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Sir Henry Baskerville and Dr. Mortimer were ready upon the appointed day, and we started as arranged for Devonshire. Mr. Sherlock Holmes drove with me to the station and gave me his last parting injunctions and advice.

"I will not bias your mind by suggesting theories or suspicions, Watson," said he; "I wish you simply to report facts in the fullest possible manner to me, and you can leave me to do the theorizing."

"What sort of facts?" I asked.

"Anything which may seem to have a bearing however indirect upon the case, and especially the relations between young Baskerville and his neighbours or any fresh particulars concerning the death of Sir Charles. I have made some inquiries myself in the last few days, but the results have, I fear, been negative. One thing only appears to be certain, and that is that Mr. James Desmond, who is the next heir, is an elderly gentleman of a very amiable disposition, so that this persecution does not arise from him. I really think that we may eliminate him entirely from our calculations. There remain the people who will actually surround Sir Henry Baskerville upon the moor."

"Would it not be well in the first place to get rid of this Barrymore couple?"

"By no means. You could not make a greater mistake. If they are innocent it would be a cruel injustice, and if they are guilty we should be giving up all chance of bringing it home to them. No, no, we will preserve them upon our list of suspects. Then there is a groom at the Hall, if I remember right. There are two moorland farmers. There is our friend Dr. Mortimer, whom I believe to be entirely honest, and there is his wife, of whom we know nothing. There is this naturalist, Stapleton, and there is his sister, who is said to be a young lady of attractions. There is Mr. Frankland, of Lafter Hall, who is also an unknown factor, and there are one or two other neighbours. These are the folk who must be your very special study."

"I will do my best."

"You have arms, I suppose?"

"Yes, I thought it as well to take them."

"Most certainly. Keep your revolver near you night and day, and never relax your precautions."

Our friends had already secured a first-class carriage and were waiting for us upon the platform.

"No, we have no news of any kind," said Dr. Mortimer in answer to my friend's questions. "I can swear to one thing, and that is that we have not been shadowed during the last two days. We have never gone out without keeping a sharp watch, and no one could have escaped our notice."

"You have always kept together, I presume?"

"Except yesterday afternoon. I usually give up one day to pure amusement when I come to town, so I spent it at the Museum of the College of Surgeons."

"And I went to look at the folk in the park," said Baskerville. "But we had no trouble of any kind."

"It was imprudent, all the same," said Holmes, shaking his head and looking very grave. "I beg, Sir Henry, that you will not go about alone. Some great misfortune will befall you if you do. Did you get your other boot?"

"No, sir, it is gone forever."

"Indeed. That is very interesting. Well, good-bye," he added as the train began to glide down the platform. "Bear in mind, Sir Henry, one of the phrases in that queer old legend which Dr. Mortimer has read to us, and avoid the moor in those hours of darkness when the powers of evil are exalted."

I looked back at the platform when we had left it far behind, and saw the tall, austere figure of Holmes standing motionless and gazing after us.

The journey was a swift and pleasant one, and I spent it in making the more intimate acquaintance of my two companions and in playing with Dr. Mortimer's spaniel. In a very few hours the brown earth had become ruddy, the brick had changed to granite, and red cows grazed in well-hedged fields where the lush grasses and more luxuriant vegetation spoke of a richer, if a damper, climate. Young Baskerville stared eagerly out of the window, and cried aloud with delight as he recognized the familiar features of the Devon scenery.

"I've been over a good part of the world since I left it, Dr. Watson," said he; "but I have never seen a place to compare with it."

"I never saw a Devonshire man who did not swear by his county," I remarked.

"It depends upon the breed of men quite as much as on the county," said Dr. Mortimer. "A glance at our friend here reveals the rounded head of the Celt, which carries inside it the Celtic enthusiasm and power of attachment. Poor Sir Charles's head was of a very rare type, half Gaelic, half Ivernian in its characteristics. But you were very young when you last saw Baskerville Hall, were you not?"

"I was a boy in my 'teens at the time of my father's death, and had never seen the Hall, for he lived in a little cottage on the South Coast. Thence I went straight to a friend in America. I tell you it is all as new to me as it is to Dr. Watson, and I'm as keen as possible to see the moor."

"Are you? Then your wish is easily granted, for there is your first sight of the moor," said Dr. Mortimer, pointing out of the carriage window.

