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ANONYMOUS

THE TATTOOED EYE

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2017



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, November 21, 1908
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, January 16, 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-01-30
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.

A FORTUNE of three millions sterling, a handsome, popular, and accomplished wife, a palace in Park Lane, a noble estate in Wiltshire—surely one would think that the man who could boast of these possessions, at the comparatively early age of forty-five, had every reason to be happy and contented with his lot. Yet it would be difficult to imagine a more miserable-looking and dejected man than Raymond Featherstone, the well-known South African magnate, at the moment when Sexton Blake's landlady ushered him into the famous detective's sitting-room.

"Before I tell you why I have come to consult you," he began, "I want to ask you one question. I'm in one of the most terrible predicaments that ever a man was in, and I can't trust my own judgment. I want your advice and help; but—but—Well, this is the question I want to ask you. If I told you I was a murderer, would you be willing to help me, or would you betray me to the police?"

Sexton Make stared at him in stupefied amazement.

"Of course I shouldn't betray you to the police," he said. "Any information I receive from my clients is as sacred as the secrets of the Confessional. But whether I should be willing to help you is another matter."

"In any case, you wouldn't reveal my information to the police?"

"Certainly not."

The millionaire heaved a sigh of relief, and, without any further beating about the bush, plunged into his story.

"Thanks to the newspapers and illustrated magazines," he said, "you are doubtless acquainted with the broad facts of my so-called 'romantic career.'

"You know that I went to South Africa, practically penniless, at the age of twenty-two, and that, after wooing fortune in vain for eleven years, I finally 'struck oil,' as the saying is, and returned to England a millionaire in 1901. You also doubtless know that three years ago I married Lord Lingdale's second daughter."

The detective nodded.

"So much, in common with the general public, I already knew," he said.

"Well, now," said Mr. Featherstone, "during those eleven years that I was living from hand to mouth in South Africa, I met a young fellow, about the same age as myself, named Gledhill. It was in 1888, at a small mining-camp near Barkly West, that I met him. He had come out from England two years before, intent, like myself, on seeking fortune at the diamond fields. He was a fine, stalwart, fresh-complexioned fellow, and was known by the nickname of Snowflake."

"Why?" asked Sexton Blake.

"Because he had a pearly-white patch in the centre of his left eye—the scar of some old injury, I suppose—which was supposed to resemble a snowflake in size, shape, and colour.

"As I have already told you," continued the millionaire, "I made his acquaintance at a small mining-camp near Barkly West. We went into partnership, and one day, whilst we were working our claim— which was some distance from the camp—we had a quarrel. The matter about which we quarrelled is of no importance. It is enough to say that, enraged by something Snowflake said, I whipped out a revolver and shot him dead on the spot.

"As soon as I realised what I had done, my anger gave place to panic-stricken terror. Believing that nobody had witnessed my crime, I took to my heels, and never stopped running till I leached Barkly West, where I hired a Cape cart, and drove to Kimberley.

"From Kimberley I took the next train to Buluwayo. For two years I lived, more or less in hiding, in Rhodesia; then I made my way to Johannesburg, where, as you know, I laid the foundations of my present fortune. Seven years ago, as you also know, I returned to England, and three years ago I married.

"During all these years," he continued, "I had never heard a word of suspicion that I had been responsible for Snowflake's death, or anything to lead me to believe that anybody had witnessed my crime. About three months ago, however, my fancied security was rudely disturbed.

"Last April my butler at Park Lane fell ill, and was taken to St. George's Hospital. My wife and I were at our country house at the time; but when we came up to town, early in May, I went to the hospital to see the butler. In the bed next to my butler lay a thin, shrivelled-looking man, whose complexion was of such a peculiar dark brown hue that I took him to be a foreigner, probably from India or Japan. I observed that he watched me narrowly whilst I was talking to my butler, and I also noticed that he averted his face whenever I happened to glance in his direction. I thought nothing of this at the time, however, and, after a quarter of an hour's stay, I returned to my house in Park Lane.

"Six weeks later—that is to say, three months ago—I was surprised to receive a visit from this brown-faced man. He said his name was Edward Crawshaw, and in the bluntest possible fashion he explained that he had been in the neighbourhood of Barkly West in 1888, and had seen me—actually seen me—murder Snowflake. Without entering into details, I may add that he described what had happened on that fatal day so accurately and so minutely that it was impossible to doubt that he had been an eye-witness of my crime.

"He further explained that he had left South Africa some years ago, and had come to London, where ultimately be had fallen ill, and had sought admission to St. George's Hospital. He said be had recognised me as Snowflake's murderer the moment I had entered the ward, and he had afterwards made inquiries, and found out where I lived. Then, as soon as he had been discharged from the hospital, he had made his way to Park Lane."

