|Sherlock Holmes - Hound of the Baskervilles||
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Chapter 9 - Second Report of Dr. Watson
|THE LIGHT UPON THE MOOR
Baskerville Hall, Oct. 15th.
MY DEAR HOLMES:
If I was compelled to leave you without much news during the early
days of my mission you must acknowledge that I am making up for lost
time, and that events are now crowding thick and fast upon us. In my
last report I ended upon my top note with Barrymore at the window,
and now I have quite a budget already which will, unless I am much
mistaken, considerably surprise you. Things have taken a turn which I
could not have anticipated. In some ways they have within the last
forty-eight hours become much clearer and in some ways they have
become more complicated. But I will tell you all and you shall judge for
Before breakfast on the morning following my adventure I went down
the corridor and examined the room in which Barrymore had been on
the-night before. The western window through which he had stared so
intently has, I noticed, one peculiarity above all other windows in the
house -- it commands the nearest outlook on to the moor. There is an
opening between two trees which enables one from this point of view
to look right down upon it, while from all the other windows it is only a
distant glimpse which can be obtained. It follows, therefore, that
Barrymore, since only this window would serve the purpose, must have
been looking out for something or somebody upon the moor. The night
was very dark, so that I can hardly imagine how he could have hoped
to see anyone. It had struck me that it was possible that some love
intrigue was on foot. That would have accounted for his stealthy
movements and also for the uneasiness of his wife. The man is a
striking-looking fellow, very well equipped to steal the heart of a
country girl, so that this theory seemed to have something to support it.
That opening of the door whlch I had heard after I had returned to my
room might mean that he had gone out to keep some clandestine
appointment. So I reasoned with myself in the morning, and I tell you
the direction of my suspicions, however much the result may have
shown that they were unfounded.
But whatever the true explanation of Barrymore's movements might be,
I felt that the responsibility of keeping them to myself until I could
explain them was more than I could bear. I had an interview with the
baronet in his study after breakfast, and I told him all that I had seen.
He was less surprised than I had expected.
"I knew that Barrymore walked about nights, and I had a mind to speak
to him about it," said he. "Two or three times I have heard hls steps in
the passage, coming and going, just about the hour you name."
"Perhaps then he pays a visit every night to that particular window," I
"Perhaps he does. If so, we should be able to shadow him and see
what it is that he is after. I wonder what your friend Holmes would do if
he were here."
"I believe that he would do exactly what you now suggest," said I. "He
would follow Barrymore and see what he did."
"Then we shall do it together."
"But surely he would hear us."
"The man is rather deaf, and in any case we must take our chance of
that. We'll sit up in my room to-night and wait until he passes." Sir
Henry rubbed his hands with pleasure, and it was evident that he
hailed the adventure as a relief to his somewhat quiet life upon the
The baronet has been in communication with the architect who
prepared the plans for Sir Charles, and with a contractor from London,
so that we may expect great changes to begin here soon. There have
been decorators and furnishers up from Plymouth, and it is evident that
our friend has large ideas and means to spare no pains or expense to
restore the grandeur of his family. When the house is renovated and
refurnished, all that he will need will be a wife to make it complete.
Between ourselves there are pretty clear signs that this will not be
wanting if the lady is willing, for I have seldom seen a man more
infatuated with a woman than he is with our beautiful neighbour, Miss
Stapleton. And yet the course of true love does not run quite as
smoothly as one would under the circumstances expect. To-day, for
example, its surface was broken by a very unexpected ripple, which
has caused our friend considerable perplexity and annoyance.
After the conversation which I have quoted about Barrymore, Sir Henry
put on his hat and prepared to go out. As a matter of course I did the
"What, are you coming, Watson?" he asked, looking at me in a curious
"That depends on whether you are going on the moor," said I.
"Yes, I am."
"Well, you know what my instructions are. I am sorry to intrude, but you
heard how earnestly Holmes insisted that I should not leave you, and
especially that you should not go alone upon the moor."
Sir Henry put his hand upon my shoulder with a pleasant smile.
