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First published in The Royal Magazine, July 1907
in the series "The Quests of Paul Beck"

Collected in The Quests of Paul Beck,
T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1908

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2021
Version Date: 2021-11-30

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"The Quests of Paul Beck,"
with "The Murder on the Golf Links"



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.


"DON'T go in, don't! Don't! Please don't!"

The disobedient ball, regardless of her entreaties, crept slowly up the smooth green slope, paused irresolute on the ridge, and then trickled softly down into the hole; a wonderful "put."

Miss Mag Hazel knocked her ball impatiently away from the very edge. "Lost again on the last green," she cried petulantly. "You have abominable luck, Mr Beck."

Mr Beck smiled complacently. "Never denied it, Miss Hazel. Better be born lucky than clever is what I always say."

"But you are clever, too," said the girl, repentantly. "I hear everyone say how clever you are."

"That's where my luck comes in."

He slung the girl's golf bag over a broad shoulder, and caught his own up in a big hand. "Come," he said, "you will be late for dinner, and every man in the hotel will curse me as the cause."

THEY were the last on the links. The western sky was a sea of crimson and gold, in which floated a huge black cloud, shaped like a sea monster with the blazing sun in its jaws. The placid surface of the sea gave back the beauty of the sky, and in the clear, still air familiar objects took on a new beauty. Their way lay over the crisp velvet of the seaside turf, embroidered with wild flowers, to the Thornvale Hotel in the valley a mile away.

"How beautiful!" the girl whispered half to herself, and caught her breath with a queer little sigh.

Mr Beck looked down and saw that the blue eyes were very bright with tears. She met his look and smiled a wan little smile.

"Lovely scenery always makes me sad," she explained feebly. Then after a second she added impulsively: "Mr Beck, you and I are good friends, aren't we?"

"I hope so," said Mr Beck, gravely. "I can speak for myself anyway."

"Oh, I'm miserable! I must tell it to someone. I'm a miserable girl!"

"If I can help you in any way," said Mr Beck, stoutly, "you may count on me."

"I know I oughtn't to talk about such things, but I must, I cannot stop myself; then perhaps you could say a word to father; you and he are such good friends."

Mr Beck knew there was a confession coming. In some curious way Mr Beck attracted the most unlikely confidences. All sorts and conditions of people felt constrained to tell him secrets.

"It's this way," Miss Hazel went on. "Sit down there on that bank and listen. I'll be in lots of time for dinner, and anyhow I don't care. Father wants me to marry Mr Samuel Hawkins, a horrible name and a horrible man. I didn't mind much at the time he first spoke of it. I was very young, you see; I lived in a French convent school until father came back from India, and then we lived in a cottage near a golf links. Oh! such a quiet golf links, and Mr Hawkins came down to see us, and he first taught me how to play. I liked him because there was no one else. So when he asked me to marry him, and father wished it so much, I half promised—that is, I really did promise, and we were engaged, and he gave me a diamond ring, which I have here—in my purse."

Mr Beck smiled benignly. The girl was very young and pretty and innocent—little more than a child, who had been playing at a make-believe engagement.

"How long is it since you changed your mind?" he asked.

"Well, I never really made it up to marry Mr Hawkins. I only just agreed to become engaged. But about a week or ten days ago I found I could not go on with it."

"I see; that was about the time, was it not, that the young electrical engineer, Mr Ryan, arrived?"

She flushed hotly.

"Oh! it's not that at all—how hateful you are! Mr Ryan is nothing to me, nothing. Besides, he was most rude; called me a flirt, and said I led him on and never told him I was engaged. Now we don't even speak, and I'm so miserable. What shall I do?"

"Don't fret," said Mr Beck, cheerily; "it will come all right."

"Oh! but it cannot come all right. Father will be bitterly disappointed if I don't marry Mr Hawkins. He's awfully rich, carries diamonds about loose in his waistcoat pocket. He has fifty thousand pounds' worth of diamonds getting brightened up in Amsterdam; that's where they put a polish on them, you know. He showed father the receipt for them mixed up with bank-notes in his pocket-book. His friend, Mr Bolton, who is in the same business, says Mr Hawkins is a millionaire."

