The Hound of the Baskervilles

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Sir Henry and Watson ask Mr. Barrymore about the crying. Barrymore claims that it was not his wife, but when Watson sees Mrs. Barrymore, he can’t help but think that she looks as though she’s been crying. This makes Watson very suspicious of Barrymore.
With Mortimer out of the running, Doyle needs to establish a new red herring. Although Mr. Barrymore has already been eliminated from suspicion, he begins to fill that role here.
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Barrymore has already been eliminated as a suspect, however, since Holmes determined through his telegram that Barrymore was not in London when Sir Henry arrived. Watson decides to check with the postmaster to make sure that the telegram was delivered directly to Barrymore as Holmes demanded.
It’s interesting that, even as far removed as Baskerville Hall is from the rest of the world, the telegraph lines still make their way there, sending their lightning quick messages to and from London with ease.
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Sure enough, at the post office Watson discovers that the telegram was delivered to Mrs. Barrymore, who claimed that her husband was upstairs at the time. Thus, Watson realizes, there is no way to be sure that Mr. Barrymore was at Baskerville Hall. He might, have been in London instead, trailing Sir Henry. Watson thinks the Barrymores might want to harm Sir Henry because the house will be left to their care if he dies. When Sir Henry asks Mr. Barrymore whether he was there when the telegram was received, Barrymore’s feelings are so hurt that Sir Henry donates his old wardrobe to the man to make up for it.
Interestingly, the first investigative action Watson undertakes on his own reopens a line of inquiry mistakenly  closed by Holmes himself. Holmes, of course, never mentions this, and Mr. Barrymore is ultimately found innocent of any wrongdoing. Still, it should be noted that Holmes was wrong to trust so completely in the postmaster’s adherence to his instructions. Such trust could have been disastrous.
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On his way back to Baskerville Hall from the post office, Watson meets Jack Stapleton. Stapleton knows a great deal about the case and about Holmes and Watson. Stapleton is very interested to learn what their thoughts are and what their next steps might be. He even offers help, which Watson politely declines. Stapleton insists, however, that Watson walk with him to the Stapleton house in order to meet Jack’s sister, Beryl.
The whole of the Baskerville mystery revolves around Stapleton, who shows himself to be very nearly the criminal mastermind that Holmes feared. Given that, it’s surprising that this interaction is the most time with Stapleton that Doyle gives his readers.
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As they walk, Stapleton points out some elements of the moor. The Grimpen Mire is a particularly swampy area of the moor that’s incredibly dangerous. He and Watson even see a wild pony drowning to death in the marshes there, and they hear the strange baying of a dog. Stapleton claims to be the only person on the moor capable of navigating the Grimpen Mire. He has learned this skill, he claims, because he’s a naturalist and the swampland is where all the best plants and insects are.
The death of the wild pony is heartbreaking and graphic. The animal, a symbol of freedom and beauty, is ensnared by a seemingly innocuous bit of ground. Through one small, unknowable misstep, the pony brings about its own death. If the moors were not a desolate and dangerous place already, Doyle ensures that they are now.
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Stapleton also points out some stone huts that he claims were once inhabited by Neolithic man. These huts still contain evidence of their ancient owners.
The Neolithic period began around 10,000 BCE and is believed to mark the beginning of farming by humans.
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As Watson and Jack approach the Stapleton home, Beryl Stapleton walks out to meet them. Jack is distracted by a butterfly and runs off to catch it. Beryl seizes this opportunity to talk to Watson alone. She hurriedly advises him to leave the moor at once, as he’s in great danger.
Part of what makes Stapleton’s artifice so effective and convincing is that he truly is a naturalist with vested interested in the moors—as well as a cold-blooded killer.
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When Jack returns, however, Beryl quickly stops this line of conversation. When she learns that the visitor is Dr. Watson and not Sir Henry Baskerville, she blushes and says that her previous speech was aimed at the wrong person. Later, after Watson leaves, Beryl catches up to him and begs him not to say anything to either Jack or Sir Henry about her warning. It was just an impulsive outburst.
Beryl’s willingness to put her life on the line to warn the man she thinks is Sir Henry emphasizes her strength and courage. Rescinding that warning, even though doing so might make her seem foolish, marks her as a shrewd woman.
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