Over the green squares of the fields and the low curve of a wood there rose in the distance a gray, melancholy hill, with a strange jagged summit, dim and vague in the distance, like some fantastic landscape in a dream. Baskerville sat for a long time, his eyes fixed upon it, and I read upon his eager face how much it meant to him, this first sight of that strange spot where the men of his blood had held sway so long and left their mark so deep. There he sat, with his tweed suit and his American accent, in the corner of a prosaic railway-carriage, and yet as I looked at his dark and expressive face I felt more than ever how true a descendant he was of that long line of high-blooded, fiery, and masterful men. There were pride, valour, and strength in his thick brows, his sensitive nostrils, and his large hazel eyes. If on that forbidding moor a difficult and dangerous quest should lie before us, this was at least a comrade for whom one might venture to take a risk with the certainty that he would bravely share it.

The train pulled up at a small wayside station and we all descended. Outside, beyond the low, white fence, a wagonette with a pair of cobs was waiting. Our coming was evidently a great event, for station-master and porters clustered round us to carry out our luggage. It was a sweet, simple country spot, but I was surprised to observe that by the gate there stood two soldierly men in dark uniforms, who leaned upon their short rifles and glanced keenly at us as we passed. The coachman, a hard-faced, gnarled little fellow, saluted Sir Henry Baskerville, and in a few minutes we were flying swiftly down the broad, white road. Rolling pasture lands curved upward on either side of us, and old gabled houses peeped out from amid the thick green foliage, but behind the peaceful and sunlit country-side there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills.

The wagonette swung round into a side road, and we curved upward through deep lanes worn by centuries of wheels, high banks on either side, heavy with dripping moss and fleshy hart's-tongue ferns. Bronzing bracken and mottled bramble gleamed in the light of the sinking sun. Still steadily rising, we passed over a narrow granite bridge, and skirted a noisy stream which gushed swiftly down, foaming and roaring amid the gray boulders. Both road and stream wound up through a valley dense with scrub oak and fir. At every turn Baskerville gave an exclamation of delight, looking eagerly about him and asking countless questions. To his eyes all seemed beautiful, but to me a tinge of melancholy lay upon the country-side, which bore so clearly the mark of the waning year. Yellow leaves carpeted the lanes and fluttered down upon us as we passed. The rattle of our wheels died away as we drove through drifts of rotting vegetation--sad gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir of the Baskervilles.

"Halloa!" cried Dr. Mortimer, "what is this?"

A steep curve of heath-clad land, an outlying spur of the moor, lay in front of us. On the summit, hard and clear like an equestrian statue upon its pedestal, was a mounted soldier, dark and stern, his rifle poised ready over his forearm. He was watching the road along which we travelled.

"What is this, Perkins?" asked Dr. Mortimer.

Our driver half turned in his seat.

"There's a convict escaped from Princetown, sir. He's been out three days now, and the warders watch every road and every station, but they've had no sight of him yet. The farmers about here don't like it, sir, and that's a fact."

"Well, I understand that they get five pounds if they can give information."

"Yes, sir, but the chance of five pounds is but a poor thing compared to the chance of having your throat cut. You see, it isn't like any ordinary convict. This is a man that would stick at nothing."

"Who is he, then?"

"It is Selden, the Notting Hill murderer."

I remembered the case well, for it was one in which Holmes had taken an interest on account of the peculiar ferocity of the crime and the wanton brutality which had marked all the actions of the assassin. The commutation of his death sentence had been due to some doubts as to his complete sanity, so atrocious was his conduct. Our wagonette had topped a rise and in front of us rose the huge expanse of the moor, mottled with gnarled and craggy cairns and tors. A cold wind swept down from it and set us shivering. Somewhere there, on that desolate plain, was lurking this fiendish man, hiding in a burrow like a wild beast, his heart full of malignancy against the whole race which had cast him out. It needed but this to complete the grim suggestiveness of the barren waste, the chilling wind, and the darkling sky. Even Baskerville fell silent and pulled his overcoat more closely around him.

We had left the fertile country behind and beneath us. We looked back on it now, the slanting rays of a low sun turning the streams to threads of gold and glowing on the red earth new turned by the plough and the broad tangle of the woodlands. The road in front of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet and olive slopes, sprinkled with giant boulders. Now and then we passed a moorland cottage, walled and roofed with stone, with no creeper to break its harsh outline. Suddenly we looked down into a cup-like depression, patched with stunted oaks and firs which had been twisted and bent by the fury of years of storm. Two high, narrow towers rose over the trees. The driver pointed with his whip.

