How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.
Watson marvels at Holmes’s abilities after Holmes notes that Watson was observing a walking stick. As Watson’s back was turned to Holmes, he can’t figure out how Holmes could tell what he was doing. In reality, readers know that Holmes saw Watson’s reflection in a mirror. Throughout the story, Watson’s overly credulous opinion of Holmes serves as one way he boosts Holmes’s ego.
I was proud, too, to think that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in a way which earned his approval.
Watson admits that he wants Holmes’s approval, giving the reader an early window into their relationship dynamic. Watson clearly considers Holmes his superior and likely doesn’t harbor any hopes of surpassing him. Yet, as made clear here, Watson hopes at the very least he can master Holmes’s system of thinking.
The promise of adventure had always a fascination for me, and I was complimented by the words of Holmes and by the eagerness with which the baronet hailed me as a companion.
Here, Watson responds when Holmes suggests Watson go to the moor to investigate the case without him. Although excited to take on the task, Watson clearly feels slightly nervous but reassures himself, encouraged by Holmes’s trust in him and Sir Henry Baskerville’s social stature. Watson seems to be easily led by Holmes out of a need for Holmes’s approval.
I prayed, as I walked back along the grey, lonely road, that my friend might soon be freed from his preoccupations and able to come down to take this heavy burden of responsibility from my shoulders.
Here, Watson admits that the case has begun to weigh on his mind and he could use some support from Holmes. Many strange occurrences in the Baskerville Manor raise more questions than answers. Watson begins to doubt his capabilities and wishes Holmes would come to the moor to join him in the case, which demonstrates their codependence.
I do not trouble you with my theories, for you asked me to furnish you only with facts.
In his first report to Holmes, Watson writes that he is only furnishing Holmes “with facts,” not his own theories. Watson’s reluctance to speculate allows readers to arrive at their own conclusions before Holmes appears on the case, but Watson’s following Holmes’s orders also reveals the subservient dynamic Watson shares with Holmes.
Things have taken a turn which I could not have anticipated. In some ways they have within the last forty-eight hours become much clearer and in some ways they have become more complicated. But I will tell you all, and you shall judge for yourself.
Again, Watson reserves judgment on the case in his written report to Holmes. Watson’s letter operates as a plot tactic on Conan Doyle’s part, but the report also allows us to see into Watson’s confidence in his own abilities and his deference to Holmes. As seen in the beginning of the novella, Holmes likes to flout his intelligence over Watson and takes offense when anyone fails to recognize his superiority. Watson clearly understands this dynamic and does his best to not challenge the status quo.
I imagined what my feelings would be if I had to return to you and to confess that some misfortune had occurred through my disregard for your instructions.
Watson writes to Holmes that he feels afraid to think about what would happen if he left Sir Henry Baskerville unaccompanied on the moor, as Baskerville requested. Watson’s comment seems innocuous, since anyone would feel guilty if Baskerville were harmed, but readers may wonder if Watson also fears upsetting Holmes and damaging Holmes’s opinion of him.
Do not think it was a delusion, Holmes. I assure you that I have never in my life seen anything more clearly.
Watson tries to defend his vision to Holmes in his second report. Watson sees the figure of a man on the tor at night, standing above him. Given the nature of the case and the mysterious environment, Watson feels he must circumvent Holmes’s suspicions that Watson could just be seeing things that are not really there. Holmes’s critical nature exists as an ever-looming presence in Watson’s thoughts.
Much of what I tell you is no doubt quite irrelevant, but I still feel that it is best that I should let you have all the facts and leave you to select for yourself those which will be of most service to you in helping you to your conclusions.
Again, Watson defers to Holmes in his written reports, being careful to only supply Holmes with facts. Soon after he writes this report, however, Watson abandons this method because the case has become too complex and emotionally overwhelming for him. Watson begins to trust his own recollections more and uses his diary instead to record the next developments in the case.
“Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!” I cried, with some bitterness. “I think that I have deserved better at your hands, Holmes.”
After Watson finds out that Holmes has secretly been staying on the moor, Watson feels absolutely crestfallen to think that Holmes has been tricking him the entire time he’s been investigating the Baskerville case. Watson expresses his bitterness here and later adds that his reports were all written in vain. This scene marks the clearest instance in the novella of Watson’s dependence on Holmes’s approval.