Stage 2 (Apprentice) : The hounds of the Baskervilles, chapter 1

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Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Retold by Molly Hoang

Chapter one: The problem

“Tell me, Watson, what do you make of our visitor’s stick? Since we have missed him and have no idea of his errand, this accidental souvenir becomes important.” said Mr.Sherlock Holmes, one winter morning at 22B Baker Street.
“I think,” said I, following the methods of my companion(1) “that Dr. Mortimer is a successful, elderly doctor. I also think that he is a country doctor who walks a lot, since this stick, though originally(2) a very fine one, has been so worn out that I cannot imagine a town doctor carrying it.”
“Interesting, though elementary(3),” said Sherlock, smiling “I would suggest, also, since the man is a doctor, that the letters C.C on the stick stand for Charing Cross hospital. He worked there before he moved to the country. But he could not have been a staff of the hospital, since only a man well-established(4) in London could hold such a position, and such a one would not go to the country. So he could only have been a house-surgeon. And he left five years ago—the date is on the stick. So he is not a successful, elderly doctor, but a young fellow under thirty, good-natured(5) and unambitious(6).”

When Holmes finished, I laughed out loud. He was always fond of guess work, and I did not really believe his results.

At that moment, there was a tap on the door, followed by the entrance of a young fellow with a good-natured smile. As he came in his eyes fell upon the stick in Holmes’s hand, and he ran towards it with an exclamation of joy. “I am so very glad,” said he. “I do not want to lose that stick.” It was Dr.Mortimer himself.

“Is it a present from Charing Cross Hospital?” said Holmes.

“Yes, sir. I was a house-surgeon there before I moved to the country. I am now a student of human skulls” replied out visitor. Holmes smiled at me in silence. His guesses were all correct.

“Glad to meet you, sir,” continued our visitor “You interest me very much, Mr. Holmes. I had hardly expected such a strange yet well-developed skull. A copy of it, sir, until the original is available, would be a valuable object to any museum. I don’t want to be rude, you know, but I really want to have your skull.”

Sherlock Holmes waved our strange visitor into a chair. “You are an enthusiastic student,” said he. “I guess, from the look of your fingers that you make your own cigarettes. You can light one if you like.”

Holmes was then silent, but his little continual glances(7) showed me that he was very interested in our visitor. “I think , sir,” said he at last, “that it was not only to examine my skull that you came here last night, and again this morning?”

“No, sir, no; though I am happy to do that as well. I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I have been suddenly confronted(8) with a most serious and unusual problem. Sir, have you ever heard of the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles?”

Pooh, I am not interested in fairytales,” said Holmes.

“Oh sir, but this thing is very serious. Let me quickly tell you the story. It is connected to the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville.”

“Go on then,” said Holmes.

“Legend goes that once upon a time this Manor of  Baskerville was held by Hugo of that name. He was a wild and godless man. But he fell in love with a young girl, who did not love him. She was indeed very afraid of the evil Hugo. So Hugo and his wicked friends kidnapped the girl, when her father and brothers were not at home. He locked her in a small room upstairs, and went downstairs to celebrate this success with his friends. The frightened girl decided to jump out of the window and run away. Not long after, Hugo returned to find the cage empty and the bird escaped. He became very angry, and immediately cried out that he would put the hounds(9) upon her.  And so he did. He set the hounds loose, and rode quickly on his horse after the maiden. His friends followed some minutes later. They rode and rode, but could not find Hugo or the girl anywhere. Finally, they came to a large clearing(10) in the moor(11).The moon was shining bright upon the clearing, and there in the centre lay the dead girl The body of Hugo Baskerville lay near her. But more frightening still was was a great, black beast, larger than any hound on earth, standing right next to the dead people. It tore the throat out of Hugo Baskerville. The friends were so frightened by this sight, they ran for their lives. One of them died of fright. The rest became mad, broken men. Since that day, the owners of Baskerville hall have tried to avoid the moor, yet all of them have died mysterious, tragic(12) deaths”
Holmes yawned,

“That is one interesting fairytale, Dr.Mortimer. Now can you tell me how Sir Charles Baskerville died.”

The good-natured doctor looked slightly annoyed. Yet he continued,

“Sir Charles Baskerville was a very rich and generous old man. All his workers spoke well of him. But his death was a tragic one.On the fourth of May Sir Charles declared that he would start next day for London. That night he went out as usual for his walk in the Manor’s alley(13), smoking a cigar.  He never returned.  At twelve o’clock Barrymore, the manservant,  went in search of his master.  The day was wet, and Sir Charles’s footmarks were easily traced down the alley.  At the far end of it that his body was discovered. One thing was strange : from the time that Sir Charles passed the moor-gate in the middle of the alley, he appeared to have walked upon his toes. No signs of violence were discovered upon Sir Charles’s body, though his face was filled with fear, leading to some talk that his death was because of the legendary Hound of the Baskervilles. However, when they examined the body, Sir Charles’ doctors said that his death was due to a heart-attack.”

There, Dr.Mortimer stopped and hesitated.

“Is that all?” asked Holmes.

“Well Sir,” whispered Dr. Mortimer. ” Those are the public facts.”

“And the private ones?”

“When I examined the scene of death,” said Mortimer “I saw several footprints, some twenty yards away from the body. They were the footprints of a hound.”

“Uhm, this is certainly a most interesting case,” said Holmes, thoughtfully, “What do you make of it, Dr.Mortimer?”

“To be frank, sir, I think the thing is not earthly.”

Holmes raised his eyebrows,

“You, Sir, a man of science, believe in this ridiculous fairytale?”

“I don’t know what else to believe,” replied Dr.Mortimer “I find that before the terrible event occurred several people saw a creature upon the moor which could not  be any animal known to science. They all agreed that it was a huge creature, ugly and devilish, with fire in its eyes. I have examined these men, all of them strong countrymen.”

“But if you believe the thing is unearthly, why did you call me at all?” asked Holmes.

“The problem is, I don’’t know what to do with Sir Henry Baskerville, who arrives at Waterloo Station”—Dr. Mortimer looked at his watch—”in exactly one hour and a quarter.”

“Is he the heir?”

“Yes, he is the son of Sir Charles’ first brother. Sir Charles’ second brother was an evil fellow, but he died childless in America, so Sir Henry is the only heir. He is an excellent fellow in every way, though he has spent all his years away from England. In fact, we found him in Canada.”

“Why shouldn’t he go to the home of his family?”reasoned Holmes.

“It is a devilish place, Mr Holmes,”exclaimed Dr.Mortimer “It is a devilish place!”

“Well, let’s ask Sir Henry’s opinion, then.” said Holmes

Just then, another tap was heard at the door.


 

+GLOSSARY

1/companion : friend, partner

2/originally : in the beginning, at the starting point

3/elementary : basic, simple

4/establish: set up, settle down

5/good-natured: kind, friendly, having good characteristics

6/unambitious: not aiming very high in life

7/glance: the direction of someone’s eyes towards something

8/confront : to come face to face with something

9/hound : a dog used for hunting

10/clearing : an area of woodland with no trees

11/moor : an area covered with low-growing vegetables

12/tragic : extremely sad

13/alley : a path between trees in a garden

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