e-Anglais.com Hound of the Baskervilles 2

Chapter 2: The Curse of the Baskervilles

(64) This chapter is the most difficult. The others are much easier.
[curse - malédiction]
"I have in my pocket a manuscript," said Dr James Mortimer. (65) Mortimer has an old manuscript.
"I observed it as you entered the room," said Holmes. (66)
"It is an old manuscript." (67)
"Early eighteenth century, unless it is a forgery." (68)
"How can you say that, sir?" (69)
"You have presented an inch or two of it to my examination all the time that you have been talking. It would be a poor expert who could not give the date of a document within a decade or so. You may possibly have read my little monograph upon the subject. I put that at 1730." (70) Holmes is an expert on manuscripts. He knows it's from about 1730.
"The exact date is 1742." Dr Mortimer drew it from his breast-pocket. "This family paper was committed to my care by Sir Charles Baskerville, whose sudden and tragic death some three months ago created so much excitement in Devonshire. I may say that I was his personal friend as well as his medical attendant. He was a strong-minded man, sir, shrewd, practical, and as unimaginative as I am myself. Yet he took this document very seriously, and his mind was prepared for just such an end as did eventually overtake him." (71) The manuscript of 1742, in fact, was given to Mortimer by Sir Charles Baskerville who died 3 months ago. Mortimer was his doctor and friend. [shrewd - avisé]
Holmes stretched out his hand for the manuscript and flattened it upon his knee. "You will observe, Watson, the alternative use of the long S and the short. It is one of several indications which enabled me to fix the date." (72)
I looked over his shoulder at the yellow paper and the faded script. At the head was written: "Baskerville Hall", and below in large, scrawling figures: "1742". (73) The manuscript is from Baskerville Hall. [faded - fané]
"It appears to be a statement of some sort." (74) It's about a Baskerville family legend.
"Yes, it is a statement of a certain legend which runs in the Baskerville family." (75)
"But I understand that it is something more modern and practical upon which you wish to consult me?" (76)
"Most modern. A most practical, pressing matter, which must be decided within twenty-four hours. But the manuscript is short and is intimately connected with the affair. With your permission I will read it to you." (77) Mortimer's case must be solved in 24 hours. The manuscript is relevant. He will read it to them.
Holmes leaned back in his chair, placed his finger-tips together, and closed his eyes, with an air of resignation. Dr Mortimer turned the manuscript to the light and read in a high, cracking voice the following curious, old-world narrative: (78) Holmes and Watson listen to Mortimer. [finger-tips - le bout des doigts]
"Of the origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles there have been many statements, yet as I come in a direct line from Hugo Baskerville, and as I had the story from my father, who also had it from his, I have set it down with all belief that it occurred even as is here set forth. And I would have you believe, my sons, that the same Justice which punishes sin may also most graciously forgive it, and that no ban is so heavy but that by prayer and repentance it may be removed. Learn then from this story not to fear the fruits of the past, but rather to be circumspect in the future, that those foul passions whereby our family has suffered so grievously may not again be loosed to our undoing. (79)

Very difficult section. This version of the story is from Hugo Baskerville. He hopes the family can be forgiven for some sin (péché). His descendants must pray to lift the curse. [ban = curse]

"Know then that in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend to your attention) this Manor of Baskerville was held by Hugo of that name, nor can it be gainsaid that he was a most wild, profane, and godless man. This, in truth, his neighbours might have pardoned, seeing that saints have never flourished in those parts, but there was in him a certain wanton and cruel humour which made his name a by-word through the West. It chanced that this Hugo came to love (if, indeed, so dark a passion may be known under so bright a name) the daughter of a yeoman who held lands near the Baskerville estate. But the young maiden, being discreet and of good repute, would ever avoid him, for she feared his evil name. So it came to pass that one Michaelmas this Hugo, with five or six of his idle and wicked companions, stole down upon the farm and carried off the maiden, her father and brothers being from home, as he well knew. When they had brought her to the Hall the maiden was placed in an upper chamber, while Hugo and his friends sat down to a long carouse, as was their nightly custom. Now, the poor lass upstairs was like to have her wits turned at the singing and shouting and terrible oaths which came up to her from below, for they say that the words used by Hugo Baskerville, when he was in wine, were such as might blast the man who said them. At last in the stress of her fear she did that which might have daunted the bravest or most active man, for by the aid of the growth of ivy which covered (and still covers) the south wall she came down from under the eaves, and so homeward across the moor, there being three leagues betwixt the Hall and her father's farm. (80)

