Good-night Mister Sherlock Holmes

March 1, 2009

I am no official agent.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mark Loper @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , ,

The Boscombe Valley Mystery is standard Doyle fare and has many reoccurring themes; the mysterious early life in Australia (or America), early resolution of the mystery, and a magnanimous adjudication by Holmes. The latter is very common in the Holmes stories and is perhaps what motivated Dr. Watson to regard Holmes, in The Final Problem, as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.

In this particular story, Holmes has solved the case and, as importantly, discovered the extenuating circumstances that plaque the principles.  He must make a decision. He balances the interests of the players, and confronts John Turner.

“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.”  

John Turner then provides some particulars which Holmes was unaware then Holmes renders his decision.

“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.”

After John Turner leaves,

“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.’ ”

It would be difficult to argue for a more reasoned disposition.

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