The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 34.

The Hands of Justice.

Calton’s voice faltered a little when he read those last sad words, and he laid the manuscript down on the table, amid a dead silence, which was first broken by Brian.

“Thank God,” he said, reverently, “thank God that he was innocent of the crime!”

“No,” said Calton, a little cynically, “the riddle which has perplexed us so long is read, and the Sphinx is silent for evermore.”

“I knew he was incapable of such a thing,” cried Chinston, whom emotion had hitherto kept silent.

Meanwhile Kilsip listened to these eulogistic remarks on the dead man, and purred to himself, in a satisfied sort of way, like a cat who has caught a mouse.

“You see, sir,” he said, addressing the barrister, “I was right after all.”

“Yes,” answered Calton, frankly, “I acknowledge my defeat, but now — ”

“I’m going to arrest Moreland right off,” said Kilsip.

There was a silence for a few moments, and then Calton spoke again.

“I suppose it must be so — poor girl — poor girl.”

“I’m very sorry for the young lady myself,” said the detective in his soft, low voice; “but you see I cannot let a dangerous criminal escape for a mere matter of sentiment.”

“Of course not,” said Fitzgerald, sharply. “Moreland must be arrested right off.”

“But he will confess everything,” said Calton, angrily, “and then everyone will know about this first marriage.”

“Let them,” retorted Brian, bitterly. “As soon as she is well enough we will marry at once, and leave Australia for ever.”

“But — ”

“I know her better than you do,” said the young man, doggedly; “and I know she would like an end made of this whole miserable business at once. Arrest the murderer, and let him suffer for his crime.”

“Well, I suppose it must be so,” said Chinston, with a sigh, “but it seems very hard that this slur should be cast upon Miss Frettlby.”

Brian turned a little pale.

“The sins of the father are generally visited upon the children by the world,” he said bitterly. “But after the first pain is over, in new lands among new faces, she will forget the bitter past.”

“Now that it is settled Moreland is to be arrested,” said Calton, “how is it to be done? Is he still in Melbourne?”

“Rather,” said Kilsip in a satisfied tone; “I’ve had my eye on him for the last two months, and someone is watching him for me now — trust me, he can’t move two steps without my knowing it.”

“Ah, indeed!” said Calton, quickly. “Then do you know if he has been to the bank and cashed that cheque for five thousand, which Frettlby gave him?”

“Well, now,” observed Kilsip, after a pause, “do you know you rather startled me when you told me he had received a cheque for that amount.”

“Why?”

“It’s such a large one,” replied the detective, “and had I known what sum he had paid into his account I should have been suspicious.”

“Then he has been to the bank?”

“To his own bank, yes. He went there yesterday afternoon at two o’clock — that is the day after he got it — so it would be sent round to Mr. Frettlby’s bank, and would not be returned till next day, and as he died in the meanwhile I expect it hasn’t been honoured, so Mr. Moreland won’t have his money yet.”

“I wonder what he’ll do,” said Chinston.

“Go to the manager and kick up a row,” said Kilsip, coolly, “and the manager will no doubt tell him he’d better see the executors.”

“But, my good friend, the manager doesn’t know who the executors are,” broke in Calton, impatiently. “You forget the will has yet to be read.”

“Then he’ll tell him to go to the late Mr. Frettlby’s solicitors. I suppose he knows who they are,” retorted Kilsip.

“Thinton and Tarbit,” said Calton, musingly; “but it’s questionable if Moreland would go to them.”

“Why shouldn’t he, sir?” said Kilsip, quickly. “He does not know anything about this,” laying his hand on the confession, “and as the cheque is genuine enough he won’t let five thousand pounds go without a struggle.”

“I’ll tell you what,” observed Calton, after a few moments of reflection, “I’ll go across the way and telephone to Thinton and Tarbit, and when he calls on them they can send him up to me.”

“A very good idea,” said Kilsip, rubbing his hands, “and then I can arrest him.”

“But the warrant?” interposed Brian, as Calton rose and put on his hat.

“Is here,” said the detective, producing it.

