by Walter Webb

  • This article first appeared in THE COLLECTORS' DIGEST ANNUAL 1957
Mrs Bardell

In this recapitulation of the feminine characters who appeared with varying degrees of prominence in the Blake saga, the title may give a quite misleading impression of the kind of man Sexton Blake really was. Under a heading perhaps better fitted to describe the amorous enterprises of some Don Juan, whose conquests were featured weekly for the consumption of impressionable teenagers in the pages of papers like the MIRACLE or ORACLE libraries, it might be supposed that Blake was a similar type of heart-throb. Nothing could be further from the truth! Blake, easy and relaxed in the company of his fellow men, was rather less sure of himself when faced by a bevy of attractive women at some social gathering, and was generally moved to a mood of secret satisfaction when the opportunity presented itself to him to escape their admiring eyes and coy glances. Such flattery, whilst acting as food and drink to the insatiable conceit of the gods-gift-to-woman type of lounge-lizard, was a bane to Blake, and only inspired in him a feeling of acute discomfort and embarrassment.

We are not, at the moment, referring to the modern, wise-cracking and much tougher Blake of the present day libraries, but the Blake as we knew him best — the ascetic, stern-visaged yet kindly man, remorseless, yet compassionate, hated and feared, but respected by friend and foe alike as a man who fought with his heart as well as his hands — who resorted to the use of a weapon only as a means of defence of himself or those dear to him; the character who, in his heyday, enjoyed a popularity quite unique in the history of boys' papers, and, for that matter, of weekly and monthly journals as a whole.

The feminine characters introduced in the Blake papers from time to time have been many and varied; some well known and affectionately remembered, some not so well known; others, having only made rare appearances, have ben completely forgotten. Of these latter, only those who justify their resurrection by reason of some unusual and interesting trait in their character, or who appeared in a case or story of particular interest or excellence, will be introduced.

It is always more satisfactory to start at the beginning of things and deal with events in their proper perspective; so back to the early days of the ½d UNION JACK, when, according to Mr John G. Rowe, PENNY POPULAR contributor at that period, Ernest Goddard occupied the editorial chair. These days can be touched upon very briefly because, fortunately, femininity was introduced into the stories hardly at all. I say "fortunately" because on inspecting the results of most of the labour put in by the various so-called artists whose atrocious handiwork adorned the pages of the U.J., it is extremely doubtful whether they would have been able to draw a woman with any pretensions to femininity at all!

As the years went by an all round improvement was manifest; production was improved; better artists and authors were introduced, though still the feminine element was practically non-existent.

Then, on 19 August 1905 came one of the best-loved characters of them all — Mrs Martha Bardell, much esteemed housekeeper to Sexton Blake, who brought to the sombre atmosphere of the Baker Street residence welcome light relief, which increased to something approaching hilarity when Gwyn Evans came along and elevated her from a mere supporting role to a star billing. The mercurial and quizzical Evans seemed very fond of Mrs B and certainly many of we old-timers have eschewed with keen enjoyment the fruits which have materialised from the seeds of that affection. Plump and garrulous, her use of the English language was both weird and wonderful. Fashions changed, but not Mrs B. As her master clung tenaciously to that familiar and disreputable old red dressing-gown, much bespattered and discoloured with innumerable chemical stains, cigar and cigarette ash and what not, so the old lady held on to her beloved bombazine dress and old-fashioned elastic-sided boots. Yet the heart that beat beneath the ample bosom of that dress was a tender one, as witness her devotion to the motherless Tinker and the conscientious pride in the performance of her duties to her famous master.

It is interesting to recall how some of the principal authors of those halcyon days handled Mrs. B and the varying degrees of tolerance and courtesy they permitted Blake to reveal when the old soul was in one of her most exasperating moods. Invariably, Gwyn Evans and Robert Murray had Blake showing great patience and good humour in the face of Mrs Bardell's tirade; W Murray Graydon, whose writings gave rise to the belief that he was lacking entirely in that richest of all natural gifts — a sense of humour — often had Blake irascible, petulant, and completely lacking in courtesy towards her. H Gregory Hill and Lewis Jackson were similar to Evans and Murray in their treatment of the old dame, but Gilbert Chester tended to follow Graydon, and his oft repeated phrase "my good woman" struck a jarring note. A lack of interest was apparent in the work of G. H. Teed, Andrew Murray, Anthony Skene and E. S. Brooks, for they rarely gave her more than a few lines to speak. Yes; Mrs Bardell was a grand and lovable character, and gave to the modest little residence in Baker Street much of that atmosphere of comfort and tranquillity that at all times infested it.

