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- The Mystery of a Hansom Cab - 6/55 -
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 ses."
"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 coat."
"Ah! a morning coat?"
"No! 'e was in evenin' dress, and wore a light coat over it, an' a soft 'at."
"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 room, laughing."
"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 people."
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 the mantelpiece.
"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 bookcase.
"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.
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