CHAPTER 3: THE NEIGHBOURS
Next morning, I woke up with the chirpings(1) of the birds. As I opened the bedroom window, light flooded in, making the room seemed much less groomy. I went downstairs, and found Sir Henry sitting at the breakfast table.
“I guess it is ourselves and not the house that we have to blame!” said he “We were tired with our journey, so we took a gray view of the place. Now we are fresh and well, so it is all cheerful once more.”
“And yet it was not entirely our imagination,” I answered. “Did you hear a woman crying in the night?”
“Why, I did. But I thought it was only a dream.”
“I heard it distinctly(2), and I am sure that it was really the cries of a woman.”
“We must ask about this right away.” He rang the bell and asked for Barrymore, the manservant.
“My wife is only one woman in this house, Sir Henry. But she was not crying last night.”
And yet he lied. After breakfast, I met Mrs. Barrymore in the long corridor with the sun full upon her face. Her eyes were red and swollen. It was she, then, who cried in the night, and if she did so her husband must know it. Why did he lie to us? And why did she cry? Already, round this handsome, black-bearded man there was an atmosphere of mystery and gloom.
After breakfast, I went outside for a walk. The moor looked beautiful in the day, and not at all scary or mysterious. Midway, I heard someone calling my name. I turned and found that it was not Sir Henry or Dr. Mortimer, but a stranger.
He was a small man between thirty and forty years of age, dressed in a gray suit and wearing a straw(3) hat. He carried a green butterfly-net in one of his hands.
“Good morning, Sir! I am Stapleton, of Merripit House.”
“How do you know me?”
“Dr.Mortimer told me you were coming. You want to investigate the death of Sir Charles? Do you have any explanation for his death?”
“I have not come to any conclusion.”
“Well, if you need any help, feel free to come to me.”
After a while, Stapleton continued,
“It is a wonderful place, the moor. It is so vast and so mysterious.”
“You know it well, then?”
“I have only been here two years. But my tastes led me to explore every part of the country, and I think that there are few men who know it better than I do.”
“Is it hard to know?”
“Very hard. You see, for example, this great plain(4) to the north here. What is your opinion about it?”
“It would be a perfect place for horseback riding.”
“You would naturally think so and the thought has cost many their lives. This is the great Grimpen Mire,” said he. “A false step means death. Even in dry seasons it is a danger to cross it, but after these autumn rains it is an awful place. And yet I can find my way to the very heart of it and return alive.”
I was quite spooked by this new trap on the moor. How many more could there be? This really seemed, after all, a deathly and mysterious place. Suddenly, I heard a long, sad cry. It filled the whole air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it came.
“What was that?”
“The peasants say it is the Hound of the Baskervilles”
“It’s the weirdest, strangest thing that ever I heard in my life.”
“Yes, it’s rather a strange place altogether. Look at the hillside yonder. Those are the homes of our ancestors. Prehistoric man lived thickly on the moor.”
At that moment,a small fly flew across our path, and in an instant Stapleton was chasing it. I was standing watching his chase when I heard the sound of steps and, turning round, found a woman near me upon the path. I could not doubt that this was the Miss Stapleton of whom I had been told. She was slim, elegant(5), and tall, with a proud face.
“Go back!” she said. “Go straight back to London, instantly.”
I could only stare at her in stupid surprise.
“Why should I go back?” I asked.
“I cannot explain. Hush, my brother is coming! Not a word of what I have said. ”
“You have introduced yourselves, I can see.” said Stapleton, looking at us.
“Yes. I was telling Sir Henry that it was rather late for him to see the true beauties of the moor.”
“Why, who do you think this is?”
“I imagine that it must be Sir Henry Baskerville.”
“No, no,” said I. “My name is Dr. Watson.”
At this, Ms. Stapleton looked extremely embarrassed.
“Well, it is getting late, Dr.Watson. My sister and I have to return to our house. Good day to you, Sir, and send my warmest greetings to Sir Henry.”
Before they went, Ms. Stapleton whispered quietly in my ears,
“Forget all that I have said, Dr. Watson. I thought then that you were Sir Henry.”
