The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
Fergus Hume (1859-1932)
Part 1 out of 6
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In its original form, "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab" has reached the
sale of 375,000 copies in this country, and some few editions in the
United States of America. Notwithstanding this, the present publishers
have the best of reasons for believing, that there are thousands of
persons whom the book has never reached. The causes of this have
doubtless been many, but chief among them was the form of the
publication itself. It is for this section of the public chiefly that
the present edition is issued. In placing it before my new readers, I
have been asked by the publishers thoroughly to revise the work, and,
at the same time, to set at rest the many conflicting reports
concerning it and myself, which have been current since its initial
issue. The first of these requests I have complied with, and the many
typographic, and other errors, which disfigured the first edition,
have, I think I can safely say, now disappeared. The second request I
am about to fulfil; but, in order to do so, I must ask my readers to go
back with me to the beginning of all things, so far as this special
book is concerned.
The writing of the book was due more to accident than to design.
I was bent on becoming a dramatist, but, being quite unknown, I found
it impossible to induce the managers of the Melbourne Theatres to
accept, or even to read a play. At length it occurred to me I might
further my purpose by writing a novel. I should at all events secure a
certain amount of local attention. Up to that time I had written only
one or two short stories, and the "Cab" was not only the first book I
ever published, but the first book I ever wrote; so to youth and lack
of experience must be ascribed whatever was wanting in the book. I
repeat that the story was written only to attract local attention, and
no one was more astonished than I when it passed beyond the narrow
circle for which it had originally been intended.
My mind made up on this point, I enquired of a leading Melbourne
bookseller what style of book he sold most of He replied that the
detective stories of Gaboriau had a large sale; and as, at this time, I
had never even heard of this author, I bought all his works--eleven or
thereabouts--and read them carefully. The style of these stories
attracted me, and I determined to write a book of the same class;
containing a mystery, a murder, and a description of low life in
Melbourne. This was the origin of the "Cab." The central idea i.e. the
murder in a cab--came to me while driving at a late hour to St. Kilda,
a suburb of Melbourne; but it took some time and much thought to work
it out to a logical conclusion. I was two months sketching out
the skeleton of the novel, but even so, when I had written it, the
result proved unsatisfactory, for I found I had not sufficiently well
concealed the mystery upon which the whole interest of the book
depended. In the first draft I made Frettlby the criminal, but on
reading over the M.S. I found that his guilt was so obvious that I wrote
out the story for a second time, introducing the character of Moreland
as a scape-goat. Mother Guttersnipe I unearthed in the slums off Little
Bourke Street; and I gave what I am afraid was perhaps too vivid a
picture of her language and personality. These I have toned down in the
present edition. Calton and the two lodging-house keepers were actual
personages whom I knew very well, and I do not think I have exaggerated
their idiosyncracies, although many have, I believe, doubted the
existence of such oddities. All the scenes in the book, especially the
slums, are described from personal observation; and I passed a great
many nights in Little Bourke Street, gathering material.
Having completed the book, I tried to get it published, but every one
to whom I offered it refused even to look at the manuscript on the
ground that no Colonial could write anything worth reading. They gave
no reason for this extraordinary opinion, but it was sufficient for
them, and they laughed to scorn the idea that any good could come out
of Nazareth--i.e., the Colonies. The story thus being boycotted on all
hands, I determined to publish it myself, and accordingly an edition
of, I think, some five thousand copies was brought out at my own
cost. Contrary to the expectations of the publishers, and I must add to
my own, the whole edition went off in three weeks, and the public
demanded a second. This also sold rapidly, and after some months,
proposals were made to me that the book should be brought out in
London. Later on I parted with the book to several speculators, who
formed themselves into what they called "The Hansom Cab Publishing
Company." Taking the book to London, they published it there with great
success, and it had a phenomenal sale, which brought in a large sum of
money. The success was, in the first instance, due, in no small degree,
to a very kind and generous criticism written by Mr. Clement Scott. I
may here state that I had nothing to do with the Company, nor did I
receive any money for the English sale of the book beyond what I sold
it for; and, as a matter of fact, I did not arrive in England until a
year after the novel was published I have heard it declared that the
plot is founded on a real criminal case; but such a statement is
utterly without foundation, as the story is pure fiction from beginning
to end. Several people before and since my arrival in England, have
assumed the authorship of the book to themselves; and one gentleman
went so far as to declare that he would shoot me if I claimed to have
written it. I am glad to say that up to the present he has not carried
out his intention. Another individual had his cards printed, "Fergus
Hume. Author of 'The Mystery of a Hansom Cab,'" and also added the
price for which he was prepared to write a similar book. Many of
the papers put this last piece of eccentricity down to my account.
I may state in conclusion, that I belong to New Zealand, and not to
Australia, that I am a barrister, and not a retired policeman, that I
am yet two decades off fifty years of age, that Fergus Hume is my real
name, and not a nom-de-plume; and finally, that far from making a
fortune out of the book, all I received for the English and American
rights, previous to the issue of this Revised Edition by my present
publishers, was the sum of fifty pounds. With this I take my leave, and
I trust that the present edition may prove as successful as did the
WHAT THE ARGUS SAID.
The following report appeared in the Argus newspaper of Saturday, the
28th July, 18--
"Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, and certainly the
extraordinary murder which took place in Melbourne on Thursday night,
or rather Friday morning, goes a long way towards verifying this
saying. A crime has been committed by an unknown assassin, within a
short distance of the principal streets of this great city, and is
surrounded by an inpenetrable mystery. Indeed, from the nature of the
crime itself, the place where it was committed, and the fact that the
assassin has escaped without leaving a trace behind him, it would seem
as though the case itself had been taken bodily from one of Gaboreau's
novels, and that his famous detective Lecoq alone would be able to
unravel it. The facts of the case are simply these:--
"On the twenty-seventh day of July, at the hour of twenty
minutes to two o'clock in the morning, a hansom cab drove up to the
police station in Grey Street, St. Kilda, and the driver made the
startling statement that his cab contained the body of a man who he had
reason to believe had been murdered. "Being taken into the presence of
the inspector, the cabman, who gave his name as Malcolm Royston,
related the following strange story:--
"At the hour of one o'clock in the morning, he was driving down Collins
Street East, when, as he was passing the Burke and Wills' monument, he
was hailed by a gentleman standing at the corner by the Scotch Church.
He immediately drove up, and saw that the gentleman who hailed him was
supporting the deceased, who appeared to be intoxicated. Both were in
evening dress, but the deceased had on no overcoat, while the other
wore a short covert coat of a light fawn colour, which was open. As
Royston drove up, the gentleman in the light coat said, 'Look here,
cabby, here's some fellow awfully tight, you'd better take him home!'
"Royston then asked him if the drunken man was his friend, but this the
other denied, saying that he had just picked him up from the footpath,
and did not know him from Adam. At this moment the deceased turned his
face up to the light of the lamp under which both were standing, and
the other seemed to recognise him, for he recoiled a pace, letting the
drunken man fall in a heap on the pavement, and gasping out 'You?' he
turned on his heel, and walked rapidly away down Russell Street in the
direction of Bourke Street.
"Royston was staring after him, and wondering at his, strange conduct,
when he was recalled to himself by the voice of the deceased, who had
struggled to his feet, and was holding on to the lamp-post, swaying to
and fro. 'I wan' g'ome,' he said in a thick voice, 'St. Kilda.'
He then tried to get into the cab, but was too drunk to do so, and
finally sat down again on the pavement. Seeing this, Royston got down,
and lifting him up, helped him into the cab with some considerable
difficulty. The deceased fell back into the cab, and seemed to drop off
to sleep; so, after closing the door, Royston turned to remount his
driving-seat, when he found the gentleman in the light coat whom he had
seen holding up the deceased, close to his elbow. Royston said, 'Oh,
you've come back,' and the other answered, 'Yes, I've changed my mind,
and will see him home.' As he said this he opened the door of the cab,
stepped in beside the deceased, and told Royston to drive down to St.
Kilda. Royston, who was glad that the friend of the deceased had come
to look after him, drove as he had been directed, but near the Church
of England Grammar School, on the St. Kilda Road, the gentleman in the
light coat called out to him to stop. He did so, and the gentleman got
out of the cab, closing the door after him.
"'He won't let me take him home,' he said, 'so I'll just walk back to
the city, and you can drive him to St. Kilda.'
"'What street, sir?' asked Royston.
"'Grey Street, I fancy,' said the other, 'but my friend will direct you
when you get to the Junction.' "'Ain't he too much on, sir?' said
"'Oh, no! I think he'll be able to tell you where he lives--it's Grey
Street or Ackland Street, I fancy. I don't know which.'
"He then opened the door of the cab and looked in. 'Good night, old
man,' he said--the other apparently did not answer, for the gentleman
in the light coat, shrugging his shoulders, and muttering 'sulky
brute,' closed the door again. He then gave Royston half-a-sovereign,
lit a cigarette, and after making a few remarks about the beauty
of the night, walked off quickly in the direction of Melbourne. Royston
drove down to the Junction, and having stopped there, according to his
instructions he asked his 'fare' several times where he was to drive
him to. Receiving no response and thinking that the deceased was too
drunk to answer, he got down from his seat, opened the door of the cab,
and found the deceased lying back in the corner with a handkerchief
across his mouth. He put out his hand with the intention of rousing
him, thinking that he had gone to sleep. But on touching him the
deceased fell forward, and on examination, to his horror, he found that
he was quite dead. Alarmed at what had taken place, and suspecting the
gentleman in the light coat, he drove to the police station at St.
