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For a moment or two I sat breathless, hardly able to believe my ears. Then my senses and my voice came back to me, while a crushing weight of responsibility seemed in an instant to be lifted from my soul. That cold, incisive, ironical voice could belong to but one man in all the world.

"Holmes!" I cried--"Holmes!"

"Come out," said he, "and please be careful with the revolver."

I stooped under the rude lintel, and there he sat upon a stone outside, his gray eyes dancing with amusement as they fell upon my astonished features. He was thin and worn, but clear and alert, his keen face bronzed by the sun and roughened by the wind. In his tweed suit and cloth cap he looked like any other tourist upon the moor, and he had contrived, with that cat-like love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he were in Baker Street.

"I never was more glad to see anyone in my life," said I, as I wrung him by the hand.

"Or more astonished, eh?"

"Well, I must confess to it."

"The surprise was not all on one side, I assure you. I had no idea that you had found my occasional retreat, still less that you were inside it, until I was within twenty paces of the door."

"My footprint, I presume?"

"No, Watson; I fear that I could not undertake to recognize your footprint amid all the footprints of the world. If you seriously desire to deceive me you must change your tobacconist; for when I see the stub of a cigarette marked Bradley, Oxford Street, I know that my friend Watson is in the neighbourhood. You will see it there beside the path. You threw it down, no doubt, at that supreme moment when you charged into the empty hut."

"Exactly."

"I thought as much--and knowing your admirable tenacity I was convinced that you were sitting in ambush, a weapon within reach, waiting for the tenant to return. So you actually thought that I was the criminal?"

"I did not know who you were, but I was determined to find out."

"Excellent, Watson! And how did you localize me? You saw me, perhaps, on the night of the convict hunt, when I was so imprudent as to allow the moon to rise behind me?"

"Yes, I saw you then."

"And have no doubt searched all the huts until you came to this one?"

"No, your boy had been observed, and that gave me a guide where to look."

"The old gentleman with the telescope, no doubt. I could not make it out when first I saw the light flashing upon the lens." He rose and peeped into the hut. "Ha, I see that Cartwright has brought up some supplies. What's this paper? So you have been to Coombe Tracey, have you?"

"Yes."

"To see Mrs. Laura Lyons?"

"Exactly."

"Well done! Our researches have evidently been running on parallel lines, and when we unite our results I expect we shall have a fairly full knowledge of the case."

"Well, I am glad from my heart that you are here, for indeed the responsibility and the mystery were both becoming too much for my nerves. But how in the name of wonder did you come here, and what have you been doing? I thought that you were in Baker Street working out that case of blackmailing."

"That was what I wished you to think."

"Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!" I cried with some bitterness. "I think that I have deserved better at your hands, Holmes."

"My dear fellow, you have been invaluable to me in this as in many other cases, and I beg that you will forgive me if I have seemed to play a trick upon you. In truth, it was partly for your own sake that I did it, and it was my appreciation of the danger which you ran which led me to come down and examine the matter for myself. Had I been with Sir Henry and you it is confident that my point of view would have been the same as yours, and my presence would have warned our very formidable opponents to be on their guard. As it is, I have been able to get about as I could not possibly have done had I been living in the Hall, and I remain an unknown factor in the business, ready to throw in all my weight at a critical moment."

"But why keep me in the dark?"

"For you to know could not have helped us, and might possibly have led to my discovery. You would have wished to tell me something, or in your kindness you would have brought me out some comfort or other, and so an unnecessary risk would be run. I brought Cartwright down with me--you remember the little chap at the express office--and he has seen after my simple wants: a loaf of bread and a clean collar. What does man want more? He has given me an extra pair of eyes upon a very active pair of feet, and both have been invaluable."

"Then my reports have all been wasted!"--My voice trembled as I recalled the pains and the pride with which I had composed them.

Holmes took a bundle of papers from his pocket.

"Here are your reports, my dear fellow, and very well thumbed, I assure you. I made excellent arrangements, and they are only delayed one day upon their way. I must compliment you exceedingly upon the zeal and the intelligence which you have shown over an extraordinarily difficult case."

I was still rather raw over the deception which had been practised upon me, but the warmth of Holmes's praise drove my anger from my mind. I felt also in my heart that he was right in what he said and that it was really best for our purpose that I should not have known that he was upon the moor.

"That's better," said he, seeing the shadow rise from my face. "And now tell me the result of your visit to Mrs. Laura Lyons--it was not difficult for me to guess that it was to see her that you had gone, for I am already aware that she is the one person in Coombe Tracey who might be of service to us in the matter. In fact, if you had not gone to-day it is exceedingly probable that I should have gone to-morrow."

The sun had set and dusk was settling over the moor. The air had turned chill and we withdrew into the hut for warmth. There, sitting together in the twilight, I told Holmes of my conversation with the lady. So interested was he that I had to repeat some of it twice before he was satisfied.

"This is most important," said he when I had concluded. "It fills up a gap which I had been unable to bridge, in this most complex affair. You are aware, perhaps, that a close intimacy exists between this lady and the man Stapleton?"

"I did not know of a close intimacy."

"There can be no doubt about the matter. They meet, they write, there is a complete understanding between them. Now, this puts a very powerful weapon into our hands. If I could only use it to detach his wife----"

"His wife?"

