cover

CONTENTS

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Introduction by Benedict Cumberbatch

1.Mr Sherlock Holmes

2.The Curse of the Baskervilles

3.The Problem

4.Sir Henry Baskerville

5.Three Broken Threads

6.Baskerville Hall

7.The Stapletons of Merripit House

8.First Report of Dr Watson

9.The Light upon the Moor

10.Extract from the Diary of Dr Watson

11.The Man on the Tor

12.Death on the Moor

13.Fixing the Nets

14.The Hound of the Baskervilles

15.A Retrospection

A Study in Scarlet

Copyright

About the Book

The hit BBC series Sherlock has introduced a new generation to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective. This edition of the classic novel, with an introduction by Sherlock writer Steve Thompson, allows fans to discover the power of those original adventures.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are called to the aid of the Baskerville family who are afflicted by a generations-old curse. One member of the family has already met his end and a hellish hound seems to stalk the surrounding moors, threatening the life of the new heir. In these treacherous conditions can Holmes and Watson uncover an earthly plot or will the beast launch another attack?

About the Author

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. He trained as a doctor at Edinburgh University and it was during this time that he witnessed methods of diagnosis that would later inspire Sherlock Holmes’ astonishing methods of deduction. A Study in Scarlet was Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, published in 1887, but it was The Sign of Four, published in 1890, that catapulted him to worldwide fame.

From 1891 he wrote short stories about the immortal detective for The Strand magazine. He attempted to kill off Sherlock Holmes in 1893, in ‘The Final Problem’, but was forced to revive him after thousands of complaints. Conan Doyle died in 1930 having written two more Sherlock Holmes novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear, both serialized in The Strand, and a total of 56 short stories. Not only the master of popular crime fiction, he also wrote the best-selling science fiction novel, The Lost World from the Professor Challenger series.

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INTRODUCTION

MR HOLMES, THEY were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’

Great line.

The end.

Hang on, you want me to write an entire INTRODUCTION to Hound?

(If this was to be a musical that’s how we’d talk of it. ‘Hound!’ A musical… Now there’s an idea… CONCENTRATE, Cumberbatch!)

Is this a ploy by Martin Freeman – who is determined that the series will be renamed ‘John’ before long? After all, this is the most popular and horrific of all the original stories and yet Holmes is notoriously absent for six out of its fifteen chapters. Why?

Because it’s obviously a dog! Sorry, I suppose that was a spoiler…

But Sherlock would get it too quickly by snooping about for the biggest dog in the neighbourhood and we’d be back at 221B in time to crack open the tantalus and slip another cigar from the coal scuttle. And anyway, shouldn’t Mark Gatiss be doing this? He wrote our version, and he has a dog! Bunsen! Though to be fair to Mark (and Bunsen), fire does not ‘burst from its open mouth’ (unless he’s had some foul kippers the night before) nor do his eyes glow ‘with a smouldering glare’ nor are his ‘hackles and dewlap’ outlined ‘in flickering flame’. He does drool as he rolls over and lets you tickle his tummy…

I came late to Sherlock Holmes. I arrived about three years ago and am still arriving. I have read them all now, but at the beginning I was a beginner and I had to trust the two biggest Holmes fanatics I know – Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I let them guide my instinct for playing the world’s greatest (consulting, but I think all-round) detective. Luckily for me, they weren’t bluffing and happen to be two of our country’s best writers. I began at the beginning, and in A Study in Scarlet I realised the books are a blueprint for any characterisation and make playing Sherlock a gift.

Dr Watson is, as his occupation would require, a very observant person. (Well, he sees but does not always observe, as Holmes frequently reminds him.) But as someone who brings Holmes to life on the page, Watson is brilliant. So my reading as research gained pace. As did my love for all things related to these amazing stories. It’s a joyous thing to be able to say reading the Holmes canon was homework. Ah, an actor’s life for me!

Watson provides a wonderful early description of Holmes’s physicality: As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded, well-trained foxhound as it dashes backwards and forwards through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent. Holmes later describes himself as ‘one of the hounds and not the wolf’ and, while like an overexcited hunting dog when on the trail of a scent, he sometimes exhibits the other side of canine behaviour in his lethargic, depressed dreaminess by the hearth of 221B. Unlike man’s best friend, though, he often gets there with the help of injecting a seven per cent solution of cocaine.