Kilda, and there made the above report. The body of the deceased was
taken out of the cab and brought into the station, a doctor being sent
for at once. On his arrival, however, he found that life was quite
extinct, and also discovered that the handkerchief which was tied
lightly over the mouth was saturated with chloroform. He had no
hesitation in stating that from the way in which the handkerchief was
placed, and the presence of chloroform, that a murder had been
committed, and from all appearances the deceased died easily, and
without a struggle. The deceased is a slender man, of medium height,
with a dark complexion, and is dressed in evening dress, which will
render identification difficult, as it is a costume which has no
distinctive mark to render it noticeable. There were no papers or cards
found on the deceased from which his name could be discovered, and the
clothing was not marked in any way. The handkerchief, however, which
was tied across his mouth, was of white silk, and marked in one of the
corners with the letters 'O.W.' in red silk. The assassin, of course,
may have used his own handkerchief to commit the crime, so that
if the initials are those of his name they may ultimately lead to his
detection. There will be an inquest held on the body of the deceased
this morning, when, no doubt, some evidence may be elicited which may
solve the mystery."
In Monday morning's issue of the ARGUS the following article appeared
with reference to the matter:--
"The following additional evidence which has been obtained may throw
some light on the mysterious murder in a hansom cab of which we gave a
full description in Saturday's issue:--'Another hansom cabman called
at the police office, and gave a clue which will, no doubt, prove of
value to the detectives in their search for the murderer. He states
that he was driving up the St. Kilda Road on Friday morning about
halfpast one o'clock, when he was hailed by a gentleman in a light
coat, who stepped into the cab and told him to drive to Powlett Street,
in East Melbourne. He did so, and, after paying him, the gentleman got
out at the corner of Wellington Parade and Powlett Street and walked
slowly up Powlett Street, while the cab drove back to town. Here all
clue ends, but there can be no doubt in the minds of our readers as to
the identity of the man in the light coat who got out of Royston's cab
on the St. Kilda Road, with the one who entered the other cab and
alighted therefrom at Powlett Street. There could have been no
struggle, as had any taken place the cabman, Royston, surely would have
heard the noise. The supposition is, therefore, that the deceased was
too drunk to make any resistance, and that the other, watching his
opportunity, placed the handkerchief saturated with chloroform over the
mouth of his victim. Then after perhaps a few ineffectual struggles the
latter would succumb to the effects of his inhalation. The man in the
light coat, judging from his conduct before getting into the cab,
appears to have known the deceased, though the circumstance of
his walking away on recognition, and returning again, shows that his
attitude towards the deceased was not altogether a friendly one.
"The difficulty is where to start from in the search after the author
of what appears to be a deliberate murder, as the deceased seems to be
unknown, and his presumed murderer has escaped. But it is impossible
that the body can remain long without being identified by someone, as
though Melbourne is a large city, yet it is neither Paris nor London,
where a man can disappear in a crowd and never be heard of again. The
first thing to be done is to establish the identity of the deceased,
and then, no doubt, a clue will be obtained leading to the detection of
the man in the light coat who appears to have been the perpetrator of
the crime. It is of the utmost importance that the mystery in which the
crime is shrouded should be cleared up, not only in the interests of
justice, but also in those of the public--taking place as it did in a
public conveyance, and in the public street. To think that the author
of such a crime is at present at large, walking in our midst, and
perhaps preparing for the committal of another, is enough to shake the
strongest nerves. In one of Du Boisgobey's stories, entitled 'An
Omnibus Mystery,' a murder closely resembling this tragedy takes place
in an omnibus, but we question if even that author would have been
daring enough to write about a crime being committed in such an
unlikely place as a hansom cab. Here is a great chance for some of our
detectives to render themselves famous, and we feel sure that they will
do their utmost to trace the author of this cowardly and dastardly
THE EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST.
At the inquest held on the body found in the hansom cab the following
articles taken from the deceased were placed on the table:--
1. Two pounds ten shillings in gold and silver.
2. The white silk handkerchief which was saturated with chloroform, and
was found tied across the mouth of the deceased, marked with the
letters O.W. in red silk.
3. A cigarette case of Russian leather, half filled with "Old Judge"
cigarettes. 4. A left-hand white glove of kid--rather soiled--with
black seams down the back. Samuel Gorby, of the detective office, was
present in order to see if anything might be said by the witnesses
likely to point to the cause or to the author of the crime.
The first witness called was Malcolm Royston, in whose cab the crime
had been committed. He told the same story as had already appeared in
the ARGUS, and the following facts were elicited by the Coroner:--
Q. Can you give a description of the gentleman in the light coat, who
was holding the deceased when you drove up?
A. I did not observe him very closely, as my attention was taken
up by the deceased; and, besides, the gentleman in the light coat was
in the shadow.
Q Describe him from what you saw of him.
A. He was fair, I think, because I could see his moustache, rather
tall, and in evening dress, with a light coat over it. I could not see
his face very plainly, as he wore a soft felt hat, which was pulled
down over his eyes.
Q. What kind of hat was it he wore--a wide-awake?
A. Yes. The brim was turned down, and I could see only his mouth and
Q. What did he say when you asked him if he knew the deceased?
A. He said he didn't; that he had just picked him up.
Q. And afterwards he seemed to recognise him?
A. Yes. When the deceased looked up he said "You!" and let him fall on
to the ground; then he walked away towards Bourke Street.
Q. Did he look back?
A. Not that I saw.
Q. How long were you looking after him?
A. About a minute.
Q. And when did you see him again?
A. After I put deceased into the cab I turned round and found him at my
Q. And what did he say?
A. I said, "Oh! you've come back," and he said, "Yes, I've changed my
mind, and will see him home," and then he got into the cab, and told me
to drive to St. Kilda.
Q. He spoke then as if he knew the deceased?
A. Yes; I thought that he recognised him only when he looked up, and
perhaps having had a row with him walked away, but thought he'd come
Q. Did you see him coming back?
A. No; the first I saw of him was at my elbow when I turned.
Q. And when did he get out? A. Just as I was turning down by the
Grammar School on the St. Kilda Road.
Q. Did you hear any sounds of fighting or struggling in the cab during
A. No; the road was rather rough, and the noise of the wheels going
over the stones would have prevented my hearing anything.
Q. When the gentleman in the light coat got out did he appear
A. No; he was perfectly calm.
Q. How could you tell that?
A. Because the moon had risen, and I could see plainly.
Q. Did you see his face then?
A. No; his hat was pulled down over it. I only saw as much as I did
when he entered the cab in Collins Street.
Q. Were his clothes torn or disarranged in any way?
A. No; the only difference I remarked in him was that his coat was
Q. And was it open when he got in?
A. No; but it was when he was holding up the deceased.
Q. Then he buttoned it before he came back and got into the cab?
A. Yes. I suppose so.
Q. What did he say when he got out of the cab on the St. Kilda Road?
A. He said that the deceased would not let him take him home, and that
he would walk back to Melbourne.
Q. And you asked him where you were to drive the deceased to?
A. Yes; and he said that the deceased lived either in Grey
Street or Ackland Street, St. Kilda, but that the deceased would direct
me at the Junction.
Q. Did you not think that the deceased was too drunk to direct you?
A. Yes, I did; but his friend said that the sleep and the shaking of
the cab would sober him a bit by the time I got to the Junction.
Q. The gentleman in the light coat apparently did not know where the
A. No; he said it was either in Ackland Street or Grey Street.
Q. Did you not think that curious?
A. No; I thought he might be a club friend of the deceased.
Q. For how long did the man in the light coat talk to you?
A. About five minutes.
Q. And during that time you heard no noise in the cab?
A. No; I thought the deceased had gone to sleep.
Q. And after the man in the light coat said "good-night" to the
deceased, what happened?
A. He lit a cigarette, gave me a half-sovereign, and walked off towards
Q. Did you observe if the gentleman in the light coat had his
handkerchief with him?
A. Oh, yes; because he dusted his boots with it. The road was very dusty.
Q. Did you notice any striking peculiarity about him?
A. Well, no; except that he wore a diamond ring.
Q. What was there peculiar about that?
A. He wore it on the forefinger of the right hand, and I never saw it
that way before.
Q. When did you notice this?
A. When he was lighting his cigarette.
Q. How often did you call to the deceased when you got to the
A. Three or four times. I then got down, and found he was quite dead.
Q. How was he lying?
A. He was doubled up in the far corner of the cab, very much. in the
same position as I left him when I put him in. His head was hanging on
one side, and there was a handkerchief across his mouth. When I touched
him he fell into the other corner of the cab, and then I found out he
was dead. I immediately drove to the St. Kilda police station and told
At the conclusion of Royston's evidence, during which Gorby had been
continually taking notes, Robert Chinston was called. He deposed:--
I am a duly qualified medical practitioner, residing in Collins Street
East. I made a POST-MORTEM examination of the body of the deceased on
Q. That was within a few hours of his death?
A. Yes, judging from the position of the handkerchief and the presence
of chloroform that the deceased had died from the effects of
ANAESTHESIA, and knowing how rapidly the poison evaporates I made the
examination at once.
Coroner: Go on, sir.
Dr. Chinston: Externally, the body was healthy-looking and well
nourished. There were no marks of violence. The staining apparent at
the back of the legs and trunk was due to POST-MORTEM congestion.
Internally, the brain was hyperaemic, and there was a considerable
amount of congestion, especially apparent in the superficial vessels.
There was no brain disease. The lungs were healthy, but slightly
congested. On opening the thorax there was a faint spirituous odour
discernible. The stomach contained about a pint of completely
digested food. The heart was flaccid. The right-heart contained a
considerable quantity of dark, fluid blood. There was a tendency to
fatty degeneration of that organ.
I am of opinion that the deceased died from the inhalation of some such
vapour as chloroform or methylene.
Q. You say there was a tendency to fatty degeneration of the heart?
Would that have anything to do with the death of deceased?
A. Not of itself. But chloroform administered while the heart was in
such a state would have a decided tendency to accelerate the fatal
result. At the same time, I may mention. that the POST-MORTEM signs of
poisoning by chloroform are mostly negative.