"I am giving you some information now, in return for all that you have given me. The lady who has passed here as Miss Stapleton is in reality his wife."

"Good heavens, Holmes! Are you sure of what you say? How could he have permitted Sir Henry to fall in love with her?"

"Sir Henry's falling in love could do no harm to anyone except Sir Henry. He took particular care that Sir Henry did not make love to her, as you have yourself observed. I repeat that the lady is his wife and not his sister."

"But why this elaborate deception?"

"Because he foresaw that she would be very much more useful to him in the character of a free woman."

All my unspoken instincts, my vague suspicions, suddenly took shape and centred upon the naturalist. In that impassive, colourless man, with his straw hat and his butterfly-net, I seemed to see something terrible--a creature of infinite patience and craft, with a smiling face and a murderous heart.

"It is he, then, who is our enemy--it is he who dogged us in London?"

"So I read the riddle."

"And the warning--it must have come from her!"

"Exactly."

The shape of some monstrous villainy, half seen, half guessed, loomed through the darkness which had girt me so long.

"But are you sure of this, Holmes? How do you know that the woman is his wife?"

"Because he so far forgot himself as to tell you a true piece of autobiography upon the occasion when he first met you, and I dare say he has many a time regretted it since. He was once a schoolmaster in the north of England. Now, there is no one more easy to trace than a schoolmaster. There are scholastic agencies by which one may identify any man who has been in the profession. A little investigation showed me that a school had come to grief under atrocious circumstances, and that the man who had owned it--the name was different--had disappeared with his wife. The descriptions agreed. When I learned that the missing man was devoted to entomology the identification was complete."

The darkness was rising, but much was still hidden by the shadows.

"If this woman is in truth his wife, where does Mrs. Laura Lyons come in?" I asked.

"That is one of the points upon which your own researches have shed a light. Your interview with the lady has cleared the situation very much. I did not know about a projected divorce between herself and her husband. In that case, regarding Stapleton as an unmarried man, she counted no doubt upon becoming his wife."

"And when she is undeceived?"

"Why, then we may find the lady of service. It must be our first duty to see her--both of us--to-morrow. Don't you think, Watson, that you are away from your charge rather long? Your place should be at Baskerville Hall."

The last red streaks had faded away in the west and night had settled upon the moor. A few faint stars were gleaming in a violet sky.

"One last question, Holmes," I said, as I rose. "Surely there is no need of secrecy between you and me. What is the meaning of it all? What is he after?"

Holmes's voice sank as he answered:----

"It is murder, Watson--refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder. Do not ask me for particulars. My nets are closing upon him, even as his are upon Sir Henry, and with your help he is already almost at my mercy. There is but one danger which can threaten us. It is that he should strike before we are ready to do so. Another day--two at the most--and I have my case complete, but until then guard your charge as closely as ever a fond mother watched her ailing child. Your mission to-day has justified itself, and yet I could almost wish that you had not left his side. Hark!"

A terrible scream--a prolonged yell of horror and anguish--burst out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned the blood to ice in my veins.

"Oh, my God!" I gasped. "What is it? What does it mean?"

Holmes had sprung to his feet, and I saw his dark, athletic outline at the door of the hut, his shoulders stooping, his head thrust forward, his face peering into the darkness.

"Hush!" he whispered. "Hush!"

The cry had been loud on account of its vehemence, but it had pealed out from somewhere far off on the shadowy plain. Now it burst upon our ears, nearer, louder, more urgent than before.

"Where is it?" Holmes whispered; and I knew from the thrill of his voice that he, the man of iron, was shaken to the soul. "Where is it, Watson?"

"There, I think." I pointed into the darkness.

"No, there!"

Again the agonized cry swept through the silent night, louder and much nearer than ever. And a new sound mingled with it, a deep, muttered rumble, musical and yet menacing, rising and falling like the low, constant murmur of the sea.

"The hound!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, come! Great heavens, if we are too late!"

He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had followed at his heels. But now from somewhere among the broken ground immediately in front of us there came one last despairing yell, and then a dull, heavy thud. We halted and listened. Not another sound broke the heavy silence of the windless night.

I saw Holmes put his hand to his forehead like a man distracted. He stamped his feet upon the ground.

"He has beaten us, Watson. We are too late."

"No, no, surely not!"

"Fool that I was to hold my hand. And you, Watson, see what comes of abandoning your charge! But, by Heaven, if the worst has happened, we'll avenge him!"

Blindly we ran through the gloom, blundering against boulders, forcing our way through gorse bushes, panting up hills and rushing down slopes, heading always in the direction whence those dreadful sounds had come. At every rise Holmes looked eagerly round him, but the shadows were thick upon the moor, and nothing moved upon its dreary face.

"Can you see anything?"

"Nothing."

"But, hark, what is that?"

A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon our left! On that side a ridge of rocks ended in a sheer cliff which overlooked a stone-strewn slope. On its jagged face was spread-eagled some dark, irregular object. As we ran towards it the vague outline hardened into a definite shape. It was a prostrate man face downward upon the ground, the head doubled under him at a horrible angle, the shoulders rounded and the body hunched together as if in the act of throwing a somersault. So grotesque was the attitude that I could not for the instant realize that that moan had been the passing of his soul. Not a whisper, not a rustle, rose now from the dark figure over which we stooped. Holmes laid his hand upon him, and held it up again, with an exclamation of horror. The gleam of the match which he struck shone upon his clotted fingers and upon the ghastly pool which widened slowly from the crushed skull of the victim. And it shone upon something else which turned our hearts sick and faint within us--the body of Sir Henry Baskerville!

