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First published in
Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, 11 September 1909

Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
Manawatu Times, New Zealand, 8 November 1909
(this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2021-05-22
Produced by Roy Glashan
Proofread by Gordon Hobley

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

Click here for more Sexton Blake stories

"HALLO! Sexton Blake, by all that's wonderful!"

"How are you, Arkwright?" rejoined Blake, his matter-of-fact, emotionless tone being in strange contrast to the exuberant cordiality of the man who had paused to greet him.

It was about eleven o'clock on a fine November morning, and the detective, who had business in the Brompton Road, had for some mornings been making a regular practice of leaving his house afoot and walking to his destination by way of Sloane Street. He had just turned out of Sloane Square when he was stopped by Arkwright's slim, dapper person planted in his path.

The detective had never seen Arkwright since the two went down from Oxford together for the last time; nor was he particularly pleased to see him now. Arkwright had professed a strong admiration for Blake in those distant college days, but the admiration was all on one side.

Arkwright, however, did not seem to observe the marked lack of geniality in Blake's tone. He linked his arm familiarly through Blake's.

"You are going down Sloane Street," he chirped, in his curiously weedy falsetto voice. "I'll walk a little way with you. I have to do a commission for Lady Harberton at Madame Matthilde's, a modiste's near the Brompton Road. I shall not be three minutes. I have only to hand in a cheque and notify a change in an appointment. You will oblige me very much if you will wait. I have a matter of considerable importance I want your advice upon."

Blake gave him a reluctant assent. "I'll give you exactly three minutes," he said, looking at his watch. "If you're not out then I shall go!"

"I'll be out in two minutes!" cried Arkwright gaily. And, running up the steps, he pushed open the half-closed door, and vanished into the interior, brushing against a man who was hurrying out, and who, betraying every sign of agitation and haste, leapt down the steps and cannoned full into Blake, bolted across the street, ran after and boarded a passing hansom, and was driven rapidly away.

The sound of sudden cries from within the shop caused Blake to turn sharply round, and the next moment the door was flung violently open, and Arkwright reappeared, his face the color of chalk, his eyes distended in horror, his hand violently beckoning to Blake.

"Come quickly, man!" he cried. "There's been murder done! Did you see him? Did you see the fellow who rushed out? The miserable ruffian! He has done it! He has killed her! Struck her brutally down!"

"Keep your head!" said Blake.

And, placing his hand on Arkwright's chest, he pushed him gently back into the corridor, and closed the door against the crowd that was gathering. As he did so a strange look grew into his eyes, and he gave a curious glance at Arkwright.

The latter, however, did not notice it. He had thrown open a door on the right of the corridor, and was pointing tragically to a group of terrified girls gathered round an inanimate form on the couch.

"Let the forewoman stay!" Blake said sharply. "The rest of you retire immediately to your work-room; and be good enough to go out in Indian file, and keep close to the walls!"

"Now," he said, turning to Arkwright, "tell me exactly what happened!"

"It was shocking!" said Arkwright, dabbing his face with his handkerchief. "I went in by the work-room door—the one before this in the passage and sent in my card to the poor woman there, and followed the forewoman here, who took it in. We saw her body lying as you see it now. Mrs. Howard shrieked; the other girls came rushing in; and I rushed out to you. That is all I know, save that I naturally concluded that the man who came hurrying out was the guilty person!"

"Who did Madame Matthilde see this morning?" Blake asked the forewoman.

"I was with her at five minutes to eleven," said Mrs. Howard, with a sob. "She was then expecting Captain Murrill, and she was very agitated."

"Who is Captain Murrill? And why should the prospect of his visit make her agitated?" asked Blake.

"Captain Murrill!" echoed Arkwright. "So it was the captain! I thought I recognised him!"

"Madame was his cousin, sir," said Mrs. Howard. "They were not on good terms. The captain—he is captain on a merchant boat trading to China—accused her of turning his grandfather against him and depriving him of a heritage he had always looked on as sure to come to him. He wrote her a bitter letter, sir, saying she had ruined his life and his prospects of marrying the girl he loved—a rich young lady named Lucy Gerard, the daughter of Sir Duncan Gerard, of Portman Square, sir. It upset my mistress very much, and she wrote to him a violent letter in reply to which he wrote again, saying that one of them must be lying, and he would come at eleven this morning to discover who."