Dr. Chinston was then permitted to retire, and Clement Rankin, another
hansom cabman, was called. He deposed: I am a cabman, living in
Collingwood, and usually drive a hansom cab. I remember Thursday last.
I had driven a party down to St. Kilda, and was returning about
half-past one o'clock. A short distance past the Grammar School I was
hailed by a gentleman in a light coat; he was smoking a cigarette, and
told me to drive him to Powlett Street, East Melbourne. I did so, and
he got out at the corner of Wellington Parade and Powlett Street. He
paid me half-a-sovereign for my fare, and then walked up Powlett
Street, while I drove back to town.
Q. What time was it when you stopped at Powlett Street?
A. Two o'clock exactly.
Q. How do you know?
A. Because it was a still night, and I heard the Post Office clock
strike two o'clock.
Q. Did you notice anything peculiar about the man in the light coat?
A. No! He looked just the same as anyone else. I thought he was
some swell of the town out for a lark. His hat was pulled down over his
eyes, and I could not see his face.
Q. Did you notice if he wore a ring?
A. Yes! I did. When he was handing me the half-sovereign, I saw he had
a diamond ring on the forefinger of his right hand.
Q. He did not say why he was on the St. Kilda Road at such an hour?
A. No! He did not.
Clement Rankin was then ordered to stand down, and the Coroner then
summed up in an address of half-an-hour's duration. There was, he
pointed out, no doubt that the death of the deceased had resulted not
from natural causes, but from the effects of poisoning. Only slight
evidence had been obtained up to the present time regarding the
circumstances of the case, but the only person who could be accused of
committing the crime was the unknown man who entered the cab with the
deceased on Friday morning at the corner of the Scotch Church, near the
Burke and Wills' monument. It had been proved that the deceased, when
he entered the cab, was, to all appearances, in good health, though in
a state of intoxication, and the fact that he was found by the cabman,
Royston, after the man in the light coat had left the cab, with a
handkerchief, saturated with chloroform, tied over his mouth, would
seem to show that he had died through the inhalation of chloroform,
which had been deliberately administered. All the obtainable evidence
in the case was circumstantial, but, nevertheless, showed conclusively
that a crime had been committed. Therefore, as the circumstances of the
case pointed to one conclusion, the jury could not do otherwise than
frame a verdict in accordance with that conclusion.
The jury retired at four o'clock, and, after an absence of a quarter of
an hour, returned with the following verdict:--
"That the deceased, whose name there is no evidence to
determine, died on the 27th day of July, from the effects of poison,
namely, chloroform, feloniously administered by some person unknown;
and the jury, on their oaths, say that the said unknown person
feloniously, wilfully, and maliciously did murder the said deceased."
ONE HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.
100 POUNDS REWARD.
"Whereas, on Friday, the 27th day of July, the body of a man, name
unknown, was found in a hansom cab. AND WHEREAS, at an inquest held at
St. Kilda, on the 30th day of July, a verdict of wilful murder, against
some person unknown, was brought in by the jury. The deceased is of
medium height, with a dark complexion, dark hair, clean shaved, has a
mole on the left temple, and was dressed in evening dress. Notice is
hereby given that a reward of 100 pounds will be paid by the Government for
such information as will lead to the conviction of the murderer, who is
presumed to be a man who entered the hansom cab with the deceased at
the corner of Collins and Russell Streets, on the morning of the 27th
day of July."
MR. GORBY MAKES A START.
"Well," said Mr. Gorby, addressing his reflection in the looking-glass,
"I've been finding out things these last twenty years, but this is a
puzzler, and no mistake."
Mr. Gorby was shaving, and, as was his usual custom, conversed with his
reflection. Being a detective, and of an extremely reticent
disposition, he never talked outside about his business, or made a
confidant of anyone. When he did want to unbosom himself, he retired to
his bedroom and talked to his reflection in the mirror. This method of
procedure he found to work capitally, for it relieved his sometimes
overburdened mind with absolute security to himself. Did not the barber
of Midas when he found out what was under the royal crown of his
master, fret and chafe over his secret, until one morning he stole to
the reeds by the river, and whispered, "Midas, has ass's ears?"
In the like manner Mr. Gorby felt a longing at times to give speech to
his innermost secrets; and having no fancy for chattering to the air,
he made his mirror his confidant. So far it had never betrayed him,
while for the rest it joyed him to see his own jolly red face nodding
gravely at him from out the shining surface, like a mandarin.
This morning the detective was unusually animated in his
confidences to his mirror. At times, too, a puzzled expression would
pass over his face. The hansom cab murder had been placed in his hands
for solution, and he was trying to think how he should make a
"Hang it," he said, thoughtfully stropping his razor, "a thing with an
end must have a start, and if I don't get the start how am I to get the
As the mirror did not answer this question, Mr. Gorby lathered his
face, and started shaving in a somewhat mechanical fashion, for his
thoughts were with the case, and ran on in this manner:--
"Here's a man--well, say a gentleman--who gets drunk, and, therefore,
don't know what he's up to. Another gent who is on the square comes up
and sings out for a cab for him--first he says he don't know him, and
then he shows plainly he does--he walks away in a temper, changes his
mind, comes back and gets into the cab, after telling the cabby to
drive down to St. Kilda. Then he polishes the drunk one off with
chloroform, gets out of the cab, jumps into another, and after getting
out at Powlett Street, vanishes--that's the riddle I've got to find
out, and I don't think the Sphinx ever had a harder one. There are
three things to be discovered--First, who is the dead man? Second,
what was he killed for? And third, who did it?
"Once I get hold of the first the other two won't be very hard to find out,
for one can tell pretty well from a man's life whether it's to anyone's
interest that he should be got off the books. The man that murdered that
chap must have had some strong motive, and I must find out what that
motive was. Love? No, it wasn't that--men in love don't go to such lengths
in real life--they do in novels and plays, but I've never seen it
occurring in my experience. Robbery? No, there was plenty of money in his
pocket. Revenge? Now, really it might be that--it's a kind of thing
that carries most people further than they want to go. There was no
violence used, for his clothes, weren't torn, so he must have been
taken sudden, and before he knew what the other chap was up to. By the
way, I don't think I examined his clothes sufficiently, there might be
something about them to give a clue; at any rate it's worth looking
after, so I'll start with his clothes."
So Mr. Gorby, having dressed and breakfasted, walked quickly to the
police station, where he asked for the clothes of the deceased to be
shown to him. When he received them he retired into a corner, and
commenced an exhaustive examination of them.
There was nothing remarkable about the coat. It was merely a well-cut
and well-made dress coat; so with a grunt of dissatisfaction Mr. Gorby
threw it aside, and picked up the waistcoat. Here he found something to
interest him, in the shape of a pocket made on the left-hand side and
on the inside, of the garment.
"Now, what the deuce is this for?" said Mr. Gorby, scratching his head;
"it ain't usual for a dress waistcoat to have a pocket on its inside as
I'm aware of; and," continued the detective, greatly excited, "this
ain't tailor's work, he did it himself, and jolly badly he did it too.
Now he must have taken the trouble to make this pocket himself, so that
no one else would know anything about it, and it was made to carry
something valuable--so valuable that he had to carry it with him even
when he wore evening clothes. Ah! here's a tear on the side nearest the
outside of the waistcoat; something has been pulled out roughly. I
begin to see now. The dead man possessed something which the other man
wanted, and which he knew the dead one carried about with him. He
sees him drunk, gets into the cab with him, and tries to get
what he wants. The dead man resists, upon which the other kills him by
means of the chloroform which he had with him, and being afraid that
the Gab will stop, and he will be found out, snatches what he wants out
of the pocket so quickly that he tears the waistcoat and then makes
off. That's clear enough, but the question is, What was it he wanted? A
case with jewels? No! It could not have been anything so bulky, or the
dead man would never have carried it about inside his waistcoat. It was
something Hat, which could easily lie in the pocket--a paper--some
valuable paper which the assassin wanted, and for which he killed the
"This is all very well," said Mr. Gorby, throwing down the
waistcoat, and rising. "I have found number two before number one. The
first question is: Who is the murdered man. He's a stranger in
Melbourne, that's pretty clear, or else some one would have been sure
to recognise him before now by the description given in the reward.
Now, I wonder if he has any relations here? No, he can't, or else they
would have made enquiries, before this. Well, there's one thing
certain, he must have had a landlady or landlord, unless he slept in
the open air. He can't have lived in an hotel, as the landlord of any
hotel in Melbourne would have recognised him from the description,
especially when the whole place is ringing with the murder. Private
lodgings more like, and a landlady who doesn't read the papers and
doesn't gossip, or she'd have known all about it by this time. Now, if
he did live, as I think, in private lodgings, and suddenly disappeared,
his landlady wouldn't keep quiet. It's a whole week since the murder,
and as the lodger has not been seen or heard of, the landlady will
naturally make enquiries. If, however, as I surmise, the lodger is a
stranger, she will not know where to enquire; therefore, under these
circumstances, the most natural thing for her to do would be to
advertise for him, so I'll have a look at the newspapers."
Mr. Gorby got a file of the different newspapers, and looked carefully
through those columns in which missing friends and people who will hear
"something to their advantage" are generally advertised for.
"He was murdered," said Mr. Gorby to himself, "on a Friday morning,
between one and two o'clock, so he might stay away till Monday without
exciting any suspicion. On Monday, however, the landlady would begin to
feel uneasy, and on Tuesday she would advertise for him. Therefore,"
said Mr. Gorby, running his fat finger down the column, "Wednesday it
It did not appear in Wednesday's paper, neither did it in Thursday's,
but in Friday's issue, exactly one week after the murder, Mr. Gorby
suddenly came upon the following advertisement:--
"If Mr. Oliver Whyte does not return to Possum Villa, Grey Street, St.
