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THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES ONLINE STUDY GUIDE
CHAPTER SIX: Baskerville Hall
Holmes and Watson arrive for the train on time, the latter armed with his revolver and a suspect list of about ten people. Sir Henry has not found his missing boot, but the unknown follower has also not turned up the past two days. Holmes warns the baronet never to go out alone and especially to avoid the moor at night. With this, the party sets off on the ride to the moor.
Though the young Baskerville
has never before seen the Hall, he is eager and Watson sees that the connection
between the man and his ancestors is quite great, as they get closer and closer
to the place. They also note the presence of an armed soldier, and the driver
of the wagonette in which they are now traveling explains that the Selden, the
Notting Hill murderer, has escaped and is believed to be hiding out nearby (see
Chapter Three notes).
Arrival at the Hall does little to lighten the mood. Intricate wrought iron gates guard the path up to the ivy-covered “heavy block of building”, framed by its two towers and, to the sides, by the more recently-constructed wings. Barrymore (who would quite fit the cabman’s description, except for being tall) and his wife greet them as they pull up, and after Dr. Mortimer departs for his home, they enter the Hall. Inside, the dim lighting, oak paneling, and decorations of stags’ heads and coats of arms maintain the feel of the ancient castle.
Adding further solemnity to the experience is Barrymore’s news that he and his wife wish to depart, though they will stay on until a larger staff (necessary to accommodate the young inheritor’s lifestyle) is acquired. Then the longtime servant shows Sir Henry and Watson to their rooms, whose modern appearance and lighter mood temporarily alleviate the general depressing atmosphere about the place.
However, after dinner in the gloomy dining room with pictures of the long line of Baskervilles looking on, Sir Henry and Watson decide to go to bed early and hope that things will be better in the light of the morning. Watson has trouble falling asleep though, and through the quiet, hears a woman crying somewhere in the house.
The description of the surroundings on the trip and at the Hall is central to setting the tone. First, there are the frequent interplays of light and dark: “[r]olling pasture lands...and old gabled houses peeped out from amid the thick green foliage, but...dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor [rose]” and, once inside the building: “light beat upon him [Sir Henry] where he stood, but long shadows trailed down the walls and hung like a black canopy above him.”
Secondly, there is the time of year-fall-which lends itself nicely to the melancholy mood. Perhaps the most poignant example of this is when the “[y]ellow leaves carpeted the lanes...drifts of rotting vegetation-sad gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir of the Baskervilles.” All these images are geared towards creating a feel of impeding doom and the end of a once great family.
Notice the near parallel construction between the title, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and the phrasing of “the boars’ heads of the Baskervilles”, which are on the pillars by the front gates. Hunting wild boar used to be a popular sport of the wealthy classes, and going after them on foot with hounds is a considerable adrenaline rush, given the boars’ ability to inflict pain. The connection in all this is that the home of the Baskervilles is guarded by boars’ heads, animals which are killed by men with hounds, as are certain of the Baskerville family members.