During the Great Rebellion (or English Civil War) of the 17th century (Oliver Cromwell vs. King Charles I), Hugo lived at Baskerville Hall. He was wild and cruel. He fell in love with a neighbour's daughter. She was afraid of him so he kidnapped her when her father and brothers were away. He locked her in a room and started drinking with his friends. Frightened by the violent sounds from the party, she climbed out the window and ran home across the moor (la lande), i.e. Dartmoor. [a lass - une fille; ivy - le lierre, a league - une lieue (= 5,6 kilomètres); carouse = beuverie; the Earl of Clarendon wrote a history of the Great Rebellion]

"It chanced that some little time later Hugo left his guests to carry food and drink — with other worse things, perchance — to his captive, and so found the cage empty and the bird escaped. Then, as it would seem, he became as one that hath a devil, for, rushing down the stairs into the dining-hall, he sprang upon the great table, flagons and trenchers flying before him, and he cried aloud before all the company that he would that very night render his body and soul to the Powers of Evil if he might but overtake the wench. And while the revellers stood aghast at the fury of the man, one more wicked or, it may be, more drunken than the rest, cried out that they should put the hounds upon her. Whereat Hugo ran from the house, crying to his grooms that they should saddle his mare and unkennel the pack, and giving the hounds a kerchief of the maid's, he swung them to the line, and so off full cry in the moonlight over the moor. (81)

Hugo, in a violent rage, offered his soul to the devil if he could catch the girl. He ordered his servants to prepare his horse and hounds. Then he rode out to hunt for the girl. [wench - fille (péjoratif); pack - la meute; mare - la jument]

"Now, for some space the revellers stood agape, unable to understand all that had been done in such haste. But anon their bemused wits awoke to the nature of the deed which was like to be done upon the moorlands. Everything was now in an uproar, some calling for their pistols, some for their horses, and some for another flask of wine. But at length some sense came back to their crazed minds, and the whole of them, thirteen in number, took horse and started in pursuit. The moon shone clear above them, and they rode swiftly abreast, taking that course which the maid must needs have taken if she were to reach her own home. (82) The guests, although drunk, realized something bad was going to happen on the moor. There was a lot of confusion but 13 of them decided to follow on their horses in the light of the moon. [uproar = confusion]
"They had gone a mile or two when they passed one of the night shepherds upon the moorlands, and they cried to him to know if he had seen the hunt. And the man, as the story goes, was so crazed with fear that he could scarce speak, but at last he said that he had indeed seen the unhappy maiden, with the hounds upon her track. 'But I have seen more than that,' said he, 'for Hugo Baskerville passed me upon his black mare, and there ran mute behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever be at my heels.' So the drunken squires cursed the shepherd and rode onward. But soon their skins turned cold, for there came a galloping across the moor, and the black mare, dabbled with white froth, went past with trailing bridle and empty saddle. Then the revellers rode close together, for a great fear was on them, but they still followed over the moor, though each, had he been alone, would have been right glad to have turned his horse's head. Riding slowly in this fashion they came at last upon the hounds. These, though known for their valour and their breed, were whimpering in a cluster at the head of a deep dip or goyal, as we call it, upon the moor, some slinking away and some, with starting hackles and staring eyes, gazing down the narrow valley before them. (83) They met a frightened shepherd (berger) who had seen the girl fleeing with Hugo after her. Behind Hugo, there was an enormous hound, bigger than any the shepherd had ever seen. Hugo's horse ran past them, but he was not on it. The group of men were afraid but they continued. At last they reached the dogs. The dogs, at the top of an abyss, were afraid.
"The company had come to a halt, more sober men, as you may guess, than when they started. The most of them would by no means advance, but three of them, the boldest, or it may be the most drunken, rode forward down the goyal. Now, it opened into a broad space in which stood two of those great stones, still to be seen there, which were set by certain forgotten peoples in the days of old. The moon was shining bright upon the clearing, and there in the centre lay the unhappy maid where she had fallen, dead of fear and of fatigue. But it was not the sight of her body, nor yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville lying near her, which raised the hair upon the heads of these three dare-devil roysterers, but it was that, standing over Hugo, and plucking at his throat, there stood a foul thing, a great, black beast, shaped like a hound, yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon. And even as they looked the thing tore the throat out of Hugo Baskerville, on which, as it turned its blazing eyes and dripping jaws upon them, the three shrieked with fear and rode for dear life, still screaming, across the moor. One, it is said, died that very night of what he had seen, and the other twain were but broken men for the rest of their days. (84) 3 of the men (almost sober now) moved near to the abyss. Near 2 monumental stones, lay the bodies of the girl (dead from fear and exhaustion) and of Hugo. An enormous hound was at Hugo's throat (gorge). The men ran away except for one who had apparently died of fear.
"Such is the tale, my sons, of the coming of the hound which is said to have plagued the family so sorely ever since. If I have set it down it is because that which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed. Nor can it be denied that many of the family have been unhappy in their deaths, which have been sudden, bloody, and mysterious. Yet may we shelter ourselves in the infinite goodness of Providence, which would not forever punish the innocent beyond that third or fourth generation which is threatened in Holy Writ. To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted. (85)

