Part 2 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Audiobook by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Adventures 03-04)

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"My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his
lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the
mind of man could invent.
We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of
If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently
remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange
coincidences, the plannings, the cross-
purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to
the most outré results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and
foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable."
"And yet I am not convinced of it," I answered.
"The cases which come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and
vulgar enough.
We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the
result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic."
"A certain selection and discretion must be used in producing a realistic effect,"
remarked Holmes.
"This is wanting in the police report, where more stress is laid, perhaps, upon
the platitudes of the magistrate than upon the details, which to an observer contain
the vital essence of the whole matter.
Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace."
I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite understand your thinking so,"
I said.
"Of course, in your position of unofficial adviser and helper to everybody who is
absolutely puzzled, throughout three continents, you are brought in contact with
all that is strange and bizarre.
But here"--I picked up the morning paper from the ground--"let us put it to a
practical test. Here is the first heading upon which I
'A husband's cruelty to his wife.' There is half a column of print, but I know
without reading it that it is all perfectly familiar to me.
There is, of course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the
sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing
more crude."
"Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one for your argument," said Holmes, taking the
paper and glancing his eye down it.
"This is the Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I was engaged in clearing up
some small points in connection with it.
The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of
was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his
false teeth and hurling them at his wife,
which, you will allow, is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the
average story-teller.
Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in
your example." He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with
a great amethyst in the centre of the lid.
Its splendour was in such contrast to his homely ways and simple life that I could
not help commenting upon it. "Ah," said he, "I forgot that I had not
seen you for some weeks.
It is a little souvenir from the King of Bohemia in return for my assistance in the
case of the Irene Adler papers." "And the ring?"
I asked, glancing at a remarkable brilliant which sparkled upon his finger.
"It was from the reigning family of Holland, though the matter in which I
served them was of such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to you, who have
been good enough to chronicle one or two of my little problems."
"And have you any on hand just now?" I asked with interest.
"Some ten or twelve, but none which present any feature of interest.
They are important, you understand, without being interesting.
Indeed, I have found that it is usually in unimportant matters that there is a field
for the observation, and for the quick analysis of cause and effect which gives
the charm to an investigation.
The larger crimes are apt to be the simpler, for the bigger the crime the more
obvious, as a rule, is the motive.
In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been referred to
me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any features of interest.
It is possible, however, that I may have something better before very many minutes
are over, for this is one of my clients, or I am much mistaken."
He had risen from his chair and was standing between the parted blinds gazing
down into the dull neutral-tinted London street.
Looking over his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a large
woman with a heavy fur boa round her neck, and a large curling red feather in a broad-
brimmed hat which was tilted in a
coquettish Duchess of Devonshire fashion over her ear.
From under this great panoply she peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at our
windows, while her body oscillated backward and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with
her glove buttons.
Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the bank, she hurried across the
road, and we heard the sharp clang of the bell.
"I have seen those symptoms before," said Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the
fire. "Oscillation upon the pavement always means
an affaire de coeur.
She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is not too delicate for
communication. And yet even here we may discriminate.
When a woman has been seriously wronged by a man she no longer oscillates, and the
usual symptom is a broken bell wire.
Here we may take it that there is a love matter, but that the maiden is not so much
angry as perplexed, or grieved. But here she comes in person to resolve our
As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons entered to announce
Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind his small black
figure like a full-sailed merchant-man behind a tiny pilot boat.
Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he was remarkable, and,
having closed the door and bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in the
minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to him.
"Do you not find," he said, "that with your short sight it is a little trying to do so
much typewriting?"
"I did at first," she answered, "but now I know where the letters are without
Then, suddenly realising the full purport of his words, she gave a violent start and
looked up, with fear and astonishment upon her broad, good-humoured face.
"You've heard about me, Mr. Holmes," she cried, "else how could you know all that?"
"Never mind," said Holmes, laughing; "it is my business to know things.
Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook.
If not, why should you come to consult me?"
"I came to you, sir, because I heard of you from Mrs. Etherege, whose husband you found
so easy when the police and everyone had given him up for dead.
Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do as much for me.
I'm not rich, but still I have a hundred a year in my own right, besides the little
that I make by the machine, and I would give it all to know what has become of Mr.
Hosmer Angel."
"Why did you come away to consult me in such a hurry?" asked Sherlock Holmes, with
his finger-tips together and his eyes to the ceiling.
Again a startled look came over the somewhat vacuous face of Miss Mary
"Yes, I did bang out of the house," she said, "for it made me angry to see the easy
way in which Mr. Windibank--that is, my father--took it all.
He would not go to the police, and he would not go to you, and so at last, as he would
do nothing and kept on saying that there was no harm done, it made me mad, and I
just on with my things and came right away to you."
"Your father," said Holmes, "your stepfather, surely, since the name is
"Yes, my stepfather. I call him father, though it sounds funny,
too, for he is only five years and two months older than myself."
"And your mother is alive?"
"Oh, yes, mother is alive and well. I wasn't best pleased, Mr. Holmes, when she
married again so soon after father's death, and a man who was nearly fifteen years
younger than herself.
Father was a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, and he left a tidy business behind
him, which mother carried on with Mr. Hardy, the foreman; but when Mr. Windibank
came he made her sell the business, for he
was very superior, being a traveller in wines.
They got 4700 pounds for the goodwill and interest, which wasn't near as much as
father could have got if he had been alive."
I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling and
inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with the greatest
concentration of attention.
"Your own little income," he asked, "does it come out of the business?"
"Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate and was left me by my
uncle Ned in Auckland.
It is in New Zealand stock, paying 4 1/2 per cent.
Two thousand five hundred pounds was the amount, but I can only touch the interest."
"You interest me extremely," said Holmes.
"And since you draw so large a sum as a hundred a year, with what you earn into the
bargain, you no doubt travel a little and indulge yourself in every way.
I believe that a single lady can get on very nicely upon an income of about 60
"I could do with much less than that, Mr. Holmes, but you understand that as long as
I live at home I don't wish to be a burden to them, and so they have the use of the
money just while I am staying with them.
Of course, that is only just for the time. Mr. Windibank draws my interest every
quarter and pays it over to mother, and I find that I can do pretty well with what I
earn at typewriting.
It brings me twopence a sheet, and I can often do from fifteen to twenty sheets in a
day." "You have made your position very clear to
me," said Holmes.
"This is my friend, Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before myself.
Kindly tell us now all about your connection with Mr. Hosmer Angel."
A flush stole over Miss Sutherland's face, and she picked nervously at the fringe of
her jacket. "I met him first at the gasfitters' ball,"
she said.
"They used to send father tickets when he was alive, and then afterwards they
remembered us, and sent them to mother. Mr. Windibank did not wish us to go.
He never did wish us to go anywhere.
He would get quite mad if I wanted so much as to join a Sunday-school treat.
But this time I was set on going, and I would go; for what right had he to prevent?
He said the folk were not fit for us to know, when all father's friends were to be
And he said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I had my purple plush that I had never
so much as taken out of the drawer.
At last, when nothing else would do, he went off to France upon the business of the
firm, but we went, mother and I, with Mr. Hardy, who used to be our foreman, and it
was there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel."
"I suppose," said Holmes, "that when Mr. Windibank came back from France he was very
annoyed at your having gone to the ball." "Oh, well, he was very good about it.
He laughed, I remember, and shrugged his shoulders, and said there was no use
denying anything to a woman, for she would have her way."
"I see.
Then at the gasfitters' ball you met, as I understand, a gentleman called Mr. Hosmer
Angel." "Yes, sir.
I met him that night, and he called next day to ask if we had got home all safe, and
after that we met him--that is to say, Mr. Holmes, I met him twice for walks, but
after that father came back again, and Mr.
Hosmer Angel could not come to the house any more."
"No?" "Well, you know father didn't like anything
of the sort.
He wouldn't have any visitors if he could help it, and he used to say that a woman
should be happy in her own family circle.
But then, as I used to say to mother, a woman wants her own circle to begin with,
and I had not got mine yet." "But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel?
Did he make no attempt to see you?"
"Well, father was going off to France again in a week, and Hosmer wrote and said that
it would be safer and better not to see each other until he had gone.
We could write in the meantime, and he used to write every day.
I took the letters in in the morning, so there was no need for father to know."
"Were you engaged to the gentleman at this time?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after the first walk that
we took.
Hosmer--Mr. Angel--was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall Street--and--"
"What office?" "That's the worst of it, Mr. Holmes, I
don't know."
"Where did he live, then?" "He slept on the premises."
