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I confess at these words a shudder passed through me. There was a thrill in the doctor's voice which showed that he was himself deeply moved by that which he told us. Holmes leaned forward in his excitement and his eyes had the hard, dry glitter which shot from them when he was keenly interested.

"You saw this?"

"As clearly as I see you."

"And you said nothing?"

"What was the use?"

"How was it that no one else saw it?"

"The marks were some twenty yards from the body and no one gave them a thought. I don't suppose I should have done so had I not known this legend."

"There are many sheep-dogs on the moor?"

"No doubt, but this was no sheep-dog."

"You say it was large?"

"Enormous."

"But it had not approached the body?"

"No."

"What sort of night was it?'

"Damp and raw."

"But not actually raining?"

"No."

"What is the Alley like?"

"There are two lines of old yew hedge, twelve feet high and impenetrable. The walk in the centre is about eight feet across."

"Is there anything between the hedges and the walk?"

"Yes, there is a strip of grass about six feet broad on either side."

"I understand that the yew hedge is penetrated at one point by a gate?"

"Yes, the wicket-gate which leads on to the moor."

"Is there any other opening?"

"None."

"So that to reach the Yew Alley one either has to come down it from the house or else to enter it by the moor-gate?"

"There is an exit through a summer-house at the far end."

"Had Sir Charles reached this?"

"No; he lay about fifty yards from it."

"Now, tell me, Dr. Mortimer--and this is important--the marks which you saw were on the path and not on the grass?"

"No marks could show on the grass."

"Were they on the same side of the path as the moor-gate?"

"Yes; they were on the edge of the path on the same side as the moor-gate."

"You interest me exceedingly. Another point. Was the wicket-gate closed?"

"Closed and padlocked."

"How high was it?"

"About four feet high."

"Then anyone could have got over it?"

"Yes."

"And what marks did you see by the wicket-gate?"

"None in particular."

"Good heaven! Did no one examine?"

"Yes, I examined myself."

"And found nothing?"

"It was all very confused. Sir Charles had evidently stood there for five or ten minutes."

"How do you know that?"

"Because the ash had twice dropped from his cigar."

"Excellent! This is a colleague, Watson, after our own heart. But the marks?"

"He had left his own marks all over that small patch of gravel. I could discern no others."

Sherlock Holmes struck his hand against his knee with an impatient gesture.

"If I had only been there!" he cried. "It is evidently a case of extraordinary interest, and one which presented immense opportunities to the scientific expert. That gravel page upon which I might have read so much has been long ere this smudged by the rain and defaced by the clogs of curious peasants. Oh, Dr. Mortimer, Dr. Mortimer, to think that you should not have called me in! You have indeed much to answer for."

"I could not call you in, Mr. Holmes, without disclosing these facts to the world, and I have already given my reasons for not wishing to do so. Besides, besides --"

"Why do you hesitate?"

"There is a realm in which the most acute and most experienced of detectives is helpless."

"You mean that the thing is supernatural?"

"I did not positively say so."

"No, but you evidently think it."

"Since the tragedy, Mr. Holmes, there have come to my ears several incidents which are hard to reconcile with the settled order of Nature."

"For example?"

"I find that before the terrible event occurred several people had seen a creature upon the moor which corresponds with this Baskerville demon, and which could not possibly be any animal known to science. They all agreed that it was a huge creature, luminous, ghastly, and spectral. I have cross-examined these men, one of them a hard-headed countryman, one a farrier, and one a moorland farmer, who all tell the same story of this dreadful apparition, exactly corresponding to the hell-hound of the legend. I assure you that there is a reign of terror in the district, and that it is a hardy man who will cross the moor at night."

"And you, a trained man of science, believe it to be supernatural?"

"I do not know what to believe."

Holmes shrugged his shoulders.

"I have hitherto confined my investigations to this world," said he. "In a modest way I have combated evil, but to take on the Father of Evil himself would, perhaps, be too ambitious a task. Yet you must admit that the footmark is material."

"The original hound was material enough to tug a man's throat out, and yet he was diabolical as well."

"I see that you have quite gone over to the supernaturalists. But now, Dr. Mortimer, tell me this. If you hold these views, why have you come to consult me at all? You tell me in the same breath that it is useless to investigate Sir Charles's death, and that you desire me to do it."

