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.



Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover
Based on an image created with Microsoft Bing software

Ex Libris

First published in The Weekly Mail, Cardiff, 9 January 1909

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
Version Date: 2024-01-19
Produced by Paul Moulder and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

THIS is a tale of a bank manager's mysterious private room at the bank, that no one—not even his wife—is allowed to see inside.

There was mystery beyond the green-baize door; tangible or intangible nobody knew, since no one but Mr. Blakely ever saw the inside of the door which shut his private room at Messrs. Blakely and Stephen's Bank from the narrow passage connecting it with the general offices. We were so accustomed to the green-baize door, and to the rule that no one was to approach it, that we did not often give the mystery much thought. Even Mr. Sharsley, the head cashier, was not permitted access. Clients and callers of all kinds Mr. Blakely invariably interviewed in another room, where he was summoned by an electric bell connected with the green room, as we used to call it.

There was nothing strange in the baize door itself: a plain green door, with a brass handle, which in no way influenced the secret springs by which the door opened and closed. Brass-headed nails marked the outlines of the door's panels. A more unsuggestive door never swung on hinges. Yet for ten years (the length of time I had been at the bank) that door had possessed the most melancholy and uncanny influence over the bank's staff, from cashier to charwoman. But no one knew why.

Mr. Blakely was sole proprietor of the bank, which was the only one in the town, and showed every semblance of the soundest financial basis; and the magnificence of the income was clearly displayed at Somers Towers, his splendid residence two miles out, where, at the time of this story, he lavished the luxuries of life upon his second wife, a very lonely and proud young lady half his own age—or twenty-five.

Mr. Blakely was a man strangely devoid of eccentricities, considering his conduct concerning the baize door; the chief faults the bank staff found with him were his indefatigability, and that whenever there was business to be done in London—selling or buying stock, buying cash, etc.—he invariably attended to it himself.

I was seated at the desk of the head cashier, who was away on a short holiday, one morning in September, when one of our clients entered the counting-house.

"Mr. Boyton, look here," he said, slipping a crown-piece upon the counter. "Where did you get it?"

I took up the coin, and rang it. It rang unmistakably true.

"What's wrong with it?" I inquired, examining it closely without noticing any defect. "Did I give it to you?"

"Yes. Look at the edge; the letters are missing—it's quite smooth."

He was right: the edge was as smooth as that of a four shilling piece. I weighed it, and found it true weight; and it properly resisted the other tests.

"It's perfectly good," I said. "No doubt it is of an experimental mint, and got into circulation by mistake. How will you have it?"

"I don't care; half-crowns."

I passed him the money, and, as he went away, I slipped the crown into my pocket, intending to keep it as a curiosity. But later in the day, when Mr. Blakely was in the office, I showed it to him.

His handsome dark face clouded as he took it and examined the edge.

"How did we come by it, Mr. Boyton?" he asked. He immediately resumed his natural easy manner when I explained that I had passed it out and had it returned.

"Curious," he muttered. "One of an experimental mint, no doubt, for it's dated 1896. Do you think we've any others similar?"

"No; I have been through them."

"Strange! Well, I'll keep it. It is probably unique."

I was disappointed with his decision, as I wanted the coin myself. It was against my principles, however, to protest. I went back to my desk, repaid my self the five shillings I tilled for the coin, and forgot the matter—forgot it entirely until some weeks later, when Mrs. Blakely, to the utter astonishment of the bank's staff, turned up an hour or so before luncheon time.

UP to that time, although she had been married more than ten months, Mrs. Blakely had never been inside the bank. Now, she drove up in her carriage, came in proudly, and asked for Mr. Blakely.

I replied that if she would step into the waiting-room I would summon him in the usual way.

"No. Show me into his private room. I am Mrs. Blakely," she said, hastily.

"I recognised you, madam," I replied. "But the rule is that all visitors, whoever they may be, are to be shown into the waiting-room, where Mr. Blakely will interview them."

"Nonsense!" she ejaculated. "Such rules do not refer to Mr. Blakely's wife. The room is at the end of the passage, is it not?"

"You are putting me in an awkward position," I replied. "I am not allowed to let visitors approach the green-baize door—"

"Ah!" Her proud eyes flashed. "So there is a green-baize door which no one approaches? I interrupted you sir."

