Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chapter Six - 'Cloudy with a chance of murder' - going it alone

Having had my ticket refunded by 'Snarky Tours',

I find myself making my way to Paddingtion Station from Baker St., a distance of just over a mile and a half.
Having abandoned the tour, I found I could have a first class carriage to myself, gladly not having to share with snarky groupies.
A nice peaceful ride of just under two hundred miles to a little way- station just outside Princeton, which, if you remember, is fourteen miles away from Baskerville Hall.

And so the tale starts.

Chapter Six could arguably place very high on any top ten list of most atmospherically descriptive chapters or sections in the Canon. Not a chapter to read alone by a fireplace with a glass of wine (OK, depends how much wine you have). If the legend of the hound hasn't already put us in a Gothic horror story mood, then the ride from Paddingtion Station to Baskerville Hall surely must.

And it starts within a few paragraphs of the opening of the chapter.

Before the train even leaves the station, Holmes has posted two warnings to our travelers.
First to Watson, asking if he is carrying arms, encouraging him to keep them near at hand.
Second (the often quoted) warning goes to Sir Henry suggesting he not go out on the moor alone especially 'in those hours of darkness when the powers of evil are exalted." (See, I told you it is quoted a lot.)

If we were filming most of the rest of this chapter, we would start with bright comforting colors, our camera angle set to represent confidence and adventure. 
As the train gets nearer it's destination and our travels take us to the hall, our colors would shift to a more sober mood, our camera angle changing to represent environmental closeness and forebode.

What better mode of transportation for a Sherlock Holmes story to make this transition on, if the journey is to far for a hansom cab, than by train. If you are not going to have hansom's, you have to have trains!
If you type into google 'Sidney Pagets Sherlock Holmes' you come up with this image within the first couple of hits. . . ,

. .  and although this is from SILV, who would not agree that trains are as iconic to the Holmes image as are his pipe, the hansom cab, 221b and Watson. (I am sure you have others you would add to this list).

And at least for a little while we get to enjoy this ride in the comfort of a first class car, just for a little while forgetting the legend and the adventure that may lay ahead.

Although Sir Henry is happily greeted by porter and station master the gloom quickly deepens as we notice armed policemen and that, as Watson states, "behind the peaceful and sunlit countryside, there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor,. . ."
Watson even finds a way to make the autumn leaves, normally considered a colorful end to summer, seem like a ground covering of despair and gloom, ". . . sad gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir. . ."
Wow! talk about sucking the life out of a pleasant train ride. 
Not only is nature not cooperating in setting a pleasant mood, be we soon learn a murderer is on the loss, and it's not Hugh Grant of Notting Hill fame, but Selden of the Notting Hill murders. Dark mounted figures silhouetted against the evening sky searching for the killer.

We can't even see the hall yet and I am ready to go back to my first class compartment and head back to London.

One of my minds favorite images, not quite yet captured the way I see it by canvas or film, is of the little wagonette coming over that slight rise and looking down into 'that cuplike depression' and seeing Baskerville Hall for the first time. 
If someone finds a painting or photo that really depicts this scene, please send me a link. Let the director of 'War Horse' please recreate it!

Although Sidney Paget captures several images of the wagonette, he did not attempt to capture this first sighting with the hall below the rise. (One of my favorite things in the Canon is looking up the many different types or modes of transportation both Holmes and Watson use.)

And as our party arrives at the hall the mood gets no better at the sight of the old black granite monolith, nor does it improve as we sup in the dark building. Even the remains of the old lodge house are described as a skeleton against the evening sky, "The lodge was a ruin of black granite and bared ribs of rafters,. . . .". 

Following is a list of words or phrases Watson uses to set the mood of this chapter. If I repeat any, it is because Watson used them more than once.

Gray melancholy
Strange, jagged summit
Dim and vague
Strange spot
Dark, expressive
Forbidding moor
Hard faced
jagged, sinister
rotting vegetation
sad gifts
Dark and stern
mottled, gnarled
cold wind 
lurking, rustle
grim, barren, waste
bleaker, wilder, stunted
twisted, fury, shadow, gloom
bared rib
somber tunnel
shuddered, dull, heavy, clanged, heavily
smoke darkened, black clothed
daunted, moaned, weary, deathly, strangling gasp

Most of these words and phrases start coming pretty quickly the further we get away from Paddington Station.

It's not a long chapter, but that sure is a lot of bleak description in one chapter.

I think the mood has been set. If something bad doesn't happen now, we will surely be disappointed.

Several years ago our scion made the pilgrimage to Dartmoor to experience the setting ourselves.
It is well worth the trip. We saw the tors, the stone circles. Had great scones in a wonderful tea room.
Pints in Moretonhampstead (which is notable for having the longest one-word  name of any place in England) at the White Hart Hotel.

And since we are on Hound, and we have added thoughts about the Brett series, next time you watch it, count how many times Watson checks his gun.

Well time to shudder the windows and hope the next part of our trip is a little less ____( pick word from above list)_____.


  1. I am enjoying your parallel tour immensely, John. One thing; while it's not Hugh Grant, it's also not Jim Parsons--Selden the Notting Hill murderer, not Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, although I think that would work too in an alternate casting choice universe. It's this chapter that cements the Gothic horror of the novel, while most cinematic adaptations have to use the Baskerville legend scene from Chapter 2.

    1. Thanks for catching that. Correction made.