"Baskerville Hall," said he.

Its master had risen and was staring with flushed cheeks and shining eyes. A few minutes later we had reached the lodge-gates, a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by the boars' heads of the Baskervilles. The lodge was a ruin of black granite and bared ribs of rafters, but facing it was a new building, half constructed, the first fruit of Sir Charles's South African gold.

Through the gateway we passed into the avenue, where the wheels were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end.

"Was it here?" he asked in a low voice.

"No, no, the Yew Alley is on the other side."

The young heir glanced round with a gloomy face.

"It's no wonder my uncle felt as if trouble were coming on him in such a place as this," said he. "It's enough to scare any man. I'll have a row of electric lamps up here inside of six months, and you won't know it again, with a thousand candle-power Swan and Edison right here in front of the hall door."

The avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there where a window or a coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right and left of the turrets were more modern wings of black granite. A dull light shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the high chimneys which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there sprang a single black column of smoke.

"Welcome, Sir Henry! Welcome to Baskerville Hall!"

A tall man had stepped from the shadow of the porch to open the door of the wagonette. The figure of a woman was silhouetted against the yellow light of the hall. She came out and helped the man to hand down our bags.

"You don't mind my driving straight home, Sir Henry?" said Dr. Mortimer. "My wife is expecting me."

"Surely you will stay and have some dinner?"

"No, I must go. I shall probably find some work awaiting me. I would stay to show you over the house, but Barrymore will be a better guide than I. Good-bye, and never hesitate night or day to send for me if I can be of service."

The wheels died away down the drive while Sir Henry and I turned into the hall, and the door clanged heavily behind us. It was a fine apartment in which we found ourselves, large, lofty, and heavily raftered with huge balks of age-blackened oak. In the great old-fashioned fireplace behind the high iron dogs a log-fire crackled and snapped. Sir Henry and I held out our hands to it, for we were numb from our long drive. Then we gazed round us at the high, thin window of old stained glass, the oak panelling, the stags' heads, the coats-of-arms upon the walls, all dim and sombre in the subdued light of the central lamp.

"It's just as I imagined it," said Sir Henry. "Is it not the very picture of an old family home? To think that this should be the same hall in which for five hundred years my people have lived. It strikes me solemn to think of it."

I saw his dark face lit up with a boyish enthusiasm as he gazed about him. The light beat upon him where he stood, but long shadows trailed down the walls and hung like a black canopy above him. Barrymore had returned from taking our luggage to our rooms. He stood in front of us now with the subdued manner of a well-trained servant. He was a remarkable-looking man, tall, handsome, with a square black beard and pale, distinguished features.

"Would you wish dinner to be served at once, sir?"

"Is it ready?"

"In a very few minutes, sir. You will find hot water in your rooms. My wife and I will be happy, Sir Henry, to stay with you until you have made your fresh arrangements, but you will understand that under the new conditions this house will require a considerable staff."

"What new conditions?"

"I only meant, sir, that Sir Charles led a very retired life, and we were able to look after his wants. You would, naturally, wish to have more company, and so you will need changes in your household."

"Do you mean that your wife and you wish to leave?"

"Only when it is quite convenient to you, sir."

"But your family have been with us for several generations, have they not? I should be sorry to begin my life here by breaking an old family connection."

I seemed to discern some signs of emotion upon the butler's white face.

"I feel that also, sir, and so does my wife. But to tell the truth, sir, we were both very much attached to Sir Charles, and his death gave us a shock and made these surroundings very painful to us. I fear that we shall never again be easy in our minds at Baskerville Hall."

"But what do you intend to do?"

"I have no doubt, sir, that we shall succeed in establishing ourselves in some business. Sir Charles's generosity has given us the means to do so. And now, sir, perhaps I had best show you to your rooms."

A square balustraded gallery ran round the top of the old hall, approached by a double stair. From this central point two long corridors extended the whole length of the building, from which all the bedrooms opened. My own was in the same wing as Baskerville's and almost next door to it. These rooms appeared to be much more modern than the central part of the house, and the bright paper and numerous candles did something to remove the sombre impression which our arrival had left upon my mind.

