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Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind at will. For two hours the strange business in which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he was entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian masters. He would talk of nothing but art, of which he had the crudest ideas, from our leaving the gallery until we found ourselves at the Northumberland Hotel.

"Sir Henry Baskerville is upstairs expecting you," said the clerk. "He asked me to show you up at once when you came."

"Have you any objection to my looking at your register?" said Holmes.

"Not in the least."

The book showed that two names had been added after that of Baskerville. One was Theophilus Johnson and family, of Newcastle; the other Mrs. Oldmore and maid, of High Lodge, Alton.

"Surely that must be the same Johnson whom I used to know," said Holmes to the porter. "A lawyer, is he not, gray-headed, and walks with a limp?"

"No, sir; this is Mr. Johnson, the coal-owner, a very active gentleman, not older than yourself."

"Surely you are mistaken about his trade?"

"No, sir! he has used this hotel for many years, and he is very well known to us."

"Ah, that settles it. Mrs. Oldmore, too; I seem to remember the name. Excuse my curiosity, but often in calling upon one friend one finds another."

"She is an invalid lady, sir. Her husband was once mayor of Gloucester. She always comes to us when she is in town."

"Thank you; I am afraid I cannot claim her acquaintance. We have established a most important fact by these questions, Watson," he continued in a low voice as we went upstairs together. "We know now that the people who are so interested in our friend have not settled down in his own hotel. That means that while they are, as we have seen, very anxious to watch him, they are equally anxious that he should not see them. Now, this is a most suggestive fact."

"What does it suggest?"

"It suggests--halloa, my dear fellow, what on earth is the matter?"

As we came round the top of the stairs we had run up against Sir Henry Baskerville himself. His face was flushed with anger, and he held an old and dusty boot in one of his hands. So furious was he that he was hardly articulate, and when he did speak it was in a much broader and more Western dialect than any which we had heard from him in the morning.

"Seems to me they are playing me for a sucker in this hotel," he cried. "They'll find they've started in to monkey with the wrong man unless they are careful. By thunder, if that chap can't find my missing boot there will be trouble. I can take a joke with the best, Mr. Holmes, but they've got a bit over the mark this time."

"Still looking for your boot?"

"Yes, sir, and mean to find it."

"But, surely, you said that it was a new brown boot?"

"So it was, sir. And now it's an old black one."

"What! you don't mean to say----?"

"That's just what I do mean to say. I only had three pairs in the world--the new brown, the old black, and the patent leathers, which I am wearing. Last night they took one of my brown ones, and to-day they have sneaked one of the black. Well, have you got it? Speak out, man, and don't stand staring!"

An agitated German waiter had appeared upon the scene.

"No, sir; I have made inquiry all over the hotel, but I can hear no word of it."

"Well, either that boot comes back before sundown or I'll see the manager and tell him that I go right straight out of this hotel."

"It shall be found, sir--I promise you that if you will have a little patience it will be found."

"Mind it is, for it's the last thing of mine that I'll lose in this den of thieves. Well, well, Mr. Holmes, you'll excuse my troubling you about such a trifle----"

"I think it's well worth troubling about."

"Why, you look very serious over it."

"How do you explain it?"

"I just don't attempt to explain it. It seems the very maddest, queerest thing that ever happened to me."

"The queerest perhaps----" said Holmes, thoughtfully.

"What do you make of it yourself?"

"Well, I don't profess to understand it yet. This case of yours is very complex, Sir Henry. When taken in conjunction with your uncle's death I am not sure that of all the five hundred cases of capital importance which I have handled there is one which cuts so deep. But we hold several threads in our hands, and the odds are that one or other of them guides us to the truth. We may waste time in following the wrong one, but sooner or later we must come upon the right."

We had a pleasant luncheon in which little was said of the business which had brought us together. It was in the private sitting-room to which we afterwards repaired that Holmes asked Baskerville what were his intentions.

"To go to Baskerville Hall."

"And when?"

"At the end of the week."

"On the whole," said Holmes, "I think that your decision is a wise one. I have ample evidence that you are being dogged in London, and amid the millions of this great city it is difficult to discover who these people are or what their object can be. If their intentions are evil they might do you a mischief, and we should be powerless to prevent it. You did not know, Dr. Mortimer, that you were followed this morning from my house?"

Dr. Mortimer started violently.

"Followed! By whom?"

