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First published in Pearson's Weekly, 10 Apr 1897
in the series "The Adventures of Mr. Juggins"
Reprinted in Short Stories, Oct 1917

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: 2021-10-17

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Short Stories, October 1917, with "Cabinet Secrets"

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"Paul Beck, The Rule of Thumb Detective,"
with "Cabinet Secrets"



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.



THE Right Honourable James Brandal opened his Times with eager fingers, glanced down the front page, and flung the paper so violently on the hearth-rug that it frightened the big fluffy white Persian cat into hysterics.

"Again," was all Mr. Brandal said, but his wife, who sat alone with him at the comfortably furnished breakfast-table, seemed to understand. She came round to where he sat. With one hand laid gently on his shoulder, and the other playing with his crisp brown curls, now flecked with grey, she looked down upon him with loving sympathy shining in her soft, dark eyes.

"Well, Fanny, I'll try to take it quietly," he said, in answer to her silent, tender pleading for patience. But the cloud was still heavy on his strong, clever face; for worries will worry in spite of man's will.

He could not sit still for the life of him. Leaving his breakfast untasted and the tea cooling in his cup, he began pacing the room restlessly.

"We have had some rough times together, Fan," he broke out again, "since that day ten years ago when you trusted yourself to the briefless barrister who is now Home Secretary of England, but I don't think you ever saw me knock under before. Just listen to this."

He picked up the paper, smoothed it out and read:—


He picked up the paper, smoothed it out and read:—

"We are able to state on absolutely unimpeachable authority that at the Cabinet meeting yesterday it was resolved to take the whole time of the House from next Monday. There were only two dissentients to this strong measure, of whom one was Lord Weldon, Secretary for Foreign Affairs."

"Is it true?"

"Absolutely true, darling—that's the devil of it."

"But, Jim"—touching the paper—"does it really matter so very much?"

"This particular disclosure does not matter very much, my pet—it hardly matters at all. But it is the fifth time within the last month that Cabinet secrets have been betrayed to the Times, quite plainly by a member of the Cabinet. The last was a matter of vital importance."

"It's very horrible, of course, dearest, but you can't help it; and I don't see why you should worry about it. It does not affect you."

"But it does affect me, Fanny, most vitally. It affects my position, my hopes, my honour. I hardly know how to tell you, darling, but I feel there is a growing suspicion amongst my colleagues in the Cabinet that I am the traitor."

"You, Jim, you!" There were tears in her dark eyes, but the light of her anger flashed through them. "Who dares to suspect you?"

"The Prime Minister himself, I greatly fear. Lord Weldon, I'm almost certain."

"I don't believe it; I cannot believe it. You are too sensitive. I met Lord Weldon the night before last at a ball at the Duchess of Southern's. He was most courteous, sat out with me for more than an hour, and spoke ever so kindly of you."

"Lord Weldon is always civil to a beautiful woman. You needn't blush, Fan; you must know you were the best-looking woman in the room, not excepting the lively little Duchess herself. His lordship is too straight—I'll do him that justice—to let the wife see he distrusted the husband. You remember, Fan, I was very rough on him in the House when I was graduating below the gangway; too rough, I think now, though I meant it at the time. He has behaved very well to me. I knew he was in favour of my inclusion in the Cabinet, and he has been most civil since we were colleagues. But these things leave their sting, in spite of a man. He wouldn't be human if he hadn't a lurking prejudice against me, however hard he may strive to stifle it. I'm the youngest, the newest, and the poorest member of the Cabinet. The others are tested veterans whose character and position set them above suspicion. The disclosures began the week after I joined. I declare, Fanny, I'm half inclined to suspect myself—on the evidence."

He dropped into a chair with a short laugh that had no mirth in it.

She read in his face anxiety—almost deepening into shame; and the shadow in his eyes was reflected in her own; but she was still true to the woman's rôle of comforter.

"Courage, Jim," she whispered softly, "the truth must prevail. You have never yet failed to face trouble or danger bravely—don't fail now, for my sake."

THE Right Honourable James Brandal was not the only one sorely troubled by this treason in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister was broken-hearted about it. Six weeks of the harassing anxiety of this shameful treachery had told more on his health and spirits than fifty years' fair and square political conflict.

On the afternoon of the same day he was pacing his private study in Downing Street impatiently, as Mr. Brandal paced his breakfast parlour, oblivious of the important papers that lay open on his desk, entreating attention, when a timid knock came to the door.

In obedience to a curt "Come in," a servant entered with a card.