But the dining-room which opened out of the hall was a place of shadow and gloom. It was a long chamber with a step separating the dais where the family sat from the lower portion reserved for their dependents. At one end a minstrel's gallery overlooked it. Black beams shot across above our heads, with a smoke-darkened ceiling beyond them. With rows of flaring torches to light it up, and the colour and rude hilarity of an old-time banquet, it might have softened; but now, when two black-clothed gentlemen sat in the little circle of light thrown by a shaded lamp, one's voice became hushed and one's spirit subdued. A dim line of ancestors, in every variety of dress, from the Elizabethan knight to the buck of the Regency, stared down upon us and daunted us by their silent company. We talked little, and I for one was glad when the meal was over and we were able to retire into the modern billiard-room and smoke a cigarette.

"My word, it isn't a very cheerful place," said Sir Henry. "I suppose one can tone down to it, but I feel a bit out of the picture at present. I don't wonder that my uncle got a little jumpy if he lived all alone in such a house as this. However, if it suits you, we will retire early to-night, and perhaps things may seem more cheerful in the morning."

I drew aside my curtains before I went to bed and looked out from my window. It opened upon the grassy space which lay in front of the hall door. Beyond, two copses of trees moaned and swung in a rising wind. A half moon broke through the rifts of racing clouds. In its cold light I saw beyond the trees a broken fringe of rocks, and the long, low curve of the melancholy moor. I closed the curtain, feeling that my last impression was in keeping with the rest.

And yet it was not quite the last. I found myself weary and yet wakeful, tossing restlessly from side to side, seeking for the sleep which would not come. Far away a chiming clock struck out the quarters of the hours, but otherwise a deathly silence lay upon the old house. And then suddenly, in the very dead of the night, there came a sound to my ears, clear, resonant, and unmistakable. It was the sob of a woman, the muffled, strangling gasp of one who is torn by an uncontrollable sorrow. I sat up in bed and listened intently. The noise could not have been far away and was certainly in the house. For half an hour I waited with every nerve on the alert, but there came no other sound save the chiming clock and the rustle of the ivy on the wall.

在约定的那一天,亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士和摩梯末医生都准备好了。我们就按照预先安排的那样出发到德文郡去。歇洛克·福尔摩斯和我一道坐车到车站去,并对我作了些临别的指示和建议。

“我不愿提出各种说法和怀疑来影响你,华生,”他说,“我只希望你将各种事实尽可能详尽地报告给我,至于归纳整理的工作,就让我来干吧。”

“哪些事实呢?”我问道。

“看来与这案件有关的任何事实,无论是多么的间接,特别是年轻的巴斯克维尔和他的邻居们的关系,或是与查尔兹爵士的暴卒有关的任何新的问题。前些天,我曾亲自进行过一些调查,可是我恐怕这些调查结果都是无补于事的。只有一件看来是肯定的,就是下一继承人杰姆士·戴斯门先生是一位年事较长的绅士,性格非常善良,因此这样的迫害行为不会是他干出来的。我真觉得在咱们考虑问题的时候可以完全将他抛开,剩下的实际上也就只有在沼地里环绕在亨利·巴斯克维尔周围的人们了。”

“首先辞掉白瑞摩这对夫妇不好吗?”

“千万别这样做,否则你就要犯绝大的错误了。如果他们是无辜的话,这样就太不公正了;如果他们是有罪的话,这样一来,反而不能加他们以应得之罪了。不,不,不能这样,咱们得把他们列入嫌疑分子名单。如果我没有记错的话,还有一个马夫,还有两个沼地的农民。还有咱们的朋友摩梯末医生,我相信他是完全诚实的,但是,关于他的太太,咱们是一无所知的。生物学家斯台普吞,还有他的妹妹,据说她是位动人的年轻女郎呢。有赖福特庄园的弗兰克兰先生,他是个情况未明的人物。还有其他一两个邻居。这些都是你必须加以特别研究的人物。”

“我将尽力而为。”

“我想你带着武器吧?”

“带了,我也想还是带去的好。”

“当然,你那支左轮枪,日日夜夜都应带在身边,不能有一时一刻的粗心大意。”

我们的朋友们已经订下了头等车厢的座位,正在月台上等着我们呢。

“没有,我们什么消息都没有,”摩梯末在回答我朋友的问题时说,“可是有一件事,我敢担保,前两天我们没有被人盯梢。在我们出去的时候,没有一次不是留意观察的,谁也不可能逃出我们的眼去的。”

“我想你们总是在一起的吧?”

