CHAPTER ONE: Mr. Sherlock Holmes
In the morning hours of a day in 1889, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson awake to discover that a visitor had been to their apartment the previous night but departed before seeing either man. However, he left behind a walking stick. The walking stick bears the inscription: "To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends ofthe C.C.H." This allows the two to begin making some deductions about his character and occupation using Holmes’s methods (basically picking out details of an object and making likely inferences from it).
Watson describes a likeable old country doctor who received the stick from a local hunt, a theory that Holmes has several objections to. He argues instead for the case of a young practitionerpresented with the stick when he left London’s Charing Cross Hospital (C.C.H.) to move to the country. Watson checks on some of the details and, with the appearance of the curly-haired spaniel whose teeth marks are imprinted on the cane, followed shortly by his owner, James Mortimer, the rest of the deductions are able to be investigated. As it turns out, Holmes is only slightly off, as Mortimer hadbeen given the cane when he was married (which the detective had not guessed), and that in turn had brought about the departure from the city.
Dr. Mortimer is tall, though his frame is hunched over. He wears glasses and appropriate dress, if somewhat shabby. Though a man with scientific leanings (an M.R.C.S. is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons), he is also vulnerable to superstitions. Headmits himself to be “an unpractical man” and so has come to get advice on his problem.
Though Holmes feels slightly offended at Mortimer’s ranking of him as secondary in “precisely scientific” matters to Monsieur Bertillon, he asks him to expand on the trouble that has brought him there.
Watson’s Medical Directory citation of the article “‘Some Freaks of Atavism’” is an earlyexample of foreshadowing. Atavism is the presence of a characteristic found in remote ancestors but absent in more recent generations (basically, the resurfacing of a long gone trait in an individual) and, as the reader will shortly find out, the Baskerville family is said to be under a deadly curse as a result of the actions of an ancestor, Hugo. Dr. Mortimer’s problem revolves around the question ofwhat to do when the Baskerville heir arrives, not knowing whether he will also be under danger.
The other expert that Dr. Mortimer mentions in competition with Holmes is Alphonse Bertillon. The Frenchman changed police work with his invention of the later-discredited system of anthropometry, or bertillonage, which identified criminals based primarily on physical measurements. He is also creditedwith bringing uniformity to taking mug shots and pictures of evidence, as well as advancing forensics, with creations such as the dynamometer (used to measure the strength of a break-in).
CHAPTER TWO: The Curse of the Baskervilles
Sir Charles Baskerville has died three months previous, leaving a manuscript with his friend and doctor, James Mortimer. Holmes dates it at 1730; its actual date is1742, and it was written down by a Hugo Baskerville (not the same one that committed the soon-to-be-discussed crime) from an oral family legend. He intends the paper to be a warning to those in the Baskerville line to watch their temperament and beware of the moor in the dark.
Mortimer reads it to Holmes and Watson, which tells of the fate of the wicked Hugo. When a yeoman’s daughter caught hiseye and she did her best to avoid him, he and his friends carried her off to a room high up in Baskerville Hall. While Hugo and others drank, the girl climbed down the ivy on the outside wall and began making her way home across the moor (a marshy wasteland). When it was discovered that she was missing, one of the guests suggested using the hounds on her, which Hugo quickly acted on.