“By Jove, you must have been pretty certain of his guilt,” remarked Chinston, dryly.

“Of course I was,” retorted Kilsip, in a satisfied tone of voice. “When I told the magistrate where I found the coat, and reminded him of Moreland’s acknowledgment at the trial, that he had it in his possession before the murder, I soon got him to see the necessity of having Moreland arrested.”

“Half-past four,” said Calton, pausing for a moment at the door and looking at his watch. “I’m afraid it’s rather late to catch Moreland to-day; however, I’ll see what Thinton and Tarbit know,” and he went out.

The rest sat waiting his return, and chatted about the curious end of the hansom cab mystery, when, in about ten minutes, Calton rushed in hurriedly and closed the door after him quickly.

“Fate is playing into our hands,” he said, as soon as he recovered his breath. “Moreland called on Thinton and Tarbit, as Kilsip surmised, and as neither of them was in, he said he would call again before five o’clock. I told the clerk to bring him up to me at once, so he may be here at any moment.”

“That is, if he’s fool enough to come,” observed Chinston.

“Oh, he’ll come,” said the detective, confidently, rattling a pair of handcuffs together. “He is so satisfied that he has made things safe that he’ll walk right into the trap.”

It was getting a little dusk, and the four men were greatly excited, though they concealed it under an assumed nonchalance.

“What a situation for a drama,” said Brian.

“Only,” said Chinston, quietly, “it is as realistic as in the old days of the Coliseum, where the actor who played Orpheus was torn to pieces by bears at the end of the play.”

“His last appearance on any stage, I suppose,” said Calton, a little cruelly, it must be confessed.

Meanwhile, Kilsip remained seated in his chair, humming an operatic air and chinking the handcuffs together, by way of accompaniment. He felt intensely pleased with himself, the more so, as he saw that by this capture he would be ranked far above Gorby. “And what would Gorby say? — Gorby, who had laughed at all his ideas as foolish, and who had been quite wrong from the first. If only — ”

“Hush!” said Calton, holding up his finger, as steps were heard echoing on the flags outside. “Here he is, I believe.”

Kilsip arose from his chair, and, stealing softly to the window, looked cautiously out. Then he turned round to those inside and, nodding his head, slipped the handcuffs into his pocket. Just as he did so, there was a knock at the door, and, in response to Calton’s invitation to enter, Thinton and Tarbit’s clerk came in with Roger Moreland. The latter faltered a little on the threshold, when he saw Calton was not alone, and seemed half inclined to retreat. But, evidently, thinking there was no danger of his secret being discovered, he pulled himself together, and advanced into the room in an easy and confident manner.

“This is the gentleman who wants to know about the cheque, sir,” said Thinton and Tarbit’s clerk to Calton.

“Oh, indeed,” answered Calton, quietly. “I am glad to see him; you can go.”

The clerk bowed and went out, closing the door after him. Moreland took his seat directly in front of Calton, and with his back to the door. Kilsip, seeing this, strolled across the room in a nonchalant manner, while Calton engaged Moreland in conversation, and quietly turned the key.

“You want to see me, sir?” said Calton, resuming his seat.

“Yes; that is alone,” replied Moreland, uneasily.

“Oh, these gentlemen are my friends,” said Calton, quietly; “anything you may say is quite safe.”

“That they are your friends, and are quite safe, is nothing to me,” said Moreland, insolently, “I wish to speak to you in private.”

“Don’t you think you would like to know my friends?” said Calton, coolly taking no notice of his remark.

“D— your friends, sir!” cried Moreland, furiously, rising from his seat.

Calton laughed, and introduced Mr. Moreland to the others.

“Dr. Chinston, Mr. Kilsip, and — Mr. Fitzgerald.”

“Fitzgerald,” gasped Moreland, growing pale. “I— I— what’s that?” he shrieked, as he saw Whyte’s coat, all weather-stained, lying on a chair near him, and which he immediately recognised.

“That is the rope that’s going to hang you,” said Kilsip, quietly, coming behind him, “for the murder of Oliver Whyte.”

