DEATH ON THE MOOR
FOR a moment or two I sat breathless, hardly able to believe my ears.
Then my senses and my voice came back to me, while a crushing weight of responsibility
seemed in an instant to be lifted from my soul. That cold, incisive, ironical voice could
belong to but one man in all the world.
Holmes! I criedHolmes!
Come out, said he, and please be careful
with the revolver.
I stooped under the rude lintel, and there he sat upon a
stone outside, his gray eyes dancing with amusement as they fell upon my astonished
features. He was thin and worn, but clear and alert, his keen face bronzed by the sun and
roughened by the wind. In his tweed suit and cloth cap he looked like any other tourist
upon the moor, and he had contrived, with that catlike love of personal cleanliness which
was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect
as if he were in Baker Street.
I never was more glad to see anyone in my life,
said I as I wrung him by the hand.
Or more astonished, eh?
Well, I must confess to it.
The surprise was not all on one side, I assure you. I
had no idea that you had found my occasional retreat, still less that you were inside it,
until I was within twenty paces of the door.
My footprint, I presume?
No, Watson; I fear that I could not undertake to
recognize your footprint amid all the footprints of the world. If you seriously desire to
deceive me you must change your tobacconist; for when I see the stub of a cigarette marked
Bradley, Oxford Street, I know that my friend Watson is in the neighbourhood. You will see
it there beside the path. You threw it down, no doubt, at that supreme moment when you
charged into the empty hut.
I thought as muchand knowing your admirable
tenacity I was convinced that you were sitting in ambush, a weapon within reach, waiting
for the tenant to return. So you actually thought that I was the criminal?
I did not know who you were, but I was determined to
Excellent, Watson! And how did you localize me? You saw
me, perhaps, on the night of the convict hunt, when I was so imprudent as to allow the
moon to rise behind me?
Yes, I saw you then.
And have no doubt searched all the huts until you came
to this one?
No, your boy had been observed, and that gave me a guide
where to look.
The old gentleman with the telescope, no doubt. I could
not make it out when first I saw the light flashing upon the lens. He rose and
peeped into the hut. Ha, I see that Cartwright has brought up some supplies.
Whats this paper? So you have been to Coombe Tracey, have you?
see Mrs. Laura Lyons?
Well done! Our researches have evidently been running on
parallel lines, and when we unite our results I expect we shall have a fairly full
knowledge of the case.
Well, I am glad from my heart that you are here, for
indeed the responsibility and the mystery were both becoming too much for my nerves. But
how in the name of wonder did you come here, and what have you been doing? I thought that
you were in Baker Street working out that case of blackmailing.
That was what I wished you to think.
Then you use me, and yet do not trust me! I cried
with some bitterness. I think that I have deserved better at your hands,
My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this
as in many other cases, and I beg that you will forgive me if I have seemed to play a
trick upon you. In truth, it was partly for your own sake that I did it, and it was my
appreciation of the danger which you ran which led me to come down and examine the matter
for myself. Had I been with Sir Henry and you it is confident that my point of view would
have been the same as yours, and my presence would have warned our very formidable
opponents to be on their guard. As it is, I have been able to get about as I could not
possibly have done had I been living in the Hall, and I remain an unknown factor in the
business, ready to throw in all my weight at a critical moment.
But why keep me in the dark?
For you to know could not have helped us and might
possibly have led to my discovery. You would have wished to tell me something, or in your
kindness you would have brought me out some comfort or other, and so an unnecessary risk
would be run. I brought Cartwright down with meyou remember the little chap at the
express officeand he has seen after my simple wants: a loaf of bread and a clean
collar. What does man want more? He has given me an extra pair of eyes upon a very active
pair of feet, and both have been invaluable.
Then my reports have all been wasted!My
voice trembled as I recalled the pains and the pride with which I had composed them.
Holmes took a bundle of papers from his pocket.
Here are your reports, my dear fellow, and very well
thumbed, I assure you. I made excellent arrangements, and they are only delayed one day
upon their way. I must compliment you exceedingly upon the zeal and the intelligence which
you have shown over an extraordinarily difficult case.
I was still rather raw over the deception which had been
practised upon me, but the warmth of Holmess praise drove my anger from my mind. I
felt also in my heart that he was right in what he said and that it was really best for
our purpose that I should not have known that he was upon the moor.
Thats better, said he, seeing the shadow
rise from my face. And now tell me the result of your visit to Mrs. Laura
Lyonsit was not difficult for me to guess that it was to see her that you had gone,
for I am already aware that she is the one person in Coombe Tracey who might be of service
to us in the matter. In fact, if you had not gone to-day it is exceedingly probable that I
should have gone to-morrow.
The sun had set and dusk was settling over the moor. The air
had turned chill and we withdrew into the hut for warmth. There, sitting together in the
twilight,  I told
Holmes of my conversation with the lady. So interested was he that I had to repeat some of
it twice before he was satisfied.
This is most important, said he when I had
concluded. It fills up a gap which I had been unable to bridge in this most complex
affair. You are aware, perhaps, that a close intimacy exists between this lady and the man
I did not know of a close intimacy.
There can be no doubt about the matter. They meet, they
write, there is a complete understanding between them. Now, this puts a very powerful
weapon into our hands. If I could only use it to detach his wife
I am giving you some information now, in return for all
that you have given me. The lady who has passed here as Miss Stapleton is in reality his
Good heavens, Holmes! Are you sure of what you say? How
could he have permitted Sir Henry to fall in love with her?