"That, unfortunately, is what I cannot tell you. Have you among your neighbours or acquaintances on Dartmoor any man with a black, full beard?"

"No--or, let me see--why, yes. Barrymore, Sir Charles's butler, is a man with a full, black beard."

"Ha! Where is Barrymore?"

"He is in charge of the Hall."

"We had best ascertain if he is really there, or if by any possibility he might be in London."

"How can you do that?"

"Give me a telegraph form. 'Is all ready for Sir Henry?' That will do. Address to Mr. Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. What is the nearest telegraph-office? Grimpen. Very good, we will send a second wire to the postmaster, Grimpen: 'Telegram to Mr. Barrymore to be delivered into his own hand. If absent, please return wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.' That should let us know before evening whether Barrymore is at his post in Devonshire or not."

"That's so," said Baskerville. "By the way, Dr. Mortimer, who is this Barrymore, anyhow?"

"He is the son of the old caretaker, who is dead. They have looked after the Hall for four generations now. So far as I know, he and his wife are as respectable a couple as any in the county."

"At the same time," said Baskerville, "it's clear enough that so long as there are none of the family at the Hall these people have a mighty fine home and nothing to do."

"That is true."

"Did Barrymore profit at all by Sir Charles's will?" asked Holmes.

"He and his wife had five hundred pounds each."

"Ha! Did they know that they would receive this?"

"Yes; Sir Charles was very fond of talking about the provisions of his will."

"That is very interesting."

"I hope," said Dr. Mortimer, "that you do not look with suspicious eyes upon everyone who received a legacy from Sir Charles, for I also had a thousand pounds left to me."

"Indeed! And anyone else?"

"There were many insignificant sums to individuals, and a large number of public charities. The residue all went to Sir Henry."

"And how much was the residue?"

"Seven hundred and forty thousand pounds."

Holmes raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I had no idea that so gigantic a sum was involved," said he.

"Sir Charles had the reputation of being rich, but we did not know how very rich he was until we came to examine his securities. The total value of the estate was close on to a million."

"Dear me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a desperate game. And one more question, Dr. Mortimer. Supposing that anything happened to our young friend here--you will forgive the unpleasant hypothesis!--who would inherit the estate?"

"Since Rodger Baskerville, Sir Charles's younger brother died unmarried, the estate would descend to the Desmonds, who are distant cousins. James Desmond is an elderly clergyman in Westmoreland."

"Thank you. These details are all of great interest. Have you met Mr. James Desmond?"

"Yes; he once came down to visit Sir Charles. He is a man of venerable appearance and of saintly life. I remember that he refused to accept any settlement from Sir Charles, though he pressed it upon him."

"And this man of simple tastes would be the heir to Sir Charles's thousands."

"He would be the heir to the estate because that is entailed. He would also be the heir to the money unless it were willed otherwise by the present owner, who can, of course, do what he likes with it."

"And have you made your will, Sir Henry?"

"No, Mr. Holmes, I have not. I've had no time, for it was only yesterday that I learned how matters stood. But in any case I feel that the money should go with the title and estate. That was my poor uncle's idea. How is the owner going to restore the glories of the Baskervilles if he has not money enough to keep up the property? House, land, and dollars must go together."

"Quite so. Well, Sir Henry, I am of one mind with you as to the advisability of your going down to Devonshire without delay. There is only one provision which I must make. You certainly must not go alone."

"Dr. Mortimer returns with me."

"But Dr. Mortimer has his practice to attend to, and his house is miles away from yours. With all the good will in the world he may be unable to help you. No, Sir Henry, you must take with you someone, a trusty man, who will be always by your side."

"Is it possible that you could come yourself, Mr. Holmes?"

"If matters came to a crisis I should endeavour to be present in person; but you can understand that, with my extensive consulting practice and with the constant appeals which reach me from many quarters, it is impossible for me to be absent from London for an indefinite time. At the present instant one of the most revered names in England is being besmirched by a blackmailer, and only I can stop a disastrous scandal. You will see how impossible it is for me to go to Dartmoor."

"Whom would you recommend, then?"

Holmes laid his hand upon my arm.

"If my friend would undertake it there is no man who is better worth having at your side when you are in a tight place. No one can say so more confidently than I."

The proposition took me completely by surprise, but before I had time to answer, Baskerville seized me by the hand and wrung it heartily.

