Part 4 out of 4
"Who is the gentleman with the telescope?"
"That is Rear-Admiral Baskerville, who served under Rodney in the
West Indies. The man with the blue coat and the roll of paper
is Sir William Baskerville, who was Chairman of Committees of the
House of Commons under Pitt."
"And this Cavalier opposite to me--the one with the black velvet
and the lace?"
"Ah, you have a right to know about him. That is the cause of
all the mischief, the wicked Hugo, who started the Hound of the
Baskervilles. We're not likely to forget him."
I gazed with interest and some surprise upon the portrait.
"Dear me!" said Holmes, "he seems a quiet, meek-mannered man
enough, but I dare say that there was a lurking devil in his eyes.
I had pictured him as a more robust and ruffianly person."
"There's no doubt about the authenticity, for the name and the
date, 1647, are on the back of the canvas."
Holmes said little more, but the picture of the old roysterer
seemed to have a fascination for him, and his eyes were continually
fixed upon it during supper. It was not until later, when Sir
Henry had gone to his room, that I was able to follow the trend
of his thoughts. He led me back into the banqueting-hall, his
bedroom candle in his hand, and he held it up against the time-
stained portrait on the wall.
"Do you see anything there?"
I looked at the broad plumed hat, the curling love-locks, the
white lace collar, and the straight, severe face which was framed
between them. It was not a brutal countenance, but it was prim,
hard, and stern, with a firm-set, thin-lipped mouth, and a coldly
"Is it like anyone you know?"
"There is something of Sir Henry about the jaw."
"Just a suggestion, perhaps. But wait an instant!" He stood upon
a chair, and, holding up the light in his left hand, he curved
his right arm over the broad hat and round the long ringlets.
"Good heavens!" I cried in amazement.
The face of Stapleton had sprung out of the canvas.
"Ha, you see it now. My eyes have been trained to examine faces
and not their trimmings. It is the first quality of a criminal
investigator that he should see through a disguise."
"But this is marvellous. It might be his portrait."
"Yes, it is an interesting instance of a throwback, which appears
to be both physical and spiritual. A study of family portraits
is enough to convert a man to the doctrine of reincarnation. The
fellow is a Baskerville--that is evident."
"With designs upon the succession."
"Exactly. This chance of the picture has supplied us with one of
our most obvious missing links. We have him, Watson, we have him,
and I dare swear that before tomorrow night he will be fluttering
in our net as helpless as one of his own butterflies. A pin, a
cork, and a card, and we add him to the Baker Street collection!"
He burst into one of his rare fits of laughter as he turned away
from the picture. I have not heard him laugh often, and it has
always boded ill to somebody.
I was up betimes in the morning, but Holmes was afoot earlier
still, for I saw him as I dressed, coming up the drive.
"Yes, we should have a full day today," he remarked, and he rubbed
his hands with the joy of action. "The nets are all in place,
and the drag is about to begin. We'll know before the day is out
whether we have caught our big, leanjawed pike, or whether he
has got through the meshes."
"Have you been on the moor already?"
"I have sent a report from Grimpen to Princetown as to the death
of Selden. I think I can promise that none of you will be troubled
in the matter. And I have also communicated with my faithful
Cartwright, who would certainly have pined away at the door of
my hut, as a dog does at his master's grave, if I had not set
his mind at rest about my safety."
"What is the next move?"
"To see Sir Henry. Ah, here he is!"
"Good-morning, Holmes," said the baronet. "You look like a general
who is planning a battle with his chief of the staff."
"That is the exact situation. Watson was asking for orders."
"And so do I."
"Very good. You are engaged, as I understand, to dine with our
friends the Stapletons tonight."
"I hope that you will come also. They are very hospitable people,
and I am sure that they would be very glad to see you."
"I fear that Watson and I must go to London."
"Yes, I think that we should be more useful there at the present
The baronet's face perceptibly lengthened.
"I hoped that you were going to see me through this business.
The Hall and the moor are not very pleasant places when one is
"My dear fellow, you must trust me implicitly and do exactly what
I tell you. You can tell your friends that we should have been
happy to have come with you, but that urgent business required
us to be in town. We hope very soon to return to Devonshire.