Kilda, before the end of the week, his rooms will be let again.--
"Oliver Whyte," repeated Mr. Gorby slowly, "and the initials on the
pocket-handkerchief which was proved to have belonged to the deceased
were 'O.W.' So his name is Oliver Whyte, is it? Now, I wonder if Rubina
Hableton knows anything about this matter. At any rate," said Mr.
Gorby, putting on his hat, "as I'm fond of sea breezes, I think I'll go
down, and call at Possum Villa, Grey Street, St. Kilda."
MRS. HAMILTON UNBOSOMS HERSELF.
Mrs. Hableton was a lady with a grievance, as anybody who happened to
become acquainted with her, soon found out. It is Beaconsfield who
says, in one of his novels, that no one is so interesting as when he is
talking about himself; and, judging Mrs. Hableton by this statement,
she was an extremely fascinating individual, as she never by any chance
talked upon any other subject. What was the threat of a Russian
invasion to her so long as she had her special grievance--once let
that be removed, and she would have time to attend to such minor
details as affected the colony.
Mrs. Hableton's particular grievance was want of money. Not by any
means an uncommon one, you might remind her; but she snappishly would
tell you that "she knowd that, but some people weren't like other
people." In time one came to learn what she meant by this. She had come
to the Colonies in the early days--days when the making of money in
appreciable quantity was an easier matter than it is now. Owing to a
bad husband, she had failed to save any. The late Mr. Hableton--for he
had long since departed this life--had been addicted to alcohol, and
at those times when he should have been earning, he was usually to be
found in a drinking shanty spending his wife's earnings in
"shouting" for himself and his friends. The constant drinking, and the
hot Victorian climate, soon carried him off, and when Mrs. Hableton had
seen him safely under the ground in the Melbourne Cemetery, she
returned home to survey her position, and see how it could be bettered.
She gathered together a little money from the wreck of her fortune, and
land being cheap, purchased a small "section" at St. Kilda, and built a
house on it. She supported herself by going out charing, taking in
sewing, and acting as a sick nurse, So, among this multiplicity of
occupations, she managed to exist fairly well.
And in truth it was somewhat hard upon Mrs. Hableton. For at the time
when she should have been resting and reaping the fruit of her early
industry, she was obliged to toil more assiduously than ever. It was
little consolation to her that she was but a type of many women, who,
hardworking and thrifty themselves, are married to men who are nothing
but an incubus to their wives and to their families. Small wonder,
then, that Mrs. Hableton should condense all her knowledge of the male
sex into the one bitter aphorism, "Men is brutes."
Possum Villa was an unpretentious-looking place, with one, bow-window
and a narrow verandah in front. It was surrounded by a small garden in
which were a few sparse flowers--the especial delight of Mrs.
Hableton. It was, her way to tie an old handkerchief round her head and
to go out into the garden and dig and water her beloved flowers until,
from sheer desperation at the overwhelming odds, they gave up all
attempt to grow. She was engaged in this favourite occupation about a
week after her lodger had gone. She wondered where he was.
"Lyin' drunk in a public-'ouse, I'll be bound," she said, viciously
pulling up a weed, "a-spendin' 'is, rent and a-spilin' 'is inside with
beer--ah, men is brutes, drat 'em!"
Just as she said this, a shadow fell across the garden, and on
looking up, she saw a man leaning over the fence, staring at her.
"Git out," she said, sharply, rising from her knees and shaking her
trowel at the intruder. "I don't want no apples to-day, an' I don't
care how cheap you sells 'em."
Mrs. Hableton evidently laboured under the delusion that the man was a
hawker, but seeing no hand-cart with him, she changed her mind.
"You're takin' a plan of the 'ouse to rob it, are you?" she said.
"Well, you needn't, 'cause there ain't nothin' to rob, the silver
spoons as belonged to my father's mother 'avin' gone down my 'usband's,
throat long ago, an' I ain't 'ad money to buy more. I'm a lone pusson
as is put on by brutes like you, an' I'll thank you to leave the fence
I bought with my own 'ard earned money alone, and git out."
Mrs. Hableton stopped short for want of breath, and stood shaking her
trowel, and gasping like a fish out of water.
"My dear lady," said the man at the fence, mildly, "are you--"
"No, I ain't," retorted Mrs. Hableton, fiercely, "I ain't neither a
member of the 'Ouse, nor a school teacher, to answer your questions.
I'm a woman as pays my rates an' taxes, and don't gossip nor read yer
rubbishin' newspapers, nor care for the Russings, no how, so git out."
"Don't read the papers?" repeated the man, in a satisfied tone, "ah!
that accounts for it."
Mrs. Hableton stared suspiciously at the intruder. He was a
burly-looking man, with a jovial red face, clean shaven, and his sharp,
shrewd-looking grey eyes twinkled like two stars. He was, well-dressed
in a suit of light clothes, and wore a stiffly-starched white
waistcoat, with a massive gold chain stretched across it. Altogether he
gave Mrs. Hableton finally the impression of being a well-to-do
tradesman, and she mentally wondered what he wanted.
"What d'y want?" she asked, abruptly.
"Does Mr. Oliver Whyte live here?" asked the stranger.
"He do, an' he don't," answered Mrs. Hableton, epigrammatically. "I
ain't seen 'im for over a week, so I s'pose 'e's gone on the drink,
like the rest of 'em, but I've put sumthin' in the paper as 'ill pull
him up pretty sharp, and let 'im know I ain't a carpet to be trod on,
an' if you're a friend of 'im, you can tell 'im from me 'e's a brute,
an' it's no more but what I expected of 'im, 'e bein' a male."
The stranger waited placidly during the outburst, and Mrs. Hableton,
having stopped for want of breath, he interposed, quietly--
"Can I speak to you for a few moments?"
"An' who's a-stoppin' of you?" said Mrs. Hableton, defiantly. "Go on
with you, not as I expects the truth from a male, but go on."
"Well, really," said the other, looking up at the cloudless blue sky,
and wiping his face with a gaudy red silk pocket-handkerchief, "it is
rather hot, you know, and--"
Mrs. Hableton did not give him time to finish, but walking to the gate,
opened it with a jerk.
"Use your legs and walk in," she said, and the stranger having done so,
she led the way into the house, and into a small neat sitting-room,
which seemed to overflow with antimacassars, wool mats, and wax
flowers. There were also a row of emu eggs on the mantelpiece, a
cutlass on the wall, and a grimy line of hard-looking little books, set
in a stiff row on a shelf, presumably for ornament, for their
appearance in no way tempted one to read them.
The furniture was of horsehair, and everything was hard and shiny, so
when the stranger sat down in the slippery--looking arm-chair
that Mrs. Hableton pushed towards him; he could not help thinking it
had been stuffed with stones, it felt so cold and hard. The lady
herself sat opposite to him in another hard chair, and having taken the
handkerchief off her head, folded it carefully, laid it on her lap, and
then looked straight at her unexpected visitor.
"Now then," she said, letting her mouth fly open so rapidly that it
gave one the impression that it was moved by strings like a marionette,
"Who are you? what are you? and what do you want?"
The stranger put his red silk handkerchief into his hat, placed it on
the table, and answered deliberately--
"My name is Gorby. I am a detective. I want Mr. Oliver Whyte."
"He ain't here," said Mrs. Hableton, thinking that Whyte had got into
trouble, and was in danger of arrest.
"I know that," answered Mr. Gorby.
"Then where is 'e?"
Mr. Gorby answered abruptly, and watched the effect of his words.
"He is dead."
Mrs. Hableton grew pale, and pushed back her chair. "No," she cried,
"he never killed 'im, did 'e?"
"Who never killed him?" queried Mr. Gorby, sharply.
Mrs. Hableton evidently knew more than she intended to say, for,
recovering herself with a violent effort, she answered evasively--
"He never killed himself."
Mr. Gorby looked at her keenly, and she returned his gaze with a
"Clever," muttered the detective to himself; "knows something more than
she chooses to tell, but I'll get it out of her." He paused a moment,
and then went on smoothly,
"Oh, no! he did not commit suicide; what makes you think so?"
Mrs. Hableton did not answer, but, rising from her seat, went over to a
hard and shiny-looking sideboard, from whence she took a bottle of
brandy and a small wine-glass. Half filling the glass, she drank it
off, and returned to her seat.
"I don't take much of that stuff," she said, seeing the detective's
eyes fixed curiously on her, "but you 'ave given me such a turn that I
must take something to steady my nerves; what do you want me to do?"
"Tell me all you know," said Mr. Gorby, keeping his eyes fixed on her
"Where was Mr. Whyte killed?" she asked.
"He was murdered in a hansom cab on the St. Kilda Road."
"In the open street?" she asked in a startled tone.
"Yes, in the open street."
"Ah!" she drew a long breath, and closed her lips, firmly. Mr. Gorby
said nothing. He saw that she was deliberating whether or not to speak,
and a word from him might seal her lips, so, like a wise man, he kept
silent. He obtained his reward sooner than he expected.
"Mr. Gorby," she said at length, "I 'ave 'ad a 'ard struggle all my
life, which it came along of a bad husband, who was a brute and a
drunkard, so, God knows, I ain't got much inducement to think well of
the lot of you, but--murder," she shivered slightly, though the room
was quite warm, "I didn't think of that."
"In connection with whom?"
"Mr. Whyte, of course," she answered, hurriedly.
"And who else?"
"I don't know."
"Then there is nobody else?"
"Well, I don't know--I'm not sure."
The detective was puzzled.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I will tell you all I know," said Mrs. Hableton, "an' if 'e's
innocent, God will 'elp 'im."
"If who is innocent?"
"I'll tell you everythin' from the start," said Mrs. Hableton, "an' you
can judge for yourself."
Mr. Gorby assented, and she began:
"It's only two months ago since I decided to take in lodgers; but
charin's 'ard work, and sewin's tryin' for the eyes, So, bein' a lone
woman, 'avin' bin badly treated by a brute, who is now dead, which I
was allays a good wife to 'im, I thought lodgers 'ud 'elp me a little,
so I put a notice in the paper, an' Mr. Oliver Whyte took the rooms two
"What was he like?"
