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First published in Pearson's Weekly, 17 Apr 1897
in the series "The Adventures of Mr. Juggins"
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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"Paul Beck, The Rule of Thumb Detective,"
with "The Slump in Silver"



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.



"MR. SPEAKER, sir," said Mr. Mirabel, M.P., rising and raising his hat, "I beg to ask the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as head of the Mint, the questions that stand in my name."


"Mr. Speaker, sir," said Mr. Mirabel, M.P., rising and raising his hat.

These are the questions that stood in his name:—

1. "Is the Right Hon. gentleman aware that there is a large and increasing quantity of unauthorised imitations of the silver coins of the realm in circulation in the United Kingdom?"

2. "What steps, if any, have been taken to detect the coiner or coiners and withdraw such counterfeit coin from circulation?"

3. "Is it true that these counterfeit coins are made from pure silver, and in view of this circumstance are the Government prepared to consider the adoption of the principle of bimetallism and free coinage of silver as the only effective preventive?"


SIR ROBERT VERDON, the handsome and portly Chancellor of the Exchequer, was plainly nettled by the questions. He showed no trace of his customary good-humour as he rose to reply.

"Her Majesty's Government," he said, "have had their attention directed to the circumstances mentioned in the question of my honourable friend. They are taking active measures for the detection of the offender and the suppression of the offence. But it would not be for the interest of the public service to enter into further detail. In reply to the last paragraph of the question of my honourable friend, the Government are not prepared to propose bimetallism as the alternative to crime."

There was a ripple of laughter below the gangway at the close of the answer; but the men on the front benches did not join in it. The matter under consideration was too serious. It was well known that a vast system of silver coinage, in which the Mint had no concern, was in process for the last three or four years. It was rumoured that the system had, by some mysterious process, extended over the Continent and even to America. But, as it subsequently transpired, even the initiated had but a faint conception of the extent of this gigantic fraud.

About five years before, the persistent slump in silver had brought its price down to under two-and-six per ounce. The intrinsic value of the metal of the silver coins of the United Kingdom was therefore not quite half the face value guaranteed by the Government; in other words, there was less than sixpence worth of silver in a shilling, and so on with the rest.

This slump had, of course, the effect amongst silver owners of intensifying the outcry for bimetallism.

But it had another effect more serious. The bright notion struck some enterprising coiner to make false coin in pure silver. The cost of the metal was less than half the value of the coin, and as his workmanship and material were as good as the Mint, detection of the counterfeit was impossible.

The idea caught on and grew to a vast international system. The counterfeit silver coins slipped mysteriously into general circulation. No one questioned them—no one could question them. To call them "base coin" would be a clear misnomer. They differed from the genuine coinage only in their place of origin. So vast was the system that the increase of silver coinage and the consequent demand for the metal began to tell on the price of silver bullion. It rose gradually from half-a-crown to four shillings per ounce, though the rise was popularly attributed to other causes. Even financial experts never guessed how largely it was due to this practically free coinage of silver.

NO wonder the Chancellor of the Exchequer was annoyed when Mr. Mirabel inconsiderately directed the attention of the House of Commons, and worse still, of the public, to this highly inconvenient and embarrassing question. All the same, he began to regret his curtness, after a bit. Mr. Mirabel, the millionaire banker, was one of the wealthiest, the most generous, the most hospitable, and the most popular man in the House of Commons. He seldom spoke, but always to the purpose, yet without that affectation of superior knowledge which is so irritating to the ignorant. He was a sound Liberal, and his vote and cheque-book were always at the service of the party. To crown all, he was an intimate personal friend of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

On the other hand, Mr. Mirabel did not seem in the least disconcerted by the snub he had received. About half an hour later the division bell rang, and he was sauntering through the "No" lobby with a quizzical smile on his pleasant face, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, coming behind, took his arm in a friendly way, and drew him into one of the recesses.

"Didn't think me rude, Mirabel, I trust?" he said. "The truth is we are terribly perplexed about this infernal business. Ordinary counterfeit coins, however good the die, are of course easily detected by the metal. But now even the experts cannot tell the difference."

He took a handful of loose silver from his pocket, and jingled it in comic perplexity. "As like as not," he went on, "one-half of these have never seen the Mint. I'll be passing bad coin and defrauding the Exchequer when I pay for my dinner later on."

