Chapter X: Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson
This chapter is taken directly from Watson's diary, which he insists is the best way to tell this part of the story.
The first entry is dated October 16th, the day after Watson and Sir Henry pursued Selden on the moor. Owing to the ominous mood of his surroundings and the frightening sounds he had twice heard, Watson almost believed in the hound. Though the diary acknowledges that such a belief strains his rationality, he also admits the "facts" of the howling, and acknowledge the difficulties posed even if there were an actual hound (245). For instance, the hound would need to be fed.
Watson then considers the mystery of the bearded man in London, noting that he has seen no one resembling that figure out on the moor. He decided to concentrate on this problem, hoping it would open doors to some of the other mysteries.
That morning, Barrymore was upset that Watson and Sir Henry had attempted to capture Selden. He promised them that the convict would soon escape to South America, and cause no more trouble for them. They then agreed not to pursue Selden any further.
Grateful, Barrymore then revealed a secret about Sir Charles: he was planning to meet a woman in the yew alley on the night that he died. However, Barrymore knows only the woman's initials - L.L. - and that she had sent Sir Charles a letter from Coombe Tracey, the nearby town, on the day of his death. Mrs. Barrymore had found the remnants of this letter, half-burned in Sir Charles's study. Barrymore explained that he concealed this information for fear it would damage his master's reputation.
Watson then immediately wrote to Holmes with this new information, hoping that his friend would soon complete his other work in London and join them on the moor.
The next diary entry is dated the next day, October 17th. Watson traveled back to the spot from which he had seen the mysterious figure, but found nothing.
On his way back, Dr. Mortimer intercepted him. The man was driving a dog-cart and looking for his missing spaniel. Watson mentioned the initials L.L. to the doctor, who recognized them as belonging to Laura Lyons, the daughter of Frankland. She had married an artist who deserted her, and her father had practically disowned her. She now lived in Coombe Tracey. Though grateful, Watson did not explain the relevance of the initials.
Later that day, Barrymore told Watson that Selden had seemingly left the moor, and that the convict had also seen the mysterious figure. Selden believed the figure to be that of a gentleman who received his food from Coombe Tracey, and knew that the man was living in one of the old deserted houses on the moor.
Chapter XI: The Man on the Tor
This chapter returns to Watson's direct narration.
Watson and Sir Henry discuss the new information about Laura Lyons, and decide Watson should visit her alone, in hopes of obtaining more information that way.
In his visit, Watson notices her beauty right away. He first introduces himself as a friend of Frankland, but she quickly dismisses any interest in the man. Watson then admits he is inquiring about Sir Charles, and hoping to avoid a public scandal. Growing nervous then angry, she initially denies asking him to meet her but backtracks when Watson quotes the portion of the letter that Mrs. Barrymore had found. She swears that she never kept her appointment because of another circumstance she does not wish to discuss. When Watson threatens to involve the police, she confesses the contents of the letter: her husband was pressuring her to move back with him, and she was borrowing money from Sir Charles to ensure her freedom. She did not keep the appointment because she received the money from somewhere else.
Believing her story plausible, Watson resolves to investigate whether she had actually filed divorce proceedings. However, he remains troubled by her manner in telling the story: she had turned pale, and had to be coaxed into admitting most of the details.
Watson's next plan is to hunt for the mysterious figure he had seen on the Black Tor, believing this might be the bearded man from London. However, he does not know how to begin, since there are many old houses and transient residents out on the moor.
Good luck comes when he visits Old Frankland, who tells Watson about the several legal cases he is involved in. Watson pretends to be indifferent, knowing that any outward sign of interest will silence Frankland's gossip. Frankland eventually discusses the figure, believing it to be of the convict. Through his telescope, he has seen a child leaving food for the man. Watson uses the telescope to pinpoint the spot, and then swears he will keep Frankland's secret.
Watson then travels to the stone huts in that area, and recognizes signs of habitation near one of them. He carefully sneaks in, but finds only a sheet of paper in the hut, announcing his own visit to Coombe Tracey. Watson immediately realizes that he is the object of pursuit, rather than Sir Henry. With his gun ready, he resolves to wait for the man's return.
When he hears the man arrive, he cocks his pistol. However, the figure who enters the hut is none other than Sherlock Holmes himself.
The section begins with Watson's own doubts: he wants to believe himself a man of pure reason, but the facts simply do not suggest a rational explanation. He therefore considers the possibility of a supernatural hound, even though that offends his rationality. Watson's process here is one that Holmes (and Doyle) would likely applaud: the attempt to pursue a rational explanation even when our instincts drive us towards occult explanations. Deep down, we should continue to pursue scientific explanations, even when one is not immediately apparent. Ultimately, this process is what draws Holmes towards difficult cases rather than simple ones.
In attempting this process, Watson - rather than Holmes - becomes our detective. His process is quite commendable: instead of trying to solve the entire mystery at once, he focuses on a single thread, hoping that it might yield clues to keep the investigation alive. In trying to determine who the mystery man is, Watson ends up following a wandering path that does yield several clues, including: the details of L.L. and some evidence about the mysterious figure. What this process indicates is that an explanation of one aspect of reality may surprisingly help explain another. The implicit suggestion is that we turn to occult explanations because we are overwhelmed by too many questions at once, whereas we might discover more scientific rationales if we attempt to answer one question at a time.
During this investigation, Watson feels as though he is caught in a large "net" (267). This image is a symbol of the power yielded by those who have knowledge. This is a common theme throughout the novel: knowledge brings power. The detective almost necessarily starts behind the criminal (who has already perpetuated, planned and executed a crime before the detective is brought in). Hence, the chase is about gaining knowledge so as to limit the criminal of his singular power. This is another reason why one should pursue one detail at a time, rather than attempt to solve the mystery in one fell swoop. While the latter process obscures crucial clues, the former involves a process of collecting knowledge one step at a time.
Note an interesting bit of phrasing that develops this metaphor of the next. When Watson is approaching the huts where he believes the mysterious figure lives, he "walk[s] as warily as Stapleton would do when with poised net he drew near the settled butterfly" (266). The net here implies in the basic sense that Watson is approaching knowledge. However, it also foreshadows the fact that Stapleton is the one controlling the net, the one who knows more than anyone else. Because of this knowledge, he is manipulating events even as Watson and Holmes close the gap. Again, even with the villain, the novel suggests that man's ultimate power comes not from his strength but from his mind.
And of course, Watson gains a rather startling bit of information because of his investigation: the mystery figure is actually Sherlock Holmes himself! As the detective will explain in the following chapters, there is a perfectly logical reason for his subterfuge, but it raises a variety of questions that the reader himself can enjoy considering. Holmes is ahead of both Watson and us as readers, which poses us with the challenge of filling in the gaps.