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First published in The Royal Magazine, August 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 Rape of the Ruby"



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.


"I WANT a room, not a rat-hole," said the Hon. Staunton Toleron angrily to the manager of the Hotel Cyril.

He had been offered a small room on the fifth floor with one window looking out on nowhere.

The manager, a short, stout, dark man with close-clipped whiskers and beady eyes, was all politeness. Plainly he did not want to offend an "Honourable," though a more dishonourable "Honourable" than Staunton Toleron could not be found in broad England. A handsome young fellow enough of the "dude" type, nose long, mouth weak, eyes light blue, chin and forehead slightly receding, hair parted smoothly in the centre, he looked the pigeon rather than the hawk.

His face was his fortune at the racecourse and the card-table, but of late his fortune had been somewhat out of joint. There were ugly rumours afloat, and men had become shy of playing or betting with the Hon. Staunton.

"I'm so sorry," said the manager, "but it's the best we can do for you; the place is crowded from the floor to the roof."

"Couldn't you put me somewhere that looks out on to the river? I want a breath of air; I don't want to be roasted before my time."

"Yesterday we could have," said the manager; "to-day we cannot. Our last suite of rooms—about the best we have—were taken for Miss Betty Barry."

"But she's in Paris; she doesn't open at the Lyceum until Monday, and this is only Friday."

"She has taken the rooms in advance. She had them last time she was here, and she likes them, and she is a lady who doesn't let anything interfere with her liking. She will be here on Monday afternoon."

"Put me in till she comes, there's a good fellow. I know Betty; she is a pal of mine and a right good sort. I'm sure she wouldn't object. I hope to clear out before Sunday; but if I have to stay on I'll take the rat-hole when she comes. You can dock the cost of the rooms for three days from Miss Betty's bill."

The Hon. Staunton got his way, and also the handsomest suite in the hotel—bedroom, sitting-room and bathroom fronting the river.

The rooms were luxurious, and he was luxurious, so they suited each other. The big sitting-room was specially delightful. Every article in it, from the rich Turkey carpet that covered the centre of the room, to the spindle-shanked Sheraton chairs and tables that stood or slipped on the polished marqueterie round its edges, had a history—and a price.

FOR three days the Hon. Staunton made himself perfectly comfortable till the famous Betty Barry arrived to evict him. Naturally her coming made a stir at the hotel. A lovely girl with the blue eyes, and black hair, and narrow, arched eyebrows of the true-born Celt, she had the two great qualities of the actress—genius and beauty. Together they are irresistible. The critics praised her, and the public worshipped her. The theatres she played in were always thronged out to the doors and up to the ceiling, and she held the audience in thrall to laugh or weep as she chose.

But it was neither her beauty nor her genius that made such a stir at the Hotel Cyril, but her jewels. They were a miraculous collection, and she wore them freely on all occasions, for Betty was not one of those fine ladies who send their jewels to their banker or pawnbroker and wear paste. Everything she wore was real. Assured of that beforehand, the ladies could admire without reserve.

Above all and beyond all there was the wonderful ruby never before seen in England.

THIS famous jewel had a history—a true, romantic and sensational history; a history that only just escaped being scandalous. A certain Crown Prince had fallen in love madly with the beautiful Betty when she played Juliet in his father's capital. There is no use raking up old scandals by repeating the names. His mad passion burst all bounds of discretion and decorum. He made no secret of his infatuation. He followed her everywhere; he offered her marriage, not even the morganatic imitation, but the genuine article.

The Royal father and mother, who had promised him to a discreet, steady and stolid young German princess, were distracted. But Betty Barry behaved admirably. She told her Royal lover gently but firmly that she didn't love him and wouldn't have him. What's more, she made him see that she meant it. Then she good-humouredly coaxed him out of his folly; they parted the best of friends, and he went back obediently to his German princess.

"It is hard luck," he complained to his Royal mother. "If I were not a fool of a Crown Prince I might have a chance. But she won't have me, that's flat, and she is too good a sort to worry. I might as well cry for the moon. She is just as bright and as cold and as much above me, though I am a Crown Prince."

He did not say this in English, because he didn't know any English, but in the foreign equivalent that was spoken in his capital.

So the storm passed and the scandal was averted, and the beautiful actress was made much of at Court, and became the pet of an Empress who was amiable and kind-hearted, if a little eccentric.