Mirabel laughed. "So long, Sir Robert, as you will play the game of finance with counters instead of coin you will be liable to this danger. When you make the value of the metal equal to the face value of the coin you will spoil the clever coiner's little game. You don't find any private coiner operating in gold, for example."

"The remedy would be worse than the disease," retorted Sir Robert, a little pettishly. "You cannot fix a state price for silver any more than you can fix a state price for bread. I always wondered how a shrewd chap like you, Mirabel, took up this fad of the bimetallists. Your theory, it seems to me, reduces itself into an absurdity. 'Let's call half-a-crown's worth of silver three-and-six, and things will be all right.' No, my friend, silver must take its chance with other commodities in the open market. I find it sometimes hard to believe you are serious in this craze."

"Serious! My dear Sir Robert, I am backing my opinion for all I'm worth in the world, and that's a tolerably big stake. I'm engaged in what I suppose you would call 'making a corner in silver.' I believe in the future of the white metal, and I'm buying for a rise. The price is beginning to go up pretty quick, as you are aware—"

"Then this private coining hasn't hurt you?"

"In one sense, no. It is undoubtedly driving up the value of silver. Now, I bought most of my stock when it was at bottom prices—a mere drug in the market—and I could clear out, if I wanted to, at a big profit. But I don't want to. I'm still buying, and the rise in price doesn't suit me. I am not only on the deal here at home, but I have given my orders to my branch establishments in France, Germany, and America: 'Buy what silver you can at market prices.' I fancy I am the biggest owner of silver in the world at the present moment."

"But you are driving up the price on yourself by this wholesale purchase."

"That's so, but it cannot be helped. I mean to sell out at a big profit when bimetallism arrives."

"It will never arrive."

"I'll risk that. Meanwhile the price is growing, and I got the first five millions' worth so cheap I can afford to pay a little extra for further supplies."

"Five millions! Surely you haven't got five millions' worth of silver, Mirabel?"

"Nearer to seven millions, Sir Robert, by this time," Mr. Mirabel replied coolly.

"Door! Door!" shouted the impatient tellers at this moment. Mr. Mirabel and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to run for it, and they passed out amongst the last stragglers of the division into the passage at the back of the Speaker's chair.


Mr. Mirabel and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to run for it.

"It's incredible," resumed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a little out of breath, partly from the run, partly from amazement.

"Come and see for yourself. The bank is worth seeing for its own sake. It was a big private house, you know, with the finest cellars in London. I board all my clerks there, and try and make them comfortable, and stay there myself as often as not. A bachelor, you see, can choose his own home. It's a bit off the track, of course. I don't care to pay a guinea a foot ground rent. But my customers don't complain; men don't mind trouble when they want money. Come over and lunch with me some day—any day that suits you—and I'll show you over the big silver shop."

"Well, we'll see about it."

"Say 'yes' and I think I can give you a helping hand with this coinage business."

"That's a tempting bribe. Wait one moment." Sir Robert stepped into the House through the entrance behind the Speaker's chair, lurking in the shadow. "There's nothing doing here," he said when he came out the next moment. "Come to my room, Mirabel, and we'll talk this over. You have no notion how important it is to us."

"Perhaps not," Mr. Mirabel answered, as they walked down the long passage together; "but I know it is very important to me."

"NOW tell me frankly," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when they were alone in the room together with closed doors, "were you serious when you said you could help me to catch my coiner?"

"I cannot myself, of course, but I think I might recommend you the man who can—a detective named Beck. The Scotland Yard chaps are babies to him, by all accounts."

"Beck! Beck! I think I've heard the name before. Why, that is the man the Duke of Southern talks so highly of!"

"And the Duchess raves about; precisely."

"I've a good mind to try him. Do you know where he is to be had?"

"He's in the House at present, if he hasn't left since the division. That's what put his name into my head. I saw the placid face in the Strangers' Gallery, when I got up to ask my question. Shall I send him to you?"

"I will take it as a very great favour."

"All right. Mind that visit is booked," and Mr. Mirabel started off in pursuit of Mr. Beck.