A brief mention here of that tempestuous and shapely pillar of society, Lady Molly Maxwell, who aspired to become a lady detective with often disastrous results both to herself and to those who were unfortunate enough to solicit her aid. A product of the Edwardian era, she was given a write-up in C.D. No.113 (May 1956), so apart from reiterating the fact that she only appeared in the short stories in the PENNY PICTORIAL between the years 1908-9, we can pass on to another titled young aristocrat in the personality of Lady Marjorie Dorn.

No doubt, Lady Dorn is completely unknown, but earns mention here by reason of the devastating effect she had on Blake's equanimity. She was beautiful, a born coquette, and the fortunate possessor of unlimited wealth. To endeavour to try and trace this character through issues of U.J., S.B.L., or D.W. would be useless, for she only appeared once, and that was in a very rare old issue of the BOYS' FRIEND 3d LIBRARY, entitled "The Mervyn Mystery" (No. 96), published in January 1910, The change in Blake in this story was something to marvel! Always a man of action, of course, he seemed imbued with an even greater zest for living; his air of reserve was completely dispelled as was the rather sombre atmosphere which always seemed to waft elusively about him. For Blake, believe it or not, fell in love with her ladyship! In those days it was an unheard of thing for Blake to be even attracted to one of the opposite sex, let alone flirt with one, but that is exactly what the rejuvenated Blake did with Lady Marjorie as the following extract from that story proves:

She poised herself on the arm of Blake's chair, leaned a hand caressingly on his shoulder, and spread the letter beneath his eyes. Blake flashed her a tender glance, then gazed at the letter ...
... “And I simply love necklaces of pearls and coronets of diamonds,” murmured Lady Marjorie, slipping another arm round Blake's neck, and bending close to look into his sombre deepening eyes. “And it is all so mysterious! Isn't it, you man of mystery? Are you cross? What does it all mean?"
Blake looked into the lovely eyes, and with a swift, impulsive, most protecting gesture, drew her abruptly into a close embrace ..."

And were Blake’s feelings for Lady Marjorie reciprocated? The following extract not only proves that they were, but gives an excellent idea of the high standard of writing the author — Michael Storm — gave to those early stories he wrote for the UNION JACK, besides providing an interesting pen-picture of Blake. The scene is Hyde Park and Blake and Lady Dorn, on horseback, are cantering down the Row:

... she had pursued unruffled the serene tenor of her way, till fortune, capricious and wilful as herself had brought into her path the man now gazing into her face this bright June morning. She had been attracted by him at once. His perfect physique, so reposeful, yet so suggestive of force, the harmony and grace of his movements, the statuesque head of him, with its finely chiselled features instinct with strength, determination and restraint, and especially the deep, magnetic agate grey eyes, had all appealed to her, arresting her attention, exciting her curiosity and enthralling her imagination. She had glided insensibly into loving him without being aware of the fact, till now, as she gazed into his face, the sweet clamour of the bird songs, and the gracious joy of the day found a new echo in her heart, and she felt the warm blood dyeing her face, and her eyes fell suddenly away ...

Blake proposed, and would have been accepted but for the fact that he found it impossible to give up his profession. Said Blake:

"I believe you chose wisely. I never had any right to ask you to tie your life to a life so strenuous and often dangerous as mine must be. But I can never regret it. It will be a very treasured memory."
"And we shall remain the very best of friends?" said the girl, with a certain wistfulness creeping into her eyes.
"Always," said Blake.

This far above the average Blake story featured George Marsden Plummer and Rupert Forbes, and is interesting for another reason. In the hundredth number of the C. D., in the article "The Mystery of Michael Storm", mention was made of a missing UNION JACK story which broke the sequence of events, linking "In Deadly Grip" (No. 302) and "The Swell Mobsman" (No. 315). The latter story began with Plummer just returning to consciousness following an attack upon him by Rupert Forbes after the pair had brought off a coup against the Bank of England and had kidnapped two beautiful society girls (of whom Lady Dorn was one) in the process. "The Mervyn Mystery" was the connecting link between those two stories; but why was it published as a double-length novel in the BOYS' FRIEND 3d LIBRARY? The only explanation which seems feasible is that it was originally two separate U.J. stories which, due to an oversight, were not published in rotation, and thus were joined together as one long, complete novel.

