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BOOK SUMMARY AND NOTES - The Hound of the Baskervilles
CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Man on the Tor
Watson tells Sir Henry about the identity of L.L. as Mrs. Laura Lyons and invites him along to pay her a visit, but, in the interest of not intimidating her, they decide that after all it would be best if he went unaccompanied. The woman, whom Watson describes as a flawed beauty, is on her guard just the same when he arrives. It is only after repeated questions that leave her with little alternative to telling the truth, that she admits to writing the letter.
Sir Charles had already become familiar with her situation through the sympathetic
Stapleton and she believed that if she was able to talk to him directly, he would
help her in getting her freedom from her husband. The matter became more pressing
at the news of the baronet’s soon departure for London; hence, the late hour.
Mrs. Lyons is however quite insistent that she did not go to meet him at the appointed
time, claiming that she received the help she needed from someone else before
On his way back to the Hall, Watson is stopped by Frankland, who asks him to go inside and celebrate with him; he has just had two cases decided in his favor (notably, of contradictory interpretations of property rights). Watson accepts the invite, as a chance to send off the wagonette and driver, to carry out his investigations on the moor in secret.
Frankland unwittingly helps him further in this cause. By playing down his interest, Watson finds out from the old man that a boy carrying food goes to a place just beyond the Black Tor (a tor is defined as a “high, rocky hill”). They even see him doing so through the telescope. Frankland is incorrect in believing that the food is going to the convict, but regardless he will not report his discovery to the authorities, who he feels have not done enough to stop the protests in the streets against him.
After getting away from Frankland, Watson goes looking for the mysterious man’s hideout, finding it between the hills in an ancient house with its roof mostly intact. Watson tosses away his cigarette, takes hold of his revolver, and walks in. The man is not in but his belongings are there, including the package that the boy has just brought him. There is a note as well, briefly reporting on Watson’s activities for the day.
Watson waits in the ancient house for him to return. He hears steps, which stop for a moment, and then the figure of the man, a man Watson knows quite well, appears in the doorway.
The sympathies of readers are generally focused on Mrs. Lyons, as the victim of a marriage which has bound her to a man she hates. This view is difficult to challenge, since Mr. Lyons is absent from the story, but there is little reason not to accept it. British law would have favored the man and she would have had considerable difficulty in obtaining a divorce at the time. This is one example of how fiction and reality are intermingled within the work; reform of such laws was one of the many issues that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle advocated. The character of Mr. Frankland, with his extreme litigiousness, could also be a statement by the author about the system itself, which decided the cases with such obvious differing opinion.
Watson’s writings on how he will catch the man that so alluded Holmes in London is a nice twist in the story. In Chapter 5, the cabman tells the detective and assistant that the man said his name was Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Watson does not track down that man, but he does find the actual Holmes.