There are many canines in the Holmes canon. Dogs that bark in the night and those that don’t. In ‘The Gloria Scott’ it is revealed that, while at university, Holmes was bitten by a bull terrier and it took him ten days to recover! Then there is the curious mixed-breed Toby, the trusty half-spaniel, half-lurcher (which makes that last half one-quarter greyhound and one-quarter Irish wolfhound, doesn’t it? CONCENTRATE, Cumberbatch!). Anyway, think less of the prospect of a spaniel being impregnated by a lurcher (presuming that it was that way round… I think size does prevail in this instance) and think instead that Holmes would ‘rather have his help than that of the whole detective force of London’.

But there is only really one important dog in the Holmes canon. And it pads balefully through the mists of Dartmoor – the ancient curse visited upon the Baskerville family!

I remember this ripping tale first as being read to me. Either by a teacher or my brilliantly entertaining father. I remember being genuinely scared at the ghost-story element but feeling reassured that our hero would blow away the cobwebs of superstition with his tireless pursuit of logic. But wait! Dr Watson is sent down to Dartmoor… alone! In our recent version for the BBC’s Sherlock, we spent several days on location, escaping London to find the other lead character in the story: Dartmoor. It’s a stunning landscape. Rolling hills and valleys breaking into the open majesty of the moors, and views that went on and on in the dying sunlight. Once the sun set, though, it got cold pretty fast and the landscape was somehow transformed, becoming utterly alien and deserted. This is the bleakly beautiful place that Conan Doyle masterfully turns into a nightmare landscape of rocky tors and fog. Noises sound closer. Your chest tightens as you fear what may lie beyond the distance of your outstretched hand. And then a faraway howl… Spine-chilling in its pain and despair. The cry of a hungry, vengeful beast!

So if it is your first time, welcome, and I envy you the thrill that awaits you in these pages. If you are returning to an old friend, forgive me for taking up your time! Ladies and gentlemen, the most famous, beloved, scary and atmospheric of Sherlock Holmes’s cases, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Was that all right? Can I do it again? What do you mean it’s not like filming…?

Oh!

Benedict Cumberbatch

one

MR SHERLOCK HOLMES

MR SHERLOCK HOLMES, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a ‘Penang lawyer’. Just under the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch across. ‘To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.’, was engraved upon it, with the date ‘1884’. It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used to carry – dignified, solid, and reassuring.

‘Well, Watson, what do you make of it?’

Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation.

‘How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.’

‘I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in front of me,’ said he. ‘But, tell me, Watson, what do you make of our visitor’s stick? Since we have been so unfortunate as to miss him and have no notion of his errand, this accidental souvenir becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruct the man by an examination of it.’

‘I think,’ said I, following as far as I could the methods of my companion, ‘that Dr Mortimer is a successful, elderly medical man, well-esteemed, since those who know him give him this mark of their appreciation.’

‘Good!’ said Holmes. ‘Excellent!’

‘I think also that the probability is in favour of his being a country practitioner who does a great deal of his visiting on foot.’

‘Why so?’

‘Because this stick, though originally a very handsome one, has been so knocked about that I can hardly imagine a town practitioner carrying it. The thick iron ferrule is worn down, so it is evident that he has done a great amount of walking with it.’

‘Perfectly sound!’ said Holmes.

‘And then again, there is the “friends of the C.C.H”. I should guess that to be the Something Hunt, the local hunt to whose members he has possibly given some surgical assistance, and which has made him a small presentation in return.’

‘Really, Watson, you excel yourself,’ said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. ‘I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.’

He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by his indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had made to give publicity to his methods. I was proud, too, to think that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in a way which earned his approval. He now took the stick from my hands and examined it for a few minutes with his naked eyes. Then, with an expression of interest, he laid down his cigarette, and, carrying the cane to the window, he looked over it again with a convex lens.

‘Interesting, though elementary,’ said he, as he returned to his favourite corner of the settee. ‘There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.’

‘Has anything escaped me?’ I asked, with some self-importance. ‘I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?’

‘I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this instance. The man is certainly a country practitioner. And he walks a good deal.’

‘Then I was right.’