FIVE minutes later Mr. Beck was closeted with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who rapidly explained what he wanted. "I don't conceal from myself or you, Mr. Beck that it is a most difficult task. Scotland Yard has failed to find the slightest clue, though, of course, we have to put the best face on things for the public. The matter is of urgent Imperial importance, and expense is literally of no account whatever in comparison with success."


Five minutes later Mr. Beck was closeted
with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"I never bargain," said Mr. Beck, "and I have never had any reason to complain. I'll do my best for the work's sake, and take my chance. This present case seems to me to resolve itself into two distinct parts. First: stop the coining. Second: catch the coiner. The first half appears simple enough if the people at the Mint will lend a hand."

"I will give you a letter to Mr. Moulton to assist you in every way. You'll let me know from day to day how you get on. You might also communicate with Mr. Cecil Mirabel, M.P. He's deeply interested in this matter and may be able to help you. You know Mr. Mirabel, of course?"

"The Silver King! The biggest private banker in England! The man that is making the Rothschilds take a back seat. Yes, I know Mr. Mirabel."

Mr. Moulton received Mr. Beck the next day at the Mint somewhat superciliously, but he thawed when he read the warm recommendation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"Certainly, certainly, Mr. Beck," he said, with as much cordiality as he could assume, but the long, thin hand he offered was limp, and the keen, cold eyes refused to have any part in his ungracious smile. "Certainly we will assist you in every way in our power."

He would have questioned Mr. Beck, but the other, in a quiet, masterful way he could assume when the occasion required took the cross-examination into his own hands.

"This rival manufacture has hurt your business?" he asked.

"Somewhat—not as much as is thought, I should say. It has delayed the issue of silver coinage—that's all."

"Are you going to have a new issue soon?"

"Almost at once; dated the present year of course. It would create suspicion—perhaps panic—to delay it much longer."

"Can I see the 'press room'?" asked Mr. Beck, a little abruptly.

"Certainly; this way!"

Mr. Beck examined the row of huge coining presses with great care. The vast power of each of those big engines he saw was concentrated on the narrow point where the die touches the metal and gives it a new character to wear through the centuries.

Then Mr. Moulton took one of the dies—a half-crown as it proved—from the steel girdle and handed it to Mr. Beck. "The coiner has the facsimile of this," he said. "We cannot tell our own work from his."

"I think I have a plan," said Mr. Beck musingly, "to help you in the future. It's such a silly, simple plan, I'm half ashamed to mention it. But it ought to stop the coining, and perhaps catch the coiner. Couldn't we have a little microscopic private mark on the die, say 'M' for Mint, there on the smooth part of the Queen's neck. It should only be visible, of course, with a strong magnifying glass. The coiner could never suspect: new counterfeit coin could thus be detected at once. When the old coins are gradually called in 'Othello's occupation's gone.'"

Mr. Moulton professed himself delighted at the suggestion. "I'll see about it at once," he said.

"Do nothing hastily," cautioned Mr. Beck; "above all, keep the secret tight. If you could have one half-crown—only one, mind—made for me with the new mark, as a specimen, by to-morrow, I would call in a few days with further instructions."

NEXT day Mr. Beck got his specimen and professed himself delighted with the masterly way his notion had been carried out. The little 'M' was quite invisible to the naked eye, and perfectly distinct under a strong glass.


Next day Mr. Beck got his specimen.

He called straight-away to show it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but Sir Robert was not to be seen.

By sheer good luck, however, Mr. Beck caught Mr. Mirabel at the Reform Club. He took the "Silver King" aside, explained his plan to him, and showed him the specimen coin.

Mr. Mirabel was unaffectedly delighted. He chuckled over the ingenuity of the plan and congratulated Mr. Beck. "So this is the first coin of the new issue," he said, as he examined it carefully through the strong glass Mr. Beck lent him. "It's quite a curiosity in itself; I declare it will have a historic interest when the great conspiracy is exposed."

"You can keep it if you want to," said Mr. Beck good-naturedly; "it is of no further use to me."

"Thanks," said Mr. Mirabel, as he pocketed the half-crown.

A FEW days later came the new issue of silver coinage from the Mint. There was a very limited application for supplies to the banks, so great was the glut of coined silver everywhere. Even Mr. Mirabel's bank—the "Silver House," as it was called—took only a very small consignment.