"I did not say that I desired you to do it."

"Then, how can I assist you?"

"By advising me as to what I should do with Sir Henry Baskerville, who arrives at Waterloo Station"--Dr. Mortimer looked at his watch--"in exactly one hour and a quarter."

"He being the heir?"

"Yes. On the death of Sir Charles we inquired for this young gentleman and found that he had been farming in Canada. From the accounts which have reached us he is an excellent fellow in every way. I speak not as a medical man but as a trustee and executor of Sir Charles's will."

"There is no other claimant, I presume?"

"None. The only other kinsman whom we have been able to trace was Rodger Baskerville, the youngest of three brothers of whom poor Sir Charles was the elder. The second brother, who died young, is the father of this lad Henry. The third, Rodger, was the black sheep of the family. He came of the old masterful Baskerville strain, and was the very image, they tell me, of the family picture of old Hugo. He made England too hot to hold him, fled to Central America, and died there in 1876 of yellow fever. Henry is the last of the Baskervilles. In one hour and five minutes I meet him at Waterloo Station. I have had a wire that he arrived at Southampton this morning. Now, Mr. Holmes, what would you advise me to do with him?"

"Why should he not go to the home of his fathers?"

"It seems natural, does it not? And yet, consider that every Baskerville who goes there meets with an evil fate. I feel sure that if Sir Charles could have spoken with me before his death he would have warned me against bringing this, the last of the old race, and the heir to great wealth, to that deadly place. And yet it cannot be denied that the prosperity of the whole poor, bleak country-side depends upon his presence. All the good work which has been done by Sir Charles will crash to the ground if there is no tenant of the Hall. I fear lest I should be swayed too much by my own obvious interest in the matter, and that is why I bring the case before you and ask for your advice."

Holmes considered for a little time.

"Put into plain words, the matter is this," said he. "In your opinion there is a diabolical agency which makes Dartmoor an unsafe abode for a Baskerville--that is your opinion?"

"At least I might go the length of saying that there is some evidence that this may be so."

"Exactly. But surely, if your supernatural theory be correct, it could work the young man evil in London as easily as in Devonshire. A devil with merely local powers like a parish vestry would be too inconceivable a thing."

"You put the matter more flippantly, Mr. Holmes, than you would probably do if you were brought into personal contact with these things. Your advice, then, as I understand it, is that the young man will be as safe in Devonshire as in London. He comes in fifty minutes. What would you recommend?"

"I recommend, sir, that you take a cab, call off your spaniel who is scratching at my front door, and proceed to Waterloo to meet Sir Henry Baskerville."

"And then?"

"And then you will say nothing to him at all until I have made up my mind about the matter."

"How long will it take you to make up your mind?"

"Twenty-four hours. At ten o'clock to-morrow, Dr. Mortimer, I will be much obliged to you if you will call upon me here, and it will be of help to me in my plans for the future if you will bring Sir Henry Baskerville with you."

"I will do so, Mr. Holmes." He scribbled the appointment on his shirtcuff and hurried off in his strange, peering, absent-minded fashion. Holmes stopped him at the head of the stair.

"Only one more question, Dr. Mortimer. You say that before Sir Charles Baskerville's death several people saw this apparition upon the moor?"

"Three people did."

"Did any see it after?"

"I have not heard of any."

"Thank you. Good morning."

Holmes returned to his seat with that quiet look of inward satisfaction which meant that he had a congenial task before him.

"Going out, Watson?"

"Unless I can help you."

"No, my dear fellow, it is at the hour of action that I turn to you for aid. But this is splendid, really unique from some points of view. When you pass Bradley's, would you ask him to send up a pound of the strongest shag tobacco? Thank you. It would be as well if you could make it convenient not to return before evening. Then I should be very glad to compare impressions as to this most interesting problem which has been submitted to us this morning."

I knew that seclusion and solitude were very necessary for my friend in those hours of intense mental concentration during which he weighed every particle of evidence, constructed alternative theories, balanced one against the other, and made up his mind as to which points were essential and which immaterial. I therefore spent the day at my club and did not return to Baker Street until evening. It was nearly nine o'clock when I found myself in the sitting-room once more.

