字体设置:

So far I have been able to quote from the reports which I have forwarded during these early days to Sherlock Holmes. Now, however, I have arrived at a point in my narrative where I am compelled to abandon this method and to trust once more to my recollections, aided by the diary which I kept at the time. A few extracts from the latter will carry me on to those scenes which are indelibly fixed in every detail upon my memory. I proceed, then, from the morning which followed our abortive chase of the convict and our other strange experiences upon the moor.

OCTOBER 16TH.--A dull and foggy day with a drizzle of rain. The house is banked in with rolling clouds, which rise now and then to show the dreary curves of the moor, with thin, silver veins upon the sides of the hills, and the distant boulders gleaming where the light strikes upon their wet faces. It is melancholy outside and in. The baronet is in a black reaction after the excitements of the night. I am conscious myself of a weight at my heart and a feeling of impending danger--ever present danger, which is the more terrible because I am unable to define it.

And have I not cause for such a feeling? Consider the long sequence of incidents which have all pointed to some sinister influence which is at work around us. There is the death of the last occupant of the Hall, fulfilling so exactly the conditions of the family legend, and there are the repeated reports from peasants of the appearance of a strange creature upon the moor. Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resembled the distant baying of a hound. It is incredible, impossible, that it should really be outside the ordinary laws of nature. A spectral hound which leaves material footmarks and fills the air with its howling is surely not to be thought of. Stapleton may fall in with such a superstition, and Mortimer also; but if I have one quality upon earth it is common-sense, and nothing will persuade me to believe in such a thing. To do so would be to descend to the level of these poor peasants, who are not content with a mere fiend dog but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting from his mouth and eyes. Holmes would not listen to such fancies, and I am his agent. But facts are facts, and I have twice heard this crying upon the moor. Suppose that there were really some huge hound loose upon it; that would go far to explain everything. But where could such a hound lie concealed, where did it get its food, where did it come from, how was it that no one saw it by day? It must be confessed that the natural explanation offers almost as many difficulties as the other. And always, apart from the hound, there is the fact of the human agency in London, the man in the cab, and the letter which warned Sir Henry against the moor. This at least was real, but it might have been the work of a protecting friend as easily as of an enemy. Where is that friend or enemy now? Has he remained in London, or has he followed us down here? Could he--could he be the stranger whom I saw upon the tor?

It is true that I have had only the one glance at him, and yet there are some things to which I am ready to swear. He is no one whom I have seen down here, and I have now met all the neighbours. The figure was far taller than that of Stapleton, far thinner than that of Frankland. Barrymore it might possibly have been, but we had left him behind us, and I am certain that he could not have followed us. A stranger then is still dogging us, just as a stranger dogged us in London. We have never shaken him off. If I could lay my hands upon that man, then at last we might find ourselves at the end of all our difficulties. To this one purpose I must now devote all my energies.

My first impulse was to tell Sir Henry all my plans. My second and wisest one is to play my own game and speak as little as possible to anyone. He is silent and distrait. His nerves have been strangely shaken by that sound upon the moor. I will say nothing to add to his anxieties, but I will take my own steps to attain my own end.

We had a small scene this morning after breakfast. Barrymore asked leave to speak with Sir Henry, and they were closeted in his study some little time. Sitting in the billiard-room I more than once heard the sound of voices raised, and I had a pretty good idea what the point was which was under discussion. After a time the baronet opened his door and called for me.

"Barrymore considers that he has a grievance," he said. "He thinks that it was unfair on our part to hunt his brother-in-law down when he, of his own free will, had told us the secret."

The butler was standing very pale but very collected before us.

"I may have spoken too warmly, sir," said he, "and if I have, I am sure that I beg your pardon. At the same time, I was very much surprised when I heard you two gentlemen come back this morning and learned that you had been chasing Selden. The poor fellow has enough to fight against without my putting more upon his track."

"If you had told us of your own free will it would have been a different thing," said the baronet, "you only told us, or rather your wife only told us, when it was forced from you and you could not help yourself."

"I didn't think you would have taken advantage of it, Sir Henry--indeed I didn't."

"The man is a public danger. There are lonely houses scattered over the moor, and he is a fellow who would stick at nothing. You only want to get a glimpse of his face to see that. Look at Mr. Stapleton's house, for example, with no one but himself to defend it. There's no safety for anyone until he is under lock and key."