"Well, now, that is real kind of you, Dr. Watson," said he. "You see how it is with me, and you know just as much about the matter as I do. If you will come down to Baskerville Hall and see me through I'll never forget it."

The promise of adventure had always a fascination for me, and I was complimented by the words of Holmes and by the eagerness with which the baronet hailed me as a companion.

"I will come, with pleasure," said I. "I do not know how I could employ my time better."

"And you will report very carefully to me," said Holmes. "When a crisis comes, as it will do, I will direct how you shall act. I suppose that by Saturday all might be ready?"

"Would that suit Dr. Watson?"

"Perfectly."

"Then on Saturday, unless you hear to the contrary, we shall meet at the 10:30 train from Paddington."

We had risen to depart when Baskerville gave a cry, of triumph, and diving into one of the corners of the room he drew a brown boot from under a cabinet.

"My missing boot!" he cried.

"May all our difficulties vanish as easily!" said Sherlock Holmes.

"But it is a very singular thing," Dr. Mortimer remarked. "I searched this room carefully before lunch."

"And so did I," said Baskerville. "Every inch of it."

"There was certainly no boot in it then."

"In that case the waiter must have placed it there while we were lunching."

The German was sent for but professed to know nothing of the matter, nor could any inquiry clear it up. Another item had been added to that constant and apparently purposeless series of small mysteries which had succeeded each other so rapidly. Setting aside the whole grim story of Sir Charles's death, we had a line of inexplicable incidents all within the limits of two days, which included the receipt of the printed letter, the black-bearded spy in the hansom, the loss of the new brown boot, the loss of the old black boot, and now the return of the new brown boot. Holmes sat in silence in the cab as we drove back to Baker Street, and I knew from his drawn brows and keen face that his mind, like my own, was busy in endeavouring to frame some scheme into which all these strange and apparently disconnected episodes could be fitted. All afternoon and late into the evening he sat lost in tobacco and thought.

Just before dinner two telegrams were handed in. The first ran:--

"Have just heard that Barrymore is at the Hall.--BASKERVILLE." The second:--

"Visited twenty-three hotels as directed, but sorry, to report unable to trace cut sheet of Times.--CARTWRIGHT."

"There go two of my threads, Watson. There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. We must cast round for another scent."

"We have still the cabman who drove the spy."

"Exactly. I have wired to get his name and address from the Official Registry. I should not be surprised if this were an answer to my question."

The ring at the bell proved to be something even more satisfactory than an answer, however, for the door opened and a rough-looking fellow entered who was evidently the man himself.

"I got a message from the head office that a gent at this address had been inquiring for 2704," said he. "I've driven my cab this seven years and never a word of complaint. I came here straight from the Yard to ask you to your face what you had against me."

"I have nothing in the world against you, my good man," said Holmes. "On the contrary, I have half a sovereign for you if you will give me a clear answer to my questions."

"Well, I've had a good day and no mistake," said the cabman, with a grin. "What was it you wanted to ask, sir?"

"First of all your name and address, in case I want you again."

"John Clayton, 3 Turpey Street, the Borough. My cab is out of Shipley's Yard, near Waterloo Station."

Sherlock Holmes made a note of it.

"Now, Clayton, tell me all about the fare who came and watched this house at ten o'clock this morning and afterwards followed the two gentlemen down Regent Street."

The man looked surprised and a little embarrassed. "Why, there's no good my telling you things, for you seem to know as much as I do already," said he. "The truth is that the gentleman told me that he was a detective and that I was to say nothing about him to anyone."

"My good fellow, this is a very serious business, and you may find yourself in a pretty bad position if you try to hide anything from me. You say that your fare told you that he was a detective?"

"Yes, he did."

"When did he say this?"

"When he left me."

"Did he say anything more?"

"He mentioned his name."

Holmes cast a swift glance of triumph at me. "Oh, he mentioned his name, did he? That was imprudent. What was the name that he mentioned?"

"His name," said the cabman, "was Mr. Sherlock Holmes."

Never have I seen my friend more completely taken aback than by the cabman's reply. For an instant he sat in silent amazement. Then he burst into a hearty laugh.

"A touch, Watson--an undeniable touch!" said he. "I feel a foil as quick and supple as my own. He got home upon me very prettily that time. So his name was Sherlock Holmes, was it?"

"Yes, sir, that was the gentleman's name."

