Chapter 4: Mysterious people
Next morning, Barrymore again came to us.
“You’ve been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and perhaps I should have said it before, but it was long after the inquest(1) that I found it out. I’ve never breathed a word about it yet to any man. It’s about poor Sir Charles’s death.”
The baronet and I were both upon our feet. “Do you know how he died?”
“No, sir, I don’t know that.”
“I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a woman.”
“To meet a woman! He?”
“And the woman’s name?”
“I can’t give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials(2). Her initials were L. L.”
“How do you know this, Barrymore?”
“Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. It was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman’s hand. At the end of the day, I examined the grate(3) and found the remains of the letter. There was this line: “Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o’clock. ”
“Thank you Barrymore for that most valuable information. You can go now.”
After the servant left, Sir Henry and I discussed the matter for a few minutes. We agreed that while this additional information must be notified to Holmes to attract him down from London, we should ourselves trace this Woman L.L to clear up the whole business.
That evening, I asked Dr.Mortimer, and so knew that there was a woman in Coombe Tracey named Laura Lyons.
After a discussion with Sir Henry over Breakfast next morning, we decided that I should go to Coombe Tracey by myself to get a better chance of obtaining the information from the woman. I had no difficulty in finding her rooms. Mrs.Lyons was an extremely beautiful brunnette(4), dainty(5) and well-formed, with a generally pleasant, though rather hard face.
To start the conversation, I pretended that I knew her father.
‘There is nothing in common between my father and me,’ she said. ‘I owe him nothing, and his friends are not mine. If it were not for the late Sir Charles Baskerville and some other kind hearts I might have starved for all that my father cared.’
‘It was about the late Sir Charles Baskerville that I have come here to see you.’ I then said honestly. The interrogation(6) started.
At first, she only admitted that she had written to Sir Charles and met with him once or twice to acknowledge his generosity.
‘How did he know enough about your affairs to be able to help you, as you say that he has done?’
She met my difficulty with the utmost readiness.
‘There were several gentlemen who knew my sad history and united to help me. One was Mr. Stapleton, a neighbour and intimate friend of Sir Charles’s. He was exceedingly(7) kind, and it was through him that Sir Charles learned about my affairs.’
‘Did you ever write to Sir Charles asking him to meet you?’ I continued.
Mrs.Lyons flushed(8) with anger again.
‘Really, sir, this is a very extraordinary question.’
‘I am sorry, madam, but I must repeat it.’
‘Then I answer, certainly not.’
‘Surely your memory deceives you,’ said I. ‘I could even quote a passage of your letter. It ran ‘Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o’clock.’’
With such evidence, she finally admitted that she had written the letter to Sir Charles to make an appointment on the night of his death. Sir Charles was going to London the next morning for a long time and she did not want to delay getting help from him. ’
‘Well, what happened when you did get there?’
‘I never went.’
‘And why were you so pressing that Sir Charles should destroy your letter?’
With great hesitation, Mrs. Lyons told me the story of her regretful marriage. At the time that she wrote this letter to Sir Charles, she had learned that there was a prospect of escaping the relationship if certain expenses could be met. She was sure that with his generosity, Sir Charles would help her if she told him with her own lips.
‘Then how is it that you did not go?’
‘Because I received help from another source.’
The woman’s story made sense. Yet I came away disheartened(9). Surely the explanation of all this could not be as innocent as she would have me believe. For the moment however, I could proceed no farther in that direction, but must turn back to that other clue which was to be sought for among the stone huts upon the moor.
After much musing(10), I was convinced that there was a mysterious man living there, whose actions might have contributed to the recent tragic events. I could never forget that visage(11) in the dead of the night, lit by moonlight. But how was I to find him? I could not conduct a search of all huts. That would take too much time.
Then, I remembered something. Among Sir Henry’s new neighbors, there was one old man, called Mr.Frankland, who was an avid astronomer. He even had a telescope on the top level of his house. This device would surely be of use to me!
Mr.Frankland, a savvy(12), though kind old man, agreed to let me borrow his telescope. Toghether, we scanned the moors and huts. Suddenly, he cried out:
“Quick, Dr. Watson, quick, before he passes over the hill!”
I looked and saw, not a man, but a small boy with a little bundle upon his shoulder, toiling slowly up the hill.. He looked round him with a furtive and stealthy air, as one who dreads pursuit. Then he vanished over the hill. He must be none other than the mysterious man’s young servant. Who else lived on the moor? Selden the criminal could trust Barrymore and his wife. The mysterious man, however, had to live on his own. He might as well hire this small boy to carry him food and drink. I had a feeling that I was on the right scent.
“Thank you Mr.Frankland!”I cried, rushed out of the house, and went towards the hill.
There, surely enough, was one of the stone huts. But this one was quite different from the others. There were sure traces of current inhabitants. Tobacco ashes darkened the ground around it, and I could find papers and all sorts of litters. I loaded my revolver(13), and pushed open the door.
There was no one inside.
My curiosity (14) was heightened. I decided to wait for him to come back. Meanwhile, I examined his things. There was the bundle that I had seen the little boy carrying. As it turned out, it did not contain food, but instead, lots and lots of paper. I was about to settle myself on the floor of the hut and read, when suddenly, thud! Thud! Footsteps sounded outside. The mysterious man was approaching. My heart nearly skipped a beat. I fingered my revolver, and strained my ears.
There was a long pause which showed that he had stopped. Then once more the footsteps approached and a shadow fell across the opening of the hut.
“It is a lovely evening, my dear Watson,” said a well-known voice. “I really think that you will be more comfortable outside than in.”
1/inquest(n): a judicial inquiry
2/initial: (adj) in the beginning, (noun)(in this context) the first letters of someone’s name
4/brunnette: a person with brown hair
5/dainty(adj): small, pretty
8/flush(v): redden, blush or glow
10/musing(n): serious thought, reflection
12/savvy(adj): wise about the world through lots of experiences
13/revolver(n): a type of handgun
14/curiosity(n): the desire to know the truth