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First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, 17 April 1909
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, 5 June 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Version Date: 2021-04-24
Produced by Roy Glashan
Proofread by Gordon Hobley

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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LIKE most detectives, Sexton Blake made a practice of reading all the "agony" advertisements that appeared in the leading London and provincial papers. Generally, the advertisements were so trivial that the 'detective's interest in them ended when he had read them. But there were exceptions to this rule, and the following was one of them.

It first appeared in the "agony" column of the Daily Letter on Saturday, 5th January, 1907, and it appeared, so far as Sexton Blake could discover, in no other paper. It ran:

"X.Y.Z. Py ponk."

The detective road it and wrinkled his brow.

"Py ponk!"

No language with which he was acquainted contained such words.

"A cryptogram," he said to himself. "It's no use trying to solve a cryptogram of two short words, but other advertisements may appear, couched in the same cipher, and then I may unearth the key."

The advertisement appeared again on the following Saturday, 12th January, and again on Saturday, the 19th, and again on Saturday, the 26th. Its regular appearance at intervals of a week, and always exactly in the same form, piqued the detective's curiosity.

On Saturday, 2nd February, the advertisement appeared again, but this time with an addition. It now ran:

"X.Y.Z. Eska zoeoltox. Py ponk."

Next Saturday—9th February—the advertisement reverted to its original for:

"X.Y.Z. Py ponk."

In this form it appeared on the 16th and the 23rd, and then, on Saturday, 2nd March, it appealed again as:

"X.Y.Z. Eska zoeoltox. Py ponk."

March passed and April came. April gave place to May, May to June, June to July, and July to August. And still the advertisement continued to appear every week, always in the Daily Letter, and always on Saturday. On the first Saturday in the month it took the form of "Eska zoeoltox. Py ponk." On the other Saturdays in the month it simply said, "Py ponk."

"If only the fellow would add a few more words to this advertisement, and give me something to work on, I'd undertake to discover the key," muttered Sexton Blake, one night towards the end of August. "But he never will!" he added viciously. "It'll be 'Py ponk' and 'Eska zoeoltox' to the end of the chapter."

In this, however, the detective was mistaken, for, on opening his Daily Letter on the morning of Saturday, 31st August, he saw that the familiar initials "X.Y.Z.," instead of being followed by the usual "Py ponk," were followed by two or three lines of unintelligible-looking jargon, of which the first three words were "Ponk si uski."

"At last!" cried Sexton Blake, with a happy, exultant laugh.


PROCEEDING on the usual well-known system—of which the fundamental principle is to count all the characters in the cryptogram, and to assume that the one which appears the oftenest stands for the letter "e"—Sexton Blake speedily unravelled the tangle, and in less than half an hour had obtained a complete key to the unknown advertiser's code.

With the help of this key he ascertained that "Py ponk" stood for "No news"; that "Eska zoeoltox" meant "Cash received;" and that "Ponk si uski" meant "News at last." That is to say, for eight months—from January to August—the unknown advertiser had advertised on the first Saturday in each month, "Cash received. No news." On the other Saturdays of the month he had simply stated, "No news." And now, on the last Saturday in August, he prefaced his advertisement with the statement, "News at last."

What was his news? Eagerly the detective deciphered the rest of the advertisement; and, when he had completed his task, this is what he read:

"X.Y.Z.—News at last. Have found him. He enlisted in Yorkshire Fusiliers last June in name of Trevor. Have seen him and struck up acquaintance. Your wish will be gratified Sunday afternoon. See Monday's Highfield Telegraph for full particulars."

Dark thoughts flitted through the detective's brain as he perused these words. Then he walked across to the telephone and called up the War Office.

"Where are the Yorkshire Fusiliers stationed at present?" he asked.

"Highfield," was the curt reply.

He consulted a Bradshaw, and sent for a hansom. Half an hour later he was on his way to Highfield, where, on arrival, he drove to the barracks and asked to see the colonel.

The colonel received him in one of the rooms of the officers' mess, and listened to the story with the deepest attention.