My first impression as I opened the door was that a fire had broken out, for the room was so filled with smoke that the light of the lamp upon the table was blurred by it. As I entered, however, my fears were set at rest, for it was the acrid fumes of strong coarse tobacco which took me by the throat and set me coughing. Through the haze I had a vague vision of Holmes in his dressing-gown coiled up in an armchair with his black clay pipe between his lips. Several rolls of paper lay around him.

"Caught cold, Watson?" said he.

"No, it's this poisonous atmosphere."

"I suppose it is pretty thick, now that you mention it."

"Thick! It is intolerable."

"Open the window, then! You have been at your club all day, I perceive."

"My dear Holmes!"

"Am I right?"

"Certainly, but how?"

He laughed at my bewildered expression.

"There is a delightful freshness about you, Watson, which makes it a pleasure to exercise any small powers which I possess at your expense. A gentleman goes forth on a showery and miry day. He returns immaculate in the evening with the gloss still on his hat and his boots. He has been a fixture therefore all day. He is not a man with intimate friends. Where, then, could he have been? Is it not obvious?"

"Well, it is rather obvious."

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes. Where do you think that I have been?"

"A fixture also."

"On the contrary, I have been to Devonshire."

"In spirit?"

"Exactly. My body has remained in this arm-chair and has, I regret to observe, consumed in my absence two large pots of coffee and an incredible amount of tobacco. After you left I sent down to Stamford's for the Ordnance map of this portion of the moor, and my spirit has hovered over it all day. I flatter myself that I could find my way about."

"A large scale map, I presume?"

"Very large." He unrolled one section and held it over his knee. "Here you have the particular district which concerns us. That is Baskerville Hall in the middle."

"With a wood round it?"

"Exactly. I fancy the Yew Alley, though not marked under that name, must stretch along this line, with the moor, as you perceive, upon the right of it. This small clump of buildings here is the hamlet of Grimpen, where our friend Dr. Mortimer has his headquarters. Within a radius of five miles there are, as you see, only a very few scattered dwellings. Here is Lafter Hall, which was mentioned in the narrative. There is a house indicated here which may be the residence of the naturalist--Stapleton, if I remember right, was his name. Here are two moorland farm-houses, High Tor and Foulmire. Then fourteen miles away the great convict prison of Princetown. Between and around these scattered points extends the desolate, lifeless moor. This, then, is the stage upon which tragedy has been played, and upon which we may help to play it again."

"It must be a wild place."

"Yes, the setting is a worthy one. If the devil did desire to have a hand in the affairs of men ----"

"Then you are yourself inclining to the supernatural explanation."

"The devil's agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not? There are two questions waiting for us at the outset. The one is whether any crime has been committed at all; the second is, what is the crime and how was it committed? Of course, if Dr. Mortimer's surmise should be correct, and we are dealing with forces outside the ordinary laws of Nature, there is an end of our investigation. But we are bound to exhaust all other hypotheses before falling back upon this one. I think we'll shut that window again, if you don't mind. It is a singular thing, but I find that a concentrated atmosphere helps a concentration of thought. I have not pushed it to the length of getting into a box to think, but that is the logical outcome of my convictions. Have you turned the case over in your mind?"

"Yes, I have thought a good deal of it in the course of the day."

"What do you make of it?"

"It is very bewildering."

"It has certainly a character of its own. There are points of distinction about it. That change in the footprints, for example. What do you make of that?"

"Mortimer said that the man had walked on tiptoe down that portion of the alley."

"He only repeated what some fool had said at the inquest. Why should a man walk on tiptoe down the alley?"

"What then?"

"He was running, Watson--running desperately, running for his life, running until he burst his heart and fell dead upon his face."

"Running from what?"

"There lies our problem. There are indications that the man was crazed with fear before ever he began to run."

"How can you say that?"

"I am presuming that the cause of his fears came to him across the moor. If that were so, and it seems most probable, only a man who had lost his wits would have run from the house instead of towards it. If the gipsy's evidence may be taken as true, he ran with cries for help in the direction where help was least likely to be. Then, again, whom was he waiting for that night, and why was he waiting for him in the Yew Alley rather than in his own house?"