“除了昨天下午以外。我每次进城来,总是要有一整天的时间是完全花在消遣上面的,因此我将昨天整个下午的时间都消磨在外科医学院的陈列馆里了。”

“我到公园去看热闹去了,”巴斯克维尔说,“可是我们并没有发生任何麻烦。”

“不管怎么样,还是太疏忽大意了,”福尔摩斯说,一面样子很严肃地摇着头,“亨利爵士,我请求您不要单独走来走去,否则您就要大祸临头了。您找到了另一只高筒皮鞋了吗?”

“没有,先生,再也找不着了。”

“确实,真是很有趣味的事。好吧,再见,”当火车沿着月台徐徐开动起来的时候,他说,“亨利爵士,要记住摩梯末医生给我们读的那个怪异而古老的传说中的一句话——不要在黑夜降临、罪恶势力嚣张的时候走过沼地。”

当我们已远离月台的时候,我回头望去,看到福尔摩斯高高的、严肃的身影依然站在那里一动不动地注视着我们。

这真是一趟既迅速而又愉快的旅行,在这段时间里,我和我的两位同伴搞得较前更加亲密了,有时还和摩梯末医生的长耳獚犬嬉戏。车行几小时以后,棕色的大地慢慢变成了红色,砖房换成了石头建筑物,枣红色的牛群在用树篱围得好好的地里吃着草,青葱的草地和极其茂密的菜园说明,这里的气候湿润而易于获得丰收。年轻的巴斯克维尔热切地向窗外眺望着,他一认出了德文郡熟悉的风景,就高兴得叫了起来。

“自从离开这里以后,我曾到过世界上很多地方,华生医生,”他说道,“可是,我从来没有见过一个地方能和这里相比。”

“我还从没有见到过一个不赞美故乡的德文郡人呢。”我说道。

“不光是本郡的地理条件,就是本地的人也是不凡呢。”摩梯末医生说道,“试看我们这位朋友,他那圆圆的头颅就是属于凯尔特型的,里面充满着凯尔特人的强烈的感情。可怜的查尔兹爵士的头颅则属于一种非常稀有的典型,他的特点是一半象盖尔人,一半象爱弗人。以前看到巴斯克维尔庄园的时候,您还很年轻呢,是不是?”

“我父亲死的时候,我还是个十几岁的孩子,那时他住在南面海边的一所小房子里,所以我从来还没有看到过这所庄园。我父亲死后,我就直接到美洲的一个朋友那儿去了。我跟您说,对于这庄园,我和华生医生是同样地感到新鲜的,我是非常渴望要看一看沼地的。”

“是吗?那样的话,您的愿望很容易就能实现了,因为您就要看到沼地了。”摩梯末医生一面说着一面向车窗外边指着。

在那被切割成无数绿色方格的田野和顶端连成低矮的曲线的树林那面,远远地升起了一座灰暗苍郁的小山,山顶上有形状奇特、参差不齐的缺口,远远望去晦暗朦胧,宛如梦幻中的景色一般。巴斯克维尔静坐了好久,两眼盯住那里。我从他那热切的面部表情里看得出来,这地方对他关系多么重大啊,第一次看到那怪异的、被同族人掌管了那么久的、处处都能引起人们对他们深深回忆的地方。他穿着苏格兰呢的服装,说话时带着美洲口音,坐在一节普普通通的火车车厢的角落里,可是每当我看到他那黝黑而富于表情的面孔的时候,我就愈加感觉到他真真是那支高贵、热情的家族的后裔,而且具有一家之主的风度。在他那浓浓的眉毛、神经质的鼻孔和栗色的大眼睛里显示着自尊、豪迈和力量。如果在那恐怖的沼地里,果真出现了什么困难和危险的事,他至少是个确实可靠的、会勇敢地担当起责任来的同志。

火车在路旁的一个小站上停了下来,我们都下了车。在矮矮的白色栏杆外面,有一辆两匹短腿小马拉着的四轮马车在那里等着。我们的到来显然是件大事,站长和脚夫都向我们围了上来,带着我们搬行李。这里本是一个恬静、可爱而又朴实的地方,但是,在出口的地方,有两个穿着黑制服的、象军人似的人站在那里,却不由得使我感到诧异。他们的身体倚在不长的来复枪上,两眼直勾勾地瞧着我们走过去。马车夫是个身材矮小的家伙,相貌冷酷而又粗野,他向亨利·巴斯克维尔行了个礼。几分钟之后,我们就沿着宽阔的灰白色的大道飞驰而去了。起伏不平的牧草地,在大道的两侧向上隆起,穿过浓密绿荫的隙缝,可以看到一些墙头和屋顶都被修成人字形的古老的房屋,宁静的、阳光普照的村子后面出现了绵延不断的被傍晚的天空衬托出来的阴暗的沼地,中间还罗列着几座参差不齐的、险恶的小山。

