The Hound of the Baskervilles.
ANOTHER ADVENTURE OF
By Conan Doyle
The frontispiece to the third installment of The Hounds of the Baskervilles shows Watson, Mortimer, Baskerville and the driver, "a hard faced, gnarled little fellow," hurrying toward Baskerville Hall in a finely appointed coach. A road winds behind them over the Devonshire countryside, disappearing into the rolling hills from whence the travelers came. Sir Henry sits in the front and looks across the pointed whip of the driver to toward Baskerville Hall. In the back Mortimer and Watson look ahead at their charge, Sir Henry.
The coach is drawn by a pair of well appointed "cobs" and continues Paget's depiction's of the various modes of transport in this opening sequence. Other drawings depicted the classic horse drawn hansoms, and double deckers ubiquitous in Victorian Times. The transport to the hall featured a sleek rail road car, a sign of the changing of the times.
The wide range of the technology of transport makes a nice setting for a tale that requires a willing suspension of the disbelief of the reality of modernity in order to embrace the possibilities that the myths of the past have lived into the present.
The arrival at Baskerville Hall shows the contrasts as well. The light pours from the door to welcome the travelers, yet it is partially blocked by the grim figures of the Barrymores. Their shadows cut off a good deal of the light and mix into the shadow of Sir Henry who stands on the back of his heels in a spread stance at the uncertainty of the spoken. "Welcome, Sir Henry." Baskervilles exclamation that he would have " a row of electric lamps" up in six months is further proof of the need to use technology and rational thought to protect modern man from the darkness of the terrors of the past.
The gloom is intensified in the hall where dinner is served to Watson and Sir Henry. Only the white shirt fronts and pasty faces of Barrymore and these two break the darkness. On the far wall, nailed to dark paneling, are the crossed implements of war - on the adjoining wall are the portraits of the "dim line of ancestors" who wielded them. Both only suggested in the murkiness of the ink drawing of Sydney Paget. Phantasms of the past haunting the present owner in the shadows of his own mind.
And what of Holmes? He has disappeared in the second half of this installment, but not before being captured by Paget in two extraordinary situations.
The first comes when he recommends Watson to Sir Henry. "... There is no man better worth having at your side in a tight place. No one can say so more confidently than I." The surprise Watson feels is underplayed by Paget, who shows him leaning back cross legged while Holmes grasp his arms and leans earnestly forward toward Sir Henry.
It is Holmes place to be taken by "complete surprise" in the next frame when the cab man announces he had been ferrying "Sherlock Holmes" about all day. Homes sits back in his chair at the information, arm resting lightly on the table. But his face as drawn by Paget reflects Watson's statement that " Never have I seen my friend more completely taken aback." A down turned mouth and upraised eyebrows, and perhaps a clutch at the chair handle with the left hand, are all the emotional reactions that Holmes shows before bursting into a "hearty laugh."
Watson ends the chapter with a note on his troubled sleep caused by the "sob of a woman, the muffled, strangling gasp of one who is torn by uncontrollable sorrow." A fitting epitaph for an installment that Doyle and Paget have painted in hues fitting for the end of the beginning of the Hound's tale.