"Not very tall, dark face, no whiskers nor moustache, an' quite the
"Anything peculiar about him?"
Mrs. Hableton thought for a moment.
"Well," she said at length, "he 'ad a mole on his left temple, but it
was covered with 'is 'air, an' few people 'ud 'ave seen it."
"The very man," said Gorby to himself, "I'm on the right path."
"Mr. Whyte said 'e 'ad just come from England," went on the woman.
"Which," thought Mr. Gorby, "accounts for the corpse not being
recognised by friends."
"He took the rooms, an' said 'e'd stay with me for six months, an' paid
a week's rent in advance, an' 'e allays paid up reg'ler like a
respectable man, tho' I don't believe in 'em myself. He said
'e'd lots of friends, an' used to go out every night."
"Who were his friends?"
"That I can't tell you, for 'e were very close, an' when 'e went out of
doors I never knowd where 'e went, which is jest like 'em; for they ses
they're goin' to work, an' you finds 'em in the beershop. Mr. Whyte
told me 'e was a-goin' to marry a heiress, 'e was."
"Ah!" interjected Mr. Gorby, sapiently.
"He 'ad only one friend as I ever saw--a Mr. Moreland--who comed 'ere
with 'm, an' was allays with 'im--brother-like."
"What is this Mr. Moreland like?"
"Good-lookin' enough," said Mrs. Hableton sourly, "but 'is 'abits
weren't as good as 'is face--'andsom is as 'andsom does, is what I
"I wonder if he knows anything about this affair," thought Gorby to
himself "Where is Mr. Moreland to be found?" he asked.
"Not knowin', can't tell," retorted the landlady, "'e used to be 'ere
reg'lar, but I ain't seen 'im for over a week."
"Strange! very!" said Gorby, shaking his head. "I should like to see
this Mr. Moreland. I suppose it's probable he'll call again?"
"'Abit bein' second nature I s'pose he will," answered the woman, "'e
might call at any time, mostly 'avin' called at night."
"Ah! then I'll come down this evening on chance of seeing him," replied
the detective. "Coincidences happen in real life as well as in novels,
and the gentleman in question may turn up in the nick of time. Now,
what else about Mr. Whyte?"
"About two weeks ago, or three, I'm not cert'in which, a
gentleman called to see Mr. Whyte; 'e was very tall, and wore a light
"Ah! a morning coat?"
"No! 'e was in evenin' dress, and wore a light coat over it, an' a soft
"The very man," said the detective below his breath; "go on."
"He went into Mr. Whyte's room, an' shut the door. I don't know how
long they were talkin' together; but I was sittin' in this very room
and heard their voices git angry, and they were a-swearin' at one
another, which is the way with men, the brutes. I got up and went into
the passage in order to ask 'em not to make such a noise, when Mr.
Whyte's door opens, an' the gentleman in the light coat comes out, and
bangs along to the door. Mr. Whyte 'e comes to the door of 'is room,
an' 'e 'ollers out. 'She is mine; you can't do anything; an' the other
turns with 'is 'and on the door an' says, 'I can kill you, an' if you
marry 'er I'll do it, even in the open street.'"
"Ah!" said Mr. Gorby, drawing a long breath, "and then?"
"Then he bangs the door to, which it's never shut easy since, an' I
ain't got no money to get it put right, an' Mr. Whyte walks back to his
"Did he make any remark to you?"
"No; except he'd been worried by a loonatic."
"And what was the stranger's name?"
"That I can't tell you, as Mr. Whyte never told me. He was very tall,
with a fair moustache, an' dressed as I told you."
Mr. Gorby was satisfied.
"That is the man," he said to himself, "who got into the hansom
cab, and murdered Whyte; there's no doubt of it! Whyte and he were
rivals for the heiress."
"What d'y think of it?" said Mrs. Hableton curiously.
"I think," said Mr. Gorby slowly, with his eyes fixed on her, "I think
that there is a woman at the bottom of this crime."
MR. GORBY MAKES FURTHER DISCOVERIES.
When Mr. Gorby left Possum Villa no doubt remained in his mind as to
who had committed the murder. The gentleman in the light coat had
threatened to murder Whyte, even in the open street--these last words
being especially significant--and there was no doubt that he had
carried out his threat. The committal of the crime was merely the
fulfilment of the words uttered in anger. What the detective had now to
do was to find who the gentleman in the light coat was, where he lived,
and, that done, to ascertain his doings on the night of the murder.
Mrs. Hableton had described him, but was ignorant of his name, and her
very vague description might apply to dozens of young men in Melbourne.
There was only one person who, in Mr. Gorby's opinion, could tell the
name of the gentleman in the light coat, and that was Moreland, the
intimate friend of the dead man. They appeared, from the landlady's
description, to have been so friendly that it was more than likely
Whyte would have told Moreland all about his angry visitor. Besides,
Moreland's knowledge of his dead friend's life and habits might be able
to supply information on two points, namely, who was most likely to
gain by Whyte's death, and who the heiress was that the deceased
boasted he would marry. But the fact that Moreland should be
ignorant of his friend's tragic death, notwithstanding that the papers
were full of it, and that the reward gave an excellent description of
his personal appearance, greatly puzzled Gorby.
The only way in which to account for Moreland's extraordinary silence
was that he was out of town, and had neither seen the papers nor heard
anyone talking about the murder. If this were the case he might either
stay away for an indefinite time or return after a few days. At all
events it was worth while going down to St. Kilda in the evening on the
chance that Moreland might have returned to town, and world call to see
his friend. So, after his tea, Mr. Gorby put on his hat, and went down
to Possum Villa, on what he could not help acknowledging to himself was
a very slender possibility.
Mrs. Hableton opened the door for him, and in silence led the way, not
into her own sitting-room, but into a much more luxuriously furnished
apartment, which Gorby guessed at once was that of Whyte's. He looked
keenly round the room, and his estimate of the dead man's character was
formed at once.
"Fast," he said to himself, "and a spendthrift. A man who would have
his friends, and possibly his enemies, among a very shady lot of
What led Mr. Gorby to this belief was the evidence which surrounded him
of Whyte's mode of life. The room was well furnished, the furniture
being covered with dark-red velvet, while the curtains on the windows
and the carpet were all of the same somewhat sombre hue.
"I did the thing properly," observed Mrs. Hableton, with a
satisfactory smile on her hard face. "When you wants young men to stop
with you, the rooms must be well furnished, an' Mr. Whyte paid well,
tho' 'e was rather pertickler about 'is food, which I'm only a plain
cook, an' can't make them French things which spile the stomach."
The globes of the gas lamps were of a pale pink colour, and Mrs.
Hableton having lit the gas in expectation of Mr. Gorby's arrival,
there was a soft roseate hue through the room. Mr. Gorby put his hands
in his capacious pockets, and strolled leisurely through the room,
examining everything with a curious eye. The walls were covered with
pictures of celebrated horses and famous jockeys. Alternating with
these were photographs of ladies of the stage, mostly London actresses,
Nellie Farren, Kate Vaughan, and other burlesque stars, evidently being
the objects of the late Mr. Whyte's adoration. Over the mantelpiece
hung a rack of pipes, above which were two crossed foils, and under
these a number of plush frames of all colours, with pretty faces
smiling out of them; a remarkable fact being, that all the photographs
were of ladies, and not a single male face was to be seen, either on
the walls or in the plush frames.
"Fond of the ladies, I see," said Mr. Gorby, nodding his head towards
"A set of hussies," said Mrs. Hableton grimly, closing her lips
tightly. "I feel that ashamed when I dusts 'em as never was--I don't
believe in gals gettin' their picters taken with 'ardly any clothes on,
as if they just got out of bed, but Mr. Whyte seems to like 'em."
"Most young men do," answered Mr. Gorby dryly, going over to the
"Brutes," said the lady of the house. "I'd drown 'em in the Yarrer, I
would, a settin' 'emselves and a callin' 'emselves lords of creation,
as if women were made for nothin' but to earn money 'an see 'em drink
it, as my 'usband did, which 'is inside never seemed to 'ave enough
beer, an' me a poor lone woman with no family, thank God, or they'd
'ave taken arter their father in 'is drinkin' 'abits."
Mr. Gorby took no notice of this tirade against men, but stood
looking at Mr. Whyte's library, which seemed to consist mostly of
French novels and sporting newspapers.
"Zola," said Mr. Gorby, thoughtfully, taking down a flimsy yellow book
rather tattered. "I've heard of him; if his novels are as bad as his
reputation I shouldn't care to read them."
Here a knock came at the front door, loud and decisive. On hearing it
Mrs. Hableton sprang hastily to her feet. "That may be Mr. Moreland,"
she said, as the detective quickly replaced "Zola" in the bookcase. "I
never 'ave visitors in the evenin', bein' a lone widder, and if it is
'im I'll bring 'im in 'ere."
She went out, and presently Gorby, who was listening intently, heard a
man's voice ask if Mr. Whyte was at home.
"No, sir, he ain't," answered the landlady; "but there's a gentleman in
his room askin' after 'im. Won't you come in, sir?"
"For a rest, yes," returned the visitor, and immediately afterwards
Mrs. Hableton appeared, ushering in the late Oliver Whyte's most
intimate friend. He was a tall, slender man, with a pink and white
complexion, curly fair hair, and a drooping straw-coloured
moustache--altogether a strikingly aristocratic individual. He was
well-dressed in a suit of check, and had a cool, nonchalant air about him.
"And where is Mr. Whyte to-night?" he asked, sinking into a chair, and
taking no more notice of the detective than if he had been an article
"Haven't you seen him lately?" asked the detective quickly. Mr.
Moreland stared in an insolent manner at his questioner for a few
moments, as if he were debating the advisability of answering or not.
At last he apparently decided that he would, for slowly pulling off one
glove he leaned back in his chair.