"Oh, yes," he said. "I know the young fellow to whom the advertisement refers. His name is John Trevor. But what do you suppose, is the meaning of these advertisements?"

"In my mind," said Sexton Blake, "there is no room for doubt as to their meaning. The man who inserted them in the Daily Letter was evidently employed by 'X.Y.Z.'—whoever he may be—to ascertain the present whereabouts of this young fellow whom you know as John Trevor. X.Y.Z. apparently agreed to pay the man a certain sum per month whilst he was prosecuting his search, and instructed him to report progress every week in the Daily Letter."

"For eight months," continued Sexton Blake, "the man's investigations and enquiries yielded no result; so he advertised each week, 'No news.' Probably he received his promised pay on the last of each month; so on the first Saturday subsequent he added to the advertisement the words, 'Cash received.' Now, at last, he has discovered that the young fellow he has been searching for enlisted in your regiment last June."

"All of which," said the colonel, "sounds very plausible. But what is the meaning of 'Have seen him and struck up acquaintance. Your wish will be gratified Sunday afternoon. See Monday's Highfield Telegraph for full particulars'?"

"It is because of those very words," said Sexton Blake gravely, "that I have hurried here as fast as train and cab would bring me. In my opinion, 'X.Y.Z.,' in addition to engaging this man to search for Trevor, has bribed him to murder him; and, if I read the advertisement aright, the man intends to commit the crime to-morrow afternoon."

A look of horrified incredulity crossed the colonel's face.

"I must confess I find it hard to credit your theory," he said. "If 'X.Y.Z.' had concluded this infamous bargain with his confederate, why should he instruct him to report to him in the Daily Letter?"

"The reason for the cipher is obvious," said Sexton Blake. "As for the rest, suppose that 'X.Y.Z.' didn't wish to reveal his identity to his confederate, for fear that the latter might blackmail him. What could be simpler than for 'X.Y.Z. to arrange to send his confederate his promised pay each month through his bankers, and to instruct his confederate to communicate with him, whenever he hail anything to communicate, by means of an advertisement in the Daily Letter?"

The colonel touched a bell, and an orderly appeared.

"Tell Private Trevor I wish to see him," said the colonel.


TREVOR could throw no light on the meaning of the advertisements.

"The last one certainly seems to refer to me," he said; "but what it means I can't imagine."

"It means," said Sexton Blake, "that somebody has bribed somebody else to murder you. Tell me your history."

"There's no reason that I know of why I shouldn't tell you my history." said Trevor. "I've done nothing to be ashamed of. My real name is Hugh Langley, and I was adopted when my parents died by the late Sir Mark Bainford, who was an old friend, but no relation, of my father's. Sir Mark always intended to leave me the bulk of his fortune, but he forgot to make a will; so, when he died, a year ago this month, his nephew, Harvey Bainford, obtained the whole of his uncle's money, and I was turned adrift without a penny.

"The rest you can guess," he said bitterly. "After Sir Mark's death, I tried in vain to obtain employment as a clerk, and at last, two months ago, I enlisted in the Fusiliers in the name of John Trevor."

"What new acquaintances have you made, outside the regiment, within the last few days?" asked Sexton Blake.

"Well," said Trevor, "there is a man named Coombe, at present in Highfield on a visit. Last Wednesday I played in the annual cricket match between the garrison and the town, and at the conclusion of the match Mr. Coombe came up and congratulated me on my batting. He asked me to spend the evening with him at his hotel, which I did, and afterwards we arranged, at his suggestion, to go for a row on the river to-morrow afternoon."

"Sunday afternoon!" said Sexton Blake meaningly, "Can you swim?"

"No," said Trevor, in obvious surprise. "Strange to say, Mr. Coombe asked me that."

The detective laughed.

"Now, come with me to Mr. Coombe's hotel," he said.

Trevor obeyed—as everybody had a knack of doing when Sexton Blake commanded. They found "Mr. Coombe" in the otherwise deserted smoke-room of the hotel, and the instant Sexton Blake set eyes on him he recognised him as a shady London "private enquiry agent" named Vincent Wise. Wise was equally quick to recognise Sexton Blake, and started up.

