Chapter 4: Sir Henry Baskerville |
The Hound of the Baskervilles |
Chapter 6: Baskerville Hall
Three Broken Threads
Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power
of detaching his mind at will. For two hours the strange business
in which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he
was entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian
masters. He would talk of nothing but art, of which he had the
crudest ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found ourselves at the Northumberland Hotel.
"Sir Henry Baskerville is upstairs expecting you," said the
clerk. "He asked me to show you up at once when you came."
"Have you any objection to my looking at your register?"
"Not in the least."
The book showed that two names had been added after that of
Baskerville. One was Theophilus Johnson and family, of Newcastle; the other Mrs. Oldmore and maid, of High Lodge, Alton.
"Surely that must be the same Johnson whom I used to
know," said Holmes to the porter. "A lawyer, is he not, grayheaded, and walks with a limp?"
"No, sir, this is Mr. Johnson, the coal-owner, a very active
gentleman, not older than yourself."
"Surely you are mistaken about his trade?"
"No, sir! he has used this hotel for many years, and he is very
well known to us."
"Ah, that settles it. Mrs. Oldmore, too; I seem to remember
the name. Excuse my curiosity, but often in calling upon one
friend one finds another."
"She is an invalid lady, sir. Her husband was once mayor of
Gloucester. She always comes to us when she is in town."
"Thank you; I am afraid I cannot claim her acquaintance. We
have established a most important fact by these questions, Watson," he continued in a low voice as we went upstairs together.
"We know now that the people who are so interested in our
friend have not settled down in his own hotel. That means that
while they are, as we have seen, very anxious to watch him, they
are equally anxious that he should not see them. Now, this is a
most suggestive fact."
"What does it suggest?"
"It suggests — halloa, my dear fellow, what on earth is the
As we came round the top of the stairs we had run up against
Sir Henry Baskerville himself. His face was flushed with anger,
and he held an old and dusty boot in one of his hands. So furious
was he that he was hardly articulate, and when he did speak it
was in a much broader and more Western dialect than any which
we had heard from him in the morning.
"Seems to me they are playing me for a sucker in this hotel,"
he cried. "They'll find they've started in to monkey with the
wrong man unless they are careful. By thunder, if that chap can't
find my missing boot there will be trouble. I can take a joke with
the best, Mr. Holmes, but they've got a bit over the mark this
"Still looking for your boot?"
"Yes, sir, and mean to find it."
"But, surely, you said that it was a new brown boot?"
"So it was, sir. And now it's an old black one."
"What! you don't mean to say ?"
"That's just what I do mean to say. I only had three pairs in
the world — the new brown, the old black, and the patent leathers, which I am wearing. Last night they took one of my brown
ones, and to-day they have sneaked one of the black. Well, have
you got it? Speak out, man, and don't stand staring!"
An agitated German waiter had appeared upon the scene.
"No, sir; I have made inquiry all over the hotel, but I can hear
no word of it."
"Well, either that boot comes back before sundown or I'll see
the manager and tell him that I go right straight out of this
"It shall be found, sir — I promise you that if you will have a
little patience it will be found."
"Mind it is, for it's the last thing of mine that I'll lose in this
den of thieves. Well, well, Mr. Holmes, you'll excuse my
troubling you about such a trifle —"
"I think it's well worth troubling about."
"Why, you look very serious over it."
"How do you explain it?"
"I just don't attempt to explain it. It seems the very maddest,
queerest thing that ever happened to me."
"The queerest perhaps —" said Holmes thoughtfully.
"What do you make of it yourself?"
"Well, I don't profess to understand it yet. This case of yours
is very complex, Sir Henry. When taken in conjunction with
your uncle's death I am not sure that of all the five hundred cases
of capital importance which I have handled there is one which
cuts so deep. But we hold several threads in our hands, and the
odds are that one or other of them guides us to the truth. We may
waste time in following the wrong one, but sooner or later we
must come upon the right."
We had a pleasant luncheon in which little was said of the
business which had brought us together. It was in the private
sitting-room to which we afterwards repaired that Holmes asked
Baskerville what were his intentions.
"To go to Baskerville Hall."
"At the end of the week."
"On the whole," said Holmes, "I think that your decision is a
wise one. I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in
London, and amid the millions of this great city it is difficult to
discover who these people are or what their object can be. If
their intentions are evil they might do you a mischief, and we
should be powerless to prevent it. You did not know, Dr.
Mortimer, that you were followed this morning from my house?"