It was a clear sign how sharp was the strain on his nerves, that the Prime Minister—usually the gentlest of men—turned impatiently on the servant.

"Did I not tell you, William, expressly," he began, "that on no account was I to be disturbed? Oh!"—with a quick glance at the card—"Lord Weldon. Show him up at once."

A moment later Lord Weldon came softly into the room. A very handsome man was Lord Weldon. Of about fifty-five years of age, with beautiful pure white hair, but a fresh, clear complexion, and smiling face, that made him seem younger even than he was. There was none of the arts or affectations of the elderly fop about him, and no man living had more gracious manners. He was a ladies' man in the sense that he loved beauty, and many beauties loved him. There were scandals, of course, but they never got beyond the vague rumour stage. He was still a bachelor. The jest ran amongst his intimates that Weldon dare not marry for fear of society suicides.

There is a shadow on the pleasant face that usually shines so genially on the world, as Lord Weldon closes the door carefully behind him, before he returns the cordial greeting of his illustrious colleague.

"You have seen that wretched paragraph, of course, Charles?" said the Prime Minister, nodding in the direction of the Times, which lay crumpled up in a corner of the room.

"I'm sorry to say I have very much worse news than that for you, Arthur. We are being betrayed at home and abroad. I have just had a cypher telegram from the Embassy in Petersburg, to say that the secret expedition resolved on against the Rajah of Rangham is known to the Russian Government in the fullest detail. The news has naturally created intense excitement. There is nothing for it but to abandon the expedition, I'm afraid."

"It's terrible! terrible!" said the Prime Minister, pacing the room in a very ferment of rage. "Never before has the honour of British statesmen been so degraded in the face of the world. Never before has the British Cabinet harboured a sordid spy. We cannot let this matter rest, Charles. What is to be done about it? Have you any notion what's best to be done? It is plain to me, we must either purge the Cabinet of this traitor or find some pretext for resignation, and let the Tories in. There would be no treason in their Cabinet."

"No, you cannot do that, Arthur. You have too big a majority in the House, and a bigger still, as you know, in the country. The Tories couldn't carry on for a day. There would be a general election, as a matter of course, and a general election would send you back stronger than ever."

"Then the one thing left is to catch the spy."


"Then the one thing left is to catch the spy."

"That's easier said than done, I'm afraid. Have you formed any suspicion who the man is?"

"The thing is so horrible, so utterly vile, that I hate to whisper suspicion of any man, even in my own mind."

"Remember, Arthur, that, disgraceful as the offence is, some member of the Cabinet is unquestionably guilty. We must not let scruples stand in the way of his detection"—Lord Weldon spoke with a stern gravity quite out of keeping with his usual easy graciousness—"we must probe this vile mystery to the bottom at any sacrifice of personal feeling."

"There is one man," said the Prime Minister in a low voice, with manifest reluctance, "at whom suspicion seems to point. Cannot you guess his name?"

Lord Weldon shook his head.

The Prime Minister, though they were alone in the room with closed doors, came a step nearer and whispered the name.

"Brandal!" said Lord Weldon, in a tone of absolute amazement. "It is quite impossible he should stoop to this."

"Impossible we should say that any member of the Cabinet should so degrade himself. But remember, as you said just now, there must be some one! Who is less impossible?"

"I cannot believe it is Brandal. I should as soon suspect myself."

"But why, Charles—why?" urged the Prime Minister, stirred to something like eagerness by this incredulous contradiction. "He is the latest member, for one thing, and the treachery has begun since his appointment."

"Put it on the lowest ground, Arthur; he would not risk it. Brandal has gone far, and is bound to go farther. He is immensely popular and trusted in the country; he is the best debater—except one—in the House of Commons."

"Except none, Charles. I have no false modesty, and no false vanity, I hope. Brandal is the most powerful speaker I have ever heard in the House."

"He has a tremendous hold on the people."

"Deservedly, I should say; or, rather, I should have said six weeks ago. He has stuck to his principles through thick and thin, through evil report and good, and there is no denying that he has, to a large extent, forced them upon us."

"Well, but is such a man likely to risk his great career by petty treason? to give his enemies—for he has bitter enemies, we know—such a handle against him?"

"The danger may seem slight, and the temptation is great. I hate to say it, but Brandal is the only poor man in our Cabinet."

"But it is not the poor that are always greedy. Brandal has never shown any love for money. He married his beautiful wife, Fanny Power, 'The fair maid of Erin,' as she was called, without a farthing. There is no corner in the man's character, Arthur, for suspicion to lay hold of."

