"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 delirious.'
"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 suspiclons 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 color, 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 help?'
"'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?'
"'Yes, 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 father's 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 man's favor. Don't 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."