The Hounds of the Baskervilles, right?
At least that’s what I think of every single time it’s foggy. But don’t go by me. Having never read a word of Sherlock Holmes, all I know of the sleuth and Conan Doyle’s stories, generally, are bits I’ve gleaned through… I’m not sure what means… eavesdropping? It’s how I learn most things. And somewhere along the line the Baskervilles and fog got united in my mind.
This may be a sad admission but it’s a happy day for today I am reading my first Sherlockian tale and the reason is, yes, fog, which, for years I’ve referred to as being Hounds of the Baskerville weather without knowing what I’m talking about. So this foggy morning when, once again I said: Whoa, it’s all Hounds of the Baskervilles out there… I decided it was time to find out if indeed there is in fact any fog at all among these mythic puppies.
Though never cracked open, I have a The Complete Sherlock Holmes in two volumes and—on cracking it open today—the first thing I learn is that the story in question is not a story. It’s a book. News to me. There are fifteen chapters. Of which I have so far read four. I will read the rest over the weekend and report accordingly. I do this sort of thing rarely, report a reading in real time… the last being from a garret.
Right then. Off we go.
[By the way, the first thing I learn is that it’s Hound not Hounds as I’ve been saying for eons like a great pillock. Although in the context of weather, I still prefer the plural.]
Hound begins, as most doggish things do, with a stick. In this case a walking stick. And because this is a mystery, there are questions about said stick. Watson makes a few good guesses but Sherlock pooh-poohs them for reasons he makes obvious. Watson, the ideal straight man, likes to flatter Sherlock, which begs the question: does he do this because he [being DR. Watson to Sherlock’s MR. status] is privately convinced he’s the smarter of the two, or is he just a merry old soul who doesn’t like to keep score? I’m hoping it’s a combination of both.
“Some people, without possessing genius, have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”
This is Sherlock to Watson. I submit it as Exhibit ‘A’ in my case that Watson is indeed a pretty decent pal to take stuff like that on the chin.
The owner of the stick, Mortimer, has a problem. He’s to pick up Henry Baskerville, last of the [seemingly] doomed Baskervilles, and doesn’t know how to tell him the grounds of the swanky family home he’s inherited are possibly under siege by a giant black dog that renders those who see it catatonic. And then it tears your throat out. [The stick, it is worth mentioning I think, has tooth marks along its middle, as if carried by some sort of pup. Sherlock feels it’s larger than a terrier but smaller than a mastiff.]
Once again, Sherlock is flattered. This time by Mortimer who says: “It is not my intention to be fulsome but I admit that I covet your skull.”
Which goes to show how our conversational skills have changed and, I daresay, declined in the last century or so… Go ahead and covet a stranger’s skull today and see where it gets you.
Another line that wouldn’t make you super popular today:
“I observe from your forefinger that you make your own cigarettes.” [Sherlock to Mortimer]
Later, once Sherlock has agreed to help Mortimer with the Baskerville problem but not yet sure how… and Mortimer has set off to pick up the clueless heir… Sherlock settles down to work out the situation, but first shuts the window to create a “concentration of atmosphere” which he believes “helps a concentration of thought”.
So that’s his secret. I always keep my windows open.