"And he came at eleven?" asked Blake.

"Yes, sir; I showed him in exactly at eleven," said Mrs. Howard. "And from their raised voices there is no doubt that they were quarrelling. Then the voices ceased suddenly, and I was about to go in when Mr. Arkwright called."

"Is there anything missing?" asked Blake. "There is a cashbox lying open and empty there on the floor, I see. Are you aware of what its contents consisted?"

"Madame always kept it jealously locked, sir," replied Mrs. Howard.

"I'm afraid it begins to look a bad business for the captain," said Blake, grimly.

He was bending over the limp form lying on the divan. There could be no doubt about the manner in which the unfortunate woman had been struck down. An iron belaying-pin lay on the floor at her feet, where the murderer had thrown it after dealing the terrible blow from behind that had smashed in her temple, causing instant death.

"You had better summon a constable and tell him to ring up the station and then come and take charge," said Blake, suddenly looking over his shoulder and addressing Arkwright.

"I will, certainly," said Arkwright; and he hastened on tiptoe from the room.

Blake picked up the belaying-pin and I examined it curiously. It was stamped "R.S. Obion." The blow had been dealt with the thick end of it. Blake nosed the pointed end gingerly, drew off a tiny shred of flesh-tinted silk that was ravelled round a roughness at the extreme and turned his attention to the floor, which was laid with a brown linoleum.

Between the desk and the door leading into the work-room he was able to decipher the prints of a square-toed, dusty boot, and, much more faintly, of Arkwright's small, pointed foot. He could distinguish the tracks of the square-toed boots going in long strides from the desk to the door giving on to the corridor. But he gave hardly any attention to them. His lens was occupied in focusing the print of pointed toes that came in very short strides from the corridor door to the spot in front of the couch, thence to the desk, and thence again back to the door. He returned to the couch, and lifted the form of the woman on to it.

"Do not move!" he said quickly, as Mrs. Howard came forward to help him. His keen gaze had noticed a cigarette-end, hidden till then by the dead woman's skirts.

He bent down, picked it up, and examined it. It was bitten right through, and the charred end was still warm. He slipped it into a compartment of his pocket-book as the door opened to admit the station inspector and a constable with a surgeon and Arkwright closely following.

"From what this gentleman tells me," said the inspector, indicating Arkwright, "there doesn't seem to be much room in this case for your specialising, Mr. Blake."

"It would seem not," said Blake, almost regretfully. Inspector Marshall, who had worked with Blake more than once, had come to regard that nonchalant air of aloofness that Blake was now wearing as one of the invariable concomitants of a surprise in store.

"I'll see you later, inspector," said the detective, "I must be off. Coming, Arkwright?"

"Then you'll do nothing more on the case, Mr. Blake?" asked the inspector, as Blake and Arkwright reached the door. "I feel sure you have a card up your sleeve!"

"A very obvious one," said Blake drily. "It simply struck me that there was rather an ingenious way of bringing that man Murrill to hook. And if it interests you gentlemen to come round to my rooms to see me this afternoon at four o'clock, I think I may safely promise you, inspector, that you will leave them with the murderer in your charge!"

"I'll be there," said the inspector laconically.

"How interesting!" murmured Arkwright, as they gained the corridor. "I hope I am included, Blake, in that invitation. I have heard so much of your methods that it will be of the keenest interest to me to see them in operation!"

"Oh, come if you like!" said Blake, with a shrug of indifference, as he drew out a cigar and proffered his case to Arkwright.

"Thanks, no; if you don't mind, I'd prefer a cigarette," replied Arkwright, selecting one from a highly-chased silver case he drew from his pocket.

"Extravagant as ever," said Blake, stretching out his hand and taking the case. "Ah, a bad shot of mine!" he laughed; as he handed it back after a moment's examination, "I see it's a present, and no older than yesterday. From 'L.G.' A fair lady's monogram, no doubt?"

"A memento of my betrothal," said Arkwright, with a smile, "to the niece of Lady Harberton."

"I must postpone my congratulations till four o'clock," said Blake, with a dry laugh, as he stepped into a taxi.