In this story Rupert Forbes was savaged by three mastiffs, and died in Sexton Blake's arms. In his dealings with the rogue there was a strange reluctance on Blake's part to bring him to the justice he so well deserved. Tinker was puzzled, and as they sat in Hyde Park, following Lady Marjorie's rejection of Blake's proposal that sentimental streak, which only on very rare occasions the latter permitted himself to reveal, asserted itself briefly, as Tinker said:

"There's a question I'd like to ask you, guv'nor."
"Ask!" replied. Blake, with a somewhat ironic emphasis.
"It's this," said Tinker, in a rather embarrassed tone. "I could never understand why it was you always seemed to have a — well, a sort of sneaking regard for Rupert Forbes".
Blake nodded.
"I suppose not," he said. "But the reason is simple. He was at school with me. He was only a nipper then — and a very lovable little nipper — and he was my fag. Once I happened to save his life, and it seemed to create a sort of bond. May God remember the man who first put him on the wrong path! And now, let us never mention his name again."
"They sat in silence till the dusk crept about them and the lights began to twinkle one after the other among the more distant avenues. And when at last they got up to wend their way homeward, Tinker, stealing a glance at his master, noticed that the dew lay as heavy on his eyelids as it did on the sward stretched at their feet."

That was Sexton Blake 1910 vintage, palatable as the rare old wine matured from those sedate old days — a story long forgotten, but portraying Blake as he has never been portrayed before. A novel of the highest class; which only the hand of a master of his craft could have achieved. Off with the old love — on with the new! Not expressive of Blake's sentiments, perhaps, but that is what happened when Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier made her bow between the pink covers of the UNION JACK.

YvonneIt was during mid-winter of the year 1913 that she came, a beautiful instrument of vengeance, to exact retribution on eight unscrupulous financiers, who, having ruined her father in Australia and caused his untimely death as a consequence, to be followed soon by her heartbroken mother, were beyond reach of the law. But, by taking it into her own hands, Yvonne eliminated each one by one — first Ike Vineburg, then Jim Pearson, followed by Mortimer Todd, Gordon Kelly, Carfax Morton (otherwise known as Tin Dish Charlie), Cornelius Patterson, Travers Bentley and Henry Forsythe.

In her role of Miss Nemesis, however, Yvonne came up against Blake, a stern, inexorable figure, whose intention to uphold the law was rigorous and unswerving. Rut in him the girl found her ideal; Blake appealed to her as she know no other man could or would ever do. Her love for him was deep, passionate, all-enduring; quite different to Lady Dorn's. Yvonne would have made any sacrifice, and wish nothing in return except that her love be reciprocated. Unlike her ladyship, Yvonne would have been happy to take second place to Blake's profession — would, indeed, have wished nothing bettor than to have assisted him in it. But, as history has told us, Blake would have nothing of it. It remains one of the most inexplicable decisions he has ever made!

When the then 34-years-old George Hamilton Teed brought Yvonne into the stories it was the beginning of an association with the U.J. which was to last until that paper's demise early in 1933, during which period he was to prove himself by far the most popular contributor of all. Unhappily, Teed was to survive it by only six years, before dying in the London Hospital a complete wreck of a human being, unbeknown to, and, therefore, unmourned by the many readers who had to much enjoyed the numerous stories which had appeared in the Blake papers under his name. In issue No. 482 the presiding editor of that time paid Teed the compliment of praising him as "one of the greatest authors living!" An exaggeration, perhaps; but Teed's work at that time did suggest it, although, as in the case of many Blake writers, the man in the editorial sanctum, with the aid of a blue pencil, some trimmings hero, some adjustments and corrections there, did improve to a considerable extent the material subjected to him, and in the finished product earned for a contributor more praise than he deserved.