"To demand blackmail as the price of his silence?" said Sexton Blake.

"Of course. He was still very weak and ill, and his terms were that he should stay with me until be was well, and that I should then give him sufficient money to return to South Africa and set up in business as a diamond broker."

"You accepted his terms?"

"I had no choice. I kicked at the idea of his taking up his residence at my house, but he insisted on it, and swore that he would denounce me to the police unless I agreed to his conditions in their entirety."

"So he is now living at your house in Park Lane?"

"Yes; and from the moment he came to live there, three months ago, I have never known a moment's peace. I am no longer master in my own house. He orders me about like a dog, and openly insults me before the servants. He gets drunk twice a day with unfailing regularity; so that I hardly dare to leave the house, lest, in a drunken fit, he should blurt out my secret. He gets no better of his illness—in fact, I think he grows worse—but be won't hear of my sending for doctor. He spends most of his time on the couch in the library, and—"

The millionaire broke down.

"If it were only myself that had to suffer I could bear it," he continued after an interval. "But it is breaking my wife's heart. The blackguard talks to her in a way that makes my blood boil, and I daren't stop him. I haven't told my wife the truth, but she sees that I am in Crawshaw's power, and as I said before, the strain is breaking her heart.

"I can't stand it any longer," he concluded, in a broken voice. "No matter what happens to me, I must make an end of this for my wife's sake. That is why I have come to seek your advice. What do you advise me to do? Shall I go to the police and give myself up, or do you think that, if you were to see Crawshaw, you could induce him to accept a lump sum—I don't care how much—and go away?"

The detective hesitated for a moment before he replied. It was against his principles to ally himself with a confessed murderer, yet all his sympathies were on the side of Raymond Featherstone. Moreover, there we several points in the millionaire's story which piqued his curiosity.

"I'd like to see Crawshaw before I advise you what to do," he said, rising to his feet. "Your car is outside, I see. Let us go to Park Lane."

II.

CRAWSHAW was reclining on the couch in the library when Sexton Blake and Mr. Featherstone arrived, and, although it was only three o'clock in the afternoon, he was obviously "three sheets to the wind."

He was, as Mr. Featherstone had described to Sexton Blake, a thin, shrivelled-up-looking man, little more than skin and bones, and his face and hands had a peculiar bronze-brown hue, that gave him the appearance of a mulatto. His features, however, were distinctly those of a pure-bred Englishman.

He looked up, resentfully and suspiciously, when Mr. Featherstone entered the room with Sexton Blake at his heels.

"This is—" began the millionaire, when Sexton Make gripped him almost fiercely by the wrist, and motioned him to silence.

"I am a doctor," said Sexton Make to Crawshaw. "Mr. Featherstone has told me how ill you are, and he has brought me here to—"

Before he could complete the sentence, Crawshaw broke in with a torrent of foul oaths. He didn't want to see a doctor! He refused to see a doctor! Mr. Featherstone had no right to bring a doctor to see him without his consent. And so on, and so forth.

The detective smiled indulgently, and seated himself on a chair beside the couch. He caught hold of Crawshaw's wrist in the approved professional fashion, peered into his lace, and asked him to put out his tongue.

Crawshaw's answer is unprintable. Pretending to be shocked, the detective rose to his feel.

"I am only wasting my time here," he said stiffly. "It's a pity you troubled to call me in. Good-day!"

He picked up his hat and gloves, and left the room. Mr. Featherstone, utterly bewildered, followed him to the entrance-hall.

"What—what is the meaning of this?" he inquired. "Why did you pretend to be a doctor?"

"I didn't pretend," said Sexton Make. "I am a duly-qualified man, although I have never practised as such."

"But why—what—"

The millionaire made a gesture of complete mystification.

Sexton Blake smiled, and opened the door.

"I'll explain my apparently eccentric conduct later," he said. "in the meantime, I'm going to make a few inquiries. I'll come back later, and when I return I hope it will be to tell you that all your troubles are at an end."

And, before the bewildered millionaire could question him further, he strode through the door, and walked rapidly away in the direction of St. George's Hospital.

It was growing dark when Sexton Blake returned to Park Lane, he was accompanied by an inspector of the Metropolitan Police, at the sight of whom Mr. Featherstone turned deathly pale.

"He has come to arrest me," he said.

"Arrest you?" said Sexton Blake. "What for?"

"For the murder of Gledhill, of course."

The inspector and the detective laughed.

"Come into the drawing-room," said Sexton Blake, "and I'll soon put you at your case."

Like a man in a dream the millionaire led the way to the drawing-room.

