|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.
The davs following tint eventful Sunday dragged weanly b} Dorothy broke down completely, after all her excitement and nnxiet}, and I was not allowed to see her,
but she wrote me a kind little note, express
ing gratitude for the part I had plavcrt The flank, friendly tone filled me with bitterness, though of course I could expect nothing elbe and m ni} worst moments T cursed the fut" which had biought me back to -iistrnha in time to restore her lovel to the girl, I found out loo late, I still
wanted for m}self
There was no moral doubt that Cunning ham w ould he di charged after the inquest I had expected that he would be released at once, but for some reason it was decided to keep lum ond Pari cr in durance till the facts which were now more or less publie propertv had been proved in open court
Corfield s death natutall} cieated a great sensation, but I was heartil} sick of sensations, and was onl} an-ious to get avvav fiom Australia for an indefinite time I should have s died b} the first mail boat but that I was a material witness in both tho inquests tint were to be held-for that on Corfield had been merely formally opened and adjourned, till the inquiry into his wife's death should be concluded
The principal icason for tlus was the state of Doroth} s health which precluded her from giving evidence during the first two or three da} s of that wcel, and I found ni} self almost ns anxious for her recover? on my own account as on hers, since, til) she was well enough to appear, tho court would be adjourned from time to time and Ishould be unable to leav eMelbournc How ov or I booked mj passage b} the first boat sailing after Tridjy and smoked mvself to death in seclusion in the meantime I could not bear the club or any resort where I met with acquaintances since they all worried me about the Coi field business, and I felt that my nnsvv ers w ere so ungracious OB to v ergo on rudeness
The oui} man of whom I saw much from Monday to Thursday was Sinclair He begged mo to consider m}self at home in his rooms, and seemed so anxious for me to give him a hand in ti e inquines he waa still pursuing that it would have been churlish not to maka a show of doing so
I was beginning to have a sincere liking and respect for the man He liad his bttle vulgarities ana mannensms, but lus con siderate legaid for Dorothv on Sunday af tcrnoon showed that he was a gentleman at heart, and ho did all in his power to bo fnondlv to me
I did not, nB a matter of fact, give him much assistance m his work, and though he attempted to stir me to enthusiasm, 1 went no further than offering a few lazy suggestions and amusing myself by criti
casing and trjing to pick holes in his His eneigy never flags-cd To completo his case he had a few details to discover and he got them one by one
To begin with, he made a thorough search of Corfield's house and was rewarded by several interesting diseoveneü Tue cabinet from w hieb Dorothy had seen Cor field take tho chloroform bottle w as a reg i lar drug store, containing nno-sthetics and poisons of all the ordinary and many rare kinds, as well as numerous unlabclled bottles that interested Sinclair greatly, and ivhich he looked forward to examining at some future time He shuddered at my suggestion that he bhould taste a few ns a preliminary test and said he would as soon take n sip at a bottle labelled prussic acid a» any one of them
Corfield's library too suggested that his mind muBt have had a curious kink in it, and I wondered if his past history might not contain some chapters as dark as the ona just concluded ne must have made a study of mino and kindred subjects, for he hnd books dealing with it from every point of view, from the soientihc crimino logical works of Lombroso and Havelock Lilia down to the flimsiest detective storj, with medieval works on poisoning, modern ones on toxioolog}, histories of famous crimes and a score of volumes on hypnotism and spiritualism He had evi dentlv read th»m thoroughly too for the pages turned like those of well used books, and passages here and there were marled for lefeience Truly his blain must have been stored With such a medic} of ettra ordinary fact and fancy that it was little wondei if they had warped it and induced lum to imítalo somo of the heroes of his
While all these things were suggestive, they supplied no direct evidence, but it was not wanting, either, for there was found m the houso an unopened bottle of gold paint which a housemaid remembered Cor- field bringing homo m lus pocket only two days befoie the murder Sinclair assured himself by personal ex-poriment that there was still enough of the powder on the bottle to leave traces on any material touching it, for the cork had been clumsily inserted, and was smeared with the gold paint
