The inspector stepped quickly back to the landing.
“Flack!” he called, and unconsciously his voice dropped to a sharp whisper in the presence of death. “Flack, come here.”
When Flack reached the door of the library he saw his chief kneeling beside the prostrate body of a dead man. The body lay clear of the table, near the foot of an arm-chair. Instinctively Flack walked on tiptoe to his chief.
“Is he dead, sir?” he asked.
“Cold and stiff,” replied the inspector, in a hushed voice. “He’s been dead for hours.”
Flack noted that the body was fully dressed, and he saw a dark stain above the breast where the blood had welled forth and soaked the dead man’s clothes and formed a pool on the carpet beside him.
Inspector Seldon opened the dead man’s clothes. Over his heart he found the wound from which the blood had flowed.
“There it is, Flack,” he said, touching the wound lightly with his finger. “It doesn’t take a big wound to kill a man.”
As he spoke the sharp ring of a telephone bell from downstairs reached them.
“That’s Inspector Chippenfield,” said Inspector Seldon, rising to his feet. “Stay here, Flack, till I go and speak to him.”
“Six-thirty edition: High Court Judge murdered!”
It was not quite 5 p.m., but the enterprising section of the London evening newspapers had their 6.30 editions on sale in the streets. To such a pitch had the policy of giving the public what it wants been elevated that the halfpenny newspapers were able to give the people of London the news each afternoon a full ninety minutes before the edition was supposed to have left the press. The time of the edition was boldly printed in the top right-hand corner of each paper as a guarantee of enterprise if not of good faith. On practical enterprise of this kind does journalism forge ahead. Some people who have been bred up in a conservative atmosphere sneer at such journalistic enterprise. They affect to regard as unreliable the up-to-date news contained in newspapers which are unable to tell the truth about the hands of the clock.
From the cries of the news-boys and from the announcements on the newspaper bills which they displayed, it was assumed by those with a greedy appetite for sensations that a judge of the High Court had been murdered on the bench. Such an appetite easily swallowed the difficulty created by the fact that the Law Courts had been closed for the long vacation. In imagination they saw a dramatic scene in court—the disappointed demented desperate litigant suddenly drawing a revolver and with unerring aim shooting the judge through the brain before the deadly weapon could be wrenched from his hands. But though the sensation created by the murder of a judge of the High Court was destined to grow and to be fed by unexpected developments,