The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Chapter 11 : The Man on the Tor | Summary

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Summary

Watson visits Laura Lyons. She admits that she wrote the letter to Sir Charles. She claims that she asked for a clandestine meeting at night to ensure that she'd see Sir Charles before his departure. Although she needed Sir Charles's financial help with her divorce, she never went to Baskerville Hall because help came that very evening from another source.

Watson leaves Laura Lyons with the lingering feeling that she is holding something back. Headed for the stone huts on his hunt for the stranger, he runs into Frankland. Over a glass of wine at his house, Frankland boasts that he knows where the convict is hiding: he has spotted an errand boy through his telescope delivering food to the stone huts. Realizing that the boy is not delivering food to the convict but to the stranger, Watson takes his leave and follows the boy to a hut that, though deserted, shows signs of habitation. He enters, examines its interior, and finds a note saying that he, Watson, has gone to Coombe Tracey. Realizing that he is being watched, he decides to wait in a dark corner of the hut, his gun drawn.

After a short wait he hears footsteps approaching and a voice calling him by name.

Analysis

Watson returns to straightforward storytelling because the events he is about to recount have left an indelible mark and he can remember them vividly enough. And indeed the chapter is tremendously suspenseful right down to its cliffhanger ending, which speaks to the serialization of the novel in Strand magazine. While waiting for the next installment Victorian readers likely engaged in heated discussions as to the identity and purpose of the stranger who knows Watson by name.

Although the form of address, "my dear Watson," clearly points to none other than Sherlock Holmes, questions abound. What is Holmes doing there? Has Holmes found the mysterious stranger already and yet again beaten Watson to the punch? Is Holmes the mysterious stranger? If so why is he hiding? And if so how long has he been hiding? But most intriguingly, how does Holmes know that anyone, let alone Watson, is hiding in the stone hut?

But one thing is clear: Watson has been duped. Although he has found the mysterious stranger, ultimately the joke is on him. The arrogance with which he dismisses Frankland's assumption that he found the escaped convict when in fact he found the stranger, and the cunning tricks Watson employed to glean more information from the man, now come back to haunt him. It seems apparent that Watson has far more in common with Frankland than he does with Holmes.

Nonetheless, the chapter is testament to Watson's ultimate bravery. After all he does not shrink from the danger posed by the mysterious stranger, not even when it turns out that it is himself who is being watched. As the man of action Watson bravely confronts the person he assumes to be his nemesis.

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