|Newspaper Title||The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957)|
|Trove Title||The Last Fare: A Melbourne Detective Story|
THE LAST FARE.
A MELBOURNE DETECTIVE STORY.
By C. H. CHOMLEY.
"There's no place like home," I whistled with less tune than sarcasm, as standing at the window I watched Dorothy walk down the street. My home-coming was certainly not a cheerful one, to find when I had scarcely been here a day one friend dead, another suspected of causing her death, and a third, whom I valued most filled with angry scorn for me. The last blow was the hardest to bear, especially as I had partly brought it on myself.
Forgetful of the hour and the sacredness of Mrs Blake's drawingroom, I flung myself
upon the sofa and lit a cigar. Life was a very unattractive business, and I did not feel at all inclined to sustain it with the eggs and bacon which Mrs Blake came to inform me severely had been waiting for me in the diningroom this half-hour. However, I finished my breakfast somehow, and made my way towards the station, determined to look up some old friends at the club and to keep my eye open for a mate with whom to wander again when my part in this wretched mystery should be finished.
A hansom cab stopped near me in the road, and a voice from it called, "Is that you, Mr Winton? I was just off to your diggings to look you up."
It was Sinclair, the very man I did not want to see, for I was anxious to forget the Dandenong-road omnibus and everything connected with it for a time, but fate ruled
Sinclair was on his way to the inquest, and invited me to accompany him.
"Is my presence necessary?" I asked.
"Yes, you will be wanted," he answered. "though probably the inquest will be just formally opened and adjourned. You had better jump in and come with me."
Very unwillingly I did so.
"Where are we going?" I asked him, as the cab, instead of going down to St. Kilda road, turned up High-street.
"To Mr Corfield's place, Fairfield-house," he replied, "where the inquest is to be."
I was surprised at this, as I thought inquests were always held at the morgue, and relieved, too, for I had never wished to see the inside of that ironically cheerful-looking building by the Yarra bank.
Sinclair laughed when I told him. "That is the general rule," he said, but perhaps Mr Corfield has friends in the Crown Law office. At any rate, an exception has been made, and the coroner's court sits at Fairfiel- house this morning."
altogether he seemed very cheerful, and I asked him the reason.
"Well, in my profession, Mr Winton, one likes lo be in a big thing," he said. "This
is a very big thing, and it will be a neat conviction
on circumstantial evidence if the prisoner does not spoil it by a confession."
"You are certain of a conviction then?"
"Well, yes. everything points that way, though there are difficulties," he said thoughtfully, filling his pipe. "I must confess there are difficulties; but, of course, you haven't heard the latest evidence."
"You mean the handkerchief?" I said.
Sinclair looked at me with surprise. "You have heard that then? Yes, the handkerchief
is most valuable, but we have the chloroform bottle, too."
The surptise wa on my side when he mentioned this, and he seemed gratified by
"Ah! then there is something you don't know, after all," he said with a smile.
"I certainly have heard nothing of that," I answered. "Tell me about it."
"I had been hoping against hope that Cunningham was innocent, and as Sinclair gave me the account of his arrest the reality of what his guilt meant presented itself as a mental picture which I did not care to look
When they went to his house to make the arrest, Sinclair told me, Cunningham was at his breakfast. He showed no surprise, and made no resistance but professed to be certain that he could prove his innocence. After the usual caution that anything he said might he used against him at his trial,
Sinclair showed him the handkerchief, and asked him if he had ever seen one like it.
"Did he know where it had been found?" I asked Sinclair at this point.
"You may bet he knew well enough," he answered, "but no one had told him. I took care that no newspaper should get into his house this morning."
"All right." I said, "go on," and Sinclair resumed his narrative.
"Fulton examined the handkerchief, and said that if very much resembled one of three that he had in his possession, a present from a friend who had bought them in India as a specimen of specially fine silk. Asked where they were, he replied that he believed they were at the bottom of a drawer in his room, but that it might be a year or more since he had used them.
"The police searched the drawer and found in it two handkerchiefs, identical in every respect with that in their possession. Before he was removed to the Melbourne Gaol a search was made of the clothes he wore. Nothing but a cigarette case, a little money, a pipe and tobacco and a few letters were found in them.There was nothing in any way material to the case; but the first thing that Sinclair discovered in the pocket of an overcoat, which Cunningham admitted wearing on the previous night, was a small bottle , empty, without a cork, bearing on one label the word "Chloroform", and in another below it the name of Gould and Oliver, chemists, in Bourke- street, Melbourne.
