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First published in
Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, 3 July 1909

Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Manawatu Times, New Zealand, 25 August 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2021-05-01
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Proofread by Gordon Hobley

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"A CASE that presents some elements of interest," mused Blake as he put down his evening paper.

He had been passing a comparatively idle week, and his mind was in the mood to roam over problems uninvited, and from a purely abstract point of view. On opening his evening paper, the first thing his eyes had encountered was the provocative heading,


"As if any mystery were inexplicable!" he had muttered.

But as he had read on he was forced to admit that in this case the adjective was not altogether a misnomer, always providing that the facts given were at once exhaustive and correct.

"This morning," ran the paragraph, "the workmen going to their work in Wimbledon Tunnel found, between the line and the wall, and near the mouth of the tunnel, the corpse of a man, dressed in blue cotton blouse and overalls. He had been killed by a thrust through the heart, inflicted by some long, narrow instrument. The body bore no traces of contusion, and it does not, therefore, seem likely that he was thrown from the train.

"Yet all the efforts of the Scotland Yard men, immediately summoned, have failed to find any clue to point to the way in which the body came there. This is the more remarkable, as the ground near the tunnel entrance is extremely spongy. The deceased is a well-known resident plumber of Wimbledon, named Joseph Spring. He called last night to see his cousin, Matthew Shields, and the two walked together down the road towards the tunnel. Witnesses having come forward to aver that the two were later seen quarrelling, the police have detained Shields in custody pending further enquiries."

Blake's reverie was hardly in a definable stage when a ring at his bell was followed by the introduction of a visitor. The red eyes, the frightened, quivering mouth of the young and comely woman before him told Blake their tale.

"You are Mrs. Shields," he said kindly, "and you have come to consult me about your husband. Take your time, and tell me your story."

"There is no story," said the young woman, stifling a sob, "save that it's all lies. Matthew that tender-'earted, too, and 'ard-workin' and reg'lar. Not to say as he liked Joseph's sly ways and 'abits o' backbitin'. But to go for to kill 'im! Why, sir, he couldn't do it, and then come in same as if nuffin' 'ad 'appened, and kiss me and the kiddies good-night, after sayin' the prayers, too, bein', as 'is father was, a strict Wesleyan!"

"Then that is really all you know, Mrs. Shields?" said Blake pleasantly. "He went out—for how long?—for nearly an hour; he came back as usual, and went to bed. Said no word of a quarrel?"

"Never a word," said the wife. "An' so it's sure there wasn't one!"

"A small man?"

"Lor' bless yer, no, sir! He'd make two o' you!"

"And you want me to take the matter up?" asked Blake.

"Oh, sir, if you would!" cried the woman. "I ain't rich, but I've got some seven pun eight shillin' in the Post Office, an' you shall 'ave it every farthin'!"

"We will talk about that later," said Blake, with a smile. "Go home now, and leave the matter in my hands. I will try and see you this evening or tomorrow morning. One moment—did you clean his boots, the boots he wore last night?"

"No, sir, I did not. They were wet, and I left 'em by till this mornin' to dry!"

"Then don't clean them till I see you," said Blake.

He sank back in his chair again when she had gone, and his brows wrinkled into a puzzled frown.

"Shields—Shields!" he muttered. "Ah, yes; I remember!"

He took down a week-old copy of The Times from a file, and examined it closely.

"Quite an interesting case," he murmured softly, as he restored the paper to its file and reached for his hat.

He was on the threshold of his door when the bell rang a second time, and this time to admit Detective-Sergeant Flair.

"Oh, you're going out?" said the sergeant, in a tone of disappointment.

"I can spare you a little time," said Blake, consulting his watch, "Want to see me professionally?"

"Well, yes," admitted the sergeant. "The fact is, I'm right down puzzled. It's the Joseph Spring murder. I know you're all up in it, as I saw Mrs. Shields coming out."

"And, of course, Shields it not the guilty party?" said Blake, in a judicial tone.

"I'm not sayin' that, either, yet," said the sergeant evasively.

"Well, I'm acting for Mrs. Shields," said Blake coolly, resuming his hat. "So it must be cards down, or no deal!"

