Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hound, Chapter Six: Hey, this isn't Hogwarts!

Well, I don't know what you did yesterday, but I went with Sir Henry Baskerville to the park.

Coming into chapter six of The Hound of the Baskervilles, we get to look back at a wonderful dichotomy of the previous afternoon's possible activities for the out-of-towner in London.

Our first choice, the path of Dr. Mortimer, is that of the scientific mind, the "pure amusement" of the happily married intellectual: an afternoon at the Museum of the College of Surgeons.

Our second choice, the path of the full-blooded young bachelor, Sir Henry Baskerville, is to wander the park and "look at the folk." Yes, I know, Sir Henry is a simple farmer in the big city, but c'mon! Just walking around the park looking at random men, women, and children? I think we can safely narrow "folk" down to one of those three . . . and in that category, we can limit it to a certain age range.

Yes, Sir Henry was at the park checking out the la-dies. While Dr. Mortimer was thinking with his brain, displaying the noble intellect given homo sapiens, Sir Henry was thinking with his  . . . eyes. Perhaps you're not male, or actually live in a major metropolis, but speaking as a country boy who has enjoyed many a trip to the big cities, the sites to see there are never just the architecture. Or should I say, the buildings.

In any case, like I said, dichotomy. Look it up. (I had to.)

But this fine Saturday, we find Mortimer and Baskerville bringing their balance of intellect and passion to Paddington Station to meet up with that other intellect/passion team, Holmes and Watson. There the latter's intellectual half will soon be replaced by a curly-haired spaniel.

Who's a good boy? Who's a good boy? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!

Sorry, the intelligence level of the dialogue just dropped as we crowd into the first class carriage headed for Devonshire. And even though one might wonder if we're going to get to see the Duchess of Devonshire, famed for her hats, my first thought in any first class carriage these days is: "Is this the Hogwarts express? Will the magic candy vendor be coming through?"

Spending a few hours on a train with good old Watson, a fine young Canadian fellow, a thoughtful country doctor, and a big ol' puppy dog . . . who's a big old puppy dog? Yes, you are . . . well, that's probably a lot better time than dealing with supernaturally-powered school children and their hazards in any case. More relaxing, anyway. It's just pleasant to sit back, close your eyes, and let yourself listen to the conversations.

Of course, eventually you have to open your eyes just to see the lovely and dreamy Devon scenery. Or else Sir Henry Baskerville, who Watson seems to like to look at. He'll later describe Sir Henry in the text with all the detail and considered eye that he usually reserves for the ladies. ". . . as I looked at his dark and expressive face I felt more than ever how true a descendant he was of that long line of high-blooded, fiery, and masterful men. There were pride, valour, and strength in his thick brows, his sensitive nostrils, and his large hazel eyes."

Why, my, my, Dr. Watson, you are surely about to give a poor girl the vapors with such talk! And they think slash fiction is something new.

Luckily, the train arrives at the lonely little station of our destination and we get a good look at the guy driving the wagonette to pick us up: a "hard-faced, gnarled little fellow" who is either here for us or Baron Frankenstein. His last name is Perkins, but you can call him Igor. It's probably not his name, but he'll be mad at you, not me.

The scenery is like something on the road to Castle Frankenstein, and here's the burgomeister to tell us about a monster, a "wild beast" of a man, loose on the moors. Okay, so he's not really a burgomeister, but he does have the uniform, and the scary guy on the moor is for real. Just like those two towers rising over the trees as "Igor" Perkins points and goes, "Baskerville Hall."

You just want to hear  the "KRAKKA-DOOOMMMM!" of thunder as the lighting flashes behind the ancient manor, but it's a pleasant enough evening, so no such luck. Barrymore the butler soon comes at us out of the shadows to grab open the door of the wagonette, which is creepy enough. No wonder Dr. Mortimer is anxious to ride off in the wagonette and make a quick getaway.

I'll let you take in the details of this five-hundred-year-old, dimly-lit hall with its spooky paintings and corpses of . . . make that copses of trees. Watson is quickly longing for torches to light the place up, which should tell you something right there. and this is where everybody gets to sleep tonight.

That is, if you can, with the deathly silence, broken only by Count Dracula climbing up the outer walls . . . well, maybe it is just rustling ivy . . . sorrowful sobs, and a distant chiming clock.

Baskerville Hall. It's a real party, isn't it? But like I said earlier, at least we don't have supernaturally-powered school kids to worry about. Count your blessings.

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