"My dear fellow," said he, "Holmes, with all his wisdom, did not
foresee some things which have happened since I have been on the
moor. You understand me? I am sure that you are the last man in the
world who would wish to be a spoil-sport. I must go out alone."
It put me in a most awkward position. I was at a loss what to say or
what to do, and before I had made up my mind he picked up his cane
and was gone.
But when I came to think the matter over my conscience reproached
me bitterly for having on any pretext allowed him to go out of my sight. I
imagined what my feelings would be if I had to return to you and to
confess that some misfortune had occurred through my disregard for
your instructions. I assure you my cheeks flushed at the very thought. It
might not even now be too late to overtake him, so I set off at once in
the direction of Merripit House.
I hurried along the road at the top of my speed without seeing anything
of Sir Henry, until I came to the point where the moor path branches off.
There, fearing that perhaps I had come in the wrong direction after all, I
mounted a hill from which I could command a view -- the same hill
which is cut into the dark quarry. Thence I saw him at once. He was on
the moor path about a quarter of a mile off, and a lady was by his side
who could only be Miss Stapleton. It was clear that there was already
an understanding between them and that they had met by
appointment. They were walking slowly along in deep conversation,
and I saw her making quick little movements of her hands as if she
were very earnest in what she was saying, while he listened intently,
and once or twice shook his head in strong dissent. I stood among the
rocks watching them, very much puzzled as to what I should do next. To
follow them and break into their intimate conversation seemed to be
an outrage, and yet my clear duty was never for an instant to let him out
of my sight. To act the spy upon a friend was a hateful task. Still, I could
see no better course than to observe him from the hill, and to clear my
conscience by confessing to him afterwards what I had done. It is true
that if any sudden danger had threatened him I was too far away to be
of use, and yet I am sure that you will agree with me that the position
was very difficult, and that there was nothing more which I could do.
Our friend, Sir Henry, and the lady had halted on the path and were
standing deeply absorbed in their conversation, when I was suddenly
aware that I was not the only witness of their interview. A wisp of green
floating in the air caught my eye, and another glance showed me that it
was carried on a stick by a man who was moving among the broken
ground. It was Stapleton with his butterfly-net. He was very much closer
to the pair than I was, and he appeared to be moving in their direction.
At this instant Sir Henry suddenly drew Miss Stapleton to his side. His
arm was round her, but it seemed to me that she was straining away
from him with her face averted. He stooped his head to hers, and she
raised one hand as if in protest. Next moment I saw them spring apart
and turn hurriedly round. Stapleton was the cause of the interruption.
He was running wildly towards them, his absurd net dangling behind
him. He gesticulated and almost danced with excitement in front of the
lovers. What the scene meant I could not imagine, but it seemed to me
that Stapleton was abusing Sir Henry, who offered explanations, which
became more angry as the other refused to accept them. The lady
stood by in haughty silence. Finally Stapleton turned upon his heel and
beckoned in a peremptory way to his sister, who, after an irresolute
glance at Sir Henry, walked off by the side of her brother. The
naturalist's angry gestures showed that the lady was included in his
displeasure. The baronet stood for a minute looking after them, and
then he walked slowly back the way that he had come, his head
hanging, the very picture of dejection.
What all this meant I could not imagine, but I was deeply ashamed to
have witnessed so intimate a scene without my friend's knowledge. I
ran down the hill therefore and met the baronet at the bottom. His face
was flushed with anger and his brows were wrinkled, like one who is at
his wit's ends what to do.
"Halloa, Watson! Where have you dropped from?" said he. "You don't
mean to say that you came after me in spite of all?"
I explained everything to him: how I had found it impossible to remain
behind, how I had followed him, and how I had witnessed all that had
occurred. For an instant his eyes blazed at me, but my frankness
disarmed his anger, and he broke at last into a rather rueful laugh.
"You would have thought the middle of that prairie a fairly safe place
for a man to be private," said he, "but, by thunder, the whole
countryside seems to have been out to see me do my wooing -- and a
mighty poor wooing at that! Where had you engaged a seat?"
"I was on that hill."
"Quite in the back row, eh? But her brother was well up to the front. Did
you see him come out on us?"