The Prime Minister laid his hand kindly on his friend's shoulder. "Charles," he said, "the generosity of your character blinds you. This man has frequently and fiercely attacked you, therefore you feel bound to defend him. He is your sole rival for my place, which, in the course of nature, I cannot hold much longer; therefore you instinctively and chivalrously uphold him. If you had not pressed me on his behalf, he would not now be in the Cabinet; I wish he wasn't."

"Don't say that Arthur; you'll find I'm right."

"I cannot even say I hope you are right. If it isn't Brandal, it's some one else. The matter must be tested, and I have taken the first step in that direction."

"Take no step on mere suspicion, I entreat you."

"I will do nothing without clear proof, you may be certain."

"But how is proof possible?"

"We can only try for it. You remember the man the Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended so warmly, when we discussed the question before?"

"The detective with the queer name—Beck?"

"Paul Beck—the same. I have heard him spoken of in other quarters as wonderfully shrewd, and I have sent for him. I expect him here at two o'clock—less than half an hour. I gave orders I should not be disturbed till he came."

"Am I in the way? Don't hesitate to tell me."

"On the contrary, I am delighted you are here, and beg as a favour you will stay and see the man with me."

"Well, investigation cannot hurt the innocent; but let me beg of you not to give Brandal the slightest inkling that he is suspected. He is terribly sensitive for a man who has had such a rough-and-tumble fight with the world. It would be cruel if he is innocent."

"And most imprudent if he is not. You may trust my discretion, Charles."

THEN the conversation drifted into other channels. But though the matters discussed were of great importance, neither could fix his attention, and it was a relief to both when a second knock came to the door, and Mr. Beck—the most sheepish-looking of wolfhounds—was shown into the room. The Prime Minister motioned to him to be seated.

"Perhaps you can guess why I sent for you, Mr. Beck?"

"Well, yes," answered the detective, bland as ever. "It's that trouble in the Cabinet, I suppose; the whole town is talking of it."

The Prime Minister winced as if he had been stung, and for a moment or two could hardly trust himself to speak.

Then he turned to the imperturbable detective with that impressive dignity that so well became him.

"I have heard," he said, "you have already been engaged in matters of great delicacy and of great public importance, and that your discretion has been equal to your ability"—Mr. Beck acknowledged the compliment with a deprecatory smile—"but never before, let me assure you, in a matter of delicacy or importance comparable to this. The honour of a Cabinet, the fate of a Government, the vital interest of an empire are involved in the detection of this treason."

"I will do my best," said the detective tranquilly. It was his universal formula.

"Need I say that the most absolute secrecy is essential?" said the Prime Minister.

"You need not," said Mr. Beck shortly. "If you want me, you must trust me, of course."

Then very briefly and clearly the Prime Minister set the meagre facts of the case before him. One thing alone was certain—a Cabinet Minister was the culprit. Not a look or tone escaped Mr. Beck while the Prime Minister spoke.


Not a look or tone escaped Mr. Beck
while the Prime Minister spoke.

"You suspect some one?" he said, when the other concluded.

"I do; but I would rather not tell his name. It is not that I doubt your discretion," he added quickly, "but I should never forgive myself if I were mistaken."

"I don't want his name at present," said Mr. Beck. "Later on we may have to make that suspicion certainty, one way or the other. The first step, however, is plainly to call on the editor of the Times."

"Do you think he will help us?"

"Not if he can avoid it. You see, he knows nothing of the foreign complications, and he will regard the home revelations as good newspaper business; but he may help in spite of himself. If you want to catch a secret, the best way is to go where it is. Now I happen to know the editor of the Times; I did him a good turn once on a time. He'll be civil to me, anyway."

"Will you kindly report progress to us here at two o'clock to-morrow?" said the Prime Minister.

"I cannot promise any progress," said Mr. Beck, "but I'll come without fail."

THE Times editor, Mr. McDougal, stood with his back to the cheerful fire in his own private office, gazing quizzically at Mr. Beck, who had unfolded his delicate mission with his customary simple candour.

"So you want to know the name and address of our subterranean correspondent," said Mr. McDougal at last very slowly. "Well, I cannot give them. Mind, I don't say I would if I could, but simply I cannot, for the best of all reasons—I don't know them myself."

"But you have got his letters," Mr. Beck persisted: "you might give me a peep at one of them."

"Certainly," said Mr. McDougal, laughing. He crossed from the fireplace to his desk at the window, unlocked a drawer, took out a letter, and handed it to Mr. Beck.