Will you remember to give them that message?"
"If you insist upon it."
"There is no alternative, I assure you."
I saw by the baronet's clouded brow that he was deeply hurt by
what he regarded as our desertion.
"When do you desire to go?" he asked coldly.
"Immediately after breakfast. We will drive in to Coombe Tracey,
but Watson will leave his things as a pledge that he will come
back to you. Watson, you will send a note to Stapleton to tell
him that you regret that you cannot come."
"I have a good mind to go to London with you," said the baronet.
"Why should I stay here alone?"
"Because it is your post of duty. Because you gave me your word
that you would do as you were told, and I tell you to stay."
"All right, then, I'll stay."
"One more direction! I wish you to drive to Merripit House. Send
back your trap, however, and let them know that you intend to
"To walk across the moor?"
"But that is the very thing which you have so often cautioned me
not to do."
"This time you may do it with safety. If I had not every confidence
in your nerve and courage I would not suggest it, but it is essential
that you should do it."
"Then I will do it."
"And as you value your life do not go across the moor in any
direction save along the straight path which leads from Merripit
House to the Grimpen Road, and is your natural way home."
"I will do just what you say."
"Very good. I should be glad to get away as soon after breakfast
as possible, so as to reach London in the afternoon."
I was much astounded by this programme, though I remembered that
Holmes had said to Stapleton on the night before that his visit
would terminate next day. It had not crossed my mind however,
that he would wish me to go with him, nor could I understand how
we could both be absent at a moment which he himself declared to
be critical. There was nothing for it, however, but implicit
obedience; so we bade good-bye to our rueful friend, and a couple
of hours afterwards we were at the station of Coombe Tracey and
had dispatched the trap upon its return journey. A small boy was
waiting upon the platform.
"Any orders, sir?"
"You will take this train to town, Cartwright. The moment you
arrive you will send a wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, in my name,
to say that if he finds the pocketbook which I have dropped he
is to send it by registered post to Baker Street."
"And ask at the station office if there is a message for me."
The boy returned with a telegram, which Holmes handed to me. It
Wire received. Coming down with unsigned warrant. Arrive five-
"That is in answer to mine of this morning. He is the best of
the professionals, I think, and we may need his assistance. Now,
Watson, I think that we cannot employ our time better than by
calling upon your acquaintance, Mrs. Laura Lyons."
His plan of campaign was beginning to be evident. He would use
the baronet in order to convince the Stapletons that we were really
gone, while we should actually return at the instant when we were
likely to be needed. That telegram from London, if mentioned by
Sir Henry to the Stapletons, must remove the last suspicions from
their minds. Already I seemed to see our nets drawing closer
around that leanjawed pike.
Mrs. Laura Lyons was in her office, and Sherlock Holmes opened
his interview with a frankness and directness which considerably
"I am investigating the circumstances which attended the death
of the late Sir Charles Baskerville," said he. "My friend here,
Dr. Watson, has informed me of what you have communicated, and
also of what you have withheld in connection with that matter."
"What have I withheld?" she asked defiantly.
"You have confessed that you asked Sir Charles to be at the gate
at ten o'clock. We know that that was the place and hour of his
death. You have withheld what the connection is between these
"There is no connection."
"In that case the coincidence must indeed be an extraordinary one.
But I think that we shall succeed in establishing a connection,
after all. I wish to be perfectly frank with you, Mrs. Lyons.
We regard this case as one of murder, and the evidence may implicate
not only your friend Mr. Stapleton but his wife as well."
The lady sprang from her chair.
"His wife!" she cried.
"The fact is no longer a secret. The person who has passed for
his sister is really his wife."
Mrs. Lyons had resumed her seat. Her hands were grasping the arms
of her chair, and I saw that the pink nails had turned white with
the pressure of her grip.
"His wife!" she said again. "His wife! He is not a married man."
Sherlock Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"Prove it to me! Prove it to me! And if you can do so--!"
The fierce flash of her eyes said more than any words.
