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10.21.2007
Sherlock Holmes - The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Chapter 10: Extract From The Diary of Dr. Watson

Page 1 of 2

SO FAR I have been able to quote from the reports which I have forwarded during these early days to Sherlock Holmes. Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to my recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase of the convict and our other strange experiences upon the moor.

October 16th. A dull and foggy day with a drizzle of rain. The house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming where the light strikes upon their wet faces. It is melancholy outside and in. The baronet is in a black reaction after the excitements of the night. I am conscious myself of a weight at my heart and a feeling of impending danger–ever present danger, which is the more terrible because I am unable to define it.

And have I not cause for such a feeling? Consider the long sequence of incidents which have all pointed to some sinister influence which is at work around us. There is the death of the last occupant of the Hall, fulfilling so exactly the conditions of the family legend, and there are the repeated reports from peasants of the appearance of a strange creature upon the moor. Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resembled the distant baying of a hound. It is incredible, impossible, that it should really be outside the ordinary laws of nature. A spectral hound which leaves material footmarks and fills the air with its howling is surely not to be thought of. Stapleton may fall in with such a superstition, and Mortimer also; but if I have one quality upon earth it is common sense, and nothing will persuade me to believe in such a thing. To do so would be to descend to the level of these poor peasants, who are not content with a mere fiend dog but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting from his mouth and eyes. Holmes would not listen to such fancies, and I am his agent. But facts are facts, and I have twice heard this crying upon the moor. Suppose that there were really some huge hound loose upon it; that would go far to explain everything. But where could such a hound lie concealed, where did it get its food, where did it come from, how was it that no one saw it by day? It must be confessed that the natural explanation offers almost as many difficulties as the other. And always, apart from the hound, there is the fact of the human agency in London, the man in the cab, and the letter which warned Sir Henry against the moor. This at least was real, but it might have been the work of a protecting friend as easily as of an enemy. Where is that friend or enemy now? Has he remained in London, or has he followed us down here? Could he–could he be the stranger whom I saw upon the tor?

It is true that I have had only the one glance at him, and yet there are some things to which I am ready to swear. He is no one whom I have seen down here, and I have now met all the neighbours. The figure was far taller than that of Stapleton, far thinner than that of Frankland. Barrymore it might possibly have been, but we had left him behind us, and I am certain that he could not have followed us. A stranger then is still dogging us, just as a stranger dogged us in London. We have never shaken him off. If I could lay my hands upon that man, then at last we might find ourselves at the end of all our difficulties. To this one purpose I must now devote all my energies.

My first impulse was to tell Sir Henry all my plans. My second and wisest one is to play my own game and speak as little as possible to anyone. He is silent and distrait. His nerves have been strangely shaken by that sound upon the moor. I will say nothing to add to his anxieties, but I will take my own steps to attain my own end.

We had a small scene this morning after breakfast. Barrymore asked leave to speak with Sir Henry, and they were closeted in his study some little time. Sitting in the billiard-room I more than once heard the sound of voices raised, and I had a pretty good idea what the point was which was under discussion. After a time the baronet opened his door and called for me.

“Barrymore considers that he has a grievance,” he said. “He thinks that it was unfair on our part to hunt his brother-in-law down when he, of his own free will, had told us the secret.”

The butler was standing very pale but very collected before us.

“I may have spoken too warmly, sir,” said he, “and if I have, I am sure that I beg your pardon. At the same time, I was very much surprised when I heard you two gentlemen come back this morning and learned that you had been chasing Selden. The poor fellow has enough to fight against without my putting more upon his track.”

“If you had told us of your own free will it would have been a different thing,” said the baronet, “you only told us, or rather your wife only told us, when it was forced from you and you could not help yourself.”

“I didn’t think you would have taken advantage of it, Sir Henry–indeed I didn’t.”

“The man is a public danger. There are lonely houses scattered over the moor, and he is a fellow who would stick at nothing. You only want to get a glimpse of his face to see that. Look at Mr. Stapleton’s house, for example, with no one but himself to defend it. There’s no safety for anyone until he is under lock and key.”

“He’ll break into no house, sir. I give you my solemn word upon that. But he will never trouble anyone in this country again. I assure you, Sir Henry, that in a very few days the necessary arrangements will have been made and he will be on his way to South America. For God’s sake, sir, I beg of you not to let the police know that he is still on the moor. They have given up the chase there, and he can lie quiet until the ship is ready for him. You can’t tell on him without getting my wife and me into trouble. I beg you, sir, to say nothing to the police.”

“What do you say, Watson?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “If he were safely out of the country it would relieve the tax-payer of a burden.”

“But how about the chance of his holding someone up before he goes?”

“He would not do anything so mad, sir. We have provided him with all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to show where he was hiding.”

“That is true,” said Sir Henry. “Well, Barrymore– –”

“God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would have killed my poor wife had he been taken again.”

“I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But, after what we have heard, I don’t feel as if I could give the man up, so there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go.”

With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he hesitated and then came back.

“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 [729] it was long after the inquest that I found it out. I’ve never breathed a word about it yet to mortal 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.”

“What then?”

“I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a woman.”

“To meet a woman! He?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And the woman’s name?”

“I can’t give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials. Her initials were L. L.”

“How do you know this, Barrymore?”

“Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He had usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and well known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in trouble was glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced, there was only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman’s hand.”

“Well?”

“Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would have done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago she was cleaning out Sir Charles’s study–it had never been touched since his death–and she found the ashes of a burned letter in the back of the grate. The greater part of it was charred to pieces, but one little slip, the end of a page, hung together, and the writing could still be read, though it was gray on a black ground. It seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter, and it said: ‘Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o’clock.’ Beneath it were signed the initials L. L.”

“Have you got that slip?”

“No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it.”

“Had Sir Charles received any other letters in the same writing?”

“Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone.”

“And you have no idea who L. L. is?”

“No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charles’s death.”

“I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal this important information.”

“Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for us. To rake this up couldn’t help our poor master, and it’s well to go carefully when there’s a lady in the case. Even the best of us– –”

“You thought it might injure his reputation?”

“Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you have been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you unfairly not to tell you all that I know about the matter.”

“Very good, Barrymore; you can go.” When the butler had left us Sir Henry turned to me. “Well, Watson, what do you think of this new light?”

“It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before.”


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