Yvonne certainly brought a now look to the pages of the U.J. No character quite like her had appeared before. Her beauty by no means formed her chief asset; she was courageous, steadfast and unyielding of purpose, a born leader, a relentless enemy, yet, withal, essentially feminine. In portraying her in a beret on what appears to be a wealth of blonde hair, and in the long, ankle lengths form-fitting skirt of the period, there was in artist Val Reading's conception of her a similitude to the illustrations of Pearl White to be found in the various film magazines at that time. Which brings a thought. Was Teed inspired to create Yvonne after witnessing, on the cinema screen the sensational and daring stunts of the undisputed Queen of the serial film? If an image and a substance can be said to have anything in common, then Yvonne Cartier of the one and Pearl White of the other had many things. Each in their respective spheres brought something new in the way of entertainment; both inspired spontaneous admiration by reason of qualities hitherto to be only rarely observed, not only in their own sex but in the opposite number also. Yvonne was never called upon to cheat death as often as Pearl; not for her the hairbreath escapes as occurred to the serial queen week after week — such as being bound to a moving platform, which moved slowly, yet surely, towards a circular saw revolving rapidly at the head, with what dire results to Miss White's coiffure can readily be imagined! Nor was she ever subjected to the terrifying ordeal of being tightly bound and deposited across the rails of some railway whilst a snorting, puffing locomotive thundered its way towards her. In the matter of physical strength Yvonne had no more than the average girl; Teed never had her exhibiting superior power to that of the male. On the other hand Pearl White's prowess was quite remarkable. In those old serials she could match any one of the opposing villains’ strength for strength, and it generally took two — and sometimes three — of the enemy to overpower her. She spared herself not, as she kicked, and squirmed and even bit at the hands that sought to overcome her resistance. Well built and lissom, it was a thrilling spectacle to see the amount of really hard graft she put into those scenes in order to infuse the maximum quantity of realism into them. Alas! The screen today has nothing to offer to compare with the stirring, thrilling exploits of the incredible and amazingly attractive Pearl White.

Pearl WhiteBoth she and Yvonne reached their peak together; both took the inevitable slide together and vanished from the scene in the middle twenties. Yvonne made her exit in 1925 in a U.J. Christmas story, whilst Pearl White's career ended about a year earlier. It was in 1924 that her last film — "Plunder!" I recollect the title to have been — was shown at the Olympia, a small picture playhouse in Sparkbrook, and I clearly remember hurrying home from work one evening in order not to miss it. It ran to five or six reels, was made by the Fox Film Company — Pearl White had severed her connection with Pathé several years earlier — and was to the best of my recollection a story of a hunt for buried loot. Compared with the old serials she made for Pathé it was a disappointing film. And if Pearl White inspired Teed to create Yvonne it is also possible that a Chinese character who played villain in many of those serials inspired the author to create Prince Wu Ling. The Chinese was played a character actor named Warner Oland, and in such a role he was the most sinister figure of Oriental villainy I have ever seen on either screen or stage, an ever menacing figure hovering around a shrinking, wide-eyed Pearl White. When the latter died in Paris in August 1938 it was by a strange coincidence that Warner Oland passed away on the very day she was taken to her last resting place.

Having dealt with the two women who caused the most tumultuous upheaval over to occur within Blake, we come to those who, because of that criminal kink in their make-up, gave the criminologist no little trouble in curbing their activities. Well remembered is Kathleen Maitland, American wife of the American crook, Ezra Q. Maitland, who followed close on the heels of Yvonne. Better known as Broadway Kate, she was a far from endearing type of character, having few redeeming features in her make up. With an aptitude for disguise she kept her hair cut short in order that she could wear a wig on occasion when a masquerade became necessary for the successful undertaking of some criminal conspiracy hatched by her husband and herself. When Maitland was found guilty of spying for the Germans during the First World War and was duly executed at the Tower for his treachery, Kate endeavoured to persuade Aubrey Dexter to join in harness with her. But the gentleman cracksman, always a lone wolf. preferred to crack his cribs alone, and deprived of masculine aid Broadway Kate dropped right out of the limelight.

Into her shoes stepped Glory Gale, a mischievous girl reporter on the staff of the LONDON NEWS AND ECHO, with an overwhelming air of self-confidence which, allied to remarkably good looks and competence, earned her the youthful Tinker's undying admiration. Glory, whose appearances were confined to the S.B.L. only, figured in six stories for the library. An attractive character, she was the brain-child of John W. Bobin.

The year 1921 saw the introduction of the brilliant and unscrupulous Mademoiselle Claire Delisle, a wealthy adventuress, who gave Blake no end of trouble in the many battles of wits they had together. A character built on similar lines was Fifette Bierce, the beautiful lieutenant of Leon Kestrel, the master-mummer, the only woman ever to command the respect of the notorious criminal.