"I have come prepared to do so," said Holmes, drawing several papers
from his pocket. "Here is a photograph of the couple taken in
York four years ago. It is indorsed 'Mr. and Mrs. Vandeleur,'
but you will have no difficulty in recognizing him, and her also,
if you know her by sight. Here are three written descriptions
by trustworthy witnesses of Mr. and Mrs. Vandeleur, who at that
time kept St. Oliver's private school. Read them and see if you
can doubt the identity of these people."
She glanced at them, and then looked up at us with the set, rigid
face of a desperate woman.
"Mr. Holmes," she said, "this man had offered me marriage on
condition that I could get a divorce from my husband. He has
lied to me, the villain, in every conceivable way. Not one word
of truth has he ever told me. And why--why? I imagined that all
was for my own sake. But now I see that I was never anything
but a tool in his hands. Why should I preserve faith with him
who never kept any with me? Why should I try to shield him from
the consequences of his own wicked acts? Ask me what you like,
and there is nothing which I shall hold back. One thing I swear
to you, and that is that when I wrote the letter I never dreamed
of any harm to the old gentleman, who had been my kindest friend."
"I entirely believe you, madam," said Sherlock Holmes. "The
recital of these events must be very painful to you, and perhaps
it will make it easier if I tell you what occurred, and you can
check me if I make any material mistake. The sending of this
letter was suggested to you by Stapleton?"
"He dictated it."
"I presume that the reason he gave was that you would receive
help from Sir Charles for the legal expenses connected with
"And then after you had sent the letter he dissuaded you from
keeping the appointment?"
"He told me that it would hurt his self-respect that any other
man should find the money for such an object, and that though
he was a poor man himself he would devote his last penny to
removing the obstacles which divided us."
"He appears to be a very consistent character. And then you heard
nothing until you read the reports of the death in the paper?"
"And he made you swear to say nothing about your appointment with
"He did. He said that the death was a very mysterious one, and
that I should certainly be suspected if the facts came out. He
frightened me into remaining silent."
"Quite so. But you had your suspicions?"
She hesitated and looked down.
"I knew him," she said. "But if he had kept faith with me I should
always have done so with him."
"I think that on the whole you have had a fortunate escape," said
Sherlock Holmes. "You have had him in your power and he knew it,
and yet you are alive. You have been walking for some months very
near to the edge of a precipice. We must wish you good-morning
now, Mrs. Lyons, and it is probable that you will very shortly
hear from us again."
"Our case becomes rounded off, and difficulty after difficulty
thins away in front of us," said Holmes as we stood waiting for
the arrival of the express from town. "I shall soon be in the
position of being able to put into a single connected narrative
one of the most singular and sensational crimes of modern times.
Students of criminology will remember the analogous incidents in
Godno, in Little Russia, in the year '66, and of course there are
the Anderson murders in North Carolina, but this case possesses
some features which are entirely its own. Even now we have no
clear case against this very wily man. But I shall be very much
surprised if it is not clear enough before we go to bed this night."
The London express came roaring into the station, and a small,
wiry bulldog of a man had sprung from a first-class carriage.
We all three shook hands, and I saw at once from the reverential
way in which Lestrade gazed at my companion that he had learned
a good deal since the days when they had first worked together.
I could well remember the scorn which the theories of the reasoner
used then to excite in the practical man.
"Anything good?" he asked.
"The biggest thing for years," said Holmes. "We have two hours
before we need think of starting. I think we might employ it in
getting some dinner and then, Lestrade, we will take the London
fog out of your throat by giving you a breath of the pure night
air of Dartmoor. Never been there? Ah, well, I don't suppose
you will forget your first visit."
The Hound of the Baskervilles
One 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 fulfilment.
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
Our 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.
"Are you armed, Lestrade?"
The little detective smiled. "As 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."
"Good! My friend and I are also ready for emergencies."
"You're mighty close about this affair, Mr. Holmes. What's the
"A waiting game."
"My 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."
"That is Merripit House and the end of our journey. I must
request you to walk on tiptoe and not to talk above a whisper."
We moved cautiously along the track as if we were bound for the
house, but Holmes halted us when we were about two hundred yards
"This will do," said he. "These rocks upon the right make an
"We are to wait here?"
"Yes, 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?"
"I think they are the kitchen windows."
"And the one beyond, which shines so brightly?"
