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The Hound of the Baskervilles - Chapter 13 - Fixing the Nets

1. Chapter 1 - Mr. Sherlock Holmes

2. Chapter 2 - The Curse of the Baskervilles

3. Chapter 3 - The Problem

4. Chapter 4 - Sir Henry Baskerville

5. Chapter 5 - Three Broken Threads

6. Chapter 6 - Baskerville Hall

7. Chapter 7 - The Stapletons of Merripit House

8. Chapter 8 - First Report of Dr. Watson

9. Chapter 9 - The Light Upon the Moor

10. Chapter 10 - Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson

11. Chapter 11 - The Man on the Tor

12. Chapter 12 - Death on the Moor

13. Chapter 13 - Fixing the Nets

14. Chapter 14 - The Hound of the Baskervilles

15. Chapter 15 - A Retrospection

"We're at close grips at last," said Holmes as we walked together
across the moor. "What a nerve the fellow has! How he pulled
himself together in the face of what must have been a paralyzing
shock when he found that the wrong man had fallen a victim to his
plot. I told you in London, Watson, and I tell you now again,
that we have never had a foeman more worthy of our steel."

"I am sorry that he has seen you."

"And so was I at first. But there was no getting out of it."

"What effect do you think it will have upon his plans now that he
knows you are here?"

"It may cause him to be more cautious, or it may drive him to
desperate measures at once. Like most clever criminals, he may be
too confident in his own cleverness and imagine that he has
completely deceived us."

"Why should we not arrest him at once?"

"My dear Watson, you were born to be a man of action. Your
instinct is always to do something energetic. But supposing, for
argument's sake, that we had him arrested to-night, what on earth
the better off should we be for that? We could prove nothing
against him. There's the devilish cunning of it! If he were
acting through a human agent we could get some evidence, but if
we were to drag this great dog to the light of day it would not
help us in putting a rope round the neck of its master."

"Surely we have a case."

"Not a shadow of one--only surmise and conjecture. We should be
laughed out of court if we came with such a story and such

"There is Sir Charles's death."

"Found dead without a mark upon him. You and I know that he died
of sheer fright, and we know also what frightened him; but how
are we to get twelve stolid jurymen to know it? What signs are
there of a hound? Where are the marks of its fangs? Of course we
know that a hound does not bite a dead body and that Sir Charles
was dead before ever the brute overtook him. But we have to prove
all this, and we are not in a position to do it."

"Well, then, to-night?"

"We are not much better off to-night. Again, there was no direct
connection between the hound and the man's death. We never saw
the hound. We heard it; but we could not prove that it was
running upon this man's trail. There is a complete absence of
motive. No, my dear fellow; we must reconcile ourselves to the
fact that we have no case at present, and that it is worth our
while to run any risk in order to establish one."

"And how do you propose to do so?"

"I have great hopes of what Mrs. Laura Lyons may do for us when
the position of affairs is made clear to her. And I have my own
plan as well. Sufficient for to-morrow is the evil thereof; but I
hope before the day is past to have the upper hand at last."

I could draw nothing further from him, and he walked, lost in
thought, as far as the Baskerville gates.

"Are you coming up?"

"Yes; I see no reason for further concealment. But one last word,
Watson. Say nothing of the hound to Sir Henry. Let him think that
Selden's death was as Stapleton would have us believe. He will
have a better nerve for the ordeal which he will have to undergo
to-morrow, when he is engaged, if I remember your report aright,
to dine with these people."

"And so am I."

"Then you must excuse yourself and he must go alone. That will be
easily arranged. And now, if we are too late for dinner, I think
that we are both ready for our suppers."

Sir Henry was more pleased than surprised to see Sherlock Holmes,
for he had for some days been expecting that recent events would
bring him down from London. He did raise his eyebrows, however,
when he found that my friend had neither any luggage nor any
explanations for its absence. Between us we soon supplied his
wants, and then over a belated supper we explained to the baronet
as much of our experience as it seemed desirable that he should
know. But first I had the unpleasant duty of breaking the news to
Barrymore and his wife. To him it may have been an unmitigated
relief, but she wept bitterly in her apron. To all the world he
was the man of violence, half animal and half demon; but to her
he always remained the little wilful boy of her own girlhood, the
child who had clung to her hand. Evil indeed is the man who has
not one woman to mourn him.

"I've been moping in the house all day since Watson went off in
the morning," said the baronet. "I guess I should have some
credit, for I have kept my promise. If I hadn't sworn not to go
about alone I might have had a more lively evening, for I had a
message from Stapleton asking me over there."

"I have no doubt that you would have had a more lively evening,"
said Holmes drily. "By the way, I don't suppose you appreciate
that we have been mourning over you as having broken your neck?"

Sir Henry opened his eyes. "How was that?"