"No, I have not," he said with a yawn. "I have been up the
country for a few days, and arrived back only this evening, so I have
not seen him for over a week. Why do you ask?"
The detective did not answer, but stood looking at the young man before
him in a thoughtful manner.
"I hope," said Mr. Moreland, nonchalantly, "I hope you will know me
again, my friend, but I didn't know Whyte had started a lunatic asylum
during my absence. Who are you?"
Mr. Gorby came forward and stood under the gas light.
"My name is Gorby, sir, and I am a detective," he said quietly.
"Ah! indeed," said Moreland, coolly looking him up and down. "What has
Whyte been doing; running away with someone's wife, eh? I know he has
little weaknesses of that sort."
Gorby shook his head.
"Do you know where Mr. Whyte is to be found?" he asked, cautiously.
"Not I, my friend," said he, lightly. "I presume he is somewhere about
here, as these are his head-quarters. What has he been doing? Nothing
that can surprise me, I assure you--he was always an erratic
"He paid reg'ler," interrupted Mrs. Hableton, pursing up her lips.
"A most enviable reputation to possess," answered the other with a
sneer, "and one I'm afraid I'll never enjoy. But why all this
questioning about Whyte? What's the matter with him?"
"He's dead!" said Gorby, abruptly.
All Moreland's nonchalance vanished on hearing this, and he started up
from his chair.
"Dead," he repeated mechanically. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that Mr. Oliver Whyte was murdered in a hansom cab." Moreland
stared at the detective in a puzzled sort of way, and passed his hand
across his forehead.
"Excuse me, my head is in a whirl," he said, as he sat down again.
"Whyte murdered! He was all right when I left him nearly two weeks
"Haven't you seen the papers?" asked Gorby.
"Not for the last two weeks," replied Moreland. "I have been up
country, and it was only on arriving back in town tonight that I heard
about the murder at all, as my landlady gave me a garbled account of
it, but I never for a moment connected it with Whyte, and I came down
here to see him, as I had agreed to do when I left. Poor fellow! poor
fellow! poor fellow!" and much overcome, he buried his face in his
Mr. Gorby was touched by his evident distress, and even Mrs. Hableton
permitted a small tear to roll down one hard cheek as a tribute of
sorrow and sympathy. Presently Moreland raised his head, and spoke to
Gorby in a husky tone.
"Tell me all about it," he said, leaning his cheek on his hand.
"Everything you know."
He placed his elbows on the table, and buried his face in his hands
again, while the detective sat down and related all that he knew about
Whyte's murder. When it was done he lifted up his head, and looked
sadly at the detective.
"If I had been in town," he said, "this would not have happened, for I
was always beside Whyte."
"You knew him very well, sir?" said the detective, in a sympathetic
"We were like brothers," replied Moreland, mournfully.
"I came out from England in the same steamer with him, and used
to visit him constantly here."
Mr. Hableton nodded her head to imply that such was the case.
"In fact," said Mr. Moreland, after a moment's thought, "I believe I
was with him on the night he was murdered."
Mrs. Hableton gave a slight scream, and threw her apron over her face,
but the detective sat unmoved, though Moreland's last remark had
startled him considerably.
"What's the matter?" said Moreland, turning to Mrs. Hableton.
"Don't be afraid; I didn't kill him--no--but I met him last Thursday
week, and I left for the country on Friday morning at half-past six."
"And what time did you meet Whyte on Thursday night?" asked Gorby.
"Let me see," said Moreland, crossing his legs and looking thoughtfully
up to the ceiling, "it was about half-past nine o'clock. I was in the
Orient Hotel, in Bourke Street. We had a drink together, and then went
up the street to an hotel in Russell Street, where we had another. In
fact," said Moreland, coolly, "we had several other drinks."
"Brutes!" muttered Mrs. Hableton, below her breath.
"Yes," said Gorby, placidly. "Go on."
"Well of--it's hardly the thing to confess it," said Moreland, looking
from one to the other with a pleasant smile, "but in a case like this,
I feel it my duty to throw all social scruples aside. We both became
"Ah! Whyte was, as we know, drunk when he got into the cab--and you--?"
"I was not quite so bad as Whyte," answered the other. "I had my senses
about me. I fancy he left the hotel some minutes before one o'clock on
"And what did you do?"
"I remained in the hotel. He left his overcoat behind him, and I
picked it up and followed him shortly afterwards, to return it. I was
too drunk to see in which direction he had gone, and stood leaning
against the hotel door in Bourke Street with the coat in my hand. Then
some one came up, and, snatching the coat from me, made off with it,
and the last thing I remember was shouting out: 'Stop, thief!' Then I
must have fallen down, for next morning I was in bed with all my
clothes on, and they were very muddy. I got up and left town for the
country by the six-thirty train, so I knew nothing about the matter
until I came back to Melbourne tonight. That's all I know."
"And you had no impression that Whyte was watched that night?"
"No, I had not," answered Moreland, frankly. "He was in pretty good
spirits, though he was put out at first."
"What was the cause of his being put out?"
Moreland arose, and going to a side table, brought Whyte's album, which
he laid on the table and opened in silence. The contents were very much
the same as the photographs in the room, burlesque actresses and ladies
of the ballet predominating; but Mr. Moreland turned over the pages
till nearly the end, when he stopped at a large cabinet photograph, and
pushed the album towards Mr. Gorby.
"That was the cause," he said.
It was the portrait of a charmingly pretty girl, dressed in white, with
a sailor hat on her fair hair, and holding a lawn tennis racquet. She
was bending half forward, with a winning smile, and in the background
bloomed a mass of tropical plants. Mrs. Hableton uttered a cry of
surprise at seeing this.
"Why, it's Miss Frettlby," she said. "How did he know her?"
"Knew her father--letter of introduction, and all that sort of
thing," said Mr. Moreland, glibly.
"Ah! indeed," said Mr. Gorby, slowly. "So Mr. Whyte knew Mark Frettlby,
the millionaire; but how did he obtain a photograph of the daughter?"
"She gave it to him," said Moreland. "The, fact is, Whyte was very much
in love with Miss Frettlby."
"Was in love with someone else," finished Moreland. "Exactly! Yes, she
loved a Mr. Brian Fitzgerald, to whom she is now engaged. He was mad on
her; and Whyte and he used to quarrel desperately over the young lady."
"Indeed!" said Mr. Gorby. "And do you know this Mr. Fitzgerald?"
"Oh, dear, no!" answered the other, coolly. "Whyte's friends were not
mine. He was a rich young man who had good introductions. I am only a
poor devil on the outskirts of society, trying to push my way in the
"You are acquainted with his personal appearance, of course?" observed
"Oh, yes, I can describe that," said Moreland. "In fact, he's not at
all unlike me, which I take to be rather a compliment, as he is said to
be good-looking. He is tall, rather fair, talks in a bored sort of
manner, and is altogether what one would Gall a heavy swell; but you
must have seen him," he went on, turning to Mrs. Hableton, "he was here
three or four weeks ago, Whyte told me."
"Oh, that was Mr. Fitzgerald, was it?" said Mrs. Hableton, in surprise.
"Yes, he is rather like you; the lady they quarrelled over must have
been Miss Frettlby."
"Very likely," said Moreland, rising. "Well, I'm off; here's my
address," putting a card in Gorby's, hand. "I'm glad to be of any use
to you in this matter, as Whyte was my dearest friend, and I'll
do all in my power to help you to find out the murderer."
"I don't think that is a very difficult matter," said Mr. Gorby,
"Oh, you have your suspicions?" asked Moreland, looking at him.
"Then who do you think murdered Whyte?"
Mr. Gorby paused a moment, and then said deliberately: "I have an
idea--but I am not certain--when I am certain, I'll speak."
"You think Fitzgerald killed my friend," said Moreland. "I see it in
Mr. Gorby smiled." Perhaps," he said, ambiguously. "Wait till I'm
THE WOOL KING.
The old Greek legend of Midas turning everything he touched into gold,
is truer than most people imagine. Mediaeval superstition changed the
human being who possessed such a power into the philosopher's stone--the
stone which so many alchemists sought in the dark ages. But we of
the nineteenth century have given back into human hands this power of
But we do not ascribe it either to Greek deity, or to superstition; we
call it luck. And he who possesses luck should be happy notwithstanding
the proverb which hints the contrary. Luck means more than riches--it
means happiness in most of those things, which the fortunate possessor
of it may choose to touch. Should he speculate, he is successful; if he
marry, his wife will surely prove everything to be desired; should he
aspire to a position, social or political, he not only attains it, but
does so with comparative ease. Worldly wealth, domestic happiness, high
position, and complete success--all these things belong to the man who
Mark Frettlby was one of these fortunate individuals, and his luck was
proverbial throughout Australia. If there was any speculation for which
Mark Frettlby went in, other men would surely follow, and in
every case the result turned out as well, and in many cases even better
than they expected. He had come out in the early days of the colony
with comparatively little money, but his great perseverance and
never-failing luck had soon changed his hundreds into thousands, and
now at the age of fifty-five he did not himself know the extent of his
income. He had large stations scattered all over the Colony of
Victoria, which brought him in a splendid income; a charming country
house, where at certain seasons of the year he dispensed hospitality to
his friends; and a magnificent town house down in St. Kilda, which
would have been not unworthy of Park Lane.
Nor were his domestic relations less happy--he had a charming wife,
who was one of the best known and most popular ladies of Melbourne, and
an equally charming daughter, who, being both pretty and an heiress,
naturally attracted crowds of suitors. But Madge Frettlby was
capricious, and refused innumerable offers. Being an extremely
independent young person, with a mind of her own, she decided to remain
single, as she had not yet seen anyone she could love, and with her
mother continued to dispense the hospitality of the mansion at St.