"He'll break into no house, sir. I give you my solemn word upon that. But he will never trouble anyone in this country again. I assure you, Sir Henry, that in a very few days the necessary arrangements will have been made and he will be on his way to South America. For God's sake, sir, I beg of you not to let the police know that he is still on the moor. They have given up the chase there, and he can lie quiet until the ship is ready for him. You can't tell on him without getting my wife and me into trouble. I beg you, sir, to say nothing to the police."

"What do you say, Watson?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "If he were safely out of the country it would relieve the tax-payer of a burden."

"But how about the chance of his holding someone up before he goes?"

"He would not do anything so mad, sir. We have provided him with all that he can want. To commit a crime would be to show where he was hiding."

"That is true," said Sir Henry. "Well, Barrymore --"

"God bless you, sir, and thank you from my heart! It would have killed my poor wife had he been taken again."

"I guess we are aiding and abetting a felony, Watson? But, after what we have heard I don't feel as if I could give the man up, so there is an end of it. All right, Barrymore, you can go."

With a few broken words of gratitude the man turned, but he hesitated and then came back.

"You've been so kind to us, sir, that I should like to do the best I can for you in return. I know something, Sir Henry, and perhaps I should have said it before, but it was long after the inquest that I found it out. I've never breathed a word about it yet to mortal man. It's about poor Sir Charles's death."

The baronet and I were both upon our feet. "Do you know how he died?"

"No, sir, I don't know that."

"What then?"

"I know why he was at the gate at that hour. It was to meet a woman."

"To meet a woman! He?"

"Yes, sir."

"And the woman's name?"

"I can't give you the name, sir, but I can give you the initials. Her initials were L. L."

"How do you know this, Barrymore?"

"Well, Sir Henry, your uncle had a letter that morning. He had usually a great many letters, for he was a public man and well known for his kind heart, so that everyone who was in trouble was glad to turn to him. But that morning, as it chanced, there was only this one letter, so I took the more notice of it. It was from Coombe Tracey, and it was addressed in a woman's hand."

"Well?"

"Well, sir, I thought no more of the matter, and never would have done had it not been for my wife. Only a few weeks ago she was cleaning out Sir Charles's study--it had never been touched since his death--and she found the ashes of a burned letter in the back of the grate. The greater part of it was charred to pieces, but one little slip, the end of a page, hung together, and the writing could still be read, though it was gray on a black ground. It seemed to us to be a postscript at the end of the letter, and it said: 'Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o clock. Beneath it were signed the initials L. L."

"Have you got that slip?"

"No, sir, it crumbled all to bits after we moved it."

"Had Sir Charles received any other letters in the same writing?"

"Well, sir, I took no particular notice of his letters. I should not have noticed this one, only it happened to come alone."

"And you have no idea who L. L. is?"

"No, sir. No more than you have. But I expect if we could lay our hands upon that lady we should know more about Sir Charles's death."

"I cannot understand, Barrymore, how you came to conceal this important information."

"Well, sir, it was immediately after that our own trouble came to us. And then again, sir, we were both of us very fond of Sir Charles, as we well might be considering all that he has done for us. To rake this up couldn't help our poor master, and it's well to go carefully when there's a lady in the case. Even the best of us ----"

"You thought it might injure his reputation?"

"Well, sir, I thought no good could come of it. But now you have been kind to us, and I feel as if it would be treating you unfairly not to tell you all that I know about the matter."

"Very good, Barrymore; you can go." When the butler had left us Sir Henry turned to me. "Well, Watson, what do you think of this new light?"

"It seems to leave the darkness rather blacker than before."

"So I think. But if we can only trace L. L. it should clear up the whole business. We have gained that much. We know that there is someone who has the facts if we can only find her. What do you think we should do?"

"Let Holmes know all about it at once. It will give him the clue for which he has been seeking. I am much mistaken if it does not bring him down."

I went at once to my room and drew up my report of the morning's conversation for Holmes. It was evident to me that he had been very busy of late, for the notes which I had from Baker Street were few and short, with no comments upon the information which I had supplied and hardly any reference to my mission. No doubt his blackmailing case is absorbing all his faculties. And yet this new factor must surely arrest his attention and renew his interest. I wish that he were here.