"That is certainly the dining-room."
"The 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!"
I 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.
There 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.
As 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.
"You say, Watson, that the lady is not there?" Holmes asked when
I had finished my report.
"Where can she be, then, since there is no light in any other
room except the kitchen?"
"I cannot think where she is."
I have said that over the great Grimpen Mire there hung a dense,
white fog. It 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.
"It's moving towards us, Watson."
"Is that serious?"
"Very 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 path."
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
Every 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.
"If 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."
"Shall we move farther back upon higher ground?"
"Yes, I think it would be as well."
So 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
"We are going too far," said Holmes. "We dare not take the chance
of his being overtaken before he can reach us. At 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
A 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. Then 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.
"Hist!" cried Holmes, and I heard the sharp click of a cocking
pistol. "Look out! It's coming!"
There 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.
With 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.
But 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 was dead.
Sir 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. Already 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.
"My God!" he whispered. "What was it? What, in heaven's name,
"It's dead, whatever it is," said Holmes. "We've laid the family
ghost once and forever."
In 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.
"Phosphorus," I said.
"A 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
"You have saved my life."
"Having first endangered it. Are you strong enough to stand?"
"Give me another mouthful of that brandy and I shall be ready
for anything. So! Now, if you will help me up. What do you
propose to do?"
"To leave you here. You are not fit for further adventures
tonight. If you will wait, one or other of us will go back
with you to the Hall."
He 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.
"We 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 man.
"It's 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."
"We were some distance off, and this fog may have deadened them."
"He 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
The 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 locked.
"There's someone in here," cried Lestrade. "I can hear a movement.
Open this door!"
A 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.
But 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.
The 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.
"The brute!" cried Holmes. "Here, Lestrade, your brandy-bottle!
Put her in the chair! She has fainted from ill-usage and
She opened her eyes again.
"Is he safe?" she asked. "Has he escaped?"
"He cannot escape us, madam."
"No, no, I did not mean my husband. Sir Henry? Is he safe?"
"And the hound?"
"It is dead."
She gave a long sigh of satisfaction.
"Thank 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.
"You 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."
"There 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
The fog-bank lay like white wool against the window. Holmes held
the lamp towards it.
"See," said he. "No one could find his way into the Grimpen Mire
She laughed and clapped her hands. Her eyes and teeth gleamed
with fierce merriment.
"He may find his way in, but never out," she cried. "How can he
see the guiding wands tonight? We planted them together, he and
I, to mark the pathway through the mire. Oh, if I could only
have plucked them out today. Then indeed you would have had him
at your mercy!"
It was evident to us that all pursuit was in vain until the fog
had lifted. Meanwhile 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 estate.
And 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.
"Meyers, Toronto," was printed on the leather inside.
"It is worth a mud bath," said he. "It is our friend Sir Henry's
"Thrown there by Stapleton in his flight."
"Exactly. 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 safety."
But 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
Many 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. A skeleton with a
tangle of brown hair adhering to it lay among the debris.
"A 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.
It was the end of November, and Holmes and I sat, upon a raw and
foggy night, on either side of a blazing fire in our sitting-room
in Baker Street. Since the tragic upshot of our visit to Devonshire
he had been engaged in two affairs of the utmost importance, in
the first of which he had exposed the atrocious conduct of Colonel
Upwood in connection with the famous card scandal of the Nonpareil
Club, while in the second he had defended the unfortunate Mme.
Montpensier from the charge of murder which hung over her in
connection with the death of her step-daughter, Mlle. Carere, the
young lady who, as it will be remembered, was found six months
later alive and married in New York. My friend was in excellent
spirits over the success which had attended a succession of
difficult and important cases, so that I was able to induce him
to discuss the details of the Baskerville mystery. I had waited
patiently for the opportunity for I was aware that he would never
permit cases to overlap, and that his clear and logical mind would
not be drawn from its present work to dwell upon memories of the
past. Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer were, however, in London, on
their way to that long voyage which had been recommended for the
restoration of his shattered nerves. They had called upon us
that very afternoon, so that it was natural that the subject
should come up for discussion.
