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First published in Pearson's Weekly, 27 Feb 1897
in the series "The Adventures of Mr. Juggins"
Reprinted in Short Stories, Feb 1918

Collected in: Paul Beck, The Rule of Thumb Detective,
C. Arthur Pearson, London, 1898

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2021
Version Date: 2023-10-25

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Short Stories, February 1918, with "The Poisoner"

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"Paul Beck, The Rule of Thumb Detective,"
with "The Poisoner"



M. McDonnell Bodkin

Irish barrister and author of detective and mystery stories Bodkin was appointed a judge in County Clare and also served as a Nationalist member of Parliament. His native country and years in the courtroom are recalled in the autobiographical Recollections of an Irish Judge (1914).

Bodkin's witty stories, collected in Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective (1900) and Paul Beck, the Rule of Thumb Detective (1898), have been unjustly neglected.

Beck, his first detective (when he first appeared in print in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, he was named "Alfred Juggins"), claims to be not very bright, saying, "I just go by the rule of thumb, and muddle and puzzle out my cases as best I can."

...In The Capture of Paul Beck (1909) he and Dora begin on opposite sides in a case, but in the end they are married. They have a son who solves a crime at his university in Young Beck, a Chip Off the Old Block (1911).

Other Bodkin books are The Quests of Paul Beck (1908), Pigeon Blood Rubies (1915), and Guilty or Not Guilty? (1929).

Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, Steinbrunner & Penzler, 1976.



"WE find that Letitia Woodriff was accidentally poisoned by morphia. How taken or administered there is not sufficient evidence before us to show, and we desire to express our profound sympathy with the afflicted father, Mr. Woodriff, in the sad bereavement that has befallen him."

* * * * *

THE Coroner's jury could reach no deeper than this in the perplexing mystery. Their verdict given, with grave faces and quiet tread they left the father's house, where by special favour the inquest had been held.

Then John Woodriff stole up softly, as though he feared to waken her, to the room where his dead daughter lay, beautiful in death. With a timid gentleness he touched the little hand cold and white on the coverlet. The placid face with the still smile on the pale lips half frightened him. It seemed as if death had lifted his dear little girl—his own familiar pet and plaything—so far above him that even his thoughts could not reach to her now. It was no longer his girl that he had so loved and that so loved him, that lay there so calm and cold. An angel was in the room, pure and placid. His own bright, warm, loving Letty was lost to him for ever.

With a spasm of pain that gripped his very heartstrings, he bent over and kissed those poor chill lips passionately. The ice-cold touch stabbed him with a sudden agony of new grief, though his daughter was now two days dead. He pressed his face upon the counterpane, and his deep sobs shook the bed where the placid dead lay.

Then the door opened softly and a face showed itself at the opening—a young girl's face, wan and white, with red rims under the eyes.

"Father," said a soft voice, replete with tenderness, and Milly Woodriff stole to where her father knelt, shaken by sorrow, and threw her arm round his neck and strove to whisper words of comfort in his ear, though her own heart was breaking.


She strove to whisper words of comfort in his ear.

"Don't, father, don't!" she said; "it would grieve her, even in heaven, to see you thus; she, who was always so gentle, so cheery, and so loving. It's hard to bear, God knows, it's hard to bear, but we have each other left to love and live for until we meet our darling again."

The broken-hearted man yielded like a tired child to her caressing touch, and she led him from the room.

"Thank God, Milly," he whispered, "you are still left to me," as they sat together with clasped hands in the big silent sitting-room, where even the sunlight seemed to come sadly now.

A sudden fear, a pang of sharp remembrance came upon him as he spoke. He caught her hand so tightly that he hurt it. "Oh! my God," he cried, in a sort of frenzy, "must I lose her too!"

After that he sat for a long time looking at her earnestly, softly stroking the brown silky hair, and all the time a yearning, frightened look in his eyes.

Presently he seemed to steady himself with an effort, like one who has a purpose in view.