There was no chance of either of us forgetting that peculiar ruddy tweed suit--the very one which he had worn on the first morning that we had seen him in Baker Street. We caught the one clear glimpse of it, and then the match flickered and went out, even as the hope had gone out of our souls. Holmes groaned, and his face glimmered white through the darkness.

"The brute! the brute!" I cried with clenched hands. "Oh Holmes, I shall never forgive myself for having left him to his fate."

"I am more to blame than you, Watson. In order to have my case well rounded and complete, I have thrown away the life of my client. It is the greatest blow which has befallen me in my career. But how could I know--how could l know--that he would risk his life alone upon the moor in the face of all my warnings?"

"That we should have heard his screams--my God, those screams!--and yet have been unable to save him! Where is this brute of a hound which drove him to his death? It may be lurking among these rocks at this instant. And Stapleton, where is he? He shall answer for this deed."

"He shall. I will see to that. Uncle and nephew have been murdered--the one frightened to death by the very sight of a beast which he thought to be supernatural, the other driven to his end in his wild flight to escape from it. But now we have to prove the connection between the man and the beast. Save from what we heard, we cannot even swear to the existence of the latter, since Sir Henry has evidently died from the fall. But, by heavens, cunning as he is, the fellow shall be in my power before another day is past!"

We stood with bitter hearts on either side of the mangled body, overwhelmed by this sudden and irrevocable disaster which had brought all our long and weary labours to so piteous an end. Then, as the moon rose we climbed to the top of the rocks over which our poor friend had fallen, and from the summit we gazed out over the shadowy moor, half silver and half gloom. Far away, miles off, in the direction of Grimpen, a single steady yellow light was shining. It could only come from the lonely abode of the Stapletons. With a bitter curse I shook my fist at it as I gazed.

"Why should we not seize him at once?"

"Our case is not complete. The fellow is wary and cunning to the last degree. It is not what we know, but what we can prove. If we make one false move the villain may escape us yet."

"What can we do?"

"There will be plenty for us to do to-morrow. To-night we can only perform the last offices to our poor friend."

Together we made our way down the precipitous slope and approached the body, black and clear against the silvered stones. The agony of those contorted limbs struck me with a spasm of pain and blurred my eyes with tears.

"We must send for help, Holmes! We cannot carry him all the way to the Hall. Good heavens, are you mad?"

He had uttered a cry and bent over the body. Now he was dancing and laughing and wringing my hand. Could this be my stern, self-contained friend? These were hidden fires, indeed!

"A beard! A beard! The man has a beard!"

"A beard?"

"It is not the baronet--it is--why, it is my neighbour, the convict!"

With feverish haste we had turned the body over, and that dripping beard was pointing up to the cold, clear moon. There could be no doubt about the beetling forehead, the sunken animal eyes. It was indeed the same face which had glared upon me in the light of the candle from over the rock--the face of Selden, the criminal.

Then in an instant it was all clear to me. I remembered how the baronet had told me that he had handed his old wardrobe to Barrymore. Barrymore had passed it on in order to help Selden in his escape. Boots, shirt, cap--it was all Sir Henry's. The tragedy was still black enough, but this man had at least deserved death by the laws of his country. I told Holmes how the matter stood, my heart bubbling over with thankfulness and joy.

"Then the clothes have been the poor devil's death," said he. "It is clear enough that the hound has been laid on from some article of Sir Henry's--the boot which was abstracted in the hotel, in all probability--and so ran this man down. There is one very singular thing, however: How came Selden, in the darkness, to know that the hound was on his trail?"

"He heard him."

"To hear a hound upon the moor would not work a hard man like this convict into such a paroxysm of terror that he would risk recapture by screaming wildly for help. By his cries he must have run a long way after he knew the animal was on his track. How did he know?"

"A greater mystery to me is why this hound, presuming that all our conjectures are correct --"

"I presume nothing."

"Well, then, why this hound should be loose to-night. I suppose that it does not always run loose upon the moor. Stapleton would not let it go unless he had reason to think that Sir Henry would be there."

"My difficulty is the more formidable of the two, for I think that we shall very shortly get an explanation of yours, while mine may remain forever a mystery. The question now is, what shall we do with this poor wretch's body? We cannot leave it here to the foxes and the ravens."

"I suggest that we put it in one of the huts until we can communicate with the police."

"Exactly. I have no doubt that you and I could carry it so far. Halloa, Watson, what's this? It's the man himself, by all that's wonderful and audacious! Not a word to show your suspicions--not a word, or my plans crumble to the ground."

A figure was approaching us over the moor, and I saw the dull red glow of a cigar. The moon shone upon him, and I could distinguish the dapper shape and jaunty walk of the naturalist. He stopped when he saw us, and then came on again.

"Why, Dr. Watson, that's not you, is it? You are the last man that I should have expected to see out on the moor at this time of night. But, dear me, what's this? Somebody hurt? Not--don't tell me that it is our friend Sir Henry!" He hurried past me and stooped over the dead man. I heard a sharp intake of his breath and the cigar fell from his fingers.

"Who--who's this?" he stammered.

