The Hound of the Baskervilles

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade make their way to just outside the Stapleton house, where Sir Henry is eating dinner as a guest. The three men hide just off the road. At 10:00 P.M., a fog forces the three men to move further from the house, and Holmes fears that if Sir Henry doesn’t leave soon, it may ruin everything and possibly endanger the young Baskerville’s life. 
Fogs, of course, are quite common in England. This one, however, is built in simply to heighten dramatic effect. If the three men cannot see what’s happening around them when Sir Henry leaves, they will be unable to protect him—with possibly fatal consequences.
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Soon, however, Sir Henry comes down the path. Holmes, Lestrade, and Watson let him pass without making their presence known. Moments later, the sound of running, padded feet is heard, and Holmes warns the men to be prepared: the hound is coming.
Just as Holmes had remarked to Mortimer at the beginning of the tale, the hound leaves far too many material traces (here, the sound of its feet hitting the ground) for it to be supernatural.
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The three men draw their guns but are shocked into inaction at the moment the hound arrives. It is an impressively large dog, with glowing eyes. It appears, even, to be breathing fire. It rushes past them and gains on Sir Henry.
The dog itself could weigh as much as two-hundred pounds—or possibly more. The largest English mastiff ever recorded weighed over three-hundred pounds and stood over seven-feet tall.
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Holmes is the first to react, running after the beast with a speed that Watson finds almost unbelievable. At the exact moment that the hound pounces on Sir Henry, Holmes shoots it dead. Sir Henry escapes unharmed, although quite scared.
Watson’s description of Holmes’ speed makes him appear nearly superhuman—but remember that Watson thinks most of what Holmes accomplishes is superhuman.
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Looking at the dog, Watson realizes that what appeared to be glowing eyes and a fire-breathing mouth were nothing more than an application of phosphorous paint. There is nothing unnatural about the dog; it’s just quite large.
Phosphorous has a supernatural quality all its own. Its name is Greek, but in Latin, it is lucifer, which means bringer of light. It’s called this because of the glow it creates when exposed to oxygen.
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Realizing that Jack Stapleton probably heard the shots and realized that his plot had been foiled, Holmes and company leave Sir Henry and double back to the Stapleton house. Jack is nowhere to be find, but they find Beryl Stapleton gagged and bound in a spare room filled with Jack’s rare insect collection. Beryl is unconscious and shows signs of having been beaten. Holmes is able to revive her, however. Her first instinct is to discover whether or not Sir Henry is safe. She is anxious to help Holmes find and arrest her husband.
Though it’s established that Stapleton was directly responsible for the death of Sir Charles, and has just now attempted to kill Sir Henry, it is Jack’s treatment of his wife that comes across as his most odious crime. This is only increased by the realization that Beryl likely endured such treatment from Jack on a regular basis, though, of course, the reader is never exposed to it.
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Beryl tells Holmes that there’s only one place that Jack might have fled to: the swampy Grimpen Mare. There is a kind of island in the middle of the swamp, she reveals, where Jack kept the awful hound. The fog, however, makes it impossible for the group to safely follow Jack that night, and they wait for Beryl to guide them the following morning.
Whereas Watson foolishly pursued Selden at great risk to himself and Sir Henry, Holmes’ calm rationality prevails here. He knows that, though Stapleton may get away, the group will surely fail if they try to follow him that night.
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On the way to Jack’s hideout the next day, Holmes discovers Sir Henry’s other missing boot. He realizes that Stapleton had stolen the boot in order to train the hound to recognize Sir Henry’s scent. This, however, is the only sign of Jack they encounter, and the three men come to accept that he must have died in the marshes as so many wild animals had before him.
Most of the chapters of the book end as cliffhangers. This one does, too—even though it concludes the primary plot of the book. It’s never ascertained that Jack is dead, and Holmes is certainly afraid of the types of crimes that Stapleton could commit if he’s not.
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