That was the first time any Baskerville had seen the hound. It has tormented them ever since.

His reason for writing is that something you write about is less frightening than something you never even talk about.

There have been many bloody deaths in the family since then.

The writer hopes God will have mercy on them because 3 or 4 generations have passed. He warns his family to be careful, especially after dark.

"[This from Hugo Baskerville to his sons Rodger and John, with instructions that they say nothing thereof to their sister Elizabeth.]" (86) The letter is from Hugo Baskerville to his sons.
When Dr Mortimer had finished reading this singular narrative he pushed his spectacles up on his forehead and stared across at Mr Sherlock Holmes. The latter yawned and tossed the end of his cigarette into the fire. (87) Mortimer sees that Holmes is a bit bored by his story.
"Well?" said he. (88)
"Do you not find it interesting?" (89)
"To a collector of fairy tales." (90) He thinks it a fairytale (une conte de fées)
Dr Mortimer drew a folded newspaper out of his pocket. (91)
"Now, Mr Holmes, we will give you something a little more recent. This is the Devon County Chronicle of May 14th of this year. It is a short account of the facts elicited at the death of Sir Charles Baskerville which occurred a few days before that date." (92) Mortimer reads from a recent newspaper, dated about the time of Sir Charles's death.
My friend leaned a little forward and his expression became intent. Our visitor readjusted his glasses and began: (93) Holmes listens carefully.
"The recent sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose name has been mentioned as the probable Liberal candidate for Mid-Devon at the next election, has cast a gloom over the county. Though Sir Charles had resided at Baskerville Hall for a comparatively short period his amiability of character and extreme generosity had won the affection and respect of all who had been brought into contact with him. In these days of nouveaux riches it is refreshing to find a case where the scion of an old county family which has fallen upon evil days is able to make his own fortune and to bring it back with him to restore the fallen grandeur of his line. Sir Charles, as is well known, made large sums of money in South African speculation. More wise than those who go on until the wheel turns against them, he realized his gains and returned to England with them. It is only two years since he took up his residence at Baskerville Hall, and it is common talk how large were those schemes of reconstruction and improvement which have been interrupted by his death. Being himself childless, it was his openly expressed desire that the whole countryside should, within his own lifetime, profit by his good fortune, and many will have personal reasons for bewailing his untimely end. His generous donations to local and county charities have been frequently chronicled in these columns. (94)

Sir Charles was the Liberal Party candidate for part of Devon (in the southwest of England). His death caused great sadness. He had only lived at Baskerville Hall for a short time but was loved by the people.

He was from an old family which had had bad luck, but he had worked hard to resotre his family's grandeur.

He made his fortune in South Africa and came back to England before things got difficult.

2 years ago, he came to Baskerville Hall which he had planned to restore.

He had no children.

"The circumstances connected with the death of Sir Charles cannot be said to have been entirely cleared up by the inquest, but at least enough has been done to dispose of those rumours to which local superstition has given rise. There is no reason whatever to suspect foul play, or to imagine that death could be from any but natural causes. Sir Charles was a widower, and a man who may be said to have been in some ways of an eccentric habit of mind. In spite of his considerable wealth he was simple in his personal tastes, and his indoor servants at Baskerville Hall consisted of a married couple named Barrymore, the husband acting as butler and the wife as housekeeper. Their evidence, corroborated by that of several friends, tends to show that Sir Charles's health has for some time been impaired, and points especially to some affection of the heart, manifesting itself in changes of colour, breathlessness, and acute attacks of nervous depression. Dr James Mortimer, the friend and medical attendant of the deceased, has given evidence to the same effect. (95)

There was an inquest after his death, but it remains unclear. The newspaper says there is no reason to suspect murder.

Sir Charles had been an eccentric but lived a simple life.

His servants were Mr and Mrs Barrymore. They testified that he had been sick for some time.

He had problems with his heart and suffered from depression. Dr Mortimer confirmed this.

