To put this volume back on the shelf, please click here.
To return to the Table of Contents, please click here
The Diogenes Club Logo

The Hound of the
Baskervilles

Chapter X
Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson


   So far I have been able to quote from the reports which I
have forwarded during these early days to Sherlock Holmes.
Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I
am compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to
my recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A
few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes
which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I
proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive
chase of the convict and our other strange experiences upon the
moor.
  October 16th. A dull and foggy day with a drizzle of rain. The
house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then
to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins
upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming
where the light strikes upon their wet faces. It is melancholy
outside and in. The baronet is in a black reaction after the
excitements of the night. I am conscious myself of a weight at
my heart and a feeling of impending danger -- ever present dan-
ger, which is the more terrible because I am unable to define it.
  And have I not cause for such a feeling? Consider the long
sequence of incidents which have all pointed to some sinister
influence which is at work around us. There is the death of the
last occupant of the Hall, fulfilling so exactly the conditions of
the family legend, and there are the repeated reports from peas-
ants of the appearance of a strange creature upon the moor.
Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resem-
bled the distant baying of a hound. It is incredible, impossible,
that it should really be outside the ordinary laws of nature. A
spectral hound which leaves material footmarks and fills the air
with its howling is surely not to be thought of. Stapleton may fall
in with such a superstition, and Mortimer also, but if I have one
quality upon earth it is common sense, and nothing will persuade
me to believe in such a thing. To do so would be to descend to
the level of these poor peasants, who are not content with a mere
fiend dog but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting
from his mouth and eyes. Holmes would not listen to such
fancies, and I am his agent. But facts are facts, and I have twice
heard this crying upon the moor. Suppose that there were really
some huge hound loose upon it; that would go far to explain
everything. But where could such a hound lie concealed, where
did it get its food, where did it come from, how was it that no
one saw it by day? It must be confessed that the natural explana-
tion offers almost as many difficulties as the other. And always,
apart from the hound, there is the fact of the human agency in
London, the man in the cab, and the letter which warned Sir
Henry against the moor. This at least was real, but it might have
been the work of a protecting friend as easily as of an enemy.
Where is that friend or enemy now? Has he remained in London,
or has he followed us down here? Could he -- could he be the
stranger whom I saw upon the tor?
  It is true that I have had only the one glance at him, and yet
there are some things to which I am ready to swear. He is no one
whom I have seen down here, and I have now met all the
neighbours. The figure was far taller than that of Stapleton, far
thinner than that of Frankland. Barrymore it might possibly have
been, but we had left him behind us, and I am certain that he
could not have followed us. A stranger then is still dogging us,
just as a stranger dogged us in London. We have never shaken
him off. If I could lay my hands upon that man, then at last we
might find ourselves at the end of all our difficulties. To this one
purpose I must now devote all my energies.
  My first impulse was to tell Sir Henry all my plans. My
second and wisest one is to play my own game and speak as little
as possible ta anyone. He is silent and distrait. His nerves have
been strangely shaken by that sound upon the moor. I will say
nothing to add to his anxieties, but I will take my own steps to
attain my own end.
  We had a small scene this morning after breakfast. Barrymore
asked leave to speak with Sir Henry, and they were closeted in
his study some little time. Sitting in the billiard-room I more
than once heard the sound of voices raised, and I had a pretty
good idea what the point was which was under discussion. After
a time the baronet opened his door and called for me.
  "Barrymore considers that he has a grievance," he said. "He
thinks that it was unfair on our part to hunt his brother-in-law
down when he, of his own free will, had told us the secret."
  The butler was standing very pale but very collected before us.
  "I may have spoken too warmly, sir," said he, "and if I 
have, I am sure that I beg your pardon. At the same time, I was
very much surprised when I heard you two gentlemen come back
this morning and learned that you had been chasing Selden. The
poor fellow has enough to fight against without my putting more
upon his track."
  "If you had told us of your own free will it would have been a
different thing," said the baronet, "you only told us, or rather
your wife only told us, when it was forced from you and you
could not help yourself."
  "I didn't think you would have taken advantage of it, Sir 
Henry -- indeed I didn't."
  "The man is a public danger. There are lonely houses scat-
tered over the moor, and he is a fellow who would stick at
nothing. You only want to get a glimpse of his face to see that.
Look at Mr. Stapleton's house, for example, with no one but
himself to defend it. There's no safety for anyone untill he is
under lock and key."
  "He'll break into no house, sir. I give you my solemn word
upon that. But he will never trouble anyone in this country
again. I assure you, Sir Henry, that in a very few days the
necessary arrangements will have been made and he will be on
his way to South America. For God's sake, sir, I beg of you not
to let the police know that he is still on the moor. They have
given up the chase there, and he can lie quiet until the ship is
ready for him. You can't tell on him without getting my wife
and me into trouble. I beg you, sir, to say nothing to the
police."
  "What do you say, Watson?"
  I shrugged my shoulders. "If he were safely out of the
