Dr Mortimer finished his story and nobody spoke. The expression in Holmes's eyes showed that he was greatly interested.
'You saw the footprints?' he asked after a short silence.
'As clearly as I see you.'
'But why did nobody else notice them?'
'The footprints were at some distance from the body. I noticed them because I knew the legend about the hound.'
'But perhaps they were the prints of a sheepdog. There must be many on the moor.'
'Oh, no, they were much larger than the prints of a sheepdog.'
'What was the weather like?'
'It was not raining, but it was very damp.'
'Is there any other gate which leads to the moor except the gate in the alley?'
'Now tell me, Dr Mortimer, — and this is important — where exactly were the marks that you saw?'
'They were on the edge of the path on the same side as the gate leading to the moor.'
'This is very interesting. Another question. Was the gate closed?'
'Not only closed but locked.'
'How high is it?'
'About four feet high.'
'Then it was easy to get over it?'
'Did you notice anything near the gate?'
'Nothing important. I think that Sir Charles stood there for some time.'
'Why do you think so?'
'Because the ash had twice dropped from his cigar.'
'Excellent, Dr Mortimer. But did you see any other marks?'
'Only Sir Charles's footprints all over the ground near the gate. I didn't see any others.'
Sherlock Holmes struck his knee impatiently with his hand.
'Oh, Dr Mortimer, Dr Mortimer!' he cried. 'Why didn't you call me at once!'
'Mr Holmes, there are things which the most clever and experienced detective cannot make clear.'
'You think that there is something supernatural in this case?'
'Since the tragedy, Mr Holmes, I have heard of many strange things. Several people say that a few days before Sir Charles's death they had seen a terrible creature upon the moor. I have questioned those people. According to their description the creature which they saw was enormous, luminous and very much like the Baskerville hound of the legend. There is fear in the whole district. Only a brave man would now cross the moor at night.'
'And you, a man of science, believe that it's supernatural?'
'I don't know what to believe.'
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. 'Now, Dr Mortimer, tell me this. If you believe that the hound is supernatural why do you come to consult me? You tell me that it's impossible to explain Sir Charles's death, and yet you ask me to do it.'
'Because I want your advice about Sir Henry Baskerville, the nephew of Sir Charles. He will come to London,' — Dr Mortimer looked at his watch, — 'in exactly one hour and a quarter.'
'Is he the heir?'
'Yes, after the death of Sir Charles we found out that he was living in Canada.'
'Nobody else has a claim, I suppose?'
'No. He is the only heir of his uncle. Sir Charles was the eldest of three brothers. The second, who died young, was the father of Sir Henry. Sir Charles told me that the third brother, Rodger, was very much like the picture of the wicked Hugo which hangs in the picture gallery at Baskerville Hall. He was the black sheep of the family. He went to America and died there in 1876. So Henry is the last of the Baskervilles. In one hour and five minutes I'll be meeting him at Waterloo-Station. Now, Mr Holmes, where would you advise him to go?'
'Why should he not go to Baskerville Hall?'
'Because I fear that every Baskerville who goes there will meet his death.'
Holmes thought for a few moments, then said: 'I advise you to meet Sir Henry at the station and take him to a hotel. Tell him nothing until I have decided what to do. Come to see me at ten o'clock tomorrow morning and bring young Baskerville with you. Meanwhile I'll think over this matter.'
'Very well, Mr Holmes.'
'Only one more question, Dr Mortimer,' said Holmes as the visitor was leaving the room. 'You say that before the death of Sir Charles several people had seen that terrible hound on the moor?'
'Three people told me so.'
'Did anybody see it after his death?'
'I haven't heard anything about it.'
'Thank you. Good-bye.'
When Dr Mortimer had gone Holmes returned to his armchair, looking very pleased. I knew that solitude was very necessary for Holmes when he had to solve a serious problem. So I spent the day at my club and returned home late in the evening.
When I opened the door of the sitting-room I thought there was a fire in the room. But then through the smoke I saw Holmes sitting in his armchair with his pipe between his lips. I knew that my friend always smoked pipe after pipe when he was thinking over a difficult problem.
'My dear fellow, how can you stay in this poisonous atmosphere!' I exclaimed, opening the window.
Holmes laughed. 'I didn't notice the atmosphere,' he said,
'I had no time. I have been very busy.' With these words he showed me a large map spread on the table before him. 'When you went away this morning,' he continued, 'I got this map. It's a map of Devonshire. I have studied it carefully.
Look, Watson. Here is the moor. This small group of buildings is the village of Grimpen, and that must be the small town of Coombe Tracey. Baskerville Hall is in the middle of the district. This house here must be the residence of Stapleton, the naturalist. Here are two moorland farmers, and fourteen miles away the large prison of Princetown.
Between and around these points is the gloomy, lifeless moor. This is the stage upon which the tragedy has been played.'
'Have you come to any conclusion about the case?' I asked.
'I have thought much about it during the day,' answered my friend, 'and some things are clear to me, for instance, the change in the footprints. Mortimer thought that Sir Charles had walked on tiptoe, but that is nonsense. Why should a man walk on tiptoe down the alley?'
'What do you think then?'
'My dear Watson, he was running, running until his heart burst and he fell down dead upon his face.'
'Running from what?'
'I cannot tell you that yet, but I think that the old man was mad with fear.'
'How can you say that?'
'I'm sure that the cause of his fears came to him from the moor. If that was so, only a man mad with fear could run from the house and not to it. Then, again, for whom was he waiting that night, and why was he waiting in the yew alley and not in his house?'
'You think he was waiting for someone?'
'I'm sure of that. For why did he stand at the gate? This is all very strange, Watson, and Sir Charles's death is not so simple as it seems.'