"Has any one come by the train, Milly?" he asked.

"The train is hardly in yet, father," she answered, with a glance at the marble clock on the mantelpiece, "and it's a good half-hour from town, you know. Do you expect any one?"

"I wired the day before yesterday to London for a detective—a man named Beck—Paul Beck. We were at school together, and great friends then, though we have not met since. I have heard he is the keenest detective in London. I hoped to have had him down for the inquest. If any man can find out how poor Letty died, he can."

"What's the use, father, of worrying over that now? It will only help to keep the wound open in your heart. It won't bring our darling back to us."

"Milly," he said, with such earnestness he frightened her, "I would give my right hand this moment to know how death came to poor Letty."

There was silence again. Presently he asked abruptly, "Where is Susan?"

"In her room, father, utterly broken down. She has hardly eaten or slept since. In some things Susan is like a little child, and she and Letty were such friends!"

"Go to her, my dear. You will comfort each other. I'm restless and impatient for this man to come. I'll walk down a bit of the road and meet him."

MR. WOODRIFF'S house was a tall, red-brick building that looked out from the breast of a wooded slope far over the sea. About three miles inland was the large and prosperous town of Deringham, where Mr. Woodriff, as an ironmaster, had acquired the ample fortune which enabled him to purchase the house and grounds of Merview, and live in comfort on the borders of the sea which he had loved from a boy.

As he strode steadily down the high-road, half-way between the town and his house, a hansom went past him rapidly. One quick glance showed him seated in it a placid, dull-looking man, whom he at once set down as a commercial traveller. But the hansom pulled up sharply before it had got twenty yards past. The dull-looking man leaped out like a schoolboy and ran back towards him, calling his name.


The hansom pulled up sharply.

"Don't you know me, Jack?" he cried cordially, with hand outstretched. "I knew you at first sight."

Mr. Woodriff looked for a moment bewildered; then a light dawned on him. "Surely you cannot be little Paul Beck?" he cried.

"Little or great, I'm Paul Beck as surely as you are John Woodriff—the very same Paul Beck you saved from many a basting at school when I was a small boy, and you were a big one. I'm heartily sorry, Jack, that our first meeting again should be such a sad one."

"You got my wire, then?"

"And your letter; both the same time. I was out of town when the wire came or I should have been down for the inquest. What was the verdict?"

"Accidental death."

Mr. Beck glanced at his face. "And what do you think yourself?"

"I really don't know what to think."

Again Mr. Beck looked at him keenly and steadily. "You are horribly cut up, Jack, and all of a shiver. There is something else besides grief troubling you; something frightening you. I'll send the cab on to the house; we will talk this thing out while we walk. I always feel most alone where there are no walls."

They walked on together for a few moments without a word, till they came to a by-path on the left hand that led straight to the sea. They turned off the higher road, still without speaking. Mr. Woodriff's face was haggard and perplexed and his eyes on the ground, and Mr. Beck glanced at him now and again as if striving to read his thoughts. The by-road took them out on a broad stretch of smooth strand. Beyond this to the sky-line the sea lay sparkling, and the long, clear ripples split themselves on the sand, foaming softly like champagne. At their back the cliffs rose in a black wall.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Beck abruptly, as they walked close to the sea's margin.

"I'm afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"I don't know of what or of whom, but I'm in deadly terror that my daughter Milly—my only daughter now—may be taken from me. Letty is not the first that has been poisoned. I dread she may not be the last." He was trembling all over.

Mr. Beck took his arm. "Jack," he said quietly, "if I can help you, I will, for old times' sake, if for nothing else. Things may seem blacker to you than they really are. Tell me straight out what you know and what you fear."

"It's a long story, Paul."

It was curious how naturally the old schoolfellows dropped into the tone and names of a quarter of a century ago.

"I'm in no hurry. Tell it your own way, but tell the whole of it."

