THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Sherlock Holmes never told anyone of his plans until it was time to carry them out. That evening Lestrade and I followed him along the lonely path which led to Merripit House, but we did not know what we were going to do, as Holmes was silent. When we were about two hundred yards from the house Holmes stopped.
'Are you armed, Lestrade?' he asked.
The detective smiled. 'Since I have trousers on I have a pocket, and since I have a pocket there's a revolver in it,' he answered.
'That's good. These rocks on the right make a fine cover. We'll act here.'
We hid among the rocks.
'Do you know the windows of the house, Watson?' Holmes asked me a minute later.
'Certainly I do. The window that shines so brightly is the dining-room window.'
'Then please creep forward quietly and see what they are doing. But be careful and don't let them know that they are being watched.'
Very softly I approached the window and looked in. Only the two men were there, Sir Henry and Stapleton. They were sitting at the table, smoking cigars and talking. Coffee and wine were in front of them. A moment later Stapleton rose and left the room. I heard the creak of a door and the sound of quick steps passing along the path. The naturalist stopped at the door of an outhouse in the corner of the garden. A key turned in a lock and a strange noise was heard inside. Then the key turned again, the steps passed along the path and Stepleton returned to the house. I crept back to where my companions were waiting and told them what I had seen.
'I wonder where the lady can be if all the other windows are dark,' said Holmes thoughtfully.
An hour passed. Over the Great Grimpen Mire there rose a thick white fog. It was moving slowly in the direction of the house like a great white wall.
'It's moving towards us,' whispered Holmes. 'This is very bad. The fog is the only thing that can spoil my plans. If he doesn't come out before the fog covers the path, his life will be in danger.'
Now we understood that Holmes was waiting for Sir Henry to appear on the path. I remembered that in the morning Holmes had told the young man to walk home alone through the moor. The fog was nearer now.
'If he doesn't leave the house within a quarter of an hour this part of the path will be covered too and we won't be able to see him,' whispered Holmes. 'We must move a little farther along the path, where there is no fog yet.'
When we were half a mile from the house Holmes put his ear to the ground and listened. 'Thank God,' he exclaimed, 'I hear his steps.'
Through the fog, as if through a curtain, Sir Henry appeared walking quickly along the path. We let him pass and then cocked our pistols.
'Now,' cried Holmes, 'look out, it's coming!'
A strange sound was heard somewhere quite near, and suddenly a hound sprang out of the fog, an enormous black hound, but not such a hound as any man had ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes burned. The huge black creature was following the steps of Sir Henry. Lestrade screamed and threw himself on the ground. Holmes and I were so paralyzed by this terrible sight that we let the hound pass before we fired. Probably the shot wounded the beast, for it gave a howl, but ran on. Far away on the path we saw Sir Henry. His face was white in the moonlight. His hands were raised in horror. He could not move.
Holmes, Lestrade and I ran as we had never run in our lives. In front of us we heard scream after scream from Sir Henry and the growling of the terrible hound. We saw the beast spring upon its victim, but the next moment Holmes fired five shots into the creature and it fell on the ground, dead. Sir Henry had fainted. Luckily he was not hurt, and a little brandy soon helped him to recover.
'My God!' he whispered. 'What was it?'
'It's dead, whatever it is,' answered Holmes. 'We've finished with the hound of the Baskervilles once and for ever. Look at it.'
The gigantic hound lay stretched on the ground. Its cruel eyes were ringed with fire. I placed my hand upon its mouth and my own fingers shone in the darkness.
'Phosphorus,' I said.
'You have saved my life,' said Sir Henry, 'and I'll never forget it. What are you going to do now?'
'We must catch the criminal,' Holmes answered. 'Wait here, Sir Henry, and then one of us will take you back to the Hall. No more adventures for you tonight.'
The front door of the house was open, but there was no one inside. Holmes took up a lamp and we rushed from room to room. One of the bedrooms was locked and a low moan came from it. We broke the lock with our revolvers and rushed in. A figure muffled in sheets was tied to the bed. It was Mrs Stapleton. We untied her and she fell to the floor in front of us. On her neck was the red mark of a whip. Holmes put her in a chair and soon she opened her eyes.
'Is he safe?' she whispered. 'Has he escaped?'
'You mean your husband, Mrs Stepleton?'
'No, no, I didn't mean my husband. Is Sir Henry safe?'
'And the hound?'
'Thank God!' she cried.'The cruel man! He has made me the tool of his wicked deeds.'
'Where is your husband, Mrs Stapleton?' asked Holmes.
'There is only one place where my husband can hide,' she said. 'There is an island in the heart of the mire. He kept his hound there and he knows the path, but in such a fog even he may lose his way.'
It was clear that to follow Stapleton in such a fog was useless. So we left Lestrade at Merripit House, while we took Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall. He was suffering from the shock of the night's adventures, so Dr Mortimer was called in. It took him a long time to recover after this terrible shock, but when he was well enough to travel Dr Mortimer accompanied him on a voyage round the world for a year. Only then could he return to Baskerville Hall again.
This strange story will soon be concluded. On the morning after the death of the hound Mrs Stapleton showed us the path that led to the centre of the mire. Slowly and carefully we moved along the dangerous path until we came upon a strange object. Holmes picked it up. It was an old black boot — the boot that Sir Henry had lost at the hotel in London. Stapleton had used it to set the hound upon Sir Henry's track. Evidently when he heard the shots he fled to the mire still holding the boot and then threw it down. He must have lost his way in the fog, for there was no trace of his footsteps when we at last reached firm ground. This cold and cruel man had found his death somewhere in the heart of the great Grimpen Mire.
On the island we found a quantity of bones, a chain which showed where the hound had been kept and the skeleton of a small dog.
'Dr Mortimer will never see his spaniel again,' said Holmes, looking at the skeleton. 'Well, I think everything is clear now. The murderer could hide his hound here and, when necessary, keep it in the outhouse near his house, but he could not hush its voice, which even in daylight seemed terrible. Do you see the paste in this tin, Watson? It is no doubt the luminous mixture with which he covered the hound's muzzle. No wonder old Sir Charles was frightened to death when he saw the creature, and no wonder the convict ran and screamed. I said it in London and I say it again now: we have helped to do away with a most dangerous man.'