"Yes, I did."
"Did he ever strike you as being crazy -- this brother of hers?"
"I can't say that he ever did."
"I dare say not. I always thought him sane enough until to-day, but you
can take it from me that either he or I ought to be in a straitjacket.
What's the matter with me, anyhow? You've lived near me for some
weeks, Watson. Tell me straight, now! Is there anything that would
prevent me from making a good husband to a woman that I loved?"
"I should say not."
"He can't object to my worldly position, so it must be myself that he has
this down on. What has he against me? I never hurt man or woman in
my life that I know of. And yet he would not so much as let me touch the
tips of her fingers."
"Did he say so?"
"That, and a deal more. I tell you, Watson, I've only known her these
few weeks, but from the first I just felt that she was made for me, and
she, too -- she was happy when she was with me, and that I'll swear.
There's a light in a woman's eyes that speaks louder than words. But
he has never let us get together and it was only to-day for the first time
that I saw a chance of having a few words with her alone. She was
glad to meet me, but when she did it was not love that she would talk
about, and she wouldn't have let me talk about it either if she could
have stopped it. She kept coming back to it that this was a place of
danger, and that she would never be happy until I had left it. I told her
that since I had seen her I was in no hurry to leave it, and that if she
really wanted me to go, the only way to work it was for her to arrange to
go with me. With that I offered in as many words to marry her, but
before she could answer, down came this brother of hers, running at us
with a face on him like a madman. He was just white with rage, and
those light eyes of his were blazing with fury. What was I doing with the
lady? How dared I offer her attentions which were distasteful to her?
Did I think that because I was a baronet I could do what I liked? If he
had not been her brother I should have known better how to answer
him. As it was I told him that my feelings towards his sister were such
as I was not ashamed of, and that I hoped that she might honour me by
becoming my wife. That seemed to make the matter no better, so then
I lost my temper too, and I answered him rather more hotly than I should
perhaps, considering that she was standing by. So it ended by his
going off with her, as you saw, and here am I as badly puzzled a man
as any in this county. Just tell me what it all means, Watson, and I'll owe
you more than ever I can hope to pay."
I tried one or two explanations, but, indeed, I was completely puzzled
myself. Our friend's title, his fortune, his age, his character, and his
appearance are all in his favour, and I know nothing against him unless
it be this dark fate which runs in his family. That his advances should
be rejected so brusquely without any reference to the lady's own
wishes and that the lady should accept the situation without protest is
very amazing. However, our conjectures were set at rest by a visit from
Stapleton himself that very afternoon. He had come to offer apologies
for his rudeness of the morning, and after a long private interview with
Sir Henry in his study the upshot of their conversation was that the
breach is quite healed, and that we are to dine at Merripit House next
Friday as a sign of it.
"l don't say now that he isn't a crazy man," said Sir Henry "I can't forget
the look in his eyes when he ran at me this morning, but I must allow
that no man could make a more handsome apology than he has
"Did he give any explanation of his conduct?"
"His sister is everything in his life, he says. That is natural enough, and
I am glad that he should understand her value. They have always been
together, and according to his account he has been a very lonely man
with only her as a companion, so that the thought of losing her was
really terrible to him. He had not understood, he said, that I was
becoming attached to her, but when he saw with his own eyes that it
was really so, and that she might be taken away from him, it gave him
such a shock that for a time he was not responsible for what he said or
did. He was very sorry for all that had passed, and he recognized how
foolish and how selfish it was that he should imagine that he could hold
a beautiful woman like his sister to himself for her whole life. If she had
to leave him he had rather it was to a neighbour like myself than to
anyone else. But in any case it was a blow to him and it would take him
some time before he could prepare himself to meet it. He would
withdraw all opposition upon his part if I would promise for three
months to let the matter rest and to be content with cultivating the lady's
friendship during that time without claiming her love. This I promised,
and so the matter rests."
So there is one of our small mysteries cleared up. It is something to
have touched bottom anywhere in this bog in which we are floundering.
