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The Hound of the Baskervilles - Chapter 6 - Baskerville Hall

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

Sir Henry Baskerville and Dr. Mortimer were ready upon the
appointed day, and we started as arranged for Devonshire. Mr.
Sherlock Holmes drove with me to the station and gave me his last
parting injunctions and advice.

"I will not bias your mind by suggesting theories or suspicions,
Watson," said he; "I wish you simply to report facts in the
fullest possible manner to me, and you can leave me to do the

"What sort of facts?" I asked.

"Anything which may seem to have a bearing however indirect upon
the case, and especially the relations between young Baskerville
and his neighbours or any fresh particulars concerning the death
of Sir Charles. I have made some inquiries myself in the last few
days, but the results have, I fear, been negative. One thing only
appears to be certain, and that is that Mr. James Desmond, who is
the next heir, is an elderly gentleman of a very amiable
disposition, so that this persecution does not arise from him. I
really think that we may eliminate him entirely from our
calculations. There remain the people who will actually surround
Sir Henry Baskerville upon the moor."

"Would it not be well in the first place to get rid of this
Barrymore couple?"

"By no means. You could not make a greater mistake. If they are
innocent it would be a cruel injustice, and if they are guilty we
should be giving up all chance of bringing it home to them. No,
no, we will preserve them upon our list of suspects. Then there
is a groom at the Hall, if I remember right. There are two
moorland farmers. There is our friend Dr. Mortimer, whom I
believe to be entirely honest, and there is his wife, of whom we
know nothing. There is this naturalist, Stapleton, and there is
his sister, who is said to be a young lady of attractions. There
is Mr. Frankland, of Lafter Hall, who is also an unknown factor,
and there are one or two other neighbours. These are the folk who
must be your very special study."

"I will do my best."

"You have arms, I suppose?"

"Yes, I thought it as well to take them."

"Most certainly. Keep your revolver near you night and day, and
never relax your precautions."

Our friends had already secured a first-class carriage and were
waiting for us upon the platform.

"No, we have no news of any kind," said Dr. Mortimer in answer to
my friend's questions. "I can swear to one thing, and that is
that we have not been shadowed during the last two days. We have
never gone out without keeping a sharp watch, and no one could
have escaped our notice."

"You have always kept together, I presume?"

"Except yesterday afternoon. I usually give up one day to pure
amusement when I come to town, so I spent it at the Museum of the
College of Surgeons."

"And I went to look at the folk in the park," said Baskerville.
"But we had no trouble of any kind."

"It was imprudent, all the same," said Holmes, shaking his head
and looking very grave. "I beg, Sir Henry, that you will not go
about alone. Some great misfortune will befall you if you do. Did
you get your other boot?"

"No, sir, it is gone forever."

"Indeed. That is very interesting. Well, good-bye," he added as
the train began to glide down the platform. "Bear in mind, Sir
Henry, one of the phrases in that queer old legend which Dr.
Mortimer has read to us, and avoid the moor in those hours of
darkness when the powers of evil are exalted."

I looked back at the platform when we had left it far behind, and
saw the tall, austere figure of Holmes standing motionless and
gazing after us.

The journey was a swift and pleasant one, and I spent it in
making the more intimate acquaintance of my two companions and in
playing with Dr. Mortimer's spaniel. In a very few hours the
brown earth had become ruddy, the brick had changed to granite,
and red cows grazed in well-hedged fields where the lush grasses
and more luxuriant vegetation spoke of a richer, if a damper,
climate. Young Baskerville stared eagerly out of the window, and
cried aloud with delight as he recognized the familiar features
of the Devon scenery.

"I've been over a good part of the world since I left it, Dr.
Watson," said he; "but I have never seen a place to compare with

"I never saw a Devonshire man who did not swear by his county," I

"It depends upon the breed of men quite as much as on the
county," said Dr. Mortimer. "A glance at our friend here reveals
the rounded head of the Celt, which carries inside it the Celtic
enthusiasm and power of attachment. Poor Sir Charles's head was
of a very rare type, half Gaelic, half Ivernian in its
characteristics. But you were very young when you last saw
Baskerville Hall, were you not?"