Dr. Mortimer started violently.
"Followed! By whom?"
"That, unfortunately, is what I cannot tell you. Have you
among your neighbours or acquaintances on Dartmoor any man
with a black, full beard?"
"No — or, let me see — why, yes. Barrymore, Sir Charles's
butler, is a man with a full, black beard."
"Ha! Where is Barrymore?"
"He is in charge of the Hall."
"We had best ascertain if he is really there, or if by any
possibility he might be in London."
"How can you do that?"
"Give me a telegraph form. 'Is all ready for Sir Henry?' That
will do. Address to Mr. Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. What is
the nearest telegraph-office? Grimpen. Very good, we will send
a second wire to the postmaster, Grimpen: 'Telegram to Mr.
Barrymore to be delivered into his own hand. If absent, please
return wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.'
That should let us know before evening whether Barrymore is at
his post in Devonshire or not."
"That's so," said Baskerville. "By the way, Dr. Mortimer,
who is this Barrymore, anyhow?"
"He is the son of the old caretaker, who is dead. They have
looked after the Hall for four generations now. So far as I know,
he and his wife are as respectable a couple as any in the
"At the same time," said Baskerville, "it's clear enough that
so long as there are none of the family at the Hall these people
have a mighty fine home and nothing to do."
"That is true."
"Did Barrymore profit at all by Sir Charles's will?" asked
"He and his wife had five hundred pounds each."
"Ha! Did they know that they would receive this?"
"Yes; Sir Charles was very fond of talking about the provisions of his will."
"That is very interesting."
"I hope," said Dr. Mortimer, "that you do not look with
suspicious eyes upon everyone who received a legacy from Sir
Charles, for I also had a thousand pounds left to me."
"Indeed! And anyone else?"
"There were many insignificant sums to individuals, and a
large number of public charities. The residue all went to Sir
"And how much was the residue?"
"Seven hundred and forty thousand pounds."
Holmes raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I had no idea that so
gigantic a sum was involved," said he.
"Sir Charles had the reputation of being rich, but we did not
know how very rich he was until we came to examine his
securities. The total value of the estate was close on to a million."
"Dear me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a
desperate game. And one more question, Dr. Mortimer. Supposing that anything happened to our young friend here — you will
forgive the unpleasant hypothesis! — who would inherit the estate?"
"Since Rodger Baskerville, Sir Charles's younger brother
died unmarried, the estate would descend to the Desmonds, who
are distant cousins. James Desmond is an elderly clergyman in
"Thank you. These details are all of great interest. Have you
met Mr. James Desmond?"
"Yes; he once came down to visit Sir Charles. He is a man of
venerable appearance and of saintly life. I remember that he
refused to accept any settlement from Sir Charles, though he
pressed it upon him."
"And this man of simple tastes would be the heir to Sir
"He would be the heir to the estate because that is entailed.
He would also be the heir to the money unless it were willed
otherwise by the present owner, who can, of course, do what he
likes with it."
"And have you made your will, Sir Henry?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, I have not. I've had no time, for it was
only yesterday that I learned how matters stood. But in any case
I feel that the money should go with the title and estate. That
was my poor uncle's idea. How is the owner going to restore the
glories of the Baskervilles if he has not money enough to keep
up the property? House, land, and dollars must go together."
"Quite so. Well, Sir Henry, I am of one mind with you as to
the advisability of your going down to Devonshire without delay.
There is only one provision which I must make. You certainly
must not go alone."
"Dr. Mortimer returns with me."
"But Dr. Mortimer has his practice to attend to, and his house
is miles away from yours. With all the good will in the world he
may be unable to help you. No, Sir Henry, you must take with
you someone, a trusty man, who will be always by your side."
"Is it possible that you could come yourself, Mr. Holmes?"
"If matters came to a crisis I should endeavour to be present
in person; but you can understand that, with my extensive consulting practice and with the constant appeals which reach me
from many quarters, it is impossible for me to be absent from
London for an indefinite time. At the present instant one of the
most revered names in England is being besmirched by a blackmailer, and only I can stop a disastrous scandal. You will see
how impossible it is for me to go to Dartmoor."
"Whom would you recommend, then?"
Holmes laid his hand upon my arm.
"If my friend would undertake it there is no man who is better
worth having at your side when you are in a tight place. No one
can say so more confidently than I."
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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, 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."
Chapter 4: Sir Henry Baskerville |
The Hound of the Baskervilles |
Chapter 6: Baskerville Hall