"I was saying, madam, that if I let you pass, I offend Mr. Blakely by neglecting an old-established rule. On the other hand, I offend you. Pray step into the waiting-room, where Mr. Blakely will join you in less than half the time we have spent in argument."

When Mr. Blakely came, he did so in his habitual leisurely manner; and he walked into the waiting-room, leaving the door ajar.

"Mr. Blakely," she said, haughtily, "I have been insulted by one of your clerks. He refused to admit me to your room, although he knew me."

She paused in a way that seemed to tell me she was looking at him searchingly.

"My dear girl," he replied, tenderly, "what has come over you? You're not like yourself, Mary. What is it? And what has brought you here so unexpectedly?"

"Did you not hear what I said, Richard? Surely the fact that I have been insulted is reason enough for the change you remark?"

"But not reason for your advent, since you must have been insulted through coming here," he responded, with his usual promptness.

"Since when has your wife been denied the right to enter your private room?" she demanded.

"Ever since she wrongly assumed that she had such a right, Mary. My clerks have their orders: they obey them. You cannot blame them for upholding rules I myself have framed. Come, dear, be reasonable. What do you want? I am very busy this morning. The market is very unsteady just now."

At this juncture it struck me that it was incumbent upon me to let them know in some way that they could be overheard, or else to get out of ear-shot. While undecided as to which course to take, I heard what aggravated my indecision.

"Tell me, Richard: had you known I was coming, would you have allowed your clerk to deny me access to your private room?" Mrs. Blakely inquired, somewhat sternly it seemed to me.

"Did you come here to ask me that?"

"Answer me, yes or no!" she insisted.

"The rule is of many years' standing, Mary," he said, deliberately. "If it were set aside for you it would be the thin end of the wedge; my room would no longer be private."

"You endorse your clerk's insult?"

"I uphold my clerk, who upholds the bank's rules."

She was evidently nonplussed for the moment by the fine fencing, for she paused.

"If you have any shopping to do in the town," he said, "you might call back in an hour, when I shall be free to drive home with you."

"Richard," she said, quietly, "I married you not for your money, but because I loved you. I loved you before a younger man because I believed I could trust my whole soul to you. We have been married—how long?—ten months; and until within a few hours my confidence in you has been unshaken. You let me into all your secret hopes and fears; you kept nothing from me. Suddenly I hear a strange story about a mysterious green-baize door, which no one but yourself is allowed to approach. I call the carriage, and drive here to fathom the depths of the mystery which I fancied was only imaginary. But I am more than amused now: I am piqued; my confidence in you is at stake. But me see into the room which no other person but you has ever entered, and I'll go home."

"You are the first person to suggest that any mystery attaches itself to the room, dear," he replied, with a good-natured laugh, "it is simply a humble private room, where I work too hard to admit of being disturbed at all hours of the day."

"Will you let me see? I don't doubt you—why should I? But I am determinedly inquisitive. Will you show me the room?"

"Not to-day, dear; I am very busy."

I felt her brush past me as she came out of the room, and saw her walk round the desks, her lips tightly compressed, and her head very high.

* * *

THE following morning when I turned up at the hank the porter met me with the inquiry. Had I seen anything of Mr. Blakely? No? Strange! No one had seen him since the bank closed the night before. He was not in the bank—had not been home—indeed, it was Mrs. Blakely who had driven down the first thing to inquire about him; and no one had seen him.

"Was he on the premises when you locked up?" I asked.

"Can't say; shouldn't think so," the porter replied. "I left the side door on the latch until seven, as usual, and then bolted up, expecting he must have gone—generally goes before that, you know, sir. He must have gone, for I rung his bell again and again this morning."

Mrs. Blakely came up to me at this moment, looking pale and anxious.

"Mr. Boyton," she asked, "have you seen my husband? You were the last to leave, I believe?"

"Yes, madam: but I have not seen Mr. Blakely since he put you into your carriage yesterday."

"That decides it," she muttered. "Something has happened to him in his room. The door must be forced. Porter, go for a carpenter!"

"You take the whole responsibility of forcing the green-baize door?" I suggested.

"The whole responsibility," she replied, and turned away impatiently.