"It is Selden, the man who escaped from Princetown."

Stapleton turned a ghastly face upon us, but by a supreme effort he had overcome his amazement and his disappointment. He looked sharply from Holmes to me.

"Dear me! What a very shocking affair! How did he die?"

"He appears to have broken his neck by falling over these rocks. My friend and I were strolling on the moor when we heard a cry."

"I heard a cry also. That was what brought me out. I was uneasy about Sir Henry."

"Why about Sir Henry in particular?" I could not help asking.

"Because I had suggested that he should come over. When he did not come I was surprised, and I naturally became alarmed for his safety when I heard cries upon the moor. By the way"--his eyes darted again from my face to Holmes's--"did you hear anything else besides a cry?"

"No," said Holmes; "did you?"

"No."

"What do you mean, then?"

"Oh, you know the stories that the peasants tell about a phantom hound, and so on. It is said to be heard at night upon the moor. I was wondering if there were any evidence of such a sound to-night."

"We heard nothing of the kind," said I.

"And what is your theory of this poor fellow's death?"

"I have no doubt that anxiety and exposure have driven him off his head. He has rushed about the moor in a crazy state and eventually fallen over here and broken his neck."

"That seems the most reasonable theory," said Stapleton, and he gave a sigh which I took to indicate his relief. "What do you think about it, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"

My friend bowed his compliments.

"You are quick at identification," said he.

"We have been expecting you in these parts since Dr. Watson came down. You are in time to see a tragedy."

"Yes, indeed. I have no doubt that my friend's explanation will cover the facts. I will take an unpleasant remembrance back to London with me to-morrow."

"Oh, you return to-morrow?"

"That is my intention."

"I hope your visit has cast some light upon those occurrences which have puzzled us?"

Holmes shrugged his shoulders.

"One cannot always have the success for which one hopes. An investigator needs facts, and not legends or rumours. It has not been a satisfactory case."

My friend spoke in his frankest and most unconcerned manner. Stapleton still looked hard at him. Then he turned to me.

"I would suggest carrying this poor fellow to my house, but it would give my sister such a fright that I do not feel justified in doing it. I think that if we put something over his face he will be safe until morning."

And so it was arranged. Resisting Stapleton's offer of hospitality, Holmes and I set off to Baskerville Hall, leaving the naturalist to return alone. Looking back we saw the figure moving slowly away over the broad moor, and behind him that one black smudge on the silvered slope which showed where the man was lying who had come so horribly to his end.

我屏息在那里坐了一两分钟,简直不能相信我的耳朵。后来,我的神志清醒了,也能够说话了,同时那极为沉重的责任好象马上从我心上卸了下来。因为那种冰冷、尖锐和嘲讽的声音只可能属于那个人。

“福尔摩斯!”我喊了起来,“福尔摩斯!”

“出来吧!”他说道,“请当心你那支左轮手枪。”

我在粗糙的门框下面弓着身,看到他在外面的一块石头上坐着。当他看到我那吃惊的表情的时候,他那灰色的眼睛高兴得转动起来。他显得又瘦又黑,可是清醒而机警,他那机灵的面孔被太阳晒成了棕色,被风砂吹得粗糙了。他身穿苏格兰呢的衣服,头戴布帽,看起来和任何在沼地上旅行的人完全一样,他竟还能象猫那样地爱护着个人的清洁,这是他的一个特点,他的下巴还是刮得光光的,衣服也还象是住在贝克街时一样的清洁。

“在我的一生里,还从没有因为看见任何人比这更快活过。”我一边摇撼着他的手一边说着。

“或者说比这更吃惊吧,啊?”

“噢,我只得承认吧。”

“其实并不只是单方面感到吃惊呢。我跟你说,我真没有想到你已经找到我的临时藏身之所了,更想不到你已经藏在屋里了,直到我离这门口不到二十步的时候方才发现。”

“我想是由于我的脚印吧?”

“不,华生,我恐怕还不能担保能从全世界人的脚印里辨认出你的脚印来呢。如果你真的想把我蒙混过去的话,你就非得把你的纸烟换换牌子不可,因为我一看到烟头上印着‘布莱德雷,牛津街’,我就知道了,我的朋友华生一定就在附近。在小路的边上你还能找到它呢。毫无疑问,就是在你冲进空屋的那个紧要关头,你把它扔掉的。”

“正是。”

“我想到了这点,而又素知你那值得佩服的、坚韧不拔的性格,我就准知道你在暗中坐着,手中握着你那支手枪,等待着屋主人回来。你真的以为我就是那逃犯吧?”

“我并不知道你是谁,可是我下定决心要弄清这一点。”

“好极了,华生!你是怎样知道我的地点的呢?也许是在捉逃犯的那晚上,我不小心站在初升的月亮前面被你看到了吧?”

“对了,那次我看到你了。”

“你在找到这间石屋以前,一定找遍了所有的小屋吧?”

“没有,我看到了你雇用的那小孩了,是他指给了我搜寻的方向。”

“准是在有一架望远镜的那位老绅士那里看到的吧。最初我看到那镜头上的闪闪反光我还弄不清是什么呢。”他站起来朝小屋里望了一眼,“哈,卡特莱又给我送上来什么吃用的东西了,这张纸是什么?原来你已经到库姆·特雷西去过了,是吗?”

“对了。”

“去找劳拉·莱昂丝太太吗?”

