You will, I am sure, excuse my presumption, Dr.
Watson, said he as he came panting up to where I stood. Here on the moor we
are homely folk and do not wait for formal introductions. You may possibly have heard my
name from our mutual friend, Mortimer. I am Stapleton, of Merripit House.
Your net and box would have told me as much, said
I, for I knew that Mr. Stapleton was a naturalist. But how did you know me?
I have been calling on Mortimer, and he pointed you out
to me from the window of his surgery as you passed. As our road lay the same way I thought
that I would overtake you and introduce myself. I trust that Sir Henry is none the worse
for his journey?
He is very well, thank you.
We were all rather afraid that after the sad death of
Sir Charles the new baronet might refuse to live here. It is asking much of a wealthy man
to come down and bury himself in a place of this kind, but I need not tell you that it
means a very great deal to the countryside. Sir Henry has, I suppose, no superstitious
fears in the matter?
I do not think that it is likely.
Of course you know the legend of the fiend dog which
haunts the family?
I have heard it.
It is extraordinary how credulous the peasants are about
here! Any number of them are ready to swear that they have seen such a creature upon the
moor. He spoke with a smile, but I seemed to read in his eyes that he took the
matter more seriously. The story took a great hold upon the imagination of Sir
Charles, and I have no doubt that it led to his tragic end.
His nerves were so worked up that the appearance of any
dog might have had a fatal effect upon his diseased heart. I fancy that he really did see
something of the kind upon that last night in the yew alley. I feared that some disaster
might occur, for I was very fond of the old man, and I knew that his heart was weak.
How did you know that?
My friend Mortimer told me.
You think, then, that some dog pursued Sir Charles, and
that he died of fright in consequence?
Have you any better explanation?
I have not come to any conclusion.
Has Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
The words took away my breath for an instant, but a glance at
the placid face and steadfast eyes of my companion showed that no surprise was intended.
It is useless for us to pretend that we do not know you,
Dr. Watson, said he. The records of your detective have reached us here, and
you could not celebrate him without being known yourself. When Mortimer told me your name
he could not deny your identity. If you are here, then it follows that Mr. Sherlock Holmes
is interesting himself in the matter, and I am naturally curious to know what view he may
I am afraid that I cannot answer that question.
I ask if he is going to honour us with a visit himself?
He cannot leave town at present. He has other cases
which engage his attention.
What a pity! He might throw some light on that which is
so dark to us. But as to your own researches, if there is any possible way in which I can
be of service to you I trust that you will command me. If I had any indication of the
nature of your suspicions or how you propose to investigate the case, I might perhaps even
now give you some aid or advice.
I assure you that I am simply here upon a visit to my
friend, Sir Henry, and that I need no help of any kind.
Excellent! said Stapleton. You are perfectly
right to be wary and discreet. I am justly reproved for what I feel was an unjustifiable
intrusion, and I promise you that I will not mention the matter again.
We had come to a point where a narrow grassy path struck off
from the road and wound away across the moor. A steep, boulder-sprinkled hill lay upon the
right which had in bygone days been cut into a granite quarry. The face which was turned
towards us formed a dark cliff, with ferns and brambles growing in its niches. From over a
distant rise there floated a gray plume of smoke.
A moderate walk along this moor-path brings us to
Merripit House, said he. Perhaps you will spare an hour that I may have the
pleasure of introducing you to my sister.
My first thought was that I should be by Sir Henrys
side. But then I remembered the pile of papers and bills with which his study table was
littered. It was certain that I could not help with those. And Holmes had expressly said
that I should study the neighbours upon the moor. I accepted Stapletons invitation,
and we turned together down the path.
It is a wonderful place, the moor, said he,
looking round over the undulating downs, long green rollers, with crests of jagged granite
foaming up into fantastic surges. You never tire of the moor. You cannot think the
wonderful secrets which it contains. It is so vast, and so barren, and so
You know it well, then?
I have only been here two years. The residents would
call me a newcomer. We came shortly after Sir Charles settled. But my tastes led me to
explore every part of the country round, and I should think that there are few men who
know it better than I do.
Is it hard to know?
