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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES - The Hound of the Baskervilles
CHAPTER THREE: The Problem
Holmes questions Dr. Mortimer in greater detail about the setting. The alley is eight feet wide with grass extending an additional six feet on either side. The footprints of the hound had been found on the path, not the grass, and on the same side as the moor, but had not approached the body. Dense yew hedge twelve feet high encloses the alley so that there are only three possible entrances to it, including from the house. There is a four foot high padlocked wicket-gate which leads to the moor and where Sir Charles had, from the evidence of the cigar ashes, stopped for 5 to 10 minutes. Also, at the end of the alley is a summerhouse. The body had been found about 50 yards from it.
Though Holmes is pleased
with Mortimer’s deduction from the ash, he is still slightly upset that he was
not called in earlier, despite the reasons. Holmes’s rational mind is further
irritated by the doctor’s apparent belief that the hound is supernatural, mentioning
sightings by others on the moor. However, Mortimer is only there for advice on
what to do with the heir Henry Baskerville, who has arrived in England from Canada
where he was farming.
It is not believed there are any other heirs; of the three brothers, Sir Charles died childless and one is the deceased father of Henry. The third, Rodger (who looked very similar to the legend’s Hugo), went to Central America, where he also died, supposedly childless.
Holmes tells Mortimer to return tomorrow morning at 10:00 with Henry Baskerville and he will advise on how they should proceed. After the visitor departs, Watson does as well, to give Holmes time to think over the case.
When Watson returns, having spent the day at his club, Holmes has filled the apartment with tobacco smoke from his clay pipe while he was looking over a large map of Devonshire. He says there are two questions to be answered-was there a crime committed, and, if so, what was it and how was it done? He has already come to the conclusion that Sir Charles was waiting for someone at the gate when he saw something so frightening across the moor that it drove him to run (hence the change in footprints) in panic away from the house until his heart gave out.
The “great convict prison of Princetown” which Holmes points out on the map is important to note. In Chapter Six: Baskerville Hall, the driver of the wagonette reports on the escape of a prisoner from there, who will later play a greater part in the story. The prison was originally built to keep French POWs, but it was later changed to serve this purpose of housing convicts.
Dr. Mortimer’s conviction that there could be forces beyond this world at work is set as a last resort to the practical Holmes and in the end is not the explanation for the mystery. However, the supernatural might not have seemed altogether out of the question to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; he is believed to have conducted séances with Houdini’s ghost.
The clay pipe is typical of Holmes, who is so often portrayed with it, that, along with the hat, has become the classic caricature of a detective. In other stories, Holmes also has a cocaine addiction, and Watson, acting years ahead of his time, opposes and eventually breaks Holmes of it.