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ANONYMOUS

MRS. LAMBERT'S LODGER

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2016



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, Deceber 19, 1908
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Manawatu Times, New Zealand, February 9, 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Version Date: 2016-12-08
Produced by Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

Click here for more Sexton Blake stories



I.

IT was a bleak December afternoon—a Friday afternoon, to be precise—when he first came to Little Paddington Street. His name, he said, was Herbert Franklin, and he was dressed in black.

"I'm looking for rooms," he said to Mrs. Lambert, who lived at No. 13, and eked out a slender private income by taking in a single lodger. "I only want them for a week, as I'm sailing for Canada next Saturday, You have a bedroom and a sitting-room to let, I believe. Would you be willing to let them to me for so short a period as a week?"

Mrs. Lambert replied in the affirmative; and later in the day the lodger entered into possession of his rooms.

In every way he proved an ideal tenant. He was a teetotaller and a non-smoker. Nobody ever came to see him, and he seldom went out. He explained that he was in mourning for his father, who had recently died; but that, and the statement that he was going to Canada, were the only references he ever made to his private affairs.

He came to lodge at No. 13, as already stated, on Friday night. On Tuesday morning he expressed his disappointment that a letter he had expected had not arrived. It arrived, however, on Wednesday morning, Mrs. Lambert, who took it from the postman, noticed that it bore the Liverpool postmark.

About half-past six on Wednesday evening Mrs. Lambert was washing up the tea-things in the kitchen when Franklin put his head in at the door.

"I'm going out for the evening," he said, "so you need not prepare any supper for me to-night. I have the latchkey, so if I'm late you needn't sit up for me."

Three-quarters of an hour after he had left the house—or at quarter-past seven—a telegram arrived for Mrs. Lambert.


"HAVE BEEN ARRESTED ON FALSE AND RIDICULOUS CHARGE," it ran. "CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY. PLEASE COME AT ONCE TO CHESHAM POLICE STATION AND IDENTIFY ME. IMPLORE YOU DO NOT FAIL ME,—FRANKLIN."


The telegram had been handed in at Chesham at five minutes to seven. If Mrs. Lambert had paused to consider, it might have occurred to her that Franklin, who had only left the house at half-past six, could hardly have reached Chesham, and been arrested, and sent off a wire by five minutes to seven!

But she did not pause to consider. Full of sympathy and concern, not unmixed with indignation against the "stupid police," she hurriedly donned her cloak and bonnet, locked up the house, caught, the 7.40 from Baker Street, and arrived at Chesham at a quarter to nine.

The sergeant at the police station would probably have been more sympathetic and helpful if Mrs. Lambert had not prefaced her enquiries with a caustic allusion to the fatuity and imbecility of the police in general and those of Chesham in particular. Instead of offering to assist her to trace the sender of the telegram, he contented himself with curtly informing her that nothing was known of Franklin at Chesham, and that neither he nor anybody else had been arrested that evening.

"And if you'd used a bit of common sense," he said, "you'd have seen at once that the telegram was a hoax; for if Mr. Franklin didn't leave your house till half-past six, he couldn't possibly have been here, at five minutes to seven!"

Wrathful and disgusted, Mrs. Lambert returned to London by the next train.

It was half-past ten when she reached her house. Except for the light in the front passage, it was all in darkness—just as she had left it. On entering, the first things she noticed was a strong smell of tobacco-smoke. The next was, that the door of Franklin's sitting-room, which had been shut when she had left, was now ajar.

Franklin had returned whilst she had been out, and had gone to bed. That was her first theory. But the smell of tobacco-smoke puzzled her, since Franklin was a teetotaller and non-smoker. She walked into the sitting-room and lit the gas. There was no doubt whatever that somebody bad been smoking in the room. And somebody had been drinking, too, for there was a wet stain on the tablecloth, which proved to be due to the fact that some whisky had been spilled on the cloth. On the carpet were several muddy footprints—too many to have been made by one pair of feet.

Mrs. Lambert's second theory was a modification of her first. Franklin had returned whilst she had been out, and had brought a friend with him. It was this friend who had been smoking and drinking. Probably, he had brought his own whisky with him, since Franklin did not keep any.

Franklin, of course, had gone to bed, after his "friend" had taken his departure. But when, presently, Mrs. Lambert went upstairs, with the intention of retiring to rest herself, she perceived that his bedroom door was open, and his bed was empty.

A plausible solution suggested itself. When Franklin's "friend" had taken his departure, Franklin had walked part of the way home with him.

But he had not come back up to the time when Mrs. Lambert rose at six o'clock on Thursday morning. When ten o'clock arrived and there was still no sign of him, she decided it was time to act.

"Probably the police will only make fun of my fears," she said. "Anyhow, before I go to the police, I'll first hear what Mr. Sexton Blake's opinion is."


II.

"AND now, what do you think of it all?" asked Mrs. Lambert, when she had told Sexton Blake her story.

"It is a puzzling case," said the detective. "I must have more information. Your house is only a step from here—may I go back with you and examine those muddy footprints?"

