Watson goes to Coombe Tracey as planned. He finds Laura Lyons to be a difficult witness to interview. She is reluctant to answer any of his questions regarding Sir Charles and responds sharply when she does. She agrees to cooperate only after Watson tells her that he’s trying to protect Sir Charles’ reputation.
It’s not surprising that Lyons is hard to talk to. She would have been used to a life of men talking down to her, or even expecting her to be sexually promiscuous with them.
At first, Lyons denies asking Sir Charles to meet her. However, when Watson reveals that he knows about the letter, she changes her story. At first she’s upset that Sir Charles didn’t burn the letter, but she calms down when Watson tells her that the older Baskerville attempted to.
Lyons tells Watson that she has lived her entire life in fear that her husband will come back and force her to live with him—something he could legally do. She wants to divorce her husband but doesn’t have the money necessary for the legal fees. She hoped that Sir Charles would be able to help her with these fees as he had helped her in the past.
Some legislation had been passed in the late 1800s that helped women divorce their husbands: but the procedure remained exceedingly rare. Women caught in unwanted marriages in previous literature almost always remained in them.
After writing the letter requesting the meeting, however, Lyons procured funding “from another source.” She never cancelled the meeting, however, and learned of Sir Charles’ death the next day in the newspapers.
Though entirely possible for large London publications, it would be very unlikely that Sir Charles’ death would have appeared in a small-town newspaper only hours after it happened.
On his way back to Baskerville Hall from Coombe Tracey, Watson considers all of the leads that have opened and shut in the case. He feels like the only mystery he has any hope of solving is the identity of the mystery man that he and Sir Henry saw on the moor while chasing Selden. Watson is certain this is the same man who followed Sir Henry in London. If he can catch him, he will have cracked the case wide open.
To Watson’s credit, he again avoids a supernatural explanation, though such an explanation would be easier given the mystery man’s ethereal appearance and quick disappearance. There is scarcely anything more gothic in literature than a mystery man cloaked in moonlight and serenaded by a baying hound.
As luck would have it, Watson is shortly thereafter waylaid by a chatty neighbor—Frankland—who reveals that he’s seen a boy delivering food into the moors. Frankland believes that this boy is aiding Selden; however, Watson knows this isn’t the case. With Frankland’s help, Watson is able to trace the boy’s path through the moor. It leads to the Neolithic huts. After some time, the man finally returns to the hut.