This was the story the yellow Stranger told to the Coroner. And the Coroner listened and asked:
“Can you account for conduct of deceased? Had he been drinking that evening?”
“He had,” answered the witness, and for a moment, while the Coroner took a note, it seemed he had said all. Then he seemed to think better of it, and added “My father suffered from delusions sir.”
“Hey? What sort of delusions?” The Coroner glanced at the jury, who sat impassive.
“Well, sir, my father in his young days had served as a soldier.”
Here the jurymen began to show interest suddenly. One or two leaned forward. “He belonged to the 4th Regiment, and was at the siege of Badajos. During the sack of the city he broke into a house, and—and—after that he was missing.”
“Go on,” said the Coroner, for the witness had paused.
“That was where he first met my mother, sir. It was her house, and she and a priest kept him hidden till the English had left. After that he married her. There were three children—all boys. My brothers came first: they were twins. I was born two years later.”
“All born in Badajos?”
“All in Badajos, sir. My brothers will be there still, if they’re living.”
“But these delusions—”
“I’m coming to them. My father must have been hurt, somehow hurt in his head. He would have it that my two brothers—twins, sir, if you’ll be pleased to mark it—were no sons of his, but of two friends of his, soldiers of the 4th Regiment who had been killed, the both, that evening by the San Vincente bastion. So you see he must have been wrong in his head.”
“O, there couldn’t be any mistake about me. I was his very image, and—perhaps I ought to say, sir—he hated me for it. When my mother died—she had been a fruit-seller—he handed the business over to my brothers, taking only enough to carry him back to England and me with him. The day after we landed in London he apprenticed me to a brassworker. I was just turned fifteen, and from that day until last Wednesday three weeks we never set eyes on each other.”
“Let me see,” said the Coroner, turning back a page or two. “At the last moment just before he fell, you say—and the other witnesses confirm it—that he called out twice—uttered two names, I think.”
“They were the names by which he used to call my brothers, sir—the names of his two mates in the storming party.”