“就是啊。”

“干得好!显然咱俩的钻研方向是一致的,但愿咱俩的钻研结果凑到一起的时候,咱们对这件案子就能有比较充分的了解了。”

“嘿,你能在这里,我从心眼里感到高兴,这样的重责和案情的神秘,我的神经实在受不住了。可是你究竟是怎么到这里来的呢?你都干什么来着?我以为你是在贝克街搞那件匿名恐吓信的案子呢。”

“我正希望你这样想呢。”

“原来你是使用我,可是并不信任我呀!”我又气又恼地喊道,“我觉得我在你眼里还不应该一至于此吧,福尔摩斯。”

“我亲爱的伙伴,在这件案子里就和在很多别的案子里一样,你对我的帮助是无可估量的,如果看来好象我对你耍了什么花招的话,那就请你原谅吧。实际上呢,我所以要这样做,一部分也是为了你的原故,正因为我体会到了你所冒的危险,我才亲自到这里来探察这件事的。如果我和你们—— 亨利爵士和你——都在一起的话,我相信你的看法一定和我的看法一样,只要我一出面,就等于向我们的对手发出警告,叫他们多加小心了。事实上,我一直是能自由行动的,而如果我是住在庄园里的话,那就根本没有可能了。我使自己在这件事里做一个不为人知的角色,随时准备在紧要关头全力以赴。”

“可是为什么要把我蒙在鼓里呢?”

“因为叫你知道了,对咱们毫无帮助,也许还可能因而使我被人发现。你势必要想来告诉我点什么,或者是好心好意地给我送些什么应用什物来,这样咱们就要冒不必要的风险了。我把卡特莱带来了——你一定还记得佣工介绍所的那个小家伙吧——我的一些简单的需要,都由他来照顾:一块面包和一副干净的硬领。一个人还需要什么呢?他等于给我添了一双勤快的脚和一对额外的眼睛,而这两样东西对我说来,都是无价之宝。”

“那么说,我写的报告恐怕都白费了!”我回想起在我写那些报告时的辛苦和当时的骄傲的心情,我的声调都颤起来了。

福尔摩斯从衣袋里拿出一卷纸来。

“这就是你的报告,我亲爱的伙伴,而且都反复地读过了,我向你保证。我安排得好极了,因此它在途中只耽搁一天。我必须对你在处理这件极端困难的案子时所表现的热情和智慧致以最高的敬意。”

我因为受了愚弄,心里还是很不舒服,可是福尔摩斯这些赞扬话的温暖,驱走了我内心的愤怒。我心里也觉得他说得很对,要想达到我们的目的,这样做实在是最好不过的了,我本不应该知道他已来到了沼地。

“这样就好了,”他看到阴影已从我的脸上消失之后说道,“现在把你访问劳拉·莱昂丝太太的结果告诉我吧。我本不难想象出你到那里去为的是找她的,因为我已经知道,在库姆·特雷西地方,她是在这件事里唯一能对我们有所帮助的人了。说真的,如果你今天没有去的话,很可能明天我就要去了。”

太阳已经落下去,暮色笼罩着整个沼地。空气已经变得凉了起来,于是我们就退进小屋去取暖。我们在暮色之中坐在一起,我把和那女士谈话的内容告诉了福尔摩斯。他非常感兴趣,某些部分我还得重复两遍,他才表示满意。

“这事是极为重要的,”当我谈完后他说道,“它把在这件最复杂的事情里我所联结不起来的那个缺口给填上了。也许你已知道了,在这位女士和斯台普吞先生中间还有着极为亲密的关系吧?”

“我并不知道这种亲密的关系啊!”

“这件事是毫无疑问的。他们常见面,常通信,彼此十分了解。现在,这一点已使咱们手里多了一件有力的武器。只要咱们用这一点对他妻子进行分化……”

“他的妻子?!”

“我现在供给你一些情况,来酬答你所供给我的一切吧。 那个在此地被人称作斯台普吞小姐的女士,实际上就是他的妻子。”

“天哪,福尔摩斯!你说的是什么话呀?!那他怎么又会让亨利爵士爱上她呢?”

“亨利爵士的堕入情网,除了对亨利爵士本人之外对谁都不会有什么害处。他曾经特别留意避免亨利爵士向她求爱,这是你亲眼看到的。我再说一遍,那位女士就是他的妻子,而不是他的妹妹。”

“可是他为什么要搞这一场煞费苦心的骗局呢?”

“因为他早就看了出来,让她扮成一个未婚的女子对他要有用得多。”

我的全部猜测,我那模糊的怀疑突然变得具体起来,并且全都集中到生物学家身上了。在这戴着草帽拿着捕蝶网的、缺乏热情和特色的人身上,我好象看出了什么可怕的东西——无限的耐性和狡黠,一副佯装的笑脸和狠毒的心肠。

“那么说咱们的敌人就是他罗,在伦敦尾随咱们的也就是他罗?”

“我就是这样看破了这个谜的。”

“那个警告一定是她发的罗?”

“正是。”

在我心头萦绕已久的,似有似无、半是猜想的一桩极为可怕的罪行已在黑暗之中隐隐约约地现出来了。

“可是这一点你敢肯定吗,福尔摩斯?你怎么知道那女人就是他的妻子呢?”