"Good-bye, my dear," she said at a private audience, "I am half sorry my boy couldn't marry you. He'll have a dull time with his princess. I'd have had a dull time myself if it wasn't for foxhunting. But I suppose it is all for the best. Anyway, you behaved just splendidly, and this will help you to remember an Empress who is very grateful."

It was then that she gave her the ruby—the matchless, priceless ruby, that half the female Royalties of Europe had envied. Of course there was an outcry. The Imperial ruby to a mere actress! It was a scandal—almost a sacrilege! But the Empress was a woman used to her own way. The old Emperor, who was half in love with the beautiful Betty himself, let her have it; and so the actress carried the famous ruby back to London. No wonder the ladies of London were agog for a sight of it.

THEY had their wish. The very first night of her arrival at the Hotel Cyril, Betty Barry dined at the table-d'hôte instead of, as was expected, in her own private room. She was in full evening dress—a rich brocaded poplin, brilliant with many jewels. A hundred sparks of coloured lights flashed on her dress and in her coal-black hair, and the ruby burned with a rosy, nickering fire on her bosom, outblazing them all. It was cut to the shape of a heart—the deep, rich red of pigeon's blood, warmed by an imprisoned fire.

It so happened that the Hon. Staunton, who had retired to the "rat-hole," sat beside her at dinner. He had known her before she was famous, and she never forgot old friends. She was delighted by his frank admiration of the heart-shaped ruby.

"Isn't it glorious!" she said, with the naive delight of a child. "I have never seen a jewel so beautiful."

"It is peerless," said Staunton, "and I dare say priceless. Aren't you afraid of losing it or having it stolen?"

"Not in the very least," she cried gaily. "It is precautions that provoke thieves. I have never lost so much as a seed pearl. My maid I could trust with my life, not to speak of my jewels. Indeed, I'm to be pitied," she said with mock pathos. "A good jewel robbery is, as you know, the best advertisement for an actress, and I cannot get anybody to steal mine."

"Don't quarrel with your good luck, Betty," cautioned the Hon. Staunton, with the gravity of the true gambler, "or it is bound to change."

IT proved a prophecy. Next day her jewels were stolen—the famous, priceless ruby amongst them, and the Hon. Staunton Toleron was unpleasantly mixed up in the business.

It was Barbara Mullen, Betty's Irish maid, that gave the first alarm. She was wild with excitement, and her words tripped each other up as she poured out her story to the hotel manager.

The actress was accustomed, when possible, to dress for her part at the hotel, and drive in her brougham to the theatre ready to step on to the stage. While Barbara was engaged in laying out her dress the telephone bell rang, and her mistress' voice called her to the hall. She went down in the lift, locking the door after her. Her mistress was not in the hall. She went straight back to the room. A gentleman was just leaving the room as she got to the landing, and crossed her on his way to the lift. She found the door of her mistress' sitting-room was shut, but not locked.

The door and window of the bedroom were open, and the jewels, including the great ruby, were gone.

"What was the gentleman you met at the door like?" queried the hotel manager.

"Tall, fair, with a long, blonde moustache, and very handsome."

"The Hon. Staunton Toleron!" gasped the manager. "Come, girl, we must find him at once." They found him at once, and without much difficulty. He was seated at a small table in the hall, reading a sporting paper and smoking a cigarette.

"Stand here and watch that he does not move," whispered the manager, "while I will go for Mr Nichols."

Mr Nichols, the private detective employed at the hotel, came back a moment later with the fussy little manager, to whom he made as sharp a contrast as a greyhound to a poodle. A typical detective was Mr Nichols—tall, gaunt, with a long face, clean-cut features and a pair of piercing eyes.

Together they came up quietly to Barbara, who was quivering with excitement. "He has not made a move," she said, "except to light another cigarette and turn over the paper."

Mr Nichols made a note in a little notebook shaped exactly like a matchbox. "In the working of a scientific problem, Mr Moulang," he said to the manager, "there is nothing small enough to be neglected."

"Will you arrest him?" whispered Mr Moulang.

"Not at first; I want to question him. Questions are not allowed after arrest. We can go to your private office, I suppose?"

Mr Moulang nodded.

"I shall want you and the girl later; wait here for a moment."

Mr Nichols crossed the hall carelessly and seated himself at the little table opposite the Hon. Staunton Toleron.

"Can you oblige me with a match?" he asked very politely.

As the Hon. Staunton leant across the table with a light, Mr Nichols looked him in the eyes and said softly: "I am a detective. I wish to have a private interview with you. Resistance is useless; I am armed." He touched his hip pocket dramatically.


"I am a detective. I wish to have a private interview with you."