四轮马车又转入了旁边的一条岔路,我们穿过了被车轮在几世纪的时间里轧成的、深深陷入地面的小巷似的沟道,曲折上行,道路两侧都是长满着湿漉漉的苔藓和一种枝叶肥厚的羊齿植物的石壁。古铜色的蕨类和色彩斑驳的黑莓在落日的余辉之中闪闪发光。我们一直在往上走着,过了一座花岗石的窄桥,就沿着一条奔腾叫嚣的急流向前走去了。水流汹涌奔腾,泡沫喷溅,在灰色的乱石之间怒吼而过。道路在密生着矮小的橡树和枞树的峡谷之中,沿着曲折迂回的小河蜿蜒溯流而上。在每一转折处,巴斯克维尔都要高兴得欢呼起来,他急切地向四周环顾着,一面向我们问着无数的问题。在他看来,什么都是美丽的,可是我总觉得这一带乡间有一些凄凉的味道和明显的深秋的景象。小路上铺满了枯黄的树叶,在我们经过的时候,又有些树叶翩翩飞舞地由头顶上飘落下来。当我们的马车从枯叶上走过时,辚辚的轮声静了下来—— 这些东西在我看来都是造物主撒在重返家园的巴斯克维尔家族后裔车前的不祥的礼物。

“啊!”摩梯末医生叫了起来。“那是什么?”

前面出现了满复着石南一类常青灌木的陡斜的坡地,这是突出在沼地边缘的一处地方。在那最高的地方,有一个骑在马上的士兵,清清楚楚的,就象是装在碑座上的骑士雕像似的,黝黑而严峻,马枪作预备放射的姿势搭在伸向前方的左臂上。他在监视着我们所走的这条道路。

“那是干什么的啊,波金斯?”摩梯末医生问道。

车夫在座位上扭转身来说道:

“王子镇逃走了一个犯人,先生,到现在为止,他已经逃出来三天了,狱卒们正监视着每一条道路和每个车站,可是至今还没有找到他的踪迹呢。附近的农户们很感不安,老爷,这倒是真的。”

“啊,我知道,如果谁能去通风报信的话,就能拿到五镑的赏金呢。”

“是啊,老爷,可是如果和可能会被人割断喉管相比起来,这种可能拿到的五镑钱,就显得太可怜了。您要知道,这可不是个普普通通的罪犯啊。他是个肆无忌惮的人。”

“那么,他究竟是谁呀?”

“他叫塞尔丹,就是那个在瑙亭山杀人的凶手。”

那件案子我记得很清楚,他的罪行极端残忍,全部暗杀的过程都贯串着绝顶的暴行,因而此案曾引起了福尔摩斯的兴趣。后来所以减免了他的死刑,是由于他的行为出奇地残暴,人们对他的精神状态是否健全发生了一些怀疑。我们的马车爬上了斜坡的顶巅,面前出现了广袤的沼地,上面点缀着很多圆锥形的石冢和凹凸不平的岩岗,色彩斑驳,光怪陆离。一股冷风从沼地上吹来,使我们都打起了寒战。在那荒无人迹的平原上,这个魔鬼似的人,不定在哪一条沟壑之中象个野兽似地潜藏了起来,他内心充满着对摈弃他的那些人们的憎恨。光秃秃的荒地,冷飕飕的寒风和阴暗的天空,再加上这个逃犯,就益发显得恐怖了。即使巴斯克维尔也沉默了,他把大衣裹得更紧了些。

丰饶的乡区已落在我们的后下方,我们回头遥望了一下,夕阳斜照,把水流照得象金丝一般,照得初耕的红色土地和宽广的密林都在闪烁发光。前面赤褐色和橄榄色斜坡上的道路益发变得荒芜萧瑟了,到处罗列着巨石。我们时而路过一所沼地里的小房,墙和屋顶都是用石料砌成的,墙上也没有蔓藤掩饰它那粗糙的轮廓。我们俯望下面,忽然看到了一处象碗似的凹地,那里长着小片小片的因年久而被狂风吹弯了的发育很坏的橡树和枞林。在树林的顶上,伸出了两个又细又高的塔尖。车夫用鞭子指了指说道:

“这就是巴斯克维尔庄园。”