Tlie chain of cvidenco waa m fact com- plete, except in respect of the means bv winch Corfield had obtained Cunningham's handkerchief Among other things, Sin clair discov cred a jew ellcr vv ho hod repaired tile elaäp of the necklace, and set the peal I in a stud, Mrs Corfield saying that though it liad been shortened before she could still easily »piro another of the jewels
It was extiaordmnry how the corrobora tive details multiplied when once we were certain of the fact we wished to prove Even the chemist in Chapel street, now that his attention was called to it, supplied his quota He was certain, ho said, that he did not 1 eep Corfield waiting a minute nflei lie rang the bell, for he vns only just going to bed and the bell sounded loudly throughout the hou=e Also lie icmembered that Corfield was lerv wet, and that he hid remarked to lum upon the wildness of tile night
This, of course, tended to shoiv that the qtnitcrof in hour w Inch Corfield accounted for by wilting at the station and the chemist's was lenlly employed in his drive to Williams load ind his walk back to the cab itind
Sinclair took the trouble to piepare time tibie« on the subject, winch put tho matter verv cleirly Allowing Corfield's stor) to bo true, with the exception of his state- ments about Availing foi the rain and do lav al the chemist's, which were demon atiatcd falsehoods, it reid as follows -
Left Melbourne . ... 1115 pm. Arrived Windsor ... 1130 pm Aimed chemist's ., .. 11 Jo p m left chemists .... 1145 pm Aimed Mähern . 12 30 am
Now, with even the -aloivest horse, it would be «enrcely possible to take moro than 20 inmutes in driving from the cab stand at Windsor Bullion to Corfield's housL in Malvern, a diBtance of about two miles, so that allowing 10 munîtes far dif ferencrs in clockB and the time consumed in walking fiom the chemist's shop to the cab-stand, leos than 200 )irds, there were still 15 minutes absolutely unaccounted for
Hie ottiet tinie-tnble looked more con Aincing Here it is -
left Milliouine .. .. 1115 p ra. Aimed Windsor .. .. 11 o0 p ni Omnibus started 1110 p m Armed \v lllianiB road 1143 pm Aimed chemist's 11 W p in Left chemist s 12 5 a m Arrived Mali ern 12 30 a m
Even on this supposition ho would hare had 21) minutes to tiaicl fiom Windsor to hiB home, so that, far from being pressed for time, he was illovved live minutes' grnco for diffcience in clacks and possible (ielly at the thtmist's
Tho cabman who drove Coi field homo sud it w is u little after 12 when he stalled, the chemist, Hint it was a little before 12 w hen he entered the Bliop, though of course Corfield claimed to have waited fuet at the station and il»o to have rung the chemist's bell much eather Paiker'a cab piobabiy got away from the station five minutes eat her than Hie omnibus stnitcd, and the dis tance bLtiAccn the omnibus terminus and
* All right« reserved« _,
the cabstand is less than 200 jards, but Parker stopped to speak to Cunningham Being drunk, he would probably drive 8lowl} if he did not go to the other extreme of furious pace, and he was slightly ahead of the omnibus at Williams road, BO that Ins fivo minutes' start was sufficiently ac
Sinclair had suffered ono grievous dis appointment Hie bottle m which Doroth} preserved the tea she suspected was broken through the stupidity of a con stable, and all the fluid lost, so there was no longer a possibility of knowing whether Corfield had really tned to poison her or
Personally this did not trouble mo very much In fact, I was rather glad than otherwise, because it weighed on mv con science that I had allowed her to stay in the house after a prcsumaulc attempt upon her life lied been made, and it was pleasant to feel that there was at least a doubt about tho matter The evidence was not required now, though it might have been important and Doroth}'s BUS picion had done its work of bunging Sin clair and mo upon the spot m time Ex ccpt for this and the unsolved problem of tho handkerchief, Sinclair was armed at all points, and looked forward to the day of the inquest with considerable jubilation
When Pndav morning arrived I found mvself seated at the witnesses' table in the old Melbourne Pohco Court, with Doroth} beside me I had not seen her since Sun da}, and could not see her very well now, for she kept her veil dow n, much to the dis appointment of the eager crowd of sight seers tint thronged the court She had ar lived with her aunt, who «at on the further