Sir Henrys falling in love could do no harm to
anyone except Sir Henry. He took particular care that Sir Henry did not make love
to her, as you have yourself observed. I repeat that the lady is his wife and not his
But why this elaborate deception?
Because he foresaw that she would be very much more
useful to him in the character of a free woman.
All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took
shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive, colourless man, with his straw
hat and his butterfly-net, I seemed to see something terriblea creature of infinite
patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart.
It is he, then, who is our enemyit is he who
dogged us in London?
So I read the riddle.
And the warningit must have come from her!
The shape of some monstrous villainy, half seen, half guessed,
loomed through the darkness which had girt me so long.
But are you sure of this, Holmes? How do you know that
the woman is his wife?
Because he so far forgot himself as to tell you a true
piece of autobiography upon the occasion when he first met you, and I dare say he has many
a time regretted it since. He was once a schoolmaster in the north of England. Now, there
is no one more easy to trace than a schoolmaster. There are scholastic agencies by which
one may identify any man who has been in the profession. A little investigation showed me
that a school had come to grief under atrocious circumstances, and that the man who had
owned itthe name was differenthad disappeared with his wife. The descriptions
agreed. When I learned that the missing man was devoted to entomology the identification
The darkness was rising, but much was still hidden by the
If this woman is in truth his wife, where does Mrs.
Laura Lyons come in? I asked.
That is one of the points upon which your own researches
have shed a light. Your interview with the lady has cleared the situation very much. I did
not know about a projected divorce between herself and her husband. In that case,
regarding Stapleton as an unmarried man, she counted no doubt upon becoming his
And when she is undeceived?
Why, then we may find the lady of service. It must be
our first duty to see  herboth
of usto-morrow. Dont you think, Watson, that you are away from your charge
rather long? Your place should be at Baskerville Hall.
The last red streaks had faded away in the west and night had
settled upon the moor. A few faint stars were gleaming in a violet sky.
One last question, Holmes, I said as I rose.
Surely there is no need of secrecy between you and me. What is the meaning of it
all? What is he after?
Holmess voice sank as he answered:
It is murder, Watsonrefined, cold-blooded,
deliberate murder. Do not ask me for particulars. My nets are closing upon him, even as
his are upon Sir Henry, and with your help he is already almost at my mercy. There is but
one danger which can threaten us. It is that he should strike before we are ready to do
so. Another daytwo at the mostand I have my case complete, but until then
guard your charge as closely as ever a fond mother watched her ailing child. Your mission
to-day has justified itself, and yet I could almost wish that you had not left his side.
A terrible screama prolonged yell of horror and anguish
burst out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned the blood to ice in my
Oh, my God! I gasped. What is it? What does
Holmes had sprung to his feet, and I saw his dark, athletic
outline at the door of the hut, his shoulders stooping, his head thrust forward, his face
peering into the darkness.
Hush! he whispered. Hush!
The cry had been loud on account of its vehemence, but it had
pealed out from somewhere far off on the shadowy plain. Now it burst upon our ears,
nearer, louder, more urgent than before.
Where is it? Holmes whispered; and I knew from the
thrill of his voice that he, the man of iron, was shaken to the soul. Where is it,
There, I think. I pointed into the darkness.
Again the agonized cry swept through the silent night, louder
and much nearer than ever. And a new sound mingled with it, a deep, muttered rumble,
musical and yet menacing, rising and falling like the low, constant murmur of the sea.
The hound! cried Holmes. Come, Watson, come!
Great heavens, if we are too late!
He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had
followed at his heels. But now from somewhere among the broken ground immediately in front
of us there came one last despairing yell, and then a dull, heavy thud. We halted and
listened. Not another sound broke the heavy silence of the windless night.
I saw Holmes put his hand to his forehead like a man
distracted. He stamped his feet upon the ground.
He has beaten us, Watson. We are too late.
No, no, surely not!
Fool that I was to hold my hand. And you, Watson, see
what comes of abandoning your charge! But, by Heaven, if the worst has happened well
Blindly we ran through the gloom, blundering against boulders,
forcing our way through gorse bushes, panting up hills and rushing down slopes, heading
always in the direction whence those dreadful sounds had come. At every rise Holmes looked
eagerly round him, but the shadows were thick upon the moor, and nothing moved upon its
you see anything?
But, hark, what is that?
A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon
our left! On that side a ridge of rocks ended in a sheer cliff which overlooked a
stone-strewn slope. On its jagged face was spread-eagled some dark, irregular object. As
we ran towards it the vague outline hardened into a definite shape. It was a prostrate man
face downward upon the ground, the head doubled under him at a horrible angle, the
shoulders rounded and the body hunched together as if in the act of throwing a somersault.
So grotesque was the attitude that I could not for the instant realize that that moan had
been the passing of his soul. Not a whisper, not a rustle, rose now from the dark figure
over which we stooped. Holmes laid his hand upon him and held it up again with an
exclamation of horror. The gleam of the match which he struck shone upon his clotted
fingers and upon the ghastly pool which widened slowly from the crushed skull of the
victim. And it shone upon something else which turned our hearts sick and faint within
usthe body of Sir Henry Baskerville!