‘To that extent.’

‘But that was all.’

‘No, no, my dear Watson, not all – by no means all. I would suggest, for example, that a presentation to a doctor is more likely to come from a hospital than from a hunt, and that when the initials “C.C.” are placed before that hospital the words “Charing Cross” very naturally suggest themselves.’

‘You may be right.’

‘The probability lies in that direction. And if we take this as a working hypothesis we have a fresh basis from which to start our construction of this unknown visitor.’

‘Well, then, supposing that “C.C.H.” does stand for “Charing Cross Hospital”, what further inferences may we draw?’

‘Do none suggest themselves? You know my methods. Apply them!’

‘I can only think of the obvious conclusion that the man has practised in town before going to the country.’

‘I think that we might venture a little farther than this. Look at it in this light. On what occasion would it be most probable that such a presentation would be made? When would his friends unite to give him a pledge of their good will? Obviously at the moment when Dr Mortimer withdrew from the service of the hospital in order to start a practice for himself. We know there has been a presentation. We believe there has been a change from a town hospital to a country practice. Is it, then, stretching our inference too far to say that the presentation was on the occasion of the change?’

‘It certainly seems probable.’

‘Now, you will observe that he could not have been on the staff of the hospital, since only a man well established in a London practice could hold such a position, and such a one would not drift into the country. What was he, then? If he was in the hospital and yet not on the staff, he could only have been a house-surgeon or a house-physician – little more than a senior student. And he left five years ago – the date is on the stick. So your grave, middle-aged family practitioner vanishes into thin air, my dear Watson, and there emerges a young fellow under thirty, amiable, unambitious, absent-minded, and the possessor of a favourite dog, which I should describe roughly as being larger than a terrier and smaller than a mastiff.’

I laughed incredulously as Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his settee and blew little wavering rings of smoke up to the ceiling.

‘As to the latter part, I have no means of checking you,’ said I, ‘but at least it is not difficult to find out a few particulars about the man’s age and professional career.’

From my small medical shelf I took down the Medical Directory and turned up the name. There were several Mortimers, but only one who could be our visitor. I read his record aloud.

‘Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital. Winner of the Jackson Prize for Comparative Pathology, with essay entitled “Is Disease a Reversion?” Corresponding member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of “Some Freaks of Atavism” (Lancet, 1882), “Do We Progress?” (Journal of Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of Grimpen, Thorsley, and High Barrow.’

‘No mention of that local hunt, Watson,’ said Holmes, with a mischievous smile, ‘but a country doctor, as you very astutely observed. I think that I am fairly justified in my inferences. As to the adjectives, I said, if I remember right, amiable, unambitious, and absent-minded. It is my experience that it is only an amiable man in this world who receives testimonials, only an unambitious one who abandons a London career for the country, and only an absent-minded one who leaves his stick and not his visiting-card after waiting an hour in your room.’

‘And the dog?’

‘Has been in the habit of carrying this stick behind his master. Being a heavy stick the dog has held it tightly by the middle, and the marks of his teeth are very plainly visible. The dog’s jaw, as shown in the space between these marks, is too broad in my opinion for a terrier and not broad enough for a mastiff. It may have been – yes, by Jove, it is a curly-haired spaniel.’

He had risen and paced the room as he spoke. Now he halted in the recess of the window. There was such a ring of conviction in his voice that I glanced up in surprise.

‘My dear fellow, how can you possibly be so sure of that?’

‘For the very simple reason that I see the dog himself on our very doorstep, and there is the ring of its owner. Don’t move, I beg you, Watson. He is a professional brother of yours, and your presence may be of assistance to me. Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill. What does Dr James Mortimer, the man of science, ask of Sherlock Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!’

The appearance of our visitor was a surprise to me since I had expected a typical country practitioner. He was a very tall, thin man, with a long nose like a beak, which shot out between two keen, grey eyes, set closely together and sparkling brightly from behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. He was clad in a professional but rather slovenly fashion, for his frock-coat was dingy and his trousers frayed. Though young, his long back was already bowed, and he walked with a forward thrust of his head and a general air of peering benevolence. As he entered his eyes fell upon the stick in Holmes’s hand, and he ran towards it with an exclamation of joy.