"Honestly, I don't believe him guilty," said Flair hurriedly. "But if he isn't, who is? Spring hadn't a real enemy in the place—quiet, sober sort, whose only fault was bein' a bit hard to answer back."

"Have you found anything?" asked Blake.

"Yes, and no," said the sergeant. "That is, there are one or two marks I can't explain, and that's all. You may be able to explain them, so I come to you."

"Then we'll go down and view the place first," said Blake, "and I'll see the body afterwards."


THE District Railway put them down at Wimbledon within the half-hour, and Blake and the sergeant lost no time in gaining the entrance of the tunnel. It had been carefully boarded off, but it only took them a minute to gain the inside of the hoarding. Blake turned the sergeant's bullseye on to the ground, and shrugged his I shoulders. It was trampled over hopelessly.

"It's the workmen who found him," said the sergeant, flushing a little.

"Naturally," replied Blake. "But, hallo! What's this?"

He went down on his knees, and peered in the somewhat harder mud right up against the wall. There was a curious, bunched-up print in the soil—such a print as might have been made by the bunched-up finger-ends of a leg-of-mutton-fisted hand. Blake examined it with a puzzled frown; then, taking out a knife, carefully cut out the sod in which it lay. There was a curious flicker of light in his eyes as he rose to his feet and inch by inch examined the wall. Twice he slopped to gather from the rough stones what seemed to the sergeant like fluff from a brown coat.

"Shields was wearing a furry brown coat," he said significantly.

"No doubt," said Blake absently.

His gaze was fixed on a curious red smear on the wall some eight feet above the ground.

"Give us a knee, sergeant," he said; and the next moment he was standing on the sergeant's bent knee, examining that smear through a powerful lens. He picked out several more bits of brown woolly stuff, and scraped a little of the smear on to a slide, and restored the lot to his pocket-book.

"I thought those two things would interest you," said the sergeant. "What do you make of them?"

"Too early to say yet," said Blake, whose face had become curiously set. "I'd like to have a look outside."

He took the lantern and mounted the grassy slope to the roadway, stopping at every foot to examine the ground, and occasionally even to sniff at it. On reaching the top, one glance at the road, charred with traffic, was sufficient to stop him wasting time on trail-hunting there. He loaded his pipe, sat on the fence, and called to the sergeant to come up to him.

"And bring me a local man who knows the people," he called.

"Here's Dobson," said Flair, introducing an intelligent-looking constable. "He's been here for twenty years, and was born and bred here."

"Couldn't be better," said Blake, passing his pouch to Dobson.

"Now, friend Dobson, I want some information about these Shields. Who is Shields? What does he do? Who were his father and mother? And has he any relatives in the vicinity?"

"He's a saddler, sir," said Dobson, "as his father was before him. I 'ave 'eard tell as old Father Shields married a sight above him, and there are some who say that she was sister to the mother of Squire Foley, who lives out Esher way. Any'ow, she 'ad the same name, Carstairs. Three of the Carstairs there was, living at Kingston. Old Squire Foley's wife was one, old Shields' wife was another, and there was young John Carstairs, a wild blade, what went off to America, and nobody 'eard no more about. That's all I know about 'em, sir."

"I see," said Blake. "So if what rumor says is true, Shields and Squire Foley are cousins on the mother's side. And Foley, I suppose, doesn't admit the fact?"

"That 'e don't, sir!" laughed Dobson. "'E be a very proud and arrogant sort of gentleman, and 'e don't cotton to 'umble folk at all!"

"Thank you, Dobson," said Blake, slipping a coin into his hand. "I think that is all I want to know for the moment. I'll look you up later, Flair. I've got one or two enquiries to make, so if you have nothing better to do, you might wait for me at the station here,"

He trotted off, careless of Flair's growls, and made his way to Mrs. Shields' cottage.

"Do you happen to have Shields' mother's marriage lines?" he asked her point-blank.

"Yes, sir, I do," she said, with a stare. "But—"

"Then I'd like to see them at once," he said smilingly. "I'm in a great hurry."