"The whole course of events," said Holmes, "from the point of
view of the man who called himself Stapleton was simple and
direct, although to us, who had no means in the beginning of
knowing the motives of his actions and could only learn part
of the facts, it all appeared exceedingly complex. I have had
the advantage of two conversations with Mrs. Stapleton, and the
case has now been so entirely cleared up that I am not aware that
there is anything which has remained a secret to us. You will
find a few notes upon the matter under the heading B in my indexed
list of cases."
"Perhaps you would kindly give me a sketch of the course of events
"Certainly, though I cannot guarantee that I carry all the facts
in my mind. Intense mental concentration has a curious way of
blotting out what has passed. The barrister who has his case at
his fingers' ends and is able to argue with an expert upon his
own subject finds that a week or two of the courts will drive it
all out of his head once more. So each of my cases displaces the
last, and Mlle. Carere has blurred my recollection of Baskerville
Hall. Tomorrow some other little problem may be submitted to my
notice which will in turn dispossess the fair French lady and the
infamous Upwood. So far as the case of the hound goes, however,
I will give you the course of events as nearly as I can, and you
will suggest anything which I may have forgotten.
"My inquiries show beyond all question that the family portrait
did not lie, and that this fellow was indeed a Baskerville. He
was a son of that Rodger Baskerville, the younger brother of Sir
Charles, who fled with a sinister reputation to South America,
where he was said to have died unmarried. He did, as a matter of
fact, marry, and had one child, this fellow, whose real name is
the same as his father's. He married Beryl Garcia, one of the
beauties of Costa Rica, and, having purloined a considerable sum
of public money, he changed his name to Vandeleur and fled to
England, where he established a school in the east of Yorkshire.
His reason for attempting this special line of business was that
he had struck up an acquaintance with a consumptive tutor upon
the voyage home, and that he had used this man's ability to make
the undertaking a success. Fraser, the tutor, died however, and
the school which had begun well sank from disrepute into infamy.
The Vandeleurs found it convenient to change their name to
Stapleton, and he brought the remains of his fortune, his schemes
for the future, and his taste for entomology to the south of
England. I learned at the British Museum that he was a recognized
authority upon the subject, and that the name of Vandeleur has
been permanently attached to a certain moth which he had, in his
Yorkshire days, been the first to describe.
"We now come to that portion of his life which has proved to be
of such intense interest to us. The fellow had evidently made
inquiry and found that only two lives intervened between him and
a valuable estate. When he went to Devonshire his plans were,
I believe, exceedingly hazy, but that he meant mischief from the
first is evident from the way in which he took his wife with him
in the character of his sister. The idea of using her as a decoy
was clearly already in his mind, though he may not have been
certain how the details of his plot were to be arranged. He meant
in the end to have the estate, and he was ready to use any tool
or run any risk for that end. His first act was to establish
himself as near to his ancestral home as he could, and his second
was to cultivate a friendship with Sir Charles Baskerville and
with the neighbours.
"The baronet himself told him about the family hound, and so
prepared the way for his own death. Stapleton, as I will continue
to call him, knew that the old man's heart was weak and that a
shock would kill him. So much he had learned from Dr. Mortimer.
He had heard also that Sir Charles was superstitious and had taken
this grim legend very seriously. His ingenious mind instantly
suggested a way by which the baronet could be done to death, and
yet it would be hardly possible to bring home the guilt to the
"Having conceived the idea he proceeded to carry it out with
considerable finesse. An ordinary schemer would have been content
to work with a savage hound. The use of artificial means to make
the creature diabolical was a flash of genius upon his part. The
dog he bought in London from Ross and Mangles, the dealers in
Fulham Road. It was the strongest and most savage in their
possession. He brought it down by the North Devon line and walked
a great distance over the moor so as to get it home without
exciting any remarks. He had already on his insect hunts learned
to penetrate the Grimpen Mire, and so had found a safe hiding-place
for the creature. Here he kennelled it and waited his chance.