OCTOBER 17TH.--All day to-day the rain poured down, rustling on the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. And then I thought of that other one--the face in the cab, the figure against the moon. Was he also out in that deluged--the unseen watcher, the man of darkness? In the evening I put on my waterproof and I walked far upon the sodden moor, full of dark imaginings, the rain beating upon my face and the wind whistling about my ears. God help those who wander into the great mire now, for even the firm uplands are becoming a morass. I found the black tor upon which I had seen the solitary watcher, and from its craggy summit I looked out myself across the melancholy downs. Rain squalls drifted across their russet face, and the heavy, slate-coloured clouds hung low over the landscape, trailing in gray wreaths down the sides of the fantastic hills. In the distant hollow on the left, half hidden by the mist, the two thin towers of Baskerville Hall rose above the trees. They were the only signs of human life which I could see, save only those prehistoric huts which lay thickly upon the slopes of the hills. Nowhere was there any trace of that lonely man whom I had seen on the same spot two nights before.

As I walked back I was overtaken by Dr. Mortimer driving in his dog-cart over a rough moorland track which led from the outlying farmhouse of Foulmire. He has been very attentive to us, and hardly a day has passed that he has not called at the Hall to see how we were getting on. He insisted upon my climbing into his dog-cart, and he gave me a lift homeward. I found him much troubled over the disappearance of his little spaniel. It had wandered on to the moor and had never come back. I gave him such consolation as I might, but I thought of the pony on the Grimpen Mire, and I do not fancy that he will see his little dog again.

"By the way, Mortimer," said I as we jolted along the rough road, "I suppose there are few people living within driving distance of this whom you do not know?"

"Hardly any, I think."

"Can you, then, tell me the name of any woman whose initials are L. L.?"

He thought for a few minutes.

"No," said he. "There are a few gipsies and labouring folk for whom I can't answer, but among the farmers or gentry there is no one whose initials are those. Wait a bit though," he added after a pause. "There is Laura Lyons--her initials are L. L.--but she lives in Coombe Tracey."

"Who is she?" I asked.

"She is Frankland's daughter."

"What! Old Frankland the crank?"

"Exactly. She married an artist named Lyons, who came sketching on the moor. He proved to be a blackguard and deserted her. The fault from what I hear may not have been entirely on one side. Her father refused to have anything to do with her because she had married without his consent, and perhaps for one or two other reasons as well. So, between the old sinner and the young one the girl has had a pretty bad time."

"How does she live?"

"I fancy old Frankland allows her a pittance, but it cannot be more, for his own affairs are considerably involved. Whatever she may have deserved one could not allow her to go hopelessly to the bad. Her story got about, and several of the people here did something to enable her to earn an honest living. Stapleton did for one, and Sir Charles for another. I gave a trifle myself. It was to set her up in a typewriting business."

He wanted to know the object of my inquiries, but I managed to satisfy his curiosity without telling him too much, for there is no reason why we should take anyone into our confidence. To-morrow morning I shall find my way to Coombe Tracey, and if I can see this Mrs. Laura Lyons, of equivocal reputation, a long step will have been made towards clearing one incident in this chain of mysteries. I am certainly developing the wisdom of the serpent, for when Mortimer pressed his questions to an inconvenient extent I asked him casually to what type Frankland's skull belonged, and so heard nothing but craniology for the rest of our drive. I have not lived for years with Sherlock Holmes for nothing.

I have only one other incident to record upon this tempestuous and melancholy day. This was my conversation with Barrymore just now, which gives me one more strong card which I can play in due time.

Mortimer had stayed to dinner, and he and the baronet played ecarté afterwards. The butler brought me my coffee into the library, and I took the chance to ask him a few questions.

"Well," said I, "has this precious relation of yours departed, or is he still lurking out yonder?"

"I don't know, sir. I hope to heaven that he has gone, for he has brought nothing but trouble here! I've not heard of him since I left out food for him last, and that was three days ago."

"Did you see him then?"

"No, sir, but the food was gone when next I went that way."

"Then he was certainly there?"

"So you would think, sir, unless it was the other man who took it."

I sat with my coffee-cup halfway to my lips and stared at Barrymore.

"You know that there is another man then?"

"Yes, sir; there is another man upon the moor."

"Have you seen him?"

"No, sir."

"How do you know of him then?"

"Selden told me of him, sir, a week ago or more. He's in hiding, too, but he's not a convict as far as I can make out. I don't like it, Dr. Watson--I tell you straight, sir, that I don't like it." He spoke with a sudden passion of earnestness.

