Chapter 5: Fixing the nets
For a moment or two I sat breathless, hardly able to believe my ears. Then my senses and my voice came back to me, while a crushing weight of responsibility seemed in an instant to be lifted from my soul. That voice could belong to but one man in all the world.
“Holmes!” I cried—”Holmes!”
“Come out,” said he, “and please be careful with the revolver.”
“I never was more glad to see anyone in my life,” said I as I wrung him by the hand.
“Or more astonished(1), eh?”
“Well, I must confess to it.”
“So you actually thought that I was the criminal?”
“I did not know who you were, but I was determined to find out. I am glad from my heart that you are here, for indeed the responsibility and the mystery were both becoming too much for my nerves. But how in the name of wonder did you come here, and what have you been doing? I thought that you were in Baker Street working out another case.”
“That was what I wished you to think.”
“Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!” I cried with some bitterness.
“My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this as in many other cases, and I beg that you will forgive me if I have seemed to play a trick upon you. In truth, it was partly for your own sake that I did it, and it was my appreciation of the danger which you ran which led me to come down and examine the matter for myself. And now tell me the result of your visit to Mrs. Laura Lyons”
After I told him the whole story, Holmes declared:
“This is most important,” said he when I had concluded. ” You are aware, perhaps, that a close intimacy(2) exists between this lady and the man Stapleton? They meet, they write, there is a complete understanding between them. Now, this puts a very powerful weapon into our hands. If I could only use it to detach(3) his wife—”
“I am giving you some information now, in return for all that you have given me. The lady who has passed here as Miss Stapleton is in reality his wife. However, he foresaw that she would be very much more useful to him in the character of a free woman.”
All my my vague(4) suspicions suddenly took shape and centred upon the biologist.
“It is he, then, who is our enemy—it is he who dogged us in London?”
“So I read the riddle.”
“And the warning—it must have come from her!”
I barely finished my sentence when a terrible scream burst out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned my blood to ice.
“Oh, my God!” I gasped. “What is it? What does it mean?”
“The hound!” cried Holmes. “Come, Watson, come! Great heavens, if we are too late!”
He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had followed at his heels. A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon our left! On that side there was a cliff. On its jagged(5) face there was some dark object. As we ran towards it the vague outline hardened into a definite shape. It was a man face downward upon the ground. My God, it was the body of Sir Henry Baskerville!
“The brute(6)! The brute!” I cried with clenched hands. “Oh Holmes, I shall never forgive myself for having left him to his fate.That we should have heard his screams—my God, those screams!—and yet have been unable to save him! Where is this brute of a hound which drove him to his death? And Stapleton, where is he? He shall answer for this deed. Why should we not seize him at once?”
“Our case is not complete. It is not what we know, but what we can prove. If we make one false move the villain may escape us.”
“What can we do?”
“There will be plenty for us to do tomorrow. Tonight we can only perform the last offices to our poor friend.”
“We must send for help, Holmes! We cannot carry him all the way to the Hall. Good heavens, are you mad?”
He had uttered(7) a cry and bent over the body. Now he was dancing and laughing and wringing my hand.
“A beard! A beard! The man has a beard!”
“It is not the baronet—it is—why, it is my neighbour, the convict!”
Then in an instant it was all clear to me. I remembered how the baronet had told me that he had handed his old wardrobe to Barrymore. Barrymore had passed it on in order to help Selden in his escape. Boots, shirt, cap—it was all Sir Henry’s.
“Then the clothes have been the poor devil’s death,” said he. “The had Sir Henry’s smell on them, which the hound detected.”
We shook our heads, and carried the poor devil into one of the huts.
“We’re at close grips at last,” said Holmes as we walked together across the moor
“I have great hopes of what Mrs. Laura Lyons may do for us when the position of affairs is made clear to her.
“Are you coming up?” I asked as we arrived before the Baskerville gates.
“Yes; I see no reason for further concealment(8). But one last word, Watson. Say nothing of the hound to Sir Henry. And now, if we are too late for dinner, I think that we are both ready for our suppers.”
Sir Henry was very pleased to see Holmes
“Have you made anything out of the tangle? ”
“I think that I shall be in a position to make the situation rather more clear to you before long. It has been an exceedingly difficult and most complicated business.”
” We heard the hound on the moor, so I can swear that it is not all empty superstition(9).If you can muzzle(10) that dog and put him on a chain I’ll be ready to swear you are the greatest detective of all time.”
“I think I will muzzle him and chain him all right if you will give me your help. And I will ask you also to do what I say blindly, without always asking the reason.”
“Just as you like.”
“If you will do this I think the chances are that our little problem will soon be solved. I have no doubt—”
He stopped suddenly and stared fixedly up over my head into the air.
“What is it?” we both cried.
“Sir Henry, can you tell me who this nobleman opposite to me—the one with the black velvet and the lace is?” he said, pointing at a picture hanging on the wall.