Very hard. You see, for example, this great plain to the
north here with the queer hills breaking out of it. Do you observe anything remarkable
It would be a rare place for a gallop.
You would naturally think so and the thought has cost
several their lives before now. You notice those bright green spots scattered thickly over
Yes, they seem more fertile than the rest.
That is the great Grimpen Mire, said he.
A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the
moor ponies wander into it. He never came out. I saw his head for quite a long time
craning out of the bog-hole, but it sucked him down at last. Even in dry seasons it is a
danger to cross it, but after these autumn rains it is an awful place. And yet I can find
my way to the very heart of it and return alive. By George, there is another of those
brown was rolling and tossing among the green sedges. Then a long, agonized, writhing neck
shot upward and a dreadful cry echoed over the moor. It turned me cold with horror, but my
companions nerves seemed to be stronger than mine.
Its gone! said he. The mire has him.
Two in two days, and many more, perhaps, for they get in the way of going there in the dry
weather and never know the difference until the mire has them in its clutches. Its a
bad place, the great Grimpen Mire.
And you say you can penetrate it?
Yes, there are one or two paths which a very active man
can take. I have found them out.
But why should you wish to go into so horrible a
Well, you see the hills beyond? They are really islands
cut off on all sides by the impassable mire, which has crawled round them in the course of
years. That is where the rare plants and the butterflies are, if you have the wit to reach
I shall try my luck some day.
He looked at me with a surprised face.
For Gods sake put such an idea out of your
mind, said he. Your blood would be upon my head. I assure you that there would
not be the least chance of your coming back alive. It is only by remembering certain
complex landmarks that I am able to do it.
Halloa! I cried. What is that?
A long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. It
filled the whole air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it came. From a dull murmur
it swelled into a deep roar, and then sank back into a melancholy, throbbing murmur once
again. Stapleton looked at me with a curious expression in his face.
Queer place, the moor! said he.
But what is it?
The peasants say it is the Hound of the Baskervilles
calling for its prey. Ive heard it once or twice before, but never quite so
I looked round, with a chill of fear in my heart, at the huge
swelling plain, mottled with the green patches of rushes. Nothing stirred over the vast
expanse save a pair of ravens, which croaked loudly from a tor behind us.
You are an educated man. You dont believe such
nonsense as that? said I. What do you think is the cause of so strange a
Bogs make queer noises sometimes. Its the mud
settling, or the water rising, or something.
No, no, that was a living voice.
Well, perhaps it was. Did you ever hear a bittern
No, I never did.
Its a very rare birdpractically
extinctin England now, but all things are possible upon the moor. Yes, I should not
be surprised to learn that what we have heard is the cry of the last of the
Its the weirdest, strangest thing that ever I
heard in my life.
Yes, its rather an uncanny place altogether. Look
at the hillside yonder. What do you make of those?
The whole steep slope was covered with gray circular rings of
stone, a score of them at least.
What are they? Sheep-pens?
they are the homes of our worthy ancestors. Prehistoric man lived thickly on the moor, and
as no one in particular has lived there since, we find all his little arrangements exactly
as he left them. These are his wigwams with the roofs off. You can even see his hearth and
his couch if you have the curiosity to go inside.
But it is quite a town. When was it inhabited?
Neolithic manno date.
What did he do?
He grazed his cattle on these slopes, and he learned to
dig for tin when the bronze sword began to supersede the stone axe. Look at the great
trench in the opposite hill. That is his mark. Yes, you will find some very singular
points about the moor, Dr. Watson. Oh, excuse me an instant! It is surely
A small fly or moth had fluttered across our path, and in an
instant Stapleton was rushing with extraordinary energy and speed in pursuit of it. To my
dismay the creature flew straight for the great mire, and my acquaintance never paused for
an instant, bounding from tuft to tuft behind it, his green net waving in the air. His
gray clothes and jerky, zigzag, irregular progress made him not unlike some huge moth
himself. I was standing watching his pursuit with a mixture of admiration for his
extraordinary activity and fear lest he should lose his footing in the treacherous mire
when I heard the sound of steps and, turning round, found a woman near me upon the path.