"Now, listen to me, Barrymore! I have no interest in this matter but that of your master. I have come here with no object except to help him. Tell me, frankly, what it is that you don't like."

Barrymore hesitated for a moment, as if he regretted his outburst, or found it difficult to express his own feelings in words.

"It's all these goings-on, sir," he cried at last, waving his hand towards the rain-lashed window which faced the moor. "There's foul play somewhere, and there's black villainy brewing, to that I'll swear! Very glad I should be, sir, to see Sir Henry on his way back to London again!"

"But what is it that alarms you?"

"Look at Sir Charles's death! That was bad enough, for all that the coroner said. Look at the noises on the moor at night. There's not a man would cross it after sundown if he was paid for it. Look at this stranger hiding out yonder, and watching and waiting! What's he waiting for? What does it mean? It means no good to anyone of the name of Baskerville, and very glad I shall be to be quit of it all on the day that Sir Henry's new servants are ready to take over the Hall."

"But about this stranger," said I. "Can you tell me anything about him? What did Selden say? Did he find out where he hid, or what he was doing?"

"He saw him once or twice, but he is a deep one, and gives nothing away. At first he thought that he was the police, but soon he found that he had some lay of his own. A kind of gentleman he was, as far as he could see, but what he was doing he could not make out."

"And where did he say that he lived?"

"Among the old houses on the hillside--the stone huts where the old folk used to live."

"But how about his food?"

"Selden found out that he has got a lad who works for him and brings him all he needs. I dare say he goes to Coombe Tracey for what he wants."

"Very good, Barrymore. We may talk further of this some other time." When the butler had gone I walked over to the black window, and I looked through a blurred pane at the driving clouds and at the tossing outline of the wind-swept trees. It is a wild night indoors, and what must it be in a stone hut upon the moor. What passion of hatred can it be which leads a man to lurk in such a place at such a time! And what deep and earnest purpose can he have which calls for such a trial! There, in that hut upon the moor, seems to lie the very centre of that problem which has vexed me so sorely. I swear that another day shall not have passed before I have done all that man can do to reach the heart of the mystery.

但求上帝援助那些流落在大泥潭里的人吧,因为连坚硬的高地都变成了泥淖了。我终于找到了那黑色的岩岗,就是在这岩岗上,我看到过那个孤独的监视人,我从它那嵯峨的绝顶,一眼望到远近一无树木的阴惨的高地。暴风夹杂着大雨,刷过赤褐色的地面,浓重的青石板似的云层,低低地悬浮在大地之上,又有绺绺的灰色残云,拖在奇形怪状的山边。在左侧远处的山沟里,巴斯克维尔庄园的两座细长的塔楼,隔着雾气,半隐半现地矗立在树林高处。除了那些密布在山坡上的史前期的小房之外,这要算是我所能见到的唯一的人类生活的迹象了。哪里也看不到两晚之前我在同一地点所见到过的那个孤独的人的踪影。

当我走回去的时候,摩梯末医生赶了上来,他驾着他那辆双轮马车,走在一条通向边远的弗欧麦尔农舍的坎坷不平的沼地小路上。他一向非常关心我们,几乎没有一天他不到庄园来看看我们过得好不好。他一定要我上他的马车,所以我就搭他的车回家了。我知道他近来由于那只小长耳獚犬的失踪而非常烦恼;那小狗自从有一次乱跑跑到沼地里去以后,一直没有回来。我尽可能地安慰了他,可是我一想起了格林盆泥潭里的小马,也就不再幻想他会再见到他的小狗了。

“我说,摩梯末,”当我们在崎岖不平的路上颠簸摇晃着的时候我说,“我想在这里凡是乘马车能到达的住家,您很少有不认识的人吧。”

“我想,简直没有。”

“那么,您能不能告诉我,哪些女人的姓名的字头是L.L.呢?”

他想了几分钟。

“不能,”他说道,“有几个吉卜赛人和作苦工的我就不知道,而在农民或是乡绅之中没有一个人的姓名的字头是这样的。哦,等一等,”他停了一下之后又说,“有一个劳拉·莱昂丝——她那姓名的字头是L.L.——可是她住在库姆·特雷西。”

“她是谁啊?”我问道。

“她是弗兰克兰的女儿。”

“什么!就是那个老神经弗兰克兰吗?”