庄园的主人站了起来,双颊泛红,目光炯炯地望着,几分钟后,我们就到了寓所门口。大门是用稠密的、曲折交织成奇妙花样的铁条组成的,两侧各有一根久经风雨侵蚀的柱子,由于长了苔藓而显得肮脏了,柱顶装有石刻的巴斯克维尔家的野猪头。门房已经成了一堆坍塌的黑色花岗石,并露出了一根根光秃的椽木。可是它的对面却是一座新的建筑,刚建成了一半,是查尔兹爵士首次用由南非赚来的黄金兴建的。

一进大门就走上了小道。这时,车轮因走在枯叶上而沉静了下来,老树的枝丫在我们的头顶上交织成一条阴暗的拱道。穿过长而阴暗的车道,看到了末端有一所房屋象幽灵似地在发着亮光,巴斯克维尔不由得战栗了一下。

“就是在这里发生的吗?”他低声地问道。

“不,不是,水松夹道在那一边。”

这位年轻的继承人面色阴郁地向四周眺望着。

“在这样的地方,难怪我伯父会总觉得要大难临头了,”他说道,“足以让任何人恐惧呢。我决定在六个月内在厅前装上一行一千支光的天鹅牌和爱迪生牌的灯泡,到那时您就要再也认不得这个地方了。

道路通向一片宽阔的草地,房子就在我们的面前了。在暗淡的光线之下,我看得出中央是一幢坚实的楼房,前面突出着一条走廊。房子的前面爬满了常春藤,只有在窗户或装有盾徽的地方被剪去了,就象是在黑色面罩的破处打上的补钉似的。中央这座楼的顶上有一对古老的塔楼,开有枪眼和很多了望孔。在塔楼的左右两侧,各有一座式样更新的、用黑色花岗岩建成的翼楼。暗淡的光线,射进了窗棂坚实的窗口,装在陡峭而倾斜的屋顶上的高高的烟囱里喷出了一条黑色的烟柱。

“亨利爵爷,欢迎!欢迎您到巴斯克维尔庄园来!”

一个高个子的男人由走廊的阴影中走了出来,打开了四轮马车的车门。在厅房的淡黄色的灯光前面,又出现了一个女人的身影,她走出来帮助那人拿下了我们的行李袋。

“亨利爵士,如果我要一直赶回家去您不会见怪吧?”摩梯末医生说道,“我太太在等着我呢。”

“您还是等一下吃了晚饭再回去吧。”

“不,我一定得走,也许家中已经有事在等着我干呢。我本该留下来领您看一看房子,但若拿白瑞摩和我比较起来,他却是个更好的向导呢。再见吧,不分昼夜,只要我能帮助的话,就马上去叫我好了。”

亨利爵士和我一进厅堂,小路上的车轮声就听不到了,身后随着发出了沉重的关门声。我们所在的房间确是华美,又高又大,因年代久远而变成了黑色的椽木巨梁密密地排着。在高高的铁狗雕像后面,巨大的旧式壁炉里面,木柴在劈啪爆裂地燃烧着。亨利爵士和我伸手烤火取暖,因为长途乘车,弄得我们都浑身麻木了。后来我们又向四周环顾了一番,看到狭长的、装着古老的彩色玻璃的窗户,橡木做的嵌板细工,牡鹿头的标本,以及墙上所挂的盾徽,在中央大吊灯柔和的光线照耀下,都显得幽暗而阴郁。

“正如我所想象的那样,”亨利爵士说道,“难道这不恰恰是一个古老的家庭应有的景象吗?这就是我家的人们住了五百年的大厅,一想到这些就使我感到沉重。”

当他向四周环顾的时候,我看得出来,在他那黝黑的面孔上燃起了孩童般的热情。在他站立的地方虽有灯光照射,可是墙上长长的投影和黑黝黝的天花板就象在他的头顶上张开了一座天棚似的。白瑞摩把行李送进我们的居室以后又回来了。他以受过良好训练的仆役所特有的服从的态度,站在我们的面前。他是个仪表非凡的人,高高的身材,相貌漂亮,剪得方方正正的黑胡须,有一副白皙而出色的面貌。

“爵爷,您愿意马上吃晚饭吗?”

“已经准备好了吗?”

“几分钟之内就能准备好,爵爷。你们的屋里已经预备了热水,亨利爵士,在您作出新的安排以前,我的妻子和我很愿意和您呆在一起,可是您得了解,在这种新的情况下,这所房子里就需要相当多的佣人。”

“什么新的情况?”

