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The Hound of the
Baskervilles

Chapter XV
A Retrospection


  It was the end of November, and Holmes and I sat, upon a raw
and foggy night, on either side of a blazing fire in our sitting-
room in Baker Street. Since the tragic upshot of our visit to
Devonshire he had been engaged in two affairs of the utmost
importance, in the first of which he had exposed the atrocious
conduct of Colonel Upwood in connection with the famous card
scandal of the Nonpareil Club, while in the second he had
defended the unfortunate Mme. Montpensier from the charge of
murder which hung over her in connection with the death of her
step-daughter, Mlle. Carere, the young lady who, as it will be
remembered, was found six months later alive and married in
New York. My friend was in excellent spirits over the success
which had attended a succession of difficult and important cases,
so that I was able to induce him to discuss the details of the
Baskerville mystery. I had waited patiently for the opportunity
for I was aware that he would never permit cases to overlap, and
that his clear and logical mind would not be drawn from its
present work to dwell upon memories of the past. Sir Henry and
Dr. Mortimer were, however, in London, on their way to that
long voyage which had been recommended for the restoration of
his shattered nerves. They had called upon us that very after-
noon, so that it was natural that the subject should come up for
discussion.
  "The whole course of events," said Holmes, "from the point
of view of the man who called himself Stapleton was simple and
direct, although to us, who had no means in the beginning of
knowing the motives of his actions and could only learn part of
the facts, it all appeared exceedingly complex. I have had the
advantage of two conversations with Mrs. Stapleton, and the
case has now been so entirely cleared up that I am not aware that
there is anything which has remained a secret to us. You will
find a few notes upon the matter under the heading B in my
indexed list of cases."
  "Perhaps you would kindly give me a sketch of the course of
events from memory."
  "Certainly, though I cannot guarantee that I carry all the facts
in my mind. Intense mental concentration has a curious way of
blotting out what has passed. The barrister who has his case at
his fingers' ends and is able to argue with an expert upon his
own subject finds that a week or two of the courts will drive it all
out of his head once more. So each of my cases displaces the
last, and Mlle. Carere has blurred my recollection of Baskerville
Hall. To-morrow some other little problem may be submitted to
my notice which will in turn dispossess the fair French lady and
the infamous Upwood. So far as the case of the hound goes,
however, I will give you the course of events as nearly as I can,
and you will suggest anything which I may have forgotten.
  "My inquiries show beyond all question that the family por-
trait did not lie, and that this fellow was indeed a Baskerville. He
was a son of that Rodger Baskerville, the younger brother of Sir
Charles, who fled with a sinister reputation to South America,
where he was said to have died unmarried. He did, as a matter of
fact, marry, and had one child, this fellow, whose real name is
the same as his father's. He married Beryl Garcia, one of the
beauties of Costa Rica, and, having purloined a considerable
sum of public money, he changed his name to Vandeleur and
fled to England, where he established a school in the east of
Yorkshire. His reason for attempting this special line of business
was that he had struck up an acquaintance with a consumptive
tutor upon the voyage home, and that he had used this man's
ability to make the undertaking a success. Fraser, the tutor, died
however, and the school which had begun well sank from disre-
pute into infamy. The Vandeleurs found it convenient to change
their name to Stapleton, and he brought the remains of his
fortune, his schemes for the future, and his taste for entomology
to the south of England. I learned at the British Museum that he
was a recognized authority upon the subject, and that the name
of Vandeleur has been permanently attached to a certain moth
which he had, in his Yorkshire days, been the first to describe.
  "We now come to that portion of his life which has proved to
be of such intense interest to us. The fellow had evidently made
inquiry and found that only two lives intervened between him
and a valuable estate. When he went to Devonshire his plans
were, I believe, exceedingly hazy, but that he meant mischief
from the first is evident from the way in which he took his wife
with him in the character of his sister. The idea of using her as a
decoy was clearly already in his mind, though he may not have
been certain how the details of his plot were to be arranged. He
meant in the end to have the estate, and he was ready to use any
tool or run any risk for that end. His first act was to establish
himself as near to his ancestral home as he could, and his second
was to cultivate a friendship with Sir Charles Baskerville and
with the neighbours.
  "The baronet himself told him about the family hound, and so
prepared the way for his own death. Stapleton, as I will continue
to call him, knew that the old man's heart was weak and that a
shock would kill him. So much he had learned from Dr. Morti-
mer. He had heard also that Sir Charles was superstitious and
had taken this grim legend very seriously. His ingenious mind
instantly suggested a way by which the baronet could be done to
death, and yet it would be hardly possible to bring home the guilt
to the real murderer.