The same morning Mr. Beck walked briskly into the Bank and inquired for Mr. Mirabel. Mr. Mirabel was expected in about half an hour. While he waited Mr. Beck went to one of the compartments at the great circular counter of carved mahogany, and changed a five-pound Bank of England note.


Mr. Beck changed a five-pound Bank of England note.

"Four sovereigns in gold, the rest in silver," he said; "half-crowns if you have them."

Then he got away to a quiet corner and examined his eight half-crowns carefully through the strong magnifying glass.

Yes! there was the miniature "M" in its appointed place, clear and distinct under the glass. Mr. Beck gave a quiet little self-satisfied chuckle when he saw it.

Mr. Mirabel came up behind quietly and caught him at work. "Hulloa!" he cried, clapping him on the shoulder. Then more softly: "You are seeing that your trap is properly set, I suppose? Any more news of our money-making mystery?"

"Well, yes," said Mr. Beck slowly, "I think I'm on the right scent at last."

"Bravo!" cried Mr. Mirabel, with genuine pleasure in his voice. "The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be delighted. Have you told him yet?"

"Not yet. I've called twice, but he was out. It was too ticklish a thing to write about. I want him to have the first news, of course."

"Then you are in luck. He is coming here at half-past two to lunch and look round. Can you stay to lunch? We could talk the thing over afterwards."

"You are very kind," said Mr. Beck.

Punctually at half-past two o'clock the Chancellor of the Exchequer arrived, and was warmly welcomed by Mr. Mirabel at the door.

"I've a surprise for you, Sir Robert," cried the banker. "Our prize detective is here. He swears he is on the track of the enterprising coiner." Mr. Mirabel laughed good-humouredly as he spoke.

"You don't seem to believe him," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, laughing in turn.

"Oh! you see those detectives always have clues. I'll wait until he comes out at the other end before I make quite sure."

"He didn't give you any particulars, then?"

"No; he is waiting to open his budget to you. I have asked him to lunch with us; I hope you don't mind."

"On the contrary I'm very glad of it. I'm deeply interested in this coining mystery, of course. But apart from that, this Mr. Beck must be a most interesting man from all I have heard of him."

THE lunch was perfection, and Mr. Mirabel the most gracious of hosts. Mr. Beck was not one bit bashful at sitting down to lunch with a Cabinet Minister and a multi-millionaire. He entirely justified his reputation as an interesting man. He kept both Mr. Mirabel and Sir Robert entranced with his stories of "dangers, stratagems, and spoils," modestly told as if he were half apologising for his own part in them.

"Have you had no failures, Mr. Beck?" Mr. Mirabel asked.

"I never speak about my failures," said Mr. Beck naively.

"Well, you seem to have been lucky as well as skilful in your cases."

"Much luck and little skill," replied Mr. Beck, with emphasis. "I have always maintained it's a bad thing for a detective to be too clever, particularly when he comes to deal with clever criminals. I remember a story I read when I was a boy, how by the sheer dint of ignorance a man who couldn't fence at all, beat a famous fencer. That's just the way with me. It's always some simple little trick, I find, that throws the very clever man off his guard."

But regarding the case in hand, Mr. Beck could not be induced to utter a word.

"One good thing at a time, Mr. Mirabel," he protested, "and this lunch is a very good thing, if I may say so. The case will come in due course."

At last the lunch drew to an end.

"One more glass of Madeira," said Mr. Mirabel. "There are not fifty bottles of that wine, or its equal, in the world." He poured the precious liquor into three large goblets of Waterford cut glass, whose facets sparkled like topaz as the yellow glow touched them.

"Here's success, Mr. Beck," he said, raising his glass.

"A very generous toast," said Mr. Beck, nodding approvingly, while he sipped the priceless Madeira.

THEN the two friends, with Mr. Beck following at a little distance, passed through an opening in the mahogany counter, to the back of the great hall, and down a staircase of wrought iron to the vast vaults of which Mr. Mirabel was so proud. The way lay at first through a series of small chambers where the books of the bank were kept in safes, ranged round the fireproof walls. They came next on larger safes in which were stored valuables of great price; for Mr. Mirabel did a good wholesale pawnbroking business amongst the nobility of England.


The two friends, with Mr. Beck following, went
down a staircase of wrought iron to the vast vaults.

