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 XIII
Fixing the Nets


  "We're at close grips at last," said Holmes as we walked
together across the moor. "What a nerve the fellow has! How he
pulled himself together in the face of what must have been a
paralyzing shock when he found that the wrong man had fallen a
victim to his plot. I told you in London, Watson, and I tell you
now again, that we have never had a foeman more worthy of our
steel."
  "I am sorry that he has seen you."
  "And so was I at first. But there was no getting out of it."
  "What effect do you think it will have upon his plans now that
he knows you are here?"
  "It may cause him to be more cautious, or it may drive him to
desperate measures at once. Like most clever criminals, he may
be too confident in his own cleverness and imagine that he has
completely deceived us."
  "Why should we not arrest him at once?"
  "My dear Watson, you were born to be a man of action. Your
instinct is always to do something energetic. But supposing, for
argument's sake, that we had him arrested to-night, what on
earth the better off should we be for that? We could prove
nothing against him. There's the devilish cunning of it! If he
were acting through a human agent we could get some evidence,
but if we were to drag this great dog to the light of day it would
not help us in putting a rope round the neck of its master."
  "Surely we have a case."
  "Not a shadow of one -- only surmise and conjecture. We
should be laughed out of court if we came with such a story and
such evidence."
  "There is Sir Charles's death."
  "Found dead without a mark upon him. You and I know that
he died of sheer fright, and we know also what frightened him
but how are we to get twelve stolid jurymen to know it? What
signs are there of a hound? Where are the marks of its fangs? Of
course we know that a hound does not bite a dead body and that
Sir Charles was dead before ever the brute overtook him. But we
have to prove all this, and we are not in a position to do it."
  "Well, then, to-night?"
  "We are not much better off to-night. Again, there was no
direct connection between the hound and the man's death. We
never saw the hound. We heard it, but we could not prove that it
was running upon this man's trail. There is a complete absence
of motive. No, my dear fellow; we must reconcile ourselves to
the fact that we have no case at present, and that it is worth our
while to run any risk in order to establish one."
  "And how do you propose to do so?"
  "I have great hopes of what Mrs. Laura Lyons may do for us
when the position of affairs is made clear to her. And I have my
own plan as well. Sufficient for to-morrow is the evil thereof;
but I hope before the day is past to have the upper hand at last."
  I could draw nothing further from him, and he walked, lost in
thought, as far as the Baskerville gates.
  "Are you coming up?"
  "Yes; I see no reason for further concealment. But one last
word, Watson. Say nothing of the hound to Sir Henry. Let him
think that Selden's death was as Stapleton would have us be-
lieve. He will have a better nerve for the ordeal which he will
have to undergo to-morrow, when he is engaged, if I remember
your report aright, to dine with these people."
  "And so am I."
  "Then you must excuse yourself and he must go alone. That
will be easily arranged. And now, if we are too late for dinner, I
think that we are both ready for our suppers."
  Sir Henry was more pleased than surprised to see Sherlock
Holmes, for he had for some days been expecting that recent
events would bring him down from London. He did raise his
eyebrows, however, when he found that my friend had neither
any luggage nor any explanations for its absence. Between us we
soon supplied his wants, and then over a belated supper we
explained to the baronet as much of our experience as it seemed
desirable that he should know. But first I had the unpleasant duty
of breaking the news to Barrymore and his wife. To him it may
have been an unmitigated relief, but she wept bitterly in her
apron. To all the world he was the man of violence, half animal
and half demon; but to her he always remained the little wilful
boy of her own girlhood, the child who had clung to her hand.
Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him.
  "I've been moping in the house all day since Watson went off
in the morning," said the baronet. "I guess I should have some
credit, for I have kept my promise. If I hadn't sworn not to go
about alone I might have had a more lively evening, for I had a
message from Stapleton asking me over there."
  "I have no doubt that you would have had a more lively
evening," said Holmes drily. "By the way, I don't suppose you
appreciate that we have been mourning over you as having
broken your neck?"
  Sir Henry opened his eyes. "How was that?"
  "This poor wretch was dressed in your clothes. I fear your
servant who gave them to him may get into trouble with the
police."
  "That is unlikely. There was no mark on any of them, as far
as I know."
  "That's lucky for him -- in fact, it's lucky for all of you, since
you are all on the wrong side of the law in this matter. I am not
sure that as a conscientious detective my first duty is not to arrest
the whole household. Watson's reports are most incriminating
documents."
  "But how about the case?" asked the baronet. "Have you
made anything out of the tangle? I don't know that Watson and I
are much the wiser since we came down."
  "I think that I shall be in a position to make the situation
rather more clear to you before long. It has been an exceedingly
difficult and most complicated business. There are several points
upon which we still want light -- but it is coming all the same."