"That is the very first we got from him," he said; "you may take your change out of that."

Mr. Beck gravely unfolded the letter. It was a plain sheet of common type-written paper; no name, no address; no distinctive mark whatever, except a little cross with red ink at the top. It began and ended abruptly:—


Whenever you receive a communication with the small red cross at top, be sure it is genuine, and publish immediately.

"There was a most interesting item of news enclosed," said the editor. "We did not publish it. We were sorry afterwards, because it proved to be correct in every detail. Since then we have trusted the red cross. We have had half-a-dozen revelations, some of them important, some of them sensational, but all of them accurate. The subterranean correspondent is now an accredited member of the staff."

"Do you pay him for this?"

"Well, yes; and a pretty stiff price, too; but you must excuse me going into details. I know the money passes, but I haven't the faintest notion into whose hands."

Mr. Beck turned the letter carefully over, as if he half hoped to find the writer's name there.

"Might I see the envelope?" he asked, after a pause.

"Certainly; but it won't help you. It's a common envelope, type-written, and dropped by private hand into our letter-box. No postmark, you see."

"I see," said Mr. Beck. "Well, I won't waste any more of your valuable time."

"You will pardon me for not being more explicit, Mr. Beck," said the editor. "You see this thing helps us from the press and the political point of view. It gives us exclusive and important news, and it hurts the Government. I could not give the man away."

"Don't mention it," said Mr. Beck. "Besides, I'm not sure that you have not put me on the right track."

WITH this parting shot he passed out, leaving the editor puzzled and uncomfortable.


This parting shot left the editor puzzled and uncomfortable.

"You don't seem to have made much advance," said Lord Weldon, when this interview was related with perfect frankness next day.

"That's as it may be," said Mr. Beck, "one can never be sure."

"Could we catch the letters to the Times in the Post Office?" suggested the Prime Minister. "It's a hateful expedient, of course, but desperate diseases need desperate remedies."

"I understand the letters are dropped in by private hand," said Lord Weldon.

"Your lordship has guessed quite rightly," said Mr. Beck; "the Post Office cannot help us."

"Have you anything yourself to propose?" asked the Prime Minister, a little impatiently.

"The next step it seems to me," said Mr. Beck quietly, "is to put your suspicions to the test."

"Can you do that effectively?"

"I think I can."

"Without knowing the name?"

"Without knowing the name, if you and his lordship will help me."

"Let us hear your plan?" said Lord Weldon.

"First, I must know, has the suspected man been present at all the Cabinet meetings whose proceedings were betrayed?"

"Not all," answered the Prime Minister; "there were two at least—I am almost certain there were three—from which he was absent."

"Does not that fact alone clear him?"

"I'm afraid not, because he would be entitled to hear, and naturally would hear, from some other member of the Cabinet, what had gone on in his absence. I remember I told him myself on one occasion."

"That brings me straight to my plan. You can arrange, I presume, that he shall be absent from the next meeting. Let him have an account of the proceedings the reverse of the fact, as circumstantial as possible. If this account appears in the Times there will be no doubt who put it there."

The Prime Minister shook his head. "I don't like the notion," he said; "it seems a shabby, treacherous trick."

"To me, on the contrary, it seems perfectly fair," broke in Lord Weldon, "as well as exceedingly ingenious. If the man is innocent, as I believe him to be, it does not hurt him in any way—quite the contrary. If he is guilty, no device is shabby that convicts him. It is an additional recommendation, in my opinion, that there is an off-chance of making a fool of the Times."

"But who is to give the false account to Brandal—there, I've let his name out now," cried the Prime Minister irritably. "I for one will have nothing to do with that. I could not if I tried."

"Then I will," replied Lord Weldon, "if you wish it. I don't share your suspicion, Arthur, and I think the suspected man is entitled to the opportunity of vindicating his character. If an accurate account appears, he's clear of it. At the Cabinet Council, you know, the day after to-morrow, we are to consider the inclusion of compulsory purchase in our English Land Bill. There is intense excitement on the question; it's just the one to tempt a spy. If you can keep Brandal away from the meeting, I'll undertake the rest."

"I'll have no difficulty at all in providing him with an urgent appointment elsewhere," said the Prime Minister.

Mr. Beck rubbed his hands in placid enjoyment of their adoption of his plan.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said, "and it may lead us straight to the heart of the mystery. This is Tuesday. There is nothing more for me to do, I fancy, until the Thursday's Times appears."