"This poor wretch was dressed in your clothes. I fear your
servant who gave them to him may get into trouble with the

"That is unlikely. There was no mark on any of them, as far as I

"That's lucky for him--in fact, it's lucky for all of you, since
you are all on the wrong side of the law in this matter. I am not
sure that as a conscientious detective my first duty is not to
arrest the whole household. Watson's reports are most
incriminating documents."

"But how about the case?" asked the baronet. "Have you made
anything out of the tangle? I don't know that Watson and I are
much the wiser since we came down."

"I think that I shall be in a position to make the situation
rather more clear to you before long. It has been an exceedingly
difficult and most complicated business. There are several points
upon which we still want light--but it is coming all the same."

"We've had one experience, as Watson has no doubt told you. We
heard the hound on the moor, so I can swear that it is not all
empty superstition. I had something to do with dogs when I was
out West, and I know one when I hear one. If you can muzzle that
one and put him on a chain I'll be ready to swear you are the
greatest detective of all time."

"I think I will muzzle him and chain him all right if you will
give me your help."

"Whatever you tell me to do I will do."

"Very good; and I will ask you also to do it blindly, without
always asking the reason."

"Just as you like."

"If you will do this I think the chances are that our little
problem will soon be solved. I have no doubt----"

He stopped suddenly and stared fixedly up over my head into the
air. The lamp beat upon his face, and so intent was it and so
still that it might have been that of a clear-cut classical
statue, a personification of alertness and expectation.

"What is it?" we both cried.

I could see as he looked down that he was repressing some
internal emotion. His features were still composed, but his eyes
shone with amused exultation.

"Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur," said he as he waved his
hand towards the line of portraits which covered the opposite
wall. "Watson won't allow that I know anything of art, but that
is mere jealousy, because our views upon the subject differ. Now,
these are a really very fine series of portraits."

"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so," said Sir Henry, glancing
with some surprise at my friend. "I don't pretend to know much
about these things, and I'd be a better judge of a horse or a
steer than of a picture. I didn't know that you found time for
such things."

"I know what is good when I see it, and I see it now. That's a
Kneller, I'll swear, that lady in the blue silk over yonder, and
the stout gentleman with the wig ought to be a Reynolds. They are
all family portraits, I presume?"

"Every one."

"Do you know the names?"

"Barrymore has been coaching me in them, and I think I can say my
lessons fairly well."

"Who is the gentleman with the telescope?"

"That is Rear-Admiral Baskerville, who served under Rodney in the
West Indies. The man with the blue coat and the roll of paper is
Sir William Baskerville, who was Chairman of Committees of the
House of Commons under Pitt."

"And this Cavalier opposite to me--the one with the black velvet
and the lace?"

"Ah, you have a right to know about him. That is the cause of all
the mischief, the wicked Hugo, who started the Hound of the
Baskervilles. We're not likely to forget him."

I gazed with interest and some surprise upon the portrait.

"Dear me!" said Holmes, "he seems a quiet, meek-mannered man
enough, but I dare say that there was a lurking devil in his
eyes. I had pictured him as a more robust and ruffianly person."

"There's no doubt about the authenticity, for the name and the
date, 1647, are on the back of the canvas."

Holmes said little more, but the picture of the old roysterer
seemed to have a fascination for him, and his eyes were
continually fixed upon it during supper. It was not until later,
when Sir Henry had gone to his room, that I was able to follow
the trend of his thoughts. He led me back into the
banqueting-hall, his bedroom candle in his hand, and he held it
up against the time-stained portrait on the wall.

"Do you see anything there?"

I looked at the broad plumed hat, the curling love-locks, the
white lace collar, and the straight, severe face which was framed
between them. It was not a brutal countenance, but it was prim,
hard, and stern, with a firm-set, thin-lipped mouth, and a coldly
intolerant eye.

"Is it like anyone you know?"

"There is something of Sir Henry about the jaw."

"Just a suggestion, perhaps. But wait an instant!" He stood upon
a chair, and, holding up the light in his left hand, he curved
his right arm over the broad hat and round the long ringlets.

"Good heavens!" I cried, in amazement.

The face of Stapleton had sprung out of the canvas.

"Ha, you see it now. My eyes have been trained to examine faces
and not their trimmings. It is the first quality of a criminal
investigator that he should see through a disguise."

"But this is marvellous. It might be his portrait."

"Yes, it is an interesting instance of a throwback, which appears
to be both physical and spiritual. A study of family portraits is
enough to convert a man to the doctrine of reincarnation. The
fellow is a Baskerville--that is evident."

"With designs upon the succession."