"But it was some time coming. The old gentleman could not be
decoyed outside of his grounds at night. Several times Stapleton
lurked about with his hound, but without avail. It was during
these fruitless quests that he, or rather his ally, was seen by
peasants, and that the legend of the demon dog received a new
confirmation. He had hoped that his wife might lure Sir Charles
to his ruin, but here she proved unexpectedly independent. She
would not endeavour to entangle the old gentleman in a sentimental
attachment which might deliver him over to his enemy. Threats
and even, I am sorry to say, blows refused to move her. She
would have nothing to do with it, and for a time Stapleton was
at a deadlock.
"He found a way out of his difficulties through the chance that
Sir Charles, who had conceived a friendship for him, made him
the minister of his charity in the case of this unfortunate woman,
Mrs. Laura Lyons. By representing himself as a single man he
acquired complete influence over her, and he gave her to understand
that in the event of her obtaining a divorce from her husband he
would marry her. His plans were suddenly brought to a head by
his knowledge that Sir Charles was about to leave the Hall on the
advice of Dr. Mortimer, with whose opinion he himself pretended
to coincide. He must act at once, or his victim might get beyond
his power. He therefore put pressure upon Mrs. Lyons to write
this letter, imploring the old man to give her an interview on
the evening before his departure for London. He then, by a
specious argument, prevented her from going, and so had the chance
for which he had waited.
"Driving back in the evening from Coombe Tracey he was in time to
get his hound, to treat it with his infernal paint, and to bring
the beast round to the gate at which he had reason to expect that
he would find the old gentleman waiting. The dog, incited by its
master, sprang over the wicket-gate and pursued the unfortunate
baronet, who fled screaming down the yew alley. In that gloomy
tunnel it must indeed have been a dreadful sight to see that huge
black creature, with its flaming jaws and blazing eyes, bounding
after its victim. He fell dead at the end of the alley from heart
disease and terror. The hound had kept upon the grassy border
while the baronet had run down the path, so that no track but the
man's was visible. On seeing him lying still the creature had
probably approached to sniff at him, but finding him dead had
turned away again. It was then that it left the print which was
actually observed by Dr. Mortimer. The hound was called off and
hurried away to its lair in the Grimpen Mire, and a mystery was
left which puzzled the authorities, alarmed the countryside, and
finally brought the case within the scope of our observation.
"So much for the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. You perceive
the devilish cunning of it, for really it would be almost impossible
to make a case against the real murderer. His only accomplice
was one who could never give him away, and the grotesque,
inconceivable nature of the device only served to make it more
effective. Both of the women concerned in the case, Mrs. Stapleton
and Mrs. Laura Lyons, were left with a strong suspicion against
Stapleton. Mrs. Stapleton knew that he had designs upon the old
man, and also of the existence of the hound. Mrs. Lyons knew
neither of these things, but had been impressed by the death
occurring at the time of an uncancelled appointment which was
only known to him. However, both of them were under his influence,
and he had nothing to fear from them. The first half of his task
was successfully accomplished but the more difficult still remained.
"It is possible that Stapleton did not know of the existence of
an heir in Canada. In any case he would very soon learn it from
his friend Dr. Mortimer, and he was told by the latter all details
about the arrival of Henry Baskerville. Stapleton's first idea
was that this young stranger from Canada might possibly be done
to death in London without coming down to Devonshire at all. He
distrusted his wife ever since she had refused to help him in
laying a trap for the old man, and he dared not leave her long
out of his sight for fear he should lose his influence over her.
It was for this reason that he took her to London with him. They
lodged, I find, at the Mexborough Private Hotel, in Craven Street,
which was actually one of those called upon by my agent in search
of evidence. Here he kept his wife imprisoned in her room while
he, disguised in a beard, followed Dr. Mortimer to Baker Street
and afterwards to the station and to the Northumberland Hotel.
His wife had some inkling of his plans; but she had such a fear
of her husband--a fear founded upon brutal ill-treatment--that
she dare not write to warn the man whom she knew to be in danger.
If the letter should fall into Stapleton's hands her own life
would not be safe. Eventually, as we know, she adopted the
expedient of cutting out the words which would form the message,
and addressing the letter in a disguised hand. It reached the
baronet, and gave him the first warning of his danger.