We know now why Stapleton looked with disfavour upon his sister's
suitor -- even when that suitor was so eligible a one as Sir Henry. And
now I pass on to another thread which I have extricated out of the
tangled skein, the mystery of the sobs in the night, of the tear-stained
face of Mrs. Barrymore, of the secret journey of the butler to the
western lattice window. Congratulate me, my dear Holmes, and tell me
that I have not disappointed you as an agent -- that you do not regret
the confidence which you showed in me when you sent me down. All
these things have by one night's work been thoroughly cleared.
I have said "by one night's work," but, in truth, it was by two nights'
work, for on the first we drew entirely blank. I sat up with Sir Henry in
his rooms until nearly three o'clock in the morning, but no sound of any
sort did we hear except the chiming clock upon the stairs. It was a
most melancholy vigil and ended by each of us falling asleep in our
chairs. Fortunately we were not discouraged, and we determined to try
again. The next night we lowered the lamp and sat smoking cigarettes
without making the least sound. It was incredible how slowly the hours
crawled by, and yet we were helped through it by the same sort of
patient interest which the hunter must feel as he watches the trap into
which he hopes the game may wander. One struck, and two, and we
had almost for the second time given it up in despair when in an
instant we both sat bolt upright in our chairs with all our weary senses
keenly on the alert once more. We had heard the creak of a step in the
Very stealthily we heard it pass along until it died away in the distance.
Then the baronet gently opened his door and we set out in pursuit.
Already our man had gone round the gallery and the corridor was all in
darkness. Softly we stole along untii we had come into the other wing.
We were just in time to catch a glimpse of the tall, black-bearded
figure, his shoulders rounded as he tiptoed down the passage. Then
he passed through the same door as before, and the light of the
candle framed it in the darkness and shot one single yellow beam
across the gloom of the corridor. We shuffled cautiously towards it,
trying every plank before we dared to put our whole weight upon it. We
had taken the precaution of leaving our boots behind us, but, even so,
the old boards snapped and creaked beneath our tread. Sometimes it
seemed impossible that he should fail to hear our approach. However,
the man is fortunately rather deaf, and he was entirely preoccupied in
that which he was doing. When at last we reached the door and
peeped through we found him crouching at the window, candle in
hand, his white, intent face pressed against the pane, exactly as I had
seen him two nights before.
We had arranged no plan of campaign, but the baronet is a man to
whom the most direct way is always the most natural. He walked into
the room, and as he did so Barrymore sprang up from the window with
a sharp hiss of his breath and stood, livid and trembling, before us. His
dark eyes, glaring out of the white mask of his face, were full of horror
and astonishment as he gazed from Sir Henry to me.
"What are you doing here, Barrymore?"
"Nothing, sir." His agitation was so great that he could hardly speak,
and the shadows sprang up and down from the shaking of his candle.
"It was the window, sir. I go round at night to see that they are
"On the second floor?"
"Yes, sir, all the windows."
"Look here, Barrymore," said Sir Henry sternly, "we have made up our
minds to have the truth out of you, so it will save you trouble to tell it
sooner rather than later. Come, now! No lies! What were you doing at
The fellow looked at us in a helpless way, and he wrung his hands
together like one who is in the last extremity of doubt and misery.
"I was doing no harm, sir. I was holding a candle to the window."
"And why were you holding a candle to the window?"
"Don't ask me, Sir Henry -- don't ask me! I give you my word, sir, that it
is not my secret, and that I cannot tell it. If it concerned no one but
myself I would not try to keep it from you."
A sudden idea occurred to me, and I took the candle from the
trembling hand of the butler.
"He must have been holding it as a signal," said I. "Let us see if there
is any answer." I held it as he had done, and stared out into the
darkness of the night. Vaguely I could discern the black bank of the
trees and the lighter expanse of the moor, for the moon was behind the
clouds. And then I gave a cry of exultation, for a tiny pin-point of yellow
light had suddenly transfixed the dark veil, and glowed steadily in the
centre of the black square framed by the window.
"There it is!" I cried.