"What did Cunningham say to that?" I asked.
"For the first time since I had seen him
he showed signs of uneasiness and seemed to lose his nerve," said Sinclair, "but of course he professed the utmost lgnorance of how the bottle carne there. He asked to see the bottle, and after looking at it was going to make some remark but checked himself, saying that he would reserve anything
he had to say till his trial. He will find it difficult lo explain then, I fancy."
"Did he, as a fact, buy chloroform at Gould and Oliver's?'' I asked.
"Not lately, it appears. They have just begun a new poison register, and the old one is with some other books at the Safe Deposit. They have sent for it for me. Of course, he may have bought the chloroform months or years ago, and he gets olher things there."
Where is he now?" I asked.
"On his way ftom the gaol to the inquest, if he is not there by this time," said Sinclair, looking at his watch. "By Jove, we are late. Whip up a bit, cabby," he called months or years ago; and he gets other
There were many other things which I wanted to ask Sinclair, but we were getting near Corfield's house, and a minute afterwards we drove through the open gates of Fairfield-house.
"Here we are," said Sinclair. "I shall have half-an-hour to spare after the inquest if you care to talk things over with me at the barracks."
The wide verandah was already dotted with people-jurymen, reprters, and servants belonging to the house. I had never been in it before, and it struck me forcibly under what different circumstantes from those which I had planned I was about to make its acquaintance.
All the blinds were down; the door into the big hall was open and voices speaking in a Iow tone came from the smoking-room, where the coroner, Corfield, and one or two solicitors and barristers were waiting for Sinclair. Corfield recognised me when I entered, and bowed. He would have shaken hands, I think, but Dorothy Lister's account of him induced a coolness in my manner which he was quick to notice and reciprocate. sinclair spoke a few words to the coroner, who seemed out of temper and impatient, after which there was a general move to the diningroom - a huge apartment opening from the hall on the righthand side as one entered by the front door.
The first thing that struck my attention was a full length portrait of Mrs. Corfield
in her wedding dress, beautiful and characteristic, which hung over the mantelpiece. A moment later I noticed Cunningham seated by the window, with a constable standing on either side of him. As I was debating whether I should recognise him or not, a solicitor who was watching the case on his behalf engaged his attention, and I don;t think he noticed my presence.
Tht great diningroom table was placed across the room at one end, with chairs round it for the coroner, the court officials, and the press. Five chairs in a row stood against the wall to accommodate the jury,
and others had been placed in the body of the room for such members of the public as were present at the ceremony. I took one beside Sinclair in the front row. The coroner had taken his seat, the jurors were in their places, and all seemed ready to begin, but still there was a pause. I turned to ask Sinclair what we were waiting for, and at the same time the coroner whispered something to Corfield who nodded in reply
and left the room.
"We are waiting for Mrs Corfield," said Sinclair in answer to my question, "the 'fons et origo,' as they say in Latin, of the whole affair. Don't you know that an inquest without the body would be 'Hamlet' with Hamlet omitted? The jury must be sworn in its presence."
I did not like Sinclair's flippant style and said no more. A second afterwards we heard a heavy measured tramp in the hall outside, and six men entered carrying on their shoulders a stretcher, on which lay the bodv of Mrs Corfield still dressed exactly as I had seen her on the previous
The footsteps of the bearers were noiseless on the heavy carpet, and there was one of the most intense silences I have ever felt as, at a sign from Corfield, who walked beside them, they put down the stretcher by the wall underneath the window, opposite the jurymen's seats. The room was very dark but at the request of the coroner, the venetians were raised and a flood of light streamed across the face of the young woman who had so often sat, perhaps in that very dress, laughing and talking at the head of the table where a court of justice
was sitting now to inquire into the
cause of her death.
1 looked at Cunningham and Corfield, the two men who must feel the situation most. Corfield stood near the head of the slretcher, his eyes resting on Ins dead wîfe's face and not a motion ot his eyelids nor a muscle of his countenance betrayed the slightest emotion. His expression was grave and dignified, beyond that impenetrable. Cunningham, who stood where I had seen him first - not far from the stretcher - bent one long searching look upon the dead woman's features. From them he glanced quickly to the portrait on the wall.
Then he buried his face in his hands and tried to stifle what sounded like a sob.
The coroner left his seat, and stood before the stretcher. At a word from some court officer, the jurors also crossed the room, and stood besido him looking at the body.