  "We've had one experience, as Watson has no doubt told
you. We heard the hound on the moor, so I can swear that it is
not all empty superstition. I had something to do with dogs when
I was out West, and I know one when I hear one. If you can
muzzle that one and put him on a chain I'll be ready to swear
you are the greatest detective of all time."
  "I think I will muzzle him and chain him all right if you will
give me your help."
  "Whatever you tell me to do I will do."
  "Very good; and I will ask you also to do it blindly, without
always asking the reason."
  "Just as you like."
  "If you will do this I think the chances are that our little
problem will soon be solved. I have no doubt "
  He stopped suddenly and stared fixedly up over my head into
the air. The lamp beat upon his face, and so intent was it and so
still that it might have been that of a clear-cut classical statue, a
personification of alertness and expectation.
  "What is it?" we both cried.
  I could see as he looked down that he was repressing some
internal emotion. His features were still composed, but his eyes
shone with amused exultation.
  "Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur," said he as he
waved his hand towards the line of portraits which covered the
opposite wall. "Watson won't allow that I know anything of art
but that is mere jealousy because our views upon the subject
differ. Now, these are a really very fine series of portraits."
  "Well, I'm glad to hear you say so," said Sir Henry, glancing
with some surprise at my friend. "I don't pretend to know much
about these things, and I'd be a better judge of a horse or a steer
than of a picture. I didn't know that you found time for such
things. "
  "I know what is good when I see it, and I see it now. That's a
Kneller, I'll swear, that lady in the blue silk over yonder, and the
stout gentleman with the wig ought to be a Reynolds. They are
all family portraits, I presume?"
  "Every one."
  "Do you know the names?"
  "Barrymore has been coaching me in them, and I think I can
say my lessons fairly well."
  "Who is the gentleman with the telescope?"
  "That is Rear-Admiral Baskerville, who served under Rodney
in the West Indies. The man with the blue coat and the roll of
paper is Sir William Baskerville, who was Chairman of Commit-
tees of the House of Commons under Pitt."
  "And this Cavalier opposite to me -- the one with the black
velvet and the lace?"
  "Ah, you have a right to know about him. That is the cause of
all the mischief, the wicked Hugo, who started the Hound of the
Baskervilles. We're not likely to forget him."
  I gazed with interest and some surprise upon the portrait.
  "Dear me!" said Holmes, "he seems a quiet, meek-mannered
man enough, but I dare say that there was a lurking devil in his
eyes. I had pictured him as a more robust and ruffianly person."
  "There's no doubt about the authenticity, for the name and the
date, 1647, are on the back of the canvas."
  Holmes said little more, but the picture of the old roysterer
seemed to have a fascination for him, and his eyes were continu-
ally fixed upon it during supper. It was not until later, when Sir
Henry had gone to his room, that I was able to follow the trend
of his thoughts. He led me back into the banqueting-hall, his
bedroom candle in his hand, and he held it up against the
time-stained portrait on the wall.
  "Do you see anything there?"
  I looked at the broad plumed hat, the curling love-locks, the
white lace collar, and the straight, severe face which was framed
between them. lt was not a brutal countenance, but it was prim
hard, and stern, with a firm-set, thin-lipped mouth, and a coldly
intolerant eye.
  "Is it like anyone you know?"
  "There is something of Sir Henry about the jaw."
  "Just a suggestion, perhaps. But wait an instant!" He stood
upon a chair, and, holding up the light in his left hand, he curved
his right arm over the broad hat and round the long ringlets.
  "Good heavens!" I cried in amazement.
  The face of Stapleton had sprung out of the canvas.
  "Ha, you see it now. My eyes have been trained to examine
faces and not their trimmings. It is the first quality of a criminal
investigator that he should see through a disguise."
  "But this is marvellous. It might be his portrait."
  "Yes, it is an interesting instance of a throwback, which
appears to be both physical and spiritual. A study of family
portraits is enough to convert a man to the doctrine of reincarna-
tion. The fellow is a Baskerville -- that is evident."
  "With designs upon the succession."
  "Exactly. This chance of the picture has supplied us with one
of our most obvious missing links. We have him, Watson, we
have him, and I dare swear that before to-morrow night he will
be fluttering in our net as helpless as one of his own butterflies.
A pin, a cork, and a card, and we add him to the Baker Street
collection!" He burst into one of his rare fits of laughter as he
turned away from the picture. I have not heard him laugh often,
and it has always boded ill to somebody.
  I was up betimes in the morning, but Holmes was afoot earlier
still, for I saw him as I dressed, coming up the drive.
  "Yes, we should have a full day to-day," he remarked, and
he rubbed his hands with the joy of action. "The nets are all in
place, and the drag is about to begin. We'll know before the day
is out whether we have caught our big, leanjawed pike, or
whether he has got through the meshes."