“正是,她和一个到沼地来画素描的姓莱昂丝的画家结了婚。可是,他竟是个下流的坏蛋,他遗弃了她。根据我所听到的情况判断,过错可能并不完全在于一方。任何有关她的事,她父亲决定一律不管,因为她没有得到父亲的同意就结了婚,也许还有其他原因。由于这放荡的老家伙和女儿之间的不和,弄得这女子陷入了窘迫的境地。”

“那她怎么生活呢?”

“我想老弗兰克兰会给她一些资助的,可是不可能多,因为他自己的那些乱事已经把他拖累得相当够受了。不管她是如何的罪有应得,总不能让她不可救药地趋于堕落啊。她的事传出去以后,此地有些人就设法帮助她,使她能过正当的生活。斯台普吞和查尔兹都帮了忙,我也给过一点钱,为的是让她作起打字的营业来。”

他想知道我问这些问题的目的何在,可是我没法满足他的好奇心,并没有告诉他许多,因为我没有理由对随便任何人都给以信任。明早我要到库姆·特雷西去。如果我能见到那位名声暧昧的劳拉·莱昂丝太太的话,就会把为弄清这一连串神秘莫测的事情所做的调查工作大大地向前推进一步了。我一定发展到象蛇一样地聪明了,因为当摩梯末追问到很不便回答的时候,我就随便地问了问他弗兰克兰的颅骨属于哪一种类型。这样一来,一直到抵达目的地为止,除了头骨学之外就什么也听不到了。我总算没有白和歇洛克·福尔摩斯相处了这么多年。

在这狂风暴雨的阴惨的天气里,只有一件值得记载的事。 那就是我刚才和白瑞摩的谈话,他又给了我一张能在适当的时候亮出来用的有力的好牌。

摩梯末留下来吃了晚饭,饭后他和准男爵两人玩起牌来。 管事的到书房来给我送咖啡,我乘机问了他几个问题。

“啊,”我说道,“你那好亲戚已经走了呢?还是仍然隐藏在那里?”

“我不知道,先生。但愿他已经走了,因为他在这里只能给人添麻烦。从我最后一次给他送了食物之后,再没有听到过关于他的情况,那已是三天以前的事了。”

“那一次你看到他了吗?”

“没有,先生,可是当我再到那里去的时候,食物已经不见了。”

“那么说,他一定还在那里呢?”

“先生,除非是被另外那个人拿去,否则您一定会认为他还在那儿呢。”

我坐在那里,咖啡还没有送到嘴边就又盯住他问道:

“那么说,你是知道还有另外一个人罗?”

“是的,先生,在沼地里还有另外一个人。”

“你见到他了吗?”

“没有,先生。”

“那你怎么知道的呢?”

“是塞尔丹告诉我的,先生,在一星期以前或是更早一些的时候。他也在藏着呢,可是据我估计他并不是逃犯。这些事我真伤脑筋,华生医生——我和您坦白地说吧,先生,这些事真让我伤脑筋。”他突然带着真挚热切的情感说道。

“现在,你听我说,白瑞摩!我只是为了你的主人,否则对于这样的事我是毫无兴趣的。我到这里来除了帮助他之外,没有其他目的。坦白地告诉我吧,究竟是什么使你这样伤脑筋呢?”

白瑞摩犹豫了一会儿,似乎是后悔不该冲口说出或是感觉难以用言语表达自己的感情。

“就是这些不断发生的事,先生,”他终于对着被雨水冲刷着的向沼地而开的窗户挥舞着手喊了起来,“我敢肯定那里在进行着暗杀的勾当,正在酝酿着一个可怕的阴谋!先生,我真希望亨利爵士能回到伦敦去呢。”

“可是,使你这样惊恐不安的有什么事实根据呢?”

“您看查尔兹爵士的死!就拿验尸官所说的那些话来说,就已经够糟糕的了。您再看夜间沼地里的怪声,日落之后,就是您给多少钱也没有人肯从沼地里走过去。还有藏在那里的那个人,他在那里窥伺等待着!他等待什么呢?用意又是什么呢?所有这些,对巴斯克维尔家的任何人说来,都绝不是什么好兆。到亨利爵士的新仆人们来接管庄园的那一天,我是会很乐于离开这一切的。”

“可是关于沼地里的这个陌生人,”我说道,“你能告诉我些什么吗?塞尔丹说过什么?他找到了他的藏身之所或是发现了他正在干什么吗?”