  "Having conceived the idea he proceeded to carry it out with
considerable finesse. An ordinary schemer would have been
content to work with a savage hound. The use of artificial means
to make the creature diabolical was a flash of genius upon his
part. The dog he bought in London from Ross and Mangles, the
dealers in Fulham Road. It was the strongest and most savage in
their possession. He brought it down by the North Devon line
and walked a great distance over the moor so as to get it home
without exciting any remarks. He had already on his insect hunts
learned to penetrate the Grimpen Mire, and so had found a safe
hiding-place for the creature. Here he kennelled it and waited his
chance.
  "But it was some time coming. The old gentleman could not be
decoyed outside of his grounds at night. Several times Stapleton
lurked about with his hound, but without avail. It was during
these fruitless quests that he, or rather his ally, was seen by
peasants, and that the legend of the demon dog received a new
confirmation. He had hoped that his wife might lure Sir Charles
to his ruin, but here she proved unexpectedly independent. She
would not endeavour to entangle the old gentleman in a senti-
mental attachment which might deliver him over to his enemy.
Threats and even, I am sorry to say, blows refused to move her.
She would have nothing to do with it, and for a time Stapleton
was at a deadlock.
  "He found a way out of his difficulties through the chance
that Sir Charles, who had conceived a friendship for him, made
him the minister of his charity in the case of this unfortunate
woman, Mrs. Laura Lyons. By representing himself as a single
man he acquired complete influence over her, and he gave her to
understand.that in the event of her obtaining a divorce from her
husband he would marry her. His plans were suddenly brought to
a head by his knowledge that Sir Charles was about to leave the
Hall on the advice of Dr. Mortimer, with whose opinion he
himself pretended to coincide. He must act at once, or his victim
might get beyond his power. He therefore put pressure upon
Mrs. Lyons to write this letter, imploring the old man to give her
an interview on the evening before his departure for London. He
then, by a specious argument, prevented her from going, and so
had the chance for which he had waited.
  "Driving back in the evening from Coombe Tracey he was in
time to get his hound, to treat it with his infernal paint, and to
bring the beast round to the gate at which he had reason to
expect that he would find the old gentleman waiting. The dog,
incited by its master, sprang over the wicket-gate and pursued
the unfortunate baronet, who fled screaming down the yew alley.
In that gloomy tunnel it must indeed have been a dreadful sight
to see that huge black creature, with its flaming jaws and blazing
eyes, bounding after its victim. He fell dead at the end of the
alley from heart disease and terror. The hound had kept upon the
grassy border while the baronet had run down the path, so that
no track but the man's was visible. On seeing him lying still the
creature had probably approached to sniff at him, but finding
him dead had turned away again. It was then that it left the print
which was actually observed by Dr. Mortimer. The hound was
called off and hurried away to its lair in the Grimpen Mire, and a
mystery was left which puzzled the authorities, alarmed the
countryside, and finally brought the case within the scope of our
observation.
  "So much for the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. You
perceive the devilish cunning of it, for really it would be almost
impossible to make a case against the real murderer. His only
accomplice was one who could never give him away, and the
grotesque, inconceivable nature of the device only served to
make it more effective. Both of the women concerned in the
case, Mrs. Stapleton and Mrs. Laura Lyons, were left with a
strong suspicion against Stapleton. Mrs. Stapleton knew that he
had designs upon the old man, and also of the existence of the
hound. Mrs. Lyons knew neither of these things, but had been
impressed by the death occurring at the time of an uncancelled
appointment which was only known to him. However, both of
them were under his influence, and he had nothing to fear from
them. The first half of his task was successfully accomplished
but the more difficult still remained.
  "It is possible that Stapleton did not know of the existence of
an heir in Canada. In any case he would very soon learn it from
his friend Dr. Mortimer, and he was told by the latter all details
about the arrival of Henry Baskerville. Stapleton's first idea was
that this young stranger from Canada might possibly be done to
death in London without coming down to Devonshire at all. He
distrusted his wife ever since she had refused to help him in
laying a trap for the old man, and he dared not leave her long out
of his sight for fear he should lose his influence over her. It was
for this reason that he took her to London with him. They
lodged, I find, at the Mexborough Private Hotel, in Craven
Street, which was actually one of those called upon by my agent
in search of evidence. Here he kept his wife imprisoned in her
room while he, disguised in a beard, followed Dr. Mortimer to
Baker Street and afterwards to the station and to the North-
umberland Hotel. His wife had some inkling of his plans; but she
had such a fear of her husband -- a fear founded upon brutal
ill-treatment -- that she dare not write to warn the man whom she
knew to be in danger. If the letter should fall into Stapleton's
hands her own life would not be safe. Eventually, as we know,
she adopted the expedient of cutting out the words which would
form the message, and addressing the letter in a disguised hand.