"Excellent! Tell me where you picked him up and all that occurred."

"He hailed me at half-past nine in Trafalgar Square. He said that he was a detective, and he offered me two guineas if I would do exactly what he wanted all day and ask no questions. I was glad enough to agree. First we drove down to the Northumberland Hotel and waited there until two gentlemen came out and took a cab from the rank. We followed their cab until it pulled up somewhere near here."

"This very door," said Holmes.

"Well, I couldn't be sure of that, but I dare say my fare knew all about it. We pulled up half-way down the street and waited an hour and a half. Then the two gentlemen passed us, walking, and we followed down Baker Street and along ----"

"I know," said Holmes.

"Until we got three-quarters down Regent Street. Then my gentleman threw up the trap, and he cried that I should drive right away to Waterloo Station as hard as I could go. I whipped up the mare and we were there under the ten minutes. Then he paid up his two guineas, like a good one, and away he went into the station. Only just as he was leaving he turned round and he said: 'It might interest you to know that you have been driving Mr. Sherlock Holmes.' That's how I come to know the name."

"I see. And you saw no more of him?"

"Not after he went into the station."

"And how would you describe Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"

The cabman scratched his head. "Well, he wasn't altogether such an easy gentleman to describe. I'd put him at forty years of age, and he was of a middle height, two or three inches shorter than you, sir. He was dressed like a toff, and he had a black beard, cut square at the end, and a pale face. I don't know as I could say more than that."

"Colour of his eyes?"

"No, I can't say that."

"Nothing more that you can remember?"

"No, sir; nothing."

"Well, then, here is your half-sovereign. There's another one waiting for you if you can bring any more information. Good night!"

"Good night, sir, and thank you!"

John Clayton departed chuckling, and Holmes turned to me with a shrug of his shoulders and a rueful smile.

"Snap goes our third thread, and we end where we began," said he. "The cunning rascal! He knew our number, knew that Sir Henry Baskerville had consulted me, spotted who I was in Regent Street, conjectured that I had got the number of the cab and would lay my hands on the driver, and so sent back this audacious message. I tell you, Watson, this time we have got a foeman who is worthy of our steel. I've been checkmated in London. I can only wish you better luck in Devonshire. But I'm not easy in my mind about it."

"About what?"

"About sending you. It's an ugly business, Watson, an ugly dangerous business, and the more I see of it the less I like it. Yes, my dear fellow, you may laugh, but I give you my word that I shall be very glad to have you back safe and sound in Baker Street once more."

歇洛克·福尔摩斯有着高度的控制个人感情的意志力。 把我们纠缠其中的怪事在这两小时内似乎已被遗忘了,他全神贯注地观看着近代比利时大师们所作的绘画。从我们离开美术馆直至走到诺桑勃兰旅馆为止,除了艺术之外他什么也不谈。其实,他对艺术的见解是非常粗浅的。东西

“亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士正在楼上等着你们呢。”帐房说道,“他让我等你们一来马上就把你们领上去。”

“我想看一看你们的旅客登记簿,您不反对吧?”福尔摩斯说。

“一点也不。”

从登记簿上可以看出,在巴斯克维尔之后又来了两起客人。一起是来自新堡的肖菲勒斯·约翰森一家;另一起是来自奥吞州亥洛基镇的欧摩太太及女佣人。

“这一定是我认识的那个约翰森吧,”福尔摩斯向守门人说道,“是个律师,不是吗?头发花白,走起来有些跛。”

“不是的,先生,这位是煤矿主约翰森先生,是个好动的绅士,年纪不比您大。”

“您一定把他的职业搞错了吧?”

“没有,先生!他在我们这旅馆已经住过很多年了,我们都很了解他。”

“啊,行了。还有欧摩太太,我似乎记得这个名字,请原谅我的好奇心,可是在访一个朋友的时候往往会遇到另一个朋友,这也是常有的事啊。”

“她是一位病魔缠身的太太,先生。她丈夫曾做过葛罗斯特市的市长。她进城时总是到我们这里来住的。”

“谢谢您,恐怕不能说她是我的熟人了。”

“刚才咱们所问的这些问题已经说明了一个很重要的事实,华生,”在我们一起上楼的时候,他继续低声说,“咱们现在知道了,那些对咱们的朋友极感兴趣的人们,并没有和他住在同一个旅馆里。这就是说,虽然他们象咱们所看到的那样,非常热衷于对他进行监视,可是,同样地,他们也非常担心会被他看到。啊,这是一件很能说明问题的事实呢。”

“它能说明什么问题呢?”