The Hon. Staunton looked at him for a moment with blank bewilderment, that quickly gave place to amusement.

"You are not serious, old chap."

"Quite serious. Will you come quietly with me?"

"Why, certainly; lead on, Macduff!"

"Pardon me, you go first. Kindly follow Mr Moulang and that girl to his office."

"Always ready to follow a pretty girl. But I say, this is a rum joke."

"It is no joke, as you will soon find," retorted the other, sternly. "I assure you, sir, your levity is quite misplaced in the business, as I think this young lady will speedily convince you."

Staunton's face grew grave as he listened to the girl's story, but with no trace of anxiety or fear.

"Egad, this is serious," he said; "the ruby alone should be worth a big fortune. But how can I help?"

"The young lady says she saw you coming out of the room just before the robbery. Is that true?"

"Why, certainly. We crossed each other on the stairs. I mistook the room for my own. I said so as she passed."

"You did not mention that," said Mr Nichols sharply to the maid.

"I did not know what he said or meant," she faltered.

"Mr Moulang will know what I meant," said the Hon. Staunton. "I had occupied the room for some days before. I turned in quite mechanically at the open door as I passed."

"But the door was locked," interposed Mr Nichols.

"Pardon me, the door was open."

"You said you locked the door—didn't you?" The detective snapped the inquiry at Barbara.

"I'm almost sure I locked it," she faltered nervously.

"You were mistaken, miss, I assure you," remarked the Hon. Staunton, politely; "it was certainly open as I passed. I was thinking of something else as I turned the handle. But of course I recognised in a moment, when I saw the lady's things about, that the room was not mine."

"How long were you out of the room, madam?" demanded the detective.

"A minute I should think, perhaps two at the outside."

"That wouldn't give the thief much time," said the detective, grimly. There was a marked change in his manner when he turned again to Staunton. His tone was respectful, almost deferential. "You won't mind telling us, sir, where you went next?"

"Straight down in the lift to the table where you found me ten minutes later."

"I don't think we need trouble you further, Mr Toleron, for the present."

"Pardon me, Mr Nichols; this is a serious matter. The jewels, lost or stolen, are, as I happen to know, of fabulous value. I was most unfortunately in the rooms it seems just before they disappeared. I do not choose that any suspicion, however preposterous, should rest on me. I desire, before you make any further inquiries, that I shall be thoroughly searched."

Mr Moulang held up his hands in protest.

"He is right," said the detective. "It is only a formality, but it is a very expedient formality. Mr Moulang, will you kindly take the young lady to another room—and keep a close eye on her," he added in a whisper as the manager passed.

AS might have been anticipated, nothing was found in the search which Staunton Toleron had insisted on. The evidence of the lift man and the waiter showed it was impossible that he could have got rid of the jewels.

He had gone down in the lift to the hall, and had not left the waiter's sight until Mr Nichols had come up to him.

In the hall he had taken a sheet of paper from his pocket-book, put it in an envelope, and handed it to the waiter to post. There was nothing in the envelope except the thin sheet of paper. Of that the waiter was quite certain.

Had the jewels been thrown through the window to an accomplice? That question, too, was quickly settled. There was a policeman stationed outside. He had been there for half an hour. He was quite sure that no one had passed, and nothing had been thrown while he was there.

Rapidly and discreetly Mr Nichols made his inquiries, all leading straight to nothing. No one in the hotel, except the parties concerned, knew of the mysterious robbery, when Betty Barry, in her light run-about motor driven by herself, swept smoothly up to the hotel door.

The manager met her in the hall, consternation in his face.

"Miss Barry," he said, "I would wish a word with you in private."

Some instinct told her what had happened.

"My jewels," she whispered, "they have been stolen?"

He nodded dismally, and without another word she followed him to his private room.

Mr Nichols was there, self-contained and composed; the Hon. Staunton, eager and excited; poor Barbara Mullen, her arms on a table and her face on her arms, sobbed noiselessly.

Betty Barry walked straight to the girl, and patted her encouragingly on the shoulder.

"Don't cry, Barbara," she said, "don't cry; we'll find them yet."

But Barbara only sobbed on disconsolately.

As she turned from the girl, Betty found Mr Nichols' keen eyes fixed on her face. A sudden thought took her.

She faced him indignantly. "Has anyone," she cried, "dared to hint that Barbara took them?"

Her own loss seemed forgotten in her sympathy with the girl. The pose of the great actress was splendid; her slim figure in its dark, close-fitting dress, drawn up to its full height, her blue eyes blazing, her finger pointing scornfully at the detective.