"It was very essential for Stapleton to get some article of Sir
Henry's attire so that, in case he was driven to use the dog, he
might always have the means of setting him upon his track. With
characteristic promptness and audacity he set about this at once,
and we cannot doubt that the boots or chamber-maid of the hotel
was well bribed to help him in his design. By chance, however,
the first boot which was procured for him was a new one and,
therefore, useless for his purpose. He then had it returned and
obtained another--a most instructive incident, since it proved
conclusively to my mind that we were dealing with a real hound,
as no other supposition could explain this anxiety to obtain an
old boot and this indifference to a new one. The more outre and
grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be
examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case
is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which
is most likely to elucidate it.
"Then we had the visit from our friends next morning, shadowed
always by Stapleton in the cab. From his knowledge of our rooms
and of my appearance, as well as from his general conduct, I am
inclined to think that Stapleton's career of crime has been by no
means limited to this single Baskerville affair. It is suggestive
that during the last three years there have been four considerable
burglaries in the west country, for none of which was any criminal
ever arrested. The last of these, at Folkestone Court, in May,
was remarkable for the cold-blooded pistolling of the page, who
surprised the masked and solitary burglar. I cannot doubt that
Stapleton recruited his waning resources in this fashion, and
that for years he has been a desperate and dangerous man.
"We had an example of his readiness of resource that morning when
he got away from us so successfully, and also of his audacity in
sending back my own name to me through the cabman. From that
moment he understood that I had taken over the case in London,
and that therefore there was no chance for him there. He returned
to Dartmoor and awaited the arrival of the baronet."
"One moment!" said I. "You have, no doubt, described the sequence
of events correctly, but there is one point which you have left
unexplained. What became of the hound when its master was in London?"
"I have given some attention to this matter and it is undoubtedly
of importance. There can be no question that Stapleton had a
confidant, though it is unlikely that he ever placed himself in
his power by sharing all his plans with him. There was an old
manservant at Merripit House, whose name was Anthony. His
connection with the Stapletons can be traced for several years,
as far back as the schoolmastering days, so that he must have been
aware that his master and mistress were really husband and wife.
This man has disappeared and has escaped from the country. It
is suggestive that Anthony is not a common name in England, while
Antonio is so in all Spanish or Spanish-American countries. The
man, like Mrs. Stapleton herself, spoke good English, but with a
curious lisping accent. I have myself seen this old man cross
the Grimpen Mire by the path which Stapleton had marked out. It
is very probable, therefore, that in the absence of his master
it was he who cared for the hound, though he may never have known
the purpose for which the beast was used.
"The Stapletons then went down to Devonshire, whither they were
soon followed by Sir Henry and you. One word now as to how I
stood myself at that time. It may possibly recur to your memory
that when I examined the paper upon which the printed words were
fastened I made a close inspection for the water-mark. In doing
so I held it within a few inches of my eyes, and was conscious
of a faint smell of the scent known as white jessamine. There
are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a
criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other,
and cases have more than once within my own experience depended
upon their prompt recognition. The scent suggested the presence
of a lady, and already my thoughts began to turn towards the
Stapletons. Thus I had made certain of the hound, and had guessed
at the criminal before ever we went to the west country.
"It was my game to watch Stapleton. It was evident, however,
that I could not do this if I were with you, since he would be
keenly on his guard. I deceived everybody, therefore, yourself
included, and I came down secretly when I was supposed to be in
London. My hardships were not so great as you imagined, though
such trifling details must never interfere with the investigation
of a case. I stayed for the most part at Coombe Tracey, and only
used the hut upon the moor when it was necessary to be near the
scene of action. Cartwright had come down with me, and in his
disguise as a country boy he was of great assistance to me. I
was dependent upon him for food and clean linen. When I was
watching Stapleton, Cartwright was frequently watching you, so
that I was able to keep my hand upon all the strings.
"I have already told you that your reports reached me rapidly,
being forwarded instantly from Baker Street to Coombe Tracey.
They were of great service to me, and especially that one
incidentally truthful piece of biography of Stapleton's. I was
able to establish the identity of the man and the woman and knew
at last exactly how I stood. The case had been considerably
complicated through the incident of the escaped convict and the
relations between him and the Barrymores. This also you cleared
up in a very effective way, though I had already come to the same
conclusions from my own observations.