“它说明——天啊,亲爱的朋友,这是怎么的了?”

当我们快走到楼梯顶端的时候,正遇上亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士迎面走来。他气得脸都红了,手里提着一只满是尘土的旧高筒皮鞋。他气得说不出话来,等到他说话的时候,若与早晨相比,就显得声音高亢,西部口音也重得多了。

“他们这旅馆的人,好象看我好欺侮似的,”他喊道,“让他们小心点吧,不然他们就会知道,他们开玩笑找错了人了。 真是岂有此理!如果他找不到我丢了的鞋的话,那就得找麻烦了。我是最不怕开玩笑的,福尔摩斯先生,可是这回他们未免有点太过份了。”

“还在找您的皮鞋吗?”

“是啊,先生,非找到不可。”

“可是您说过,您丢的是一只棕色高筒的新皮鞋啊?”

“是啊,先生。可是现在又丢了一只旧的黑皮鞋。”

“什么,您恐怕不是说……”

“我正是要说,我一共有三双鞋——新的棕色的,旧的黑色的和我现在穿着的这双漆皮皮鞋。昨晚他们拿跑了我的一只棕色皮鞋,而今天又偷了我一只黑的——喂,你找到了没有?说呀,喂,不要光是站着瞪眼!”

来了一个惊慌不安的德国籍侍者。

“没有,先生。在旅馆里我到处都问过了,可是什么也没有打听到。”

“好吧,在日落前把鞋给我找回来,否则我就要找老板去,告诉他,我马上就离开这旅馆。”

“一定能找到的,先生,只要您能稍微忍耐一下,我保证一定能够找到。”

“但愿如此,在这个贼窝里我可不能再丢东西了——咳,福尔摩斯先生,请原谅我竟拿这样小事烦扰了您……”

“我倒认为这是一件很值得引起注意的事呢。”

“啊,您把它看得过于认真了吧。”

“您对这件事怎样解释呢?”

“我根本就不想解释它。看来在我所发生过的事情里,这要算是最气人和最奇怪的事情了。”

“也许是最奇怪的事情……”福尔摩斯意味深长地说道。

“您对这件事是怎样看法呢?”

“啊,我不敢说我已经了解了。您的这件案子是很复杂的呢,亨利爵士。把这件事与您伯父的死一联系起来看之后,我真不敢说,在我经手办理过的五百件重要案件里,是否有一件能象这样的曲折离奇。可是我们手中已经掌握了几条线索,料想其中必然会有一条能使我们找到真相。我们也可能会在错误的路上糟蹋些时间,但是我们早晚总能找出正确的线索来的。”

我们愉快地进了午餐,饭间很少谈到将我们拉在一起的那件事。饭后,福尔摩斯在起坐室里问巴斯克维尔的意向如何。

“到巴斯克维尔庄园去。”

“什么时候去?”

“周末。”

“总起来说,”福尔摩斯说道,“我觉得您的决定还是聪明的。我完全可以证明,您在伦敦已经被人盯上梢了,在这样大的城市里,在成千上万的人里,很难弄清这些人是谁,或是他们怀着什么目的。如果他们怀有恶意的话,他们就可能给您造成不幸,我们恐怕也无力阻止不幸的发生。摩梯末医生,您不知道你们今早从我家出来之后,就被人盯上了吗?”

摩梯末医生大吃一惊。

“被盯上了!被谁?”

“不幸得很,这正是我无法奉告的事。在达特沼地,在您的邻居和熟人之中,有没有留着又黑又长的胡子的人?”

“没有——嗯,让我想想看——啊,对了,查尔兹爵士的管事白瑞摩是留有连腮黑胡子的。”

“啊!白瑞摩在什么地方?”

“他总管那座庄园。”

“我们最好证实一下,他是否确实呆在那里,说不定他正在伦敦呢。”

“您怎么能证实这一点呢?”