side ot her fiom mc
Pari er and Cunningham were both pre sent in eu.tod}, neither of them repre Bented by counsel, thinking it unnecessary since the facts in their altcicd aspect spoke up so strong!} on then behalf Parker looked puzzled sometimes, and usuall} stolid He was evident!} a man of a low degree of in telligence
Cunningh un was pale, and pulled down by his week s confinement and the agitation he had undergone, but he looked cheerful now, nodded in a friendly way to me, and all through tho inquiry scarcely took his eyes off the woman w ho bad saved his life
She, indeed, w as the centre of attraction She raised her veil w hen she w as in the wit
ness box, and there ivas a profound silence w hen she began to speak, giv ing her story with a little natural nervousness, but with quite aitistic nanativo power, m a clear
sw ect voice
A loud hum of applause sounded through the court when ßhe had finished, hushed immediately when I entered tho box-, for it was recognised that, next to her, I was tho most impel tant witness I felt vv retchedly nervous I was never so miserable in my Ufe, and I was not applauded, but I de scribed the events I had taken part in as well as I could, and answ ered satisfactorily the few questions I was asked
Tho only vv itnesses cros3 examined were Paiker and Cunningham, who both elected to give evidence, but it was impossible to shake them in a single particular, and after the} had been tlirough the ordeal I think ever} person in the court was convinced of their venal}
Both stated emphatically that the} had never seen, and had never Bald they saw, Mrs, Corfield in tho cab Parker believed she was there because Corfield appeared to be helping her ni He had said "Good night" to her Paiker did not hear her repl} -had paid him his fare, given him the address, and low ered the leather curtain at the back of tho waggonette
Cunningham naturally supposed her to be m tho cab because Pari er told lum that she was a passenger, whereupon he imme diatcly jumped out, and particularly re framed from looking inside as ho did not want to see her Tho only point that at first looked awkward for Parker was tho fact of his hiding himself, and on this point
lus evidence was sensational
Corfield s story, told to Sinclair and me, had been a lie interwoven with a thin tissue of truth Parker had never been to Cunningham's house at all When he found that his passenger was missing ho drove back some distance along the road, wondonng if sho could have gone to sleep and fallen out Then ho had returned, intending to confess to Corfield that he had lost her. He was a nervous man, m a nervous, muddled state, and Corfield, who met lum in the street, near the gate-he had walked theie once or twice to look out for his vv if e, he said-had tem fied him by sa} ing that Mis Corfield was murdered, and that lie was suspected Paiker protested his innocence, and Coi
field pronusod that ho would endeavour to get lum a fan hearing He adnsed him, how ev er, qot to give himself up, but to hide in lus garden, where ho would meet him on the fiist opportunity and see what he could do, if he then believed him innocent Parker told the Court that when he agreed to this he thought the advice strange and
foolish He did not want to follow it, but, somehow, felt he hid to He did not know vv hy At any rate he drove straight home, put away his cab and horse, and hid lu Coi field's garden The police were there when he cime ne siw Mrs Cor fold's bod) brought home, md the prepara tiona foi the inquest, and, though half dead from cold and hungei, he was too frightened to show himself till Pmliy afternoon, when Corfield came to him A lady, Miss Lister, I armed at the house while he and Corfield were talking together, and the latter re turned to lum aftet dark, as he had told the police ne fed and sheltered him m the house that night, and took him to the police bal racks next daj He would have con tradtcted Corfield when the latter told lus story to Sinclair, if he could He tried to do BO, but the w ords vv ould not come, and ho found hunself agreeing with all Corfield said lie could not tell the reason, but he felt quite helpless to do an) thing else
The evidence Was concluded Ihe co roner was just about lo put the case to the jurv vv hen a liomin in the back of the court stood up and made some rcinirk in n low voice All eyes were immediately turned upon her, but very few people could heir whit she said The coroner sent a policeman to conduct lier to the AAitness box, and, as she stood at the foot of the Bteps, he asked her why she was interrupt ing the business of the Court