“爵爷,我不过是说,查尔兹爵爷过的是非常隐遁的生活,因此我们还可以照顾得了他的需要,而您呢,当然希望有更多的人和您同居一起,因此您必然会需要将家事情况加以改变。”

“你是说,你和你的妻子想要辞职吗?”

“爵爷,这当然要在对您很方便的时候才行。”

“可是你们一家已经和我家的人同居了好几代了,不是吗?如果我一开始在这里生活便断绝了这条由来已久的家庭联系,那我真要感到遗憾了。”

我好象在这管家的白皙的面孔上看出了一些感情激动的迹象。

“我也这样觉得,爵爷,我的妻子也是一样。说实话,爵爷,我们两人都是很敬爱查尔兹爵士的,他的死使我们大为震惊,这里周围的环境,处处都使我们感到十分痛苦。我怕在巴斯克维尔庄园里我们的内心再也不会得到安宁了。”

“可是你想怎么办呢?”

“爵爷,我确信,如果我们做点儿生意,一定会成功的。 查尔兹爵爷的慷慨大量,已使我们有可能这样去做了。可是现在,爵爷,我最好还是先领您看看您的房间去吧。”

在这古老的厅堂的上部,有一周装有回栏的方形游廊,要通过一段双叠的楼梯才能上去。由中央厅堂伸出两条长长的甬道一直穿过整个建筑,所有的寝室都是开向这两条甬道的。 我和巴斯克维尔的寝室是在同一侧的,并且几乎是紧紧相邻,这些房间看来要比大楼中部房间的样式新得多,颜色鲜明的糊墙纸和点着的无数蜡烛多少消除了在我们刚到时留在脑中的阴郁的印象。

可是开向厅堂的饭厅则是个晦暗阴郁的处所,这是一间长形的屋子,有一段台阶把屋子由中间分成高低不同的两部分,较高部分为家中人进餐之所,较低部分则留给佣人们使用。在一端的高处建有演奏廊。乌黑的梁木横过我们的头顶,再上面就是被熏黑了的天花板了。如果用一排盛燃的火炬把屋子照亮,在一个丰富多采、狂欢不羁的古老的宴乐之中,这严峻的气氛也许能被缓和下来,可是现在呢?两位黑衣绅士坐在由灯罩下面照出来的不大的光环之内,说话的声音都变低了,而精神上也感受到压抑。一排隐隐现出的祖先的画像,穿着各式各样的服装,由伊丽莎白女皇时代的骑士起,直至乔治四世皇太子摄政时代的花花公子止,他们都张目注视着我们,沉默地陪伴着我们,威慑着我们。我们很少说话,我很高兴这顿饭总算是吃完了,我们可以到新式的弹子房去吸一支烟了。

“说实话,我觉得这里真不是一个能使人很愉快的地方,” 亨利爵士说道,“我本以为可以逐渐习惯于这样的环境呢,可是现在我总感觉有点不对劲。难怪我伯父单独住在这样一所房子里会变得心神不安呢。啊,如果您愿意的话,咱们今晚早些休息,也许在清晨时分事物会显得更使人愉快些呢。”

我在上床以前拉开了窗帘,由窗内向外眺望了一番。这窗是向厅前草地开着的,再远一些又有两丛树,在愈刮愈大的风中呻吟摇摆。由竞相奔走的云朵的缝隙之中露出了半圆的月亮。在惨淡的月光之下,在树林的后面,我看到了残缺不齐的山岗边缘和绵长低洼、缓缓起伏的阴郁的沼地。我拉上了窗帘,觉得我当时的印象和以先所得的印象还是一致的。

可是这还不算是最后的印象呢。我虽感疲倦,可是又不能入睡,辗转反侧,愈想睡愈睡不着。古老的房屋被死一般的沉寂笼罩了,远处传来了报时的钟声,一刻钟一刻钟地打着。可是后来,突然间,在死寂的深夜里,有一种声音传进了我的耳鼓,清晰而又响亮。决不会弄错,是个妇女啜泣的声音,象是一个被按捺不住的悲痛折磨着的人所发出的强忍着的和哽噎的喘息。我在床上坐了起来,聚精会神地听着。这声音不可能是来自远处的,而且可以肯定,就是在这所房子里。我就这样,每根神经都紧张地等了半小时,可是除了钟的敲打声和墙外常春藤的窸窣声之外,再也没有传来别的声音。