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The Hound of the
Baskervilles

Chapter XII
Death on the Moor


  For a moment or two I sat breathless, hardly able to believe
my ears. Then my senses and my voice came back to me, while
a crushing weight of responsibility seemed in an instant to be
lifted from my soul. That cold, incisive, ironical voice could
belong to but one man in all the world.
  "Holmes!" I cried -- "Holmes!"
  "Come out," said he, "and please be careful with the revolver."
  I stooped under the rude lintel, and there he sat upon a stone
outside, his gray eyes dancing with amusement as they fell upon
my astonished features. He was thin and worn, but clear and
alert, his keen face bronzed by the sun and roughened by the
wind. In his tweed suit and cloth cap he looked like any other
tourist upon the moor, and he had contrived, with that catlike
love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics,
that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he
were in Baker Street.
  "I never was more glad to see anyone in my life," said I as I
wrung him by the hand.
  "Or more astonished, eh?"
  "Well, I must confess to it."
  "The surprise was not all on one side, I assure you. I had no
idea that you had found my occasional retreat, still less that you
were inside it, until I was within twenty paces of the door."
  "My footprint, I presume?"
  "No, Watson, I fear that I could not undertake to recognize
your footprint amid all the footprints of the world. If you seri-
ously desire to deceive me you must change your tobacconist; for
when I see the stub of a cigarette marked Bradley, Oxford Street,
I know that my friend Watson is in the neighbourhood. You will
see it there beside the path. You threw it down, no doubt, at that
supreme moment when you charged into the empty hut."
  "Exactly."
  "I thought as much -- and knowing your admirable tenacity I
was convinced that you were sitting in ambush, a weapon within
reach, waiting for the tenant to return. So you actually thought
that I was the criminal?"
  "I did not know who you were, but I was determined to find
out."
  "Excellent, Watson! And how did you localize me? You saw
me, perhaps, on the night of the convict hunt, when I was so
imprudent as to allow the moon to rise behind me?"
  "Yes, I saw you then."
  "And have no doubt searched all the huts until you came to
this one?"
  "No, your boy had been observed, and that gave me a guide
where to look."
  "The old gentleman with the telescope, no doubt. I could not
make it out when first I saw the light flashing upon the lens."
He rose and peeped into the hut. "Ha, I see that Cartwright has
brought up some supplies. What's this paper? So you have been
to Coombe Tracey, have you?"
  "Yes."
  "To see Mrs. Laura Lyons?"
  "Exactly."
  "Well done! Our researches have evidently been running on
parallel lines, and when we unite our results I expect we shall
have a fairly full knowledge of the case."
  "Well, I am glad from my heart that you are here, for indeed
the responsibility and the mystery were both becoming too much
for my nerves. But how in the name of wonder did you come
here, and what have you been doing? I thought that you were in
Baker Street working out that case of blackmailing."
  "That was what I wished you to think."
  "Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!" I cried with
some bitterness. "I think that I have deserved better at your
hands, Holmes."
  "My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this as in
many other cases, and I beg that you will forgive me if I have
seemed to play a trick upon you. In truth, it was partly for your
own sake that I did it, and it was my appreciation of the danger
which you ran which led me to come down and examine the
matter for myself. Had I been with Sir Henry and you it is
confident that my point of view would have been the same as
yours, and my presence would have warned our very formidable
opponents to be on their guard. As it is, I have been able to get
about as I could not possibly have done had I been living in the
Hall, and I remain an unknown factor in the business, ready to
throw in all my weight at a critical moment."
  "But why keep me in the dark?"
  "For you to know could not have helped us and might possi-
bly have led to my discovery. You would have wished to tell me
something, or in your kindness you would have brought me out
some comfort or other, and so an unnecessary risk would be run.
I brought Cartwright down with me -- you remember the little
chap at the express office -- and he has seen after my simple
wants: a loaf of bread and a clean collar. What does man want
more? He has given me an extra pair of eyes upon a very active
pair of feet, and both have been invaluable."
