The True Ending of The Hound of the Baskervilles – Page Five
“The hound merely stimulated him to flee and fall from the precipice to his death,” replied Holmes. “Had Selden not fled in terror, the dog would no doubt have ended up licking his face, just as he did Sir Henry’s. But remember, Selden was a murderer, and so in bringing about his demise the dog has caused justice to be done, protected the public from further depredations, and saved the state the cost of his continued confinement had he been recaptured.”
Just then a voice came to us out of the fog-bank. “And besides that, I’m not even dead.” We wheeled around to face in the direction from which the voice had come, and out of the fog, to our amazement, stepped the escaped convict. Lestrade groped in his pocket for his pistol, pulled it out, dropped it on the ground, retrieved it, and pointed it at the man.
“I hereby place you under arrest in the name of the Crown, John Selden,” said he. “It is my solemn duty to warn you that anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence against you.”
“Yes, yes, I heard all of that the first time I was arrested,” said Selden. He held out his hand in front of him. “Go ahead and put the darbies on. It’s a fair cop.”
As Lestrade snapped the handcuffs into place, Holmes asked, “How is it that you are alive, when Watson and I saw you fall from the rock and Watson examined you and determined you to be dead?”
“Well, sir,” replied Selden, “I fear that you and the good doctor there were a trifle over-excited when you realized that it was not Sir Henry who had fallen but merely the so-called Notting Hill murderer, who was wearing his lordship’s clothing that had been given to me by his lordship’s servants, me poor sister and her husband. You gave me only a once-over and then dashed on back to the Hall, leaving what you took to be my dead body out there on the moor to rot or to be eaten by buzzards. But I was only pretending to be dead so that I could make my escape.”
“Hmm!” said Holmes. “An interesting ploy, to feign one’s death so that one’s enemies will leave one alone. I may use that myself someday, if, for example, Professor Moriarty and I should ever become locked in mortal combat on the edge of a precipice, and I should slip through his grasp and throw him over the edge, and some of his gang should be left at large intent on my death.”
“What on earth are you going on about, Holmes? And who is this Professor Mory Arnie, or whatever you called him?” I asked, since this case took place before “The Final Problem,” and I had never heard of Moriarty yet.
“Just thinking out loud, Watson,” said he. “But tell me, Selden, having gotten away clean, thanks to our cursory examination and the medical abilities of my friend Watson, here, who seems unable even to diagnose the difference between a dead person and a living one, why are you turning yourself in now?”
“It’s because I’m innocent, Mr. Holmes,” answered Selden. “You no doubt know that I was convicted of murdering my wife and her lover when I discovered them together. But I was framed, I was. They run off together and left evidence be’ind to make it look as if I’d done away with them. But I never did, I swear it.”
“Oh, right,” sneered Lestrade. “As though I ain’t ’eard that one two or three thousand times before.”
Holmes thought for a moment. “I would not be too sure, Lestrade,” he said, finally. “I read the newspaper reports of the case, and it is true that no bodies were ever found. The evidence against Selden here was entirely circumstantial. Selden, I believe you, and when we get back to London I am going to look into the matter and do everything in my power to clear you.”
“Oh, thank you, sir,” said Selden. “I just hope that they don’t hang me first, seeing as how I have now added jailbreaking to the crime of which I was falsely convicted.”
“Oh, bloody hell!” groaned Lestrade. “If Mr. Holmes is going to take on your case, then there is no doubt you will be cleared. I might just as well let you go now. And even the notoriously unfair British system of justice would not punish a man for escaping from confinement if he is innocent of the crime that put him there in the first place. I don’t think so, anyway.”
Just then a woman’s voice came out of the fog-bank. “You can save yourself the trouble of investigating the case, Mr. Holmes.” A woman and a man emerged from the mist.
Selden. “Is it really you?”
Holmes guffawed and elbowed Lestrade in the ribs.
“And then the stupid jury convicted you,” Violet Selden continued, “because it was, unfortunately for you, a jury of your peers. We now repent of our deeds. Our passion for each other has cooled, and we realize that our affair was wrong; of course, since this is the Victorian Era, nothing physical actually happened between us. We are prepared to accept whatever penalties the law provides for having staged our deaths. Then I will come back to you, if you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Edgar has already written to his wife, and she has consented to take him back.”
“Of course I
forgive you,” said John Selden, wiping away a tear of joy and embracing his
wife. “I’ll wait for you even if they give you fifty years and you’re old and
ugly when you come out.”
sure that they will let it drop quietly. Eh, Lestrade?”