“塞尔丹看到过他一两次,可是他是个很阴险的家伙,什么情况也不肯暴露。起初他想那人是个警察,可是不久他发现了那人自己另有计划。据他看来,那人象是个上流人物,可是他弄不清楚他究竟在干些什么。”

“他说过那人住在什么地方吗?”

“在山坡上古老的房子里——就是那古代人住过的小石头房子。”

“可是他吃饭怎么办呢?”

“塞尔丹发现有一个为他服务的小孩,给他送他所需要的东西。我敢说,那小孩是到库姆·特雷西去弄他需要的东西的。”

“好极了,白瑞摩。这个问题咱们改日再深谈吧。”管事的走了以后,我透过模糊的窗玻璃,望着外面奔驰的云朵,和那被大风横扫的树顶联成的高低不一的轮廓线。这样的夜晚在室内就已够险恶的了,在沼地的一栋石屋里是什么味道就更不用说了。多么强烈的恨才能使一个人在这种时候潜藏在那样的地方!究竟是什么样的深远和急不可待的目的才使得他如此不辞辛劳!看来使我困扰万分的问题的中心就在沼地的那所房子里。我发誓要在明天尽一切可能探明那神秘的核心。

我一直都在引用以前寄给歇洛克·福尔摩斯的报告。可是叙述到这里,我又不得不放弃这种方法,再度依靠我的回忆,借助于我当时的日记了。随便几段日记就能使我想起那些详尽无遗的、深印在我记忆之中的情景。好吧,我就从我们在沼地里徒劳无功地追捕了一阵逃犯和经历了那次奇遇的那个早晨谈起吧。

十月十六日——今天是个阴晦多雾、细雨蒙蒙的日子。房子被滚滚而来的浓雾重重包围起来,可是浓雾也不时上升,露出荒漠起伏的沼地来,山坡上有纤细的如同缕缕银丝似的水流,远处突出的岩石的湿漉漉的表面,被天光照得闪闪烁烁,由表及里都沉浸在阴郁的气氛之中。昨夜的惊恐在准男爵的身上产生了恶劣的影响;我感到心情沉重,有一种危险迫在眉睫的感觉——而且是一种始终存在的危险,由于我形容不出来,所以也就显得特别可怕。东西

难道我这种感觉是毫无来由的吗?只要考虑一下连续发生的这一长串意外的事件就会明白,这些都说明在我们的周围正进行着一件有计划的罪恶活动。这庄园的前一个主人的死,分毫不爽地应验了这家族中的传说的内容,还有农民们一再声称的在沼地里出现的怪兽。我曾两次亲耳听到了很象是一只猎狗在远处嗥叫的声音,这竟会是真正超乎自然的事? 简直是既不可信也不可能。一只魔犬,可是又留下了爪印,又能嗥叫冲天,这实在是不可想象的事。斯台普吞可能会信这套鬼话,摩梯末也可能;可是如果我还能算是稍具常识的话,无论如何我也不能相信这样的事。如果我自己对此也信以为真的话,那就无异于甘心把自己降低到这些可怜的庄稼人的水平。他们把那狗说成妖魔鬼怪还不够,甚至还把它形容成口、眼都向外喷着地狱之火。福尔摩斯决不会听信这些异想天开的说法,而我则是他的代理人。我就两次在沼地里听到过这种叫声。可是事实终归是事实啊,假如真的有什么大猎狗跑到沼地上来的话,那就一切都好解释了。可是这样一只猎狗能藏到什么地方去呢?它到哪里去找吃的呢?它是从哪里来的呢?白天为什么没有人看到它呢?不可否认,不管是合乎自然法则的解释或是不合乎自然法则的解释,现在都同样地难于说得通。暂且先放下这只猎狗不提,那么在伦敦发现的那个“人”总是事实啊!马车里的那个人,还有警告亨利爵士不要到沼地来的那封信,这至少是真的吧。这可能是个要保护他的朋友干的事,但也同样可能是个敌人干的事。那个朋友或敌人现在究竟在哪里呢?他是仍旧在伦敦呢,还是已经跟踪我们到了这里呢?他会不会……会不会就是我所看到的在岩岗上站着的那个陌生人呢?