"And you don't know his address?" "No--except that it was Leadenhall Street."
"Where did you address your letters, then?"
"To the Leadenhall Street Post Office, to be left till called for.
He said that if they were sent to the office he would be chaffed by all the other
clerks about having letters from a lady, so I offered to typewrite them, like he did
his, but he wouldn't have that, for he said
that when I wrote them they seemed to come from me, but when they were typewritten he
always felt that the machine had come between us.
That will just show you how fond he was of me, Mr. Holmes, and the little things that
he would think of." "It was most suggestive," said Holmes.
"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most
important. Can you remember any other little things
about Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
"He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would rather walk with me in the evening
than in the daylight, for he said that he hated to be conspicuous.
Very retiring and gentlemanly he was.
Even his voice was gentle. He'd had the quinsy and swollen glands when
he was young, he told me, and it had left him with a weak throat, and a hesitating,
whispering fashion of speech.
He was always well dressed, very neat and plain, but his eyes were weak, just as mine
are, and he wore tinted glasses against the glare."
"Well, and what happened when Mr. Windibank, your stepfather, returned to
"Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again and proposed that we should marry before
father came back.
He was in dreadful earnest and made me swear, with my hands on the Testament, that
whatever happened I would always be true to him.
Mother said he was quite right to make me swear, and that it was a sign of his
passion. Mother was all in his favour from the first
and was even fonder of him than I was.
Then, when they talked of marrying within the week, I began to ask about father; but
they both said never to mind about father, but just to tell him afterwards, and mother
said she would make it all right with him.
I didn't quite like that, Mr. Holmes.
It seemed funny that I should ask his leave, as he was only a few years older
than me; but I didn't want to do anything on the sly, so I wrote to father at
Bordeaux, where the company has its French
offices, but the letter came back to me on the very morning of the wedding."
"It missed him, then?" "Yes, sir; for he had started to England
just before it arrived."
"Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was arranged, then, for the
Friday. Was it to be in church?"
"Yes, sir, but very quietly.
It was to be at St. Saviour's, near King's Cross, and we were to have breakfast
afterwards at the St. Pancras Hotel.
Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as there were two of us he put us both into it
and stepped himself into a four-wheeler, which happened to be the only other cab in
the street.
We got to the church first, and when the four-wheeler drove up we waited for him to
step out, but he never did, and when the cabman got down from the box and looked
there was no one there!
The cabman said that he could not imagine what had become of him, for he had seen him
get in with his own eyes.
That was last Friday, Mr. Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything since
then to throw any light upon what became of him."
"It seems to me that you have been very shamefully treated," said Holmes.
"Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to leave me so.
Why, all the morning he was saying to me that, whatever happened, I was to be true;
and that even if something quite unforeseen occurred to separate us, I was always to
remember that I was pledged to him, and
that he would claim his pledge sooner or later.
It seemed strange talk for a wedding- morning, but what has happened since gives
a meaning to it."
"Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is, then, that some
unforeseen catastrophe has occurred to him?"
"Yes, sir.
I believe that he foresaw some danger, or else he would not have talked so.
And then I think that what he foresaw happened."
"But you have no notion as to what it could have been?"
"None." "One more question.
How did your mother take the matter?"
"She was angry, and said that I was never to speak of the matter again."
"And your father? Did you tell him?"
"Yes; and he seemed to think, with me, that something had happened, and that I should
hear of Hosmer again.
As he said, what interest could anyone have in bringing me to the doors of the church,
and then leaving me?
Now, if he had borrowed my money, or if he had married me and got my money settled on
him, there might be some reason, but Hosmer was very independent about money and never
would look at a shilling of mine.
And yet, what could have happened? And why could he not write?
Oh, it drives me half-mad to think of it, and I can't sleep a wink at night."
She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff and began to sob heavily into it.
"I shall glance into the case for you," said Holmes, rising, "and I have no doubt
that we shall reach some definite result.
Let the weight of the matter rest upon me now, and do not let your mind dwell upon it
Above all, try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel vanish from your memory, as he has done
from your life." "Then you don't think I'll see him again?"
"I fear not."
"Then what has happened to him?" "You will leave that question in my hands.
I should like an accurate description of him and any letters of his which you can
"I advertised for him in last Saturday's Chronicle," said she.
"Here is the slip and here are four letters from him."
"Thank you.
And your address?" "No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell."
"Mr. Angel's address you never had, I understand.
Where is your father's place of business?"
"He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the great claret importers of Fenchurch
Street." "Thank you.
You have made your statement very clearly.
You will leave the papers here, and remember the advice which I have given you.
Let the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not allow it to affect your life."
"You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot do that.
I shall be true to Hosmer. He shall find me ready when he comes back."
For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous face, there was something noble in
the simple faith of our visitor which compelled our respect.
She laid her little bundle of papers upon the table and went her way, with a promise
to come again whenever she might be summoned.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his fingertips still pressed
together, his legs stretched out in front of him, and his gaze directed upward to the
Then he took down from the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a
counsellor, and, having lit it, he leaned back in his chair, with the thick blue
cloud-wreaths spinning up from him, and a look of infinite languor in his face.
"Quite an interesting study, that maiden," he observed.
"I found her more interesting than her little problem, which, by the way, is
rather a trite one.
You will find parallel cases, if you consult my index, in Andover in '77, and
there was something of the sort at The Hague last year.
Old as is the idea, however, there were one or two details which were new to me.
But the maiden herself was most instructive."
"You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible to me," I
remarked. "Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson.
You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important.
I can never bring you to realise the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness
of thumb-nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace.
Now, what did you gather from that woman's appearance?
Describe it."
"Well, she had a slate-coloured, broad- brimmed straw hat, with a feather of a
brickish red.
Her jacket was black, with black beads sewn upon it, and a fringe of little black jet
Her dress was brown, rather darker than coffee colour, with a little purple plush
at the neck and sleeves. Her gloves were greyish and were worn
through at the right forefinger.
Her boots I didn't observe. She had small round, hanging gold earrings,
and a general air of being fairly well-to- do in a vulgar, comfortable, easy-going
Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly together and chuckled.
"'Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully.
You have really done very well indeed.
It is true that you have missed everything of importance, but you have hit upon the
method, and you have a quick eye for colour.
Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details.
My first glance is always at a woman's sleeve.
In a man it is perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser.
As you observe, this woman had plush upon her sleeves, which is a most useful
material for showing traces.
The double line a little above the wrist, where the typewritist presses against the
table, was beautifully defined.
The sewing-machine, of the hand type, leaves a similar mark, but only on the left
arm, and on the side of it farthest from the thumb, instead of being right across
the broadest part, as this was.
I then glanced at her face, and, observing the dint of a pince-nez at either side of
her nose, I ventured a remark upon short sight and typewriting, which seemed to
surprise her."
"It surprised me." "But, surely, it was obvious.
I was then much surprised and interested on glancing down to observe that, though the
boots which she was wearing were not unlike each other, they were really odd ones; the
one having a slightly decorated toe-cap, and the other a plain one.
One was buttoned only in the two lower buttons out of five, and the other at the
first, third, and fifth.
Now, when you see that a young lady, otherwise neatly dressed, has come away
from home with odd boots, half-buttoned, it is no great deduction to say that she came
away in a hurry."
"And what else?" I asked, keenly interested, as I always
was, by my friend's incisive reasoning.
"I noted, in passing, that she had written a note before leaving home but after being
fully dressed.
You observed that her right glove was torn at the forefinger, but you did not
apparently see that both glove and finger were stained with violet ink.
She had written in a hurry and dipped her pen too deep.
It must have been this morning, or the mark would not remain clear upon the finger.
All this is amusing, though rather elementary, but I must go back to business,
Watson. Would you mind reading me the advertised
description of Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
I held the little printed slip to the light.
"Missing," it said, "on the morning of the fourteenth, a gentleman named Hosmer Angel.
About five ft. seven in. in height; strongly built, sallow complexion, black
hair, a little bald in the centre, bushy, black side-whiskers and moustache; tinted
glasses, slight infirmity of speech.
Was dressed, when last seen, in black frock-coat faced with silk, black
waistcoat, gold Albert chain, and grey Harris tweed trousers, with brown gaiters
over elastic-sided boots.
Known to have been employed in an office in Leadenhall Street.
Anybody bringing--" "That will do," said Holmes.
"As to the letters," he continued, glancing over them, "they are very commonplace.
Absolutely no clue in them to Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once.
There is one remarkable point, however, which will no doubt strike you."
"They are typewritten," I remarked. "Not only that, but the signature is
Look at the neat little 'Hosmer Angel' at the bottom.