  "Then my reports have all been wasted!" -- My voice trem-
bled as I recalled the pains and the pride with which I had
composed them.
  Holmes took a bundle of papers from his pocket.
  "Here are your reports, my dear fellow, and very well thumbed,
I assure you. I made excellent arrangements, and they are only
delayed one day upon their way. I must compliment you ex-
ceedingly upon the zeal and the intelligence which you have
shown over an extraordinarily difficult case."
  I was still rather raw over the deception which had been
practised upon me, but the warmth of Holmes's praise drove my
anger from my mind. I felt also in my heart that he was right in
what he said and that it was really best for our purpose that I
should not have known that he was upon the moor.
  "That's better," said he, seeing the shadow rise from my
face. "And now tell me the result of your visit to Mrs. Laura
Lyons -- it was not difficult for me to guess that it was to see her
that you had gone, for I am already aware that she is the one
person in Coombe Tracey who might be of service to us in the
matter. In fact, if you had not gone to-day it is exceedingly
probable that I should have gone to-morrow."
  The sun had set and dusk was settling over the moor. The air
had turned chill and we withdrew into the hut for warmth. There
sitting together in the twilight, I told Holmes of my conversation
with the lady. So interested was he that I had to repeat some of it
twice before he was satisfied.
  "This is most important," said he when I had concluded. "It
fills up a gap which I had been unable to bridge in this most
complex affair. You are aware, perhaps, that a close intimacy
exists between this lady and the man Stapleton?"
  "I did not know of a close intimacy."
  "There can be no doubt about the matter. They meet, they
write, there is a complete understanding between them. Now,
this puts a very powerful weapon into our hands. If I could only
use it to detach his wife "
  "His wife?"
  "I am giving you some information now, in return for all that
you have given me. The lady who has passed here as Miss
Stapleton is in reality his wife."
  "Good heavens, Holmes! Are you sure of what you say? How
could he have permitted Sir Henry to fall in love with her?"
  "Sir Henry's falling in love could do no harm to anyone
except Sir Henry. He took particular care that Sir Henry did not
make love to her, as you have yourself observed. I repeat that the
lady is his wife and not his sister."
  "But why this elaborate deception?"
  "Because he foresaw that she would be very much more
useful to him in the character of a free woman."
  All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly
took shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive
colourless man, with his straw hat and his butterfly-net, I seemed
to see something terrible -- a creature of infinite patience and
craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart.
  "It is he, then, who is our enemy -- it is he who dogged us in
London?"
  "So I read the riddle."
  "And the warning -- it must have come from her!"
  "Exactly."
  The shape of some monstrous villainy, half seen, half guessed,
loomed through the darkness which had girt me so long.
  "But are you sure of this, Holmes? How do you know that the
woman is his wife?"
  "Because he so far forgot himself as to tell you a true piece of
autobiography upon the occasion when he first met you, and I
dare say he has many a time regretted it since. He was once a
schoolmaster in the north of England. Now, there is no one more
easy to trace than a schoolmaster. There are scholastic agencies
by which one may identify any man who has been in the
profession. A little investigation showed me that a school had
come to grief under atrocious circumstances, and that the man
who had owned it -- the name was different -- had disappeared
with his wife. The descriptions agreed. When I learned that the
missing man was devoted to entomology the identification was
complete."
  The darkness was rising, but much was still hidden by the
shadows.
  "If this woman is in truth his wife, where does Mrs. Laura
Lyons come in?" I asked.
  "That is one of the points upon which your own researches
have shed a light. Your interview with the lady has cleared the
situation very much. I did not know about a projected divorce
between herself and her husband. In that case, regarding Stapleton
as an unmarried man, she counted no doubt upon becoming his
wife."
  "And when she is undeceived?"
  "Why, then we may find the lady of service. It must be our
first duty to see her -- both of us -- to-morrow. Don't you think,
Watson, that you are away from your charge rather long? Your
place should be at Baskerville Hall."
