SHERLOCK HOLMES GIVES THE DETAILS OF THE CASE
It was the end of November. Holmes and I were sitting one foggy evening by a bright fire in our sitting-room in Baker Street. In the afternoon we had seen Sir Henry and Dr Mortimer who were in London, preparing to start on the voyage which had been recommended to Sir Henry after his long illness. It was natural that now the conversation turned to the tragic events that had taken place in Devonshire a month before.
'My dear Holmes,' I said. 'I'd like you to tell me all the details of the case, as there are still some points which I don't quite understand.'
'All right,' said Holmes leaning back in his armchair and puffing at his cigar. 'The family picture didn't lie. Stapleton was indeed a Baskerville. He was a son of Rodger, the youngest brother of Sir Charles. In his youth Rodger fled to South America with a dark reputation. He had always been the black sheep of the family, and it was said that he was very much like his ancestor, the wicked Hugo Baskerville. His son whom we call Stapleton married Beryl Garcia, one of the local beauties of Costa Rica. This young man took after his father. He stole a large sum of money and was obliged to flee with his wife to the North of England. There he became a schoolteacher under the name of Vandeleur.
'But soon he had to escape from that part of England too and change his name again. This time he and his wife took the name of Stapleton, and pretended to be brother and sister, though they really were husband and wife. As he knew much about insects and butterflies he passed for a naturalist. Now I come to that part of his life which has been so interesting to us. Before coming to Devonshire he had evidently found out that there were only two Baskervilles who stood between him and a great fortune. So he decided to get the estate and the money. His first act was to settle as near the Baskerville Hall as possible. His second act was to make friends with Sir Charles and his neighbours.
'Sir Charles himself told him the family legend and so prepared the way for his own death. Stapleton, as I will continue to call him, knew that the old man's heart was weak and that a shock would kill him. He had also heard from Dr Mortimer that Sir Charles believed in the family legend. So he invented a way to get rid of him and remain unsuspected.
'He went to London and bought the largest and strongest black hound he could find. He brought it to Devonshire and walked a great distance over the moor, so as not to be noticed. The island in the middle of the Grimpen Mire was a very good hiding place for the creature, and Stapleton had found it when he was hunting for insects. It was not so easy to fulfil his plan, as Sir Charles never went out in the evenings. He had hoped that his wife would help him and invite the old gentleman to their house, but she refused. Threats and blows were useless and he had to think of a new plan. So he got acquainted with Mrs Laura Lyons, whose story he knew. She thought he was unmarried. Stapleton promised to marry her if she could get a divorce from her husband. Knowing that Sir Charles was very kind, he advised Mrs Lyons to write and ask the old man for the money necessary to get the divorce.
'At the last moment Stapleton told her that he would get the money himself, and she remained at home. He took the hound, covered its muzzle with phosphorus and brought it to the gate where Sir Charles was waiting for Mrs Lyons. The hound jumped over the gate and ran after the old gentleman, who fled screaming down the alley. In the darkness of the evening that huge black creature with its flaming jaws and burning eyes was a terrible sight. At the end of the alley Sir Charles fell dead. Stapleton immediately called off the hound and hurried away to the island in the mire. Nobody had seen him and only Dr Mortimer noticed the prints that the hound had left on the path.
'So the first half of Stapleton's task was accomplished and nobody suspected him. It is possible that at first he didn't know that Sir Charles had an heir in Canada, but Dr Mortimer, who had become his friend, told him about the arrival of Sir Henry. Stapleton immediately made a new plan. He decided to go to London and follow Sir Henry. Perhaps he thought it would be possible to get rid of him there. He took his wife with him, because after she had refused to help him in the case of Sir Charles he didn't trust her any more and was afraid to leave her at Merripit House. In London he disguised himself with a false beard and he followed Dr Mortimer to Baker Street, then to the station and to the Northumberland Hotel. His wife had some idea of her husband's plans, but she was afraid to write and warn Sir Henry, for if the letter fell into Stapleton's hands — her own life wouldn't be safe. So, as we know, she cut out of the newspaper the words which formed the letter and sent it to Sir Henry.
'It was very important for Stapleton to get some of Sir Henry's things so that he might be able to set the dog upon his track. So he bribed the servant to get a boot. But the first boot which was stolen for him was a new one, and therefore useless for his purpose. He returned it, and stole another one. This proved to me that there was a real hound in the matter, as there was no other explanation to the fact that an old boot was stolen and a new one returned. Then, as you remember, he followed Sir Henry and Dr Mortimer in a cab. I think that Stapleton knew me by appearance and when he saw us and understood that I had taken on the case he decided to return to Devonshire and wait for the arrival of Sir Henry there. It was clear that there was no possibility for him to get rid of young Baskerville in London.'
'Now I must tell you why I deceived everybody and went secretly to Devonshire. I wanted to watch the neighbours of Sir Henry, especially Stapleton, but I couldn't do it living at the Hall, because then the criminal would have been on his guard. So I came secretly to Coombe Tracey when everybody thought I was in London. I stayed there the greater part of the time and only used the hut on the moor when it was necessary.
'The boy, Cartwright, who often helps me, came with me and was very useful, for he brought me food and clean lined when I stayed at the hut. Your reports were sent from Baker Street to the post-office of Coombe Tracey. They were a great help to me, especially the details of Stapleton's biography, as I was able to find out who the man and the woman were. When you discovered me on the moor I had a full knowledge of the whole business, but I could prove nothing. Even the death of the convict didn't help us much to prove that Stapleton was the murderer. It was necessary to catch him red-handed, and to do so we had to make poor Sir Henry walk home alone through the moor and in that way we put an end to Stapleton and his supernatural hound. As to Mrs Stapleton, it is clear that she was absolutely under his influence. At first, no doubt, she had loved him, then she feared and him. Still she refused to help him in his planned murders and even warned Sir Henry of the danger.
'When Stapleton saw that Sir Henry had fallen in love with his wife he was jealous, but for his own plans he had to be friendly with him. At the last moment Mrs Stapleton turned suddenly against her husband. She knew that he would use the hound to kill Sir Henry and she wanted to prevent it. Besides, she had learned about Stapleton's visits to Laura Lyons and a terrible scene took place. He saw that she would betray him, so he beat her, tied her to the bed and locked her in the bedroom, so that she might not warn Sir Henry.
'I think that now the case is clear to you, my dear Watson. Let's forget about those gloomy events, and spend a pleasant evening at the theatre.'