BUT Mr. Beck proved quite mistaken in this prophecy. Early on Wednesday he found himself knocking impatiently at the door of Lord Weldon's private house, which was only a short distance from the Prime Minister's residence.

"His lordship is not risen yet," said the footman.


"His lordship is not risen yet," said the footman.

"All right, I only want you to take him a note at once; it is most urgent," and Mr. Beck offered him a note which he had brought written and directed.

Lord Weldon got the note on a salver with his coffee in bed. It ran:—

My Lord,

I think it essential that I should have an interview to-day with the Prime Minister as soon as possible. I did not like to disturb him, so I have taken the liberty of calling on your lordship. Kindly let me have a line to say if you can see him soon to arrange it."

On a blotting pad in his bed Lord Weldon wrote:—

Dear Mr. Beck,

I will see the Prime Minister immediately. If you will kindly call back at about twelve, I will let you know the result.

Mr. Beck smiled a gratified smile as he read the note, and departed apparently well pleased.

AT twelve o'clock he received an appointment to meet the Prime Minister and Lord Weldon at Downing Street at two. When he opened his business it seemed hardly worth the fuss he had made about it. It was no more than a suggestion that the Times letter-box should be watched by a policeman in plain clothes.

"Well, it can be arranged, of course," said the Prime Minister a little testily, "but I do not see what possible good it can do. We cannot arrest every man that drops a letter in."

"Besides," chimed in Lord Weldon, "if the letter is dropped in by Brandal he convicts himself."

"You were quite right to mention it, Mr. Beck," said the Prime Minister, seeing that the detective looked a little crestfallen. "You will excuse me now, but this is one of my busy days."

"That's a hint for me, too," said Lord Weldon, laughing. "Can I give you a seat, Mr. Beck? My brougham is waiting."

At the corner of Trafalgar Square Mr. Beck suddenly remembered an urgent appointment, so Lord Weldon put him down, nodding affably from the open window as he drove away.

Mr. Beck waited till the brougham had disappeared through the traffic in the direction of Piccadilly, then instantly hailed a hansom and drove straight back to Downing Street.

"Important—this time," he wrote on the card which he sent up.

THE Prime Minister received him somewhat coldly, but after the first few words from Mr. Beck grew eager and excited.

"Your first scheme was hard enough to sanction," he said, "but this goes much farther."

"The proofs seem strong," insinuated Mr. Beck.

"That may be, but it is quite impossible that I should take any personal part in this miserable affair."

"Then," said Mr. Beck, with a quiet earnestness that gave dignity to his homely face and figure, "you must forgive me if I decline to have further hand in the business. I will not knowingly make myself the instrument of the punishment of the innocent and the triumph of the guilty. Let me repeat the wise words of Lord Weldon, 'It's a trial I ask for, not a conviction. The man suspected and suspected, too, on such strong proof—is at least entitled to his trial.'"

"Have your own way," said the Prime Minister reluctantly, after a moment's pause. "I feel there is justice in what you say, though the task you have set me is most repugnant to my feelings."

THE Cabinet Council was held in due course the next day, and the Right Honourable James Brandal, Home Secretary, was unavoidably absent on urgent official business. After a very animated discussion, it was resolved that the principle of compulsory purchase should be introduced into the Land Bill, and the Government should stand or fall by its adoption or rejection.

Mr. Brandal got down to the House before the dinner-hour in time for an important division.

Very soon he became sensitively alive to the fact that his colleagues of the Cabinet were strangely cold and reticent in their manner to him—with one exception.

Lord Weldon was cordiality itself, insisted on their dining together, and after dinner gave him the arranged account of the proceedings at the Cabinet Council with great particularity of detail.

"I'm bitterly disappointed, I must confess," said Brandal. "I knew you were against it, my lord, of course. But I thought there was a strong majority in favour of the principle of compulsory purchase. I'm convinced it's the only remedy for agricultural depression and the overcrowding of our towns. I wish I had been there."

"It could not have altered the result, my dear Brandal," said Lord Weldon soothingly; "there was a big majority. What! are you off so soon?"

"Well, yes. I feel a bit done up and depressed, and I'd best get straight home. I have asked the Whips; there is no danger of a division to-night."

BUT he did not go straight home. As he went past the door of the library, an attendant met him with a note from the Prime Minister himself, requesting to see him for a moment in his private room.

It was a brief interview. Mr. Brandal came out from it more cheerful but more bewildered than before.