country it would relieve the tax-payer of a burden."
  "But how about the chance of his holding someone up before
he goes?"
  "He would not do anything so mad, sir. We have provided
him with all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to
show where he was hiding."
  "That is true," said Sir Henry. "Well, Barrymore --"
  "God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would
have killed my poor wife had he been taken again."
  "I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But,
after what we have heard I don't feel as if I could give the man
up, so there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go."
  With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he
hesitated and then came back.
  "You've been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the
best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and
perhaps I should have said it before, but it was long after the
inquest that I found it out. I've never breathed a word about it
yet to mortal man. It's about poor Sir Charles's death."
  The baronet and I were both upon our feet. "Do you know
how he died?"
  "No, sir, I don't know that."
  "What then?"
  "I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a
woman."
  "To meet a woman! He?"
  "Yes, sir."
  "And the woman's name?"
  "I can't give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials.
Her initials were L. L."
  "How do you know this, Barrymore?"
  "Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He
had usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and
well known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in
trouble was glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced,
there was only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It
was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman's
hand."
  "Well?"
  "Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would
have done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago
she was cleaning out Sir Charles's study -- it had never been
touched since his death -- and she found the ashes of a burned
letter in the back of the grate. The greater part of it was charred
to pieces, but one little slip, the end of a page, hung together,
and the writing could still be read, though it was gray on a black
ground. It seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter
and it said: 'Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this
letter, and be at the gate by ten o clock. Beneath it were signed
the initials L. L."
  "Have you got that slip?"
  "No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it."
  "Had Sir Charles received any other lettefs in the same
writting?"
  "Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should
not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone."
  "And you have no idea who L. L. is?"
  "No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay
our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charles's
death."
  "I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal
this important information."
  "Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came
to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir
Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for
us. To rake this up couldn't help our poor master, and it's well
to go carefully when there's a lady in the case. Even the best of
us --"
  "You thought it might injure his reputation?"
  "Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you
have been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you
unfairly not to tell you all that I know about the matter."
  "Very good, Barrymore; you can go." When the butler had
left us Sir Henry turned to me. "Well, Watson, what do you
think of this new light?"
  "It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before."
  "So I think. But if we can only trace L. L. it should clear up
the whole business. We have gained that much. We know that
there is someone who has the facts if we can only find her. What
do you think we should do?"
  "Let Holmes know all about it at once. It will give him the
clue for which he has been seeking. I am much mistaken if it
does not bring him down."
  I went at once to my room and drew up my report of the
morning's conversation for Holmes. It was evident to me that he
had been very busy of late, for the notes which I had from Baker
Street were few and short, with no comments upon the informa-
tion which I had supplied and hardly any reference to my mis-
sion. No doubt his blackmailing case is absorbing all his faculties.
And yet this new factor must surely arrest his attention and
renew his interest. I wish that he were here.
  October 17th. All day to-day the rain poured down, rustling
on the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict
out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever
his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. And
then I thought of that other one -- the face in the cab, the figure
against the moon. Was he also out in that deluged -- the unseen
watcher, the man of darkness? In the evening I put on my
waterproof and I walked far upon the sodden moor, full of dark
imaginings, the rain beating upon my face and the wind whis-
tling about my ears. God help those who wander into the great
mire now, for even the firm uplands are becoming a morass. I
found the black tor upon which I had seen the solitary watcher,
and from its craggy summit I looked out myself across the
melancholy downs. Rain squalls drifted across their russet face,
and the heavy, slate-coloured clouds hung low over the land-
scape, trailing in gray wreaths down the sides of the fantastic
hills. In the distant hollow on the left, half hidden by the mist,
the two thin towers of Baskerville Hall rose above the trees.
They were the only signs of human life which I could see, save
only those prehistoric huts which lay thickly upon the slopes of
the hills. Nowhere was there any trace of that lonely man whom
I had seen on the same spot two nights before.
  As I walked back I was overtaken by Dr. Mortimer driving in
his dog-cart over a rough moorland track which led from the
outlying farmhouse of Foulmire. He has been very attentive to
us, and hardly a day has passed that he has not called at the Hall
to see how we were getting on. He insisted upon my climbing
into his dog-cart, and he gave me a lift homeward. I found him
much troubled over the disappearance of his little spaniel. It had