"And Mr Ryan has only his brains and his profession," said Mr Beck, cynically.

"Now you are just horrid. I don't care twopence about Mr Hawkins' diamonds or his millions. But I love father better than anyone else."

"Except?" suggested Mr Beck, maliciously.

"There is no exception—not one. You come second-best yourself."

"Oh, do I? Then I will see if I cannot find some diamonds and cut out Mr Hawkins. Meantime, let us get on to our dinner. You need not be in any hurry to break your heart. You are not going to marry Mr Hawkins to-morrow or the day after. Something may happen to stop the marriage altogether. Come along."

SOMETHING did happen. What that awful something was neither Miss Hazel nor Mr Beck dreamt of at the time.

It was the fussy half hour before dinner when they arrived at the veranda of the big Thornvale Hotel that had grown out of the Thornvale golf links. As Miss Mag Hazel passed through the throng every eye paid its tribute of admiration; she was by reason of her golf and good looks the acknowledged queen of the place.

A tall, handsome young fellow near the porch gave a pitiful look as she passed, the humble, appealing look in the eyes of a dog who has offended his master.

"How handsome he is; what beautiful black eyes he has!" her heart whispered, but her face was unconscious of his existence.

She evaded a small, dark man with a big hooked nose who came forward eagerly to claim her. "Don't speak to me, Mr Hawkins, don't look at me. I have not five minutes to dress for dinner."

A tall, thin man with a grey, drooping moustache stood close by her left in the central hall. To him she said: "I will be down in a minute, dad. I want you to take me in to dinner, mind. You are worth the whole lot of them put together."

Colonel Hazel's sallow cheek flushed with delight, for he loved his daughter with a love that was the best part of his life.

Big, good-humoured, smiling Tom Bolton, as the girl went in to dinner on her father's arm, whispered a word in the ear of his friend, Sam Hawkins, and the millionaire diamond merchant cast a scowling glance at handsome Ned Ryan, who gave him frown for frown with interest thereto.

AT Thornvale Hotel the company lived, moved, and had their being in golf. They played golf all day on the links, and talked golf all the evening at the hotel. All the varied forms of golf lunacy were in evidence there. There was the fat elderly lady who went round "for her figure," tapping the ball before her on the smooth ground, and throwing it or carrying it over the bunkers. There was the man who was always grumbling about his "blanked" luck, and who never played what he was pleased to think was his "true game."

There was the man who sang comic songs on the green, and the man whose nerves were strained like fiddle-strings and tingled at every stir or whisper, whom the flight of a butterfly put off his stroke. There was a veteran of eighty-five, who still played a steady game. He had once been a scratch man, and though the free, loose vigour of his "swing" was lost, his eye and arm had not forgotten the lesson of years. His favourite opponent was a boy of twelve, who swung loose and free as if he were a figure of india-rubber with no bones in his arms.

Mr Hawkins and Mr Bolton were a perfect match with a level handicap of twelve; each believed that he could just beat the other, and the excitement of their incessant contests was intense.

But Miss Mag Hazel reigned undisputed queen of the links. None of the ladies, and only one or two of the men, could even "give her a game." Lissom as an ash sapling, every muscle in her body, from her shoulder to her ankle, took part in the graceful swing which, without effort, drove the ball further than a strong man could smite it by brute force. Her wrist was like a fine steel spring, as sensitive and as true.

Heretofore only one player disputed her supremacy—Mr Beck, the famous detective, who was idling a month in the quiet hotel after an exciting and successful criminal hunt half way round the world. Mr Beck was, as he always proclaimed, a lucky player. If he never made a brilliant stroke, he never made a bad one, and kept wonderfully clear of the bunkers. The brilliant players found he had an irritating trick of plodding on steadily, and coming out a hole ahead at the end of the round.

