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The Bittermeads Mystery

By E. R. Punshon

That evening the down train from London deposited at the little country station of Ramsdon but a single passenger, a man of middle height, shabbily dressed, with broad shoulders and long arms and a most unusual breadth and depth of chest.

Of his face, one could see little, for it was covered by a thick growth of dark curly hair, beard, mustache, and whiskers, all overgrown and ill-tended, and as he came with a somewhat slow and ungainly walk along the platform, the lad stationed at the gate to collect tickets grinned amusedly and called to one of the porters near:

“Look at this, Bill; here’s the monkey-man escaped and come back along of us.”

It was a reference to a traveling circus that had lately visited the place and exhibited a young chimpanzee advertised as “the monkey-man,” and Bill guffawed appreciatively.

The stranger was quite close and heard plainly, for indeed the youth at the gate had made no special attempt to speak softly.

The boy was still laughing as he held out his hand for the ticket, and the stranger gave it to him with one hand and at the same time shot out a long arm, caught the boy – a well-grown lad of sixteen – by the middle and, with as little apparent effort as though lifting a baby, swung him into the air to the top of the gate-post, where he left him clinging with arms and legs six feet from the ground.

“Hi, what are you a-doing of?” shouted the porter, running up, as the amazed and frightened youth, clinging to his gatepost, emitted a dismal howl.

“Teaching a cheeky boy manners,” retorted the stranger with an angry look and in a very gruff and harsh voice. “Do you want to go on top of the other post to make a pair?”

The porter drew back hurriedly.

“You be off,” he ordered as he retreated. “We don’t want none of your sort about here.”

“I certainly have no intention of staying,” retorted the other as gruffly as before. “But I think you’ll remember Bobbie Dunn next time I come this way.”

“Let me down; please let me down,” wailed the boy, clinging desperately to the gate-post on whose top he had been so unceremoniously deposited, and Dunn laughed and walked away, leaving the porter to rescue his youthful colleague and to cuff his ears soundly as soon as he had done so, by way of a relief to his feelings.

“That will teach you to be a bit civil to folk, I hope,” said the porter severely. “But that their chap must have an amazingly strong arm,” he added thoughtfully. “Lifting you there all the same as you were a bunch of radishes.”

For some distance after leaving the station, Dunn walked on slowly.

He seemed to know the way well or else to be careless of the direction he took, for he walked along deep in thought with his eyes fixed on the ground and not looking in the least where he was going.

Abruptly, a small child appeared out of the darkness and spoke to him, and he started violently and in a very nervous manner.

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E. R. Punshon

Ernest Robertson Punshon (born East Dulwich, London 25 June 1872 – died Streatham, London 23 October 1956) was an English novelist and literary critic of the early to mid 20th century. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Robertson Halkett and Robertson Halket. Primarily writing on crime and deduction, he enjoyed some literary success in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, he is remembered, in the main, as the creator of Police Constable Bobby Owen, the protagonist of many of Punshon’s novels, who was eventually promoted to sergeant, inspector, superintendent, and, finally, commander. A popular Scotland Yard detective, Owen appeared in 35 novels from 1933 to 1956. Punshon reviewed many of Agatha Christie’s novels for The Guardian on their first publication. Punshon was also a prolific writer of short stories, and a selection of his crime and horror fiction has recently been collected together.


  • Earth’s Great Lord (1901)
  • Constance West (1905)
  • ’’Ensnared: The Mystery of the Iron Room (1905). Serialized, Scraps
  • ’’Mr Nugent’’ (1906)
  • Rhoda in Between (1906)
  • The Mystery of Lady Isobel (1906)
  • The Choice (1908)
  • ’’The Spin of the Coin, or Love Conquers Crime’’ (1909). Serialized, Hartlepool Daily Mail
  • ’’A Gentleman Burglar’’ (1909)
  • The Glittering Desire (1910)
  • ’’The Miser Earl’’ (1910)
  • ’’The Red Parasol’’ (1911)
  • The Wilderness Lovers (1912)
  • Hidden Lives (1913)
  • The Crowning Glory (1914)
  • Arrows of Chance (1917)
  • The Solitary House (1918)
  • The Woman’s Footprint (1919)
  • ’’The Mill Owner’’ (1921)
  • Promise of Dawn (1921)
  • Old Fighting Days (1921)
  • The Bittermeads Mystery (1922)
  • Dunslow (1922)
  • ’’The Millionaire’s Daughter’’ (1926)
  • The Blue John Diamond (1929)

E. R. Punshon

E. R. Punshon