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Quotes

Quote #1

"The law cannot, as you say, touch you [Mr. Windibank]," said Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door, "yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!" he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man's face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but here's a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to—" He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr. James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.

"There's a cold-blooded scoundrel!" said Holmes, laughing, as he threw himself down into his chair once more. "That fellow will rise from crime to crime until he does something very bad, and ends on a gallows. The case has, in some respects, been not entirely devoid of interest" (Identity.129-30).

Does Holmes's quick change from apparent fury to laughter cast doubt on the sincerity of his feelings? Is it enough for him to content himself with the belief that Windibank will eventually be hanged? What do you think about Holmes's decision to not tell Mary Sutherland about her stepfather's (and mother's, for that matter) deception?

Quote #2

"Well, it is not for me to judge you [John Turner]," 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" (Valley.209-12).

Holmes's decision to not use Turner's statement to get James McCarthy's case dismissed probably leaves McCarthy in for some serious emotional turmoil until the young man's finally acquitted. Also, even though Holmes says that "it is not for [him] to judge," by choosing not to turn over a killer to the police, isn't that choice itself a judgment? Do you agree with Holmes's decision? Do you think that it's fair that Holmes has this kind of power over his clients' lives?

Quote #3

There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human plans, and the murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive the orange pips which would show them that another, as cunning and as resolute as themselves, was upon their track. Very long and very severe were the equinoctial gales that year. We waited long for news of the Lone Star of Savannah, but none ever reached us. We did at last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a shattered stern-post of a boat was seen swinging in the trough of a wave, with the letters "L. S." carved upon it, and that is all which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone Star (Orange.179).

Why does Conan Doyle insert this sudden reminder that "the best laid of human plans" are still subject to chance? Why does he deny the reader the resolution of seeing Calhoun arrested? And what role might mistakes and chance play in building the reader's suspense?

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