She had come from the direction in which the plume of smoke indicated the position of
Merripit House, but the dip of the moor had hid her until she was quite close.
I could not doubt that this was the Miss Stapleton of whom I
had been told, since ladies of any sort must be few upon the moor, and I remembered that I
had heard someone describe her as being a beauty. The woman who approached me was
certainly that, and of a most uncommon type. There could not have been a greater contrast
between brother and sister, for Stapleton was neutral tinted, with light hair and gray
eyes, while she was darker than any brunette whom I have seen in Englandslim,
elegant, and tall. She had a proud, finely cut face, so regular that it might have seemed
impassive were it not for the sensitive mouth and the beautiful dark, eager eyes. With her
perfect figure and elegant dress she was, indeed, a strange apparition upon a lonely
moorland path. Her eyes were on her brother as I turned, and then she quickened her pace
towards me. I had raised my hat and was about to make some explanatory remark when her own
words turned all my thoughts into a new channel.
Go back! she said. Go straight back to
I could only stare at her in stupid surprise. Her eyes
blazed at me, and she tapped the ground impatiently with her foot.
Why should I go back? I asked.
I cannot explain. She spoke in a low, eager voice,
with a curious lisp in her utterance. But for Gods sake do what I ask you. Go
back and never set foot upon the moor again.
But I have only just come.
Man, man! she cried. Can you not tell when a
warning is for your own good? Go back to London! Start to-night! Get away from this place
at all costs! Hush, my brother is coming! Not a word of what I have said. Would you mind
getting that orchid for me among the mares-tails yonder? We are very rich in orchids
on the moor, though, of course, you are rather late to see the beauties of the
had abandoned the chase and came back to us breathing hard and flushed with his exertions.
Halloa, Beryl! said he, and it seemed to me that
the tone of his greeting was not altogether a cordial one.
Well, Jack, you are very hot.
Yes, I was chasing a Cyclopides. He is very rare and
seldom found in the late autumn. What a pity that I should have missed him! He spoke
unconcernedly, but his small light eyes glanced incessantly from the girl to me.
You have introduced yourselves, I can see.
Yes. I was telling Sir Henry that it was rather late for
him to see the true beauties of the moor.
Why, who do you think this is?
I imagine that it must be Sir Henry Baskerville.
No, no, said I. Only a humble commoner, but
his friend. My name is Dr. Watson.
A flush of vexation passed over her expressive face. We
have been talking at cross purposes, said she.
Why, you had not very much time for talk, her
brother remarked with the same questioning eyes.
I talked as if Dr. Watson were a resident instead of
being merely a visitor, said she. It cannot much matter to him whether it is
early or late for the orchids. But you will come on, will you not, and see Merripit
A short walk brought us to it, a bleak moorland house, once
the farm of some grazier in the old prosperous days, but now put into repair and turned
into a modern dwelling. An orchard surrounded it, but the trees, as is usual upon the
moor, were stunted and nipped, and the effect of the whole place was mean and melancholy.
We were admitted by a strange, wizened, rusty-coated old manservant, who seemed in keeping
with the house. Inside, however, there were large rooms furnished with an elegance in
which I seemed to recognize the taste of the lady. As I looked from their windows at the
interminable granite-flecked moor rolling unbroken to the farthest horizon I could not but
marvel at what could have brought this highly educated man and this beautiful woman to
live in such a place.
Queer spot to choose, is it not? said he as if in
answer to my thought. And yet we manage to make ourselves fairly happy, do we not,
Quite happy, said she, but there was no ring of
conviction in her words.
I had a school, said Stapleton. It was in
the north country. The work to a man of my temperament was mechanical and uninteresting,
but the privilege of living with youth, of helping to mould those young minds, and of
impressing them with ones own character and ideals was very dear to me. However, the
fates were against us. A serious epidemic broke out in the school and three of the boys
died. It never recovered from the blow, and much of my capital was irretrievably swallowed
up. And yet, if it were not for the loss of the charming companionship of the boys, I
could rejoice over my own misfortune, for, with my strong tastes for botany and zoology, I
find an unlimited field of work here, and my sister is as devoted to Nature as I am. All
this, Dr. Watson, has been brought upon your head by your expression as you surveyed the
moor out of our window.