"Exactly. This chance of the picture has supplied us with one of
our most obvious missing links. We have him, Watson, we have him,
and I dare swear that before to-morrow night he will be
fluttering in our net as helpless as one of his own butterflies.
A pin, a cork, and a card, and we add him to the Baker Street
collection!" He burst into one of his rare fits of laughter as he
turned away from the picture. I have not heard him laugh often,
and it has always boded ill to somebody.

I was up betimes in the morning, but Holmes was afoot earlier
still, for I saw him as I dressed, coming up the drive.

"Yes, we should have a full day to-day," he remarked, and he
rubbed his hands with the joy of action. "The nets are all in
place, and the drag is about to begin. We'll know before the day
is out whether we have caught our big, lean-jawed pike, or
whether he has got through the meshes."

"Have you been on the moor already?"

"I have sent a report from Grimpen to Princetown as to the death
of Selden. I think I can promise that none of you will be
troubled in the matter. And I have also communicated with my
faithful Cartwright, who would certainly have pined away at the
door of my hut, as a dog does at his master's grave, if I had not
set his mind at rest about my safety."

"What is the next move?"

"To see Sir Henry. Ah, here he is!"

"Good morning, Holmes," said the baronet. "You look like a
general who is planning a battle with his chief of the staff."

"That is the exact situation. Watson was asking for orders."

"And so do I."

"Very good. You are engaged, as I understand, to dine with our
friends the Stapletons to-night."

"I hope that you will come also. They are very hospitable people,
and I am sure that they would be very glad to see you."

"I fear that Watson and I must go to London."

"To London?"

"Yes, I think that we should be more useful there at the present

The baronet's face perceptibly lengthened.

"I hoped that you were going to see me through this business. The
Hall and the moor are not very pleasant places when one is

"My dear fellow, you must trust me implicitly and do exactly what
I tell you. You can tell your friends that we should have been
happy to have come with you, but that urgent business required us
to be in town. We hope very soon to return to Devonshire. Will
you remember to give them that message?"

"If you insist upon it."

"There is no alternative, I assure you."

I saw by the baronet's clouded brow that he was deeply hurt by
what he regarded as our desertion.

"When do you desire to go?" he asked coldly.

"Immediately after breakfast. We will drive in to Coombe Tracey,
but Watson will leave his things as a pledge that he will come
back to you. Watson, you will send a note to Stapleton to tell
him that you regret that you cannot come."

"I have a good mind to go to London with you," said the baronet.
"Why should I stay here alone?"

"Because it is your post of duty. Because you gave me your word
that you would do as you were told, and I tell you to stay."

"All right, then, I'll stay."

"One more direction! I wish you to drive to Merripit House. Send
back your trap, however, and let them know that you intend to
walk home."

"To walk across the moor?"


"But that is the very thing which you have so often cautioned me
not to do."

"This time you may do it with safety. If I had not every
confidence in your nerve and courage I would not suggest it, but
it is essential that you should do it."

"Then I will do it."

"And as you value your life do not go across the moor in any
direction save along the straight path which leads from Merripit
House to the Grimpen Road, and is your natural way home."

"I will do just what you say."

"Very good. I should be glad to get away as soon after breakfast
as possible, so as to reach London in the afternoon."

I was much astounded by this programme, though I remembered that
Holmes had said to Stapleton on the night before that his visit
would terminate next day. It had not crossed my mind, however,
that he would wish me to go with him, nor could I understand how
we could both be absent at a moment which he himself declared to
be critical. There was nothing for it, however, but implicit
obedience; so we bade good-bye to our rueful friend, and a couple
of hours afterwards we were at the station of Coombe Tracey and
had dispatched the trap upon its return journey. A small boy was
waiting upon the platform.

"Any orders, sir?"

"You will take this train to town, Cartwright. The moment you
arrive you will send a wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, in my name,
to say that if he finds the pocket-book which I have dropped he
is to send it by registered post to Baker Street."

"Yes, sir."

"And ask at the station office if there is a message for me."

The boy returned with a telegram, which Holmes handed to me. It
ran: "Wire received. Coming down with unsigned warrant. Arrive

"That is in answer to mine of this morning. He is the best of the
professionals, I think, and we may need his assistance. Now,
Watson, I think that we cannot employ our time better than by
calling upon your acquaintance, Mrs. Laura Lyons."

His plan of campaign was beginning to be evident. He would use
the baronet in order to convince the Stapletons that we were
really gone, while we should actually return at the instant when
we were likely to be needed. That telegram from London, if
mentioned by Sir Henry to the Stapletons, must remove the last
suspicions from their minds. Already I seemed to see our nets
drawing closer around that lean-jawed pike.

Mrs. Laura Lyons was in her office, and Sherlock Holmes opened
his interview with a frankness and directness which considerably
amazed her.

"I am investigating the circumstances which attended the death of
the late Sir Charles Baskerville," said he. "My friend here, Dr.
Watson, has informed me of what you have communicated, and also
of what you have withheld in connection with that matter."