This, Sinclair whispered to me, was the official view, a necessary preliminary to all
"Though it would have been just as effective, and more decent," he added, "if they had retired to another room to have a peep
lbe coi oner went bael to the table «ni tue clerl called upon tht jur to choose their ioremin lhere ai s i buzz of con vtr«ation is the jmors lool ed nt one anothti-somt nervous and conscious others disclainunt, tilt coveted honour which then ntxtdooi nii.libouis cn dcavourcd to t mist upon them
I was «niching this little tomedj witi interest when Smelau whispered to me
1 11 lav am money on tht little tlnp with the bild head md the gold i nnmed sne tatles Mi1 I thought so is tht indivi
du li lie bid desenbt 1 tool lus phee full of rcrvoiis importance it tilt -.¿ht i the row Thoios anothei mau with a btaid, i second ont bild mid a third with «pee tacks but a bald bended man weaiug glisses especially if tlny_e gold nmnied w ill take the forem in - seat in ¡in} jury in
Hie jim weie sworn the foreman iii st in I it qiiuuit words of the oath mulei tal ing
to dihgentlv inquire ind tmt prc.cntmtti. mai e on behalf of our 'sol ereign 1 idj the Queen how or m what mannt - Alary Corheld bert King deal cunt, to her dtntli and the others swearing to well and trulj ol sen c and keep on lh repectneh such oath as the foreman of the inquest had for his part tal cn
I hen the inquest was fonnnllj opened Some ei idence-Sinclair s mine Gunn s and th" doctoi s-was taken but as it lins, all b tn given more or less in dttail I »hill not wcarv tht leidet bj reptating it
Hie onlj new fatt of importance that stiutl mt was that Gunn who had been iniceituu when ] les ed b\ binti m now snore losttnc', that to the best if In. belief Air« Coi field did cnttr the bus at Chapel su cet Ho was not -uie about «ny mm Icing with hei but lit would sum
ht lind sttn hci
Dr Vnthonj said that it was his opinion bused he must admit on lnsitlhcicnt grounds at piescnt tint the dccciseds death was dm to ehloiofo-m V. thoiough post mortem examination might confirm bun in that opinion or might liter it It
w is possible that nothing could bt kiint, I but ni nnj ease tho tximiuation should' b* made without del u as the swiiptoms of chlorofonn poisoning were ditheult to uttcct mort thin twentj foul hours after
Hit medical ev idence on tins point being
i'l important in view of the dis oven of | the emptv bottle in Cunninghai i s pot! et, i tit in ,uc_l was limncdnteli adiwiirned toi allow the post moi tem txainn ation to bel
cal ried out
The coroner added that he need not un I press upon the police m charge of the case the ntccssiti of haling the cilminn Pirkcr
before lum on that daj week winn the I couit would sit again
Cunningham, who had not been examined
vins removed to tin? gaol again bul of I course not be ng allow "d mi i cipital
chaige in I the people (.ra_ui.lv dispersed I I waited alone foi killel ni tmol tug n tigari in the gin den whilt he lntuviewcd Coi I
feld whom I did not care to meet I noticed
that tht househill a verandah and balcony I ninning round three sides of the old build ing which was two stone! md that big l nnbling additions had appnrentlj been ma Io fiom t me to timt Hie gai len which was full of (lowcnng .shrubs and large tices extended for a considerable distance nt both si le« an I the bad of the houst though the ft ont wa» distant onli a few jards fiom the îoa 1 unon i hi"h the gates opcntl
Smelau dil not keep me waiting manj
"What do you think of (he ease now ' ' I ask"Hl lum when xto hnd stat ted for tho
' I tee no reason to alter mv opinion," bo ansxvered, "and if the postmortem tuina out as I expect it xxiii clinch mattete "
"But xxhat about Gunn's evidence' ' I ob- jected ' He »wrara now that Mis Corfield xtas in the 'bus all the time ' I
' I know he does, confound lum," replied '
Sinclan "Tho min is ctulently a fool, mid eontridicts himself, for he distinctly sud hist night that he XVUB not sure "
"Yes, but you must admit that that was inore or less under pressure A'oii hid formed a llic.cn t, nml almost insisted tri it lia should suppoit it His first statement agrees willi whit ho said to day "
' Well, ¡f it doe«, the statement is incor rcct Can't you s»e that it is impossible that Mis Coifield got In at Chapel street*"'
