Baskerville Hall, October 15th
My dear Holmes,
I was obliged to interrupt my letter as the bell rang for dinner. Now I can continue my report and I want to tell you all about the Barrymores.
We sat up with Sir Henry in his rooms for two nights, but the first night nothing happened. The second night we put out the lamp and sat smoking cigarettes in silence. The clock struck one, then two. We were beginning to fall asleep in our chairs when suddenly we heard a very soft step in the passage. It was Barrymore. We waited till he had passed our room, then followed him noiselessly.
He had entered the same room and was standing at the window with a candle in his hand, just as I had seen him two nights before. Sir Henry did not think long. He walked straight into the room and at the same moment Barrymore turned sharply round. His dark eyes were full of horror and he stood pale and trembling before us.
"What are you doing here, Barrymore?" asked Sir Henry in a stern voice.
"Nothing sir. I wanted to see if the windows were shut."
"Look here, Barrymore, no lies. I want to know the truth. What were you doing at that window?"
The man looked at us helplessly. "I was doing no harm, sir. I was only holding a candle to the window."
"And why were you holding a candle to the window?"
"Don't ask me, Sir Henry, don't ask me! I give you my word, that it isn't my secret and I cannot tell you anything."
A sudden idea came to me. I took the candle from the windowsill where the butler had placed it and raised it to the window. As if in answer to my light there appeared a tiny yellow light far away on the moor.
"Move your light, Watson," exclaimed Sir Henry. "You see, the other light moves too!"
"It's a signal," I cried.
"No, no, sir, it isn't, I assure you," cried the butler.
"What does this mean, Barrymore?"
"It's my business and I'll tell you nothing," was the answer.
"Then you must leave the house at once. Your family has lived under the same roof with my family for so many years and here I find you in some dark plot against me."
"Oh no, no, sir, not against you!" cried a woman's voice and Mrs Barrymore, more pale and more frightened than her husband, appeared before us. "It's all my fault," she added crying bitterly.
"We must go away, Eliza. You can pack our things," said the butler.
"Speak out then! What does it mean?"
"Oh, Sir Henry, my unhappy brother is starving on the moor. We cannot let him die. The light is a signal that food is ready for him and his light shows the place to which we must bring it."
"Then your brother is -"
"Selden, the escaped prisoner, sir."
"That's the truth," said Barrymore. "I said that it wasn't my secret. Now you see that there's no plot against you."
We were too surprised to speak. Was it possible that one of the most terrible criminals of the country could be the brother of this respectable woman? Slowly, amid sobs, Mrs Barrymore told us everything.
He was her youngest brother and had been much spoiled in his childhood. Then, when he grew older he met evil companions and sank lower and lower. He broke his mother's heart, but in spite of all, for his sister he was always the little curly-haired boy whom she had nursed. For a terrible murder he had been put to prison at Princetown, a small town not far from Baskerville Hall. He knew that the Barrymores lived at the Hall and one night he escaped from prison and came to them, starving. For some time he stayed in the Hall, but when Sir Henry arrived it was decided that he would hide on the moor while the necessary arrangements were made to send him to South America.
"Is this true, Barrymore?"
"Well, I cannot blame you for helping your brother, Mrs Barrymore. Go to your room and we'll talk about this matter in the morning."
When the Barrymores had gone we looked out of the window again. Far away on the moor we could still see the yellow light.
"The man is a danger to a society, Watson. We'll do our duty if we catch him. I want to go to the moor at once. Will you come with me?"
"I will come," I said. Of course I understood that Sir Henry was thinking of the Stapletons who were in danger while the man was on the moor.
In five minutes we had left the house and were hurrying across the dark moor amid the moaning of the autumn wind. A thin rain was falling, but we could still see the tiny light in front. Suddenly there rose over the moor that strange cry which I had heard before near the Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind through the silence of the night and sounded again and again. Sir Henry caught my sleeve.
"Good heavens! What's that, Watson?" he whispered.
"I don't know," I answered. The sound died away. We stopped and listened intently.
"Watson, it was the cry of a hound," said Sir Henry, and there was horror in his voice.
"Nonsense," I replied, trying not to show the fear that I felt. "Stapleton told me it was the cry of some strange bird."
"No, no, it was a hound. My God, can there be some truth in all those stories? You don't believe in them, Watson?"
"No, no. But perhaps we had better return home?"
"No, Watson. We must catch the convict. I'm not a coward."
We moved slowly forward in the darkness and soon came to the place from where the light shone. A candle was stuck in the crevice of a rock, but there was nobody near it.
"What shall we do now?" whispered Sir Henry.
"Wait here, he must be near his light," I answered.
A few moments passed and then we saw the convict crouching like a wild animal behind the rocks. Something had roused his suspicions. Probably Barrymore had a special signal for him which we did not know. Suddenly he screamed out a curse, threw a large stone in our direction and fled.
We rushed after him, but he ran much faster and soon disappeared in the darkness. At this moment a very strange and unexpected thing happened. The rain had stopped and the moon was rising in the sky. As we were turning to go home we suddenly saw the figure of a man standing upon one of the rocks.
Do not think that I made a mistake, Holmes. I saw him quite clearly. It was certainly not the convict. In the moonlight we could see that the man was tall and thin and stood with his arms folded and his head bowed.
With a cry of surprise I pointed him out to Sir Henry, but at the same moment the man disappeared. Sir Henry thinks that it was probably one of the soldiers looking for the convict.
My dear Holmes, how I wish you were with us to solve all the mysteries of this strange moor.