The conservatory door was open when the Inspector arrived, and the key was inside.
Deceased, when he saw him, was in dinner-jacket and pumps, without hat or overcoat.
The term “pumps” for shoes has been in use since the 1720s, but the origin is uncertain. For women, they are a lightweight, low-cut shoe without fastenings.
For men, they are a slip-on black patent leather shoe, for wear with formal dress.
He was wet through, and his clothes, besides being much blood-stained, were very muddy and greatly disordered through the dragging of the body. The pocket contained a cigar-case and a small flat pocket-knife. Deceased's bedroom had been searched for papers, etc., but so far nothing had been found to shed very much light on his circumstances.
The Duke of Denver was then recalled.
The Coroner: “I should like to ask your grace whether you ever saw deceased in possession of a revolver?”
Duke of D.: “Not since the war.”
World War I
The Coroner: “You do not know if he carried one about with him?”
Duke of D.: “I have no idea.”
The Coroner: “You can make no guess, I suppose, to whom this revolver belongs?”
Duke of D. (in great surprise): “That's my revolver—out of the study table drawer. How did you get hold of that?” (Sensation.)
The Coroner: “You are certain?”
Duke of D.: “Positive. I saw it there only the other day, when I was hunting out some photos of Mary for Cathcart, and I remember saying then that it was getting rusty lying about. There's the speck of rust.”
The Coroner: “Did you keep it loaded?”
Duke of D.: “Lord, no! I really don't know why it was there. I fancy I turned it out one day with some old Army stuff, and found it among my shooting things when I was up at Riddlesdale in August. I think the cartridges were with it.”
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head (centerfire ammunition) or at its rim (rimfire ammunition). Electrically fired cartridges have also been made. Caseless ammunition has been made as well. A cartridge without a bullet is called a blank; one that is completely inert is called a dummy. In popular use, the term "bullet" is often misused to refer to complete cartridges. This is incorrect; "bullet" refers specifically to the projectile itself, not the entire cartridge.
The Coroner: “Was the drawer locked?”
Duke of D.: “Yes, but the key was in the lock. My wife tells me I'm careless.”
The Coroner: “Did anybody else know the revolver was there?”
Duke of D.: “Fleming did, I think. I don't know of anybody else.”
Detective-Inspector Parker of Scotland Yard, having only arrived on Friday, had been unable as yet to make any very close investigation. Certain indications led him to think that some person or persons had been on the scene of the tragedy in addition to those who had taken part in the discovery. He preferred to say nothing more at present.
The Coroner then reconstructed the evidence in chronological order:
At, or a little after, ten o'clock there had been a quarrel between deceased and the Duke of Denver, after which deceased had left the house never to be seen alive again. They had the evidence of Mr. Pettigrew-Robinson that the Duke had gone downstairs at 11.30, and that of Colonel Marchbanks that he had been heard immediately afterwards moving about in the study, the room in which the revolver produced in evidence was usually kept. Against this they had the Duke's own sworn statement that he had not left his bedroom till half-past two in the morning. The jury would have to consider what weight was to be attached to those conflicting statements.
Then, as to the shots heard in the night; the gamekeeper had said he heard a shot at ten minutes to twelve, but he had supposed it to be fired by poachers. It was, in fact, quite possible that there had been poachers about. On the other hand, Lady Mary's statement that she had heard the shot at about three a.m. did not fit in very well with the doctor's evidence that when he arrived at Riddlesdale at 4.30 deceased had been already three or four hours dead. They would remember also that in Dr. Thorpe's opinion, death had not immediately followed the wound. If they believed this evidence, therefore, they would have to put back the moment of death to between eleven p.m. and midnight, and this might very well have been the shot which the gamekeeper heard. In that case they had still to ask themselves about the shot which had awakened Lady Mary Wimsey. Of course, if they liked to put that down to poachers, there was no inherent impossibility.
They next came to the body of deceased, which had been discovered by the Duke of Denver at three a.m. lying outside the door of the small conservatory, near the covered well. There seemed little doubt, from the medical evidence, that the shot which killed deceased had been fired in the shrubbery, about seven minutes' distance from the house, and that the body of deceased had been dragged from that place to the house. Deceased had undoubtedly died as the result of being shot in the lungs. The jury would have to decide whether that shot was fired by his own hand or by the hand of another; and, if the latter, whether by accident, in self-defense, or by malice aforethought with intent to murder. As regards suicide, they must consider what they knew of deceased's character and circumstances.
Deceased was a young man in the prime of his strength, and apparently of considerable fortune. He had had a meritorious military career, and was liked by his friends. The Duke of Denver had thought sufficiently well of him to consent to his own sister's engagement to deceased. There was evidence to show that the fiancés, though perhaps not demonstrative, were on excellent terms. The Duke affirmed that on the Wednesday night deceased had announced his intention of breaking off the engagement. Did they believe that deceased, without even communicating with the lady, or writing a word of explanation or farewell, would thereupon rush out and shoot himself?
Again, the jury must consider the accusation which the Duke of Denver said he had brought against deceased. He had accused him of cheating at cards. In the kind of society to which the persons involved in this inquiry belonged, such a misdemeanor as cheating at cards was regarded as far more shameful than such sins as murders and adultery.
Possibly the mere suggestion of such a thing, whether well-founded or not, might well cause a gentleman of sensitive honor to make away with himself. But was deceased honorable? Deceased had been educated in France, and French notions of the honest thing were very different from British ones. The Coroner himself had had business relations with French persons in his capacity as a solicitor, and could assure such of the jury as had never been in France that they ought to allow for these different standards. Unhappily, the alleged letter giving details of the accusation had not been produced to them. Next, they might ask themselves whether it was not more usual for a suicide to shoot himself in the head. They should ask themselves how deceased came by the revolver. And, finally, they must consider, in that case, who had dragged the body towards the house, and why the person had chosen to do so, with great labor to himself and at the risk of extinguishing any lingering remnant of the vital spark, instead of arousing the household and fetching help.
Vitalism, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is
1.a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions
2.a doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining
Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the "vital spark," "energy" or "élan vital", which some equate with the "soul".
Vitalism has a long history in medical philosophies: most traditional healing practices posited that disease results from some imbalance in the vital energies that distinguish living from non-living matter.