to a rock, where he sat shivering with his face
buried in his hands.
must leave you now,' said Holmes. `The rest of our work must be done, and
every moment is of importance. We have our case, and now we only want our
a thousand to one against our finding him at the house,' he continued as we
retraced our steps swiftly down the path. `Those shots must have told him
that the game was up.'
were some distance off, and this fog may have deadened them.'
followed the hound to call him off - of that you may be certain. No, no,
he's gone by this time! But we'll search the house and make sure.'
front door was open, so we rushed in and hurried from room to room to the
amazement of a doddering old manservant, who met us in the passage. There
was no light save in the dining-room, but Holmes caught up the lamp and left
no corner of the house unexplored. No sign could we see of the man whom we
were chasing. On the upper floor, however, one of the bedroom doors was
someone in here,' cried Lestrade. `I can hear a movement. Open this door!'
faint moaning and rustling came from within. Holmes struck the door just
over the lock with the flat of his foot and it flew open. Pistol in hand, we
all three rushed into the room.
there was no sign within it of that desperate and defiant villain whom we
expected to see. Instead we were faced by an object so strange and so
unexpected that we stood for a moment staring at it in amazement.
room had been fashioned into a small museum, and the walls were lined by a
number of glass-topped cases full of that collection of butterflies and
moths the formation of which had been the relaxation of this complex and
dangerous man. In the centre of this room there was an upright beam, which
had been placed at some period as a support for the old worm-eaten baulk of
timber which spanned the roof. To this post a figure was tied, so swathed
and muffled in the sheets which had been used to secure it that one could
not for the moment tell whether it was that of a man or a woman. One towel
passed round the throat and was secured at the back of the pillar. Another
covered the lower part of the face, and over it two dark eyes - eyes full of
grief and shame and a dreadful questioning - stared back at us. In a minute
we had torn off the gag, unswathed the bonds, and Mrs. Stapleton sank upon
the floor in front of us. As her beautiful head fell upon her chest I saw
the clear red weal of a whiplash across her neck.
brute!' cried Holmes. `Here, Lestrade, your brandy-bottle! Put her in the
chair! She has fainted from ill-usage and exhaustion.'
opened her eyes again.
he safe?' she asked. `Has he escaped?'
cannot escape us, madam.'
no, I did not mean my husband. Sir Henry? Is he safe?'
gave a long sigh of satisfaction.
God! Thank God! Oh, this villain! See how he has treated me!' She shot her
arms out from her sleeves, and we saw with horror that they were all mottled
with bruises. `But this is nothing - nothing! It is my mind and soul that he
has tortured and defiled. I could endure it all, ill-usage, solitude, a life
of deception, everything, as long as I could still cling to the hope that I
had his love, but now I know that in this also I have been his dupe and his
tool.' She broke into passionate sobbing as she spoke.
bear him no good will, madam,' said Holmes. `Tell us then where we shall
find him. If you have ever aided him in evil, help us now and so atone.'
is but one place where he can have fled,' she answered. `There is an old tin
mine on an island in the heart of the mire. It was there that he kept his
hound and there also he had made preparations so that he might have a
refuge. That is where he would fly.'
fog-bank lay like white wool against the window. Holmes held the lamp
said he. `No one could find his way into the Grimpen Mire to-night.'
laughed and clapped her hands. Her eyes and teeth gleamed with fierce
may find his way in, but never out,' she cried. `How can he see the guiding
wands to-night? We planted them together, he and I, to mark the pathway
through the mire. Oh, if I could only have plucked them out to-day. Then
indeed you would have had him at your mercy!'
was evident to us that all pursuit was in vain until the fog had lifted.