ARKWRIGHT arrived at the doorstep of Sexton Blake's house at the same moment as Inspector Marshall. Blake greeted them both with a brief nod.

"Captain Murrill will be here presently," he said, continuing the examination under the microscope that he was engaged on as they entered.

The next minute Simmons, Blake's man, threw open the door and announced "Captain Murrill!"

There was an anxious look on the sailor's bronzed, determined face as he stepped into the room and confronted the three pairs of eyes that were focussed on him. He looked from one to the other, pausing irresolutely near the door.

"Which of you gentlemen is Mr. Sexton Blake?" he said.

"It is I," said the detective. "I am glad my letter reached you."

"I do not understand a word of it," said the captain, looking from Blake to the open letter in his hand. "I had only just read in an evening paper of the dreadful murder of my poor cousin when your letter was handed me. You say: 'If you wish to be present at the arrest of your cousin's assassin, and to relieve yourself from a grave menace, come to my rooms at the above address at four this afternoon.' Well, I am here. Perhaps you will explain?"

"I will," said Blake. "Oblige me, Arkwright, by handing me that cashbox."

It was evident that Arkwright's hands trembled a little as he complied. It was the cashbox he had seen that morning on the floor of Madame Matthilde's room. He lifted it in his two hands, and held it out to Blake.

Next moment he let it drop with a crash, as Blake, with a rapid movement, drew his wrists into the snap of a pair of handcuffs.

"That is the murderer of Madame Matthilde," he said composedly, "or, to give her her full name, Matilda Arkwright."

"Well, I'm jiggered!" gasped the inspector, catching Arkwright, who had reeled back, half fainting, in his arms, and jerking him to his feet.

"It's a lie!" screamed Arkwright, writhing under the inspector's iron grip.

"It's no lie!" said Blake sternly. "There is the copy of your marriage certificate to Matilda Murrill, dated in the July of your last long vacation at Oxford. In a room downstairs is a sailor from the Obion, who has identified your photograph as that of a man disguised in sailor costume who visited the Obion at the docks last night, and who slipped a belaying-pin into his coat.

"If you turn up his right-arm sleeve, inspector, you will see that the forearm of his silk, flesh-colored singlet will show that a thread is missing from it on the under side. Here is the thread, which I picked up this morning from a notch in the end of the belaying-pin, Here also is a cigarette-end which I found under his wife's skirts by the sofa. In the force of his blow he bit it through, and it fell unheeded. Here also is another cigarette I borrowed from his case as we left the house. If you will examine them, inspector, you will see that they are identical.

"To clinch matters, I visited his rooms in Brompton Square while he was at lunch, and found there a packet of banknotes I have since traced to the possession of his wife, and in his grate some half-charred love-letters of his own, addressed to her at the time she was a milliner's assistant in Carfax."

[Part of text missing in source file.]

... door, entered his wife's private room, slew her, robbed the cashbox of its contents and bestowed it in his pocketbook. Then he placed the iron down, stepped back into the work-room and sent in his card. He forgot, however, that the streets were dusty, and that the points of his boots traced his passage.

"It was a cool-blooded, premeditated murder, done with the object of ridding himself of a woman of whom he had long tired, and of leaving him free to marry Miss Lucy Gerard.

"There is no doubt whatever that he knew Murrill had an appointment with his cousin at eleven, and that he timed his dastardly deed in such fashion as to throw suspicion on the captain, whose rivalry in Miss Gerard's affection he feared. I have also discovered that he had been making enquiries about my morning walk; and I have no doubt he accosted me by design this morning, thinking to befool me into becoming an expert witness in his defence."

"You are a fiend!" shrieked Arkwright, making a furious dash at Blake only to be twitched back by the inspector's strong hand,

"Well, it beats me!" said the inspector. "It would have completely fooled me! How ever did you hit on the track of him, Mr. Blake?"

"I happened," said Blake, "to place my band on his chest in pushing him in from the street, where his well-acted agitation and alarm was collecting a crowd. The pulsation of his heart was absolutely normal, and the contradiction between that state and his show of wild agitation awakened my suspicions of his sincerity. The rest was a mere matter of inference. Take him away, inspector."


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.