"You think that he was waiting for someone?"

"The man was elderly and infirm. We can understand his taking an evening stroll, but the ground was damp and the night inclement. Is it natural that he should stand for five or ten minutes, as Dr. Mortimer, with more practical sense than I should have given him credit for, deduced from the cigar ash?"

"But he went out every evening."

"I think it unlikely that he waited at the moor-gate every evening. On the contrary, the evidence is that he avoided the moor. That night he waited there. It was the night before he made his departure for London. The thing takes shape, Watson. It becomes coherent. Might I ask you to hand me my violin, and we will postpone all further thought upon this business until we have had the advantage of meeting Dr. Mortimer and Sir Henry Baskerville in the morning."

坦白地说,一听到这些话,我浑身都发抖了,医生的声调也在发颤,这说明连他都被亲口说给我们听的那件事所深深地激动了。福尔摩斯惊异地向前探着身,两眼显出当他对一件事极感兴趣时所特有的炯炯发光的专注的眼神。

“您真看到了吗?”

“清楚得就象现在我看见您一样。”

“您什么也没有说吗?”

“说又有什么用呢!”

“为什么别人就没有看到呢?”

“爪印距尸体约有二十码,没有人注意到。我想如果我不知道这件传说的话,恐怕也不会发现它。”

“沼地里有很多看羊的狗吗?”

“当然有很多,但是这只并不是看羊狗。”

“您说它很大吗?”

“大极了。”

“它没有接近尸体吗?”

“没有。”

“那是个什么样的夜晚?”

“又潮又冷。”

“并没有下雨吧?”

“没有。”

“夹道是什么样的?”

“有两行水松老树篱,高十二英尺,种得很密,人不能通过,中间有一条八英尺宽的小路。”

“在树篱和小路之间还有什么东西吗?”

“有的,在小路两旁各有一条约六英尺宽的草地。”

“我想那树篱有一处是被栅门切断了的吧?”

“有的,就是对着沼地开的那个栅门。”

“还有其他的开口吗?”

“没有了。”

“这样说来,要想到水松夹道里来,只能从宅邸或是由开向沼地的栅门进去罗?”

“穿过另一头的凉亭还有一个出口。”

“查尔兹爵士走到那里没有?”

“没有,他躺下的地方距离那里约有五十码。”

“现在,摩梯末医生,请告诉我——这是很重要的一点——你所看到的脚印是在小路上而不是在草地上吧?”

“草地上看不到任何痕迹。”

“是在小路上靠近开向沼地的栅门那一面吗?”

“是的,是在栅门那一面的路边上。”

“您的话引起了我极大的兴趣。还有一点,栅门是关着的吗?”

“关着,而且还用锁锁着呢。”

“门有多高?”

“四英尺左右。”

“那么说,任何人都能爬过来了?”

“是的。”

“您在栅门上看到了什么痕迹吗?”

“没有什么特别的痕迹。”

“怪了!没有人检查过吗?”

“检查过,是我亲自检查的。”

“什么也没有发现吗?”

“简直把人搞得胡里湖涂;显然查尔兹爵士曾在那里站过五分钟到十分钟的样子。”

“您怎么知道的呢?”

“因为从他的雪茄上曾两次掉下烟灰来。”

“太妙了,华生,简直是个同行,思路和咱们一样。可是脚印呢?”

“在那一小片沙砾地面上到处都留下了他的脚印;我看不出来有别人的脚印。”

歇洛克·福尔摩斯带着不耐烦的神情敲着膝盖。

“要是我在那里该多好!”他喊道,“显然这是一个极有意思的案件,它为犯罪学专家提供了进行研究工作的广泛的好机会。我本可在那片沙砾地面上看出不少线索来的;但是,现在那些痕迹已被雨水和爱看热闹的农民的木鞋所消灭了。啊! 摩梯末医生,摩梯末医生啊,当时您为什么不叫我去呢!说真的,您该对这件事负责。”

“福尔摩斯先生,我无法既请了您去,而又不把这些真相暴露于世,而且我也已经说明不愿这样做的原因了。同时,同时——”

“为什么您犹豫不说呢?”

“有的问题,就连最精明老练的侦探也是毫无办法的。”

“您是说,这是一件神怪的事情吗?”