There is a date, you see, but no superscription except Leadenhall Street,
which is rather vague.
The point about the signature is very suggestive--in fact, we may call it
conclusive." "Of what?"
"My dear fellow, is it possible you do not see how strongly it bears upon the case?"
"I cannot say that I do unless it were that he wished to be able to deny his signature
if an action for breach of promise were instituted."
"No, that was not the point.
However, I shall write two letters, which should settle the matter.
One is to a firm in the City, the other is to the young lady's stepfather, Mr.
Windibank, asking him whether he could meet us here at six o'clock tomorrow evening.
It is just as well that we should do business with the male relatives.
And now, Doctor, we can do nothing until the answers to those letters come, so we
may put our little problem upon the shelf for the interim."
I had had so many reasons to believe in my friend's subtle powers of reasoning and
extraordinary energy in action that I felt that he must have some solid grounds for
the assured and easy demeanour with which
he treated the singular mystery which he had been called upon to fathom.
Once only had I known him to fail, in the case of the King of Bohemia and of the
Irene Adler photograph; but when I looked back to the weird business of the Sign of
Four, and the extraordinary circumstances
connected with the Study in Scarlet, I felt that it would be a strange tangle indeed
which he could not unravel.
I left him then, still puffing at his black clay pipe, with the conviction that when I
came again on the next evening I would find that he held in his hands all the clues
which would lead up to the identity of the
disappearing bridegroom of Miss Mary Sutherland.
A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own attention at the time, and
the whole of next day I was busy at the bedside of the sufferer.
It was not until close upon six o'clock that I found myself free and was able to
spring into a hansom and drive to Baker Street, half afraid that I might be too
late to assist at the dénouement of the little mystery.
I found Sherlock Holmes alone, however, half asleep, with his long, thin form
curled up in the recesses of his armchair.
A formidable array of bottles and test- tubes, with the pungent cleanly smell of
hydrochloric acid, told me that he had spent his day in the chemical work which
was so dear to him.
"Well, have you solved it?" I asked as I entered.
"Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta." "No, no, the mystery!"
I cried.
"Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have been
working upon.
There was never any mystery in the matter, though, as I said yesterday, some of the
details are of interest. The only drawback is that there is no law,
I fear, that can touch the scoundrel."
"Who was he, then, and what was his object in deserting Miss Sutherland?"
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and Holmes had not yet opened his lips to
reply, when we heard a heavy footfall in the passage and a tap at the door.
"This is the girl's stepfather, Mr. James Windibank," said Holmes.
"He has written to me to say that he would be here at six.
Come in!"
The man who entered was a sturdy, middle- sized fellow, some thirty years of age,
clean-shaven, and sallow-skinned, with a bland, insinuating manner, and a pair of
wonderfully sharp and penetrating grey eyes.
He shot a questioning glance at each of us, placed his shiny top-hat upon the
sideboard, and with a slight bow sidled down into the nearest chair.
"Good-evening, Mr. James Windibank," said Holmes.
"I think that this typewritten letter is from you, in which you made an appointment
with me for six o'clock?"
"Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little late, but I
am not quite my own master, you know.
I am sorry that Miss Sutherland has troubled you about this little matter, for
I think it is far better not to wash linen of the sort in public.
It was quite against my wishes that she came, but she is a very excitable,
impulsive girl, as you may have noticed, and she is not easily controlled when she
has made up her mind on a point.
Of course, I did not mind you so much, as you are not connected with the official
police, but it is not pleasant to have a family misfortune like this noised abroad.
Besides, it is a useless expense, for how could you possibly find this Hosmer Angel?"
"On the contrary," said Holmes quietly; "I have every reason to believe that I will
succeed in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel."
Mr. Windibank gave a violent start and dropped his gloves.
"I am delighted to hear it," he said.
"It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has really quite as much
individuality as a man's handwriting. Unless they are quite new, no two of them
write exactly alike.
Some letters get more worn than others, and some wear only on one side.
Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that in every case there is some
little slurring over of the 'e,' and a slight defect in the tail of the 'r.'
There are fourteen other characteristics, but those are the more obvious."
"We do all our correspondence with this machine at the office, and no doubt it is a
little worn," our visitor answered, glancing keenly at Holmes with his bright
little eyes.
"And now I will show you what is really a very interesting study, Mr. Windibank,"
Holmes continued.
"I think of writing another little monograph some of these days on the
typewriter and its relation to crime. It is a subject to which I have devoted
some little attention.
I have here four letters which purport to come from the missing man.
They are all typewritten.
In each case, not only are the 'e's' slurred and the 'r's' tailless, but you
will observe, if you care to use my magnifying lens, that the fourteen other
characteristics to which I have alluded are there as well."
Mr. Windibank sprang out of his chair and picked up his hat.
"I cannot waste time over this sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes," he said.
"If you can catch the man, catch him, and let me know when you have done it."
"Certainly," said Holmes, stepping over and turning the key in the door.
"I let you know, then, that I have caught him!"
"What! where?" shouted Mr. Windibank, turning white to his lips and glancing
about him like a rat in a trap. "Oh, it won't do--really it won't," said
Holmes suavely.
"There is no possible getting out of it, Mr. Windibank.
It is quite too transparent, and it was a very bad compliment when you said that it
was impossible for me to solve so simple a question.
That's right!
Sit down and let us talk it over." Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a
ghastly face and a glitter of moisture on his brow.
"It--it's not actionable," he stammered.
"I am very much afraid that it is not. But between ourselves, Windibank, it was as
cruel and selfish and heartless a trick in a petty way as ever came before me.
Now, let me just run over the course of events, and you will contradict me if I go
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his head sunk upon his breast, like one who
is utterly crushed.
Holmes stuck his feet up on the corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with his
hands in his pockets, began talking, rather to himself, as it seemed, than to us.
"The man married a woman very much older than himself for her money," said he, "and
he enjoyed the use of the money of the daughter as long as she lived with them.
It was a considerable sum, for people in their position, and the loss of it would
have made a serious difference. It was worth an effort to preserve it.
The daughter was of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate and warm-
hearted in her ways, so that it was evident that with her fair personal advantages, and
her little income, she would not be allowed to remain single long.
Now her marriage would mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year, so what does her
stepfather do to prevent it?
He takes the obvious course of keeping her at home and forbidding her to seek the
company of people of her own age. But soon he found that that would not
answer forever.
She became restive, insisted upon her rights, and finally announced her positive
intention of going to a certain ball. What does her clever stepfather do then?
He conceives an idea more creditable to his head than to his heart.
With the connivance and assistance of his wife he disguised himself, covered those
keen eyes with tinted glasses, masked the face with a moustache and a pair of bushy
whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an
insinuating whisper, and doubly secure on account of the girl's short sight, he
appears as Mr. Hosmer Angel, and keeps off other lovers by making love himself."
"It was only a joke at first," groaned our visitor.
"We never thought that she would have been so carried away."
"Very likely not.
However that may be, the young lady was very decidedly carried away, and, having
quite made up her mind that her stepfather was in France, the suspicion of treachery
never for an instant entered her mind.
She was flattered by the gentleman's attentions, and the effect was increased by
the loudly expressed admiration of her mother.
Then Mr. Angel began to call, for it was obvious that the matter should be pushed as
far as it would go if a real effect were to be produced.
There were meetings, and an engagement, which would finally secure the girl's
affections from turning towards anyone else.
But the deception could not be kept up forever.
These pretended journeys to France were rather cumbrous.
The thing to do was clearly to bring the business to an end in such a dramatic
manner that it would leave a permanent impression upon the young lady's mind and
prevent her from looking upon any other suitor for some time to come.
Hence those vows of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and hence also the allusions to
a possibility of something happening on the very morning of the wedding.
James Windibank wished Miss Sutherland to be so bound to Hosmer Angel, and so
uncertain as to his fate, that for ten years to come, at any rate, she would not
listen to another man.
As far as the church door he brought her, and then, as he could go no farther, he
conveniently vanished away by the old trick of stepping in at one door of a four-
wheeler and out at the other.
I think that was the chain of events, Mr. Windibank!"
Our visitor had recovered something of his assurance while Holmes had been talking,
and he rose from his chair now with a cold sneer upon his pale face.
"It may be so, or it may not, Mr. Holmes," said he, "but if you are so very sharp you
ought to be sharp enough to know that it is you who are breaking the law now, and not
I have done nothing actionable from the first, but as long as you keep that door
locked you lay yourself open to an action for assault and illegal constraint."