But the fairy prince comes at length to every woman, and in this
instance he came at his appointed time, in the person of one Brian
Fitzgerald, a tall, handsome, fair-haired young man hailing from
He had left behind him in the old country a ruined castle and a few
acres of barren land, inhabited by discontented tenants, who refused to
pay the rent, and talked darkly about the Land League and other
agreeable things. Under these circumstances, with no rent coming in,
and no prospect of doing anything in the future, Brian had left the
castle of his forefathers to the rats and the family Banshee, and had
come out to Australia to make his fortune.
He brought letters of introduction to Mark Frettlby, and that
gentleman, taking a fancy to him, assisted him by every means in his
power. Under Frettlby's advice Brian bought a station, and, to his
astonishment, in a few years he found himself growing rich. The
Fitzgeralds had always been more famous for spending than for saving,
and it was an agreeable surprise to their latest representative to find
the money rolling in instead of out. He began to indulge in castles in
the air concerning that other castle in Ireland, with the barren acres
and discontented tenants. In his mind's-eye he saw the old place rise
up in all its pristine splendour from out its ruins; he saw the barren
acres well cultivated, and the tenants happy and content--he was
rather doubtful on this latter point, but, with the rash confidence of
eight and twenty, determined to do his best to perform even the
Having built and furnished his castle in the air, Brian naturally
thought of giving it a mistress, and this time actual appearance took
the place of vision. He fell in love with Madge Frettlby, and having
decided in his own mind that she and none other was fitted to grace the
visionary halls of his renovated castle, he watched his opportunity,
and declared himself. She, woman-like, coquetted with him for some
time, but at last, unable to withstand the impetuosity of her Irish
lover, confessed in a low voice, with a pretty smile on her face, that
she could not live without him. Whereupon--well--lovers being of a
conservative turn of mind, and accustomed to observe the traditional
forms of wooing, the result can easily be guessed. Brian hunted all
over the jewellers' shops in Melbourne with lover-like assiduity, and
having obtained a ring wherein were set turquoise stones as blue as his
own eyes, he placed it on her slender finger, and at last felt that his
engagement was an accomplished fact.
He next proceeded to interview the father, and had just screwed
up his courage to the awful ordeal, when something occurred which
postponed the interview indefinitely. Mrs. Frettlby was out driving,
and the horses took fright and bolted. The coachman and groom both
escaped unhurt, but Mrs. Frettlby was thrown out and killed instantly
This was the first really great trouble which had fallen on Mark
Frettlby, and he seemed stunned by it. Shutting himself up in his room
he refused to see anyone, even his daughter, and appeared at the
funeral with a white and haggard face, which shocked everyone. When
everything was over, and the body of the late Mrs. Frettlby was
consigned to the earth, with all the pomp and ceremony which money
could give, the bereaved husband rode home, and resumed his old life.
But he was never the same again. His face, which had always been so
genial and so bright, became stern and sad. He seldom smiled, and when
he did, it was a faint wintry smile, which seemed mechanical. His whole
interest in life was centred in his daughter. She became the sole
mistress of the St. Kilda mansion, and her father idolised her. She was
apparently the one thing left to him which gave him a pleasure in
existence. In truth, had it not been for her bright presence, Mark
Frettlby would fain have been lying beside his dead wife in the quiet
After a time Brian again resolved to ask Mr. Frettlby for the hand of
his daughter. But for the second time fate interposed. A rival suitor
made his appearance, and Brian's hot Irish temper rose in anger at him.
Mr. Oliver Whyte had come out from England a few months previously,
bringing with him a letter of introduction to Mr. Frettlby, who
received him hospitably, as was his custom. Taking advantage of this,
Whyte lost no time in making himself perfectly at home in the St. Kilda
From the outset Brian took a dislike to the new-comer. He was a
student of Lavater, and prided himself on his perspicuity in reading
character. His opinion of Whyte was anything but flattering to that
gentleman; while Madge shared his repulsion towards the new-comer.
On his part Mr. Whyte was nothing if not diplomatic. He affected not to
notice the coldness of Madge's reception of him. On the contrary he
began to pay her the most marked attentions, much to Brian's disgust.
At length he asked her to be his wife, and notwithstanding her prompt
refusal, spoke to her father on the subject. Much to the astonishment
of his daughter, Mr. Frettlby not only consented to Whyte paying his
addresses to Madge, but gave that young lady to understand that he
wished her to consider his proposals favourably.
In spite of all Madge could say, he refused to alter his decision, and
Whyte, feeling himself safe, began to treat Brian with an insolence
which was highly galling to Fitzgerald's proud nature. He had called on
Whyte at his lodgings, and after a violent quarrel he had left the
house vowing to kill him, should he marry Madge Frettlby.
The same night Fitzgerald had an interview with Mr. Frettlby. He
confessed that he loved Madge, and that his love was returned. So, when
Madge added her entreaties to Brian's, Mr. Frettlby found himself
unable to withstand the combined forces, and gave his consent to their
Whyte was absent in the country for the next few days after his stormy
interview with Brian, and it was only on his return that he learnt that
Madge was engaged to his rival. He saw Mr. Frettlby, and having learnt
from his own lips that such was the case, he left the house at once,
and swore that he would never enter it again. He little knew how
prophetic were his words, for on that same night he met his death in
the hansom cab. He had passed out of the life of both the lovers, and
they, glad that he troubled them no more, never suspected for a moment
that the body of the unknown man found in Royston's cab was that of
About two weeks after Whyte's disappearance Mr. Frettlby gave a dinner
party in honour of his daughter's birthday. It was a delightful
evening, and the wide French windows which led on to the verandah were
open, letting in a gentle breeze from the ocean. Outside there was a
kind of screen of tropical plants, and through the tangle of the boughs
the guests, seated at the table, could just see the waters of the bay
glittering in the pale moonlight. Brian was seated opposite to Madge,
and every now and then he caught a glimpse of her bright face from
behind the fruit and flowers, which stood in the centre of the table.
Mark Frettlby was at the head of the table, and appeared in very good
spirits. His stern features were somewhat relaxed, and he drank more
wine than usual.
The soup had just been removed when some one, who was late, entered
with apologies and took his seat. Some one in this case was Mr. Felix
Rolleston, one of the best known young men in Melbourne. He had an
income of his own, scribbled a little for the papers, was to be seen at
every house of any pretensions in Melbourne, and was always bright,
happy, and full of news. For details of any scandal you were safe in
applying to Felix Rolleston. He knew all that was going on, both at
home and abroad. And his knowledge, if not very accurate, was at least
extensive, while his conversation was piquant, and at times witty.
Calton, one of the leading lawyers of the city, remarked that
"Rolleston put him in mind of what Beaconsfield said of one of the
personages in Lothair, 'He wasn't an intellectual Croesus, but
his pockets were always full of sixpences.'" Be it said in his favour
that Felix was free with his sixpences.
The conversation, which had shown signs of languishing before his
arrival, now brightened up.
"So awfully sorry, don't you know," said Felix, as he slipped into a
seat by Madge; "but a fellow like me has got to be careful of his
time--so many calls on it."
"So many calls in it, you mean," retorted Madge, with a disbelieving
smile. "Confess, now, you have been paying a round of visits."
"Well, yes," assented Mr. Rolleston; "that's the disadvantage of having
a large circle of acquaintances. They give you weak tea and thin bread
and butter, whereas--"
"You would rather have something else," finished Brian.
There was a laugh at this, but Mr. Rolleston disdained to notice the
"The only advantage of five o'clock tea," he went on, "is, that it
brings people together, and one hears what's going on."
"Ah, yes, Rolleston," said Mr. Frettlby, who was looking at him with an
amused smile. "What news have you?"
"Good news, bad news, and such news as you have never heard of," quoted
Rolleston gravely. "Yes, I have a bit of news--haven't you heard it?"
Rolleston felt he held sensation in his hands. There was nothing he
"Well, do you know," he said, gravely fixing in his eyeglass, "they
have found out the name of the fellow who was murdered in the hansom
"Never!" cried every one eagerly.
"Yes," went on Rolleston, "and what's more, you all know him."
"It's never Whyte?" said Brian, in a horrified tone.
"Hang it, how did you know?" said Rolleston, rather annoyed at being
forestalled. "Why, I just heard it at the St. Kilda station."
"Oh, easily enough," said Brian, rather confused. "I used to meet Whyte
constantly, and as I have not seen him for the last two weeks, I
thought he might be the victim."
"How did they find out?" asked Mr. Frettlby, idly toying with his
"Oh, one of those detective fellows, you know," answered Felix. "They
"I'm sorry to hear it," said Frettlby, referring to the fact that Whyte
was murdered. "He had a letter of introduction to me, and seemed a
clever, pushing young fellow."
"A confounded cad," muttered Felix, under his breath; and Brian, who
overheard him, seemed inclined to assent. For the rest of the meal
nothing was talked about but the murder, and the mystery in which it
was shrouded. When the ladies retired they chatted about it in the
drawingroom, but finally dropped it for more agreeable subjects. The
men, however, when the cloth Was removed, filled their glasses, and
continued the discussion with unabated vigour. Brian alone did not take
part in the conversation. He sat moodily staring at his untasted wine,
wrapped in a brown study.
"What I can't make out," observed Rolleston, who was amusing himself
with cracking nuts, "is why they did not find out who he was before."
"That is not hard to answer," said Frettlby, filling his--glass. "He
was comparatively little known here, as he had been out from England
such a short time, and I fancy that this was the only house at which he
"And look here, Rolleston," said Calton, who was sitting near
him, "if you were to find a man dead in a hansom cab, dressed in
evening clothes--which nine men out of ten are in the habit of wearing
in the evening--no cards in his pockets, and no name on his linen, I
rather think you would find it hard to discover who he was. I consider
it reflects great credit on the police for finding out so quickly."
"Puts one in mind of 'The Leavenworth Case,' and all that sort of
thing," said Felix, whose reading was of the lightest description.
