The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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"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 gray 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
"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 train."
"And leave your case unfinished?"
"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
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 table. 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 favor 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
"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 earshot. 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
"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
"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 murderer.
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 gray 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 gray
"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."
"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. Why? 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
"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
"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 disease.
"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.
"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 jail."
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
"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 give. He asked
"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 property. 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
"When we went down there I found him talking with his son, so 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 uppermost. 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.