'These papers were given to me by Sir Charles Baskerville,'said Dr Mortimer.'He asked me to take good care of them.You may remember that Sir Charles died suddenly three months ago.His death caused much excite ment in Devonshire,the county where Baskerville Hall is.Sir Charles was a sensible man,but he believed the story which is told in these papers.'
Dr Mortimer went on:'The story is about the Baskerville family.I have come to see you because I need your help.I think that something terrible is going to happen in the next twenty four hours.But you can't help me unless you know the story in these papers.May I read them to you?'
'Please continue,Dr Mortimer,'said Holmes,and sat back in his chair with his eyes shut.
Mortimer began to read in his high,rather strange,voice:
I,William Baskerville,write this for my sons in the year 1742.My father told me about the Hound of the Baskervilles.He told me when it was first seen,and I be lieve his story was true.I want you,my sons,to read this story carefully.I want you to know that God punishes those who do evil.But never forget that He will forgive those who are sorry for any evil they have done.
Over a hundred years ago,in 1640,the head of the Baskerville family was Sir Hugo Baskerville.He was a wild and evil man.He was cruel and enjoyed hurting peo ple.Sir Hugo fell in love with the daughter of a farmer who was a neighbour of his.The young woman was afraid of the evil Hugo,and avoided him.One day,Hugo heard that her father and brothers were away.He knew that she would be alone.So he rode to the farm with five or six of his evil friends.They made the girl go back to Baskerville Hall with them,and locked her in a room upstairs.Then they sat down in the great dining hall to drink.As usual,they drank bottle after bottle and soon they began to sing and laugh and shout evil words.
The girl upstairs,who was already very frightened,felt desperate when she heard the terrible things they were shouting.So she did a very brave thing.She opened the window,climbed out of the room and down the ivy on the wall.Then she started to run across the moor towards her home.
A little while later,Hugo left his friends and went up stairs to the room to take her some food and drink.When he found an open window and an empty room,he behaved like a man who was mad.He ran down the stairs.He screamed that he would give himself to the Devil if he caught the girl before she reached home.Some of Hugo's drunken friends told him to let the hounds chase her,and so he ran from the house and unlocked the dogs.Then he jumped onto his black horse,and rode off over the moor with the hounds running and crying around him.
Hugo's friends fetched their horses and followed him.There were thirteen of them.After a mile or two they passed an old farmer and asked him if he had seen Sir Hugo and the hounds.The man looked half mad with fear and spoke with difficulty.He said that he had seen the girl and the hounds running close behind her.Sir Hugo had been riding just behind the hounds.'But I have seen more than that,'the old man said.'Behind Sir Hugo I saw a huge and terrible hound running silently.May God keep me safe from that hound of hell.'
The thirteen men laughed at the old man and rode on.But their laughter soon stopped when they saw Sir Hugo's horse running wildly towards them without a rider.
The thirteen men moved closer together as they rode on.They were suddenly afraid.Over the moor they went until,at last,they caught up with the hounds.
Everyone in the county knew that the Baskerville hounds were brave and strong.But now they were stand ing at the head of a deep valley in the moor with their ears and tails down.They were very frightened.Hugo's friends stopped.Most of them would not go on,but three were brave enough to go down into the valley.
The valley had a wide flat floor.In the middle of the flat ground stood two great stones.They had stood there for thousands of years.The moon was shining brightly on the great stones,and between them,on the flat ground,lay the girl.She had fallen there,dead of fear and exhaus tion.Sir Hugo's body was lying near her.But it was not the sight of Sir Hugo or the girl that filled the men with fear.It was the sight of the huge animal that was standing over Sir Hugo.Its teeth were at his throat.It was a great black creature that looked like a hound.But it was larger than any hound they had ever seen.
As they watched,it tore out Hugo Baskerville's throat.Then it turned towards them.Its eyes were burning brightly.Its body shone with a strange light.Blood ran from its mouth.The men screamed and kicked their horses.They rode back up the valley as fast as they could go.Later that night one died from the horror he had seen.The other two were mad for the rest of their lives.
That was the first time the Hound appeared,my sons.It has been seen many times since then,and many of the Baskervilles have died in strange and terrible ways.Be cause of this I warn you not to cross the moors at night.The Devil finds it easy to do his work when the world is dark.