"ONLY a year ago my eldest daughter Barbara died suddenly at school in the south of Germany. The telegram announcing her death miscarried, and she was buried before I arrived. The doctor said it was heart disease. I didn't doubt it at the time; I had no reason to doubt it. But now I'm sure she was poisoned with morphia, as poor Letty was poisoned. It happened just the same way. Babs had been quite well all the morning, and breakfasted with the other girls. After breakfast she went to her room to read her letters from home. An hour later they found her lying back, huddled up in an easy-chair. They thought her sleeping, but she was dead."

"Your daughter Letty died in the same way?"

"Precisely. Her twin-sister, Milly, and her cousin, Susan Coolin, who is on a visit with us, were at a young peoples' party at the other side of the town, and stayed overnight. Letty insisted on remaining at home with me. We breakfasted together, and she was full of life and spirits. She was expecting a letter from an old schoolfellow, and she walked into town to meet the postman. We were together as far as the turn to the sea. I went out for a few hours' mackerel fishing. She kept the road towards the town. Twenty yards away she turned smilingly to kiss hands to me as I passed the corner. I never saw her alive again.

"When I returned the house was in an uproar of alarm and grief. The girls had just returned, and found Letty lying half across her bed, as if she had fallen on it, dead. At the inquest morphia poison was proved. She must have taken nearly ten grains of pure morphia the doctor declared—enough to cause death in less than half an hour."

"Had your daughters any love affairs?"

"None that I ever heard of. They are very young—poor Letty wasn't eighteen; a perfect schoolgirl. Did I tell you that she and Milly were twins? Babs was about the same age when she died—when she was poisoned in Germany."

"They were cheery girls, you say?"

"As gay as larks. You may put suicide out of your head, if that is what you are thinking of."

"Suicide and accident dismissed; then we come to murder. Who were in the house when your daughter Letty was poisoned?"

"Family servants, every man and woman of them. I'd as soon think of suspecting myself. Besides, there was no motive, and they all loved her."

Something in the way the word "motive" was said caught Mr. Beck's quick ear.

He turned round and faced John Woodriff there on the lonely sand, breaking off their walk abruptly.

"What are you hiding from me, Jack? What motive do you know for this crime?"

"I know of none."

"What do you guess, then? Come, be frank if I am to help you."

"The very thought is so preposterous—so horrible—that I don't like even to put it in words. Besides, it is impossible."

"Let me judge of that. By clearing the impossibles out of the way we come to the possibles."

"I must go back a bit, then, to explain. You may remember we Woodriffs were five in family; four brothers and a sister. The eldest, Robert, became a doctor and settled down in Liverpool. He put his only son, Coleman Woodriff, to the same profession, and left him his practice—not a very good one, by all accounts—when he died. My second brother, Peter, has been in Chicago for thirty years, a bachelor, doing well and promising every year to pay us a visit. But he has nothing to do with what I have to say to you. The two youngest were myself and Dick. Dick always hated Robert like poison, but he and I were the best of friends till, as ill-luck would have it, we fell in love with the same girl. We fought our battle out fairly, like brothers, for her love, and I won! Poor Alice! No man ever had a better wife, but she died after the twins were born. I loved the little ones the dearer for her sake. Dick never got over his grief. He didn't quarrel with me—he was too decent a chap for that—but he threw up his business; he was doing well as a stockbroker in Liverpool, and went to Australia, and stayed there till he died about three years ago. He speculated recklessly in land and building lots. But everything turned up trumps for him—crossed in love, you know the proverb—and he made a big pile.

"He and I were good friends to the very last. He wrote every other post. He was very fond of the girls—for Alice's sake, I think, as much as mine—constantly sent them handsome presents, and when he died he left them every farthing he had in the world, close on a quarter of a million."

"Share and share alike?"

"Share and share alike, or to the survivors or survivor after they reached the age of eighteen years."

Mr. Beck whistled under his breath. "If none reached the age of eighteen?" he asked, after a pause.