“Ah, that is the wicked Hugo, who started the Hound of the Baskervilles. We’re not likely to forget him.”
Holmes said little more, but the picture 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 his thoughts
“Do you see anything there? Is it like anyone you know?”
“There is something of Sir Henry about the jaw.”
He stood upon a chair, and, holding up the light in his left hand, he curved his right arm over the hat and round the long curls that covered the face.
“Good heavens!” I cried in amazement.
The face of Stapleton had sprung out of the canvas.
“Ha, you see it now. 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!” 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.
The next morning, Holmes executed his plans of action. First, he met Sir Henry and said:
“I fear that Watson and I must go to London.”
“To London? 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 alone.”
“My dear fellow, you must trust me and do exactly what I tell you. Go dine with your friend Stapleton tonight, and tell him that Watson and I are in London.
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.
“One more direction! I wish you to drive to Merripit House. Send back your trap, however, and let them know that you intend to walk home.”
“To walk across the moor?”
“But that is the very thing which you have so often cautioned(11) me not to do.”
“This time you may do it with safety. It is essential that you should do it.”
“Then I will do it.”
His plan was beginning to be evident. He would use the baronet in order to convince(12) the Stapletons that we were really gone, while we should actually return at the instant when we were likely to be needed. Next, we both visited Mrs.Laura Lyons.
Mrs. Laura Lyons was in her office, and Sherlock Holmes opened his interview with a frankness and directness which considerably amazed her.
“I am investigating the circumstances which attended the death of the late Sir Charles Baskerville,” said he. “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 events.”
“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 we suspect not only your friend Mr. Stapleton but his wife as well.”
The lady sprang from her chair.
“His wife!” she cried. “Prove it to me! Prove it to me!”
“”Here is a photograph of the couple taken in York four years ago. They had different names at the time, 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.”
“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, I was never anything but a tool in his hands. Ask me what you like, and there is nothing which I shall hold back. ”
“The sending of this letter was suggested to you by Stapleton?”
“He dictated it. Then 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 spend his last penny to remove the obstacles(13) which divided us.”
“You had your suspicions?”
“I knew him,” she said. “But if he had kept faith with me I should always have done so with him.”
After the visit, Holmes and I went to the train station to welcome our friend Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Holmes had called him, a police investigator, down to help us with the legal process. All of us drove to Merripit House toghether.
“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! 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.”
“These rocks upon the right make a good screen.”
“We are to wait here?”
“Yes, we shall make our little ambush here. Get in here, Lestrade. I can hear Stapleton and Sir Henry talking inside.”
As we waited, we suddenly saw, over the far hills, a thick curtain of fog.
“It’s moving towards us, Watson. 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. Thank God, I think that I hear him coming.”
A sound of quick steps broke the silence of the moor. The steps grew louder, and through the fog, as through a curtain, there stepped the man whom we were awaiting. As he walked he glanced continually over either shoulder.
“Hist!” cried Holmes, “Look out! It’s coming!”
A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound. Fire burst from its open mouth and eyes. With long bounds the huge black creature was leaping down the track. So paralyzed(14) were we by the appearance that we allowed him to pass before we had recovered our nerve. Then, we all ran. Never have I seen a man run as Holmes ran that night. I was in time to see the beast jump upon its victim, hurl him to the ground, and snatch at his throat. But the next instant Holmes had emptied five barrels of his revolver into the creature’s flank. The giant hound was dead.
In size and strength it was a terrible creature. Even now in the stillness of death, the huge jaws seemed to be dripping with a flame and the small, deep-set, cruel eyes were filled 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(15),” I said.
“You have saved my life.” said Sir Henry, sitting up.
“Having first endangered it. Are you strong enough to stand?”
“Give me another mouthful of that brandy and I shall be ready for anything.“
“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.
However, Stapleton could not be found. He had left his wife locked in the house, and fled. She told us to look in the mire, a hiding place of his. But he was not there, though his hat and boots were. Maybe, as so many other beasts had done, Stapleton had drowned beneath the thick layers of grime and mud. It was a just punishment for such a man.
As for Holmes and I, we returned to our sweet home on Baker Street, proud of having saved a man from a painful death, and clearing up another complicated mystery.
2/intimacy(n): a close understanding
5/jagged(adj): having rough, pointed edges
6/brute(n): a savagely violent, almost animal-like person
7/utter(v): produce sounds with the voice
8/concealment(n) : the act of hiding something
9/superstition(n) : excessive, irrational belief in mystical things
10/muzzle(n,v): a device attached to the projecting mouth of animals to keep them from biting
12/convince(v): make somebody believe in/agree with something
13/obstacle(n): a thing that hinders progress
14/paralyzed(adj): unable to move due to extreme emotions/illnesses
15/phosphorous(n): a highly combustible chemical element used to make matches