  "Have you been on the moor already?"
  "I have sent a report from Grimpen to Princetown as to the
death of Selden. I think I can promise that none of you will be
troubled in the matter. And I have also communicated with my
faithful Cartwright, who would certainly have pined away at the
door of my hut, as a dog does at his master's grave, if I had not
set his mind at rest about my safety."
  "What is the next move?"
  "To see Sir Henry. Ah, here he is!"
  "Good-morning, Holmes," said the baronet. "You look like
a general who is planning a battle with his chief of the staff."
  "That is the exact situation. Watson was asking for orders."
  "And so do I."
  "Very good. You are engaged, as I understand, to dine with
our friends the Stapletons to-night."
  "I hope that you will come also. They are very hospitable
people, and I am sure that they would be very glad to see you."
  "I fear that Watson and I must go to London."
  "To London?"
  "Yes, I think that we should be more useful there at the
present juncture."
  The baronet's face perceptibly lengthened.
  "I hoped that you were going to see me through this business.
The Hall and the moor are not very pleasant places when one is
alone."
  "My dear fellow, you must trust me implicitly and do exactly
what I tell you. You can tell your friends that we should have
been happy to have come with you, but that urgent business
required us to be in town. We hope very soon to return to
Devonshire. Will you remember to give them that message?"
  "If you insist upon it."
  "There is no alternative, I assure you."
  I saw by the baronet's clouded brow that he was deeply hurt
by what he regarded as our desertion.
  "When do you desire to go?" he asked coldly.
  "Immediately after breakfast. We will drive in to Coombe
Tracey, but Watson will leave his things as a pledge that he will
come back to you. Watson, you will send a note to Stapleton to
tell him that you regret that you cannot come."
  "I have a good mind to go to London with you," said the
baronet. "Why should I stay here alone?"
  "Because it is your post of duty. Because you gave me your
word that you would do as you were told, and I tell you to
stay."
  "All right, then, I'll stay."
  "One more direction! I wish you to drive to Merripit House
Send back your trap, however, and let them know that you
intend to walk home."
  "To walk across the moor?"
  "Yes."
  "But that is the very thing which you have so often cautioned
me not to do."
  "This time you may do it with safety. If I had not every
confidence in your nerve and courage I would not suggest it, but
it is essential that you should do it."
  "Then I will do it."
  "And as you value your life do not go across the moor in any
direction save along the straight path which leads from Merripit
House to the Grimpen Road, and is your natural way home."
  "I will do just what you say."
  "Very good. I should be glad to get away as soon after
breakfast as possible, so as to reach London in the afternoon."
  I was much astounded by this programme, though I remem-
bered that Holmes had said to Stapleton on the night before that
his visit would terminate next day. It had not crossed my mind
however, that he would wish me to go with him, nor could I
understand how we could both be absent at a moment which he
himself declared to be critical. There was nothing for it, how-
ever, but implicit obedience; so we bade good-bye to our rueful
friend, and a couple of hours afterwards we were at the station of
Coombe Tracey and had dispatched the trap upon its return
journey. A small boy was waiting upon the platform.
  "Any orders, sir?"
  "You will take this train to town, Cartwright. The moment
you arrive you will send a wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, in my
name, to say that if he finds the pocketbook which I have
dropped he is to send it by registered post to Baker Street."
  "Yes, sir."
  "And ask at the station office if there is a message for me."
  The boy returned with a telegram, which Holmes handed to
me. It ran:

      Wire received. Coming down with unsigned warrant.
    Arrive five-forty.
                                              Lestrade.

  "That is in answer to mine of this morning. He is the best of
the professionals, I think, and we may need his assistance. Now,
Watson, I think that we cannot employ our time better than by
calling upon your acquaintance, Mrs. Laura Lyons."
  His plan of campaign was beginning to be evident. He would
use the baronet in order to convince the Stapletons that we were
really gone, while we should actually return at the instant when
we were likely to be needed. That telegram from London, if
mentioned by Sir Henry to the Stapletons, must remove the last
suspicions from their minds. Already I seemed to see our nets
drawing closer around that leanjawed pike.
  Mrs. Laura Lyons was in her office, and Sherlock Holmes
opened his interview with a frankness and directness which
considerably amazed her.
  "I am investigating the circumstances which attended the
death of the late Sir Charles Baskerville," said he. "My friend
here, Dr. Watson, has informed me of what you have communi-
cated, and also of what you have withheld in connection with
that matter."
  "What have I withheld?" she asked defiantly.
  "You have confessed that you asked Sir Charles to be at the
gate at ten o'clock. We know that that was the place and hour of
his death. You have withheld what the connection is between
these events."