"There was no provision in the will for that. I suppose poor Dick never thought of that. But I have consulted a lawyer about it. He tells me that if my three daughters should die under eighteen there is an 'intestacy,' and as the property is what he calls 'real,' that is houses and lands, it all goes to Dr. Coleman Woodriff, as heir-at-law to the deceased."

"Here's our motive, anyway," said Mr. Beck, "clear enough and strong enough."

"But the thing is preposterous," protested Mr. Woodriff earnestly, "admitting that the man, my brother's son, could be such a devil, and I won't and don't admit it! Still he could have no hand in this. He was in Liverpool when Babs was poisoned in Germany; he was in Liverpool when Letty was poisoned here."


"But the thing is preposterous," protested Mr. Woodriff earnestly.

"What kind of a fellow is this Dr. Coleman Woodriff?" persisted Mr. Beck.

"A very decent fellow, by all accounts, and clever, too; though he has been always pulling the devil by the tail. I haven't seen much of him, but I liked what I saw. My sister and his aunt, Mrs. Coolin, who is a widow, and lives in Liverpool, knows him well, and likes him greatly. It's her only daughter, Susan, that I told you is staying with us."

"What does Susan think of Dr. Coleman?"

"Well, she doesn't like him—that's a fact. But it's only a young girl's whim. She's a quiet, shy little body, two years older than Milly, but you'd think she was three years younger—she's like a child in the ways of the world. In spite of her unreasoning dislike of Dr. Coleman, she has nothing but what is good to say of him. Believe me, Paul, if you want to get to the bottom of this thing, you'd best leave him out of your head."

"Humph!" was Mr. Beck's sole comment on this appeal, and there was a long lapse into silence.

"Did your daughter Letty get the letter she was expecting?" he asked presently.

"I cannot say. There was a fire in her room, and we found the ashes of some papers in the grate."

"No trace of poison found anywhere?"

"None. The servants swore that she tasted nothing after her return. I have had her room locked since she died, hoping you would come."

It was only by a palpable effort that the man forced himself to answer Mr. Beck's questions calmly and clearly, keeping down by a strong effort the grief and fear that tortured him. Mr. Beck walked on in silence, with a face as blank as a gravestone, and the other watched him with eyes of helpless, piteous appeal, like a dog's.

In a moment or two John Woodriff's impatience mastered him.

"For God's sake, speak, man!" he broke out.


"For God's sake, speak, man!" he broke out.

"I have nothing to say worth saying," Mr. Beck answered quietly.

"You believe there has been foul play. You think Milly is in danger?"

"I fear so."

The self-restraint of the father snapped suddenly, and his grief and fear broke loose.

"You will help me to save her, Paul, my poor little girl—my last? God pity me! For the sake of old times, you will help me to save her?"

A look of deep sympathy came to Mr. Beck's face, transforming it for a moment. For answer he gripped his old schoolmate's hand.

"Steady, Jack!" he said. "You will need all your nerve before this business is through. How old is your daughter Milly?"

"She wants barely a month of eighteen."

"That shortens the job. This elder brother in Chicago—Peter, I think you said—can we have him back at once?"

John Woodriff stared at him as if he had gone suddenly mad.

"I mean, can I be your eldest brother and live with you for a month or so without arousing suspicion?"

"Oh, certainly! No one here knows him, and everybody knows that I have been expecting him."

"That's settled then. The day after to-morrow your eldest brother Peter will turn up unexpectedly from Chicago. But, mind, the secret is between us two. Not a word to a single soul."

"Not even to Milly or Susan?

"Most certainly not! I must be Peter Woodriff to every one but you. Now there is one thing more. I want to have a look at the room where your daughter died before I go back to town."

But Mr. Woodriff objected shrewdly. "If you are coming back as Peter, best not show yourself at all now."

"Does any one know that Mr. Beck, the detective, was expected?"

"No one except my daughter Milly."