“给我一张电报纸。‘是否已为亨利爵士备好了一切?’这样就行了。发给巴斯克维尔庄园,交白瑞摩先生。离庄园最近的电报局在哪里?是格林盆吗?好极了,咱们再发一封电报给格林盆的邮政局长,就写‘发白瑞摩先生的电报务交本人。如不在,请回电通知诺桑勃兰旅馆亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士。’这样一来,到不了晚上咱们就能知道白瑞摩是否确在自己的工作岗位上了。”

“这样很好,”巴斯克维尔说道,“可是,摩梯末医生,这个白瑞摩究竟是个怎么样的人呢?”

“他是已故老管家的儿子,他们负责照看这所庄园至今已有四辈了,据我所知,他和他的妻子在乡间是很受人尊敬的一对夫妇呢。”

“同时,”巴斯克维尔说道,“事情很清楚,只要没有我们家的人住在庄园里,这些人可就太舒服了,简直无事可作。”

“这是实情。”

“白瑞摩从查尔兹爵士的遗嘱里究竟得到些好处没有?” 福尔摩斯问道。

“他和他的妻子每人得到了五百镑。”

“啊!他们以前是否知道将来要拿到这笔钱呢?”

“知道,查尔兹爵士是很喜欢谈论他那遗嘱的内容的。”

“这事很有意义。”

“我希望,”摩梯末医生说道,“您不要对每一个从查尔兹爵士的遗嘱里得到好处的人都投以怀疑的眼光吧,他也留给了我一千镑呢。”

“真的吗?还有谁得到了呢?”

“还有很多分给一些人的小笔款项和大批捐给公共慈善事业的钱。余产完全归亨利爵士。”

“余产有多少呢?”

“七十四万镑。”

福尔摩斯惊奇地扬起了眉毛说:“我真没有想到竟有这样大的数目。”

“查尔兹爵士是以富有闻名的,可是在我们检查他的证券以前,我们并不知道他究竟有多么富。原来全部财产的总值竟约有一百万镑。”

“天啊!一个人见了这样大的赌注,当然要拚命赌他一场了。可是还有一个问题,摩梯末医生,假若咱这些位年轻的朋友发生了什么不幸的话——请您原谅我这不愉快的假设吧——谁来继承这笔财产呢?”

“因为查尔兹爵士的弟弟罗杰·巴斯克维尔没有结过婚就死了,所以财产就应当传给远房的表兄弟戴斯门家里的人了。杰姆士·戴斯门是威斯摩兰地方的一位年长的牧师。”

“谢谢您,这些细节都是很值得注意的。您见过杰姆士·戴斯门先生吗?”

“见过,他来拜访过查尔兹爵士一次。他是个态度庄重可敬的人,过着圣洁的生活。我还记得,他拒绝从查尔兹爵士那里接受任何产业,虽然查尔兹爵士曾强其接受。”

“这个没有什么癖好的人竟要成为查尔兹爵士万贯家财的继承人吗?”

“他将成为产业的继承人,因为这是法律所规定的。他还将继承钱财,除非现在的所有者另立遗嘱——当然他有权任意处置。”

“亨利爵士,您立过遗嘱了吗?”

“没有,福尔摩斯先生。我还没有时间呢,因为昨天我才知道事情的真相。可是,无论在什么情况下,我总觉得钱财不应该与爵位和产业分离。我那可怜的伯父的遗志就是这样的。如果主人没有足以维持产业的钱的话,他怎么能恢复巴斯克维尔家的威望呢?房地产与钱财绝不能分开。”

“非常正确。啊,亨利爵士,对于您应该马上到德文郡去的这个意见,我和您的看法相同。但有一个条件,您决不能单独去。”

“摩梯末医生和我一起回去。”

“可是,摩梯末医生有医务在身啊,而且他家离您的家也有数英里之遥,尽管他对您怀有天大的好意,恐怕他对您也是爱莫能助。不行,亨利爵士,您必须另找一个可以信赖的人,能够永远和您形影不离的人一起去。”

“您自己去可能吗,福尔摩斯先生?”

“如果事情到了发生危机的程度的时候,我一定尽可能亲自出马,但是您可以了解到,我有着接受广泛咨询的业务和经常的来自各方面的请求,如果让我无限期地离开伦敦,那是不可能的。目前就有一位英格兰的极为可敬的人物,正在受人威胁和污蔑,而只有我才能制止这件后果严重的诽谤。您可以看得出来,现在叫我到达特沼地去是件多么不可能的事。”

“那么,您打算让谁去呢?”