I nodded to calm the lady. But when I returned to Baskerville Hall, I could not help feeling agitated(6). Why was Ms. Stapleton so anxious to get Sir Henry off the moor? Did she know something about the mystery, yet wanted to hide it? Was she the one who sent Sir Henry that note of warning in London?
Events moved very quickly at Baskerville hall. Over the next few days I noticed that Sir Henry was deeply interested in Ms. Stapleton. He usually asked me to accompany(7) him to Merripit house. This was quite understandable because, after all, life was on the moor was rather boring for Sir Henry, and Ms. Stapleton was a very beautiflul woman. However, I had bad feelings about him going to Merripit house and crossing the moor. Mixed with all the confusion about the mysterious hound, there had come to us news that Selden, a notorious(8) murderer, had escaped from prison, and was hiding somewhere on the moor. Yet despite all the danger, Sir Henry insisted that he must see the Stapletons at least once a day, to make sure that they were safe.
There was one other person who interested me – Mr. Frankland, of Lafter Hall, who lived some four miles to the south of Baskerville hall. He was a kind old man, yet rather strange in behavior. Everyday, he sat on the roof of his house, where there was a huge telescope. Perhaps he wanted to find the escaped murderer and hand him to the police. I had never talked to him, as he always seemed to be busy.
A very strange thing happened on my third night. About two in the morning, I was aroused by a step passing my room. I rose, opened my door, and looked out. A long black shadow was trailing down the corridor. It was a man who walked softly down the passage with a candle in his hand. His height told me that it was Barrymore. I waited until he had passed out of sight and then I followed him. When I came round the balcony he had entered one of the rooms and was crouching at the window with the candle held against the glass. For some minutes he stood watching intently(9). Then he gave a deep groan and put out the light. Instantly I made my way back to my room, and very shortly I heard his steps outside. Long afterwards when I had fallen into a light sleep I heard a key turn somewhere in a lock. What it all meant I could not guess, but there was some secret business going on in this house. I told Sir Henry everything the next morning, and he agreed to help me get to the bottom of it.
So on the next night, Sir Henry and I did not go to sleep. Instead, after nightfall, we hid in the room with the window facing the moor, waiting. We waited for what seemed like hours. Finally, the door opened and Barrymore came in. He went to the window with his candle, like before, and stood there watching something. Immediately, Sir Henry put his firm hand on Barrymore’s shoulder. The manservant turned, white with fright:
“Ah! Is it you, Sir Henry?” he chattered.
“What are you doing here in the dead of night?” replied the baronet(10) angrily.
Barrymore hesitated. He stood there for minutes without saying one word.
“Out with it!” demanded Sir Henry.
“It is not my secret, Sir.”
“What were you doing behind my back?”
“Nothing you need to know of.”
“Well, if you say so, Barrymore. I thought you were a honest man. But pack your belongings(11) and leave Baskerville hall tomorrow morning.”
Suddenly, there was a loud shriek.
“No, no, no, no! It is all my fault! Don’t blame him, Sir Henry!”
We all turned around and saw a fat, matronly(12) woman standing in the doorway, with red eyes and cheeks. It was Mrs. Barrymore.
“It is my secret he is trying to hide. The escaped murderer is out there on the moor, Sir Henry. Every night, we bring food and sometimes clothes to him. I do not want him to die or get caught. Because, Sir Henry, Selden is my own brother. It is to make sure if he is well that Mr. Barrymore goes here every night. He is not plotting anything against you. So please, do not send him away.”
Sir Henry and I looked at each other in blank amazement. Finally, he said:
“Let’s all go to bed. I will come back to your case tomorrow. Shielding(13) a convicted(14) criminal is no light matter. But rest assured(15). You can stay at Baskerville hall.”
1/chirp(v): sing (birds)
2/distinct(adj): easy to be heard/seen/known
3/straw(n,adj): dried grass used as a material
4/plain(n): a vast, level stretch of land
5/elegant(adj): beautiful in a natural, noble way
7/accompany(v): go along with someone
8/notorious(adj): widely known in a negative way
9/intent(adj): firmly fixed, concentrated
10/baronet(n): a title awarded to English nobles
12/matronly(adj): looking like a married, experienced woman
13/shield(v): protect, defend, hide
14/convict(v): to confirm a criminal’s guilt
15/assure(v):. to cause to know surely