"The facts of the case are simple. Sir Charles Baskerville was in the habit every night before going to bed of walking down the famous yew alley of Baskerville Hall. The evidence of the Barrymores shows that this had been his custom. On the fourth of May Sir Charles had declared his intention of starting next day for London, and had ordered Barrymore to prepare his luggage. That night he went out as usual for his nocturnal walk, in the course of which he was in the habit of smoking a cigar. He never returned. At twelve o'clock Barrymore, finding the hall door still open, became alarmed, and, lighting a lantern, went in search of his master. The day had been wet, and Sir Charles's footmarks were easily traced down the alley. Halfway down this walk there is a gate which leads out on to the moor. There were indications that Sir Charles had stood for some little time here. He then proceeded down the alley, and it was at the far end of it that his body was discovered. One fact which has not been explained is the statement of Barrymore that his master's footprints altered their character from the time that he passed the moor-gate, and that he appeared from thence onward to have been walking upon his toes. One Murphy, a gipsy horse-dealer, was on the moor at no great distance at the time, but he appears by his own confession to have been the worse for drink. He declares that he heard cries but is unable to state from what direction they came. No signs of violence were to be discovered upon Sir Charles's person, and though the doctor's evidence pointed to an almost incredible facial distortion — so great that Dr Mortimer refused at first to believe that it was indeed his friend and patient who lay before him — it was explained that that is a symptom which is not unusual in cases of dyspnoea and death from cardiac exhaustion. This explanation was borne out by the post-mortem examination, which showed long-standing organic disease, and the coroner's jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. It is well that this is so, for it is obviously of the utmost importance that Sir Charles's heir should settle at the Hall and continue the good work which has been so sadly interrupted. Had the prosaic finding of the coroner not finally put an end to the romantic stories which have been whispered in connection with the affair, it might have been difficult to find a tenant for Baskerville Hall. It is understood that the next of kin is Mr Henry Baskerville, if he be still alive, the son of Sir Charles Baskerville's younger brother. The young man when last heard of was in America, and inquiries are being instituted with a view to informing him of his good fortune." (96)

Before going to bed, Sir Charles used to walk in a yew alley (une allée bordée d'ifs) at Baskerville Hall.

On May 4th, Sir Charles said he would go to London in the morning. Then he went for his nightly walk; he never came back.

At 12 o'clock (midnight), Barrymore went looking for him.

He followed his footprints in the alley. Half-way down the alley, Sir Charles had stood at a gate to the moor. Then he went to the end of the alley. It was there that Barrymore discovered his body.

From the gate to that point, Sir Charles's footprints were different. He may have been walking on tiptoe (sur la pointe des pieds).

A gipsy (gitan), called Murphy, was on the moor at the time. He was drunk (ivre) but heard cries.

There were no marks of violence on Sir Charles's body, but his face was distorted - the sign of a heart-attack.

The post-mortem (autopsy) showed that he had died of a heart-attack.

This was fortunate for his heir because he could inherit without any problems. The autopsy ended rumours about the death.

His nephew and heir (héritier), Mr Henry Baskerville, was apparently in America. They are trying to find him.

Dr Mortimer refolded his paper and replaced it in his pocket. "Those are the public facts, Mr Holmes, in connection with the death of Sir Charles Baskerville." (97)
"I must thank you," said Sherlock Holmes, "for calling my attention to a case which certainly presents some features of interest. I had observed some newspaper comment at the time, but I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases. This article, you say, contains all the public facts?" (98) Holmes seems a little more interested. He had heard something about the case but he was busy doing some detective work for the Pope at the time.
"It does." (99)
"Then let me have the private ones." He leaned back, put his finger-tips together, and assumed his most impassive and judicial expression. (100) Now that he has heard the public facts, Holmes wants to hear the private facts that Dr Mortimer knows about.
"In doing so," said Dr Mortimer, who had begun to show signs of some strong emotion, "I am telling that which I have not confided to anyone. My motive for withholding it from the coroner's inquiry is that a man of science shrinks from placing himself in the public position of seeming to indorse a popular superstition. I had the further motive that Baskerville Hall, as the paper says, would certainly remain untenanted if anything were done to increase its already rather grim reputation. For both these reasons I thought that I was justified in telling rather less than I knew, since no practical good could result from it, but with you there is no reason why I should not be perfectly frank. (101)

Mortimer agrees to tell what he knows. He hasn't mentioned these facts before because he didn't want to appear supestitious or frighten anyone from living at Baskerville Hall.