"Awfully exciting, like putting a Chinese puzzle together. Gad, I
wouldn't mind being a detective myself."
"I'm afraid if that were the case," said Mr. Frettlby, with an amused
smile, "criminals would be pretty safe."
"Oh, I don't know so much about that," answered Felix, shrewdly; "some
fellows are like trifle at a party, froth on top, but something better
"What a greedy simile," said Calton, sipping his wine; "but I'm afraid
the police will have a more difficult task in discovering the man who
committed the crime. In my opinion he's a deuced clever fellow."
"Then you don't think he will be discovered?" asked Brian, rousing
himself out of his brown study.
"Well, I don't go as far as that," rejoined Calton; "but he has
certainly left no trace behind him, and even the Red Indian, in whom
instinct for tracking is so highly developed, needs some sort of a
trail to enable him to find out his enemies. Depend upon it," went on
Calton, warming to his subject, "the man who murdered Whyte is no
ordinary criminal; the place he chose for the committal of the crime
was such a safe one."
"Do you think so?" said Rolleston. "Why, I should think that a hansom
cab in a public street would be very unsafe."
"It is that very fact that makes it safer," replied Mr. Calton,
epigrammatically. "You read De Quincey's account of the Marr murders in
London, and you will see that the more public the place the less risk
there is of detection. There was nothing about the gentleman in the
light coat who murdered Whyte to excite Royston's suspicions. He
entered the cab with Whyte; no noise or anything likely to attract
attention was heard, and then he alighted. Naturally enough, Royston
drove to St. Kilda, and never suspected Whyte was dead till he looked
inside and touched him. As to the man in the light coat, he doesn't
live in Powlett Street--no--nor in East Melbourne either."
"Why not?" asked Frettlby.
"Because he wouldn't have been such a fool as to leave a trail to his
own door; he did what the fox often does--he doubled. My opinion is
that he went either right through East Melbourne to Fitzroy, or he
walked back through the Fitzroy Gardens into town. There was no one
about at that time of the morning, and he could return to his lodgings,
hotel, or wherever he is staying, with impunity. Of course, this is a
theory that may be wrong; but from what insight into human nature my
profession has given me, I think that my idea is a correct one."
All present agreed with Mr. Calton's idea, as it really did seem the
most natural thing that would be done by a man desirous of escaping
"Tell you what," said Felix to Brian, as they were on their way to the
drawing-room, "if the fellow that committed the crime, is found out, by
gad, he ought to get Calton to defend him."
BRIAN TAKES A WALK AND A DRIVE.
When the gentlemen entered the drawing-room a young lady was engaged in
playing one of those detestable pieces of the MORCEAU DE SALON order,
in which an unoffending air is taken, and variations embroidered on it,
till it becomes a perfect agony to distinguish the tune, amid the
perpetual rattle of quavers and demi-semi-quavers. The melody in this
case was "Over the Garden Wall," with variations by Signor Thumpanini,
and the young lady who played it was a pupil of that celebrated Italian
musician. When the male portion of the guests entered, the air was
being played in the bass with a great deal of power (that is, the loud
pedal was down), and with a perpetual rattle of treble notes, trying
with all their shrill might to drown the tune.
"Gad! it's getting over the garden wall in a hailstorm," said Felix, as
he strolled over to the piano, for he saw that the musician was Dora
Featherweight, an heiress to whom he was then paying attention, in the
hope that she might be induced to take the name of Rolleston. So, when
the fair Dora had paralysed her audience with one final bang and
rattle, as if the gentleman going over the garden wall had tumbled into
the cucumber-frame, Felix was loud in his expressions of delight.
"Such power, you know, Miss Featherweight," he said, sinking
into a chair, and mentally wondering if any of the piano strings had
given way at that last crash. "You put your heart into it--and all
your muscle, too, by gad," he added mentally.
"It's nothing but practice," answered Miss Featherweight, with a modest
blush. "I am at the piano four hours every day."
"Good heavens!" thought Felix, "what a time the family must have of
it." But he kept this remark to himself, and, screwing his eye-glass
into his left organ of vision, merely ejaculated, "Lucky piano."
Miss Featherweight, not being able to think of any answer to this,
looked down and blushed, while the ingenuous Felix looked up and
Madge and Brian were in a corner of the room talking over Whyte's
"I never liked him," she said, "but it is horrible to think of him
dying like that."
"I don't know," answered Brian, gloomily; "from all I can hear dying by
chloroform is a very easy death."
"Death can never be easy," replied Madge, "especially to a young man so
full of health and spirits as Mr. Whyte was."
"I believe you are sorry he's dead," said Brian, jealously.
"Aren't you?" she asked in some surprise.
"De mortuis nil nisi bonum," quoted Fitzgerald. "But as I detested him
when alive, you can't expect me to regret his end."
Madge did not answer him, but glanced quickly at his face, and for the
first time it struck her that he looked ill.
"What is the matter with you, dear?" she asked, placing her hand on his
arm. "You are not looking well."
"Nothing--nothing," he answered hurriedly. "I've been a little
worried about business lately--but come," he said, rising, "let us go
outside, for I see your father has got that girl with the steam-whistle
voice to sing."
The girl with the steam-whistle voice was Julia Featherweight, the
sister of Rolleston's inamorata, and Madge stifled a laugh as she went
on to the verandah with Fitzgerald.
"What a shame of you," she said, bursting into a laugh when they were
safely outside; "she's been taught by the best masters."
"How I pity them," retorted Brian, grimly, as Julia wailed out, "Meet
me once again," with an ear-piercing shrillness.
"I'd much rather listen to our ancestral Banshee, and as to meeting her
again, one interview would be more than enough." Madge did not answer,
but leaning lightly over the high rail of the verandah looked out into
the beautiful moonlit night. There were a number of people passing
along the Esplanade, some of whom stopped and listened to Julia's
shrill notes. One man in particular seemed to have a taste for music,
for he persistently stared over the fence at the house. Brian and Madge
talked of divers subjects, but every time Madge looked up she saw the
man watching the house.
"What does that man want, Brian?" she asked.
"What man?" asked Brian, starting. "Oh," he went on indifferently, as
the watcher moved away from the gate and crossed the road on to the
footpath, "he's taken up with the music, I suppose; that's all."
Madge said nothing, but she could not help thinking there was more in
it than the music. Presently Julia ceased, and she proposed to go in.
"Why?" asked Brian, who was lying back in a comfortable seat, smoking a
cigarette. "It's nice enough here."
"I must attend to my guests," she answered, rising. "You stop
here and finish your cigarette," and with a gay laugh she flitted into
Brian sat and smoked, staring out into the moonlight the while. Yes,
the man was certainly watching the house, for he sat on one of the
seats, and kept his eyes fixed on the brilliantly-lighted windows.
Brian threw away his cigarette and shivered slightly.
"Could anyone have seen me?" he muttered, rising uneasily.
"Pshaw! of course not; and the cabman would never recognise me again.
Curse Whyte, I wish I'd never set eyes upon him."
He gave one glance at the dark figure on the seat, and then, with a
shiver, passed into the warm, well-lighted room. He did not feel easy
in his mind, and he would have felt still less so had he known that the
man on the seat was one of the cleverest of the Melbourne detectives.
Mr. Gorby had been watching the Frettlby mansion the whole evening, and
was getting rather annoyed. Moreland did not know where Fitzgerald
lived, and as that was one of the primary facts the detective wished to
ascertain, he determined to watch Brian's movements, and to trace him
"If he's the lover of that pretty girl, I'll wait till he leaves the
house," argued Mr. Gorby to himself, as he took his seat on the
Esplanade. "He won't long remain away from her, and once he leaves the
house it will be no difficult matter to find out where he lives."
When Brian made his appearance early in the evening, on his way to Mark
Frettlby's mansion, he wore evening dress, a light overcoat, and a soft
"Well, I'm dashed!" ejaculated Mr. Gorby, when he saw Fitzgerald
disappear; "if he isn't a fool I don't know who is, to go about
in the very clothes he wore when he polished Whyte off, and think he
won't be recognised. Melbourne ain't Paris or London, that he can
afford to be so careless, and when I put the darbies on him he will be
astonished. Ah, well," he went on, lighting his pipe and taking a seat
on the Esplanade, "I suppose I'll have to wait here till he comes out."
Mr. Gorby's patience was pretty severely tried, for hour after hour
passed, and no one appeared. He smoked several pipes, and watched the
people strolling along in the soft silver moonlight. A bevy of girls
passed by with their arms round one another's waists. Then a young man
and woman, evidently lovers, came walking along. They sat down by Mr.
Gorby and looked hard at him, to hint that he need not stay. But the
detective took no heed of them, and kept his eyes steadily upon the
great house opposite. Finally, the lovers took themselves off with a
very bad grace.
Then Mr. Gorby saw Madge and Brian come out on to the verandah, and
heard in the stillness of the night, a sound weird and unearthly. It
was Miss Featherweight singing. He saw Madge go in, shortly followed by
Brian. The latter turned and stared at him for a moment.
"Ah," said Gorby to himself as he re-lit his pipe; "your conscience is
a-smiting you, is it? Wait a bit, my boy, till I have you in gaol."
Then the guests came out of the house, and their black figures
disappeared one by one from the moonlight as they shook hands and said
Shortly after Brian came down the path with Frettlby at his side, and
Madge hanging on her father's arm. Frettlby opened the gate and held
out his hand.
"Good-night, Fitzgerald," he said, in a hearty voice; "come soon
"Good-night, Brian, dearest," said Madge, kissing him, "and
don't forget to-morrow."
Then father and daughter closed the gate, leaving Brian outside, and
walked back to the house.
"Ah!" said Mr. Gorby to himself, "if you only knew what I know, you
wouldn't be so precious kind to him."
Brian strolled along the Esplanade, and crossing over, passed by Gorby
and walked on till he was opposite the Esplanade Hotel. Then he leaned
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