确实是我只看到了他一眼,可是有几点我是可以肯定的。 他绝不是我在这里所见到过的人,而我现在和所有的邻居都见过面了。那身形远比斯台普吞高得多,也远比弗兰克兰为瘦。说不定可能是白瑞摩,可是我们已把他留在家里了,而且我可以肯定,他是不会跟踪我们的。这样说,一定还有一个人在尾随着我们,正如同有一个陌生人在伦敦尾随我们一样,我们一直也未能把他甩掉。如果我们能抓住那个人的话,那么,我们的一切困难就都迎刃而解了。为了达到这一目的,我现在非得全力以赴不可。

我的第一种想法是打算把我的整个计划都告诉亨利爵士;第二种想法,我认为也是最聪明的想法,那就是自己干自己的,尽量不和任何人谈起。他显得沉默而茫然,那沼地的声音已使他的神经受到了不可思议的震惊,我不愿再以任何事情来加深他的焦虑,为了达到自己的既定目的,我就必须采取单独的行动了。

今天早饭之后,我们又出了一件小事。白瑞摩要求和亨利爵士单独谈话,他俩在爵士的书房里关起门来待了一会。我坐在弹子房里不止一次听到谈话的声音变得高了起来,我很明了所谈的是什么问题。过了一会儿,准男爵就打开房门叫我进去了。

“白瑞摩认为他有一点不满之处,”他说道,“他认为在他自愿地把秘密告诉我们之后,我们就去追捕他内弟的这种做法是不公平的。”

管事的站在我们的面前,面色很苍白,可是很镇定。

“也许我说话太过火了一些,爵爷,”他说道,“如果是这样的话,我就求您宽恕。但是,在今晨我听见你们两位回来并得知你们是去追捕塞尔丹的时候,确实感到非常吃惊。这个可怜的家伙,不用我再给他添什么麻烦就已经够他苦斗一阵的了。”

“如果你真是自愿地告诉了我们的话,也许事情就不会这样了,”准男爵说道,“但实际情况却是当你,或者还不如说是当你太太被迫不得不说的时候才告诉我们的。”

“我真没有想到您竟会利用了这一点,亨利爵士……我真没想到。”

“这个人对社会说来是个危险。在沼地里到处都是孤立无援的人家,而他又是个无法无天的人,只要看他一眼,你就能明白这一点了。比如说,你就看斯台普吞先生的家吧,就只有他一个人保护家。除非塞尔丹重新被关进监狱,否则谁也不会感到安全。”

“他绝不会闯进任何人家的,爵爷,这一点我可以向您保证。反正他在这里再不会骚扰任何人了,我向您保证,亨利爵士,过不了几天就可做好必要的安排,他就要去南美了。看在上帝的面上,爵爷,我恳求您不要让警察知道他还在沼地里。在那里他们已经放弃了对他的追捕了,他可以一直安静地藏到准备好船只的时候为止。您若告发了他,就一定要使我和我的妻子遭到麻烦。我恳求您,爵爷,什么也不要和警察说。”

“你看怎么样,华生?”

我耸了耸肩。“如果他能安全地离开这个国家,那就能给纳税人减去一桩负担呢。”

“可是他会不会在临走以前搞谁一家伙呢?”

“他不会这样发疯的,爵爷,他所需要的一切东西我们都给他准备齐全了。他若再犯一次罪就会暴露他的藏身之所了。”

“这倒是实话,”亨利爵士说道,“好吧,白瑞摩……”

“上帝祝福您,爵爷,我从心眼里感激您!如果他再度被捕的话,我那可怜的妻子一定要活不成了。”

“我想咱们这是在怂恿助成一件重大的罪行吧,华生?可是在听了他刚才说的那些话以后,我觉得好象已经不能再检举那人似的,算了吧!好吧,白瑞摩,你可以走了。”

那人一边断断续续地说了些感谢的话,一边转过身去,可是他犹豫一下之后又回转身来。

“您对我们太好了,爵爷,我愿尽我所能地来报答您。我知道一件事,亨利爵士,也许我早就该说出来了,可是这还是在验尸之后很久我才发现的。关于这件事我还没有向任何人提过,这是一件和查尔兹爵士的死有关的事。”

准男爵和我两个人都站了起来。“你知道他是怎么死的吗?”

“不,爵爷,这个我可不知道。”

“那么,你知道什么呢?”

“我知道当时他为什么站在那门旁,那是为了要和一个女人会面。”

“去和一个女人会面!他?!”

