Did He who made the lamb make thee?-William Blake, The Tiger
He Who Made the Lamb
My friends are better men than I. I ought to have said that before.
Take John Watson. He has seen a vision of Hell, yet there he is in the next room, his thoughts only on morphine, carbolic acid and sutures. See the neat, quick hands, steady as granite, as with surgeon's knots he binds the wound that might have killed.
Now see Sir Henry Baskerville. I don't yet call him friend, but Watson does, and that is recommendation enough for anyone. A month ago, he had a farm on the Canadian prairie. Tonight, he is heir to a hideous curse, and he has killed a monster. Yet there he sits opposite me at the hearth, drinking coffee, his clothes torn and flecked with that indescribable creature's blood.
All the bullets in the chambers of three revolvers did nothing. We might as well have barred the beast's way with peashooters.
It was beautiful—the unearthly black-flame-colored creature streaking from the crawling bank of fog. A tiger is beautiful in the same way, as Blake knew when he wrote of fearful symmetry.
I must call it a beast, although it can have been no creation of nature. The natural world has laws, yet this was in violation of every one of them. There cannot exist an animal with the shape of a wolf, the size of a tiger, and the speed of a cheetah. It is impossible that its very color, midnight aflame, can register upon the human eye. Yet I saw it. I could not keep my eyes off it, the gorgeous, the terrible, the perfect and deadly beast.
We stood in the moonlight, I transfixed, Watson scowling at his inexplicably useless Webley, as outraged by its failure as if it were a trusted friend who had let him down. Sir Henry, far past us on the path, turned and shouted a warning, then ran at the thing, as if it were a stray dog that a man could shoo away. His was the first of the brave and reckless acts I saw this night.
I have accused Lestrade of lacking imagination. Tonight, his mental blindness was the saving of him.
I saw a paradox. Watson saw an animal impossibly unharmed by cold steel. Lestrade saw a vicious dog at large. He had learned, in the years of walking a beat, that such public menaces are to be dispatched by a smart rap on the head with a truncheon. When he knows what to do, he does it quickly and well. As the living nightmare leaped upon Sir Henry, throwing him to the ground, Lestrade jumped on its back and brought the butt of his pistol down on its skull.
I remember a shriek of pain and outrage, although I could not have said from whose throat it was torn. I remember a confusion of snarls and oaths, punches and kicks, as Watson and I fell upon the thing with the madness of desperation.
It was Sir Henry who delivered us all. In his pocket he carried a clasp knife. When slashing and stabbing the creature had as little affect as the bullets, he fixed the small knife's point over the beast's heart with one hand and hammered it home with the other. With blade and hilt buried in its chest, the beast gave a blood-chilling howl, stumbled, and fell dead, its heart pierced.
Lestrade sat up, brushing mud from his coat. "I don't mind telling you, that's the biggest bloody cur I've ever seen. Lucky thing it didn't take my hand off." The bluster didn't fool me; he understood that he had nearly died, and might yet.
Watson took a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it to our friend's bleeding hand. "Back to Baskerville Hall for you. That needs stitches."
They went away down the moonlit path, their minds safely occupied with the immediate and practicable—missing hat, torn flesh, want of a cigarette. My friends are wiser and saner men than I.
"What was it?" Sir Henry whispered. "What, in Heaven's name, was it?"
No longer a thing of fluid beauty, the great beast lay at our feet, as pathetic in death as any ordinary creature.
"It's dead, whatever it is," was my insufficient answer.
Now we sit at his hearth.
"I don't believe it, but I saw it," he says.
The remark might have come from my own lips. I can add nothing.
"It wasn't the knife that killed that thing. It was the handle. Silver inlay, you see."
I don't want to hear.
"I thought it was a tall tale; you can understand that, surely, Mr. Holmes?" Sir Henry's laugh is too loud in the clock-ticking peace of his house. "There was an old French-Canadian back home, a trapper, spent most of his life in the woods. He told me about a monster—I don't know the English word; a thing that's both human and wolf. He called it a loup-garou."
I know the word. The old trapper called it a werewolf.
I know also the fate of one bitten by a werewolf.
I think I should be afraid.
Yes, I said this is complete, but I rarely end up meaning that. I'm open to suggestions about where, if anyplace, this should go.