  The last red streaks had faded away in the west and night had
settled upon the moor. A few faint stars were gleaming in a
violet sky.
  "One last question, Holmes," I said as I rose. "Surely there
is no need of secrecy between you and me. What is the meaning
of it all? What is he after?"
  Holmes's voice sank as he answered:
  "It is murder, Watson -- refined, cold-blooded, deliberate mur-
der. Do not ask me for particulars. My nets are closing upon
him, even as his are upon Sir Henry, and with your help he is
already almost at my mercy. There is but one danger which can
threaten us. It is that he should strike before we are ready to do
so. Another day -- two at the most -- and I have my case com-
plete, but until then guard your charge as closely as ever a fond
mother watched her ailing child. Your mission to-day has justi-
fied itself, and yet I could almost wish that you had not left his
side. Hark!"
  A terrible scream -- a prolonged yell of horror and anguish
burst out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned the
blood to ice in my veins.
  "Oh, my God!" I gasped. "What is it? What does it mean?"
  Holmes had sprung to his feet, and I saw his dark, athletic
outline at the door of the hut, his shoulders stooping, his head
thrust forward, his face peering into the darkness.
  "Hush!" he whispered. "Hush!"
  The cry had been loud on account of its vehemence, but it had
pealed out from somewhere far off on the shadowy plain. Now it
burst upon our ears, nearer, louder, more urgent than before.
  "Where is it?" Holmes whispered; and I knew from the thrill
of his voice that he, the man of iron, was shaken to the soul.
"Where is it, Watson?"
  "There, I think." I pointed into the darkness.
  "No, there!"
  Again the agonized cry swept through the silent night, louder
and much nearer than ever. And a new sound mingled with it, a
deep, muttered rumble, musical and yet menacing, rising and
falling like the low, constant murmur of the sea.
  "The hound!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, come! Great
heavens, if we are too late!"
  He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had
followed at his heels. But now from somewhere among the
broken ground immediately in front of us there came one last
despairing yell, and then a dull, heavy thud. We halted and
listened. Not another sound broke the heavy silence of the
windless night.
  I saw Holmes put his hand to his forehead like a man dis-
tracted. He stamped his feet upon the ground.
  "He has beaten us, Watson. We are too late."
  "No, no, surely not!"
  "Fool that I was to hold my hand. And you, Watson, see what
comes of abandoning your charge! But, by Heaven, if the worst
has happened we'll avenge him!"
  Blindly we ran through the gloom, blundering against boul-
ders, forcing our way through gorse bushes, panting up hills and
rushing down slopes, heading always in the direction whence
those dreadful sounds had come. At every rise Holmes looked
eagerly round him, but the shadows were thick upon the moor,
and nothing moved upon its dreary face.
  "Can you see anything?"
  "Nothing."
  "But, hark, what is that?"
  A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon
our left! On that side a ridge of rocks ended in a sheer cliff
which overlooked a stone-strewn slope. On its jagged face was
spread-eagled some dark, irregular object. As we ran towards it
the vague outline hardened into a definite shape. It was a pros-
trate man face downward upon the ground, the head doubled
under him at a horrible angle, the shoulders rounded and the
body hunched together as if in the act of throwing a somersault.
So grotesque was the attitude that I could not for the instant
realize that that moan had been the passing of his soul. Not a
whisper, not a rustle, rose now from the dark figure over which
we stooped. Holmes laid his hand upon him and held it up again
with an exclamation of horror. The gleam of the match which he
struck shone upon his clotted fingers and upon the ghastly pool
which widened slowly from the crushed skull of the victim. And
it shone upon something else which turned our hearts sick and
faint within us -- the body of Sir Henry Baskerville!
  There was no chance of either of us forgetting that peculiar
ruddy tweed suit -- the very one which he had worn on the first
morning that we had seen him in Baker Street. We caught the
one clear glimpse of it, and then the match flickered and went
out, even as the hope had gone out of our souls. Holmes
groaned, and his face glimmered white through the darkness.