"Yes, impossiblo If Cunningham mur
"Impossible, too, if ho did not, and if his own story is true But surely jon can't doubt that Cunningham did it'"
' I don't knoxv," I said ' I l.noxv a lad), Miss Listet, wlio seems ver) positivo of lus innocence "
"Ah, yes," ho loplied "The rich young lady vtliolixtsxyith the, old aunt I am very soiry for that pool girl "
"Well, in the flrit place, it 5s an rixvk ward thing lo hnxo one's friend murdered, and, in the second, moro awkward BtLU to faava one's lover accused of doing it,"
''is lie ter "YU." I iwkfirl with _ Mt*i
nonchalance as I could command, to ax old lettin" Sn hir see how baili I xx is hit
He looked ni me with some smpn e I thought xou 1 new all abou* their relations
he saul I onl v know nix self w hit I picked up this morning, but I Inte other eves jud e irs, xroil_im_ foi me besides rav oxxn I saw her at Coifield s befoie brenkta t She was bxst"neti when Corfield identified the hand kerchief and people xvho ought to know «at that xthen lie was more or l^s on the ran tin mid no one eke would look at him «he took him m hand md straightened lum up, xvas a sort of elder «ister to him in fact and xte all know xvhat becomes ot the brother and sistei relationship when people don t happen to have the bame pircnts to keep it
I know nothing about thi» I -ai 1
Well, thct say «he xvas to haxe found the reward for her kindness to Cunning ham m sharing her thousand a xear with lum Poor girl-a pitt «he didn t leaxe lum in the gutter Its i drciuv enough engagement now and I m ifraid the cere nionx tint puts an end to it at on t be a
lins was a sj i.genng piece of ne xs and mx castles in bpnm fell befire it 1 lind hoped so nindi irom a possible recoucilia tion with Dorotln I could scarcely speak at tint hue I felt kecnlx how ungenerous nix conduct had been mil how Dorothy must desollé me foi combating the trust ixor*lnnc«s ot hei lovers instinct that Cun ningham xt is innocent Ot course she coidd behexe nothing else Guilty oi m nocent, noxr I detei mined tint he should hate mt help for what it xvas xxorth ind if late xvere against linn- I Uuslied xtith shame as I found that inv brun xtns nlrcitlv reeling oil pictures of what might be mt rew ird foi loxiltt to his eiuse
W lut is Ciuiiun_h un I s iid it length, mole beciuse I felt I must «J) something thin that I much caied to inow, nnd
xtheie does he live
1'icsciit liddies.-Aulbouinc Gaol said Sind in llippmtlt md seeing ni) look of displeasure Rc" | aldan 1 lorgot he xvns a friend ot xoui He xtas in the en ii sei nee Lost the billet ni Ins dissipated elly s Atiss lister got lum mother in one of the wool compinics where she Ins shares or influence of .-onie 1 md It is i good one mid till xc«tirduv thex sax he did credit to it He lues with two othei young fellows at the hou^e in Kooyong loid Both ot them ire away just now md no one iras there when xte eilled but the housel cepor ind hiinselt
Hie cab stojped jubt then it the gate of the police bu lacks
It you milli e ni spire me half an hour, Afr Sinclair I sai 1 1 should lil e to talk lover things with xou I am xen much in i terested in the ca»-e, and should like to hear
y otu theorx it ) ou hay e oui and cure to
Sinclair laughed ' T hnxe one, and yon are xvcleome to hear it but it is leaky in places Perhaps xou can help me to stop
the Iciks C line inside
I lollott ed bind in, and found ni) self in a comfort ible little loom carpeted, a table in the middle waiting desl and stoxe in one comer telephone instrument m another and lound the walls sporting pic tm es and colom eil supplément» from 1 ick Afc Up, intermixed xtith photograph* ot noted criminals ind detectives, xitulc oxer the mentelpiere hung trophies in the shape of jemmies life prc«en ers 1 mt cs and re
x oilers tint bad plated a patt ni
cunio mil other recherche trilles of a sinnhr kind B) one of the mils stood a big safe locked Iwo east chairs and a few small ones completed the furniture of
Sinclau went to Ins desk where la) a
pile of letters
Prouse mc Air Vi niton," he said, ' I must lool through these Here is the \eyv York Police Cazette ' It contains some sweet things in pictures A on max smol e of eouise I xtill be at your ser
v ice in a lew minutes "
(To be Continued Commenced Oct 1 )