“我并没有肯定这样说。”

“您是没有肯定这样说。但是,显然您是这样想的。”

“福尔摩斯先生,自从这件悲剧发生之后,我曾听到过一些很难与自然法则相符合的事情。”

“请举例说吧。”

“我知道在这可怕的事情发生之前,就有些人曾在沼地里看到过跟所说的这个巴斯克维尔的怪物形状相同的动物,而且决不是科学界所已知道的兽类。他们异口同声地说是一只大家伙,发着光,狰狞得象魔鬼似的。我曾盘问过那些人;其中有一个是精明的乡下人,一个是马掌铁匠,还有一个是沼地里的农户;他们都说了关于这个可怕的幽灵的相同的故事,完全和传说之中的狰狞可怕的猎狗相符。您可以相信,全区都被恐惧所笼罩了,敢在夜晚走过沼地的真可以算是大胆的人了。”

“难道您——一个有着科学素养的人,会相信这是神怪的事吗?”

“我也不知道应该相信什么。”

福尔摩斯耸了耸肩。

“至今为止,我的调查工作的范围还仅限于人世,”他说,“我只与罪恶做了稍许的斗争。但是,要接触到万恶之神,也许就不是我之力所能及的了。但是无论如何,您总得承认,脚印是实实在在的吧。”

“这只古怪的猎狗确是实在得足以撕碎人的喉咙了,可是它又确实象是妖魔。”

“我看得出来,您已经非常倾向于超自然论者了。可是,摩梯末医生,现在请您告诉我,您既持有这种看法,为什么还来找我呢?您以同样的口气对我说,对查尔兹爵士的死进行调查是毫无用处的,而您却又希望我去调查。”

“我并没有说过希望您去调查啊。”

“那么,我怎样才能帮助您呢?”

“希望您告诉我,对于即将抵达滑铁卢车站的亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士应该怎么办呢?”摩梯末医生看了看他的表,“他在一个钟头零一刻钟之内就要到了。”

“他就是继承人吗?”

“对了,查尔兹爵士死后,我们对这位年轻的绅士进行了调查,才发现他一直就在加拿大务农。根据我们的了解,由种种方面看来,他都是个很好的人。我现在不是作为一个医生,而是作为查尔兹爵士遗嘱的受托人和执行人说话的。”

“我想没有其他申请继承的人了吧?”

“没有了。在他的亲属之中,我们唯一能够追溯到的另一个人就是罗杰·巴斯克维尔了。他是兄弟三个之中最年轻的一个,查尔兹爵士是最年长的一个,年轻时就死了的二哥就是亨利这孩子的父亲。三弟罗杰是家中的坏种,他和那专横的老巴斯克维尔可真是一脉相传;据他们说,他长得和家中的老修果的画像维妙维肖。他闹得在英格兰站不住脚了,逃到了美洲中部,一八七六年生黄热病死在那里。亨利已是巴斯克维尔家最后仅存的子嗣。在一小时零五分钟之后,我就要在滑铁卢车站见到他了。我接到了一份电报,说他已于今晨抵达南安普敦。福尔摩斯先生,现在您打算让我对他怎么办呢?”*

“为什么不让他到他祖祖辈辈居住的家里去呢?”

“看来似乎很应该,不是吗?可是考虑到每个巴斯克维尔家的人,只要到那里去,就会遭到可怕的命运。我想,如果查尔兹爵士在死前还来得及能和我说话的话,他一定会警告我,不要把这古老家族的最后一人和巨富的继承者带到这个致命的地方来。可是,不可否认的,整个贫困、荒凉的乡区的繁荣幸福都系于他的来临了。如果庄园里没有个主人,查尔兹爵士做过的一切善行就会全部烟消云散。由于我个人显然对这事很关心,恐怕我个人的看法对此事影响过大,所以才将这案件向您提出来,并征求您的意见。”

福尔摩斯考虑了一会儿。

“简单说来,事情是这样的,”他说,“您的意见是说,有一种魔鬼般的力量,使达特沼地变成了巴斯克维尔家人居处不安之所——这就是您的意见吗?”