wandered on to the moor and had never come back. I gave him
such consolation as I might, but I thought of the pony on the
Grimpen Mire, and I do not fancy that he will see his little dog
again.
  "By the way, Mortimer," said I as we jolted along the rough
road, "I suppose there are few people living within driving
distance of this whom you do not know?"
  "Hardly any, I think."
  "Can you, then, tell me the name of any woman whose
initials are L. L.?"
  He thought for a few minutes.
  "No," said he. "There are a few gipsies and labouring folk
for whom I can't answer, but among the farmers or gentry there
is no one whose initials are those. Wait a bit though," he added
after a pause. "There is Laura Lyons -- her initials are L. L. -- but
she lives in Coombe Tracey."
  "Who is she?" I asked.
  "She is Frankland's daughter."
  "What! Old Frankland the crank?"
  "Exactly. She married an artist named Lyons, who came
sketching on the moor. He proved to be a blackguard and
deserted her. The fault from what I hear may not have been
entirely on one side. Her father refused to have anything to do
with her because she had married without his consent and per-
haps for one or two other reasons as well. So, between the old
sinner and the young one the girl has had a pretty bad time."
  "How does she live?"
  "I fancy old Frankland allows her a pittance, but it cannot be
more, for his own affairs are considerably involved. Whatever
she may have deserved one could not allow her to go hopelessly
to the bad. Her story got about, and several of the people here
did something to enable her to earn an honest living. Stapleton
did for one, and Sir Charles for another. I gave a trifle myself. It
was to set her up in a typewriting business."
  He wanted to know the object of my inquiries, but I managed
to satisfy his curiosity without telling him too much, for there is
no reason why we should take anyone into our confidence.
To-morrow morning I shall find my way to Coombe Tracey, and
if I can see this Mrs. Laura Lyons, of equivocal reputation, a
long step will have been made towards clearing one incident in
this chain of mysteries. I am certainly developing the wisdom of
the serpent, for when Mortimer pressed his questions to an
inconvenient extent I asked him casually to what type Frank-
land's skull belonged, and so heard nothing but craniology for
the rest of our drive. I have not lived for years with Sherlock
Holmes for nothing.
  I have only one other incident to record upon this tempestuous
and melancholy day. This was my conversation with Barrymore
just now, which gives me one more strong card which I can play
in due time.
  Mortimer had stayed to dinner, and he and the baronet played
ecarte afterwards. The butler brought me my coffee into the
library, and I took the chance to ask him a few questions.
  "Well," said I, "has this precious relation of yours departed,
or is he still lurking out yonder?"
  "I don't know, sir. I hope to heaven that he has gone, for he
has brought nothing but trouble here! I've not heard of him since
I left out food for him last, and that was three days ago."
  "Did you see him then?"
  "No, sir, but the food was gone when next I went that way."
  "Then he was certainly there?"
  "So you would think, sir, unless it was the other man who
took it."
  I sat with my coffee-cup halfway to my lips and stared at
Barrymore.
  "You know that there is another man then?"
  "Yes, sir; there is another man upon the moor."
  "Have you seen him?"
  "No, sir."
  "How do you know of him then?"
  "Selden told me of him, sir, a week ago or more. He's in
hiding, too, but he's not a convict as far as I can make out. I
don't like it, Dr. Watson -- I tell you straight, sir, that I don't like
it." He spoke with a sudden passion of earnestness.
  "Now, listen to me, Barrymore! I have no interest in this
matter but that of your master. I have come here with no object
except to help him. Tell me, frankly, what it is that you don't
like."
  Barrymore hesitated for a moment, as if he regretted his
outburst or found it difficult to express his own feelings in
words.
  "It's all these goings-on, sir," he cried at last, waving his
hand towards the rain-lashed window which faced the moor.
"There's foul play somewhere, and there's black villainy brew-
ing, to that I'll swear! Very glad I should be, sir, to see Sir
Henry on his way back to London again!"
  "But what is it that alarms you?"
  "Look at Sir Charles's death! That was bad enough, for all
that the coroner said. Look at the noises on the moor at night.
There's not a man would cross it after sundown if he was paid
for it. Look at this stranger hiding out yonder, and watching and
waiting! What's he waiting for? What does it mean? It means no
good to anyone of the name of Baskerville, and very glad I shall
be to be quit of it all on the day that Sir Henry's new servants are
ready to take over the Hall."
  "But about this stranger," said I. "Can you tell me anything
about him? What did Selden say? Did he find out where he hid,
or what he was doing?"
  "He saw him once or twice, but he is a deep one and gives
nothing away. At first he thought that he was the police, but
soon he found that he had some lay of his own. A kind of
gentleman he was, as far as he could see, but what he was doing
he could not make out."
  "And where did he say that he lived?"
  "Among the old houses on the hillside -- the stone huts where
the old folk used to live."
  "But how about his food?"
  "Selden found out that he has got a lad who works for him and
brings all he needs. I dare say he goes to Coombe Tracey for
what he wants."
  "Very good, Barrymore. We may talk further of this some
other time." When the butler had gone I walked over to the
black window, and I looked through a blurred pane at the driving
clouds and at the tossing outline of the wind-swept trees. It is a
wild night indoors, and what must it be in a stone hut upon the
moor. What passion of hatred can it be which leads a man to lurk
in such a place at such a time! And what deep and earnest
purpose can he have which calls for such a trial! There, in that
hut upon the moor, seems to lie the very centre of that problem
which has vexed me so sorely. I swear that another day shall not
have passed before I have done all that man can do to reach the
heart of the mystery.
 
Chapter
The Diogenes Club:  To go the the next chapter, please click here.
XI


The Diogenes Club:  (c) Copyright 1999-2000 The Diogenes Club All Rights Reserved