福尔摩斯用手拍着我的手背说道:

“如果我的朋友愿意担任这件事的话,那末在您正处于危急的情况之下,要想找一个人来陪伴和保护您,就再也没有比他更好的了,这一点也再没有人能说得比我更有信心了。”

这个意外的建议,使我完全不知如何是好了。我还没来得及回答,巴斯克维尔就抓住了我的手,热情地摇了起来。

“啊,华生医生,您的厚意我真是感谢之至,”他说,“您了解我所处的境地,对于这件事,您知道得和我一样多;如果您能到巴斯克维尔庄园去陪我,我将永远铭记在心。”

即将投入的冒险,对我是永远具有吸引力的,何况我还受到了福尔摩斯的恭维和准男爵把我当作伙伴看待的真挚之情的感动呢。

“一定,我很愿意去,”我说道,“这样使用我的时间是非常值得的。”

“你得很细心地向我报告,”福尔摩斯说道,“当危机到来的时候——危机总是会来临的——我将指示你如何行动。我想星期六就可以准备好动身了吧?”

“这样对华生医生方便吗?”

“很方便。”

“那么,除非我另有通知,否则星期六咱们就在车站会面,坐由帕丁顿开来的十点三十分的那趟车。”

当我们正站起来告辞的时候,巴斯克维尔突然发出了胜利的欢呼,并且冲向屋角,由橱柜下面拖出一只棕色的长筒皮鞋。

“正是我丢的鞋。”他喊了起来。

“但愿咱们所有的困难都象这件事一样地消失!”歇洛克·福尔摩斯说道。

“可是这真是件奇怪的事,”摩梯末医生说道,“午饭以前,我已在这屋里仔细搜寻过了。”

“我也搜寻过啊!”巴斯克维尔说,“到处都找遍了。”

“那时,屋里肯定没有长筒皮鞋。”

“这样说来,一定是当我们在吃午饭的时候,侍者给放在那里的。”

那德国籍侍者被叫了来,可是他说对这件事一点也不知道,无论怎样问也是弄不清楚。目的不明的神秘事件一个紧接一个地连续发生,现在又多了一件。除了查尔兹爵士暴死的整个可怕的故事之外,在两天之内就意外地发生了一连串的无法解释的奇事:其中包括收到用铅印字凑成的信,双轮马车里蓄着黑胡子的那个盯梢人,新购棕色皮鞋的遗失和旧黑皮鞋的失踪,还有现在被送还的新的棕色皮鞋。在我们坐车回贝克街的时候,福尔摩斯沉默不语地坐着,我由他那紧皱的双眉和严峻的面孔就能看出,他的心里正和我一样,在忙于努力拼凑一些能够解释这一切奇异而又显然是彼此毫无关联的插曲的推想。整个下午直到深夜,他都呆坐着,沉浸在烟草和深思之中。

刚要吃晚饭就送来了两封电报,第一封是:

顷悉,白瑞摩确在庄园。巴斯克维尔。

第二封是:

依指示曾去二十三家旅馆,未寻得被剪破之《泰晤士报》。歉甚。卡特莱。

“我的两条线索算是都完了,华生。再没有比事事不顺的案子更恼人的了。咱们必须转换方向另找线索。”

“咱们总还可以找到给那盯梢人赶车的马夫啊。”

“确实。我已发了电报要求执照管理科查清他的姓名和地址——如果这来的就是对于我的问题的答案的话,我也不会感到惊奇的。”

事实证明,门铃声带来的结果较我们希望的答案更加使人满意。因为门一开就进来了一个举止粗鲁的家伙,显然他正是我们所要找的那个人。

“我接到总局的通知,说这里有一位绅士要找No.2704车的车夫!”他说道,“我赶马车已经赶了七年了,从来没有听过乘客说一句不满意的话;我直接从车场到这里来了,我要当面问清,您对我有什么不满意之处。”

“老弟,我对你没有丝毫不满,”福尔摩斯说,“相反的,如果你能清清楚楚地回答我的问题,我就给你半个金镑。”

车夫听了咧开嘴笑着说:“啊,我今天可真赶上好日子啦。先生,您要问我什么呢?”