"The moor is very sparsely inhabited, and those who live near each other are thrown very much together. For this reason I saw a good deal of Sir Charles Baskerville. With the exception of Mr Frankland, of Lafter Hall, and Mr Stapleton, the naturalist, there are no other men of education within many miles. Sir Charles was a retiring man, but the chance of his illness brought us together, and a community of interests in science kept us so. He had brought back much scientific information from South Africa, and many a charming evening we have spent together discussing the comparative anatomy of the Bushman and the Hottentot. (102)

Not many people live on the moor. So he and Sir Charles knew each other, because, with Mr Frankland (a gentleman) and Mr Stapleton (a naturalist), they were the only educated men on the moor.

Mortimer was Sir Charles's doctor too and they discussed his scientific discoveries in South Africa.

"Within the last few months it became increasingly plain to me that Sir Charles's nervous system was strained to the breaking point. He had taken this legend which I have read you exceedingly to heart — so much so that, although he would walk in his own grounds, nothing would induce him to go out upon the moor at night. Incredible as it may appear to you, Mr Holmes, he was honestly convinced that a dreadful fate overhung his family, and certainly the records which he was able to give of his ancestors were not encouraging. The idea of some ghastly presence constantly haunted him, and on more than one occasion he has asked me whether I had on my medical journeys at night ever seen any strange creature or heard the baying of a hound. The latter question he put to me several times, and always with a voice which vibrated with excitement. (103) Sir Charles was very depressed some months before his death because he believed in the curse of the hound. He was even afraid of the moor at night. He felt he was haunted and sometimes thought he heard a hound baying.
"I can well remember driving up to his house in the evening some three weeks before the fatal event. He chanced to be at his hall door. I had descended from my gig and was standing in front of him, when I saw his eyes fix themselves over my shoulder and stare past me with an expression of the most dreadful horror. I whisked round and had just time to catch a glimpse of something which I took to be a large black calf passing at the head of the drive. So excited and alarmed was he that I was compelled to go down to the spot where the animal had been and look around for it. It was gone, however, and the incident appeared to make the worst impression upon his mind. I stayed with him all the evening, and it was on that occasion, to explain the emotion which he had shown, that he confided to my keeping that narrative which I read to you when first I came. I mention this small episode because it assumes some importance in view of the tragedy which followed, but I was convinced at the time that the matter was entirely trivial and that his excitement had no justification. (104)

3 weeks before Sir Charles's death, Dr Mortimer went to visit him.

At the door, Sir Charles looked over Dr Mortimer's shoulder as if he could see something terrible. Dr Mortimer turned around quickly and thought he saw a big black calf, but he couldn't find it when he went to have a look.

That evening, Sir Charles gave him the text which he has just read for Holmes and Watson.

Mortimer doesn't really believe in the hound.

"It was at my advice that Sir Charles was about to go to London. His heart was, I knew, affected, and the constant anxiety in which he lived, however chimerical the cause of it might be, was evidently having a serious effect upon his health. I thought that a few months among the distractions of town would send him back a new man. Mr Stapleton, a mutual friend who was much concerned at his state of health, was of the same opinion. At the last instant came this terrible catastrophe. (105) It was Dr Mortimer who advised Sir Charles to go to London because Baskerville Hall was bad for his health. London would have distracted him.
"On the night of Sir Charles's death Barrymore the butler, who made the discovery, sent Perkins the groom on horseback to me, and as I was sitting up late I was able to reach Baskerville Hall within an hour of the event. I checked and corroborated all the facts which were mentioned at the inquest. I followed the footsteps down the yew alley, I saw the spot at the moor-gate where he seemed to have waited, I remarked the change in the shape of the prints after that point, I noted that there were no other footsteps save those of Barrymore on the soft gravel, and finally I carefully examined the body, which had not been touched until my arrival. Sir Charles lay on his face, his arms out, his fingers dug into the ground, and his features convulsed with some strong emotion to such an extent that I could hardly have sworn to his identity. There was certainly no physical injury of any kind. But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did — some little distance off, but fresh and clear." (106)

Sir Charles died before he could go to London. Barrymore sent for Dr Mortimer who arrived in about 30 minutes. He examined the footsteps in the yew alley and noticed that there were none except for Sir Charles's and Barrymore's.

Sir Charles was lying on his back; his face was convulsed but he had no physical injuries. However, there were some footprints near the body...

[groom - valet d'écurie; to corroborate = to confirm]

"Footprints?" (107)
"Footprints." (108)
"A man's or a woman's?" (109)
Dr Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered. (110)
"Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!" (111) ...the footprints of an enormous hound.