"I think I had best put in an appearance," said Mr. Beck. "It's no harm that I should have a look round with two pair of eyes—Mr. Paul Beck's and Mr. Peter Woodriff's. I don't think the young ladies—or any one else for that matter—are likely to recognise me on my next visit. By the way, what is brother Peter like?"

"Like me they say, only taller."

WHEN they got to the house they found Milly Woodriff shy and frightened of the London detective. It was meek-eyed Susan Coolin that saw to his comfort, sat with him at lunch, and showed him to the room where her dead cousin still lay.

"If I can help you in any way, Mr. Beck, please tell me," she said, looking wistfully in his face with guileless blue eyes. "I was very fond of poor Letty."

"I'm sure of that, my poor child," he said gently. "But I do my work best alone."

He locked the room door on the inside, and began his search at once. Nothing escaped his quick eyes and hands. Finally he swept all the dust into a corner and examined it carefully, and then sifted the ashes in the grate through his fingers. In the ashes he found a blob of blue glass, melted to a long needle at one end, and a fragment, half burned, of a white pasteboard box. In the dust sweepings there was a little twisted gold ring of antique make and small value, a strip of narrow white ribbon notched like the edges of a saw; a tangle of bright-coloured silk threads, and innumerable pins and hairpins.

He showed his treasures in the palm of his big hand to John Woodriff just before he started.

"I have a notion," he said, "that there are one or two letters of our riddle here, if I can only manage to pick them out of the rubbish."

* * * * *


TWO days later a tall, loose-limbed man, with unmistakable suggestions of the Yankee in voice, dress, and figure, inquired at Merview for Mr. John Woodriff.

For a moment Mr. Woodriff was puzzled. But when the stranger said in a quiet drawl, slightly flavoured with a nasal twang: "Reckon, John, you don't know your own brother Peter who has come away round the big ball for a squint at you," Mr. Woodriff grasped his hand heartily, and welcomed Mr. Beck with unaffected cordiality.

It was a marvellous make-up. Peter Woodriff, of Chicago, was a very tall man—nearly three inches taller than Mr. Beck, whom he in no way resembled. About the lines of eyes and mouth there was a strong family resemblance to Mr. John Woodriff, which people noticed immediately, declaring they could tell them to be brothers at first sight.

The two girls were called down to welcome their uncle Peter and took to him at once. He was so shrewd and yet so kindly-hearted; so grieved at their grief when he came to know of it, that he won his way straight to their hearts.

Day by day they grew to be better friends. But though he plainly loved them both, Susan Coolin seemed his favourite. The dead load of grief for her twin-sister who was part of herself still lay heavy on the heart of the once gay and frolicsome Milly Woodriff. Now and again for a few happy moments her grief would be forgotten and the bright black eyes would sparkle with their former light, and she would answer her uncle's quaint jests with saucy liveliness. Now and again a gay verse would start from her lips, spontaneous as the wild bird's song. But it was only for a moment; the next the sparkle of her eyes would be quenched and the music of her voice hushed by the sad insistent memory of her sorrow.

But Susan was of a more placid mood. Grief itself could not ruffle the even gentleness of her nature. They were a curious contrast; the big, rough, shrewd man and the quiet, innocent little maid. But the contrast seemed to have its charm for both.

Peter Woodriff passed at once into the inner circle of their home-life. So perfect was the charm of his identity that John Woodriff, who was not good at make-belief, often found himself, quite naturally, speaking to him, and even thinking of him, as his brother.

To Susan, Peter Woodriff was the kindest of uncles, and she repaid his affection with little innocent confidences concerning her home-life in Liverpool, in which he seemed deeply interested. She told him frankly that she did not like her cousin, Dr. Coleman Woodriff. After a while it came out that the doctor had made love to the shy little maid and frightened her. Presently she was filled with remorse lest she had injured her poor cousin with his rich Uncle Peter, and accused herself of prejudice, and praised the young doctor's kind heart and cleverness, and told little stories of his doings amongst the poorer patients that showed her praise just.

