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Home -> Arthur Conan Doyle -> The Hound of the Baskervilles -> Chapter 5 - Three Broken Threads

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Chapter 5 - Three Broken Threads

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

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?" said

"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, gray-headed, 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

"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 time."

"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 hotel."

"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."

"And when?"

"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 Henry."

"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

"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 Charles's

"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

"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 10:30 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 were

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.--BASKERVILLE."
The second:--

"Visited twenty-three hotels as directed, but sorry, to report
unable to trace cut sheet of Times.--CARTWRIGHT."

"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 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 against me."

"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 again."

"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

"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

"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 half-way 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

"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 what?"

"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."

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