Sherlock Holmes in pursuit
One hundred years ago, Sherlock Holmes solved his first mystery. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, modeled on a sharp Edinburgh surgeon, stalks the hound of the Baskervilles in this excerpt from the 1902 story. One of Sherlock Holmes's defects - if, indeed, one may call it a defect - was that he was exceedingly loath to communicate his full plans to any other person until the instant of their fulfilment. Partly it came no doubt from his own masterful nature, which loved to dominate and surprise those who were around him. Partly also from his professional caution, which urged him never to take any chances. The result, however, was very trying for those who were acting as his agents and assistants. I had often suffered under it, but never more so than during that long drive in the darkness. The great ordeal was in front of us; at last we were about to make our final effort, and yet Holmes had said nothing, and I could only surmise what his course of action would be. My nerves thrilled with anticipation when at last the cold wind upon our faces and the dark, void spaces on either side of the narrow road told me that we were back upon the moor once again. Every stride of the horses and every turn of the wheels was taking us nearer to our supreme adventure.
Our conversation was hampered by the presence of the driver of the hired wagonette, so that we were forced to talk of trivial matters when our nerves were tense with emotion and anticipation. It was a relief to me, after that unnatural restraint, when we at last passed Frankland's house and knew that we were drawing near to the Hall and to the scene of action. We did not drive up to the door but got down near the gate of the avenue. The wagonette was paid off and ordered to return to Coombe Tracey forthwith, while we started to walk to Merripit House.
``Are you armed, Lestrade?''
The little detective smiled.
``As long as I have my trousers I have a hip-pocket, and as long as I have my hip-pocket I have something in it.''
``Good! My friend and I are also ready for emergencies.''
``You're mighty close about this affair, Mr. Holmes. What's the game now?''
``A waiting game.''
``My word, it does not seem a very cheerful place,'' said the detective with a shiver, glancing round at the gloomy slopes of the hill and at a huge lake of fog which lay over the Grimpen Mire. ``I see the lights of a house ahead of us.''
``That is Merripit House and the end of our journey. I must request you to walk on tiptoe and not to talk above a whisper.''
We moved cautiously along the track as if we were bound for the house, but Holmes halted us when we were about two hundred yards from it.
``This will do,'' said he. ``These rocks upon the right make an admirable screen.''
``We are to wait here?''
``Yes, we shall make our little ambush here. Get into this hollow, Lestrade. You have been inside the house, have you not, Watson? Can you tell the position of the rooms?'' Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.