SO the weeks slipped by as pleasantly as might be, and Time, the healer, smoothed away the first keen agony of their grief, till even the lurking terror in John Woodriff's heart was half asleep.

Brother Peter seemed to enjoy the society of his nieces more than that of his brother, and brother John contentedly allowed him to take his own course.


Brother Peter seemed to enjoy the society
of his nieces more than that of his brother.

The girls had got the habit of walking out to meet the postman on his way from town, and Uncle Peter never missed the chance of being with them on those occasions. There was a red postal pillar-box, about two-thirds of the way into town, on which he would lean, lazily smoking, while his nieces rifled the postman and shared the spoils.

ONE morning in October, a memorable morning for all concerned, there was an unusually large delivery, and there fell to Milly's share, in addition to half a dozen letters, the crowning prize of a wedge-shaped box of wedding-cake, neatly tied in white paper and sealed with pale blue sealing-wax.

The girls carried their treasures back to the house, and, in the big sitting-room before a bright fire, gossiped over their letters, and read the interesting bits aloud for each other, while their Uncle Peter lounged in an easy rocking-chair, specially imported from town for his delectation, absorbed in newspaper and cigar.

The wedding-cake was kept as a bonne bouche for the last.

Milly cut the string and broke the seal, and got out the card box, tied in the orthodox narrow white ribbon edged liked a saw.

Inside the box lay a card with names in silver letters; the bride's maiden name run through with a silver arrow.

"Louisa Thompson!" cried Milly, in surprise and disappointment. "Oh! Susie, look here! I don't know any Louisa Thompson."

"Perhaps some of her friends know you, dear, and sent it. The address is plain enough anyway, and it looks very nice cake."

"Then you shall have half," said Milly generously; "take it yourself, and make a fair division."

Susan took the box, and with great deliberation divided the cake into two parts with an ivory paper-knife. She turned the cake out on a sheet of notepaper, and tossed the box and its wrappings into the fire. Then she pushed the paper towards Milly, offering her the bigger piece for her share. Very inviting the cake looked, dark on the white paper in two solid wedge-shaped slabs, with a deep selvedge of almond sugar at the thick ends.

Milly's fingers were almost on her piece when the big hand of Uncle Peter interposed so quietly and so suddenly that he startled both the girls.


The big hand of Uncle Peter interposed.

He caught the paper by the corner and shifted it round, so that Susan's piece was towards Milly, and Milly's piece towards Susan.

"You won't mind changing, Susie," he said, "just to oblige me?"

Only that! but his eyes were on her face, and the pretty pink colour fled from her cheeks, and she grew ghastly pale under his gaze. For a moment, as if a mask had fallen, she saw the face of Mr. Beck, and the eyes of Mr. Beck looked straight into her own.

With a cry she caught up the paper of cake to throw it into the fire. But one big hand closed on her wrist—the other recaptured the cake, while Uncle Peter's voice drawled out—"Don't be rash, Susan, my dear, don't be rash. If you are not ready for that piece of cake just now, I'll put it by till it is wanted."

He loosed his hold on her wrist as he spoke, and she vanished from the room like a shadow.

The whole scene passed so quickly that Milly could make nothing of it.

"What have you done to Susan, uncle?" she cried, turning to him in surprise. "And where is my delicious piece of wedding-cake gone to?"

"It was only a little game between Susan and myself, my dear," he answered quietly, "and I don't think that piece of cake would be good for you, Milly." Then he sauntered lazily to the door.

"It's monstrous! Incredible! The thing is too devilish for belief!" said John Woodriff, when the story was told him ten minutes later in his study. "Are you quite sure, Paul?"

"As sure as death," retorted Mr. Beck gravely.

"I cannot believe it. That timid, meek, innocent little thing! Poor Letty! And Milly, too, that she was always so fond of!"