‘I am so very glad,’ said he. ‘I was not sure whether I had left it here or in the Shipping Office. I would not lose that stick for the world.’

‘A presentation, I see,’ said Holmes.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘From Charing Cross Hospital?’

‘From one or two friends there on the occasion of my marriage.’

‘Dear, dear, that’s bad!’ said Holmes, shaking his head.

Dr Mortimer blinked through his glasses in mild astonishment.

‘Why was it bad?’

‘Only that you have disarranged our little deductions. Your marriage, you say?’

‘Yes, sir. I married, and so left the hospital, and with it all hopes of a consulting practice. It was necessary to make a home of my own.’

‘Come, come, we are not so far wrong after all,’ said Holmes. ‘And now, Dr James Mortimer—’

‘Mister, sir, Mister – a humble M.R.C.S.’

‘And a man of precise mind, evidently.’

‘A dabbler in science, Mr Holmes, a picker-up of shells on the shores of the great unknown ocean. I presume that it is Mr Sherlock Holmes whom I am addressing and not—’

‘No, this is my friend Dr Watson.’

‘Glad to meet you, sir. I have heard your name mentioned in connection with that of your friend. You interest me very much, Mr Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull or such well-marked supra-orbital development. Would you have any objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.’

Sherlock Holmes waved our strange visitor into a chair.

‘You are an enthusiast in your line of thought, I perceive, sir, as I am in mine,’ said he. ‘I observe from your forefinger that you make your own cigarettes. Have no hesitation in lighting one.’

The man drew out paper and tobacco and twirled the one up in the other with surprising dexterity. He had long, quivering fingers as agile and restless as the antennae of an insect.

Holmes was silent, but his little darting glances showed me the interest which he took in our curious companion.

‘I presume, sir,’ said he at last, ‘that it was not merely for the purpose of examining my skull that you have done me the honour to call here last night and again today?’

‘No, sir, no; though I am happy to have had the opportunity of doing that as well. I came to you, Mr Holmes, because I recognise that I am myself an unpractical man, and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognising, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe—’

‘Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?’ asked Holmes, with some asperity.

‘To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.’

‘Then had you not better consult him?’

‘I said, sir, to the precisely scientific mind. But as a practical man of affairs it is acknowledged that you stand alone. I trust, sir, that I have not inadvertently—’

‘Just a little,’ said Holmes. ‘I think, Dr Mortimer, you would do wisely if without more ado you would kindly tell me plainly what the exact nature of the problem is in which you demand my assistance.’

two

THE CURSE OF
THE BASKERVILLES

I HAVE IN my pocket a manuscript,’ said Dr James Mortimer.

‘I observed it as you entered the room,’ said Holmes.

‘It is an old manuscript.’

‘Early eighteenth century, unless it is a forgery.’

‘How can you say that, sir?’

‘You have presented an inch or two of it to my examination all the time that you have been talking. It would be a poor expert who could not give the date of a document within a decade or so. You may possibly have read my little monograph upon the subject. I put that at 1730.’

‘The exact date is 1742.’ Dr Mortimer drew it from his breast-pocket. ‘This family paper was committed to my care by Sir Charles Baskerville, whose sudden and tragic death some three months ago created so much excitement in Devonshire. I may say that I was his personal friend as well as his medical attendant. He was a strong-minded man, sir, shrewd, practical, and as unimaginative as I am myself. Yet he took this document very seriously, and his mind was prepared for just such an end as did eventually overtake him.’

Holmes stretched out his hand for the manuscript and flattened it upon his knee.

‘You will observe, Watson, the alternative use of the long s and the short. It is one of several indications which enabled me to fix the date.’

I looked over his shoulder at the yellow paper and the faded script. At the head was written: ‘Baskerville Hall’, and below, in large, scrawling figures: ‘1742’.

‘It appears to be a statement of some sort.’

‘Yes, it is a statement of a certain legend which runs in the Baskerville family.’

‘But I understand that it is something more modern and practical upon which you wish to consult me?’

‘Most modern. A most practical, pressing matter, which must be decided within twenty-four hours. But the manuscript is short and is intimately connected with the affair. With your permission I will read it to you.’

Holmes leaned back in his chair, placed his finger-tips together, and closed his eyes, with an air of resignation. Dr Mortimer turned the manuscript to the light, and read in a high, cracking voice the following curious, old-world narrative.