"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said Holmes, unlocking and throwing open
the door, "yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more.
If the young lady has a brother or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your
By Jove!" he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man's
face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but here's a hunting crop handy,
and I think I shall just treat myself to--"
He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it there was a wild
clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we
could see Mr. James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.
"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!" said Holmes, laughing, as he threw himself down
into his chair once more.
"That fellow will rise from crime to crime until he does something very bad, and ends
on a gallows. The case has, in some respects, been not
entirely devoid of interest."
"I cannot now entirely see all the steps of your reasoning," I remarked.
"Well, of course it was obvious from the first that this Mr. Hosmer Angel must have
some strong object for his curious conduct, and it was equally clear that the only man
who really profited by the incident, as far as we could see, was the stepfather.
Then the fact that the two men were never together, but that the one always appeared
when the other was away, was suggestive.
So were the tinted spectacles and the curious voice, which both hinted at a
disguise, as did the bushy whiskers.
My suspicions were all confirmed by his peculiar action in typewriting his
signature, which, of course, inferred that his handwriting was so familiar to her that
she would recognise even the smallest sample of it.
You see all these isolated facts, together with many minor ones, all pointed in the
same direction."
"And how did you verify them?" "Having once spotted my man, it was easy to
get corroboration. I knew the firm for which this man worked.
Having taken the printed description.
I eliminated everything from it which could be the result of a disguise--the whiskers,
the glasses, the voice, and I sent it to the firm, with a request that they would
inform me whether it answered to the description of any of their travellers.
I had already noticed the peculiarities of the typewriter, and I wrote to the man
himself at his business address asking him if he would come here.
As I expected, his reply was typewritten and revealed the same trivial but
characteristic defects.
The same post brought me a letter from Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street,
to say that the description tallied in every respect with that of their employé,
James Windibank.
Voilà tout!" "And Miss Sutherland?"
"If I tell her she will not believe me.
You may remember the old Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the
tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'
There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the
We were seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the maid brought in a
telegram. It was from Sherlock Holmes and ran in this
"Have you a couple of days to spare? Have just been wired for from the west of
England in connection with Boscombe Valley tragedy.
Shall be glad if you will come with me.
Air and scenery perfect. Leave Paddington by the 11:15."
"What do you say, dear?" said my wife, looking across at me.
"Will you go?"
"I really don't know what to say. I have a fairly long list at present."
"Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you. You have been looking a little pale lately.
I think that the change would do you good, and you are always so interested in Mr.
Sherlock Holmes' cases."
"I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained through one of them,"
I answered. "But if I am to go, I must pack at once,
for I have only half an hour."
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the effect of making me a
prompt and ready traveller.
My wants were few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I was in a cab
with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station.
Sherlock Holmes was pacing up and down the platform, his tall, gaunt figure made even
gaunter and taller by his long grey travelling-cloak and close-fitting cloth
"It is really very good of you to come, Watson," said he.
"It makes a considerable difference to me, having someone with me on whom I can
thoroughly rely.
Local aid is always either worthless or else biassed.
If you will keep the two corner seats I shall get the tickets."
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of papers which Holmes
had brought with him.
Among these he rummaged and read, with intervals of note-taking and of meditation,
until we were past Reading.
Then he suddenly rolled them all into a gigantic ball and tossed them up onto the
rack. "Have you heard anything of the case?" he
"Not a word. I have not seen a paper for some days."
"The London press has not had very full accounts.
I have just been looking through all the recent papers in order to master the
It seems, from what I gather, to be one of those simple cases which are so extremely
difficult." "That sounds a little paradoxical."
"But it is profoundly true.
Singularity is almost invariably a clue. The more featureless and commonplace a
crime is, the more difficult it is to bring it home.
In this case, however, they have established a very serious case against the
son of the murdered man." "It is a murder, then?"
"Well, it is conjectured to be so.
I shall take nothing for granted until I have the opportunity of looking personally
into it.
I will explain the state of things to you, as far as I have been able to understand
it, in a very few words. "Boscombe Valley is a country district not
very far from Ross, in Herefordshire.
The largest landed proprietor in that part is a Mr. John Turner, who made his money in
Australia and returned some years ago to the old country.
One of the farms which he held, that of Hatherley, was let to Mr. Charles McCarthy,
who was also an ex-Australian.
The men had known each other in the colonies, so that it was not unnatural that
when they came to settle down they should do so as near each other as possible.
Turner was apparently the richer man, so McCarthy became his tenant but still
remained, it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they were frequently together.
McCarthy had one son, a lad of eighteen, and Turner had an only daughter of the same
age, but neither of them had wives living.
They appear to have avoided the society of the neighbouring English families and to
have led retired lives, though both the McCarthys were fond of sport and were
frequently seen at the race-meetings of the neighbourhood.
McCarthy kept two servants--a man and a girl.
Turner had a considerable household, some half-dozen at the least.
That is as much as I have been able to gather about the families.
Now for the facts.
"On June 3rd, that is, on Monday last, McCarthy left his house at Hatherley about
three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe Pool, which is a small lake
formed by the spreading out of the stream which runs down the Boscombe Valley.
He had been out with his serving-man in the morning at Ross, and he had told the man
that he must hurry, as he had an appointment of importance to keep at three.
From that appointment he never came back alive.
"From Hatherley Farm-house to the Boscombe Pool is a quarter of a mile, and two people
saw him as he passed over this ground.
One was an old woman, whose name is not mentioned, and the other was William
Crowder, a game-keeper in the employ of Mr. Turner.
Both these witnesses depose that Mr. McCarthy was walking alone.
The game-keeper adds that within a few minutes of his seeing Mr. McCarthy pass he
had seen his son, Mr. James McCarthy, going the same way with a gun under his arm.
To the best of his belief, the father was actually in sight at the time, and the son
was following him.
He thought no more of the matter until he heard in the evening of the tragedy that
had occurred.
"The two McCarthys were seen after the time when William Crowder, the game-keeper, lost
sight of them.
The Boscombe Pool is thickly wooded round, with just a fringe of grass and of reeds
round the edge.
A girl of fourteen, Patience Moran, who is the daughter of the lodge-keeper of the
Boscombe Valley estate, was in one of the woods picking flowers.
She states that while she was there she saw, at the border of the wood and close by
the lake, Mr. McCarthy and his son, and that they appeared to be having a violent
She heard Mr. McCarthy the elder using very strong language to his son, and she saw the
latter raise up his hand as if to strike his father.
She was so frightened by their violence that she ran away and told her mother when
she reached home that she had left the two McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe Pool,
and that she was afraid that they were going to fight.
She had hardly said the words when young Mr. McCarthy came running up to the lodge
to say that he had found his father dead in the wood, and to ask for the help of the
He was much excited, without either his gun or his hat, and his right hand and sleeve
were observed to be stained with fresh blood.
On following him they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside the
pool. The head had been beaten in by repeated
blows of some heavy and blunt weapon.
The injuries were such as might very well have been inflicted by the butt-end of his
son's gun, which was found lying on the grass within a few paces of the body.
Under these circumstances the young man was instantly arrested, and a verdict of
'wilful murder' having been returned at the inquest on Tuesday, he was on Wednesday
brought before the magistrates at Ross, who have referred the case to the next Assizes.
Those are the main facts of the case as they came out before the coroner and the
"I could hardly imagine a more damning case," I remarked.
"If ever circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal it does so here."
"Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing," answered Holmes thoughtfully.
"It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of
view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to
something entirely different.
It must be confessed, however, that the case looks exceedingly grave against the
young man, and it is very possible that he is indeed the culprit.
There are several people in the neighbourhood, however, and among them Miss
Turner, the daughter of the neighbouring landowner, who believe in his innocence,
and who have retained Lestrade, whom you
may recollect in connection with the Study in Scarlet, to work out the case in his
Lestrade, being rather puzzled, has referred the case to me, and hence it is
that two middle-aged gentlemen are flying westward at fifty miles an hour instead of
quietly digesting their breakfasts at home."
"I am afraid," said I, "that the facts are so obvious that you will find little credit
to be gained out of this case."
"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact," he answered, laughing.
"Besides, we may chance to hit upon some other obvious facts which may have been by
no means obvious to Mr. Lestrade.
You know me too well to think that I am boasting when I say that I shall either
confirm or destroy his theory by means which he is quite incapable of employing,
or even of understanding.
To take the first example to hand, I very clearly perceive that in your bedroom the
window is upon the right-hand side, and yet I question whether Mr. Lestrade would have
noted even so self-evident a thing as that."