Mrs. Lambert assented, and ten minutes later the detective was on his hands, and knees in the sitting-room at No. 13 examining the carpet with his pocket-lens.

"There were three men here last night," he said; "so if Mr. Franklin did return whilst you were out, he must have brought two friends with him, not one."

He glanced round the room, and his eyes fell on a writing-case. With a full sense of the responsibility he was assuming, he opened it. The only thing of interest it contained was a letter bearing the Liverpool postmark.

For a moment the detective hesitated; then he drew the letter out of its envelope. It was dated "Rayntree Hall, Liverpool, Tuesday," and ran as follows:


Dear Sir,—

Your letter and enclosures received. I am coming up to London tomorrow—Wednesday—and shall be glad if you will come to me at the Hotel Metropole about seven oclock in the evening. I enclose one of my cards, on presentation of which the hall-porter will show you up to my room.

I note what you say about not accepting any help from me, and I admire both your loyalty and your independence. At the same time, I earnestly beg you not to refuse to come to see me, as I am naturally anxious to hear fuller details of your father's life and death before you leave for Canada.

Yours sincerely,

William Franklin.


"Sir William Franklin!" said Sexton Blake, after reading this letter aloud to Mrs. Lambert. "The well-known Liverpool shipowner and millionaire! Is it possible that your lodger was related to Sir William?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," she replied. "He never spoke about his private affairs."

"Well, at any rate," said Sexton Blake, "we now know where Mr. Franklin went when he left here at half-past six last night. Consequently, in order to trace his further movements, I must, now go to the Metropole and make enquiries there."

Taking the letter with him, he left the house, and drove to the Metropole, where the information he received may be summed up as follows:—

Sir William, he was told, had arrived st the hotel, from Liverpool, about four o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, and had engaged a bedroom and a private sitting-room. Franklin had arrived at seven o'clock, and had been shown straight up to Sir William's room. He had remained there, talking to Sir William, for a couple of hours, and had left at nine o'clock. Sir William had then dined, and spent an hour in the smoke-room, and had gone to bed.

"Is Sir William here now?" asked Sexton Blake.

"No, sir," said the hall-porter. "He left this morning to catch the ten train back to Liverpool."

The detective turned to leave the hotel. At the same moment a hansom drew up outside the entrance, and Mrs. Lambert stepped out.

"I thought I should be in time to catch you here," she said. "The mystery of Mr. Franklin's disappearance is solved. You had hardly left my house when a messenger arrived from Charing Cross Hospital. Mr. Franklin was knocked down by a hansom in the Strand last night, and was taken to that hospital, It was not until he recovered consciousness this morning, and gave them his name and address, that they were able to send me word."

Five minutes later the detective was at the hospital, where the mention of his name sufficed to gain him an immediate interview with the injured man, who appeared little the worse for his accident.

Franklin listened to the detective's story with unfeigned amazement; but he could throw no light on the mysterious telegram from Chesham, or on the identity of the three men who had visited his sitting-room.

"By the way," said Sexton Blake, "are you related to Sir William?"

"I am his grandson, though I'm not proud of the fact!" said Franklin, somewhat bitterly. "You look surprised! Have you never heard that Sir William quarrelled with his only son many years ago, and disowned and disinherited him? Well, that son was my father.

"My father was only a youth of eighteen when he and Sir William quarrelled," he continued. "Why they quarrelled does not matter. It is enough to say that Sir William treated my father most unjustly, and practically turned him out without a penny.

"My father came to London, and obtained a situation as clerk in a shipping office. In due course he became head clerk, when he married my mother, who died a few weeks after I was born. Financially he still continued to prosper, and ultimately he became part-owner of a small fleet of tug-boats.

"About six months ago a series of rash speculations on the part of his partner resulted in the firm going bankrupt, and my father found himself practically penniless. His health broke down, and he died a fortnight ago today.

"Up till then I had never known that my father was the son of Sir William Franklin, the millionaire shipowner of Liverpool. On his death-bed, however, my father told me who he was and all about his quarrel with Sir William. He gave me certain papers proving his identity, and he asked me to promise that, after he was dead, I would write to Sir William and send him the papers.

"'Perhaps,' he said, 'my father's heart may have softened towards me, and when he knows you are my son he will do something for you.'

"I told him I didn't want any help, and wouldn't accept any help from a man who had treated him so shamefully. In the end, to please him, I reluctantly promised I would do as he wished.

"After his death I moved into lodgings an Little Paddington Street. Last Saturday I wrote to Sir William, and enclosed the papers my father had given me. I told him I was only writing because my father had made me promise to do so. I said I didn't want any help from him, and wouldn't accept any if he offered it; and I wound up by saying I was leaving for Canada next Saturday.

"I received his reply yesterday morning. You have read it, you tell me so. There is no need for me to repeat its contents. It is enough to say that I went to the Metropole at the time he appointed, and was shown straight up to his room.

"For an hour and a-half he was quite nice. Then his manner changed. He began to speak insultingly of my father. Finally, he said he had no intention of doing anything for me, and that I need not trouble, therefore, ever to write to him again or to seek to see him.

