When you get Dr. Watson away from Sherlock Holmes for a while, as happens in The Hound of the Baskervilles, eventually, the real Watson starts coming out. Normally, in London, describing cases that he records as short stories, the good doctor remains in the background and doesn't tend to put too much of himself in the narrative. He describes things, sure, but he doesn't spend much time on his opinions . . . at least not as much as he does after weeks on the moor.
And I like opinionated this Dr. Watson we find here in chapter ten!
"A spectral hound . . . if I have one quality upon this earth, it is common sense, and nothing will persuade me to believe in such a thing."
"Holmes would not listen to such fancies, and I am his agent."
Of course, in most horror movies, the guy that starts going "This is a load of bull crap!" isn't someone you expect to be around for long. Especially if he decides to put on a raincoat and go out alone on a bleak and rainy day on the moor, to climb the black tor where he thought he saw someone. In any horror movie, of course, but this isn't a horror movie, this is the real world, right?
In the real world, you go for a walk through the rain on a dreary day, and if you're lucky, some neighbor you know will drive by and pick you up, and that's what happens to Watson. Yet, since there is still an element of horror to this case, and horror demands a sacrifice, we hear from Dr. Mortimer that his pet spaniel has gone missing. Sad, but better the dog than Watson, don't you think?
But enough spooky stories, let's be like Watson, use common sense, maybe play some cards with Dr. Mortimer or Sir Henry. Or get into the main past-time at Baskerville Hall: asking John Barrymore things!
It doesn't matter if you're in the study, the library, or the billiard-room, in this game of Clue there's always one guy you go to with your guesses, and that's Barrymore. Excuse me for a moment, but I'm reminded of a song, and I have horrible attention focusing skills :
"Barry-more, Barry-more, creeping through the night!"
"Barry-more, Barry-more, with his little light."
"He isn't that poor! He works for the rich!"
"Stupid . . . ."
Well, okay, then, back to the story. The convict, the girl with the crazy father and loser husband, the strange guy on the moor . . . if you want the local gossip on anyone, you go to Barrymore, who some think to be quite handsome despite the fact Sidney Paget later seemed to think that meant "Amish beard."
If I seem to be just blithering idiotically here, it very well could be because at this point during my fateful 1995 tour through this novel, I had lost all of the tour group but one by this time. And I was starting to see the hand of Moriarty in every corner of this countryside. Somebody we don't know has been contacted to smuggle an escaped convict off to South America, the sort of thing that takes organized crime. And that "James Mor . . . timer" seems a little too close to "James Mor . . . iarty," a man who was known to have at least one other brother named "James." By the time I made it through this chapter in '95, I was even starting to look at Watson funny.
This time, I'm going to try to keep it light. I think I'll go see if I can learn to play ecarte now.