"How on earth--" "My dear fellow, I know you well.
I know the military neatness which characterises you.
You shave every morning, and in this season you shave by the sunlight; but since your
shaving is less and less complete as we get farther back on the left side, until it
becomes positively slovenly as we get round
the angle of the jaw, it is surely very clear that that side is less illuminated
than the other.
I could not imagine a man of your habits looking at himself in an equal light and
being satisfied with such a result. I only quote this as a trivial example of
observation and inference.
Therein lies my métier, and it is just possible that it may be of some service in
the investigation which lies before us.
There are one or two minor points which were brought out in the inquest, and which
are worth considering." "What are they?"
"It appears that his arrest did not take place at once, but after the return to
Hatherley Farm.
On the inspector of constabulary informing him that he was a prisoner, he remarked
that he was not surprised to hear it, and that it was no more than his deserts.
This observation of his had the natural effect of removing any traces of doubt
which might have remained in the minds of the coroner's jury."
"It was a confession," I ejaculated.
"No, for it was followed by a protestation of innocence."
"Coming on the top of such a damning series of events, it was at least a most
suspicious remark."
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "it is the brightest rift which I can at present see
in the clouds.
However innocent he might be, he could not be such an absolute imbecile as not to see
that the circumstances were very black against him.
Had he appeared surprised at his own arrest, or feigned indignation at it, I
should have looked upon it as highly suspicious, because such surprise or anger
would not be natural under the
circumstances, and yet might appear to be the best policy to a scheming man.
His frank acceptance of the situation marks him as either an innocent man, or else as a
man of considerable self-restraint and firmness.
As to his remark about his deserts, it was also not unnatural if you consider that he
stood beside the dead body of his father, and that there is no doubt that he had that
very day so far forgotten his filial duty
as to bandy words with him, and even, according to the little girl whose evidence
is so important, to raise his hand as if to strike him.
The self-reproach and contrition which are displayed in his remark appear to me to be
the signs of a healthy mind rather than of a guilty one."
I shook my head.
"Many men have been hanged on far slighter evidence," I remarked.
"So they have. And many men have been wrongfully hanged."
"What is the young man's own account of the matter?"
"It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to his supporters, though there are one or
two points in it which are suggestive.
You will find it here, and may read it for yourself."
He picked out from his bundle a copy of the local Herefordshire paper, and having
turned down the sheet he pointed out the paragraph in which the unfortunate young
man had given his own statement of what had occurred.
I settled myself down in the corner of the carriage and read it very carefully.
It ran in this way:
"Mr. James McCarthy, the only son of the deceased, was then called and gave evidence
as follows: 'I had been away from home for three days at Bristol, and had only just
returned upon the morning of last Monday, the 3rd.
My father was absent from home at the time of my arrival, and I was informed by the
maid that he had driven over to Ross with John Cobb, the groom.
Shortly after my return I heard the wheels of his trap in the yard, and, looking out
of my window, I saw him get out and walk rapidly out of the yard, though I was not
aware in which direction he was going.
I then took my gun and strolled out in the direction of the Boscombe Pool, with the
intention of visiting the rabbit warren which is upon the other side.
On my way I saw William Crowder, the game- keeper, as he had stated in his evidence;
but he is mistaken in thinking that I was following my father.
I had no idea that he was in front of me.
When about a hundred yards from the pool I heard a cry of "Cooee!" which was a usual
signal between my father and myself. I then hurried forward, and found him
standing by the pool.
He appeared to be much surprised at seeing me and asked me rather roughly what I was
doing there.
A conversation ensued which led to high words and almost to blows, for my father
was a man of a very violent temper.
Seeing that his passion was becoming ungovernable, I left him and returned
towards Hatherley Farm.
I had not gone more than 150 yards, however, when I heard a hideous outcry
behind me, which caused me to run back again.
I found my father expiring upon the ground, with his head terribly injured.
I dropped my gun and held him in my arms, but he almost instantly expired.
I knelt beside him for some minutes, and then made my way to Mr. Turner's lodge-
keeper, his house being the nearest, to ask for assistance.
I saw no one near my father when I returned, and I have no idea how he came by
his injuries.
He was not a popular man, being somewhat cold and forbidding in his manners, but he
had, as far as I know, no active enemies. I know nothing further of the matter.'
"The Coroner: Did your father make any statement to you before he died?
"Witness: He mumbled a few words, but I could only catch some allusion to a rat.
"The Coroner: What did you understand by that?
"Witness: It conveyed no meaning to me. I thought that he was delirious.
"The Coroner: What was the point upon which you and your father had this final quarrel?
"Witness: I should prefer not to answer. "The Coroner: I am afraid that I must press
"Witness: It is really impossible for me to tell you.
I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the sad tragedy which followed.
"The Coroner: That is for the court to decide.
I need not point out to you that your refusal to answer will prejudice your case
considerably in any future proceedings which may arise.
"Witness: I must still refuse.
"The Coroner: I understand that the cry of 'Cooee' was a common signal between you and
your father? "Witness: It was.
"The Coroner: How was it, then, that he uttered it before he saw you, and before he
even knew that you had returned from Bristol?
"Witness (with considerable confusion): I do not know.
"A Juryman: Did you see nothing which aroused your suspicions when you returned
on hearing the cry and found your father fatally injured?
"Witness: Nothing definite.
"The Coroner: What do you mean? "Witness: I was so disturbed and excited as
I rushed out into the open, that I could think of nothing except of my father.
Yet I have a vague impression that as I ran forward something lay upon the ground to
the left of me.
It seemed to me to be something grey in colour, a coat of some sort, or a plaid
perhaps. When I rose from my father I looked round
for it, but it was gone.
"'Do you mean that it disappeared before you went for help?'
"'Yes, it was gone.' "'You cannot say what it was?'
"'No, I had a feeling something was there.'
"'How far from the body?' "'A dozen yards or so.'
"'And how far from the edge of the wood?' "'About the same.'
"'Then if it was removed it was while you were within a dozen yards of it?'
"'Yes, but with my back towards it.' "This concluded the examination of the
"I see," said I as I glanced down the column, "that the coroner in his concluding
remarks was rather severe upon young McCarthy.
He calls attention, and with reason, to the discrepancy about his father having
signalled to him before seeing him, also to his refusal to give details of his
conversation with his father, and his
singular account of his father's dying words.
They are all, as he remarks, very much against the son."
Holmes laughed softly to himself and stretched himself out upon the cushioned
"Both you and the coroner have been at some pains," said he, "to single out the very
strongest points in the young man's favour.
Don't you see that you alternately give him credit for having too much imagination and
too little?
Too little, if he could not invent a cause of quarrel which would give him the
sympathy of the jury; too much, if he evolved from his own inner consciousness
anything so outré as a dying reference to a
rat, and the incident of the vanishing cloth.
No, sir, I shall approach this case from the point of view that what this young man
says is true, and we shall see whither that hypothesis will lead us.
And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and not another word shall I say of this case until
we are on the scene of action. We lunch at Swindon, and I see that we
shall be there in twenty minutes."
It was nearly four o'clock when we at last, after passing through the beautiful Stroud
Valley, and over the broad gleaming Severn, found ourselves at the pretty little
country-town of Ross.
A lean, ferret-like man, furtive and sly- looking, was waiting for us upon the
In spite of the light brown dustcoat and leather-leggings which he wore in deference
to his rustic surroundings, I had no difficulty in recognising Lestrade, of
Scotland Yard.
With him we drove to the Hereford Arms where a room had already been engaged for
us. "I have ordered a carriage," said Lestrade
as we sat over a cup of tea.
"I knew your energetic nature, and that you would not be happy until you had been on
the scene of the crime." "It was very nice and complimentary of
you," Holmes answered.
"It is entirely a question of barometric pressure."
Lestrade looked startled. "I do not quite follow," he said.
"How is the glass?
Twenty-nine, I see. No wind, and not a cloud in the sky.
I have a caseful of cigarettes here which need smoking, and the sofa is very much
superior to the usual country hotel abomination.
I do not think that it is probable that I shall use the carriage to-night."
Lestrade laughed indulgently. "You have, no doubt, already formed your
conclusions from the newspapers," he said.
"The case is as plain as a pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the plainer it
becomes. Still, of course, one can't refuse a lady,
and such a very positive one, too.
She has heard of you, and would have your opinion, though I repeatedly told her that
there was nothing which you could do which I had not already done.
Why, bless my soul! here is her carriage at the door."
He had hardly spoken before there rushed into the room one of the most lovely young
women that I have ever seen in my life.