“因为在他第一次和你见面的时候,曾经不由自主地把他身世之中真实的一段告诉了你。我敢说,从那时以后,他曾不止一次因此而感到后悔。他从前曾在英格兰北部一度作过小学校长,现在说来,再没有比一个小学校长更容易被人调查清楚的了,通过教育机关就能弄清任何在教育界里工作过的人。我稍微调查了一下,就弄清了曾有一所小学,在极为恶劣的情况下垮了台,而学校的主人——姓名可不相同—— 和他的妻子就不知去向了。他们的相貌特征与咱们在这里所看到的都符合。当我知道了那失踪的人也同样热衷于昆虫学之后,鉴别人物的工作就算是完满地结束了。”

黑幕已逐渐被揭了起来,但大部真相则仍在隐秘之中。

“如果这个女人真是他的妻子的话,那么怎么会又插进来一个劳拉·莱昂丝太太呢?”我问道。

“这正是全部问题之中的一个,而这个问题已被你的探察工作揭示出来了。你对那位女士的访问已使情况明朗了许多。 我没有听说过她和她的丈夫想要离婚。如果她确曾计划离婚,而又把斯台普吞当作未婚男子,那她无疑会要想到做他的妻子了。”

“可是,如果她弄清了这骗局呢?”

“啊,那样的话,这位女士就可能对我们有用了。当然,我们首先就应该去找她——咱们两人明天就去。华生,你不认为你离开自己的职责已经太久了吗?你本应该是呆在巴斯克维尔庄园的啊。”

最后的一抹晚霞也在西方消失了,夜降临了沼地。在紫色的天空中,闪烁着几颗半明半暗的星星。

“还有最后一个问题,福尔摩斯,”我一边站起来一边说道,“当然了,在你我之间是无需保守什么秘密的。他这样做是什么意思啊?其目的何在呢?”

福尔摩斯在回答的时候,声调都放低了:“这是谋杀,华生,是件深谋远虑、残忍已极的蓄意谋杀。

别再问我细节了。正如同他的那面网围着亨利爵士一样,我的网正紧紧地罩住了他,再加上你的协助,他几乎已经是我的囊中物了。我们所担心的危险只剩了一个,就是说不定他可能在我们采取行动之前先行下手。再过一天——最多两天——我就会把破案的准备工作完成了;在那以前,你得象一个感情深厚的妈妈看守她的病孩子那样紧紧地看好你所保护的人。事实证明,你今天所做的事是正确的,但我还是希望你以不离开他的身边为更好一些。听!”

一阵可怕的尖叫声——一阵连绵不断的恐惧与暴怒的喊叫声冲破了沼地上的寂静。那恐怖的喊声使我血管里的血液几乎都为之凝固了。

“唉呀,我的上帝!”我喘了起来,“这是什么?这是什么意思?”

福尔摩斯猛然站了起来,我看到他那黑色的象是运动员似的身体站在小房的门口,双肩下垂,头向前方探出,朝黑暗之中望去。

“嘘!”他轻声说道,“不要出声。”

由于情况的急切,喊声很大,起初那喊声是由黑暗的平原上一个很远的地方传过来的。现在冲进我们耳鼓的声音,已显得愈来愈近,愈来愈大,比以前更急迫了。

“是哪一边?”福尔摩斯低声问道。由他那样坚强的人的激动的声音里,我知道他也是深受震惊了,“是哪一边,华生?”

“我想是那边吧。”我向黑暗之中指去。

“不,是那边。”

痛苦的喊声,响彻了寂静的夜,愈来愈大,也比以前更近得多了。混在一起的还有一种新的声音,是一种深沉的咕咕哝哝,既悦耳而又可怕的声音,一起一落的,正象是大海所发出的永无休止的低吟。

“是猎狗!”福尔摩斯喊了起来,“来呀,华生!来呀。天哪!说不定咱们已经来不及了!”

他立即迅速地在沼地上跑了起来,我紧跟在他的后面。可是,突然间,就在我们的前面,由那片碎石参差、凹凸不平的地方发出了一声最后的绝望的惨叫,然后就是模糊而沉重的咕咚一声。我们站住倾听着,再没有别的声音打破无风之夜的死寂了。

我看到福尔摩斯象是个神经错乱的人似地把手按在额上,一面跺着脚。

“他已经打败了咱们了,华生。咱们来得太晚了。”

“不,不会,一定不会。”

“我真是个笨蛋,竟不采取行动,而你呢,华生,现在该明白放开你应保护的人不管的后果是什么了吧!天哪!如果不幸的事终于发生了的话,那我们就非得向他报复不可了。”

我们在黑暗之中向前乱跑,不时地撞在乱石上,勉强地挤过金雀花丛,上气不接下气地跑上了小山,再顺着另一个斜坡冲了下去,一直朝着那可怕的声音传来的方向前进。每到高处,福尔摩斯都焦急地向四周望一望,可是沼地里黑暗异常,在荒凉的地面上,没有一件东西在动。

“你看到什么东西没有?”

“什么也没有看到。”

“可是你听听那是什么声音?”

一阵低低的呻吟传进了我们的耳鼓,又是在我们的左面!