"This rather nettled me, and I indulged in a little plain speaking myself. Then, after telling him what I thought of the way he had treated my poor father, I left the hotel, was knocked down by a hansom whilst crossing the Strand, and brought in here unconscious."

The detective pondered for a moment or two.

"Who is Sir William's heir?" he asked,

"His nephew, John Sinclair," said Franklin. "He's an orphan, and was adopted by Sir William when a small boy. He and my father were brought up together at Rayntree Hall; but my father never liked him, and always believed it was Sinclair's evil influence which brought about the quarrel with Sir William."

"Does Sinclair live with Sir John at Rayntree Hall?"

"Yes. He must he nearly fifty now, but is still a bachelor."

The detective nodded.

"It's a theory worth testing, anyhow," he muttered.


III.

THE first part of the "testing" consisted of a prepaid telegram addressed to the house-keeper at Rayntree Hall.


"WHERE IS SIR WILLIAM?" it ran. "REPLY, SEXTON BLAKE, BAKER STREET, LONDON."


The answer came about half-past one:


"HOTEL GREAT CENTRAL, LONDON."


A taxi-cab landed Sexton Blake at the hotel just as Sir William was going down to lunch.

"I have called see you on behalf of your grandson, Herbert Franklin," said Sexton Blake.

"Then you are wasting your time!" said Sir William stiffly. "I have said all I have to say to him last night."

"Were did you say it?"

"At his lodgings, of course."

"Exactly," said Sexton Blake. "Just what I expected. He was drinking whisky and smoking shag tobacco when you called?"

"He was; but what—"

"I'll explain myself later. In the meantime, tell me all that happened. I know everything up to the time when Franklin wrote to you and enclosed the papers given to him by his father."

"I was struck by the manly tone of his letter," said Sir William; "and I wrote to him on Monday night, telling him that my nephew and I were coming up to London on Wednesday, and would call to see him at his lodgings about eight o'clock in the evening. We did so, and what was our disgust to find that he was unmistakably drunk—so drunk, in fact, that he fell over a chair in the sitting-room and upset his glass of whisky on the tablecloth.

"We only stayed about five minutes, but in that short spate of time I heard more disgusting language than I have ever heard in the whole course of my life before. The result was, as you doubtless know, that I told my grandson I had come up to London with the idea of helping him, but after his disgraceful behaviour I washed my hands of him for ever!"

"Exactly!" said Sexton Blake again. "Now come with me!"

By sheer force of will, and without giving any explanation, he induced Sir William to accompany him to Charing Cross Hospital.

"Franklin," he said, when they reached the ward, "allow me to introduce you to your grandfather. Sir William, permit me, to introduce your grandson!"

"But this isn't the man I saw at the Metropole last night!" said Franklin.

"And this isn't the young fellow I saw at 13, Little Paddington Street!" said Sir William.

The detective smiled. He made Sir William repeat the story he had told him at the Great Central, and then he requested Franklin to narrate his version of what had happened.

Sir William, could, scarcely believe his ears.

"You received a letter asking you to come to see me at the Hotel Metropole?" he said to Franklin.

"Yes," said Sexton Blake, "he did; and here's the letter."

One glance at the letter drove all the colour from Sir William's cheeks.

"You recognise the writing, I see?" said Sexton Blake.

"It is my nephew's, John Sinclair's!" said Sir William. "But what does it all mean?"

"Surely the meaning is plain enough!" said Sexton Blake. "Sinclair knew that you had written to Franklin, telling him that you would call to see him on Wednesday night. He knew that you had been struck by the manly tone of Franklin's letter, and were favourably disposed towards him. He knew that if you acknowledged Franklin as your grandson, and left him any part of your fortune, there would be so much less for John Sinclair!

"Sinclair intercepted your letter and destroyed it before it was posted. Then he wrote that letter which is now in your hand, and afterwards, with the aid of three confederates, he carried out this cunning plot:

"One of his confederates went to the Metropole and registered himself in your name. Another went to Chesham, and sent off that telegram to Mrs. Lambert.

"The third broke into No. 13, Little Paddington Street, after Mrs. Lambert had left, and pretended, when you and Sinclair arrived, to be your grandson.

"Your nephew knew that Franklin was leaving for Canada the day after to-morrow. If he could keep you and your grandson apart for a day or two, his object would be achieved, How he endeavoured to achieve his object you now know.

"It was a clever plot," he concluded, "and would probably have succeeded if it hadn't been for Franklin's lucky accident, which led Mrs. Lambert to seek my assistance. Now that the plot has been unmasked, the ball is at your feet, so to speak. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to talk to Sinclair!" said Sir William grimly. "He's lunching with a London friend named Major Wyndham. You'd better come with me, as there may be a scene!"


WHAT happened at the interview is best left to the reader's imagination. It only remains to add that John Sinclair is now earning a precarious livelihood us a sandwichman in London; whilst Herbert Franklin is now the acknowledged heir of Sir William, and will one day succeed to the whole of the millionaire's estate.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.