Page 2 of 2
The proposition took me completely by surprise, but before I had time to answer, Baskerville seized me by the hand and wrung it heartily.
“Well, now, that is real kind of you, Dr. Watson,” said he. “You see how it is with me, and you know just as much about the matter as I do. If you will come down to Baskerville Hall and see me through I’ll never forget it.”
The promise of adventure had always a fascination for me, and I was complimented by the words of Holmes and by the eagerness with which the baronet hailed me as a companion.
“I will come, with pleasure,” said I. “I do not know how I could employ my time better.”
“And you will report very carefully to me,” said Holmes. “When a crisis comes, as it will do, I will direct how you shall act. I suppose that by Saturday all might be ready?”
“Would that suit Dr. Watson?”
“Then on Saturday, unless you hear to the contrary, we shall meet at the ten-thirty train from Paddington.”
We had risen to depart when Baskerville gave a cry of triumph, and diving into one of the corners of the room he drew a brown boot from under a cabinet.
“My missing boot!” he cried.
“May all our difficulties vanish as easily!” said Sherlock Holmes.
“But it is a very singular thing,” Dr. Mortimer remarked. “I searched this room carefully before lunch.”
“And so did I,” said Baskerville. “Every inch of it.”
“There was certainly no boot in it then.”
“In that case the waiter must have placed it there while we were lunching.”
The German was sent for but professed to know nothing of the matter, nor could any inquiry clear it up. Another item had been added to that constant and apparently purposeless series of small mysteries which had succeeded each other so rapidly. Setting aside the whole grim story of Sir Charles’s death, we had a line of inexplicable incidents all within the limits of two days, which included the receipt of the printed letter, the black-bearded spy in the hansom, the loss of the new brown boot, the loss of the old black boot, and now the return of the new brown boot. Holmes sat in silence in the cab as we drove back to Baker Street, and I knew from his drawn brows and keen face that his mind, like my own, was busy in endeavouring to frame some scheme into which all these strange and apparently disconnected episodes could be fitted. All afternoon and late into the evening he sat lost in tobacco and thought.
Just before dinner two telegrams were handed in. The first ran:
Have just heard that Barrymore is at the Hall.
Visited twenty-three hotels as directed, but sorry to report unable to trace cut sheet of Times.
“There go two of my threads, Watson. There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. We must cast round for another scent.”
“We have still the cabman who drove the spy.”
“Exactly. I have wired to get his name and address from the Official Registry. I should not be surprised if this were an answer to my question.”
The ring at the bell proved to be something even more satisfactory than an answer, however, for the door opened and a rough-looking fellow entered who was evidently the man himself.
“I got a message from the head office that a gent at this address had been inquiring for No. 2704,” said he. “I’ve driven my cab this seven years and never a word of complaint. I came here straight from the Yard to ask you to your face what you had against me.”
“I have nothing in the world against you, my good man,” said Holmes. “On the contrary, I have half a sovereign for you if you will give me a clear answer to my questions.”
“Well, I’ve had a good day and no mistake,” said the cabman with a grin. “What was it you wanted to ask, sir?”
“First of all your name and address, in case I want you again.”
“John Clayton, 3 Turpey Street, the Borough. My cab is out of Shipley’s Yard, near Waterloo Station.”
Sherlock Holmes made a note of it.
“Now, Clayton, tell me all about the fare who came and watched this house at ten o’clock this morning and afterwards followed the two gentlemen down Regent Street.”
The man looked surprised and a little embarrassed. “Why, there’s no good my telling you things, for you seem to know as much as I do already,” said he. “The truth is that the gentleman told me that he was a detective and that I was to say nothing about him to anyone.”
“My good fellow, this is a very serious business, and you may find yourself in a pretty bad position if you try to hide anything from me. You say that your fare told you that he was a detective?”
“Yes, he did.”
“When did he say this?”
“When he left me.”
“Did he say anything more?”
“He mentioned his name.”
Holmes cast a swift glance of triumph at me. “Oh, he mentioned his name, did he? That was imprudent. What was the name that he mentioned?”
“His name,” said the cabman, “was Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
Never have I seen my friend more completely taken aback than by the cabman’s reply. For an instant he sat in silent amazement. Then he burst into a hearty laugh.
“A touch, Watson–an undeniable touch!” said he. “I feel a foil as quick and supple as my own. He got home upon me very prettily that time. So his name was Sherlock Holmes, was it?”
“Yes, sir, that was the gentleman’s name.”
“Excellent! Tell me where you picked him up and all that occurred.”
“He hailed me at half-past nine in Trafalgar Square. He said that he was a detective, and he offered me two guineas if I would do exactly what he wanted all day and ask no questions. I was glad enough to agree. First we drove down to the Northumberland Hotel and waited there until two gentlemen came out and took a cab from the rank. We followed their cab until it pulled up somewhere near here.”
“This very door,” said Holmes.
“Well, I couldn’t be sure of that, but I dare say my fare knew all about it. We pulled up halfway down the street and waited an hour and a half. Then the two gentlemen passed us, walking, and we followed down Baker Street and along– –”
“I know,” said Holmes.
“Until we got three-quarters down Regent Street. Then my gentleman threw up the trap, and he cried that I should drive right away to Waterloo Station as hard as I could go. I whipped up the mare and we were there under the ten minutes. Then he paid up his two guineas, like a good one, and away he went into the station. Only just as he was leaving he turned round and he said: ‘It might interest you to know that you have been driving Mr. Sherlock Holmes.’ That’s how I come to know the name.”
“I see. And you saw no more of him?”
“Not after he went into the station.”
“And how would you describe Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”
The cabman scratched his head. “Well, he wasn’t altogether such an easy gentleman to describe. I’d put him at forty years of age, and he was of a middle height, two or three inches shorter than you, sir. He was dressed like a toff, and he had a black beard, cut square at the end, and a pale face. I don’t know as I could say more than that.”
“Colour of his eyes?”
“No, I can’t say that.”
“Nothing more that you can remember?”
“No, sir; nothing.”
“Well, then, here is your half-sovereign. There’s another one waiting for you if you can bring any more information. Good-night!”
“Good-night, sir, and thank you!”
John Clayton departed chuckling, and Holmes turned to me with a shrug of his shoulders and a rueful smile.
“Snap goes our third thread, and we end where we began,” said he. “The cunning rascal! He knew our number, knew that Sir Henry Baskerville had consulted me, spotted who I was in Regent Street, conjectured that I had got the number of the cab and would lay my hands on the driver, and so sent back this audacious message. I tell you, Watson, this time we have got a foeman who is worthy of our steel. I’ve been checkmated in London. I can only wish you better luck in Devonshire. But I’m not easy in my mind about it.”
“About sending you. It’s an ugly business, Watson, an ugly, dangerous business, and the more I see of it the less I like it. Yes, my dear fellow, you may laugh, but I give you my word that I shall be very glad to have you back safe and sound in Baker Street once more.”
Page 2 of 2PreviousThe Hound of the Baskervilles Chapter List