"By the time that you discovered me upon the moor I had a complete
knowledge of the whole business, but I had not a case which could
go to a jury. Even Stapleton's attempt upon Sir Henry that night
which ended in the death of the unfortunate convict did not help
us much in proving murder against our man. There seemed to be
no alternative but to catch him red-handed, and to do so we had
to use Sir Henry, alone and apparently unprotected, as a bait.
We did so, and at the cost of a severe shock to our client we
succeeded in completing our case and driving Stapleton to his
destruction. That Sir Henry should have been exposed to this is,
I must confess, a reproach to my management of the case, but we
had no means of foreseeing the terrible and paralyzing spectacle
which the beast presented, nor could we predict the fog which
enabled him to burst upon us at such short notice. We succeeded
in our object at a cost which both the specialist and Dr. Mortimer
assure me will be a temporary one. A long journey may enable our
friend to recover not only from his shattered nerves but also from
his wounded feelings. His love for the lady was deep and sincere,
and to him the saddest part of all this black business was that
he should have been deceived by her.
"It only remains to indicate the part which she had played
throughout. There can be no doubt that Stapleton exercised an
influence over her which may have been love or may have been fear,
or very possibly both, since they are by no means incompatible
emotions. It was, at least, absolutely effective. At his command
she consented to pass as his sister, though he found the limits
of his power over her when he endeavoured to make her the direct
accessory to murder. She was ready to warn Sir Henry so far as
she could without implicating her husband, and again and again
she tried to do so. Stapleton himself seems to have been capable
of jealousy, and when he saw the baronet paying court to the lady,
even though it was part of his own plan, still he could not help
interrupting with a passionate outburst which revealed the fiery
soul which his self-contained manner so cleverly concealed. By
encouraging the intimacy he made it certain that Sir Henry would
frequently come to Merripit House and that he would sooner or
later get the opportunity which he desired. On the day of the
crisis, however, his wife turned suddenly against him. She had
learned something of the death of the convict, and she knew that
the hound was being kept in the outhouse on the evening that Sir
Henry was coming to dinner. She taxed her husband with his
intended crime, and a furious scene followed in which he showed
her for the first time that she had a rival in his love. Her
fidelity turned in an instant to bitter hatred, and he saw that
she would betray him. He tied her up, therefore, that she might
have no chance of warning Sir Henry, and he hoped, no doubt, that
when the whole countryside put down the baronet's death to the
curse of his family, as they certainly would do, he could win his
wife back to accept an accomplished fact and to keep silent upon
what she knew. In this I fancy that in any case he made a
miscalculation, and that, if we had not been there, his doom would
none the less have been sealed. A woman of Spanish blood does
not condone such an injury so lightly. And now, my dear Watson,
without referring to my notes, I cannot give you a more detailed
account of this curious case. I do not know that anything essential
has been left unexplained."
"He could not hope to frighten Sir Henry to death as he had done
the old uncle with his bogie hound."
"The beast was savage and half-starved. If its appearance did
not frighten its victim to death, at least it would paralyze the
resistance which might be offered."
"No doubt. There only remains one difficulty. If Stapleton came
into the succession, how could he explain the fact that he, the
heir, had been living unannounced under another name so close to
the property? How could he claim it without causing suspicion
"It is a formidable difficulty, and I fear that you ask too much
when you expect me to solve it. The past and the present are
within the field of my inquiry, but what a man may do in the future
is a hard question to answer. Mrs. Stapleton has heard her husband
discuss the problem on several occasions. There were three possible
courses. He might claim the property from South America,
establish his identity before the British authorities there and so
obtain the fortune without ever coming to England at all, or he
might adopt an elaborate disguise during the short time that he
need be in London; or, again, he might furnish an accomplice with
the proofs and papers, putting him in as heir, and retaining a
claim upon some proportion of his income. We cannot doubt from
what we know of him that he would have found some way out of the
difficulty. And now, my dear Watson, we have had some weeks of
severe work, and for one evening, I think, we may turn our thoughts
into more pleasant channels. I have a box for 'Les Huguenots.'
Have you heard the De Reszkes? Might I trouble you then to be
ready in half an hour, and we can stop at Marcini's for a little
dinner on the way?"