The True Ending of The Hound of the Baskervilles – Page Four

            “That’s a good boy!” said Holmes as he reached them. He put his hand into his pocket and withdrew a dog biscuit. The hound gratefully gobbled it and the three more that Holmes offered him, then licked his hand. Holmes patted the animal on the head, and the hound lay down at his feet as Lestrade and I arrived on the scene, gasping for breath from our exertions.

Just then we heard a scream and a splash from the direction of the Grimpen Mire.

            “Ah,” said Holmes. “It sounds as though the villain has been hoist by his own petard.”

            “I say, Mr. Holmes,” protested Lestrade. “You’ve got to stop talking about people’s personal parts that way. Anyway, it sounded like somebody falling into a swamp, not being hoisted up by his--”

 “No, no, Lestrade. It’s an old saying. A petard is a case containing an explosive to break down a door or gate or breach a wall. To be hoist by one’s own petard means to be victimized or hurt by one’s own scheme, as if one were to set off his petard to break down a door or gate or breach a wall and was, instead, blown up by it himself.”

“I didn’t hear no explosion,” said Lestrade. “I heard a scream and a splash, like somebody falling into a swamp.”
            “Damn it, Lestrade!” shouted Holmes. “It’s a figure of speech! A metaphor! An analogy! An idiom! A proverb or something! What I mean is that Stapleton’s plot against Sir Henry has backfired and resulted in his own doom!”

“And how did he meet his doom?” asked Lestrade.

“By falling into the swamp,” replied Holmes.

“Well, that’s what I said in the first place,” said the Scotland Yard man triumphantly.

            Holmes just shook his head in disgust. Meanwhile, Sir Henry lay insensible where he had fallen. We tore away his collar, and Holmes breathed a prayer of gratitude when we saw that there was no sign that he had injured himself when he fainted. “Thank thee, O Lord, for not letting Sir Henry injure himself when he fainted. Amen,” said he, making the sign of the Cross as Lestrade and I stared in amazement. Already our friend’s eyelids shivered and he made a feeble effort to move.
            Lestrade thrust his brandy-flask between the baronet’s teeth, and two frightened eyes were looking up at us.

            “My God!” he whispered. “What is it? What, in heaven’s name, is it?”

            “It’s brandy,” said Lestrade. “I’m sorry it’s not the fine Napoleon brandy that your Lordship is accustomed to, but I’m just a poor policeman, and I can’t afford--”

“No, no!” said Sir Henry. “I mean, what is that beast?”


            “It’s harmless, whatever it is,” said Holmes. “We’ve laid the family ghost once and forever.”
In mere size and strength it was a terrible creature which was lying stretched before us. It was not a pure bloodhound and it was not a pure mastiff; but it appeared to be a combination of the two – I suppose you could call it a bloodstiff or a masthound. It was as large as a small lioness. Even now the huge jaws seemed to be dripping with a bluish flame and the small, deep-set eyes were ringed with fire. I placed my hand gingerly upon the glowing muzzle, afraid that the monstrous dog would bite my hand off; but he only licked me. As I held them up my own fingers smouldered and gleamed in the darkness.
“Phosphorus,” I said.
“Well, hardly,” corrected Holmes. “Phosphorus bursts into flame on contact with air; if the hound’s face had been painted with phosphorus, his whole head would have gone off like a Roman candle. No, it is some other phosphorescent mineral, such as calcite, fluorite, or willemite. A cunning preparation of it,” he continued, sniffing at the animal, who sniffed him in return. “There is no smell which might have interfered with his power of scent. We owe you a deep apology, Sir Henry, for having exposed you to this fright. I was prepared for a hound, but not for such a creature as this. And the fog gave us little time to receive him.”

 “You have saved my life.”

“Having first endangered it. The dog would not have harmed you, but you could have hit your head on a rock when you fainted. Are you strong enough to stand?”

“Give me another mouthful of that abominable brandy and I shall be ready for anything. Yuck! Now, if you will help me up. What do you propose to do with the dog?”

“Well, I would not be averse to taking him back to Baker Street, but I fear that Mrs. Hudson would object. Besides, a dog this size is not suited to life in a city flat; he needs room to run. I suggest, Sir Henry, that you adopt him and keep him at the Hall. He would make an admirable watchdog. And every Halloween you could put the glow-in-the dark paint on him, turn him loose on the moor, and scare the bejabbers out of your neighbors.”

“I believe you have a good idea there, Mr. Holmes. After all, he is the Hound of the Baskervilles!”

“Here,” said Holmes. “Feed him some of these biscuits, and he will be devoted to you forever.”

The baronet did as Holmes directed, and the hound rolled over on its back to have its belly rubbed.

“You see,” said Holmes, adopting his didactic manner, “there really are no bad dogs. Some breeds are more aggressive than others, but if a dog is vicious, it is because human beings have made him that way. This poor beast was no doubt confined, nearly starved, and probably given hot peppers when he was fed, all done purposely to make him vicious. And even so, he has remained gentle and has not actually harmed anyone.”

            “No?” I challenged. “What about Selden, the convict?”