"Yes, as the smooth, gentle little kitten is fond of the bright, gay little birds. I guessed the claws under the velvet almost from the first."

"But, if you are quite sure, why not arrest her at once?"

"Because I don't want to make my haul until my net is full."

"But she may escape, and then——"

Mr. Beck's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Come from the window," he whispered. "Look! look there!"

A girl's figure flitted round an angle of the house, so swift and silent it seemed a shadow, and disappeared.

"She has escaped," said John Woodriff excitedly.

"Keep cool," said Mr. Beck. "She is off to post a letter in the pillar-box. She'll be back in less than an hour. You'll see."

THE time went slowly by while they waited. It seemed three hours instead of one before they again saw the slight figure flit round the corner, returning to the house. They heard doors open and shut softly, and after a few moments a light step overhead told them that Susan Coolin had got back to her room.

"My turn now," said Mr. Beck. "Wait here for me," and without another word he was off at a brisk pace down the lawn.

Mr. John Woodriff's second wait was shorter than the first, though it seemed longer to his growing impatience.

Well within the hour Mr. Beck was back in the room, panting a little from his run, but quiet as ever.

"I have made my haul," he said, "and captured my fish." He took from his pocket a net of thin silk thread, fine as a cobweb. In the almost invisible meshes of the net there was a letter. "A simple little device," he said. "All clever devices are simple. I got it from the cutest post-office thief I ever met. You drop the net into the opening of the letter-box. The threads are invisible, unless you are looking for them. This fine wire spring keeps the mouth of the net open, and every letter that's posted is caught. I set my trap this morning, not for the first time, when I saw the wedding-cake delivered. I caught five other fish in it besides this, but I threw the rest back. Now, whom do you think is this letter directed to, Jack?"

"Dr. Coleman Woodriff, Liverpool," he answered.

"A straight guess, and the handwriting on the envelope is Miss Susan Coolin's—shaky a little, but unmistakable. Now we will take the liberty of enquiring what Miss Susan Coolin has got to say to Dr. Coleman Woodriff, whom she dislikes so heartily."

He quietly broke the seal and read—

"My Own Darling,

"All is discovered just at the moment of success. The man I told you of—Uncle Peter—has proved a detective in disguise. He stopped Milly with the piece of poisoned cake at her lips. The same moment I recognised him, and his eyes told me he knew all. By what devilish cunning he guessed the well-kept secret I cannot say. Believe me, darling, it was through no fault of mine. Save yourself—save yourself while there is still time. They will learn nothing, be sure, from me. You were my only joy upon earth—the losing you is my only sorrow in leaving it. Before this reaches you I shall be no more. I have tricked the detective with all his cunning. I found where he had hidden the poisoned cake, and——"

Mr. Beck broke off his reading with a muttered curse, and darted from the room, and went up the stairs with a rush, John Woodriff at his heels.

He knocked at Susan Coolin's door. There was no answer. He turned the handle. It was locked. Without a moment's hesitation he put his shoulder to the door, and burst it in with a crash.

The room was quite still. Behind the bright chintz curtains, on the white counterpane, Susan Coolin lay dead—soft, pure, and beautiful as a white lily. The wealth of light golden hair lay scattered loose on her pillow like a saint's halo—a tender smile was on her dead lips. She seemed a statue of sleeping innocence, carved by a master-hand.


Susan Coolin lay dead—soft, pure, and beautiful as a white lily.

Something almost of pity was in both men's hearts as they gazed—so powerful is beauty's spell.

"We are too late," Mr. Beck said at last, very softly. "It's wonderful that a fiend should look so like an angel."

"Thank God, that it is not my poor Milly that lies there!" John Woodriff answered, in a faltering voice. "This wretched girl has died the death she planned for her. She has passed from man's judgment to God's. But for the man who tempted her to this——"

"I will hang the man," interposed Mr. Beck, with a touch of returning cheerfulness.

And he did.


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