The very opening of this chapter cracks me up. I even have "hee hee" written in the margin beside them because those first few lines never fail to make me giggle. Sherlock Holmes is showing off again, but Dr. Mortimer doesn't make any of the usual "how astounding!" or "you amaze me!" statements to show he's impressed. He's all matter-of-fact, just asking, "How can you say that, sir?" I like to imagine this amused Holmes a bit too.
Anyway, this chapter is mostly taken up with the reading of two documents, the legend of the Baskerville family curse and a newspaper account of Sir Charles Baskerville's recent death. It's an interesting way to present a case, isn't it? It's not Dr. Mortimer's case. He's not a Baskerville; he's presumably in no danger himself. But his friend has died, and he thinks something mysterious is going on, so he brings the problem to Sherlock Holmes.
It's not really a very usual case for Holmes. There's no evidence of murder. There's a lot of talk about supernatural things, and at the moment, I can't think of any other canon adventure that deals with anything remotely supernatural. Can you?
Anyway, this chapter ends with one of my favorite lines ever, and such a magnificent one for a final line, don't you think? "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!" (p. 587). We're out of legends and speculation, and into reality where animals leave footprints. And yet, something about that statement is chilling.
Possible Discussion Questions:
In the manuscript, Hugo Baskerville writes, "that which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed" (p. 583). Do you think that has some bearing on why the mystery genre has remained so popular for so long? Even on why Sherlock Holmes is such an enduring character?
(Stay tuned for my interview with my favorite living author! I should have it ready to post tomorrow...)