在那面有一条岩脊,尽头处是直上直下的崖壁,由那里向下,可以看到一片多石的山坡。在那高低不平的地面上,平摊着一堆黑咕隆咚的、形状不规则的物体。当我们跑近了它的时候,模糊的轮廓就变得清楚起来了。原来是个趴在地上的人,头可怕地在身体下面窝着,身体向里蜷曲成一团,好象是要翻跟斗的样子。他的样子那样特别,使我当时都不能相信,刚才听到的声音是他灵魂脱壳时发出来的。我们弯身望着的那个人一言不发,动也不动。福尔摩斯把他抓住提了起来,一面惊恐地大叫了一声。他划燃了一根火柴,亮光照出了那死人紧攥在一起的手指,也照出了由他被打破的头颅骨里流出来的,慢慢扩大着的一滩可怕的血。火光还照清楚了另一件使我们痛心得几乎昏过去的事——正是亨利·巴斯克维尔爵士的尸体!

我们俩谁也不可能忘记那身特别的、发红色的、用苏格兰呢制成的衣服——就是第一天早晨在贝克街看到他穿的那一套。我们只清清楚楚地看了一眼,那根火柴闪了闪就灭了,就象是希望离开了我们的灵魂一样。福尔摩斯呻吟着,在黑暗中也能看得出他的脸色发白。

“这个畜生!畜生!”我紧握着双拳,喊着,“福尔摩斯,我永远也不能原谅自己,我竟离开了他的身旁,以致使他遭到了厄运。”

“我比你的罪过还要重,华生。为了从各方面作好破案前的准备工作,我竟然把我们的嘱托人的性命弃而不顾了。在我一生的事业之中,这是我所受到的最大的打击了。可是我怎么会知道——我怎么会知道——他竟不顾我的一切警告,单身冒着性命的危险,跑到沼地里来呢?”

“咱们听到了他的呼声——我的上帝啊,那阵叫唤呀!——可是竟救不了他!把他置之死地的那只猎狗在哪里呢?现在它可能正在乱石之间转来转去呢。还有斯台普吞呢,他在哪里呢?他一定得对这件事负责。”

“他当然要负责了。我保证要让他负责的。伯侄两人都已被杀死了——一个是看到了那只他认为是妖魔的畜生就被吓死了;另一个虽曾飞奔逃避也未能免于死亡。现在咱们得设法证明这人畜之间的关系了。如果不是咱们听到了那声音的话,甚至咱们都不会相信那畜生的存在,因为亨利爵士显然是摔跤跌死的。可是,老天在上,不管他多么狡猾,过不了明天,我就要抓住这家伙!”

我们痛心地站在这具血肉模糊的尸体两侧,我们长期的奔波劳碌,竟落得这样一个可怜的结果,这个突然而不可挽回的灾难,使我们心里感到异常沉重。后来,月亮升起之后,我们爬上了我们可怜的朋友摔倒的那块山岩的最高处,并由绝顶处向黑暗的沼地里逼视。黑暗中闪烁着银白色的光辉,几里开外的远处,在朝着格林盆的那个方向,有一点单独的黄色火光在闪亮着,只可能是来自斯台普吞家的那所孤独的房子。我一面向前看着,一面对着它狂怒地挥舞着拳头,并狠狠地咒骂了一句。

“咱们为什么不马上抓住他呢?”

“咱们破案的条件还没有成熟,那家伙细心狡猾到了极点;问题不在于我们已经掌握了多少情况,而在于我们能证明些什么。只要我们走错一步,那恶棍说不定就要从咱们的手里溜走了。”

“那么,咱们怎么办呢?”

“明天咱们有的是该做的事,今天晚上也就只能给可怜的朋友办办后事了。”

我们俩一同下了陡坡,向尸体走去,在反射着银光的石头上,那黑色的身体能看得很清楚;四肢扭曲的那种痛苦的样子使我感到心酸,泪水模糊了我的眼睛。

“咱们非得找人来帮忙不可了,福尔摩斯!咱们无法把他一直抬到庄园去……”我的话还没有说完就听见他大叫了一声,在尸体旁边弯下了身。我见状不禁喊道,“天哪,你疯了吗!”

福尔摩斯跳起舞来了,大笑着抓住我的手乱摇。难道这就是我那严肃而善于自持的朋友吗?这可真是闷住的火烧出来了啊!*

“胡子!胡子!这人有胡子!”

“有胡子?”

“这不是准男爵——这是——啊,这是我的邻居,那个逃犯!”

我赶快把死尸翻了过来,那撮滴嗒着血的胡须向着冰冷而清澈的月亮翘着。一看他那突出的前额和野兽般地深陷的眼睛就不会弄错,确实就是那天在烛光照耀之中从石头后面闪露在我眼前的那张面孔——逃犯塞尔丹的面孔。

我马上就都明白了,我记起了准男爵曾经告诉过我,他曾把他的旧衣服送给了白瑞摩。白瑞摩把这些衣服转送了出去,好帮助塞尔丹逃跑,靴子、衬衣、帽子——全都是亨利爵士的。这出悲剧演得是够惨的,可是根据国家的法律,这个人至少是死得不冤的。我把事情的来由告诉了福尔摩斯,我对上帝的感激和我内心的快乐使我的满腔热血都为之沸腾起来了。

“那么说,这身衣服就是那恶棍致死的原因了,”他说道,“问题很清楚,那只猎狗是先闻了亨利爵士穿用的东西之后,才被放出来进行追踪的——最可能的就是那只在旅馆里被偷去的高筒皮鞋——因此这个人才被穷追不舍,直到摔死为止。 可是有一点非常奇怪:塞尔丹在黑暗之中怎么会知道那狗跟在他身后的呢?”