Her violet eyes shining, her lips parted, a pink flush upon her cheeks, all thought of
her natural reserve lost in her overpowering excitement and concern.
"Oh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" she cried, glancing from one to the other of us, and
finally, with a woman's quick intuition, fastening upon my companion, "I am so glad
that you have come.
I have driven down to tell you so. I know that James didn't do it.
I know it, and I want you to start upon your work knowing it, too.
Never let yourself doubt upon that point.
We have known each other since we were little children, and I know his faults as
no one else does; but he is too tender- hearted to hurt a fly.
Such a charge is absurd to anyone who really knows him."
"I hope we may clear him, Miss Turner," said Sherlock Holmes.
"You may rely upon my doing all that I can."
"But you have read the evidence. You have formed some conclusion?
Do you not see some loophole, some flaw?
Do you not yourself think that he is innocent?"
"I think that it is very probable." "There, now!" she cried, throwing back her
head and looking defiantly at Lestrade.
"You hear! He gives me hopes."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders.
"I am afraid that my colleague has been a little quick in forming his conclusions,"
he said. "But he is right.
I know that he is right. James never did it.
And about his quarrel with his father, I am sure that the reason why he would not speak
about it to the coroner was because I was concerned in it."
"In what way?" asked Holmes.
"It is no time for me to hide anything. James and his father had many disagreements
about me. Mr. McCarthy was very anxious that there
should be a marriage between us.
James and I have always loved each other as brother and sister; but of course he is
young and has seen very little of life yet, and--and--well, he naturally did not wish
to do anything like that yet.
So there were quarrels, and this, I am sure, was one of them."
"And your father?" asked Holmes. "Was he in favour of such a union?"
"No, he was averse to it also.
No one but Mr. McCarthy was in favour of it."
A quick blush passed over her fresh young face as Holmes shot one of his keen,
questioning glances at her.
"Thank you for this information," said he. "May I see your father if I call to-
morrow?" "I am afraid the doctor won't allow it."
"The doctor?"
"Yes, have you not heard? Poor father has never been strong for years
back, but this has broken him down completely.
He has taken to his bed, and Dr. Willows says that he is a wreck and that his
nervous system is shattered. Mr. McCarthy was the only man alive who had
known dad in the old days in Victoria."
"Ha! In Victoria!
That is important." "Yes, at the mines."
"Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I understand, Mr. Turner made his money."
"Yes, certainly." "Thank you, Miss Turner.
You have been of material assistance to me."
"You will tell me if you have any news to- morrow.
No doubt you will go to the prison to see James.
Oh, if you do, Mr. Holmes, do tell him that I know him to be innocent."
"I will, Miss Turner."
"I must go home now, for dad is very ill, and he misses me so if I leave him.
Good-bye, and God help you in your undertaking."
She hurried from the room as impulsively as she had entered, and we heard the wheels of
her carriage rattle off down the street.
"I am ashamed of you, Holmes," said Lestrade with dignity after a few minutes'
silence. "Why should you raise up hopes which you
are bound to disappoint?
I am not over-tender of heart, but I call it cruel."
"I think that I see my way to clearing James McCarthy," said Holmes.
"Have you an order to see him in prison?"
"Yes, but only for you and me." "Then I shall reconsider my resolution
about going out. We have still time to take a train to
Hereford and see him to-night?"
"Ample." "Then let us do so.
Watson, I fear that you will find it very slow, but I shall only be away a couple of
I walked down to the station with them, and then wandered through the streets of the
little town, finally returning to the hotel, where I lay upon the sofa and tried
to interest myself in a yellow-backed novel.
The puny plot of the story was so thin, however, when compared to the deep mystery
through which we were groping, and I found my attention wander so continually from the
action to the fact, that I at last flung it
across the room and gave myself up entirely to a consideration of the events of the
Supposing that this unhappy young man's story were absolutely true, then what
hellish thing, what absolutely unforeseen and extraordinary calamity could have
occurred between the time when he parted
from his father, and the moment when, drawn back by his screams, he rushed into the
glade? It was something terrible and deadly.
What could it be?
Might not the nature of the injuries reveal something to my medical instincts?
I rang the bell and called for the weekly county paper, which contained a verbatim
account of the inquest.
In the surgeon's deposition it was stated that the posterior third of the left
parietal bone and the left half of the occipital bone had been shattered by a
heavy blow from a blunt weapon.
I marked the spot upon my own head. Clearly such a blow must have been struck
from behind.
That was to some extent in favour of the accused, as when seen quarrelling he was
face to face with his father.
Still, it did not go for very much, for the older man might have turned his back before
the blow fell. Still, it might be worth while to call
Holmes' attention to it.
Then there was the peculiar dying reference to a rat.
What could that mean? It could not be delirium.
A man dying from a sudden blow does not commonly become delirious.
No, it was more likely to be an attempt to explain how he met his fate.
But what could it indicate?
I cudgelled my brains to find some possible explanation.
And then the incident of the grey cloth seen by young McCarthy.
If that were true the murderer must have dropped some part of his dress, presumably
his overcoat, in his flight, and must have had the hardihood to return and to carry it
away at the instant when the son was
kneeling with his back turned not a dozen paces off.
What a tissue of mysteries and improbabilities the whole thing was!
I did not wonder at Lestrade's opinion, and yet I had so much faith in Sherlock Holmes'
insight that I could not lose hope as long as every fresh fact seemed to strengthen
his conviction of young McCarthy's innocence.
It was late before Sherlock Holmes returned.
He came back alone, for Lestrade was staying in lodgings in the town.
"The glass still keeps very high," he remarked as he sat down.
"It is of importance that it should not rain before we are able to go over the
On the other hand, a man should be at his very best and keenest for such nice work as
that, and I did not wish to do it when fagged by a long journey.
I have seen young McCarthy."
"And what did you learn from him?" "Nothing."
"Could he throw no light?" "None at all.
I was inclined to think at one time that he knew who had done it and was screening him
or her, but I am convinced now that he is as puzzled as everyone else.
He is not a very quick-witted youth, though comely to look at and, I should think,
sound at heart."
"I cannot admire his taste," I remarked, "if it is indeed a fact that he was averse
to a marriage with so charming a young lady as this Miss Turner."
"Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale.
This fellow is madly, insanely, in love with her, but some two years ago, when he
was only a lad, and before he really knew her, for she had been away five years at a
boarding-school, what does the idiot do but
get into the clutches of a barmaid in Bristol and marry her at a registry office?
No one knows a word of the matter, but you can imagine how maddening it must be to him
to be upbraided for not doing what he would give his very eyes to do, but what he knows
to be absolutely impossible.
It was sheer frenzy of this sort which made him throw his hands up into the air when
his father, at their last interview, was goading him on to propose to Miss Turner.
On the other hand, he had no means of supporting himself, and his father, who was
by all accounts a very hard man, would have thrown him over utterly had he known the
It was with his barmaid wife that he had spent the last three days in Bristol, and
his father did not know where he was. Mark that point.
It is of importance.
Good has come out of evil, however, for the barmaid, finding from the papers that he is
in serious trouble and likely to be hanged, has thrown him over utterly and has written
to him to say that she has a husband
already in the Bermuda Dockyard, so that there is really no tie between them.
I think that that bit of news has consoled young McCarthy for all that he has
"But if he is innocent, who has done it?" "Ah! who?
I would call your attention very particularly to two points.
One is that the murdered man had an appointment with someone at the pool, and
that the someone could not have been his son, for his son was away, and he did not
know when he would return.
The second is that the murdered man was heard to cry 'Cooee!' before he knew that
his son had returned. Those are the crucial points upon which the
case depends.
And now let us talk about George Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave all minor
matters until to-morrow." There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold,
and the morning broke bright and cloudless.
At nine o'clock Lestrade called for us with the carriage, and we set off for Hatherley
Farm and the Boscombe Pool. "There is serious news this morning,"
Lestrade observed.
"It is said that Mr. Turner, of the Hall, is so ill that his life is despaired of."
"An elderly man, I presume?" said Holmes.
"About sixty; but his constitution has been shattered by his life abroad, and he has
been in failing health for some time. This business has had a very bad effect
upon him.
He was an old friend of McCarthy's, and, I may add, a great benefactor to him, for I
have learned that he gave him Hatherley Farm rent free."
That is interesting," said Holmes. "Oh, yes!
In a hundred other ways he has helped him. Everybody about here speaks of his kindness
to him."
