The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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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?"
"Then let us do so. Watson, I fear that you will find it very slow, but I
shall only be away a couple of hours."
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 day. 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 hail 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 favor 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's 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 gray
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's insight that I could not lose
hope as long as every fresh fact seemed to strengthen his conviction of young
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 ground. 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
"And what did you learn from him?"
"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 truth. 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
"Indeed! 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."
"Really! 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
follow? 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
"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 gray
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's 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 recognize 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 land 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
"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 neighborhood. 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 retained. 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 gray 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 luncheon. 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
"This may interest you, Lestrade," he remarked, holding it out. "The murder
was done with it."
"I see no marks."