|When Dr Mortimer had finished reading this strange story,he looked across at Sherlock Holmes.Holmes looked bored.
‘Did you find the story interesting?’asked Dr Mortimer.
‘It may interest a collector of stories to frighten children,’ said Holmes.
Dr Mortimer took a newspaper from another pocket.
‘Now,Mr Holmes,let me read you something which was written only three months ago.It is from the Devonshire County Newspaper,and it is about the death of Sir Charles Baskerville.’
Holmes looked more interested.Dr Mortimer began to read:
The sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville has caused great sadness in the county.Although he had lived at Baskerville Hall for only two years,everyone liked him.Sir Charles had lived abroad and made his money there.He came back to spend his fortune on repairing Baskerville Hall and its farms and villages,as the buildings and lands were in very poor condition.He was a friendly and generous man,who gave freely to the poor.
The official report of his death does not explain every thing that happened.However,it does show that there was no question of murder.Sir Charles died from natural causes,and the strange stories people are telling about his death are not true.His friend and doctor,Dr James Mor timer,said that Sir Charles’heart had been weak for some time.
The facts are simple.Every night before going to bed,Sir Charles went for a walk in the gardens of Baskerville Hall.His favourite walk was down a path between two hedges of yew trees,the famous Yew Alley of Baskerville Hall.On the night of 4th June he went out for his walk to think and to smoke his usual cigar.
Sir Charles was going to London on the next day,and Barrymore,his butler,was packing his suitcases.By mid night Barrymore was worried that Sir Charles had not re turned,so he went to look for him.He found the door of the Hall open.The day had been rainy and wet so Barry more saw the prints left by Sir Charles’shoes as he had walked down the Alley.Half way down the Alley is a gate,which leads to the moor.There were signs that Sir Charles had stood there for some time.Barrymore fol lowed the footprints to the far end of the Alley.And there he found Sir Charles’body.
Barrymore reported something interesting about the footprints.He said that they changed between the moor gate and the end of the Alley.As far as the moor gate there was a whole footprint for each of Sir Charles’steps.After he passed the gate,only toe prints could be seen.Barrymore thought that Sir Charles had walked on his toes.
A man called Murphy,who buys and sells horses,was not far away at the time of Sir Charles’death.He had been drinking a lot of beer,but he says he heard cries.He is not sure where they came from.
Dr Mortimer was called to look at Sir Charles’body.There were no signs that Sir Charles had been murdered,but Dr Mortimer did not recognize his friend’s face.The whole shape of it was changed.However,this often hap pens with deaths which are caused by weak hearts.When Dr Mortimer looked at the body,he found that this was,in fact,what had happened.Sir Charles’weak heart had failed,and this had caused his death.
Everyone hopes that the new head of the Baskerville family will move quickly into the Hall.Sir Charles good work must go on.
The new head of the Baskerville family will be Sir Hen ry Baskerville,if he is still alive and if the lawyers can find him.He is the son of Sir Charles Baskerville’s younger brother,who died some years ago.The young man has been living in the USA.The Baskerville lawyers are trying to contact him to tell him about his good fortune.
Dr Mortimer put the newspaper back into his pocket.
‘Those are the official facts about the death of Sir Charles.They are the facts that everyone knows,Mr Holmes,’he said.
‘Thank you for informing me about this interesting case,’Holmes said.’I read about it at the time,but I heard none of the details.The newspaper gives the facts that everybody knows.Now I want you to tell me all the other facts that you know.What do you know about the strange stories?’
‘I haven’t told anyone these other facts,’said Dr Mortimer.’I am a man of science,as you know.I have always believed that there are sensible explanations for everything.I didn’t want to say anything that could stop Sir Henry from coming to live at the Hall.But I will tell you tile details that were not in the report.’
‘In the months before his death,’Dr Mortimer went on,’Sir Charles was a very worried man.He was near to breaking down.He believed the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles.He refused to go out at night.He often asked me whether I had seen any strange animal or heard the cry of a hound on the moor at night.He always got very excited when he asked this question.
‘I remember driving up to the Hall one evening about three weeks before he died.He was standing at the door.I went up to him,and saw him staring at something behind me.There was a look of horror on his face.I turned quickly and saw something moving between the trees.It looked like a small black cow.He was so frightened that I went to look for the animal.It had disappeared but Sir Charles was very worried.I stayed with him all the evening.It was then he gave me the old papers I have read to you.What I saw that evening may be im portant when you consider what happened on the night of his death.
‘When Barrymore,the butler,found Sir Charles’body,he sent someone to fetch me.I checked all the facts.I have just read them to you,and they are all true.
‘But Barrymore said one thing that was not true.He said that there were no other prints on the ground around the body.He did not notice any.But I did.They were not close to the body,but they were fresh and clear.’
‘A man’s or a woman’s?’asked Holmes.
Dr Mortimer looked at us strangely for a moment.His voice became a whisper as he answered:
‘Mr Holmes,they were the footprints of a huge hound!’