The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The largest landed proprietor in [Boscombe Valley] is a Mr. John Turner, who made his money in Australia and returned some years ago to the old country. One of the farms which he held, that of Hatherley, was let to Mr. Charles McCarthy, who was also an ex-Australian. The men had known each other in the colonies, so that it was not unnatural that when they came to settle down they should do so as near each other as possible. Turner was apparently the richer man, so McCarthy became his tenant but still remained, it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they were frequently together (Valley.17).
Not to be obvious or anything, but the thing about the British colonies is that they are so gosh-darned far away from England. This means that Turner can try to leave behind his history of robbery in Australia by coming to "the old country." But it also means that he has no protection against someone like McCarthy, who won't allow him to start a new life. Australia in this story seems to represent Conan Doyle's simultaneous fear of and fascination with the colonial system as a whole: it offers great rewards (gold), but also great personal and moral risk.
It was with his barmaid wife that [James McCarthy] 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 (Valley.114).
Again, freedom of travel leaves people exposed to a greater range of wrongdoing – both that they become tempted to commit or that others do. After all, if her husband hadn't been in Bermuda, this barmaid could never have drawn McCarthy into a marriage he would come to regret.
"One day – it was in March, 1883 – a letter with a foreign stamp lay upon the table in front of the colonel's plate. It was not a common thing for him to receive letters, for his bills were all paid in ready money, and he had no friends of any sort. 'From India!' said he as he took it up, 'Pondicherry postmark! What can this be?' Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began to laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his face. His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the colour of putty, and he glared at the envelope which he still held in his trembling hand, 'K. K. K.!' he shrieked, and then, 'My God, my God, my sins have overtaken me!'" (Orange.38).
One thing that Conan Doyle reassures us about is that, in spite of all of this modern moving around, you can't leave your evil past behind: murder will out, as the saying goes. Again, this seems like further evidence of some kind of cosmic justice at work in Holmes's world.