"There are a great many family skeletons in that cupboard," he said, tapping the door of a huge safe with his walking-stick. "I should not like to let you interview them, Mr. Beck. They could tell many strange secrets of people in high places to those who understand their language. I always attend to that portion of the business myself; it's exciting. But here we come now to what I really wanted to show you, Sir Robert. The rest of the show is more or less commonplace, but this is a sight which I flatter myself can be seen nowhere else in the world."

They were standing in front of a huge iron gate with bars as thick as a man's arm, set in a deep archway of solid masonry. Black darkness was between the thick bars.

Mr. Mirabel fitted to the lock a little key that hung on his watch-chain, and the huge gateway—weighing many tons of solid metal—turned smoothly on its hinges and let them pass.

As they stood at the entrance of this dark cavern they heard the tremulous pulsation of machinery in the distance.

"What sound is that?" Sir Robert asked.

"It is the petroleum engine," said Mr. Mirabel, "that drives the dynamos and lights the lamps, and works the trollies and the lifts, and makes itself generally useful; my slave of all work. I'll show it to you presently; this is part of its work."

He turned an ivory knob and a hundred incandescent lamps flashed out from wall and roof, filling the great vault with blinding white light.

The whole place was crammed with silver! There were blocks of pure metal in big piles, and plump bags, some of them carelessly tied, with the white coins gushing from their open mouths.

Many of those blocks and bags were loaded on trucks that ran on miniature rails down the centre of the vaults, ready to convey them to the upper world:

"The pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man."

ALONG great spaces of the wall were ranged larger oblong blocks of black metal, like peat-ricks in an Irish bug.

"What are these?" asked Sir Robert.

"Silver too," Mr. Mirabel answered, "pure silver straight from the mines."

He struck one of the black blocks with the ferrule of his walking-cane, and there rang out that clear note that is called "silvery" the purest and sweetest of all sounds.

"Truly you deserve your name of 'Silver King,'" said the Chancellor of the Exchequer admiringly.

Fifty feet farther, picking their steps all the way through silver, they came, right at the end wall, on the great petroleum engine, with whose motion the air throbbed as its piston-rods slid smoothly through the cylinders, and the huge fly-wheel whirred.

Mr. Mirabel was plainly proud of his big engine.

"It's the strongest made," he said, "ingenious, but simple in principle as a wheelbarrow. Hitch this engine on to an oil well, and it will go while there is a drop left in the well. This one here has gone for a couple of mouths at a stretch."

Mr. Beck was so much interested and examined the engine so closely that Mirabel called out in alarm.

"Stand back, my friend, and keep clear, or you will come to grief. There was a man had his arm mangled by that wheel the other day as limp as a rope; there was not an inch of solid bone left in it."

Mr. Beck at once stepped back. "Thanks for the caution," he said. "I know all I want to know about it."

"I wish you would let us know all we want to know about that other business, Mr. Beck," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"With all the pleasure in life, Sir Robert, and if you and Mr. Mirabel can spare me your attention for a moment."

He took from his pocket a couple of the half-crowns he had just got at the bank, and handed them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a strong magnifying glass. "Will you kindly examine the neck of Her Most Gracious Majesty," he said.

"There is no deception," laughed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "there's the tiny 'M' you told me about. These coins, I take it, are some of the latest issue from the Mint?"

"These coins," remarked Mr. Beck quietly, "never saw the Mint, Sir Robert, they are home manufacture; they are the work of the once mysterious money-maker."

"Perhaps you can tell us his name," said Mr. Mirabel, smiling.

"Cecil Mirabel is his name," retorted Mr. Beck, and he laid a heavy hand on Mr. Mirabel's shoulder.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer was too startled to speak.

"Don't be an ass, man," said Mr. Mirabel, and there was more surprise rather than anger in his voice.

"The ass has trapped the fox this time, Mr. Mirabel." Mr. Beck answered, placid as ever. "Such a simple trap too. The 'M' on these coins stands for Mirabel, not Mint. There was only one specimen made there!—the half-crown I gave you, because I guessed you wanted it for a model. These were made on the premises."

Mr. Mirabel stood silent for one moment in a brown study, like a chess-player when "mate" is called, trying vainly to find a way out of it.

"Trick and game for you, Mr. Beck," he said quietly, without an atom of malice in his voice, "and very neatly taken I must confess, though of course I gave myself away like a fool."