"A most extraordinary mistake," he muttered to himself, as he lit his cigar with one of the paper spills provided for the legislators in the dressing-room close to the Palace Yard.

Then he walked home at a brisk pace to work off his excitement, and curiously enough passed the Times office on his way.

NEXT morning the political dovecots were fluttered by the following announcement prominently printed in the Times:—

We are glad to be able to announce, on absolutely unimpeachable authority, that at the Cabinet Council held yesterday it was decided by a substantial majority, after a very animated discussion, that the principle of compulsory purchase should not be included in the Land Bill which the Government are pledged to introduce early this Session. The Right Honble. the Home Secretary, who is understood to favour this revolutionary principle, was absent from the meeting.

Then followed a long article in cordial approval of the supposed decision, denouncing the Radical revolutionists who "were eager to devastate the fair fields of England and uproot her ancient aristocracy, whose wealth and privileges were the best guarantee for the stability of the Constitution and the integrity of the Empire."

A GOOD deal of quiet enjoyment was manifest amongst the members of the Cabinet—especially of the more advanced section—at this announcement. It was plain the Times had been badly hoaxed.

But Lord Weldon wore a look of deep distress; the Prime Minister was grave and stern, and James Brandal utterly bewildered. The Prime Minister had met him as he entered the House, and made an appointment after question time in his own room.

"You have seen the Times?" said Lord Weldon softly to the Prime Minister as they sat together on the front bench at question time. There was a touch of genuine distress in his voice. "I could not have believed it possible."

"Nor I," replied his chief. "I have asked Brandal to meet me in my room when questions are over. I desire that you also shall be present."

"I wish you could excuse me. It will be a most painful interview for me."

"I have no doubt; but your presence is essential, and painful duties must be performed."

When Lord Weldon got to the Prime Minister's room, he was a little surprised to find Mr. Paul Beck also there, standing modestly in the background.

"Mr. Brandal and Lord Weldon," the Prime Minister began abruptly, and plainly labouring under strong emotion, "I have summoned you here on a matter in which you are both deeply interested. You are aware that for some time past the Cabinet has been disgraced by a sordid spy and traitor who sold its secrets."

"Don't be too hard on him, Arthur," Lord Weldon whispered. But the Prime Minister went on, with growing anger. "That treason ends here and now. Through the skill and zeal of this gentleman, to whom I desire to convey my deep personal gratitude, that despicable traitor has been exposed. You, Charles Launcelot, Viscount Weldon, are the man!"

Lord Weldon would have spoken then, but the Prime Minister turned upon him imperiously, with a leonine flash in his deep-set eyes that awed him into silence.

"Denial is useless," he said. "The proofs of your treason are conclusive. Tell him"—he beckoned to Mr. Beck—"tell him what you know."

"You see, my lord," said Mr. Beck sweetly, "the word or two you carelessly let drop, showing you knew how the letter had got to the Times letter-box, set me thinking. The subterranean correspondent spelt 'immediately' with one 'm' in the type-written letter I was shown in the office. I managed to coax a little note from your lordship with the same word mis-spelt the same way. Then I felt pretty safe. It was not likely that two members of a Cabinet would make that blunder. But to make surety doubly sure, I took the liberty of asking the Prime Minister——"

"Yes, my Lord Weldon," broke in the Prime Minister, "I did the rest. After you gave James Brandal the false account of the Cabinet proceedings, I gave him the true. You published the false account to convict him of treason, and you have convicted yourself."

No word had Lord Weldon to answer, the sudden shock of the exposure had so stunned him. He leaned with trembling hands against a chair, and his face was as the face of the dead.

But there was no pity in the Prime Minister's stern voice. "False friend and treacherous colleague," he said, "I regret that public interests forbid the exposure and punishment of your crime. But on two conditions only can that exposure be averted. You must, of course, instantly resign your place in the Cabinet, and in the House; and you must write over your own name a full confession of your offence."

"For what purpose?" gasped out Lord Weldon; his first words since the blow struck him.

"To be retained by the man whose ruin you sought; to be retained as a memento of a peril overpassed, and a security for the future."

He pointed to the door, and Lord Weldon crept through it like a whipped hound.

"Mr. Brandal," said the Prime Minister to the Home Secretary, with a look of touching humility on his grand old face, "I have to beg your forgiveness for having wronged your honour, even in my thoughts."

Then as the Home Secretary and the detective passed from the room together, Mr. Brandal whispered to Mr. Beck, "Come and dine with me to-night—only ourselves. My wife must thank the man who saved her husband."


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