Does it not strike you as a little singular that this McCarthy, who appears to have had
little of his own, and to have been under such obligations to Turner, should still
talk of marrying his son to Turner's
daughter, who is, presumably, heiress to the estate, and that in such a very
cocksure manner, as if it were merely a case of a proposal and all else would
It is the more strange, since we know that Turner himself was averse to the idea.
The daughter told us as much. Do you not deduce something from that?"
"We have got to the deductions and the inferences," said Lestrade, winking at me.
"I find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without flying away after theories
and fancies."
"You are right," said Holmes demurely; "you do find it very hard to tackle the facts."
"Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you seem to find it difficult to get hold of,"
replied Lestrade with some warmth.
"And that is--" "That McCarthy senior met his death from
McCarthy junior and that all theories to the contrary are the merest moonshine."
"Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog," said Holmes, laughing.
"But I am very much mistaken if this is not Hatherley Farm upon the left."
"Yes, that is it."
It was a widespread, comfortable-looking building, two-storied, slate-roofed, with
great yellow blotches of lichen upon the grey walls.
The drawn blinds and the smokeless chimneys, however, gave it a stricken look,
as though the weight of this horror still lay heavy upon it.
We called at the door, when the maid, at Holmes' request, showed us the boots which
her master wore at the time of his death, and also a pair of the son's, though not
the pair which he had then had.
Having measured these very carefully from seven or eight different points, Holmes
desired to be led to the court-yard, from which we all followed the winding track
which led to Boscombe Pool.
Sherlock Holmes was transformed when he was hot upon such a scent as this.
Men who had only known the quiet thinker and logician of Baker Street would have
failed to recognise him.
His face flushed and darkened. His brows were drawn into two hard black
lines, while his eyes shone out from beneath them with a steely glitter.
His face was bent downward, his shoulders bowed, his lips compressed, and the veins
stood out like whipcord in his long, sinewy neck.
His nostrils seemed to dilate with a purely animal lust for the chase, and his mind was
so absolutely concentrated upon the matter before him that a question or remark fell
unheeded upon his ears, or, at the most,
only provoked a quick, impatient snarl in reply.
Swiftly and silently he made his way along the track which ran through the meadows,
and so by way of the woods to the Boscombe Pool.
It was damp, marshy ground, as is all that district, and there were marks of many
feet, both upon the path and amid the short grass which bounded it on either side.
Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes stop dead, and once he made quite a little
detour into the meadow.
Lestrade and I walked behind him, the detective indifferent and contemptuous,
while I watched my friend with the interest which sprang from the conviction that every
one of his actions was directed towards a definite end.
The Boscombe Pool, which is a little reed- girt sheet of water some fifty yards
across, is situated at the boundary between the Hatherley Farm and the private park of
the wealthy Mr. Turner.
Above the woods which lined it upon the farther side we could see the red, jutting
pinnacles which marked the site of the rich landowner's dwelling.
On the Hatherley side of the pool the woods grew very thick, and there was a narrow
belt of sodden grass twenty paces across between the edge of the trees and the reeds
which lined the lake.
Lestrade showed us the exact spot at which the body had been found, and, indeed, so
moist was the ground, that I could plainly see the traces which had been left by the
fall of the stricken man.
To Holmes, as I could see by his eager face and peering eyes, very many other things
were to be read upon the trampled grass. He ran round, like a dog who is picking up
a scent, and then turned upon my companion.
"What did you go into the pool for?" he asked.
"I fished about with a rake. I thought there might be some weapon or
other trace.
But how on earth--" "Oh, tut, tut!
I have no time! That left foot of yours with its inward
twist is all over the place.
A mole could trace it, and there it vanishes among the reeds.
Oh, how simple it would all have been had I been here before they came like a herd of
buffalo and wallowed all over it.
Here is where the party with the lodge- keeper came, and they have covered all
tracks for six or eight feet round the body.
But here are three separate tracks of the same feet."
He drew out a lens and lay down upon his waterproof to have a better view, talking
all the time rather to himself than to us.
"These are young McCarthy's feet. Twice he was walking, and once he ran
swiftly, so that the soles are deeply marked and the heels hardly visible.
That bears out his story.
He ran when he saw his father on the ground.
Then here are the father's feet as he paced up and down.
What is this, then?
It is the butt-end of the gun as the son stood listening.
And this? Ha, ha!
What have we here?
Tiptoes! tiptoes! Square, too, quite unusual boots!
They come, they go, they come again--of course that was for the cloak.
Now where did they come from?"
He ran up and down, sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track until we were
well within the edge of the wood and under the shadow of a great beech, the largest
tree in the neighbourhood.
Holmes traced his way to the farther side of this and lay down once more upon his
face with a little cry of satisfaction.
For a long time he remained there, turning over the leaves and dried sticks, gathering
up what seemed to me to be dust into an envelope and examining with his lens not
only the ground but even the bark of the tree as far as he could reach.
A jagged stone was lying among the moss, and this also he carefully examined and
Then he followed a pathway through the wood until he came to the highroad, where all
traces were lost.
"It has been a case of considerable interest," he remarked, returning to his
natural manner. "I fancy that this grey house on the right
must be the lodge.
I think that I will go in and have a word with Moran, and perhaps write a little
note. Having done that, we may drive back to our
You may walk to the cab, and I shall be with you presently."
It was about ten minutes before we regained our cab and drove back into Ross, Holmes
still carrying with him the stone which he had picked up in the wood.
"This may interest you, Lestrade," he remarked, holding it out.
"The murder was done with it." "I see no marks."
"There are none."
"How do you know, then?" "The grass was growing under it.
It had only lain there a few days. There was no sign of a place whence it had
been taken.
It corresponds with the injuries. There is no sign of any other weapon."
"And the murderer?"
"Is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the right leg, wears thick-soled shooting-boots
and a grey cloak, smokes Indian cigars, uses a cigar-holder, and carries a blunt
pen-knife in his pocket.
There are several other indications, but these may be enough to aid us in our
search." Lestrade laughed.
"I am afraid that I am still a sceptic," he said.
"Theories are all very well, but we have to deal with a hard-headed British jury."
"Nous verrons," answered Holmes calmly.
"You work your own method, and I shall work mine.
I shall be busy this afternoon, and shall probably return to London by the evening
"And leave your case unfinished?" "No, finished."
"But the mystery?" "It is solved."
"Who was the criminal, then?"
"The gentleman I describe." "But who is he?"
"Surely it would not be difficult to find out.
This is not such a populous neighbourhood."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. "I am a practical man," he said, "and I
really cannot undertake to go about the country looking for a left-handed gentleman
with a game leg.
I should become the laughing-stock of Scotland Yard."
"All right," said Holmes quietly. "I have given you the chance.
Here are your lodgings.
Good-bye. I shall drop you a line before I leave."
Having left Lestrade at his rooms, we drove to our hotel, where we found lunch upon the
Holmes was silent and buried in thought with a pained expression upon his face, as
one who finds himself in a perplexing position.
"Look here, Watson," he said when the cloth was cleared "just sit down in this chair
and let me preach to you for a little. I don't know quite what to do, and I should
value your advice.
Light a cigar and let me expound." "Pray do so."
"Well, now, in considering this case there are two points about young McCarthy's
narrative which struck us both instantly, although they impressed me in his favour
and you against him.
One was the fact that his father should, according to his account, cry 'Cooee!'
before seeing him. The other was his singular dying reference
to a rat.
He mumbled several words, you understand, but that was all that caught the son's ear.
Now from this double point our research must commence, and we will begin it by
presuming that what the lad says is absolutely true."
"What of this 'Cooee!' then?"
"Well, obviously it could not have been meant for the son.
The son, as far as he knew, was in Bristol. It was mere chance that he was within
The 'Cooee!' was meant to attract the attention of whoever it was that he had the
appointment with. But 'Cooee' is a distinctly Australian cry,
and one which is used between Australians.
There is a strong presumption that the person whom McCarthy expected to meet him
at Boscombe Pool was someone who had been in Australia."
"What of the rat, then?"
Sherlock Holmes took a folded paper from his pocket and flattened it out on the
table. "This is a map of the Colony of Victoria,"
he said.
"I wired to Bristol for it last night." He put his hand over part of the map.
"What do you read?" "ARAT," I read.
"And now?"
He raised his hand. "BALLARAT."
"Quite so.
That was the word the man uttered, and of which his son only caught the last two
syllables. He was trying to utter the name of his
So and so, of Ballarat." "It is wonderful!"
I exclaimed. "It is obvious.
And now, you see, I had narrowed the field down considerably.
The possession of a grey garment was a third point which, granting the son's
statement to be correct, was a certainty.
