Free Classic E-Book 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'
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The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the four crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson investigate the case. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his intended death in "The Final Problem", and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character's eventual revival.
Sir Charles Baskerville, baronet, is found dead on the grounds of his country house, Baskerville Hall. The cause is ascribed to a heart attack. Fearing for the safety of Sir Charles's nephew and the only known heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, coming from Toronto, Canada to claim his inheritance, Dr James Mortimer travels to London and asks Sherlock Holmes for help.
Mortimer explains that the Baskerville family is afflicted by a curse. According to an old account, said to have been written in 1742 and describing events which had occurred a century earlier still, during the English Civil War, Hugo Baskerville was infatuated with a farmer's daughter. He kidnapped her and imprisoned her in his bedroom. She escaped and the furious Baskerville offered his soul to the devil if he could recapture her. Aided by friends, he pursued the girl onto the desolate moor. Baskerville and his victim were found dead. She had died from fright, but a giant spectral hound stood guard over Baskerville's body. The hound tore out Baskerville's throat, then vanished into the night.
Sir Charles Baskerville had become fearful of the legendary curse and its hellhound. Mortimer decided that Sir Charles had been waiting for someone when he died. His face was contorted in a ghastly expression, while his footprints suggested that he was running away from something. The elderly man's heart wasn't strong, and he had planned to go to London the very next day. Mortimer says he had seen the footprints of a "gigantic hound" near Sir Charles's body, though nothing was revealed at the inquest.
Intrigued by the case, Holmes met Sir Henry, newly arrived from Canada. Sir Henry is puzzled by an anonymous note delivered to his London hotel room, warning him to avoid the Devonshire moors. Holmes says that the note had been composed largely of words cut from The Times, probably in a hotel, judging by other clues. The fact that the words were cut with nail scissors suggested a woman author, as did a remnant whiff of perfume. Holmes keeps this last detail to himself. When Holmes and Watson later join Sir Henry at his hotel, they learn one of the baronet's new boots has gone missing. No good explanation can be found for the loss.
Holmes asks if there were any other living relatives besides Sir Henry. Mortimer tells him that Charles had two brothers. Sir Henry is the sole child of one brother, Simon who settled in Canada and raised his son there. The other brother, Rodger, was known to be the black sheep of the family, and is noted for having resembled a family portrait of Hugo. A wastrel and inveterate gambler, he fled to South America to avoid creditors. He is believed to have died there alone.