She took down a family Bible from the shelf, dusted it, and drew out a yellow bit of parchment. It seemed to her that Blake hardly glanced at it before handing it back. Then he had gone as unexpectedly as he had arrived.

Once outside, Blake ran for Raynes Park Station. Luck favored his energy, as he caught the train he wanted as it was beginning to move out, and in the course of half an hour stepped out at Esher.

"The Foley Arms!" he murmured, looking up at the sign of an inn outside the station. "Couldn't be better!"

He went in, ordered a glass of bitter and a sandwich, and sized up the company.

It was half an hour before he came out, and he looked as pleased with himself as if he had already solved his case.


SELECTING a fly with a good horse, he bade the man drive up to Foley Court, and, stopping him at the entrance, walked up the long wooded avenue leading to the house. He was conscious more than once that something was in the bushes, stealthily following him in a parallel line. He looked back once or twice, and when a bend concealed him from cabman and house he flung a handful of pebbles in the direction of the sound. It evoked a vicious, angry bark, and Blake's eyes grew hard as sword-blades as, reaching the portico, he gave a resounding peal at the bell.

A magnificent flunkey opened the door.

"Tell Mr. Foley I want to see him," Blake said. "And give him my card."

And, walking in, he stood looking round the hall.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the flunkey, "but Mr. Foley is at dinner."

"Show me into his private room, then," said Blake coldly, "and acquaint him with the fact that I am waiting for him."

The flunkey gasped, bowed, ushered Blake into a comfortable, spacious library, noiselessly closed the door on him, and finally retired to do his errand.

For a moment Blake stood still, and took stock of his surroundings, his keen gaze taking in every article of furniture, till they rested on a panoply of arms behind the great man's chair. He made one bound over to it, and took down a long, inoffensive-looking cane, which, however, to his skilful touch, threw its wood back in the shape of a guard, revealing a fine, supple foil of Toledo make.

Blake gave one glance at the lower half, snapped the wood back again, and replaced the stick on the wall.

"Careless!" he said, with a shrug, as he took his place on the hearth-rug and awaited the coming of his host.

He had not long to wait, for Mr. Septimus Foley bustled in with the light of fiery indignation aglow on face and in eyes, his serviette still tucked under his chin, his arms aggressively planted, elbows out, and hands on hips.

"Who the dickens are you, sir?" he blustered.

"Sexton Blake is the name on my card," said the detective.

"Sexton Blake! What do I know of Sexton Blake?" roared Mr. Septimus. "I don't know you, sir, and I don't want to! So out you go, before you are chucked out!"

Blake's eyes glittered coldly.

"Excuse me," he said, suddenly bending forward with an air of deep concern, "but are you wounded? Surely there is blood on your serviette?"

"Blood—blood! Wh-where?" stuttered Mr. Foley, his purple face taking a blotchy pallor.

He seized the serviette in his two hands, and bent his head over his double chin, striving to see, Then Blake sprang. There was a glitter of steel and a swift click, and Squire Septimus Foley stood handcuffed.

"And there is blood on your heart, too, you scoundrel!" said Blake sternly. "I intend to give you in charge for the murder of Joseph Spring!"

"It is a preposterous lie!" said Foley, in a voice he vainly endeavored to stay from shaking.

"That's for the jury to decide," said Blake. "And I dare say the delicate sword-cane which, by the way, you omitted to clean—will go a long way towards convincing them!"

"Why, I didn't even know the fellow!" blustered Foley. "You're mad, Mr. Blake—mad as a hatter!"

"No! But you heard some high words between him and your cousin Shields," said Blake. "And you thought to kill two birds with one stone, since Spring would have inherited jointly with you and Shields the sixty thousand pounds left by John Carstairs to his relatives!"

"Who are you? Who are you?" hissed Foley, staring at him with rolling eyes.

"Sexton Blake, detective," said Blake quietly. "Now come along. And get someone to bring that brute of a baboon of yours. Of course, you had him in your dogcart, and when you had slain Spring you sent the baboon down the embankment with the body. An ingenious idea; and if you had destroyed that sword, and your baboon had not been shedding his fur, you would probably have saved your neck. As it is—I am waiting!"


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.