When the carpenter arrived Mrs. Blakely led him to the door, and ordered him to force it. He smiled grimly as he looked the door up and down. He sounded it with a mallet, and his jaw fell.

"Iron!" he said, laconically. "'Tisn't my job; you want a blacksmith."

The porter was sent off in the carriage to fetch a smith. When the man arrived, he eyed the door critically and looked dubious.

"A long job!" he said.

"Break it down then!" cried Mrs. Blakely. "But waste no time."

The smith bared his arms, and, ordering Mrs. Blakely, the porter, and myself to give him space, picked up a heavy hammer. He tapped the door gently in various places until it rang thinner than elsewhere. Then he swung his hammer and struck the door heavily, just in the exact spot, again and again. For five minutes he dealt a rapid fire of blows, and then the door began to tremble, then to shake. Finally, after ten or twelve minutes, it gave a shudder and came forward, swinging on its hinges.

Mrs. Blakely darted forward and stopped. Six feet farther down the narrow passage another door obstructed the way. She signed impetuously to the smith, who stepped forward and shivered the lock of the second door, which was only light wood. All was darkness beyond the door.

I turned to Mrs. Blakely, who stood gazing in wonderment into chaos.

"Porter," she said, in a hushed voice, suddenly turning her ashy face towards the light which crept down the passage from the farther door, "get me a lantern. Then you can both leave us. Mr. Boyton's will be all the help I shall need."

When the porter returned she took the lantern from him, and watched him retreat down the passage into the counting-house.

"Prop the door so that it won't fall," she said.

I did so, and, returning to her side, took the lantern from her.

"You had better not come, madam," I said.

"I am coming," she replied, calmly.

We passed through the doorway and into a small, dark room, poorly furnished with a little office furniture and littered with papers. There was no sign of Mr. Blakely. The one window in the wall was high up; its glass was fastened and the blinds were pulled.

"Look!" cried Mrs. Blakely. "Look! A trap-door!"

I crossed to her, and glancing down saw a square had been cut out of the carpet, in the centre of which was a ring by which I raised the trap.

Looking through we saw a ladder leading down to darkness.

"Go on, sir; go on," said Mrs. Blakely, in a hollow voice. "We must go on."

Going carefully down four rungs of the ladder I held the lantern out at arm's length, and surveyed the scene.

A stone-walled chamber stretched before me like a large vault. In one wall was a low, barred door; in a corner was a small furnace. A peculiar-looking machine stood in the middle of the vault, and upon a ledge of its frame rested a row of silver coins.

"Go on," said a voice above me.

I went down, and, stepping as I thought to the ground, my foot encountered something soft. I sprang aside, avoiding it, and saw the body of Mr. Blakely huddled up in a broken bundle.

"Don't come: for pity's sake, don't come!" I cried to Mrs. Blakely. But already she was half-way down the ladder. In another moment she had stepped upon her husband's body and had shrieked.

"Ah, me; ah, me!" she moaned, propping the nodding head upon her knee with frenzied tenderness. "Richard, husband! You did not merely dream—you lived your crimes that night—and now! Oh, Mr. Boyton, do you understand all this? My husband is a felon! Dead, my heart is dead. But he is well dead, better dead. This is his secret! Last night—the night before he was restless in his sleep, he talked of coining, years of coining—coining silver coins and reaping profit—profit. 'You're a liar,' he cried once in his sleep, 'the coins are good—equal to the Mint's. The Mint makes profit on its silver coins, and why not I?' He said that, and as I lay awake, I hoped he merely dreamed—I knew he dreamed. But now I know the truth! Dead, dead! Yes, yes, and if you lived these hands should kill you for the ignominy and shame! Richard, oh! Richard, Richard!"

* * *

LITTLE beyond evidence of identification and as to the cause of death was given at the public inquest held upon the body of Richard Blakely, but the police pursued the matter to some length in the hope of discovering the men who must have helped the banker in his secret silver mint.

The police found the door in the vault opened upon a narrow subterranean passage, running to a cottage hard by. But when the police raided the cottage they found it completely deserted. Their theory is that the banker's assistants went to the vault, found their employer lying at the foot of the ladder with has neck broken; and realising that exposure must follow, they took flight without delay.

Beyond the police, only Mrs. Blakely and myself know the true secret that hid beyond the green-baize door.


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.