“首先,我要问你的姓名和地址,以后需要的时候我好再去找你。”

“约翰·克雷屯,住在镇上特皮街3号;我的车是由滑铁卢车站附近的希波利车场租来的。”

歇洛克·福尔摩斯将这些记了下来。东西

“现在,克雷屯,请你把今晨来监视这所房子而后来又在摄政街尾随两位绅士的那个乘客的情况告诉我吧。”

看样子那人吃了一惊,并且还有点不知所措了。 “呃,这件事似乎用不着我再告诉您了,因为看来您知道的和我一样多,”他说,“事实是这样的,那位绅士曾经和我说,他是个侦探,并且说关于他的事不许对任何人讲。”

“老弟,这是一件很严重的事呢,如果你想对我隐瞒任何东西,你就要倒霉了。你说你的乘客曾告诉你他是个侦探吗?”

“是的,他是这样说的。”

“他什么时候说的呢?”

“在他离开我的时候。”

“他还说过什么别的吗?”

“他提到了他的姓名。”

福尔摩斯以胜利的眼神迅速地瞟了我一眼。“噢,他提到了他的姓名,是吗?那可真够冒失的。他说他叫什么名字啊?”

“他的姓名,”车夫说,“是歇洛克·福尔摩斯,先生。”

我从来没有看到过我的朋友象听到马车夫的话时那样地大吃一惊。刹时间他惊愕得坐在那里一言不发。然后,他又纵声大笑起来。

“妙啊,华生,真是妙极了,”他说,“我觉得他真是个和我一样迅速、机敏的人。上次他可把我搞得真够瞧的——他的姓名就是歇洛克·福尔摩斯,是吗?”

“是的,先生,这就是那位绅士的姓名。”

“太好了!告诉我他在什么地方搭上了你的车和那以后的事吧。”

“九点半的时候,他在特莱弗嘎广场叫了我的车,他说他是个侦探,并说如果我能整天绝对地服从他的指示而不提出任何问题的话,他就给我两个金镑。我很高兴地同意了。我们首先赶到诺桑勃兰旅馆,在那里一直等到两位绅士出来并雇上了马车。我们尾随着他们的马车,直到停在这里附近为止。”

“就是这个大门。”福尔摩斯说道。

“啊,这一点我不能肯定。可是,我敢说我的乘客什么都知道。我们停在街上等了一小时半。后来有两位绅士由我们旁边步行过去,我们就顺着贝克街跟踪下去,并沿着……”

福尔摩斯插言道:“这我知道了。”

“当我们走过了摄政街约有四分之三的时候。忽然间,我车上的那位绅士打开了车顶滑窗,向我喊着说,让我尽快地将车赶向滑铁卢车站。我鞭挞着马,不足十分钟就到了。他真的给了我两个金镑就进车站去了。就是在他正要走开的时候,他转过身来说道:‘你如果知道了也许会感到兴趣的,你的乘客就是歇洛克·福尔摩斯。’这样我才知道了他的姓名。”

“原来如此。你以后再没有看到过他吗?”

“他进了车站以后,就再没有见到过了。”

“现在你怎样来形容一下歇洛克·福尔摩斯先生呢?”

马车夫搔了下头皮说道:“啊,他可真不那么容易形容。我看他有四十岁的样子,中等身材,比你矮二三英寸,先生。衣着象个绅士,蓄着黑胡须,须端剪齐,面色苍白。我想我能说的也就是这些了。”

“眼珠的颜色呢?”

“不,我说不出来。”

“别的你再也记不得什么了吗?”

“嗯,先生,记不得了。”

“好吧,那么给你这半个金镑。如果往后你能带来更多的消息,还可以再拿半镑。晚安!”

“晚安,先生,谢谢您。”

约翰·克雷屯格格地笑着走了。福尔摩斯耸了耸肩带着失望的微笑向我转过头来。

“咱们的第三条线索又算是断了,刚摸着点头就又吹了。” 他说道,“这个狡猾的流氓!他摸了咱们的底,他知道亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士曾经找过我,在摄政街察觉了我是谁,考虑到我已记下马车的号数,一定会去找马车夫的,因此他就送来了这个戏谑的口信。我告诉你,华生,这一回咱们可真搞上了一个值得干一场的对手了。我在伦敦已经遭到了挫折。但愿你在德文郡运气能够比在这里好一点,可是我真不放心。”

“对什么不放心呢?”

“对派你去的这件事不放心。这事很棘手,华生,既棘手而又危险,这件事我愈看就愈不喜欢它。是啊,亲爱的伙伴,你可以笑我,可是我跟你讲,如果你能安安全全地再回到贝克街来,那我就太高兴了。”