‘Of the origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles there have been many statements, yet as I come in a direct line from Hugo Baskerville, and as I had the story from my father, who also had it from his, I have set it down with all belief that it occurred even as is here set forth. And I would have you believe, my sons, that the same Justice which punishes sin may also most graciously forgive it, and that no ban is so heavy but that by prayer and repentance it may be removed. Learn then from this story not to fear the fruits of the past, but rather to be circumspect in the future, that those foul passions whereby our family has suffered so grievously may not again be loosed to our undoing.

‘Know then that in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend to your attention) this Manor of Baskerville was held by Hugo of that name, nor can it be gainsaid that he was a most wild, profane, and godless man. This, in truth, his neighbours might have pardoned, seeing that saints have never flourished in those parts, but there was in him a certain wanton and cruel humour which made his name a byword through the West. It chanced that this Hugo came to love (if, indeed, so dark a passion may be known under so bright a name) the daughter of a yeoman who held lands near the Baskerville estate. But the young maiden, being discreet and of good repute, would ever avoid him, for she feared his evil name. So it came to pass that one Michaelmas this Hugo, with five or six of his idle and wicked companions, stole down upon the farm and carried off the maiden, her father and brothers being from home, as he well knew. When they had brought her to the Hall the maiden was placed in an upper chamber, while Hugo and his friends sat down to a long carouse as was their nightly custom. Now, the poor lass upstairs was like to have her wits turned at the singing and shouting and terrible oaths which came up to her from below, for they say that the words used by Hugo Baskerville, when he was in wine, were such as might blast the man who said them. At last in the stress of her fear she did that which might have daunted the bravest or most active man, for by the aid of the growth of ivy which covered (and still covers) the south wall, she came down from under the eaves, and so homeward across the moor, there being three leagues betwixt the Hall and her father’s farm.

‘It chanced that some little time later Hugo left his guests to carry food and drink – with other worse things, perchance – to his captive, and so found the cage empty and the bird escaped. Then, as it would seem, he became as one that hath a devil, for, rushing down the stairs into the dining-hall, he sprang upon the great table, flagons and trenchers flying before him, and he cried aloud before all the company that he would that very night render his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he might but overtake the wench. And while the revellers stood aghast at the fury of the man, one more wicked or, it may be, more drunken than the rest, cried out that they should put the hounds upon her. Whereat Hugo ran from the house, crying to his grooms that they should saddle his mare and unkennel the pack, and giving the hounds a kerchief of the maid’s, he swung them to the line, and so off full cry in the moonlight over the moor.

‘Now, for some space the revellers stood agape, unable to understand all that had been done in such haste. But anon their bemused wits awoke to the nature of the deed which was like to be done upon the moorlands. Everything was now in an uproar, some calling for their pistols, some for their horses, and some for another flask of wine. But at length some sense came back to their crazed minds, and the whole of them, thirteen in number, took horse and started in pursuit. The moon shone clear above them, and they rode swiftly abreast, taking that course which the maid must needs have taken if she were to reach her own home.

‘They had gone a mile or two when they passed one of the night shepherds upon the moorlands, and they cried to him to know if he had seen the hunt. And the man, as the story goes, was so crazed with fear that he could scarce speak, but at last he said that he had indeed seen the unhappy maiden, with the hounds upon her track. “But I have seen more than that,” said he, “for Hugo Baskerville passed me upon his black mare, and there ran mute behind him such a hound of Hell as God forbid should ever be at my heels.”

‘So the drunken squires cursed the shepherd and rode onwards. But soon their skins turned cold, for there came a sound of galloping across the moor, and the black mare, dabbled with white froth, went past with trailing bridle and empty saddle. Then the revellers rode close together, for a great fear was on them, but they still followed over the moor, though each, had he been alone, would have been right glad to have turned his horse’s head. Riding slowly in this fashion, they came at last upon the hounds. These, though known for their valour and their breed, were whimpering in a cluster at the head of a deep dip or goyal, as we call it, upon the moor, some slinking away and some, with starting hackles and staring eyes, gazing down the narrow valley before them.

