I could hardly imagine a more damning case, I
remarked. If ever circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal it does so
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 land-owner, who believe in his innocence,
and who have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect in connection with A Study in
Scarlet, to work out the case in his interest. 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
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 characterizes 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 coroners jury.
It was a confession, I ejaculated.
No, for it was followed by a protestation of
on the top of such a damning series of events, it was at least a most suspicious
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
What is the young mans own account of the
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
- 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 3d. 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.
Turners 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
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 it.
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 gray 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
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?
but with my back towards it.
This concluded the examination of the witness.
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 fathers 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 seat. Both you and the coroner have been at some pains,
said he, to single out the very strongest points in the young mans favour.
Dont 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 outre 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 oclock 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 platform. In spite of the light brown dustcoat
and leather-leggings which he wore in deference to his rustic surroundings, I had no
difficulty in recognizing 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,
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 cant refuse a lady, and such a very positive one, too. She had 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.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes! she cried, glancing from one to the other of us, and finally,
with a womans 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 didnt 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
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. Oh! 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 andwell, 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 wont allow it.
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.
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?
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 fiction 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 mans 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 surgeons 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 Holmess 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
Lestrades opinion, and yet I had so much faith in Sherlock Holmess insight
that I could not lose hope as long as every fresh fact seemed to strengthen his conviction
of young McCarthys 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?
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
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 oclock 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
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 McCarthys, 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.
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 Turners 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 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
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 Holmess request, showed us the boots which her master
wore at the time of his death, and also a pair of the sons, 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.
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 land-owners 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 McCarthys 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 fathers
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 againof 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 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.
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 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 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 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
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
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
dont know quite what to do, and I should value your advice. Light a cigar and let me
Pray do so.
Well, now, in considering this case there are two points
about young McCarthys 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 sons 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
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 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.
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 sons 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
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
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 limpedhe was
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 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
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 heartit will break her heart when she hears that I am
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.
Its as well, said the old man;
its 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 didnt 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. Ill tell
you first how I came to be in his power.
It was in the early 60s 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
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; well be as good as a family to you. Theres two of us, me and my
son, and you can have the keeping of us. If you dontits a fine,
law-abiding country is England, and theres 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 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 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 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 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. 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 beast. 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 solemnly.
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 Baxters 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.