Study Guide

The Hound of the Baskervilles Chapter 2

By Arthur Conan Doyle

Chapter 2

The Curse of the Baskervilles

  • Dr. Mortimer hands a manuscript to Holmes. 
  • It's old—it dates back to 1742, at least a hundred fifty years before the events of Hound of the Baskervilles.
  • Dr. Mortimer got the manuscript from his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville.
  • And even though the manuscript deals with an old family legend, Dr. Mortimer is here on very contemporary business.
  • The manuscript tells the story of Hugo Baskerville and the family curse

Why the Baskerville Family Is So Afraid of Dogs

  • This Hugo Baskerville, gets into some bad trouble around the time of the "Great Rebellion" (the English Civil War of 1642-1651).
  • He likes to drink, curse, and rough people up.
  • One night, he kidnaps a neighboring woman with five or six of his friends and locks her up in his mansion while he parties with his buddies.
  • She manages to climb down some ivy to escape his evil clutches. 
  • Hugo Baskerville swears that he will sell his soul for the power to catch her.
  • (Why do people in these stories never seem to learn that selling your soul is never a good idea?)
  • Hugo Baskerville then has the bright idea of riding out after her with his pack of hounds.
  • The drunken partygoers finally realize, hey, if Hugo Baskerville succeeds in catching her, something terrible is going to happen. Really?
  • So they ride out after Hugo Baskerville and his pack of hounds. 
  • They find his lifeless body on the ground near the girl's.
  • The girl has died of fear and exhaustion after running from Hugo Baskerville.
  • But Hugo Baskerville's death is much more gruesome: the former partygoers (now painfully sober) watch a huge, ghostly-looking black hound tear his throat out. 
  • Holmes doesn't think much of this whole story—it's just a fairy tale.
  • So Dr. Mortimer continues his story. 
  • Sir Charles Baskerville, the descendant of this nasty Hugo, has just died mysteriously.
  • He had heart trouble, so it's not impossible that he died of natural causes.
  • But his body was found lying at the end of his own driveway with such a grotesque expression that Dr. Mortimer had trouble recognizing him. 
  • Apparently, Sir Charles had become very afraid of this story of the black dog and Hugo Baskerville.
  • And here's the kicker: near Sir Charles' body, Dr. Mortimer found footprints—the footprints of a giant dog. (Dun dun dun.)

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