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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


"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 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
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 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 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 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 suffered."

"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?" saild 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."

"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 the facts."

"Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you seem to find it
difficult to get hold of," replied Lesbiade 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.



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