It reached the baronet, and gave him the first warning of his
danger.
  "It was very essential for Stapleton to get some article of Sir
Henry's attire so that, in case he was driven to use the dog, he
might always have the means of setting him upon his track. With
characteristic promptness and audacity he set about this at once,
and we cannot doubt that the boots or chamber-maid of the hotel
was well bribed to help him in his design. By chance, however,
the first boot which was procured for him was a new one and,
therefore, useless for his purpose. He then had it returned and
obtained another -- a most instructive incident, since it proved
conclusively to my mind that we were dealing with a real hound,
as no other supposition could explain this anxiety to obtain an
old boot and this indifference to a new one. The more outre and
grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be
examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case
is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one
which is most likely to elucidate it.
  "Then we had the visit from our friends next morning, shad-
owed always by Stapleton in the cab. From his knowledge of our
rooms and of my appearance, as well as from his general con-
duct, I am inclined to think that Stapleton's career of crime has
been by no means limited to this single Baskerville affair. It is
suggestive that during the last three years there have been four
considerable burglaries in the west country, for none of which
was any criminal ever arrested. The last of these, at Folkestone
Court, in May, was remarkable for the cold-blooded pistolling of
the page, who surprised the masked and solitary burglar. I
cannot doubt that Stapleton recruited his waning resources in this
fashion, and that for years he has been a desperate and dangerous
man.
  "We had an example of his readiness of resource that morning
when he got away from us so successfully, and also of his
audacity in sending back my own name to me through the
cabman. From that moment he understood that I had taken over
the case in London, and that therefore there was no chance for
him there. He returned to Dartmoor and awaited the arrival of
the baronet."
  "One moment!" said I. "You have, no doubt, described the
sequence of events correctly, but there is one point which you
have left unexplained. What became of the hound when its
master was in London?"
  "I have given some attention to this matter and it is undoubt-
edly of importance. There can be no question that Stapleton had
a confidant, though it is unlikely that he ever placed himself in
his power by sharing all his plans with him. There was an old
manservant at Merripit House, whose name was Anthony. His
connection with the Stapletons can be traced for several years, as
far back as the schoolmastering days, so that he must have been
aware that his master and mistress were really husband and wife.
This man has disappeared and has escaped from the country. It is
suggestive that Anthony is not a common name in England,
while Antonio is so in all Spanish or Spanish-American coun-
tries. The man, like Mrs. Stapleton herself, spoke good English,
but with a curious lisping accent. I have myself seen this old
man cross the Grimpen Mire by the path which Stapleton had
marked out. It is very probable, therefore, that in the absence of
his master it was he who cared for the hound, though he may
never have known the purpose for which the beast was used.
  "The Stapletons then went down to Devonshire, whither they
were soon followed by Sir Henry and you. One word now as to
how I stood myself at that time. It may possibly recur to your
memory that when I examined the paper upon which the printed
words were fastened I made a close inspection for the water-
mark. In doing so I held it within a few inches of my eyes, and
was conscious of a faint smell of the scent known as white
jessamine. There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very
necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish
from each other, and cases have more than once within my own
experience depended upon their prompt recognition. The scent
suggested the presence of a lady, and already my thoughts began
to turn towards the Stapletons. Thus I had made certain of the
hound, and had guessed at the criminal before ever we went to
the west country.
  "It was my game to watch Stapleton. It was evident, how-
ever, that I could not do this if I were with you, since he would
be keenly on his guard. I deceived everybody, therefore, your-
self included, and I came down secretly when I was supposed to
be in London. My hardships were not so great as you imagined,
though such trifling details must never interfere with the investi-
gation of a case. I stayed for the most part at Coombe Tracey,
and only used the hut upon the moor when it was necessary to be
near the scene of action. Cartwright had come down with me,
and in his disguise as a country boy he was of great assistance to
me. I was dependent upon him for food and clean linen. When I
was watching Stapleton, Cartwright was frequently watching
you, so that I was able to keep my hand upon all the strings.
  "I have already told you that your reports reached me rapidly,
being forwarded instantly from Baker Street to Coombe Tracey.