It certainly did cross my mind that it might be a little
dullless for you, perhaps, than for your sister.
No, no, I am never dull, said she quickly.
have books, we have our studies, and we have interesting neighbours. Dr. Mortimer is a
most learned man in his own line. Poor Sir Charles was also an admirable companion. We
knew him well and miss him more than I can tell. Do you think that I should intrude if I
were to call this afternoon and make the acquaintance of Sir Henry?
I am sure that he would be delighted.
Then perhaps you would mention that I propose to do so.
We may in our humble way do something to make things more easy for him until he becomes
accustomed to his new surroundings. Will you come upstairs, Dr. Watson, and inspect my
collection of Lepidoptera? I think it is the most complete one in the south-west
of England. By the time that you have looked through them lunch will be almost
But I was eager to get back to my charge. The melancholy of
the moor, the death of the unfortunate pony, the weird sound which had been associated
with the grim legend of the Baskervilles, all these things tinged my thoughts with
sadness. Then on the top of these more or less vague impressions there had come the
definite and distinct warning of Miss Stapleton, delivered with such intense earnestness
that I could not doubt that some grave and deep reason lay behind it. I resisted all
pressure to stay for lunch, and I set off at once upon my return journey, taking the
grass-grown path by which we had come.
It seems, however, that there must have been some short cut
for those who knew it, for before I had reached the road I was astounded to see Miss
Stapleton sitting upon a rock by the side of the track. Her face was beautifully flushed
with her exertions, and she held her hand to her side.
I have run all the way in order to cut you off, Dr.
Watson, said she. I had not even time to put on my hat. I must not stop, or my
brother may miss me. I wanted to say to you how sorry I am about the stupid mistake I made
in thinking that you were Sir Henry. Please forget the words I said, which have no
application whatever to you.
But I cant forget them, Miss Stapleton, said
I. I am Sir Henrys friend, and his welfare is a very close concern of mine.
Tell me why it was that you were so eager that Sir Henry should return to London.
A womans whim, Dr. Watson. When you know me better
you will understand that I cannot always give reasons for what I say or do.
No, no. I remember the thrill in your voice. I remember
the look in your eyes. Please, please, be frank with me, Miss Stapleton, for ever since I
have been here I have been conscious of shadows all round me. Life has become like that
great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with
no guide to point the track. Tell me then what it was that you meant, and I will promise
to convey your warning to Sir Henry.
An expression of irresolution passed for an instant over her
face, but her eyes had hardened again when she answered me.
You make too much of it, Dr. Watson, said she.
My brother and I were very much shocked by the death of Sir Charles. We knew him
very intimately, for his favourite walk was over the moor to our house. He was deeply
impressed with the curse which hung over his family, and when this tragedy came I
naturally felt that there must be some grounds for the fears which he had expressed. I was
distressed therefore when another member of the family came down to live here,  and I felt that he should be warned
of the danger which he will run. That was all which I intended to convey.
But what is the danger?
You know the story of the hound?
I do not believe in such nonsense.
But I do. If you have any influence with Sir Henry, take
him away from a place which has always been fatal to his family. The world is wide. Why
should he wish to live at the place of danger?
Because it is the place of danger. That is Sir
Henrys nature. I fear that unless you can give me some more definite information
than this it would be impossible to get him to move.
I cannot say anything definite, for I do not know
I would ask you one more question, Miss Stapleton. If
you meant no more than this when you first spoke to me, why should you not wish your
brother to overhear what you said? There is nothing to which he, or anyone else, could
My brother is very anxious to have the Hall inhabited,
for he thinks that it is for the good of the poor folk upon the moor. He would be very
angry if he knew that I had said anything which might induce Sir Henry to go away. But I
have done my duty now and I will say no more. I must get back, or he will miss me and
suspect that I have seen you. Good-bye! She turned and had disappeared in a few
minutes among the scattered boulders, while I, with my soul full of vague fears, pursued
my way to Baskerville Hall.