  "The brute! the brute!" I cried with clenched hands. "Oh
Holmes, I shall never forgive myself for having left him to his
fate."
  "I am more to blame than you, Watson. In order to have my
case well rounded and complete, I have thrown away the life of
my client. It is the greatest blow which has befallen me in my
career. But how could I know -- how could l know -- that he
would risk his life alone upon the moor in the face of all my
warnings?"
  "That we should have heard his screams -- my God, those
screams! -- and yet have been unable to save him! Where is this
brute of a hound which drove him to his death? It may be lurking
among these rocks at this instant. And Stapleton, where is he?
He shall answer for this deed."
  "He shall. I will see to that. Uncle and nephew have been
murdered -- the one frightened to death by the very sight of a
beast which he thought to be supernatural, the other driven to his
end in his wild flight to escape from it. But now we have to
prove the connection between the man and the beast. Save from
what we heard, we cannot even swear to the existence of the
latter, since Sir Henry has evidently died from the fall. But, by
heavens, cunning as he is, the fellow shall be in my power
before another day is past!"
  We stood with bitter hearts on either side of the mangled body,
overwhelmed by this sudden and irrevocable disaster which had
brought all our long and weary labours to so piteous an end.
Then as the moon rose we climbed to the top of the rocks over
which our poor friend had fallen, and from the summit we gazed
out over the shadowy moor, half silver and half gloom. Far
away, miles off, in the direction of Grimpen, a single steady
yellow light was shining. It could only come from the lonely
abode of the Stapletons. With a bitter curse I shook my fist at it
as I gazed.
  "Why should we not seize him at once?"
  "Our case is not complete. The fellow is wary and cunning to
the last degree. It is not what we know, but what we can prove.
If we make one false move the villain may escape us yet."
  "What can we do?"
  "There will be plenty for us to do to-morrow. To-night we
can only perform the last offices to our poor friend."
  Together we made our way down the precipitous slope and
approached the body, black and clear against the silvered stones.
The agony of those contorted limbs struck me with a spasm of
pain and blurred my eyes with tears.
  "We must send for help, Holmes! We cannot carry him all the
way to the Hall. Good heavens, are you mad?"
  He had uttered a cry and bent over the body. Now he was
dancing and laughing and wringing my hand. Could this be my
stern, self-contained friend? These were hidden fires, indeed!
  "A beard! A beard! The man has a beard!"
  "A beard?"
  "It is not the baronet -- it is -- why, it is my neighbour, the
convict!"
  With feverish haste we had turned the body over, and that
dripping beard was pointing up to the cold, clear moon. There
could be no doubt about the beetling forehead, the sunken animal
eyes. It was indeed the same face which had glared upon me in
the light of the candle from over the rock -- the face of Selden,
the criminal.
  Then in an instant it was all clear to me. I remembered how
the baronet had told me that he had handed his old wardrobe to
Barrymore. Barrymore had passed it on in order to help Selden
in his escape. Boots, shirt, cap -- it was all Sir Henry's. The
tragedy was still black enough, but this man had at least de-
served death by the laws of his country. I told Holmes how the
matter stood, my heart bubbling over with thankfulness and joy.
  "Then the clothes have been the poor devil's death," said he.
"It is clear enough that the hound has been laid on from some
article of Sir Henry's -- the boot which was abstracted in the
hotel, in all probability -- and so ran this man down. There is one
very singular thing, however: How came Selden, in the dark-
ness, to know that the hound was on his trail?"
  "He heard him."
  "To hear a hound upon the moor would not work a hard man
like this convict into such a paroxysm of terror that he would risk
recapture by screaming wildly for help. By his cries he must
have run a long way after he knew the animal was on his track.
How did he know?"
  "A greater mystery to me is why this hound, presuming that
all our conjectures are correct --"
  "I presume nothing."
