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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


"What is the young man's own account of the matter?"

"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 this
way:

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. Turner's 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
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 imaginition 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."



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