"No, no, sir, it is nothing -- nothing at all!" the butler broke in; "I assure
you, sir --"
"Move your light across the window, Watson!" cried the baronet. "See,
the other moves also! Now, you rascal, do you deny that it is a signal?
Come, speak up! Who is your confederate out yonder, and what is this
conspiracy that is going on?"
The man's face became openly defiant.
"It is my business, and not yours. I will not tell."
"Then you leave my employment right away."
"Very good, sir. If I must I must."
"And you go in disgrace. By thunder, you may well be ashamed of
yourself. Your family has lived with mine for over a hundred years under
this roof, and here I find you deep in some dark plot against me."
"No, no, sir; no, not against you!" It was a woman's voice, and Mrs.
Barrymore, paler and more horror-struck than her husband, was
standing at the door. Her bulky figure in a shawl and skirt might have
been comic were it not for the intensity of feeling upon her face.
"We have to go, Eliza. This is the end of it. You can pack our things,"
said the butler.
"Oh, John, John, have I brought you to this? It is my doing, Sir Henry --
all mine. He has done nothing except for my sake and because I
"Speak out, then! What does it mean?"
"My unhappy brother is starving on the moor. We cannot let him perish
at our very gates. The light is a signal to him that food is ready for him,
and his light out yonder is to show the spot to which to bring it."
"Then your brother is --"
"The escaped convict, sir -- Selden, the criminal."
"That's the truth, sir," said Barrymore. "I said that it was not my secret
and that I could not tell it to you. But now you have heard it, and you will
see that if there was a plot it was not against you."
This, then, was the explanation of the stealthy expeditions at night and
the light at the window. Sir Henry and I both stared at the woman in
amazement. Was it possible that this stolidly respectable person was
of the same blood as one of the most notorious criminals in the
"Yes, sir, my name was Selden, and he is my younger brother. We
humoured him too much when he was a lad and gave him his own way
in everything until he came to think that the world was made for his
pleasure, and that he could do what he liked in it. Then as he grew
older he met wicked companions, and the devil entered into him until
he broke my mother's heart and dragged our name in the dirt. From
crime to crime he sank lower and lower until it is only the mercy of God
which has snatched him from the scaffold; but to me, sir, he was
always the little curly-headed boy that I had nursed and played with as
an elder sister would. That was why he broke prison, sir. He knew that I
was here and that we could not refuse to help him. When he dragged
himself here one night, weary and starving, with the warders hard at his
heels, what could we do? We took him in and fed him and cared for
him. Then you returned, sir, and my brother thought he would be safer
on the moor than anywhere else until the hue and cry was over, so he
lay in hiding there. But every second night we made sure if he was still
there by putting a light in the window, and if there was an answer my
husband took out some bread and meat to him. Every day we hoped
that he was gone, but as long as he was there we could not desert him.
That is the whole truth, as I am an honest Christian woman and you will
see that if there is blame in the matter it does not lie with my husband
but with me, for whose sake he has done all that he has."
The woman's words came with an intense earnestness which carried
conviction with them.
"Is this true, Barrymore?"
"Yes, Sir Henry. Every word of it."
"Well, I cannot blame you for standing by your own wife. Forget what I
have said. Go to your room, you two, and we shall talk further about
this matter in the morning."
When they were gone we looked out of the window again. Sir Henry
had flung it open, and the cold night wind beat in upon our faces. Far
away in the black distance there still glowed that one tiny point of
"I wonder he dares," said Sir Henry.
"It may be so placed as to be only visible from here."
"Very likely. How far do you think it is?"
"Out by the Cleft Tor, I think."
"Not more than a mile or two off."
"Well, it cannot be far if Barrymore had to carry out the food to it. And
he is waiting, this villain, beside that candle. By thunder, Watson, I am
going out to take that man!"
The same thought had crossed my own mind. It was not as if the
Barrymores had taken us into their confidence. Their secret had been
forced from them. The man was a danger to the community, an
unmitigated scoundrel for whom there was neither pity nor excuse. We
were only doing our duty in taking this chance of putting him back
where he could do no harm. With his brutal and violent nature, others
would have to pay the price if we held our hands. Any night, for
example, our neighbours the Stapletons might be attacked by him, and
it may have been the thought of this which made Sir Henry so keen
upon the adventure.
