|The Hound of the Baskervilles|
EXTRACT FROM THE DIARY
SO FAR I have been able to quote from the reports which I have forwarded
during these early days to Sherlock Holmes. Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my
narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method and to trust  once more to my recollections,
aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A few extracts from the latter will carry me
on to those scenes which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I proceed,
then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase of the convict and our other
strange experiences upon the moor.
The butler was standing very pale but very collected before us.
I may have spoken too warmly, sir, said he, and if I have, I am sure that I beg your pardon. At the same time, I was very much surprised when I heard you two gentlemen come back this morning and learned that you had been chasing Selden. The poor fellow has enough to fight against without my putting more upon his track.
If you had told us of your own free will it would have been a different thing, said the baronet, you only told us, or rather your wife only told us, when it was forced from you and you could not help yourself.
I didnt think you would have taken advantage of it, Sir Henryindeed I didnt.
The man is a public danger. There are lonely houses scattered over the moor, and he is a fellow who would stick at nothing. You only want to get a glimpse of his face to see that. Look at Mr. Stapletons house, for example, with no one but himself to defend it. Theres no safety for anyone until he is under lock and key.
Hell break into no house, sir. I give you my solemn word upon that. But he will never trouble anyone in this country again. I assure you, Sir Henry, that in a very few days the necessary arrangements will have been made and he will be on his way to South America. For Gods sake, sir, I beg of you not to let the police know that he is still on the moor. They have given up the chase there, and he can lie quiet until the ship is ready for him. You cant tell on him without getting my wife and me into trouble. I beg you, sir, to say nothing to the police.
What do you say, Watson?
I shrugged my shoulders. If he were safely out of the country it would relieve the tax-payer of a burden.
But how about the chance of his holding someone up before he goes?
He would not do anything so mad, sir. We have provided him with all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to show where he was hiding.
That is true, said Sir Henry. Well, Barrymore
God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would have killed my poor wife had he been taken again.
I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But, after what we have heard, I dont feel as if I could give the man up, so there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go.
With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he hesitated and then came back.
Youve been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and perhaps I should have said it before, but  it was long after the inquest that I found it out. Ive never breathed a word about it yet to mortal man. Its about poor Sir Charless death.
The baronet and I were both upon our feet. Do you know how he died?
No, sir, I dont know that.
I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a woman.
To meet a woman! He?
And the womans name?
I cant give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials. Her initials were L. L.
How do you know this, Barrymore?
Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He had usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and well known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in trouble was glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced, there was only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a womans hand.
Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would have done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago she was cleaning out Sir Charless studyit had never been touched since his deathand she found the ashes of a burned letter in the back of the grate. The greater part of it was charred to pieces, but one little slip, the end of a page, hung together, and the writing could still be read, though it was gray on a black ground. It seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter, and it said: Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten oclock. Beneath it were signed the initials L. L.
Have you got that slip?
No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it.
Had Sir Charles received any other letters in the same writing?
Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone.
And you have no idea who L. L. is?
No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charless death.
I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal this important information.
Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for us. To rake this up couldnt help our poor master, and its well to go carefully when theres a lady in the case. Even the best of us
You thought it might injure his reputation?
Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you have been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you unfairly not to tell you all that I know about the matter.
Very good, Barrymore; you can go. When the butler had left us Sir Henry turned to me. Well, Watson, what do you think of this new light?
It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before.
So I think. But if we can only trace L. L. it should clear up the whole business.  We have gained that much. We know that there is someone who has the facts if we can only find her. What do you think we should do?
Let Holmes know all about it at once. It will give him the clue for which he has been seeking. I am much mistaken if it does not bring him down.
I went at once to my room and drew up my report of the mornings conversation for Holmes. It was evident to me that he had been very busy of late, for the notes which I had from Baker Street were few and short, with no comments upon the information which I had supplied and hardly any reference to my mission. No doubt his blackmailing case is absorbing all his faculties. And yet this new factor must surely arrest his attention and renew his interest. I wish that he were here.
October 17th. All day to-day the rain poured down, rustling on the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. And then I thought of that other onethe face in the cab, the figure against the moon. Was he also out in that delugethe unseen watcher, the man of darkness? In the evening I put on my waterproof and I walked far upon the sodden moor, full of dark imaginings, the rain beating upon my face and the wind whistling about my ears. God help those who wander into the great mire now, for even the firm uplands are becoming a morass. I found the black tor upon which I had seen the solitary watcher, and from its craggy summit I looked out myself across the melancholy downs. Rain squalls drifted across their russet face, and the heavy, slate-coloured clouds hung low over the landscape, trailing in gray wreaths down the sides of the fantastic hills. In the distant hollow on the left, half hidden by the mist, the two thin towers of Baskerville Hall rose above the trees. They were the only signs of human life which I could see, save only those prehistoric huts which lay thickly upon the slopes of the hills. Nowhere was there any trace of that lonely man whom I had seen on the same spot two nights before.
As I walked back I was overtaken by Dr. Mortimer driving in
his dog-cart over a rough moorland track which led from the outlying farmhouse of
Foulmire. He has been very attentive to us, and hardly a day has passed that he has not
called at the Hall to see how we were getting on. He insisted upon my climbing into his
dog-cart, and he gave me a lift homeward. I found him much troubled over the disappearance
of his little spaniel. It had wandered on to the moor and had never come back. I gave him
such consolation as I might, but I thought of the pony on the Grimpen Mire, and I do not
fancy that he will see his little dog again.
Well, said I, has this precious relation
of yours departed, or is he still lurking out yonder?
|David Soucek, 1998|