“是的,爵爷。”

“那个女人叫什么?”

“她的姓名我没法告诉您,爵爷,可是,我可以告诉您那姓名的字头。她那姓名的字头是L.L.”

“这你是怎么知道的,白瑞摩?”

“啊,亨利爵士,您伯父在那天早晨收到了一封信。他经常收到很多信件,因为他是个闻名的人物,而且还以心地善良著称,因此,无论是谁,在发生困难的时候,都喜欢求助于他。可是那天早晨,碰巧只有那一封信,所以引起了我特别的注意。那信是从库姆·特雷西地方寄来的,而且是女人的笔迹。”

“嗯?”

“啊,爵爷,要不是因为我太太的关系,我决不会想起这件事来的,也许我永远也想不起来了呢。刚刚几个礼拜以前,在她清理查尔兹爵士的书房的时候——从他死以后还一碰也没碰过呢——在炉格后面发现了一封烧过的信纸的灰烬。信已大部烧焦,碎成小片,只有信末的一小条还算完整,字迹在黑地上显得灰白,还可以看得出来。看来很象是信末的附笔,写的是:‘您是一位君子,请您千万将此信烧掉,并在十点钟的时候到栅门那里去。’下面就是用L.L.这两个字头签的名。”*

“那张字条还在你那儿吗?”

“没有了,爵爷,我们一动,它就粉碎了。”

“查尔兹爵士还收到过同样笔迹的信件吗?”

“噢,爵爷,我并没有特别注意他的信件。只是因为这封信是单独寄来的,所以我才注意到了它。”

“你也弄不清L.L.是谁吗?”

“弄不清,爵爷,我比您知道得并不多。可是我想,如果咱们能够找到那位女士的话,那么关于查尔兹爵士的死,咱们就会多知道些情况了。”

“我真莫名其妙,白瑞摩,这样重要的情况你怎么竟会秘而不宣?”

“噢,爵爷,那正是我们自己的烦恼刚刚到来之后。还有就是,爵爷,我们两人都很敬爱查尔兹爵士,我们不能不考虑到他对我们的厚意。我们认为把这件事兜出来对我们那位可怜的主人并没有什么好处,再加以这问题还牵连到一位女士,当然就更该小心从事了。即使是在我们当中最好的人……”

“你以为这一点会有伤他的名誉吗?”

“嗯,爵爷,我想这总不会有什么好结果的。可是您现在对我们这样好,使我觉得,如果我不把这件事的全部情况都告诉您,那我就太对不起您了。”

“好极了,白瑞摩,你可以走了。”当管事的走了以后,亨利爵士转身向我说道,“喂,华生,您对这新发现怎么看法?”

“好象又是一个难解的问题,弄得比以前更加使人莫名其妙了。”

“我也是这样想呢,可是只要咱们能够查明L.L.这个人,可能就会把整个问题都搞清楚了。咱们能得到的线索就是这么多了,咱们已经知道,有人了解事情的真相,只要能找到她就好了。您认为咱们应当从何着手呢?”

“马上将全部经过告诉福尔摩斯,这样就能把他一直在寻找的线索供给他了。如果这样还不能把他吸引到这里来,那才真是怪事呢。”

我马上回到自己的屋里去,给福尔摩斯写了关于今早那次谈话的报告。我很清楚,他最近很忙,因为从贝克街寄来的信很少。写得也短,对于我所供给他的消息也没有提出什么意见,而且更难得提到关于我的任务。无疑的是他的精神已全部贯注在那封匿名恐吓信的案件上面了。可是,事情的这种新的进展,定会引起他的注意并能恢复他对这个案子的兴趣的。他现在若是在这里有多好啊。

十月十七日——今天大雨终日,浇得常春藤唰唰作响,房檐水滴沥沥。我想起了那个身处荒凉、寒冷而又无遮无盖的沼地里的逃犯。可怜的人啊!不管他犯的是什么罪,他现在所吃的苦头,也总算赎了他的罪了。我又想起了另一个人—— 马车里的那个面孔,月亮前面的那个人影,那个隐蔽的监视者和不可解的人——难道他也暴身于倾盆大雨之中吗?傍晚时分,我穿上了雨衣雨鞋,在湿软的沼地里走出去很远,心里充满着可怕的想象,雨打在我的脸上,风在我的耳旁呼哨。