“他听到的吧。”

“只是在沼地里听到一只猎狗的声音,决不会使象这个逃犯那样残酷的人恐怖到这样的地步,甚至冒着再度被捕的危险狂呼求救。根据他的喊声判断,在他知道了那狗在追他以后,他一定拚命地跑了很长的一段路。他是怎么知道的呢?”

“还有一件我尤其感到神秘的事,假设咱们的推断完全正确的话,那么这只狗为什么……”

“我什么也不想推测。”

“啊,那么为什么这只狗单单今晚被放出来呢?我想那只狗并不是永远放在沼地里随便跑的。除非有根据认为亨利爵士会到那里去,否则斯台普吞是不会把它放出去的。”

“在两种难题当中,我的困难是更加麻烦的一个,我认为,你那个疑问很快就可以得到解答了,可是我那问题则可能永远是个谜。眼前的问题是:这个可怜的坏蛋的尸体,咱们怎么办呢?咱们总不能把他放在这里喂狐狸和乌鸦啊!”

“我建议在咱们与警察取得联系之前,先把他放进一间小屋去。”

“对,我相信你和我可以抬得动他。啊,华生,这是怎么回事?正是他,真是大胆得出奇!你可不要说出一句显出怀疑的话来,一句也不要说,不然的话,我的全部计划就都要完蛋了。”

在沼地上,有一个人正向着我们走来,我看见有一点隐约的雪茄烟火。月光照在他的身上,我能看得出来那位生物学家的短小精悍的身材和那轻快得意的脚步。他一看见我们便停住了,然后又向前走了过来。

“啊,华生医生,不会是您吧,是吗?我再也想不到在这样的夜深时分会在沼地里看到您。噢,我的天,这是怎么回事?有人受伤了吗?不——不要告诉我说这就是咱们的朋友亨利爵士!”他慌忙地由我们的身旁走过去,在那死人的身旁弯下身去。我听到他猛然地倒吸了一口气,手指夹着的雪茄也掉了下来。

“谁,这是谁呀?”他口吃地说。

“是塞尔丹,由王子镇逃跑的那个人。”

斯台普吞转向我们,面色苍白,可是他以极大的努力克制住了惊慌和失望的表情。他两眼死盯着福尔摩斯和我。

“天哪!这是多么惊人的事啊!他是怎么死的?”

“看样子他好象是在这些岩石上摔断了脖子。当我们听到喊声的时候,我和我的朋友正在沼地里散步。”

“我也听到了喊声,因此我才跑了出来,我很替亨利爵士担心。”

“为什么单单替亨利爵士担心呢?”我忍不住地问了一句。

“因为我已经约他来了,可是他并没有来,我吃了一惊,因此当我听到沼地里的喊声的时候,我当然要为他的安全而大感惊慌了。”他的眼光再度从我的脸上忽地转向福尔摩斯,“除了那喊声之外,您还听到了什么声音没有?”

“没有。”福尔摩斯说,“您呢?”

“也没有。”

“那么,您这样问是什么意思呢?”

“啊,您总知道农民们所说的关于那只鬼怪似的狗和其他等等的故事吧,据说夜间在沼地里能够听得见。当时我正在想,今晚是否可能听得到这样的声音呢。”

“我们没有听到这一类的声音。”我说道。

“可是你们以为这个可怜的家伙是怎么死的呢?”

“我可以肯定,焦虑的心情和长期露宿在外的生活已经把他逼得发疯了。他一定曾经疯狂地在沼地里奔跑,而最终则在这里跌了一跤,把脖子摔断了。”

“看来这倒是个最合理的说法,”斯台普吞说道,他还叹了一口气。依我看,这是表示他已放了心了,“您认为怎么样,歇洛克·福尔摩斯先生?”

我的朋友欠身还了礼。

“您认人认得真快。”他说道。

“自从华生医生到来之后,这里的人就知道您也会来的。 您倒赶上了看这一出悲剧。”

“是的,确是如此,我确信我的朋友的解释是能够概括全部事实的。我明天就要带着一桩不快的回忆回到伦敦去了。”

“喔,您明天就回去吗?”

“我是这样打算的。”

“我希望您的这次来访,多少能把这些我们所大惑不解的事情搞出一些眉目来。”

福尔摩斯耸了耸肩。

“人并非总能根据自己的主观愿望得到成功的。负责调查工作的人需要的是事实而不是传说和谣言。这件案子办得并不使人满意。”

我的朋友以他那最坦白和最漫不经心的神态讲着。斯台普吞还是死盯着看他,然后他又向我转了过来。

“我本想建议把这可怜的家伙弄到我家里去,可是他一定会使我妹妹大感惊恐,因此我觉得还是不要这样做的好。我想若用什么东西把他的头部遮住是可以安全无事的,明天早晨再想办法吧。”

事情就这样安排好了。福尔摩斯和我谢绝了斯台普吞好意的约请,就向巴斯克维尔庄园走去了,剩下了生物学家独自走了回去。我们回头望望,看到那背影还在广阔的沼地上缓慢地向远方移动;在他的身后,白花花的山坡上有一个黑点,标明着得到如此可怕的结局的那个人躺着的地方。