Other characters followed ... Mademoiselle Julie of the French Secret Service, who only appeared in the S.B.L., save for a solitary introduction in D.W. and this a reprint ... Ysabel de Ferro (first called "Ferra"), otherwise known as the Black Duchess, who sought to gain the Presidency of the Criminals' Confederation, but met with such strong resistance that she failed in her ambition. Ysabel, it may be mentioned, was the only feminine character of any importance that Robert Murray conceived.

Then there was Mary Trent, the young and pretty girl who fell in love with Dr. Huxton Rymer, a man much older than herself, but for which the gulf in years meant nothing, and detracted not one iota from the affection she had for him. Of all Teed's women characters, I found Mary the most natural and appealing of them all, and for this reason she remains my favourite feminine character in so far as the Sexton Blake stories are concerned.

Julia Fortune, who appeared with Zenith the Albino, was a British Secret Service agent. A product of the twenties she was not a particularly outstanding character. On the other hand, Eileen Hale who also appeared during that period — it was a few weeks before the Royal Wedding of the late King (then Duke of York) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, at Westminster Abbey — was a character quite original to the pages of the Blake papers and inspired much interest. By 1926 she was a firmly established favourite character, appearing regularly with her ex-public schoolboy husband and crook in the pages of both the U.J. and S.B.L. It was the age of the Charleston, of jazz, of growing unemployment, and a revolutionary change in women's fashions. As the dole queues grew longer, skirts grew shorter. As a representative of those days, who wore with elegance and much aplomb, the abbreviated garments which were so much a part of them, Eileen brought upon her dark, shingled head the wrath and contempt of Mrs Bardell. "A brazen 'ussy!" was the landlady's irrevocable opinion, after a distasteful glance at the girl crook's much exposed nether limbs encased in stockings of the finest silk, the only kind her fastidious nature ever permitted her to grace them with. Yes, perhaps Mrs Bardell was right; but brazen or not, Eileen Hale was a lively, likeable character, with a forceful personality, aeons of pluck, and sex in abundance.

Manor GreenWhich brings us to a rather vexed question. What part did sex play in those early stories in the U.J. and S.B. Libraries? A small, yet vitally significant party it must be admitted, despite a quite mistaken view amongst certain devotees that the subject was considered strictly taboo in the Blake field until just recently when Mr W. Howard Baker took over the S.B.L. Actually, the policy of introducing a sex element into the stories commenced in the U.J. in 1928, in the Olga Nasmyth series. This comprised three stories concerning the activities of a sultry adventuress, who also passed under the name of Lola de Guise. Was it by chance that on all three covers the beauteous Lola was portrayed in dishabille, twice in the arms of Sexton Blake; or did artist Eric R. Parker have specific instructions to draw the covers with a view to catching the public eye and obtaining more readers as a consequence? The cover of the first, showing Blake embracing Lola, in a nightdress and wrapper, at the foot of a bed, with, at the door of the bedroom a man with a horsewhip in his hand, presumably with intentions to use it upon the criminologist, must have brought a feeling of shock and disillusionment to those who thought him far above that kind of behaviour. To emphasise this situation, the drawing is practically duplicated on pages 10-119 except that in this instance the man with the whip has not yet put in an appearance and Blake is holding up Lola's falling nightdress, which has slipped with her dressing gown to reveal her left shoulder. This and similar situations in later stories lifted the U.J. right out of the field of juvenile publications and deposited it into the adult class. No longer was it recognised as being a journal for readers of all ages.