“至少我可以说,有些迹象说明可能是这样的。”

“是的。可是肯定地说,如果您那神怪的说法是正确的话,那么,这青年人在伦敦就会象在德文郡一样地倒霉。一个魔鬼,竟会象教区礼拜堂似的,只在本地施展权威,那简直太难以想象了。”

“福尔摩斯先生,如果您亲身接触到这些事情,也许您就不会这样轻率地下断语了。根据我的理解,您的意见是:这位青年在德文郡会和在伦敦同样的安全。他在五十分钟内就要到了,您说该怎么办呢?”

“先生,我建议您坐上一辆出租马车,叫走您那只正在抓挠我前门的长耳猎犬,到滑铁卢去接亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士。”

“然后呢?”

“然后,在我对此事作出决定之前,什么也不要告诉他。”

“您要用多长时间才能作出决定呢?”

“二十四小时。如果您能在明天十点钟到这里来找我的话,摩梯末医生,那我真是太感谢您了;而且如果您能偕亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士同来的话,那就会更有助于我作出未来的计划了。”

“我一定这样作,福尔摩斯先生。”他把这约会用铅笔写在袖口上,然后就带着他那怪异的、凝目而视和心不在焉的样子匆忙地走了。当他走到楼梯口时,福尔摩斯又把他叫住了。

“再问您一个问题,摩梯末医生,您说在查尔兹·巴斯克维尔爵士死前,曾有几个人在沼地里看见过这个鬼怪吗?”

“有三个人看见过。”

“后来又有人看见过吗?”

“我还没有听说过。”

“谢谢您,早安。”

福尔摩斯带着安静的、内心满足的神情回到他的座位上去,这表示他已找到了合乎口味的工作了。

“要出去吗,华生?”

“是啊,不过如果能对你有帮助的话,我就不出去。”

“不,我亲爱的伙伴,只有在采取行动的时候,我才会求助于你呢。真妙啊,从某些观点看来,这件事实在特别。在你路过布莱德雷商店的时候,请你叫他们送一磅浓烈的板烟来好吗?谢谢你。如果对你方便的话,请你在黄昏前不要回来,我很想在这段时间里把早上获得的有关这极为有趣的案件的种种印象比较一下。”

我知道,在精神高度集中,权衡点滴证据,作出不同的假设,把它们对比一下,最后再确定哪几点是重要的,哪些是不真实的时候,闭门独处,苦思终日,对我朋友说来是极为必要的。因此我就把时间全部消磨在俱乐部里了,黄昏前一直也没有回到贝克街去。在将近九点钟的时候,我才又坐在休息室里了。

我打开门,第一个感觉就是好象着了火似的,因为满屋都是烟,连台灯的灯光都看不清了。走进去以后,我总算放下了心,因为浓烈的粗板烟气呛得我的嗓子咳了起来。透过烟雾,我模模糊糊地看到福尔摩斯穿着睡衣的身影蜷卧在安乐椅中,口里衔着黑色的陶制烟斗,周围放着一卷一卷的纸。

“着凉了吗,华生?”他说。

“没有,都是这有毒的空气搞的。”

“啊,你说得对,我想空气也确实是够浓的了。”

“浓得简直无法忍受。”

“那么,就打开窗子吧!我看得出来,你整天都呆在俱乐部里吧?”

“我亲爱的福尔摩斯!”

“我说得对吗?”

“当然了,可是怎么——”

他讥笑着我那莫名其妙的神情。

“华生,因为你带着一身轻松愉快的神情,使我很想耍耍小把戏拿你开开心。一位绅士在泥泞的雨天出了门;晚上回来的时候,身上却干干净净,帽上、鞋上依然发着亮光,他一定是整天呆坐未动。他还是个没有亲近朋友的人,这么说来,他还会到哪里去过呢?这不是很明显的事吗?”

“对,相当明显。”

“世界上有的是没有人看得出来的明显的事。你以为我是呆在什么地方的?”

“这不是呆在这里没有动吗?”

“正相反,我到德文郡去过了。”

“‘魂灵’去了吧?”

“正是,我的肉体一直是坐在这只安乐椅里。可是遗憾的是,我竟在‘魂灵’已远远飞走的期间喝掉了两大壶咖啡,抽了多得难以相信的烟草。你走了以后,我派人去斯坦弗警局取来了绘有沼地这一地区的地图,我的‘魂灵’就在这张地图上转了一天。我自信对那个地区的道路已了如指掌了。”

“我想该是一张很详细的地图吧?”