Then at last the Chancellor of the Exchequer found his voice. "Heavens! Mirabel," he cried, "you don't mean to say you are the coiner?"

"Well, you see there is no use denying it now, Sir Robert."

"But how and where, in Heaven's name, did you work this wholesale coining?"

"Ask Mr. Beck."

"Best show him yourself, Mr. Mirabel," said Mr. Beck civilly. "It will save time and trouble and—row."

"You know, of course?"

"Of course. I have seen that part of the belting of the machinery runs through the wall at the back; there's another vault inside this for private business. As it would take some time and trouble to break through the wall or find the private door, you may just as well show it to us yourself."

"You are quite right, Mr. Beck—you are always right, I believe."

Mr. Mirabel stuck the same little key he had used before into what looked like a chink in the wall, and opened a cleverly constructed iron door, inlaid—so to speak—with stone and mortar. He stepped through in front of them, and for a moment they heard the sharp click, click of a telegraph machine; the next the electric lights blazed up.

"Just a wire to warn my workmen to say the 'game is up,'" explained Mr. Mirabel, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

This second vault they now found themselves in was bigger than the first, and every appliance of the Mint was there; melters, rollers, and coining presses complete.

Mr. Mirabel quietly did the honours of the place. He was as cool as Mr. Beck at his coolest. It was impossible to conceive him a man suddenly detected in a colossal fraud, as he took a cigar-case from his pocket and offered it in succession to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to Mr. Beck.

Instinctively the Chancellor of the Exchequer selected a cigar, and lit it from the vesta Mr. Mirabel held politely to him. Sir Robert was infinitely the more perturbed of the two, finding it impossible to believe that his intimate personal friend was a colossal swindler.

"Sit down," said the proprietor of the private mint courteously, "if I'm not too curious, Sir Robert, I should be glad to know what you intend to do about this?"

"My duty," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"Of course, of course, that goes without saying; but what is your duty?"

"To hand you over forthwith to the police."

"I think not; I am almost sure not. I should get about ten years' penal servitude, I calculate. Personally I would not enjoy that of course, but I don't want to argue the matter from a personal point of view at all. What do you think would be the result of my trial? Can you face the consequence of the discovery that half the silver coinage of this realm—not to speak of other countries—is false? There would be instant panics and failures, culminating in a wholesale commercial crash in which tens of thousands would be ruined—all to give poor me ten years' penal servitude. I don't think the game is worth the candle—do you?"

The Chancellor of the Exchequer was plainly nonplussed. "'Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall,'" he said. When a man can find no argument he falls back on quotations.

"Aye, though the heavens should fall but not the Government. The theory of punishment is prevention, you know, and it's not wanted here. There is no danger of any one playing my game again, whatever you do with me. My coinage is as good as yours until it is found out. The only trouble is, there's too much of it. You must withdraw it gradually from circulation. That will cost money, of course, but I'll help you to the tune of seven figures at least. You see, ten years of my life is no value to you; but to me it is very valuable, and I'm willing to pay for it."

"It would be compounding a felony," murmured the Chancellor of the Exchequer wavering.

"Not at all. The Executive has a dispensing power. It will be the acceptance of 'conscience money'—that's all. The amount can make no difference in the principle."

"I must consult my colleagues."

"Quite right. I have profound confidence in their common sense, and regard the matter as settled. Mr. Beck's little 'M' will puzzle the coin collectors of the fortieth century."

"The counterfeit coinage must cease."

"Of course. It would be madness for me to attempt it again. But I'll give you my word, if you think that any additional security."

"I don't know why I should after all that has happened, but I do. We have been good friends, Mirabel, and I'm deeply grieved at this discovery. Above all," he went on hesitatingly, for there is nothing a man of the world dreads more than the suspicion of preaching, "I'm deeply grieved to find you callously brazening it out to the last."

"Don't talk nonsense, Sir Robert, like a good fellow," replied Mr. Mirabel airily. "I have been a practical bimetallist—that's all. I had the courage of my convictions and practised what I preached—free coinage of silver—and found it profitable, I must say, while it lasted. I've done a lot of good with my money, and mean to do more, besides having my own fun out of it. There is only one thing in the whole business I regret."

"And that is?"

"Having recommended you Mr. Beck."


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