We have come now out of mere vagueness to the definite conception of an Australian
from Ballarat with a grey cloak." "Certainly."
"And one who was at home in the district, for the pool can only be approached by the
farm or by the estate, where strangers could hardly wander."
"Quite so."
"Then comes our expedition of to-day. By an examination of the ground I gained
the trifling details which I gave to that imbecile Lestrade, as to the personality of
the criminal."
"But how did you gain them?" "You know my method.
It is founded upon the observation of trifles."
"His height I know that you might roughly judge from the length of his stride.
His boots, too, might be told from their traces."
"Yes, they were peculiar boots."
"But his lameness?" "The impression of his right foot was
always less distinct than his left. He put less weight upon it.
Because he limped--he was lame." "But his left-handedness."
"You were yourself struck by the nature of the injury as recorded by the surgeon at
the inquest.
The blow was struck from immediately behind, and yet was upon the left side.
Now, how can that be unless it were by a left-handed man?
He had stood behind that tree during the interview between the father and son.
He had even smoked there.
I found the ash of a cigar, which my special knowledge of tobacco ashes enables
me to pronounce as an Indian cigar.
I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and written a little monograph on
the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco.
Having found the ash, I then looked round and discovered the stump among the moss
where he had tossed it. It was an Indian cigar, of the variety
which are rolled in Rotterdam."
"And the cigar-holder?" "I could see that the end had not been in
his mouth. Therefore he used a holder.
The tip had been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was not a clean one, so I
deduced a blunt pen-knife."
"Holmes," I said, "you have drawn a net round this man from which he cannot escape,
and you have saved an innocent human life as truly as if you had cut the cord which
was hanging him.
I see the direction in which all this points.
The culprit is--"
"Mr. John Turner," cried the hotel waiter, opening the door of our sitting-room, and
ushering in a visitor. The man who entered was a strange and
impressive figure.
His slow, limping step and bowed shoulders gave the appearance of decrepitude, and yet
his hard, deep-lined, craggy features, and his enormous limbs showed that he was
possessed of unusual strength of body and of character.
His tangled beard, grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping eyebrows combined to
give an air of dignity and power to his appearance, but his face was of an ashen
white, while his lips and the corners of
his nostrils were tinged with a shade of blue.
It was clear to me at a glance that he was in the grip of some deadly and chronic
"Pray sit down on the sofa," said Holmes gently.
"You had my note?" "Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up.
You said that you wished to see me here to avoid scandal."
"I thought people would talk if I went to the Hall."
"And why did you wish to see me?"
He looked across at my companion with despair in his weary eyes, as though his
question was already answered. "Yes," said Holmes, answering the look
rather than the words.
"It is so. I know all about McCarthy."
The old man sank his face in his hands. "God help me!" he cried.
"But I would not have let the young man come to harm.
I give you my word that I would have spoken out if it went against him at the Assizes."
"I am glad to hear you say so," said Holmes gravely.
"I would have spoken now had it not been for my dear girl.
It would break her heart--it will break her heart when she hears that I am arrested."
"It may not come to that," said Holmes. "What?"
"I am no official agent.
I understand that it was your daughter who required my presence here, and I am acting
in her interests. Young McCarthy must be got off, however."
"I am a dying man," said old Turner.
"I have had diabetes for years. My doctor says it is a question whether I
shall live a month. Yet I would rather die under my own roof
than in a gaol."
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with his pen in his hand and a bundle of paper
before him. "Just tell us the truth," he said.
"I shall jot down the facts.
You will sign it, and Watson here can witness it.
Then I could produce your confession at the last extremity to save young McCarthy.
I promise you that I shall not use it unless it is absolutely needed."
"It's as well," said the old man; "it's a question whether I shall live to the
Assizes, so it matters little to me, but I should wish to spare Alice the shock.
And now I will make the thing clear to you; it has been a long time in the acting, but
will not take me long to tell. "You didn't know this dead man, McCarthy.
He was a devil incarnate.
I tell you that. God keep you out of the clutches of such a
man as he. His grip has been upon me these twenty
years, and he has blasted my life.
I'll tell you first how I came to be in his power.
"It was in the early '60's at the diggings.
I was a young chap then, hot-blooded and reckless, ready to turn my hand at
anything; I got among bad companions, took to drink, had no luck with my claim, took
to the bush, and in a word became what you would call over here a highway robber.
There were six of us, and we had a wild, free life of it, sticking up a station from
time to time, or stopping the wagons on the road to the diggings.
Black Jack of Ballarat was the name I went under, and our party is still remembered in
the colony as the Ballarat Gang.
"One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait
for it and attacked it.
There were six troopers and six of us, so it was a close thing, but we emptied four
of their saddles at the first volley. Three of our boys were killed, however,
before we got the swag.
I put my pistol to the head of the wagon- driver, who was this very man McCarthy.
I wish to the Lord that I had shot him then, but I spared him, though I saw his
wicked little eyes fixed on my face, as though to remember every feature.
We got away with the gold, became wealthy men, and made our way over to England
without being suspected.
There I parted from my old pals and determined to settle down to a quiet and
respectable life.
I bought this estate, which chanced to be in the market, and I set myself to do a
little good with my money, to make up for the way in which I had earned it.
I married, too, and though my wife died young she left me my dear little Alice.
Even when she was just a baby her wee hand seemed to lead me down the right path as
nothing else had ever done.
In a word, I turned over a new leaf and did my best to make up for the past.
All was going well when McCarthy laid his grip upon me.
"I had gone up to town about an investment, and I met him in Regent Street with hardly
a coat to his back or a boot to his foot.
"'Here we are, Jack,' says he, touching me on the arm; 'we'll be as good as a family
to you. There's two of us, me and my son, and you
can have the keeping of us.
If you don't--it's a fine, law-abiding country is England, and there's always a
policeman within hail.'
"Well, down they came to the west country, there was no shaking them off, and there
they have lived rent free on my best land ever since.
There was no rest for me, no peace, no forgetfulness; turn where I would, there
was his cunning, grinning face at my elbow.
It grew worse as Alice grew up, for he soon saw I was more afraid of her knowing my
past than of the police.
Whatever he wanted he must have, and whatever it was I gave him without
question, land, money, houses, until at last he asked a thing which I could not
He asked for Alice.
"His son, you see, had grown up, and so had my girl, and as I was known to be in weak
health, it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad should step into the whole
But there I was firm. I would not have his cursed stock mixed
with mine; not that I had any dislike to the lad, but his blood was in him, and that
was enough.
I stood firm. McCarthy threatened.
I braved him to do his worst. We were to meet at the pool midway between
our houses to talk it over.
"When I went down there I found him talking with his son, so I smoked a cigar and
waited behind a tree until he should be alone.
But as I listened to his talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed to come
He was urging his son to marry my daughter with as little regard for what she might
think as if she were a slut from off the streets.
It drove me mad to think that I and all that I held most dear should be in the
power of such a man as this. Could I not snap the bond?
I was already a dying and a desperate man.
Though clear of mind and fairly strong of limb, I knew that my own fate was sealed.
But my memory and my girl! Both could be saved if I could but silence
that foul tongue.
I did it, Mr. Holmes. I would do it again.
Deeply as I have sinned, I have led a life of martyrdom to atone for it.
But that my girl should be entangled in the same meshes which held me was more than I
could suffer.
I struck him down with no more compunction than if he had been some foul and venomous
His cry brought back his son; but I had gained the cover of the wood, though I was
forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had dropped in my flight.
That is the true story, gentlemen, of all that occurred."
"Well, it is not for me to judge you," said Holmes as the old man signed the statement
which had been drawn out.
"I pray that we may never be exposed to such a temptation."
"I pray not, sir. And what do you intend to do?"
"In view of your health, nothing.
You are yourself aware that you will soon have to answer for your deed at a higher
court than the Assizes.
I will keep your confession, and if McCarthy is condemned I shall be forced to
use it.
If not, it shall never be seen by mortal eye; and your secret, whether you be alive
or dead, shall be safe with us." "Farewell, then," said the old man
"Your own deathbeds, when they come, will be the easier for the thought of the peace
which you have given to mine." Tottering and shaking in all his giant
frame, he stumbled slowly from the room.
"God help us!" said Holmes after a long silence.
"Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms?
I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say,
'There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.'"
James McCarthy was acquitted at the Assizes on the strength of a number of objections
which had been drawn out by Holmes and submitted to the defending counsel.
Old Turner lived for seven months after our interview, but he is now dead; and there is
every prospect that the son and daughter may come to live happily together in
ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon their past.