"'Py ponk!'" said Sexton Blake, with a bland smile. "Also 'Eska zoeoltox!' Likewise 'Ponk si uski!' Sit down; the game's up. Now, tell us all about it."

Wise threw up the sponge without even the semblance of a struggle.

"Last New Year's Day," he said, "a gentleman whom I had never seen before came to my office and offered me a certain sum to do a certain work."

"The said 'work' being," said Sexton Blake, "to find Hugh Langley, and murder him?"

Wise sullenly nodded.

"He wouldn't tell me his name," he said, "or why he desired Mr. Langley's death. He said if I accepted his terms he would instruct his bankers to send me a certain sum on the last of each month, and he further arranged that I was to put an advertisement in the Daily Letter every Saturday, in a cipher of his own devising to inform him of the progress of my search."

"You accepted his terms," said Sexton Blake, "and eventually you discovered that Mr. Langley had enlisted in the Fusiliers in the name of Trevor. You invited him to go for a row on the river to-morrow, and, having ascertained that he could not swim, you intended there should be an accident and he should be drowned."

Wise hung his head and did not speak.

"Your silence proves that I am right," said Sexton Blake. "Now, tell me, have you no suspicion who your unknown client is?"

"I know who he is," said Wise. "I shadowed him when he left my office, and found out who he was and where he lived; but I never let him know I had discovered his identity."

"And he its Mr. Harvey Bainford, of course?" said Sexton Blake.

"Yes," said Wise.

"And he lives?"

"At Marton Manor, near Cheltenham."

The detective turned to Hugh Langley.

"And now for Marton Manor," he said.


IT was nearly midnight, and pitch dark, when Sexton Blake and Langley reached Marton Manor. It was a warm night, and they saw that the French window of the library—-the only room which displayed a light—was wide open.

As they drew nearer to the house, the sound of voices was borne on their ears, and a second or two later they perceived that the voices were those of two men in the library.

"Harvey Bainford and Mr. Hampson," whispered Langley. "That's Bainford in the easy-chair, and the other man, with the foolscap envelope in his hand, is Mr. Hampson. He was Sir Mark's solicitor."

Tho detective signed to his companion to tread lightly.

"So you refuse to accept my terms?" they heard the lawyer say.

"I do," said Bainford.

"Do you realise what your refusal means?" asked Hampson. "Here in this envelope is your uncle's will, leaving everything to Hugh Langley. For twelve months I have suppressed it—"

"For which you have been well paid," interrupted Bainford.

"Admitted," said the lawyer. "But that isn't the point. As I've already told you, I must have ten thousand pounds before the end of next week, or I'm a ruined man! I offer to give to give you this will and to let you burn it, and to release you from your bargain, if you'll give me a cheque for the amount I have mentioned. I have only to produce this will, and to pretend that I only found it yesterday, and Langley will take everything, and you will be penniless."

"Unfortunately for you," retorted Bainford, "Langley disappeared eight months ago, and you don't know where the is."

"An advertisement in the newspapers will quickly find him," said Hampson.

"And when will the advertisement appear?"

"On Monday morning," said the lawyer.

Bainford inhaled a mouthful of smoke.

"Monday morning?" he drawled, "M'yes! And by that time Hugh Langley will be dead. Ha, ha! I thought that would give you a shock! By to-morrow night, at this time, Hugh Langley—"

"Will be Sir Mark's acknowledged heir!" cried Sexton Blake, leaping into the room through the open window and snatching the will from the stupefied lawyer's hand.

* * * * *

MUCH against his will, but overborne by Langley's entreaties, Sexton Blake refrained from taking any legal action against Vincent Wise, Harvey Bainford and Mr. Hampson. The result was that all the public knew of the case was that it was discovered that Sir Mark Bainford had left a will after all, and that Hugh Langley took up his rightful position as squire of Marton Manor.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
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.