‘The company had come to a halt, more sober men, as you may guess, than when they started. The most of them would by no means advance, but three of them, the boldest, or, it may be, the most drunken, rode forward down the goyal. Now it opened into a broad space in which stood two of those great stones, still to be seen there, which were set by certain forgotten peoples in the days of old. The moon was shining bright upon the clearing, and there in the centre lay the unhappy maid where she had fallen, dead of fear and of fatigue. But it was not the sight of her body, nor yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville lying near her, which raised the hair upon the heads of these three dare-devil roisterers, but it was that, standing over Hugo, and plucking at his throat, there stood a foul thing, a great, black beast, shaped like a hound, yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon. And even as they looked the thing tore the throat out of Hugo Baskerville, on which, as it turned its blazing eyes and dripping jaws upon them, the three shrieked with fear and rode for dear life, still screaming, across the moor. One, it is said, died that very night of what he had seen, and the other twain were but broken men for the rest of their days.

‘Such is the tale, my sons, of the coming of the hound which is said to have plagued the family so sorely ever since. If I have set it down it is because that which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed. Nor can it be denied that many of the family have been unhappy in their deaths, which have been sudden, bloody, and mysterious. Yet may we shelter ourselves in the infinite goodness of Providence, which would not for ever punish the innocent beyond that third or fourth generation which is threatened in Holy Writ. To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.

‘(This from Hugo Baskerville to his sons Rodger and John, with instructions that they say nothing thereof to their sister Elizabeth.)’

When Dr Mortimer had finished reading this singular narrative he pushed his spectacles up on his forehead and stared across at Mr Sherlock Holmes. The latter yawned and tossed the end of his cigarette into the fire.

‘Well?’ said he.

‘Do you not find it interesting?’

‘To a collector of fairy-tales.’

Dr Mortimer drew a folded newspaper out of his pocket.

‘Now, Mr Holmes, we will give you something a little more recent. This is the Devon County Chronicle of June fourteenth of this year. It is a short account of the facts elicited at the death of Sir Charles Baskerville which occurred a few days before that date.’

My friend leaned a little forward and his expression became intent. Our visitor readjusted his glasses and began:

‘The recent sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose name has been mentioned as the probable Liberal candidate for Mid-Devon at the next election, has cast a gloom over the county. Though Sir Charles had resided at Baskerville Hall for a comparatively short period, his amiability of character and extreme generosity had won the affection and respect of all who had been brought into contact with him. In these days of nouveaux riches it is refreshing to find a case where the scion of an old county family which has fallen upon evil days is able to make his own fortune and to bring it back with him to restore the fallen grandeur of his line. Sir Charles, as is well known, made large sums of money in South African speculation. More wise than those who go on until the wheel turns against them, he realised his gains and returned to England with them. It is only two years since he took up his residence at Baskerville Hall, and it is common talk how large were those schemes of reconstruction and improvement which have been interrupted by his death. Being himself childless, it was his openly expressed desire that the whole countryside should, within his own lifetime, profit by his good fortune, and many will have personal reasons for bewailing his untimely end. His generous donations to local and county charities have been frequently chronicled in these columns.

‘The circumstances connected with the death of Sir Charles cannot be said to have been entirely cleared up by the inquest, but at least enough has been done to dispose of those rumours to which local superstition has given rise. There is no reason whatever to suspect foul play, or to imagine that death could be from any but natural causes. Sir Charles was a widower, and a man who may be said to have been in some ways of an eccentric habit of mind. In spite of his considerable wealth he was simple in his personal tastes, and his indoor servants at Baskerville Hall consisted of a married couple named Barrymore, the husband acting as butler and the wife as housekeeper. Their evidence, corroborated by that of several friends, tends to show that Sir Charles’s health has for some time been impaired, and points especially to some affection of the heart, manifesting itself in changes of colour, breathlessness, and acute attacks of nervous depression. Dr James Mortimer, the friend and medical attendant of the deceased, has given evidence to the same effect.

‘The facts of the case are simple. Sir Charles Baskerville was in the habit every night before going to bed of walking down the famous Yew Alley of Baskerville Hall. The evidence of the Barrymores shows that this had been his custom. On the fourth of June Sir Charles had declared his intention of starting next day for London, and had ordered Barrymore to prepare his luggage. That night he went out asverdict