"I was a boy in my 'teens at the time of my father's death, and
had never seen the Hall, for he lived in a little cottage on the
South Coast. Thence I went straight to a friend in America. I
tell you it is all as new to me as it is to Dr. Watson, and I'm
as keen as possible to see the moor."

"Are you? Then your wish is easily granted, for there is your
first sight of the moor," said Dr. Mortimer, pointing out of the
carriage window.

Over the green squares of the fields and the low curve of a wood
there rose in the distance a gray, melancholy hill, with a
strange jagged summit, dim and vague in the distance, like some
fantastic landscape in a dream. Baskerville sat for a long time,
his eyes fixed upon it, and I read upon his eager face how much
it meant to him, this first sight of that strange spot where the
men of his blood had held sway so long and left their mark so
deep. There he sat, with his tweed suit and his American accent,
in the corner of a prosaic railway-carriage, and yet as I looked
at his dark and expressive face I felt more than ever how true a
descendant he was of that long line of high-blooded, fiery, and
masterful men. There were pride, valour, and strength in his
thick brows, his sensitive nostrils, and his large hazel eyes. If
on that forbidding moor a difficult and dangerous quest should
lie before us, this was at least a comrade for whom one might
venture to take a risk with the certainty that he would bravely
share it.

The train pulled up at a small wayside station and we all
descended. Outside, beyond the low, white fence, a wagonette with
a pair of cobs was waiting. Our coming was evidently a great
event, for station-master and porters clustered round us to carry
out our luggage. It was a sweet, simple country spot, but I was
surprised to observe that by the gate there stood two soldierly
men in dark uniforms, who leaned upon their short rifles and
glanced keenly at us as we passed. The coachman, a hard-faced,
gnarled little fellow, saluted Sir Henry Baskerville, and in a
few minutes we were flying swiftly down the broad, white road.
Rolling pasture lands curved upward on either side of us, and old
gabled houses peeped out from amid the thick green foliage, but
behind the peaceful and sunlit country-side there rose ever, dark
against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor,
broken by the jagged and sinister hills.

The wagonette swung round into a side road, and we curved upward
through deep lanes worn by centuries of wheels, high banks on
either side, heavy with dripping moss and fleshy hart's-tongue
ferns. Bronzing bracken and mottled bramble gleamed in the light
of the sinking sun. Still steadily rising, we passed over a
narrow granite bridge, and skirted a noisy stream which gushed
swiftly down, foaming and roaring amid the gray boulders. Both
road and stream wound up through a valley dense with scrub oak
and fir. At every turn Baskerville gave an exclamation of
delight, looking eagerly about him and asking countless
questions. To his eyes all seemed beautiful, but to me a tinge of
melancholy lay upon the country-side, which bore so clearly the
mark of the waning year. Yellow leaves carpeted the lanes and
fluttered down upon us as we passed. The rattle of our wheels
died away as we drove through drifts of rotting vegetation--sad
gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the
carriage of the returning heir of the Baskervilles.

"Halloa!" cried Dr. Mortimer, "what is this?"

A steep curve of heath-clad land, an outlying spur of the moor,
lay in front of us. On the summit, hard and clear like an
equestrian statue upon its pedestal, was a mounted soldier, dark
and stern, his rifle poised ready over his forearm. He was
watching the road along which we travelled.

"What is this, Perkins?" asked Dr. Mortimer.

Our driver half turned in his seat.

"There's a convict escaped from Princetown, sir. He's been out
three days now, and the warders watch every road and every
station, but they've had no sight of him yet. The farmers about
here don't like it, sir, and that's a fact."

"Well, I understand that they get five pounds if they can give

"Yes, sir, but the chance of five pounds is but a poor thing
compared to the chance of having your throat cut. You see, it
isn't like any ordinary convict. This is a man that would stick
at nothing."

"Who is he, then?"

