“Nothing is stated to that effect in the written description,” replied the coroner.
“Perhaps,” suggested Pope, “Inspector Badger can tell us.”
“I think,” said the coroner, “we had better not ask the police too many questions. They will tell us anything that they wish to be made public.”
“Oh, very well,” snapped the cobbler. “If it’s a matter of hushing it up I’ve got no more to say; only I don’t see how we are to arrive at a verdict if we don’t have the facts put before us.”
All the witnesses having now been examined, the coroner proceeded to sum up and address the jury.
“You have heard the evidence, gentlemen, of the various witnesses, and you will have perceived that it does not enable us to answer either of the questions that form the subject of this inquiry. We now know that the deceased was an elderly man, about sixty years of age, and about five feet eight or nine in height; and that his death took place from eighteen months to two years ago. That is all we know. From the treatment to which the body has been subjected we may form certain conjectures as to the circumstances of his death. But we have no actual knowledge. We do not know who the deceased was or how he came by his death. Consequently, it will be necessary to adjourn this inquiry until fresh facts are available, and as soon as that is the case, you will receive due notice that your attendance is required.”
The silence of the Court gave place to the confused noise of moving chairs and a general outbreak of eager talk, amidst which I rose and made my way out into the street. At the door I encountered Dr. Summers, whose dog-cart was waiting close by.
“Are you going back to town now?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered; “as soon as I can catch a train.”
“If you jump into my cart I’ll run you down in time for the five-one. You’ll miss it if you walk.”
I accepted his offer thankfully, and a minute later was spinning briskly down the road to the station.
“Queer little devil, that man, Pope,” Dr. Summers remarked. “Quite a character; socialist, labourite, agitator, general crank; anything for a row.”
“Yes,” I answered, “that was what his appearance suggested. It must be trying for the coroner to get a truculent rascal like that on a jury.”
Summers laughed. “I don’t know. He supplies the comic relief. And then, you know, those fellows have their uses. Some of his questions were pretty pertinent.”
“So Badger seemed to think.”
“Yes, by Jove,” chuckled Summers, “Badger didn’t like him a bit; and I suspect the worthy inspector was sailing pretty close to the wind in his answers.”
“You think he really has some private information?”
“Depends upon what you mean by ‘information.’ The police are not a speculative body. They wouldn’t be taking all this trouble unless they had a pretty straight tip from somebody. How are Mr. and Miss Bellingham? I used to know them slightly when they lived here.”