He and Mag Hazel played constantly together until young Ned Ryan came on the scene. Ryan was a brilliant young fellow with muscles of whipcord and whalebone, whose drive was like a shot from a catapult. But he played a sporting game, and very often drove into the bunker which was meant to catch the second shot of a second-class player. Mag Hazel found it easier to hold her own against his brilliance than against the plodding pertinacity of Mr Beck.

It may be that the impressionable young Irishman could not quite play his game when she was his opponent. He found it hard to obey the golfer's first commandment: "Keep your eye on the ball." He tried to play two games at the same time, and golf will have no divided allegiance.

THE end of a happy fortnight came suddenly. It was a violent scene when, in a grassy bunker wide of the course, into which he had deliberately pulled his ball, he asked her to marry him, and learnt that she was engaged to the millionaire diamond merchant, Mr Hawkins. Poor Ned Ryan, with Irish impetuosity, raved and stormed at her cruelty in leading him to love her, swore his life was barren for evermore, and even muttered some very mysterious, meaningless threats against the more fortunate Mr Hawkins.

Tender-hearted Mag had been very meek and penitent while he raved and stormed, but he was not to be appeased by her meekness, and flung away from her in a rage.

Then it was her turn to be implacable when he became penitent. All that evening he hovered round her like a blundering moth round a lamp, but she ignored him as completely as the lamp the moth and shed the light of her smiles on Mr Beck.

So those two foolish young people played the old game in the old, foolish fashion, and tormented themselves and each other. The two men concerned in the matter, Mr Ryan and Mr Hawkins, scowled at each other on the golf links and at the bridge table, to the intense amusement of the company, who understood how little golf or cards had to do with the quarrel.

At last Ned Ryan had an open row with Mr Hawkins on the golf links, and told him, quite unnecessarily, he was no gentleman.

THEN suddenly this light comedy deepened into sombre tragedy. The late breakfasters at the hotel were still at table when the thrilling, shocking news came to them that Mr Hawkins had been found murdered on the links.

Perhaps it is more convenient to tell the dismal story in the order in which it was told in evidence at the coroner's inquest.

Mr Hawkins and Mr Bolton had arranged a round in the early morning before breakfast, when they would have the links to themselves. They had a glass of milk and a biscuit, and started off in good spirits, each boasting he was certain to win.

They started some time between half-past six and seven, and about an hour afterwards Mr Bolton returned hastily, saying that he had forgotten an important letter he had to send by that morning's post, and that he had left Mr Hawkins grumbling at having to finish his round alone. Mr Bolton then went up to his own room, and five minutes later came back with a letter, which he carefully posted with his own hand just as the box was being cleared.

At half-past seven Colonel Hazel, strolling across the links, specially noticed there were no players to be seen. Ned Ryan went out at a quarter to eight o'clock to have a round by himself, having first asked Mr Bolton to join him. He had, as he stated, almost completed his round, when in the great, sandy bunker that guarded the seventeenth green he found Mr Hawkins stone dead.


He had almost completed his round, when in the great, sandy bunker
that guarded the seventeenth green he found Mr Hawkins stone dead.

He instantly gave the alarm, and Mr Beck and Mr Bolton were among the first on the scene. The detective, placid and imperturbable as ever, poked and pried about the body and the bunker where it lay. Mr Bolton was plainly broken-hearted at the sudden death of his life-long friend.

Beyond all doubt and question the man was murdered. There was a deep dint of some heavy, blunt weapon on the back of his head, fracturing the skull. But death had not been instantaneous. The victim had turned upon his assassin, for there were two other marks on his face—one an ugly, livid bruise on his cheek, and the other a deep, horrible gash on the temple from the same blunt-edged weapon. The last wound must have been instantly fatal. The weapon slew as it struck.

It was plain that robbery was not the motive of the crime. His heavy purse with a score of sovereigns and his pocket-book full of bank-notes were in his pockets, his fine diamond pin in his scarf, and his handsome watch in his fob.

The watch had been struck and smashed, and, as so often happens in such cases, it timed the murder to a moment. It had stopped at half-past eight. It was five minutes after nine when Mr Ryan had given the alarm.

