Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baskervilles Read-Along: The Hound of the Baskervilles (ch. 14)

And suddenly, it's nearly over.  Quick housekeeping note before I start discussing the story:  along with a post on the last chapter in a day or two, I'll also post a link-up with some overall discussion questions you can use on your blog if you so choose.  Things to ponder or help you review it, etc.  And then you can link your post up and everyone can read each others' thoughts and respond to them.

Okay, so here at the very beginning of the chapter, Watson makes a rare criticism of Holmes.  He says that Holmes is "exceedingly loath to communicate his full plans to any other person until the instant of their fulfillment" (p. 681).  Watson thinks that's because Holmes likes to surprise people, and also that he doesn't like to take chances.  I'm not entirely sure.  I know that I myself am often very secretive about my plans until I know they work.  I don't like to appear foolish or disappoint other people.  I wonder if something similar might also be at work in Holmes' mind.

Anyway, onward and upward.  Holmes sets a trap for Stapleton and baits it with Sir Henry, which is a bit bold, isn't it?  Using your client as bait without his knowledge?  Of course, I can't think of any other way to get proof against Stapleton and end this intrigue once and for all, but still.  Wow.  It could all have gone so horribly wrong!  And even though Sir Henry survives, his nerves are still shattered.  Poor guy.  Watson says he and Dr. Mortimer have to travel around the whole world before Sir Henry returns to his normal self.  Poor guy.

Don't you just love the description of the hound itself?  "A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen.  Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame" (p. 684).  So scary!  Wow.  

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes seeing the hound emerge from the fog.

Once they've dispatched the hound, off they go to find Stapleton.  Check out how cool Holmes is when they're searching the house!  They find a locked bedroom, and "Holmes struck the door just over the lock with the flat of his foot and it flew open" (p. 685).  He kicked down the door, folks.  I don't know about you, but I have this major fondness for guys who can break down a door.  I'm going to pause here and savor that image for a minute.

Right.  So they free Mrs. Stapleton and discover that her husband has been beating her, which gives them one more reason to go after him, as if they needed another.  But they never do find him.  Sherlock Holmes doesn't get his man this time -- the Grimpen Mire gets him first.  Or does it?  That can be the Possible Discussion Question for today:  do you believe Stapleton did die in the mire, or do you think he might have gotten away?

Favorite Line:

Before us lay the dark bulk of the house, its serrated roof and bristling chimneys hard outlined against the silver-spangled sky (p. 683).


  1. I like to think that Stapleton got away, only to return and try to get his revenge on Holmes, a plan which fails!! But, I don't think that happens :(

    BTW, was Holmes scared of the hound?!? That makes him seem more human and believable than if he were not scared.

    1. It actually never occurred to me until this reading that you know, they never find his body. What if he escaped? I like to think it didn't happen, though.

      I think Holmes was scared of the hound. Watson says, "So paralyzed were we by the apparition that we allowed him to pass before we had recovered our nerve. Then Holmes and I both fired together..." If Holmes wasn't scared, but just startled, surely he would not have hesitated to fire right away. That's my take, anyway. Whether for a moment he wondered if this truly was a supernatural beast, or if he was just frightened by the sheer size of the beast, I don't know. But Watson says "we" had to recover "our nerve," not just him, and not just him and Lestrade. So that's my reading, anyway.

  2. I say Stapleton definitely died in the Mire, and justly so. It would definitely be poetic, because it's where he kept his "tools of evil". He is one of those characters that you feel zero remorse at their death.

    1. Yes, I like the poetic justice of him dying there. "Hoist with his own petard" and all that.

  3. Even though this must be the third time I've read the book I still found myself getting awfully tense when I read this chapter. I know that Holmes needed to catch Stapleton in the act but his plan was incredibly risky and dangerous and it could have so easily led to disaster. The hound even managed to get its mouth around Sir Henry's throat! Good grief, I'd need a long holiday after that! *shudders*

    I did giggle at one point in this chapter though, when ACD describes how Lestrade gives a yell of terror at the sight of the hound and falls face down onto the ground. Brilliant, Lestrade! I don't know what Holmes and Watson would have done without you! :D

    As for your question, I don't believe Stapleton died in that mire for a single second. I just... don't.

    1. It's sometimes struck me as odd that Watson is the one with the gambling problem, because Holmes is such a gambler himself sometimes, isn't he? "Oh, we'll just let the guy we're protecting get confronted by a vicious dog, it'll be fun." Dude!

      Um, yeah, Lestrade of the canon is not so much the wonderful Lestrade of Sherlock. Kinda wimpy, really.

      I heartily dislike the idea of Stapleton not dying in the swamp, but it's awfully convenient. Strains the old credulity, I'm afraid.


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