"It is Selden, the Notting Hill murderer."

I remembered the case well, for it was one in which Holmes had
taken an interest on account of the peculiar ferocity of the
crime and the wanton brutality which had marked all the actions
of the assassin. The commutation of his death sentence had been
due to some doubts as to his complete sanity, so atrocious was
his conduct. Our wagonette had topped a rise and in front of us
rose the huge expanse of the moor, mottled with gnarled and
craggy cairns and tors. A cold wind swept down from it and set us
shivering. Somewhere there, on that desolate plain, was lurking
this fiendish man, hiding in a burrow like a wild beast, his
heart full of malignancy against the whole race which had cast
him out. It needed but this to complete the grim suggestiveness
of the barren waste, the chilling wind, and the darkling sky.
Even Baskerville fell silent and pulled his overcoat more closely
around him.

We had left the fertile country behind and beneath us. We looked
back on it now, the slanting rays of a low sun turning the
streams to threads of gold and glowing on the red earth new
turned by the plough and the broad tangle of the woodlands. The
road in front of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet and
olive slopes, sprinkled with giant boulders. Now and then we
passed a moorland cottage, walled and roofed with stone, with no
creeper to break its harsh outline. Suddenly we looked down into
a cup-like depression, patched with stunted oaks and firs which
had been twisted and bent by the fury of years of storm. Two
high, narrow towers rose over the trees. The driver pointed with
his whip.

"Baskerville Hall," said he.

Its master had risen and was staring with flushed cheeks and
shining eyes. A few minutes later we had reached the lodge-gates,
a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten
pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by
the boars' heads of the Baskervilles. The lodge was a ruin of
black granite and bared ribs of rafters, but facing it was a new
building, half constructed, the first fruit of Sir Charles's
South African gold.

Through the gateway we passed into the avenue, where the wheels
were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their
branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered
as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered
like a ghost at the farther end.

"Was it here?" he asked in a low voice.

"No, no, the Yew Alley is on the other side."

The young heir glanced round with a gloomy face.

"It's no wonder my uncle felt as if trouble were coming on him in
such a place as this," said he. "It's enough to scare any man.
I'll have a row of electric lamps up here inside of six months,
and you won't know it again, with a thousand candle-power Swan
and Edison right here in front of the hall door."

The avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay
before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre was a
heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole
front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there
where a window or a coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil.
>From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient,
crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right and left of
the turrets were more modern wings of black granite. A dull light
shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the high chimneys
which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there sprang a single
black column of smoke.

"Welcome, Sir Henry! Welcome to Baskerville Hall!"

A tall man had stepped from the shadow of the porch to open the
door of the wagonette. The figure of a woman was silhouetted
against the yellow light of the hall. She came out and helped the
man to hand down our bags.

"You don't mind my driving straight home, Sir Henry?" said Dr.
Mortimer. "My wife is expecting me."

"Surely you will stay and have some dinner?"

"No, I must go. I shall probably find some work awaiting me. I
would stay to show you over the house, but Barrymore will be a
better guide than I. Good-bye, and never hesitate night or day to
send for me if I can be of service."

The wheels died away down the drive while Sir Henry and I turned
into the hall, and the door clanged heavily behind us. It was a
fine apartment in which we found ourselves, large, lofty, and
heavily raftered with huge balks of age-blackened oak. In the
great old-fashioned fireplace behind the high iron dogs a
log-fire crackled and snapped. Sir Henry and I held out our hands
to it, for we were numb from our long drive. Then we gazed round
us at the high, thin window of old stained glass, the oak
panelling, the stags' heads, the coats-of-arms upon the walls,
all dim and sombre in the subdued light of the central lamp.

"It's just as I imagined it," said Sir Henry. "Is it not the very
picture of an old family home? To think that this should be the
same hall in which for five hundred years my people have lived.
It strikes me solemn to think of it."