While all the others looked on in open-eyed horror, incapable of thought or action, Mr Beck's quick eyes found a corner of the bunker where the sand had been disturbed recently. Rooting with his hands as a dog digs at a rabbit burrow with his paws, he dug out a heavy niblick. The handle was snapped in two, and the sand that clung damply round the iron face left a dark crimson stain on the fingers that touched it.

No one then could doubt that the murderous weapon had been found.

Mr Beck examined it a moment, and a frown gathered on his placid face. "This is Mr Ryan's niblick," he said slowly.

The words sent a quiver of excitement through the crowd. All eyes turned instinctively to the face of the young Irishman, who flushed in sudden anger.

"It's a lie," he shouted, "my niblick is here." He turned to his bag which lay on the sward beside him. "My God! it's gone. I never noticed it until this moment."

"Yes, that is mine," he added, as Mr Beck held out the blood-stained iron for inspection. "But I swear I never missed it till this moment."

Not a word more was said.

The crowd broke up into groups, each man whispering suspicions under his breath. The whisperers recalled the recent quarrel between the men, and in every trifling circumstance clear proof of guilt was found. Only Mr Bolton stood out staunchly for the young Irishman, and professed his faith in his innocence.

Like a man in a dream Ned Ryan returned alone to the hotel, where an hour later he was arrested. On being searched after arrest a five-pound note with Hawkins' name on the back of it was found in his pocket, and his explanation that he had won it at golf provoked incredulous smiles and shrugs amongst the gossipers. Two days later a coroner's jury found a verdict of wilful murder against the young engineer.

THERE was a second sensation, in its way almost as exciting as the first, when it was found that the murdered man had willed the whole of his huge fortune unconditionally to Miss Margaret Hazel.

But the girl declared vehemently she would never touch a penny of it, never, until the real murderer was discovered. She had a stormy interview with Mr Beck, whom she passionately charged with attempts to fix the guilt on an innocent man. She made no secret now of her love for the young Irishman, to the horror of the respectable and proper people at the hotel, who looked forward with cheerful assurance to her lover's execution.

But the distracted girl cared for none of those things. She poured the vials of her wrath on Mr Beck.

"You pretended to be my friend," she said, "and then you did all in your power to hang the innocent man I love."

Mr Beck was soothing and imperturbable. "Nothing of the kind, my dear young lady. It is always my pleasant duty to save the innocent and hang the guilty."

"Then why did you find out that niblick?"

"The more things that are found," said Mr Beck, "the better for the innocent and the worse for the guilty."

"Oh! I'm not talking about that," she cried, with a bewildering change of front. "But here you are pottering about doing nothing instead of trying to save him. I will give you every penny poor Mr Hawkins left me if you save him."

Mr Beck smiled benignly at this magnificent offer. "Won't you two want something to live on," he asked, "when I have saved him, and before he makes his fortune?"

She let the question go by. "Then you will, you promise me you will!" she cried eagerly.

"I will try to assist the course of justice," he said, with formal gravity, but his eyes twinkled, and she took comfort therefrom.

"That's not what I want at all."

"You believe Mr Ryan is innocent?" asked Mr Beck.

"Of course I do. What a question!"

"If he is innocent I will try to save him—if not——"

"There is no 'if not.' Oh! I'm quite satisfied, and I thank you with all my heart."

She caught up the big, strong hand and kissed it, and then collapsed on the sofa for a good cry, while Mr Beck stole discreetly from the room and set out for a solitary stroll on the golf links, every yard of which he questioned with shrewd eyes.

HE made one small discovery on the corner of the second green. He found a ball which had belonged to the murdered man. There was no doubt about the ownership. Mr Hawkins had a small gold seal with his initial cut in it. This he used to heat with a match to brand his ball. The tiny black letters, "S.H.," were burnt through the white skin of the new "Professional" ball, which Mr Beck found on the corner of the second green. He put the ball in his pocket and said nothing about his find.

But about another curious discovery of his he was quite voluble that evening at dinner. He found, he said, a peculiar-looking waistcoat button in the bunker that guarded the second green. It seemed to him to have been torn violently from the garment, for a shred of the cloth still clung to it.