Mr Moulang started guiltily, for he and Mr Nichols had been whispering suspiciously, but the detective never moved a muscle.

"Perhaps you had better hear the facts first, Miss Barry," he said coolly.

"All right." She turned from him sharply, and again laid an encouraging hand on the shoulder of the girl. "Tell me, Barbara, how did it all happen?"

Mr Nichols would have interposed, but she silenced him with a look. "I will hear the girl first, if you please, sir."

Poor Barbara raised a tear-stained face, and told her story in incoherent sentences broken with sobs.

"Are you quite sure, my dear, you locked the door?" asked her mistress.

"I was quite sure at first, but I'm not now. How could he get into the room if I did!"

"It wasn't your fault anyway, so don't fret. Besides, something tells me it will come all right. I will get those jewels back again, never fear."

"Indeed, I hope so, with all my heart," broke in Staunton Toleron, fervently. "I'd give my right hand to recover them."

"It's very kind of you, Mr Toleron," said the actress, graciously, "but I should be sorry to take the exchange. Thanks all the same."

"Oh, don't thank me, Miss Barry. It's more for my own sake than yours. It is hateful to me to be mixed up in this business."

"But you are not mixed up in it."

"But I am. What will the world say? It is known I am a poor man. My character is not of the best; though no one, so far, has accused me of robbery. The evidence looks black enough against me. Don't you see it does?" Then he told his story, in no way cloaking or colouring the facts.

"It is quite impossible that Mr Toleron could have taken the jewels," said the unimpassioned voice of the detective.

"I don't need you to tell me that," retorted Betty Barry, petulantly. She had plainly taken a dislike to Mr Nichols.

But he went on placidly without the slightest notice of her irritation, checking the points off methodically on his long, thin fingers.

"We have never lost sight of Mr Staunton Toleron from the moment he left your room to the search on which he himself insisted. It is a matter of pure reason," he continued, "that the jewels must have gone by the window or the door. The policeman shows they did not go through the window; Mr Toleron proves they did not come with him through the door."

"Is that all?" said Miss Barry, curtly. "Then, I suppose, I may put in my word. Of course, I'm mad to lose my jewels, but I mean to have them back. The newspapers will be all crying—out it's an advertisement. Now I don't want a fuss. I don't want anyone to know about this except just our four selves. Can that be managed?"

Mr Moulang raised his eyes and hands in grateful relief. "If you so wish," he murmured.

"But Mr Nichols?" queried Miss Barry.

"Mr Nichols is employed by us," said Mr Moulang.

"Excuse me," said Mr Nichols, quietly, but firmly, too, "I have also a duty to the public. I must strive to find the thief."

"Do, do!" cried Miss Barry, impatiently, "if you can. I'll give a thousand pounds to whomever finds him. I don't want to stop you. I only want things to be done quietly. A fuss won't help you—will it? Catch the thief quietly, and I will pay a thousand pounds when you catch him."

"Him or her?" queried Mr Nichols.

Her eyes blazed at him. For an instant she looked as if she were going to break out in a whirlwind of passion, but she pulled herself together. "Or her," she said as quietly as himself. "Here, I will put it in writing." She scribbled a few lines at Mr Moulang's desk, and thrust it at Mr Nichols. "Will that do? Very well, I understand you will hold your tongue till the jewels are found."

"The jewels and the thief. You have my word of honour."

He put the scrap of paper carefully in his pocketbook, and left the room.

"But what about me? Where do I come in?" asked Mr Toleron.

"Oh, you're all right," said the actress. "People can't talk if they don't know."

"They can sometimes. But honestly, Miss Barry, I hope you don't believe I had anything to do with this business?"

"How absurd. Of course not." She gave him her hand frankly. "I'll prove it to you. I want you to do something for me now at once. You know the Duchess of Southern?"

"A great friend of mine."

"And of mine. It is a coincidence that a few days ago we were talking about jewels and robberies, and she insisted on giving me the name of a man whom she said was miraculous. I have it in my purse somewhere."

From a jumble of miscellaneous rubbish in her purse she fished out a little scrap of crumpled paper, and smoothed it out with a forefinger on her palm.

"Here is the name—Paul Beck, Montague Street. I haven't the number—can you find him, do you think?"

"Quite easily. What am I to do with him when found?"

"Bring him straight back here. Now see how I trust you. If I had the very faintest suspicion I wouldn't ask you to get a rod to beat yourself. I wouldn't send you for Mr Beck."