"I have a statement I w ant to make, your
"In connection with this case'" "Yes, su, it's about-"
"Never mind «hat it's about lill you are Bworn," he interrupted "Step into the
witness box "
Cunningham looked at her with con- tracted eyebrows, and Dorothy whispered to me, "Why, it's Mr Cunningham's housekeeper What on enth can she havo to say' '
"Hush! Let us listen," I sud
Her name, Bhe said, was Louisa Chap man, and she kept house for MT Cunning I ham and two other gentlemen
' Very good," said the coroner, "make jour stitement, and, if necessary, jou will be questioned aftarvv irds "
An electric thrill of expectancy seemed
to um all tlnoubh the court, when she be |
"Yv eil, it's about the handkerchief All I have to say is, Mr Cunningham told me to get out a clean shirt and dress clothes and things for lum on Thursday night I put Hiern nil on Hie bed lind I noticed tlieio was no handkerchief in his clothes, so I put the Bilk one-the one you have theie -and bhe nodded towards the ex Inbits on the table-"in the tail pocket of Ins dress coat "
"And, whj on earth didn't yon mention this before to the police1"' asked the coro nor angrilv
'I w asn t going to," she nnsw ercd. "But why not "
' I thought it might get Mi Cunning hnm into trouble 1 didn't behevo he w is
guilt}, and, if he was, he's ahiajs been a ronsidcrnte gentleman to me, and it vvns.ii t my business to hurt lum I didn't ti list the police, and I knew they was aftei
"And whj do you mention it noAv'"
"Becnuse I don't see what haim it can do Isn't it proved that Mr Curiield had the handkci chief in his pocket, he must hav e stole it "
It seemed that at this trial surpiisea wore to never cease The excitement caused by this explanation, or partial ex nlonntion. of tho haudkerchiet mysteq*;
had scarcel} died awnv, when a man some' vv here m the court stood up, and said that he also bad cv ldcice to giv c
I forget what 'us nome was, but he had been in tho theatre on Thursday night, when he occupied a seat in the dress circl« in the next row to the Cortields and imme- diately behind thom
The last witness's evidence, he said, had iccalled to him an incident which he had cntirel} forgotten It seemed so tnvial at the time, and now boro quite an altered look Shortly after Coi field returned to his seat, after one of tno intervals between the nets, he re nembered now, that he had stooped down and picked up a handker- chief , or vv hat might have been a handker- chief, from the floor Holding it in hie hand, he turned to Mrs Corfield and said something to her She shook her head in replv, whereupon he put the handkerchief, into the pool et of his overcoat, which hung
over the back of his chair
On examination, he stuck resolutely te- ins storv Ile eould not swear that the article vv as n handkerchief, but he believed it to be He had not noticed particularly, and indeed, the whole incident being mean-
er- -.s until Mis Chapman supplied the kej, had slipped his mcmoiv, but now he
was ab«olutelv certain that Corfield had picked np something from the flooi, ques- tioned his wife about it, and put it into
his own noel et
The vínole ni}story was devrai up nt last und light let into all the dark places, for to Dorothy and myself, and, I think, to every bod} in the room it vv is moral!} eer tam that .unnmcjiaui had dropped the handkci chief from Ins coat tail pocket, and tint Ooihelds discover} of it had supplied lum to a laige extent with the immédiate motive, as well as the me ins, for the mur-
I have saul that all tho dark plaecs wera light Por Sinclair, Dorothv and the rest thevvveie, but the purchase of chloroform bv Cunningham still wu-Jicd upon my mind, not that I believed lum guilty, but
1 wished that I could understand it How ever, thelo was no evidence forthcoming to enlighten me on that point
- lie coroner resumed his .lmming up and carefnllv reviewed the évidence m an elaborate charge to the jurv
Thev refuged the invitation given them to retire, and nftei a whisperccl conversa- tion for a minute or two they announced that they were agreed upon their ver-
There was expectant silence in the court vvlien the fuss} little foreman ut.ated that the} found that ' the deceased, Mary Cor- field, came to her death at the hands of Augustus Bernard Corfield, who did with violence administer to the same poison, to wit, chloroform, on the night of Thursday, Julv 20, ISO- '
Hie uiquest concluded with a storm o£ cheers, which no one attempted to sun pi e-«s after the coroner, m a few well chosen words had dismissed tho prisoners and adjourned the Court
(To be continued Commenced October 9.)