I saw his dark face lit up with a boyish enthusiasm as he gazed
about him. The light beat upon him where he stood, but long
shadows trailed down the walls and hung like a black canopy above
him. Barrymore had returned from taking our luggage to our rooms.
He stood in front of us now with the subdued manner of a
well-trained servant. He was a remarkable-looking man, tall,
handsome, with a square black beard and pale, distinguished

"Would you wish dinner to be served at once, sir?"

"Is it ready?"

"In a very few minutes, sir. You will find hot water in your
rooms. My wife and I will be happy, Sir Henry, to stay with you
until you have made your fresh arrangements, but you will
understand that under the new conditions this house will require
a considerable staff."

"What new conditions?"

"I only meant, sir, that Sir Charles led a very retired life, and
we were able to look after his wants. You would, naturally, wish
to have more company, and so you will need changes in your

"Do you mean that your wife and you wish to leave?"

"Only when it is quite convenient to you, sir."

"But your family have been with us for several generations, have
they not? I should be sorry to begin my life here by breaking an
old family connection."

I seemed to discern some signs of emotion upon the butler's white

"I feel that also, sir, and so does my wife. But to tell the
truth, sir, we were both very much attached to Sir Charles, and
his death gave us a shock and made these surroundings very
painful to us. I fear that we shall never again be easy in our
minds at Baskerville Hall."

"But what do you intend to do?"

"I have no doubt, sir, that we shall succeed in establishing
ourselves in some business. Sir Charles's generosity has given us
the means to do so. And now, sir, perhaps I had best show you to
your rooms."

A square balustraded gallery ran round the top of the old hall,
approached by a double stair. From this central point two long
corridors extended the whole length of the building, from which
all the bedrooms opened. My own was in the same wing as
Baskerville's and almost next door to it. These rooms appeared to
be much more modern than the central part of the house, and the
bright paper and numerous candles did something to remove the
sombre impression which our arrival had left upon my mind.

But the dining-room which opened out of the hall was a place of
shadow and gloom. It was a long chamber with a step separating
the dais where the family sat from the lower portion reserved for
their dependents. At one end a minstrel's gallery overlooked it.
Black beams shot across above our heads, with a smoke-darkened
ceiling beyond them. With rows of flaring torches to light it up,
and the colour and rude hilarity of an old-time banquet, it might
have softened; but now, when two black-clothed gentlemen sat in
the little circle of light thrown by a shaded lamp, one's voice
became hushed and one's spirit subdued. A dim line of ancestors,
in every variety of dress, from the Elizabethan knight to the
buck of the Regency, stared down upon us and daunted us by their
silent company. We talked little, and I for one was glad when the
meal was over and we were able to retire into the modern
billiard-room and smoke a cigarette.

"My word, it isn't a very cheerful place," said Sir Henry. "I
suppose one can tone down to it, but I feel a bit out of the
picture at present. I don't wonder that my uncle got a little
jumpy if he lived all alone in such a house as this. However, if
it suits you, we will retire early to-night, and perhaps things
may seem more cheerful in the morning."

I drew aside my curtains before I went to bed and looked out from
my window. It opened upon the grassy space which lay in front of
the hall door. Beyond, two copses of trees moaned and swung in a
rising wind. A half moon broke through the rifts of racing
clouds. In its cold light I saw beyond the trees a broken fringe
of rocks, and the long, low curve of the melancholy moor. I
closed the curtain, feeling that my last impression was in
keeping with the rest.

And yet it was not quite the last. I found myself weary and yet
wakeful, tossing restlessly from side to side, seeking for the
sleep which would not come. Far away a chiming clock struck out
the quarters of the hours, but otherwise a deathly silence lay
upon the old house. And then suddenly, in the very dead of the
night, there came a sound to my ears, clear, resonant, and
unmistakable. It was the sob of a woman, the muffled, strangling
gasp of one who is torn by an uncontrollable sorrow. I sat up in
bed and listened intently. The noise could not have been far away
and was certainly in the house. For half an hour I waited with
every nerve on the alert, but there came no other sound save the
chiming clock and the rustle of the ivy on the wall.

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