The Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Legends die hard upon the lonely moors. Sherlock Holmes was soon to discover supernatural evil and it all began so innocently ... when he asked his stalwart friend, Dr. Watson, to examine a stout walking stick. The stick seemed quite commonplace with a simple silver band but its arrival signaled the start of a puzzling and terrifying adventure.
Looking at the walking stick, Watson, of course, hasn't a clue where it came from or who it could belong to. Holmes is quick to point out that the owner of the stick (left at their lodgings at 221 B Baker street the night before while Holmes and Watson were away) must not only be a medical doctor, but a country practitioner, who is well-thought of by his peers, walks a great deal, is absent minded, and owns a dog that is "larger than a terrier but smaller than a mastiff."
Of course, deducing an individual's habits is elementary to the world's greatest consulting detective. Soon, the owner of the walking stick, James Mortimer, reappears at Baker Street and is thoroughly relieved to not only discover that the detective is now at home on this, his second visit, but that his walking stick (which he'd forgotten on Holmes' doorstep the night before) is in Holmes' hands and awaiting his return. In short order, Dr. Mortimer confirms all of Sherlock Holmes' deductions about his career, his country practice, chronic forgetfulness and that he does, indeed, own a dog.
Mortimer then produces an ancient manuscript dating to 1742. Upon the parchment is inscribed a frightening tale of the death of Hugo Baskerville. Baskerville was, by all known accounts, a profane and godless man. One night, Hugo kidnapped a young village maiden and held her captive in his manor house. While Hugo spent the evening drinking wine and plotting how he would shortly have his evil way with the young girl, she managed to escape from the manor and fled, running for her very life, across the darkened moor. Suddenly, Hugo realized that the maiden had left, and he set his hounds upon her and mounted his black horse in breakneck pursuit.
What happened that awful night would never be fully known. Searchers soon discovered the lifeless body of the maiden who had apparently died of unholy fear and fatigue. To their everlasting horror, the search party next discovered the corpse of Hugo Baskerville. He was lying in the moonlight upon the moor with his throat being slashed open by the jaws of a huge hound from hell. A hound like no other ... with blazing eyes and jaws dripping with Baskerville blood!
Dr. Mortimer concludes his story with the prophetic words written for all descendants of the Baskerville family which had been penned upon the ancient scroll, "I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted."
When Holmes remarks that the warning would only be of interest to a collector of fairy tales, Dr. Mortimer explains that it is out of real fear for his friend, the current lord of Baskerville Hall, that he has traveled to London to seek the help of Sherlock Holmes. Mortimer reveals that a few months before, Sir Charles Baskerville had succumbed to an unexplained death on the moors. Sir Charles, Dr. Mortimer believes, died of fright when he was chased by the same ghostly hound that had stalked the Baskerville family for generations. Mortimer's proof stems from what he saw with his own eyes on the night Sir Charles died. When he examined Sir Charles' body as it lay outside Baskerville Hall, he discovered the large but unmistakable footprints of a giant hound surrounding the corpse!
Before long, Holmes and Watson agree to take the case in order to prevent the death of the newest lord of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry Baskerville, recently arrived from Canada. Can the great Sherlock Holmes do battle with a devil dog? Could the death of Sir Charles be caused by human hands and, if so, who could be the murderer? Dr. Mortimer? The brooding Baskerville butler, Barrymore? What about the very odd neighbor, the naturalist Stapleton? Or, perhaps, Sir Charles was killed by the escaped convict, Seldon, who has been in hiding in the vicinity of the manor house? You'll have to read The Hound of the Baskervilles to discover the deliciously dark secret that's lying in wait on a moonlit night on the moors.
Read our biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.