“Trapped by G—!” shouted the wretched man, wheeling round, so as to face Kilsip. He sprang at the detective’s throat, and they both rolled together on the floor, but the latter was too strong for him, and, after a sharp struggle, he succeeded in getting the handcuffs on Moreland’s wrists. The others stood around perfectly quiet, knowing that Kilsip required no assistance. Now that there was no possibility of escape, Moreland seemed to become resigned, and rose sullenly off the floor.

“I’ll make you pay for this,” he hissed between hie teeth, with a white despairing face. “You can’t prove anything.”

“Can’t we?” said Calton, touching the confession. “You are wrong. This is the confession of Mark Frettlby made before he died.”

“It’s a lie.”

“A jury will decide that,” said the barrister, dryly. “Meanwhile you will pass the night in the Melbourne Gaol.”

“Ah! perhaps they’ll give me the same cell as you occupied,” said Moreland, with a hard laugh, turning to Fitzgerald. “I should like it for its old associations.”

Brian did not answer him, but picking up his hat and gloves, prepared to go.

“Stop!” cried Moreland, fiercely. “I see that it’s all up with me, so I’m not going to lie like a coward. I’ve played for a big stake and lost, but if I hadn’t been such a fool I’d have cashed that cheque the next morning, and been far away by this time.”

“It certainly would have been wiser,” said Calton.

“After all,” said Moreland, nonchalantly, taking no notice of his remark, “I don’t know that I’m sorry about it. I’ve had a hell upon earth since I killed Whyte.”

“Then you acknowledge your guilt?” said Brian, quietly.

Moreland shrugged his shoulders.

“I told you I wasn’t a coward,” he answered, coolly. “Yes, I did it; it was Whyte’s own fault. When I met him that night he told me how Frettlby wouldn’t let him marry his daughter, but said he’d make him, and showed me the marriage certificate. I thought if I could only get it I’d make a nice little pile out of Frettlby over it; so when Whyte went on drinking I did not. After he had gone out of the hotel, I put on his coat, which he left behind. I saw him standing near the lamp-post, and Fitzgerald come up and then leave him. When you came down the street,” he went on, turning to Fitzgerald, “I shrank back into the shadow, and when you passed I ran up to Whyte as the cabman was putting him into the hansom. He took me for you, so I didn’t undeceive him, but I swear I had no idea of murdering Whyte when I got into the cab. I tried to get the papers, but he wouldn’t let me, and commenced to sing out. Then I thought of the chloroform in the pocket of his coat, which I was wearing. I pulled it out, and found that the cork was loose. Then I took out Whyte’s handkerchief, which was also in the coat, and emptied the bottle on it, and put it back in my pocket. I again tried to get the papers, without using the chloroform, but couldn’t, so I clapped the handkerchief over his mouth, and he went off after a few minutes, and I got the papers. I thought he was only insensible, and it was only when I saw the newspapers that I knew he was dead. I stopped the cab in St. Kilda Road, got out and caught another cab, which was going to town. Then I got out at Powlett Street, took off the coat, and carried it over my arm. I went down George Street, towards the Fitzroy Gardens, and having hid the coat up a tree, where I suppose you found it,” to Kilsip, “I walked home — so I’ve done you all nicely, but — ”

“You’re caught at last,” finished Kilsip, quietly.

Moreland fell down in a chair, with an air of utter weariness. and lassitude.

“No man can be stronger than Destiny,” he said, dreamily. “I have lost and you have won; so life is a chess board, after all, and we are the puppets of Fate.”

He refused to utter another word; so leaving Calton and Kilsip with him, Brian and the doctor went out and hailed a cab. It drove up to the entrance of the court, where Calton’s office was, and then Moreland, walking as if in a dream, left the room, and got into the cab, followed by Kilsip.

“Do you know,” said Chinston, thoughtfully, as they stood and watched the cab drive off, “do you know what the end of that man will be?”

“It requires no prophet to foretell that,” said Calton, dryly. “He will be hanged.”

“No, he won’t,” retorted the doctor. “He will commit suicide.”

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42