In Mademoiselle Roxane Harfield, Teed introduced a character remarkably like that of Lola de Guise, who was the conception of Jack Lewis, the author of the famous Kestrel stories. Roxane of course was a modernised duplication of Yvonne, with a mission of vengeance against a syndicate of eight men who had swindled her mother out of her possessions and caused her untimely death by reason of the shock. The only difference was that Roxane was a Canadian whilst Yvonne was an Australian. The Roxane stories were more sophisticated and, in accordance with the new policy, included several situations of a nature which can only be construed as being sex inclined; such as in the fourth of the series showing an illustration on page 20 of Roxane lying on a bed with a coloured robe wrapped tightly around her by a solicitous Blake after her clothes had been torn to ribbons in a struggle with one or more of the men she had sworn retribution against. Then on page 12 of the fifth story in the series, Blake is seen holding Roxane in his arms, a disordered negligee about her. Again, in the sixth of the series, on page 11: a provocative picture, in all truth, showing Roxane lying unconscious on the bank of a stream, a few scraps of sodden lingerie clinging to her, being covered with a jacket by Blake in the garb of something resembling a cowboy outfit. But the most damaging situations were to come, with Blake's reputation and impeccability in the balance. Caught in a blackmail plot engineered by Felix Dupont, the seventh of the swindlers whom Roxane had sworn should pay the price of his treachery towards her dead mother, Blake found himself in a compromising situation when photographed on Roxane's yacht with the beautiful owner of the vessel, in nightdress and kimono, lying embraced in his arms. It was a faked reproduction of a situation which had actually taken place, but the superimposed version of the incident which Dupont, with the aid of a beautiful French accomplice, one Sophie Beautemps, turned out, and with which he sought to blackmail Blake, was of a different nature altogether. In this, Blake and Roxane appeared to be caught in a suggestive pose, with the girl's light garb erased to make it appear that she wore hardly anything at all. In defence of his own good name and the honour of the girl of his present affections, Blake completely lost his usual air of sang-froid and went into the fray with the fury of a roaring lion. To his cost did Felix Dupont find it a dangerous practise to attempt to blackmail Sexton Blake! Of all the stories centred around Blake this had by far the strongest sex element. Note then the title, "Blackmail!" published 19 July, 1930, issue 1,396.

Those who have read Mr E. S. Turner's enlightening book on the old boys' papers, "BOYS WILL BE BOYS", will have noted his reference to the S.B.L. novel "The Case of the Night Lorry Driver", the story of a crime he compares to something one usually reads weekly in the News of the World. One finds it difficult to conceive how editor L. H. Pratt came to pass this one. One also wonders whether he approved of his artist's drawing of the cover of S.B.L. No. 183, the first of the 1949 issues, entitled "The Mystery of the Woman Overboard", by Walter Tyrer. E. R. Parker's illustration showed a girl in pyjama trousers only jumping from a ship's deck into the sea.

Of the remainder of those feminine characters who appeared at intervals was the exotic Marie Galante, the octoroon, high priestess of the secret rites of Voodooism, who exercised a powerful influence over the whole Negro population. Owner of big estates in the interior of Hayti, her income was enormous, her power unquestioned. Her physical appeal was such that only a man of extraordinary will-power could resist her attentions, if directed upon him. By which it can be seen that she was quite a sexy character, indeed. But let her author, G. H Teed, sum up her attributes in his own words:

She was more like a nude that had submitted to being draped. Every curve, every line of her perfect form was in sinuous harmony. Every portion of her limbs and body revealed perfect harmony as she walked, swinging her hips. The flame-coloured silk of her draperies — it could not be called a dress — sheathed her like a skin, yet gave her complete freedom of movement ...

Further comment here would tend to be superfluous.

Worthy of mention is Vali-Mata-Vali, mystery girl of origin and nationality, who, as the sensational dancer known as the Bird of Paradise, took Paris by storm, and then on meeting the master-criminal George Marsden Plummer fell completely in love with him and became his partner in many daring coup. More slave than partner perhaps, for there was little she would not have done at Plummer's bidding. In one S.B.L. she went to the extent of shedding her clothes and becoming an artist's model. Needless to say, she was another of Teed's glamorous creations. As mentioned before, he was far and away the most popular of the Blake contributors. Was it because of his strictly adult style of writing, the appeal of his colourful feminine creations, or his fearless approach to plots which no other author would dare to proceed with, as in some of the Roxane stories, for example?

In ringing down the curtain other names pass fleetingly through my mind… Nirvana, the dancer and one-time sweetheart of Tinker ... June Severance ... Denise Drew, the carrier-pigeon ... Muriel Marl, the blonde gang-girl from Hollywood ... Elsa von Kravitch ... Sandra Sylvester, yet another adventuress ... Mademoiselle Yvonne de Braselieu, French Secret Service agent, and one or two more.

We look back on them as having given us many happy hours of reading in the past, and we look in vain for those who have taken their places. Alas! There are none, excepting Paula Dane. Today the dearth in women characters in the Blake saga is remarkable. As a rule those from an earlier era seldom regain the popularity that was once theirs. Time, with its changes in taste, fashions and various other factors combine to defeat them. But in odd cases, where a character of a less incredulous type is concerned, the gulf in years can be bridged successfully.

With a completely empty stage ready to receive then, might not the experiment of reviving those favourites of the past — Marie Galante, Vali-Mata-Vali and Mary Trent — pay off? At least, nothing would be lost in making the attempt.