  "Well, then, why this hound should be loose to-night. I
suppose that it does not always run loose upon the moor. Stapleton
would not let it go unless he had reason to think that Sir Henry
would be there."
  "My difficulty is the more formidable of the two, for I think
that we shall very shortly get an explanation of yours, while
mine may remain forever a mystery. The question now is, what
shall we do with this poor wretch's body? We cannot leave it
here to the foxes and the ravens."
  "I suggest that we put it in one of the huts until we can
communicate with the police."
  "Exactly. I have no doubt that you and I could carry it so far.
Halloa, Watson, what's this? It's the man himself, by all that's
wonderful and audacious! Not a word to show yow suspicions --
not a word, or my plans crumble to the ground."
  A figure was approaching us over the moor, and I saw the dull
red glow of a cigar. The moon shone upon him, and I could
distinguish the dapper shape and jaunty walk of the naturalist.
He stopped when he saw us, and then came on again.
  "Why, Dr. Watson, that's not you, is it? You are the last man
that I should have expected to see out on the moor at this time of
night. But, dear me, what's this? Somebody hurt? Not -- don't
tell me that it is our friend Sir Henry!" He hurried past me and
stooped over the dead man. I heard a sharp intake of his breath
and the cigar fell from his fingers.
  "Who -- who's this?" he stammered.
  "It is Selden, the man who escaped from Princetown."
  Stapleton turned a ghastly face upon us, but by a supreme
effort he had overcome his amazement and his disappointment.
He looked sharply from Holmes to me.
  "Dear me! What a very shocking affair! How did he die?"
  "He appears to have broken his neck by falling over these
rocks. My friend and I were strolling on the moor when we
heard a cry."
  "I heard a cry also. That was what brought me out. I was
uneasy about Sir Henry."
  "Why about Sir Henry in particular?" I could not help asking.
  "Because I had suggested that he should come over. When he
did not come I was surprised, and I naturally became alarmed for
his safety when I heard cries upon the moor. By the way" -- his
eyes darted again from my face to Holmes's -- "did you hear
anything else besides a cry?"
  "No," said Holmes; "did you?"
  "No."
  "What do you mean, then?"
  "Oh, you know the stories that the peasants tell about a
phantom hound, and so on. It is said to be heard at night upon
the moor. I was wondering if there were any evidence of such a
sound to-night."
  "We heard nothing of the kind," said I.
  "And what is your theory of this poor fellow's death?"
  "I have no doubt that anxiety and exposure have driven him
off his head. He has rushed about the moor in a crazy state and
eventually fallen over here and broken his neck."
  "That seems the most reasonable theory," said Stapleton, and
he gave a sigh which I took to indicate his relief. "What do you
think about it, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
  My friend bowed his compliments.
  "You are quick at identification," said he.
  "We have been expecting you in these parts since Dr. Watson
came down. You are in time to see a tragedy."
  "Yes, indeed. I have no doubt that my friend's explanation
will cover the facts. I will take an unpleasant remembrance back
to London with me to-morrow."
  "Oh, you return to-morrow?"
  "That is my intention."
  "I hope your visit has cast some light upon those occurrences
which have puzzled us?"
  Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
  "One cannot always have the success for which one hopes.
An investigator needs facts and not legends or rumours. It has
not been a satisfactory case."
  My friend spoke in his frankest and most unconcerned man-
ner. Stapleton still looked hard at him. Then he turned to me.
  "I would suggest carrying this poor fellow to my house, but it
would give my sister such a fright that I do not feel justified in
doing it. I think that if we put something over his face he will be
safe until morning."
  And so it was arranged. Resisting Stapleton's offer of hospi-
tality, Holmes and I set off to Baskerville Hall, leaving the
naturalist to return alone. Looking back we saw the figure mov-
ing slowly away over the broad moor, and behind him that one
black smudge on the silvered slope which showed where the man
was lying who had come so horribly to his end.
 
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