"If I had found it in the bunker where the murder was committed," said Mr Beck, "I would have regarded it as a very important piece of evidence. Anyhow it may help. I will examine young Ryan's waistcoats to see if it fits any of them."

THEN for a few days nothing happened, and excitement smouldered. People had no heart to play golf over the scene of the murder. The parties gradually dispersed and scattered homewards. Colonel Hazel, who had been completely broken up by the tragedy, was amongst the first to go.

Mag gave her address to Mr Beck, with strict injunctions to wire the moment he had good news.

"Remember, I trust you," were the last words she said as they parted at the hotel door.

Mr Bolton and Mr Beck were almost the two last to leave. The diamond merchant was disconsolate over the death of his old friend and comrade, and the detective did all in his power to comfort him.

One morning Mr Bolton had a telegram which, as he explained to Mr Beck, called him away on urgent business. He left that afternoon, and Mr Beck went with him as far as Liverpool, when they parted, each on his respective business.

THE next scene in the tragedy was staged in Holland. Two men sat alone together in a first-class railway carriage that slid smoothly through a level landscape intersected with canals. They had put aside their papers, and talked and smoked. One of the men was plainly a German by his dress and manner—the other a Frenchman.

The Frenchman had tried vainly to stagger through a conversation in German and the German in French until they had found a common ground in English which both spoke well though with a strong foreign accent.

There had been an account of a big diamond robbery in the papers, and their talk drifted on to crimes and criminals of all countries—a topic with which the Frenchman seemed strangely familiar. He did most of the talking. The German sat back in his corner and grunted out a word or two of assent, to all appearance deeply interested in the talk. Now and again a silver flask passed between the two men, who grew momentarily more intimate.

"Herr Raphael," said the Frenchman, "I am glad to have met you. You have made the journey very pleasant for me. You are a man I feel I can trust. I am not, as I told you, Victor Grandeau, a French journalist. I am plain Mr Paul Beck, an English detective, at your service."

With a single motion the shiny, sleek, black wig and the black moustache disappeared into a small handbag at his side. The whole character, and even the features of the face, seemed to change as suddenly, and the broad, bland, smiling face of our old friend Mr Beck presented itself to the eyes of the astonished German, who shrank back in his corner of the seat in astonishment at the sudden revelation. But Mr Beck quietly ignored his astonishment.

"As you seem interested in this kind of thing," he said, "I will tell you the story of one of the most curious cases I have ever had to deal with. You are the very first to hear the story. Indeed, it is so new that it hasn't yet got the right ending to it. Perhaps you have heard of the Thornvale murder in England? No! Then I'll begin at the beginning."

He began at the beginning and told the story clearly and vividly as it was told at the inquest.

The German listened with most flattering interest and surprise.

"When I found that golf ball," Mr Beck went on, "it gave me an idea. Do you know anything of golf?"

"I play a little," the other confessed.

"Then you will understand that from the place where I found his ball I knew that the murdered man—I told you his name was Hawkins—Samuel Hawkins—never got as far as the second green. If he had, his ball would not have been lying where I found it. He would have holed it out and gone on.

"It was plain, therefore, he must have been murdered just after he played that shot—murdered somewhere between the tee and the green of the second hole. I went back to the deep bunker I told you of that guarded the second green, and I found there traces of a struggle.

"They had been cunningly obliterated, but to a detective's eye they were plain enough. The sand was smoothed over the footprints, but here and there the long grass and wild flowers had been torn away by a desperate grasp. I even found a faint bloodstain on one of the stones. Then, of course, I guessed what had happened. The man had been murdered in the bunker of the second green and carried under cover of the ridge to the bunker of the seventeenth. That, you see, disposed of the alibi of Mr Bolton, who had left him early in the game."

"Oh, no!" interrupted the German, with eager interest in the story, "you told me that Mr Bolton was at the hotel from half-past seven, and the watch of the murdered man showed the murder had been committed at half-past eight."

Mr Beck looked at the German with manifest admiration. "Forgive me for mentioning it. You would have made a first-class detective if you hadn't gone into another line of business. I should have told you that the evidence of the watch had been faked."

