“You will, I am sure, excuse my presumption, Dr. Watson,” said he, as he came panting up to where I stood. “Here on the moor we are homely folk, and do not wait for formal introductions.”
When readers first meet Mr. Jack Stapleton, he seems an innocuous though eccentric character. Watson seems slightly taken by surprise when Stapleton runs up to him on the moor, introducing himself and telling him he already knows who Watson is. Stapleton attributes his presumption to the close-knit nature of the moor, but Watson is left a bit unsettled by the remark, foreshadowing later events in the novella.
His nerves were so worked up that the appearance of any dog might have had a fatal effect upon his diseased heart.
These words uttered by Stapleton to Watson during their first meeting double as a simple surmising by Stapleton and a foreshadowing device by Conan Doyle. Watson may not be aware of the truth, but Stapleton has just revealed what he did to kill Sir Charles Baskerville: He used Sir Charles Baskerville’s heart condition to scare him to death with an embellished real-life hound.
Has Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
Stapleton asks Watson about Sherlock Holmes’s opinion on the case of Sir Charles Baskerville’s death, a question that takes Watson’s breath away. The two men have just met, and Stapleton’s presumption about Watson’s connection to Sherlock feels vaguely intrusive. Stapleton’s calm and steadfast manner quells Watson’s nerves, but here readers see how Stapleton’s composure masterfully hides his sinister character.
What a pity! He might throw some light on that which is so dark to us. But as to your own researches, if there is any possible way in which I can be of service to you, I trust that you will command me.
Stapleton offers to help Watson with the case, but Watson refuses. Stapleton commends Watson on his discretion and pleasantly excuses himself. Of course, readers later learn that Stapleton offers to help Watson simply to stay close to the case and manipulate what Watson does and does not discover. Watson’s tight-lipped refusal shows his worth as Sherlock’s colleague.
But my tastes led me to explore every part of the country round, and I should think there are few men who know it better than I do.
Here, Stapleton drops one other important clue that will later help Holmes and Watson piece together important plot events. Stapleton tells Watson that he knows the environment around Grimpen Mire better than most people who live there. Ironically, Stapleton’s overt bragging makes him similar to Sherlock, who also has a habit of boasting.
“That is the great Grimpen Mire,” said he. “A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came out. I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole, but it sucked him down at last.”
Stapleton tells Watson about a pony he witnessed get sucked into a bog-hole in the mire the day before. This interaction occurs during Watson and Stapleton’s first meeting, as they are surveying the Grimpen Mire, a mysterious-looking landscape where the supposed murderous Hound of the Baskervilles roams. Stapleton’s comment foreshadows his own death later in the novella.
That is where the rare plants and the butterflies are, if you have the wit to catch them.
When Watson first meets Stapleton, he appears to be a bookish, even-tempered, unimposing man. Stapleton introduces himself as an entomologist who tracks rare plants and butterflies on the moor. In a statement reminiscent of Holmes, Stapleton boasts that only a person with “wit” could compete with his abilities to catch and study his specimens. Stapleton’s unassuming outer appearance continually contrasts with his brash inner nature throughout the novella.
“For God’s sake put such an idea out of your mind,” said he. “Your blood would be upon my head. I assure you that there would not be the least chance of your coming back alive. It is only by remembering certain complex landmarks that I am able to do it.”
When Watson says he would like to investigate the Grimpen Mire, Stapleton quickly tries to dissuade him, pretending he is concerned for Watson’s safety. In reality, Stapleton doesn’t want Watson to find the hound he is hiding. As he appears to be harmless and possesses an extensive knowledge of the topography of the mire, Stapleton is able to manipulate Watson into dropping his idea to investigate the moor.
“I had a school,” said Stapleton.
Stapleton reveals to Watson that he once had a school, a detail Holmes utilizes later in the novella. When Holmes checks up on this fact, he is able to construct a sound explanation for the case and establish a motive for Stapleton. Some of the most seemingly innocent and unrelated statements help Holmes crack the mystery of the hound on the moor.
Oh, excuse me an instant! It is surely Cyclopides.
Stapleton catches sight of a butterfly and rushes off to capture the insect with his net, citing the species genus name. Stapleton creates a convincing character of a bookish, harmless entomologist living on the moor. Due to his innocuous appearance, no one suspects Stapleton as the culprit in the case and as the conniving architect of evil he is.