They were of great service to me, and especially that one inci-
dentally truthful piece of biography of Stapleton's. I was able to
establish the identity of the man and the woman and knew at last
exactly how I stood. The case had been considerably compli-
cated through the incident of the escaped convict and the rela-
tions between him and the Barrymores. This also you cleared up
in a very effective way, though I had already come to the same
conclusions from my own observations.
  "By the time that you discovered me upon the moor I had a
complete knowledge of the whole business, but I had not a case
which could go to a jury. Even Stapleton's attempt upon Sir
Henry that night which ended in the death of the unfortunate
convict did not help us much in proving murder against our man.
There seemed to be no alternative but to catch him red-handed,
and to do so we had to use Sir Henry, alone and apparently
unprotected, as a bait. We did so, and at the cost of a severe
shock to our client we succeeded in completing our case and
driving Stapleton to his destruction. That Sir Henry should have
been exposed to this is, I must confess, a reproach to my
management of the case, but we had no means of foreseeing the
terrible and paralyzing spectacle which the beast presented, nor
could we predict the fog which enabled him to burst upon us at
such short notice. We succeeded in our object at a cost which
both the specialist and Dr. Mortimer assure me will be a tempo-
rary one. A long journey may enable our friend to recover not
only from his shattered nerves but also from his wounded feel-
ings. His love for the lady was deep and sincere, and to him the
saddest part of all this black business was that he should have
been deceived by her.
  "It only remains to indicate the part which she had played
throughout. There can be no doubt that Stapleton exercised an
influence over her which may have been love or may have been
fear, or very possibly both, since they are by no means incom-
patible emotions. It was, at least, absolutely effective. At his
command she consented to pass as his sister, though he found
the limits of his power over her when he endeavoured to make
her the direct accessory to murder. She was ready to warn Sir
Henry so far as she could without implicating her husband, and
again and again she tried to do so. Stapleton himself seems to
have been capable of jealousy, and when he saw the baronet
paying court to the lady, even though it was part of his own
plan, still he could not help interrupting with a passionate out-
burst which revealed the fiery soul which his self-contained
manner so cleverly concealed. By encouraging the intimacy he
made it certain that Sir Henry would frequently come to Merripit
House and that he would sooner or later get the opportunity
which he desired. On the day of the crisis, however, his wife
turned suddenly against him. She had learned something of the
death of the convict, and she knew that the hound was being kept
in the outhouse on the evening that Sir Henry was coming to
dinner. She taxed her husband with his intended crime, and a
furious scene followed in which he showed her for the first time
that she had a rival in his love. Her fidelity turned in an instant
to bitter hatred, and he saw that she would betray him. He tied
her up, therefore, that she might have no chance of warning Sir
Henry, and he hoped, no doubt, that when the whole countryside
put down the baronet's death to the curse of his family, as they
certainly would do, he could win his wife back to accept an
accomplished fact and to keep silent upon what she knew. In this
I fancy that in any case he made a miscalculation, and that, if we
had not been there, his doom would none the less have been
sealed. A woman of Spanish blood does not condone such an
irjury so lightly. And now, my dear Watson, without referring to
my notes, I cannot give you a more detailed account of this
curious case. I do not know that anything essential has been left
unexplained."
  "He could not hope to frighten Sir Henry to death as he had
done the old uncle with his bogie hound."
  "The beast was savage and half-starved. If its appearance did
not frighten its victim to death, at least it would paralyze the
resistance which might be offered."
  "No doubt. There only remains one difficulty. If Stapleton
came into the succession, how could he explain the fact that he,
the heir, had been living unannounced under another name so
close to the property? How could he claim it without causing
suspicion and inquiry?"
  "It is a fomlidable difficulty, and I fear that you ask too much
when you expect me to solve it. The past and the present are
within the field of my inquiry, but what a man may do in the
future is a hard question to answer. Mrs. Stapleton has heard her
husband discuss the problem on several occasions. There were
three possible courses. He might claim the property from South
America, establish his identity before the British authorities there
and so obtain the fortune without ever coming to England at all,
or he might adopt an elaborate disguise during the short time that
he need be in London; or, again, he might furnish an accomplice
with the proofs and papers, putting him in as heir, and retaining
a claim upon some proportion of his income. We cannot doubt
from what we know of him that he would have found some way
out of the difficulty. And now, my dear Watson, we have had
some weeks of severe work, and for one evening, I think, we
may turn our thoughts into more pleasant channels. I have a box
for 'Les Huguenots.' Have you heard the De Reszkes? Might I
trouble you then to be ready in half an hour, and we can stop at
Marcini's for a little dinner on the way?"
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