"Now, to begin at the beginning," said Sexton Blake, "I must tell you first that as soon as I saw Crawshaw I perceived that he was suffering from a well-known, but somewhat rare, affection, known as Addison's disease. I may tell you that patients who suffer from this disease grow thin and haggard, and their skin assumes a peculiar bronze-brown colour.

"The next thing I observed," he continued, "was that Crawshaw's left eye had been tattooed. You look surprised, but I assure you that tattooing of the eye is a very common operation."

"For what purpose?" asked Mr. Featherstone.

"To improve the patient's appearance, as a rule," said Sexton Blake. "For instance, a man receives an injury to his eyes which, when the wound is healed, results in a pearly-white scar. By tattooing the scar with Indian ink it is possible to obliterate it, and to make the white patch as black as the rest of the pupil. Of course, the operation has no effect on the patient's sight, but it removes a conspicuous disfigurement.

"Therefore." he concluded, "as soon as I perceived that Crawshaw's left eye had been tattooed, I knew that once upon a time he had had a white scar in the centre of that eye."

Mr. Featherstone started.

"Do you mean to suggest—" he began.

"I don't suggest—I know!" said Sexton Blake. "Crawshaw is Gledhill, alias Snowflake. You didn't murder him. He recovered from the effects of four shot, and afterwards came to England. Probably, in the meantime, he lad lost all trace of you; but when he recognised you at St. George's Hospital, and learned that you were now a millionaire, the idea occurred to him—knowing how completely his personal appearance had altered—of blackmailing you by pretending to have seen you murder Gledhill."

"But—but Gledhill was a stalwart, fresh-complexioned man." stammered he millionaire. "Crawshaw is a man of entirely different build and appearance."

"Addison's disease," said Sexton Blake. "I guessed the truth as soon as I saw him; but, in order to make sure, I went to St. George's Hospital, where I asked for information concerning a man who had been in the hospital four and a half months ago, in the next bed to Mr. Featherstone's butler, suffering from Addison's disease.

"I was informed that the man I was inquiring about was an ex-convict named Gledhill. I further ascertained, on inquiry, that he had a white scar in the centre of his left eye when he was admitted, and that, on the day after you had been to the hospital, he asked the house-surgeon if there was any way in which this scar could be obliterated. The house-surgeon, it appears, told him it could be tattooed, and, at Gledhill's request, the operation was performed a few days later. Five or six weeks afterwards he left the hospital, and that was all they knew of him.

"Having ascertained that Gledhill was an ex-convict," continued Sexton Blake, 'I communicated with Scotland Yard, and afterwards wired to Dartmoor, where he had served his sentence. The result of my inquiries was this:

"Gledhill was mixed up in a poaching affray in 1880, in the course of which a gamekeeper was killed. He fled the country and went to South Africa. In 1893—five years after you thought you had murdered him—he was recognised in Kimberley, was arrested, extradited, and brought hack to England, where he was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude.

"Six months ago, whilst serving his sentence at Dartmoor, he developed symptoms of Addison's disease, in consequence of which he was released on ticket-of-leave. Apparently he came to London and went to St. George's Hospital, where he afterwards saw you, recognised you, and conceived the idea of blackmailing you by pretending that he had seen you murder Snowflake.

"So now you know," concluded Sexton Blake, "why he averted his face when you were in the ward. He didn't wish von to see the scar on his left eye, lest you should recognise him. After your departure he induced the doctors' to obliterate the scar, and then, feeling sure that you would never recognise him, he came here and spun the yarn which you have told me."

Whilst the detective had been speaking, Mr. Featherstone seemed to have grown younger by ten years. With a happy smile, he turned to the inspector.

"And why are you here;" he asked.

"Gledhill was released on ticket-of-leave," said the inspector. "It was his duty to report himself and his present address to the authorities. He has neglected to do this for the last three months. In consequence of that neglect he has forfeited his ticket, and I have come to take him back to prison. Of course, if von wish to prefer a charge of conspiracy and blackmail against him I shall be very glad to—"

"No, no!" said Mr. Featherstone. "Thanks to Sexton Blake, the nightmare that has haunted me for the last twenty years has been swept away, and Snowflake may go free."

The inspector smiled.

"Not free," he said. "He has still five years of his sentence to serve. May I trouble you to take me to him."

Gledhill, alias Snowflake, offered no resistance. He seemed, indeed, to have anticipated some such conclusion to his daring scheme from the first.

"Good-bye, Feathers, old man!" he said, as the inspector led him away. "I've had a bully time here, though I feared all along it wouldn't last! And to think," he added, "that an idiot like you— fool who could be bamboozled as easily as this—has made a fortune of three millions!"


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.