“很详细。”他把地图打开了一部分放在膝头上。“这里就是与我们特别有关系的地区。中间的地方就是巴斯克维尔庄园。”

“周围是被树林围绕着的吗?”

“是的。我想那条水松夹道,虽然在这儿并没有注明,一定是沿着这条线伸展下去的;而沼地呢,你可以看得出来,是在它的右侧。这一小堆房子就是格林盆村,咱们的朋友摩梯末医生的住宅就在这里。在半径五里之内,你看得到,只有很少几座零星散布的房屋。这里就是事件里提到过的赖福特庄园。这里有一所注明了的房屋,可能就是那位生物学家的住宅;如果我没有记错的话,他姓斯台普吞。这里是两家沼地的农舍,高陶和弗麦尔。十四英里以外就是王子镇的大监狱。在这些分散的各点之间和周围伸延着荒漠凄凉的沼地。这里就是曾经演出悲剧的舞台,也许靠我们的帮助,在这舞台上还会演出些好戏呢。”

“这一定是个荒野之地。”

“啊,左近的环境可真太合适了,如果魔鬼真想插足于人世间的事情的话……”

“这么说,你自己也倾向于神怪的说法了。”

“魔鬼的代理人也许是血肉之躯呢,难道不会吗?咱们面临着两个问题:第一,究竟是不是发生过犯罪的事实;第二,究竟是什么性质的罪行和这罪行是怎样进行的?当然罗,如果摩梯末医生的疑虑是正确的话,我们就要和超乎一般自然法则的势力打交道了;那样,我们的调查工作也就算是到了头了。但是我们只有在各种假设都被推翻之后,才能再回到这条路上来探索。如果你不反对的话,我想咱们得关上那窗户了。很奇怪,我总觉得浓厚的空气能使人们的思想集中。虽然我还没有到非钻进箱子去才能思考的地步,可是我相信,如果再继续发展下去的话,势必会得到那样的结果呢。这件案子,你在脑子里思考过了吗?”

“是的,白天的时候我想得很多。”

“你的看法怎么样呢?”

“太扑朔迷离了。”

“这案件确有其独特之处。它有几个突出的地方。譬如说吧,那足迹的变化,对这一点你的看法是怎样的呢?”

“摩梯末说过,那人在那一段夹道上是用足尖走路的。”

“他不过是重复了一个傻瓜在验尸时说过的话。为什么一个人会沿着夹道用足尖走路呢?”

“那么,该怎样解释呢?”

“他是跑着呢,华生——拼命地跑着,他在逃命,一直跑到心脏破裂伏在地上死去为止。”

“他是为了逃避什么才跑的呢?”

“咱们的问题就在这里。种种迹象都说明,这人在开始跑以前已经吓得发疯了。”

“你为什么这样说呢?”

“据我想象他恐惧的原因是来自沼地的。如果是这样的话,看来最可能的是:只有一个被吓得神魂颠倒的人才会不向房子而向相反的方向跑。如果那吉卜赛人的证词可以被认为是真实的话,他就是边跑边呼救命,而他所跑的方向却正是最不可能得到救助的方向。还有就是,当晚他在等谁呢?为什么他要在水松夹道而不在自己的房子里等人呢?”

“你认为他是在等人吗?”

“那人年事较长并且身体虚弱,我们可以理解,他会在傍晚时分散散步的;可是地面潮湿而夜里又那样冷。摩梯末医生的智慧确是值得我大大赞赏的;他根据雪茄烟灰所得出的结论,说明他竟站了五分钟或十分钟的时间,难道这是很自然的事吗?”

“可是他每天晚上都出去啊!”

“我不以为他每天晚上都在通向沼地的门前伫立等待。相反的,有证据能说明他是躲避沼地的。那天晚上他是在那里等过的,而且是在他要出发到伦敦去的前一个晚上。事情已经略具端倪了,华生,变得前后相符了。请你把我的小提琴拿给我,这件事等咱们明晨和摩梯末医生与亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士见面时再进一步考虑吧。”