Holmes, looking put-upon, rose and signaled me to follow him. We walked through the sleeping house to a lesser-used wing, where a portrait of a man with wild eyes and dressed in the clothes of the late 17th century stared over the empty hall.
"This is Sir Hugo Baskerville," he said, "the instigator of the curse. Does he not look familiar?"
I held the candle as close to the canvas as I dared. After a moment I recognized him. "Good God! It's Stapleton. An illegitimate descendant of this scoundrel?"
"It is my belief," Holmes replied around his pipe. "That he is a Baskerville and has designs on succession."
"Yes. The missing boot was to give the dog Sir Henry's scent, with the spider planted in the spare for good measure. He must have done something similar with Sir Charles, but he was perhaps fortunate in that he had a heart attack before the dog could savage him."
"Correct. His wife is also, I believe, his unwilling confederate."
"Wife? He only mentioned his sister. Well, we saw firsthand how good a liar he is." I smiled ruefully, though Holmes was still ill-tempered. "What a dark and sinister business this is, indeed!"
The following morning Sir Henry received a note inviting the three of us to supper at Merripit House, where the Stapletons lived. Holmes said that he would accept the invitation, though in his current frame of mind, I highly doubted that this would be a good idea. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, but as I was upstairs getting ready to go, I heard raised voices, and then the front door slammed. I stepped out into the hall to find the Barrymores hovering at the top of the stairs, apparently uncertain as to what to do.
"I'll handle this," I said, and descended the staircase.
Holmes was standing just out of view from the second floor, at the bottom of the stairs, arms folded.
"Care to explain what just happened?" I asked.
"I was deliberately rude to Sir Henry so that he would go onto the moors alone," he replied. "Give him two more minutes and then we shall follow him!"
"Holmes! You might have told me about this sooner." I was wearing the nicest dress I'd brought with me, certainly not meant for traipsing about the moors in the dark. "Make it three minutes."
I ran back up the stairs to my rooms, removed my earrings, wrapped up against the air, slipped into my more robust shoes, and picked up my Colt. As I rushed past the even more confused Barrymores I said, "Ready some bandages, just in case." This caused Barrymore to do a take and Mrs. Barrymore to bustle off and presumably do my bidding. Holmes was waiting at the door with that look on his face.
"We haven't a moment to lose," he said, throwing open the door, and as luck would have it, a gust of wind blew inside and extinguished the nearest lamp.
It was easy to follow Sir Henry through the moors. There was nothing to hide him, and with all people who leave in a temper, he never looked back. Suddenly there was that evil baying again, and he froze where he stood. After a moment he resumed walking, but more slowly, with more caution. We continued, too, but at a slightly reduced pace. The howling sounded again, and this time the huge dog appeared. Sir Henry took off at a run; he was a fast runner, but no match for an animal out to kill. It quickly caught up to him and seized his wrist.
Holmes and I fired our guns, and one of us hit it, for the beast howled, released Sir Henry, and fell back. We ran over, and I shot the dog again, killing it. Sir Henry was in shock, and bleeding profusely from the bite he had received. I made him a makeshift bandage out of his handkerchief.
"You have saved my life," he gasped.
"We have laid your family ghost to rest," Holmes said simply. "Are you fit to walk back to Baskerville Hall?"
"I think so," he said.
"Do you have your flask?" I asked Holmes.
He handed it to Sir Henry, who took a long swallow, then with slightly more assurance in his voice, said that he could make it back to Baskerville Hall. A man's scream tore the air, far in the distance.
"What was that?" Sir Henry asked, looking around for more hounds, perhaps.
"It came from the mire," Holmes said. "There is nothing we can do until the fog lifts. Now, Sherwood, we must get to Merripit House."
We walked quickly, and soon the house came into view. It was dark, and the door was unlocked. The downstairs was empty, but upstairs in a locked bedroom we found a woman tied up and gagged.
"Mrs. Stapleton?" I asked.
"Yes," she said weakly, rubbing her wrists where the ropes had cut into them.
She was a nice-looking woman with brown hair and blue eyes. I could see that her arms sported several more injuries besides what being tied up and gagged had done, and from the way she held herself, I knew that her ribs were paining her. Whatever sins she was guilty of, just being married to Stapleton had given her much, much more than she deserved.
"Where is Stapleton?" Holmes asked.
"There is an old tin mine on an island in the heart of the mire," she said, somewhat croakily. "Jack kept the dog there. That's where he would hide."
At the edge of the mire we found Sir Henry's missing boot; there was no sign of Stapleton except for his hat, which was soaked with the boggy water.
"The scream we heard was Stapleton, then," Holmes said. "He never reached his island of refuge."
"Better than he deserved," I replied, and he chose not to comment.
When we got back to Baskerville Hall, Mrs. Barrymore was still fussing over Sir Henry, who seemed to have made a rapid recovery. He took the news about all that had gone on with the sentiment that nothing surprised him anymore which I suppose was understandable; though I think one never runs out of the ability to be surprised.
Holmes announced that he had made arrangements for the two of us to return to London the following day. After he had gone upstairs Sir Henry approached me, looking almost shy.
"Would you consider staying here?" He asked.
I smiled. "Sir Henry, I'm flattered, and it's lovely of you to ask, but no. I like you very much, but I just can't see myself staying here forever."
He nodded, looking disappointed, but not necessarily surprised. "I thought as much, but I had nothing to lose by asking. You aren't like any other woman I've ever met."
"Thank you." I let my smile blossom into a grin. "Now sit down so I can kiss you goodbye."
Midmorning the following day Holmes and I departed. On the train ride back to London, he finally asked me the question that must have been gnawing at him since the previous night.
"What did Sir Henry want to speak to you about?"
"He asked me to stay," I replied.
"And?" His voice remained even, and his expression did not change, but I noticed that his grip on his pipe became much tighter.
"I told him that it was lovely of him to offer, but that I couldn't possibly accept. I'd have to be respectable."
He nodded and leaned back against his seat, grip on the pipe normal again. I leaned back against my seat as well, letting my head drop against his shoulder; I was genuinely tired and eventually fell asleep, waking up just before we reached the station.
A few days later we received a gift from Sir Henry. It was the portrait of Sir Hugo Baskerville that had proved Stapleton's guilt. There was a short note explaining the meaning of the present.
"I believe I have suffered enough at the memory of this rascal to have any want of his likeness," Sir Henry wrote. "Therefore I entrust him into your care, Mr. Holmes. Perhaps you will find more use for him than I have."
"And I shall," Holmes said, handing me the portrait. "You may choose where to put him."
I used the portrait to cover up the bullet holes in the wall from his target practice about a month before. Turning back around to Holmes, who was seated at the breakfast table, I said, "You knew I was going to put him there, didn't you?"
"Elementary, my dear Sherwood," he said, his eyes glinting. "Muffin?"