Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Dr. Mortimer visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their rooms in Baker Street, he brings a centuries-old account of the death of the debauched and ruthless Sir Hugo Baskerville, allegedly killed by a diabolical hound. Dr. Mortimer’s friend and neighbor, Sir Charles Baskerville, recently died under circumstances that suggest that this ancient curse on the family persists. Mortimer is concerned for the safety of the Canadian heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, who is to arrive in London the next day en route to the Baskerville estate in Devon. Mortimer also describes the few neighbors on the moor, a group consisting of Mr. Stapleton, Miss Stapleton, Mr. Frankland, and Mr. Frankland’s daughter.
Arriving with Mortimer the next day, Sir Henry shows Holmes a note warning him to stay away from Baskerville Hall, and Holmes discovers evidence that his visitors were followed. Although Holmes is intrigued by the problem, he says that he has other obligations to honor first, so it is agreed that Watson will go to Baskerville Hall as companion, observer, and protector. From the Hall, Watson writes Holmes regularly and in detail about everything he learns and observes.
The moor, already forbidding at night, is now terrorized by Selden, the notorious murderer, who escaped from Princetown prison. Added to the presence of Selden and the possibility that the diabolical, night-stalking Hound of the Baskervilles has returned is the peculiar behavior of...
(The entire section is 713 words.)
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For many years, the region around the Baskerville estate was poor and backward, but when Sir Charles Baskerville returns to claim his estate, the region again begins to prosper. By devoting his vast fortune earned in business to better the community, Sir Charles fills the long-empty role of leadership that is the duty of the Baskervilles. But into this otherwise happy and orderly society comes disorder in the form of two utterly evil men. One is a convicted mass murderer escaped from prison, who lurks about on the moors; the other is Seldon, a clever criminal, who is insidious enough to corrupt the faithful Baskerville servants into the service of evil.
Even more unsettling is the terrible Hound of the Baskervilles. When the good Sir Charles Baskerville is murdered, an ancient curse on the family is revealed that now threatens Sir Henry, the new heir. For generations, the Baskerville family has been victimized by a giant, spectral hound that prowls the moors. The hound now seems to be loose again; it has claimed Sir Charles and appears ready to strike again. Is this a supernatural creature or merely part of someone's devious plot to supplant the rightful heirs of Baskerville Hall?
Sherlock Holmes is called upon to solve the mystery, and the intricate story builds to an extraordinary climax when the hound attacks: "Fire burst from its open mouth, its eye glowed with a smoldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in...
(The entire section is 256 words.)
Sherlock Holmes is sitting at the breakfast table one morning when Watson arrives and peruses a walking stick left by an unknown visitor to the Baker Street apartment the night before. Holmes invites his doctor friend to make his best guess about the mysterious visitor based on both the engraving and the stick itself; when he does, Holmes commends him and Watson is pleased with the praise for his deductions. Unfortunately, his conclusions were wrong; the praise was for inspiring Holmes to draw more accurate conclusions. The walking stick appears to belong to a young doctor who once worked in a London hospital and now practices medicine in a rural setting and owns a dog. A quick look at the Medical Directory shows Holmes to be correct, even down to the dog (a spaniel)—which Holmes sees as he rises and looks out the window. Holmes invites Watson to stay and expresses his anticipation of an adventure about to begin.
The visitor is Dr. Mortenson. Once he is settled, he presents his rather unusual problem. In his pocket he carries a document given to him by Sir Charles Baskerville, a friend who died three months ago. The letter, written in 1742, relates the story of a family curse placed on Hugo Baskerville, “a most wild, profane, and godless man.”
Hugo Baskerville is lord of a manor and has fallen in love with a young peasant woman who lives near his estate. On a night when he knows her father and brothers will be away, Hugo and five or six men kidnap her and hide her in an upstairs room. The frightened girl hears the drunken revelry downstairs and escapes down the ivied wall and strikes out on foot over the moors toward her home, which is three leagues distant. When Hugo discovers the girl has left, he returns to his men and unleashes his fury. One of the men suggests they release the hounds on her, and Hugo immediately acts on the idea. He orders a groom to saddle his horse and release the dogs; after giving them the girl’s kerchief, the hounds race in “full cry” over the moors by moonlight.
The entire thing happens so quickly that the drunken men do not at first respond to this dramatic event, but soon they grab pistols and flagons of wine and mount in pursuit. They pass a shepherd on the moors and ask if the maiden had passed by, but he is stuck dumb with fear and does not respond at first. When he finally speaks, he tells them he saw the maiden being chased by the dogs, but he also saw something...
(The entire section is 4586 words.)