"Faked!" queried the other, with a blank look on his face.

"Oh! I see. Being a German, of course you don't understand our slang phrases. I examined the watch, and I found that though the glass had been violently broken, the dial was not even scratched. The spring had been snapped, not by the blow but by overwinding. It was pretty plain to me the murderer had done the trick. He first put the hands on to half-past eight and then broke the spring, and so made his alibi. He got the watch to perjure itself. Neat, wasn't it?"

The German merely grunted. He was plainly impressed by the devilish ingenuity of the murderer.

"Besides," Mr Beck went on placidly, "to make quite sure, I laid a trap for Mr Bolton which worked like a charm. The night of the murder I went into his room and tore one of the buttons out of his waistcoat. The next day I mentioned at dinner that I had found a button in the second bunker where, if I guessed rightly, he and only he knew the murder was really committed. It was a lie, of course. But it caught the truth. That same evening Mr Bolton burnt the waistcoat. It was a light cotton affair that burnt like paper. The glass buttons he cut off with a knife and buried. That looked bad, didn't it?"

"Very bad," the German agreed. He was more deeply interested than ever. "Did you arrest the man, then?"

"Not then."

"But why?"

"I wanted to make quite sure of my proofs. I wanted to lay my hands on the receipts for the diamonds which I believed he had stolen. I told you of those, didn't I?"

"Oh, yes, you told me of those. Did you search for them?"

"Yes, but I couldn't find them. I searched Mr Bolton's room, and searched his clothes carefully but I couldn't find a trace of the papers."

Again the German grunted. He seemed somehow pleased at the failure. Possibly the quiet confidence of this cock-sure detective annoyed him.

"But," Mr Beck went on, placid as ever, "I tried a guess. You may remember, Herr Raphael, that when Mr Bolton came back from the golf links he posted a letter immediately. I had a notion that he had stuck the receipts in the envelope and posted it addressed to himself at some post-office to be left till called for. Wasn't a bad guess, was it?"

"A very good guess."

"Then I did a little bit of forgery."

"You what?"

"Did a little bit of forgery. I forged the name of Mr Bolton's partner to a telegram to say that five thousand pounds were urgently needed. That, I knew, was likely to make Mr Bolton gather up the receipts and start for Amsterdam. We went to Liverpool together and I changed to an elderly lady. I saw him as an able-bodied seaman pick up his own letter at the Liverpool Post-Office. I came over with him in the boat to Rotterdam. As a French journalist I saw him as a stout German get into this very carriage and—here I am!"

IT was a very lame ending to an exciting story. The stout German plainly thought so. He had listened with flattering eagerness almost to the end; now he leant back in the corner of his seat suppressing a yawn.

"It is a very amusing story," he said slowly. "But, my friend, you must be thirsty with much talking. I in my bag have a flask of excellent schnapps, you shall of it taste."

A small black bag rested on the seat beside him. He laid his hand on the fastening.

"It is no use," Mr Beck interrupted, "no use, Mr Bolton. I have taken the revolver out of the bag and have it with my own in my pocket. The game is up, I think. I have put my cards on the table. What do you say?"

Suddenly Mr Bolton broke into a loud, harsh laugh that ended in a sob. "You are a fiend, Beck," he shouted, "a fiend incarnate. What do you mean to do?"

"To take you back with me to London. I have a man in the next carriage to look after you. No use worrying about extradition. You have a return ticket, I suppose; so have I. There will be a train leaving as we arrive. Meanwhile, if you don't mind——" He took a neat pair of handcuffs from his pocket and held them out with an ingratiating smile.


He took a neat pair of handcuffs from his pocket
and held them out with an ingratiating smile.

Mr Bolton drew back a little. For a moment it seemed as if he would spring at the detective's throat. But the steady, fearless eyes held him. He put his hands out submissively and the steel bracelets clicked on his wrists.

They had only to cross the platform to reach the return train that was just starting. But Mr Beck found time to plunge into the telegraph office and scribble three words to Mag Hazel's address:



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