"I will come," said I.
"Then get your revolver and put on your boots. The sooner we start the
better, as the fellow may put out his light and be off."
In five minutes we were outside the door, starting upon our expedition.
We hurried through the dark shrubbery, amid the dull moaning of the
autumn wind and the rustle of the falling leaves. The night air was
heavy with the smell of damp and decay. Now and again the moon
peeped out for an instant, but clouds were driving over the face of the
sky, and just as we came out on the moor a thin rain began to fall. The
light still burned steadily in front.
"Are you armed?" I asked.
"I have a hunting-crop."
"We must close in on him rapidly, for he is said to be a desperate
fellow. We shall take him by surprise and have him at our mercy before
he can resist."
"I say, Watson," said the baronet, "what would Holmes say to this?
How about that hour of darkness in which the power of evil is exalted?"
As if in answer to his words there rose suddenly out of the vast gloom
of the moor that strange cry which I had already heard upon the
borders of the great Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind through the
silence of the night, a long, deep mutter then a rising howl, and then the
sad moan in which it died away. Again and again it sounded, the
whole air throbbing with it, strident, wild, and menacing. The baronet
caught my sleeve and his face glimmered white through the darkness.
"My God, what's that, Watson?"
"I don't know. It's a sound they have on the moor. I heard it once
It died away, and an absolute silence closed in upon us. We stood
straining our ears, but nothing came.
"Watson," said the baronet, "it was the cry of a hound."
My blood ran cold in my veins, for there was a break in his voice which
told of the sudden horror which had seized him.
"What do they call this sound?" he asked.
"The folk on the countryside."
"Oh, they are ignorant people. Why should you mind what they call it?"
"Tell me, Watson. What do they say of it?"
I hesitated but could not escape the question.
"They say it is the cry of the Hound of the Baskervilles."
He groaned and was silent for a few moments.
"A hound it was," he said at last, "but it seemed to come from miles
away, over yonder, I think."
"It was hard to say whence it came."
"It rose and fell with the wind. Isn't that the direction of the great
"Yes, it is."
"Well, it was up there. Come now, Watson, didn't you think yourself that
it was the cry of a hound? I am not a child. You need not fear to speak
"Stapleton was with me when I heard it last. He said that it might be the
calling of a strange bird."
"No, no, it was a hound. My God, can there be some truth in all these
stories? Is it possible that I am really in danger from so dark a cause?
You don't believe it, do you, Watson?"
"And yet it was one thing to laugh about it in London, and it is another
to stand out here in the darkness of the moor and to hear such a cry as
that. And my uncle! There was the footprint of the hound beside him as
he lay. It all fits together. I don't think that I am a coward, Watson, but
that sound seemed to freeze my very blood. Feel my hand!"
It was as cold as a block of marble.
"You'll be all right to-morrow."
"I don't think I'll get that cry out of my head. What do you advise that we
"Shall we turn back?"
"No, by thunder; we have come out to get our man, and we will do it.
We after the convict, and a hell-hound, as likely as not, after us. Come
on! We'll see it through if all the fiends of the pit were loose upon the
We stumbled slowly along in the darkness, with the black loom of the
craggy hills around us, and the yellow speck of light burning steadily in
front. There is nothing so deceptive as the distance of a light upon a
pitch-dark night, and sometimes the glimmer seemed to be far away
upon the horizon and sometimes it might have been within a few yards
of us. But at last we could see whence it came, and then we knew that
we were indeed very close. A guttering candle was stuck in a crevice
of the rocks which flanked it on each side so as to keep the wind from
it and also to prevent it from being visible, save in the direction of
Baskerville Hall. A boulder of granite concealed our approach, and
crouching behind it we gazed over it at the signal light. It was strange
to see this single candle burning there in the middle of the moor, with
no sign of life near it -- just the one straight yellow flame and the gleam
of the rock on each side of it.
"What shall we do now?" whispered Sir Henry.
"Wait here. He must be near his light. Let us see if we can get a
glimpse of him."