  "There is no connection."
  "In that case the coincidence must indeed be an extraordinary
one. But I think that we shall succeed in establishing a connec-
tion, after all. I wish to be perfectly frank with you, Mrs. Lyons.
We regard this case as one of murder, and the evidence may
implicate not only your friend Mr. Stapleton but his wife as
well."
  The lady sprang from her chair.
  "His wife!" she cried.
  "The fact is no longer a secret. The person who has passed for
his sister is really his wife."
  Mrs. Lyons had resumed her seat. Her hands were grasping
the arms of her chair, and I saw that the pink nails had turned
white with the pressure of her grip.
  "His wife!" she said again. "His wife! He is not a married
man."
  Sherlock Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
  "Prove it to me! Prove it to me! And if you can do so --!"
The fierce flash of her eyes said more than any words.
  "I have come prepared to do so," said Holmes, drawing
several papers from his pocket. "Here is a photograph of the
couple taken in York four years ago. It is indorsed 'Mr. and
Mrs. Vandeleur,' but you will have no difficulty in recognizing
him, and her also, if you know her by sight. Here are three
written descriptions by trustworthy witnesses of Mr. and Mrs.
Vandeleur, who at that time kept St. Oliver's private school.
Read them and see if you can doubt the identity of these people."
  She glanced at them, and then looked up at us with the set
rigid face of a desperate woman.
  "Mr. Holmes," she said, "this man had offered me marriage
on condition that I could get a divorce from my husband. He has
lied to me, the villain, in every conceivable way. Not one word
of truth has he ever told me. And why -- why? I imagined that all
was for my own sake. But now I see that I was never anything
but a tool in his hands. Why should I preserve faith with him
who never kept any with me? Why should I try to shield him
from the consequences of his own wicked acts? Ask me what
you like, and there is nothing which I shall hold back. One thing
I swear to you, and that is that when I wrote the letter I never
dreamed of any harm to the old gentleman, who had been my
kindest friend."
  "I entirely believe you, madam," said Sherlock Holmes.
  "The recital of these events must be very painful to you, and
perhaps it will make it easier if I tell you what occurred, and you
can check me if I make any material mistake. The sending of this
letter was suggested to you by Stapleton?"
  "He dictated it."
  "I presume that the reason he gave was that you would
receive help from Sir Charles for the legal expenses connected
with your divorce?"
  "Exactly."
  "And then after you had sent the letter he dissuaded you from
keeping the appointment?"
  "He told me that it would hurt his self-respect that any other
man should find the money for such an object, and that though
he was a poor man himself he would devote his last penny to
removing the obstacles which divided us."
  "He appears to be a very consistent character. And then you
heard nothing until you read the reports of the death in the
paper?"
  "No."
  "And he made you swear to say nothing about your appoint-
ment with Sir Charles?"
  "He did. He said that the death was a very mysterious one,
and that I should certainly be suspected if the facts came out. He
frightened me into remaining silent."
  "Quite so. But you had your suspicions?"
  She hesitated and looked down.
  "I knew him," she said. "But if he had kept faith with me I
should always have done so with him."
  "I think that on the whole you have had a fortunate escape,"
said Sherlock Holmes. "You have had him in your power and he
knew it, and yet you are alive. You have been walking for some
months very near to the edge of a precipice. We must wish you
good-morning now, Mrs. Lyons, and it is probable that you will
very shortly hear from us again."

  "Our case becomes rounded off, and difficulty after difficulty
thins away in front of us," said Holmes as we stood waiting for
the arrival of the express from town. "I shall soon be in the
position of being able to put into a single connected narrative one
of the most singular and sensational crimes of modern times.
Students of criminology will remember the analogous incidents in
Godno, in Little Russia, in the year '66, and of course there are
the Anderson murders in North Carolina, but this case possesses
some features which are entirely its own. Even now we have no
clear case against this very wily man. But I shall be very much
surprised if it is not clear enough before we go to bed this night. "
  The London express came roaring into the station, and a
small, wiry bulldog of a man had sprung from a first-class
carriage. We all three shook hands, and I saw at once from the
reverential way in which Lestrade gazed at my companion that
he had learned a good deal since the days when they had first
worked together. I could well remember the scorn which the
theories of the reasoner used then to excite in the practical man.
  "Anything good?" he asked.
  "The biggest thing for years," said Holmes. "We have two
hours before we need think of starting. I think we might employ
it in getting some dinner and then, Lestrade, we will take the
London fog out of your throat by giving you a breath of the pure
night air of Dartmoor. Never been there? Ah, well, I don't
suppose you will forget your first visit."

 
Chapter
The Diogenes Club:  To go the the next chapter, please click here.
XIV


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