"What have I withheld?" she asked defiantly.

"You have confessed that you asked Sir Charles to be at the gate
at ten o'clock. We know that that was the place and hour of his
death. You have withheld what the connection is between these

"There is no connection."

"In that case the coincidence must indeed be an extraordinary
one. But I think that we shall succeed in establishing a
connection after all. I wish to be perfectly frank with you, Mrs.
Lyons. We regard this case as one of murder, and the evidence may
implicate not only your friend Mr. Stapleton, but his wife as

The lady sprang from her chair.

"His wife!" she cried.

"The fact is no longer a secret. The person who has passed for
his sister is really his wife."

Mrs. Lyons had resumed her seat. Her hands were grasping the arms
of her chair, and I saw that the pink nails had turned white with
the pressure of her grip.

"His wife!" she said again. "His wife! He is not a married man."

Sherlock Holmes shrugged his shoulders.

"Prove it to me! Prove it to me! And if you can do so --!" The
fierce flash of her eyes said more than any words.

"I have come prepared to do so," said Holmes, drawing several
papers from his pocket. "Here is a photograph of the couple taken
in York four years ago. It is indorsed 'Mr. and Mrs. Vandeleur,'
but you will have no difficulty in recognizing him, and her also,
if you know her by sight. Here are three written descriptions by
trustworthy witnesses of Mr. and Mrs. Vandeleur, who at that time
kept St. Oliver's private school. Read them and see if you can
doubt the identity of these people."

She glanced at them, and then looked up at us with the set, rigid
face of a desperate woman.

"Mr. Holmes," she said, "this man had offered me marriage on
condition that I could get a divorce from my husband. He has lied
to me, the villain, in every conceivable way. Not one word of
truth has he ever told me. And why--why? I imagined that all was
for my own sake. But now I see that I was never anything but a
tool in his hands. Why should I preserve faith with him who never
kept any with me? Why should I try to shield him from the
consequences of his own wicked acts? Ask me what you like, and
there is nothing which I shall hold back. One thing I swear to
you, and that is that when I wrote the letter I never dreamed of
any harm to the old gentleman, who had been my kindest friend."

"I entirely believe you, madam," said Sherlock Holmes. "The
recital of these events must be very painful to you, and perhaps
it will make it easier if I tell you what occurred, and you can
check me if I make any material mistake. The sending of this
letter was suggested to you by Stapleton?"

"He dictated it."

"I presume that the reason he gave was that you would receive
help from Sir Charles for the legal expenses connected with your


"And then after you had sent the letter he dissuaded you from
keeping the appointment?"

"He told me that it would hurt his self-respect that any other
man should find the money for such an object, and that though he
was a poor man himself he would devote his last penny to removing
the obstacles which divided us."

"He appears to be a very consistent character. And then you heard
nothing until you read the reports of the death in the paper?"


"And he made you swear to say nothing about your appointment with
Sir Charles?"

"He did. He said that the death was a very mysterious one, and
that I should certainly be suspected if the facts came out. He
frightened me into remaining silent."

"Quite so. But you had your suspicions?"

She hesitated and looked down.

"I knew him," she said. "But if he had kept faith with me I
should always have done so with him."

"I think that on the whole you have had a fortunate escape," said
Sherlock Holmes. "You have had him in your power and he knew it,
and yet you are alive. You have been walking for some months very
near to the edge of a precipice. We must wish you good-morning
now, Mrs. Lyons, and it is probable that you will very shortly
hear from us again."

"Our case becomes rounded off, and difficulty after difficulty
thins away in front of us," said Holmes as we stood waiting for
the arrival of the express from town. "I shall soon be in the
position of being able to put into a single connected narrative
one of the most singular and sensational crimes of modern times.
Students of criminology will remember the analogous incidents in
Godno, in Little Russia, in the year '66, and of course there are
the Anderson murders in North Carolina, but this case possesses
some features which are entirely its own. Even now we have no
clear case against this very wily man. But I shall be very much
surprised if it is not clear enough before we go to bed this

The London express came roaring into the station, and a small,
wiry bulldog of a man had sprung from a first-class carriage. We
all three shook hands, and I saw at once from the reverential way
in which Lestrade gazed at my companion that he had learned a
good deal since the days when they had first worked together. I
could well remember the scorn which the theories of the reasoner
used then to excite in the practical man.

"Anything good?" he asked.

"The biggest thing for years," said Holmes. "We have two hours
before we need think of starting. I think we might employ it in
getting some dinner and then, Lestrade, we will take the London
fog out of your throat by giving you a breath of the pure night
air of Dartmoor. Never been there? Ah, well, I don't suppose you
will forget your first visit."

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