|I felt a moment of fear as Mortimer spoke these words.Holmes sat forward in his excitement,and his eyes showed he was very interested indeed.
‘Why did nobody else see these footprints?’he asked.
‘The footprints were about twenty metres from the body,and nobody thought of looking so far away,’Mortimer replied.
‘Are there many sheep dogs on the moor?’asked Holmes.
‘Yes,but this was no sheep dog.The footprints were very large indeed—enormous,’Mortimer answered.
‘But it had not gone near the body?’
‘What kind of night was it?’Holmes asked.
‘It was wet and cold,though it wasn’t actually raining.’
‘Describe the Alley to me.’
‘The Alley is a path between two long yew hedges.The hedges are small trees that were planted very close together.They are about four metres high.The distance between the two yew hedges is about seven metres.Down the middle is a path of small stones.The path is about three metres wide,with grass on each side of it.’
‘I understand there is a gate through the hedge in one place,’said Holmes.
‘Yes,there is a small gate,which leads to the moor.’
‘Is there any other opening through the hedge?’
‘So you can enter or leave the Yew Alley only from the Hall,or through the moor gate?’asked Holmes.
‘There is a way out through a summer house at the far end.’
‘Had Sir Charles reached the summer house?’
‘No.He lay about fifty metres from it,’said Mortimer.
‘Now,Dr Mortimer,this is important.You say that the footprints you saw were on the path and not on the grass?’
‘No footprints could show on the grass,’said Mortimer.
‘Were they on the same side of the path as the moor gate?’
‘I find that very interesting indeed.Another question:was the moor gate closed?’
‘Yes.It was closed and locked.’
‘How high is it?’asked Holmes.
‘It is just over a metre high.’
‘Then anyone could climb over it?’
‘What prints did you see by the moor gate?’
‘Sir Charles seems to have stood there for five or ten min utes,’said Mortimer.’I know that because his cigar had burned down and the ash had dropped twice off the end of it.’
‘Excellent,’said Holmes.’This man is a very good detective,Watson.’
‘Sir Charles had left his footprints all over that little bit of the path where he was standing.I couldn’t see any other prints.’
Sherlock Holmes hit his knee with his hand angrily.
‘I like to look closely at these things myself,’he said.’Oh,Dr Mortimer,why didn’t you call me immediately?’
‘Mr Holmes,the best detective in the world can’t help with some things,’said Mortimer.
‘You mean things that are outside the laws of nature—su pernatural things?’asked Holmes.
‘I didn’t say so exactly,’replied Mortimer.’But since Sir Charles died,I have heard about a number of things that seem to be supernatural.Several people have seen an animal on the moor that looks like an enormous hound.They all agree that it was a huge creature,which shone with a strange light like a ghost.I have questioned these people carefully.They are all sensible people.They all tell the same story.Although they have only seen the creature far away,it is exactly like the hell hound of the Baskerville story.The people are very frightened,and only the bravest man will cross the moor at night.’
‘And you,a man of science,believe that the creature is supernatural—something from another world?’asked Holmes.
‘I don’t know what to believe,’said Dr Mortimer.
‘But you must agree that the footprints were made by a liv ing creature,not a ghost?’
‘When the hound first appeared two hundred and fifty years ago,it was real enough to tear out Sir Hugo’s throat…but it was a supernatural hellhound,’said Dr Mortimer.
‘If you think that Sir Charles’ death was caused by some thing supernatural,my detective work can’t help you,’said Holmes,rather coldly.
‘Perhaps,’said Mortimer.’But you can help me by advis ing me what to do for Sir Henry Baskerville.He arrives in Lon don by train in exactly,’Dr Mortimer looked at his watch,’one hour and a quarter.’
‘Sir Henry is now head of the Baskerville family?’asked Holmes.
‘Yes,’said Dr Mortimer.’He is the last of the Baskervilles.The family lawyers contacted him in the USA.He has come to England immediately by ship.He landed this morning.Now,Mr Holmes,what do you advise me to do with him?’
‘Why should he not go to the family home?’asked Holmes.
‘Because so many Baskervilles who go there die horrible deaths.But Sir Charles’good work must go on.If it doesn’t,all the people on the Baskerville lands will be much poorer.If the Baskerville family leaves the Hall,that is what will happen.I don’t know what to do.That is why I came to you for advice.’
Holmes though for a little while.Then he said:’You think it is too dangerous for any Baskerville to live at the Hall because of this supernatural hellhound.Well,I think you should go and meet Sir Henry Baskerville.Say nothing to him about this.I shall give you my advice in twentyfour hours.At ten o’clock tomorrow morning,Dr Mortimer,I would like you to bring Sir Henry Baskerville here.’
Dr Mortimer got up from his chair.As he was leaving the room,Holmes said:’One more question,Dr Mortimer.You said that before Sir Charles’death several people saw this strange creature on the moor?’
‘Three people did,’said Mortimer.
‘Did anyone see it after the death?’
‘I haven’t heard of anyone.’
‘Thank you,Dr Mortimer.Good morning.’
After Mortimer had left us,Holmes sat down in his chair.He looked pleased.He always looked pleased when a case interest ed him.
I knew that he needed to be alone to think about all that he had heard.I went out for the day,and came back to find the room full of thick smoke from Holmes’pipe.
‘What do you think of this case?’I asked him.
‘It is hard to say.Take,for example,the change in the foot prints.Did Sir Charles walk on his toes down the Alley?Only a stupid person is likely to believe that.The truth is he was run ning—running for his life.He ran until his heart stopped and he fell dead.’
‘What was he running from?’I asked.
‘That is the difficult question,’said Holmes.’I think he was mad with fear before he began to run.He didn’t know what he was doing.That explains why he ran away from the house instead of towards it.He was running away from help.The next question:who was he waiting for that night?And why was he waiting in the Yew Alley and not in the house?’
‘You think he was waiting for someone?’
‘Sir Charles was old and unwell.We can understand why he took a walk each evening.But why did he stand in the cold,on wet ground,for five or ten minutes?Dr Mortimer cleverly noted the cigar ash,so we know how long Sir Charles stood there.We know that he kept away from the moor,so it’s un likely that he waited at the moor gate every evening.I am be ginning to understand some things,Watson.But I’ll think no more about it until we meet Dr Mortimer and Sir Henry Baskerville in the morning.Please give me my violin.’
And Holmes began to play his violin.He had done all the thinking he could.Now he needed more details of the case to help him.