The words were hardly out of my mouth when we both saw him. Over
the rocks, in the crevice of which the candle burned, there was thrust
out an evil yellow face, a terrible animal face, all seamed and scored
with vile passions. Foul with mire, with a bristling beard, and hung with
matted hair, it might well have belonged to one of those old savages
who dwelt in the burrows on the hillsides. The light beneath him was
reflected in his small, cunning eyes which peered fiercely to right and
left through the darkness like a crafty and savage animal who has
heard the steps of the hunters.
Something had evidently aroused his suspicions. It may have been
that Barrymore had some private signal which we had neglected to
give, or the fellow may have had some other reason for thinking that all
was not well, but I could read his fears upon his wicked face. Any
instant he might dash out the light and vanish in the darkness. I sprang
forward therefore, and Sir Henry did the same. At the same moment
the convict screamed out a curse at us and hurled a rock which
splintered up against the boulder which had sheltered us. I caught one
glimpse of his short, squat, strongly built figure as he sprang to his feet
and turned to run. At the same moment by a lucky chance the moon
broke through the clouds. We rushed over the brow of the hill, and
there was our man running with great speed down the other side,
springing over the stones in his way with the activity of a mountain
goat. A lucky long shot of my revolver might have crippled him, but I
had brought it only to defend myself if attacked and not to shoot an
unarmed man who was running away.
We were both swift runners and in fairly good training, but we soon
found that we had no chance of overtaking him. We saw him for a long
time in the moonlight until he was only a small speck moving swiftly
among the boulders upon the side of a distant hill. We ran and ran until
we were completely blown, but the space between us grew ever wider.
Finally we stopped and sat panting on two rocks, while we watched
him disappearing in the distance.
And it was at this moment that there occurred a most strange and
unexpected thing. We had risen from our rocks and were turning to go
home, having abandoned the hopeless chase. The moon was low
upon the right, and the jagged pinnacle of a granite tor stood up
against the lower curve of its silver disc. There, outlined as black as an
ebony statue on that shining background, I saw the figure of a man
upon the tor. Do not think that it was a delusion, Holmes. I assure you
that I have never in my life seen anything more clearly. As far as I could
judge, the figure was that of a tall, thin man. He stood with his legs a
little separated, his arms folded, his head bowed, as if he were
brooding over that enormous wilderness of peat and granite which lay
before him. He might have been the very spirit of that terrible place. It
was not the convict. This man was far from the place where the latter
had disappeared. Besides, he was a much taller man. With a cry of
surprise I pointed him out to the baronet, but in the instant during which
I had turned to grasp his arm the man was gone. There was the sharp
pinnacle of granite still cutting the lower edge of the moon, but its peak
bore no trace of that silent and motionless figure.
I wished to go in that direction and to search the tor, but it was some
distance away. The baronet's nerves were still quivering from that cry,
which recalled the dark story of his family, and he was not in the mood
for fresh adventures. He had not seen this lonely man upon the tor and
could not feel the thrill which his strange presence and his
commanding attitude had given to me. "A warder, no doubl," said he.
"The moor has been thick with them since this fellow escaped." Well,
perhaps his explanation may be the right one, but I should like to have
some further proof of it. To-day we mean to communicate to the
Princetown people where they should look for their missing man, but it
is hard lines that we have not actually had the triumph of bringing him
back as our own prisoner. Such are the adventures of last night, and
you must acknowledge, my dear Holmes, that I have done you very well
in the matter of a report. Much of what I tell you is no doubt quite
irrelevant, but still I feel that it is best that I should let you have all the
facts and leave you to select for yourself those which will be of most
service to you in helping you to your conclusilons. We are certainly
making some progress. So far as the Barrymores go we have found
the motive of their actions, and that has cleared up the situation very
much. But the moor with its mysteries and its strange inhabitants
remains as inscrutable as ever. Perhaps in my next I may be able to
throw some light upon this also. Best of all would it be if you could
come down to us. In any case you will hear from me again in the
course of the next few days.
All Family Resources
provides a collection of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle between 1887