we left Lestrade in possession of the house while Holmes and I went back
with the baronet to Baskerville Hall. The story of the Stapletons could no
longer be withheld from him, but he took the blow bravely when he learned
the truth about the woman whom he had loved. But the shock of the night's
adventures had shattered his nerves, and before morning he lay delirious in
a high fever under the care of Dr. Mortimer. The two of them were destined
to travel together round the world before Sir Henry had become once more the
hale, hearty man that he had been before he became master of that ill-omened
now I come rapidly to the conclusion of this singular narrative, in which I
have tried to make the reader share those dark fears and vague surmises
which clouded our lives so long and ended in so tragic a manner. On the
morning after the death of the hound the fog had lifted and we were guided
by Mrs. Stapleton to the point where they had found a pathway through the
bog. It helped us to realize the horror of this woman's life when we saw the
eagerness and joy with which she laid us on her husband's track. We left her
standing upon the thin peninsula of firm, peaty soil which tapered out into
the widespread bog. From the end of it a small wand planted here and there
showed where the path zigzagged from tuft to tuft of rushes among those
green-scummed pits and foul quagmires which barred the way to the stranger.
Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and a heavy
miasmatic vapour onto our faces, while a false step plunged us more than
once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft
undulations around our feet. Its tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we
walked, and when we sank into it it was as if some malignant hand was
tugging us down into those obscene depths, so grim and purposeful was the
clutch in which it held us. Once only we saw a trace that someone had passed
that perilous way before us. From amid a tuft of cotton grass which bore it
up out of the slime some dark thing was projecting. Holmes sank to his waist
as he stepped from the path to seize it, and had we not been there to drag
him out he could never have set his foot upon firm land again. He held an
old black boot in the air.
Toronto,' was printed on the leather inside.
is worth a mud bath,' said he. `It is our friend Sir Henry's missing boot.'
there by Stapleton in his flight.'
He retained it in his hand after using it to set the hound upon the track.
He fled when he knew the game was up, still clutching it. And he hurled it
away at this point of his flight. We know at least that he came so far in
more than that we were never destined to know, though there was much which
we might surmise. There was no chance of finding footsteps in the mire, for
the rising mud oozed swiftly in upon them, but as we at last reached firmer
ground beyond the morass we all looked eagerly for them. But no slightest
sign of them ever met our eyes. If the earth told a true story, then
Stapleton never reached that island of refuge towards which he struggled
through the fog upon that last night. Somewhere in the heart of the great
Grimpen Mire, down in the foul slime of the huge morass which had sucked him
in, this cold and cruel-hearted man is forever buried.
traces we found of him in the bog-girt island where he had hid his savage
ally. A huge driving-wheel and a shaft half-filled with rubbish showed the
position of an abandoned mine. Beside it were the crumbling remains of the
cottages of the miners, driven away no doubt by the foul reek of the
surrounding swamp. In one of these a staple and chain with a quantity of
gnawed bones showed where the animal had been confined.
skeleton with a tangle of brown hair adhering to it lay among the debris.
dog!' said Holmes. `By Jove, a curly-haired spaniel. Poor Mortimer will
never see his pet again. Well, I do not know that this place contains any
secret which we have not already fathomed. He could hide his hound, but he
could not hush its voice, and hence came those cries which even in daylight
were not pleasant to hear. On an emergency he could keep the hound in the
out-house at Merripit, but it was always a risk, and it was only on the
supreme day, which he regarded as the end of all his efforts, that he dared
do it. This paste in the tin is no doubt the luminous mixture with which the
creature was daubed. It was suggested, of course, by the story of the family
hell-hound, and by the desire to frighten old Sir Charles to death. No
wonder the poor devil of a convict ran and screamed, even as our friend did,
and as we ourselves might have done, when he saw such a creature bounding
through the darkness of the moor upon his track. It was a cunning device,
for, apart from the chance of driving your victim to his death, what peasant
would venture to inquire too closely into such a creature should he get
sight of it, as many have done, upon the moor? I said it in London, Watson,
and I say it again now, that never yet have we helped to hunt down a more
dangerous man than he who is lying yonder' - he swept his long arm towards
the huge mottled expanse of green-splotched bog which stretched away until
it merged into the russet slopes of the moor.
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