"I shall not forget your kindness. Some time I may have a chance to repay it. I trust sincerely that this man Beck will find the jewels and the thief."

"Bring him to my room when you get him. I'm going there now with Barbara."

WHEN the door closed behind the two girls, Betty Barry's self-possession collapsed as if an overstrained something had snapped in her brain. She plumped down in a cushioned chair and laughed hysterically.

"I cannot help it, Barbara," she gasped, dabbing her eyes with a wisp of cambric. "Another minute and I would have broken down and disgraced myself. There was that old fraud of a detective posing and prosing like a man in a story-book, and that woebegone Mr Toleron imploring me not to suspect him, and the plump little manager fussing about his hotel. The whole thing was a screaming farce."

"But your jewels, miss, your beautiful, lovely jewels!"

"I cannot somehow realise that they are gone. I suppose I'll be very sorry for them later on. But I don't and I won't believe they are gone for ever. I feel quite certain they will come back again; don't you?"

She sprang the question on her so suddenly that Barbara coloured and looked confused. "You know best, miss," she faltered.

"I! I know no more than you do. Would you insinuate, Barbara, that I stole them myself? Oh, fie for shame, you naughty girl!"

Then suddenly the girl's mood changed, and her laughter broke without warning into sobbing.

"My beautiful, beautiful ruby!" she wailed. "I'll never, never see it again!"

"But you said just now——" Barbara began.

"No matter what I said just now. Haven't I a right to cry as well as you, I'd like to know? You shouldn't have been so careless, Barbara. No, no, I don't mean that. Don't whimper, my dear girl, it wasn't your fault. There's no use in crying after lost rubies. Besides, I've got to dress for the theatre. I will have to go on without my ruby to-night. Well, I shall know for certain if it is my acting or my jewels they go to see; that's one comfort. What did you say were taken, Barbara?"

"Only the diamond necklace and earrings, and the ruby."

"Only! indeed! The thief took the pick of the basket. But I have a few sparkles left yet, thank goodness. I'll wear my emeralds to-night." Then, as she turned and caught sight of her tear-stained face in the big glass, "Oh, I say, Barbara, what a fright I look!"

A sharp knock at the door jerked her up suddenly.

Barbara moved to open it.

"One moment," her mistress cried. She dipped her face into cold water, patted it dry with a soft towel, poured a little pool of eau de Cologne into the hollow of her right palm, brought her hands together with a splash, and dabbed her eyes and her forehead. Then, while she patted the disordered little ripples of hair back into their places, she called out to Barbara: "Now!"

SHE was at the door herself as soon as Barbara—cool, easy and completely self-possessed.

"Mr Beck, I am sure," she said, and gave her hand graciously to the stout, good-humoured-looking man who stepped shyly into the room. "Oh, you're not a bit like what I expected, Mr Beck!"

"I never am," said Mr Beck, enigmatically, "that's where the surprise comes in."

"The Duchess of Southern says you are so clever."

"So lucky," corrected Mr Beck. "Detective's work is like any other work, common sense and good luck will pull you through most times. Don't you think so, Mr Nichols?" he said, turning to the other detective, who had come in noiselessly after him.

"Certainly not," Mr Nichols retorted sharply. "I prefer and practise the analytic method myself."

"All right," responded Mr Beck, good-humouredly, "everyone to his taste as the dairymaid said when she kissed her cow. You like analysis and I like luck."

While he was chatting good-humouredly his sharp eyes took snapshots of the room and the people in it.

"Furniture changed while you were out?" he said to Barbara.

"No, sir."

"Sure you locked the door? Mr Toleron told me something of the case as we came along."

"I was sure at first, but——"

"Why did you change your mind, my girl?"

"Because Mr Toleron found it open as he passed."

Mr Beck, making no comment, moved across to the bedroom door. "May I?" he asked, addressing the actress.

"Why, certainly," she answered, and herself turned the handle of the door to let him pass.

"Lots of jewels left," he said, fumbling among the cases.

"Yes, but the best are gone."

"So Mr Toleron told me; the matchless ruby and some diamonds—a small handful in all."

"But a very precious handful, Mr Beck."

"My dear young lady, I know that. But why didn't the thief take more? Why didn't Aladdin fill his pockets full when he got into the cave?"

"Because he hadn't time."

"A good shot, Miss Barry, but it hasn't quite hit the mark. He might grab half a dozen cases almost as quickly as one. Halloa! what's this!" He had passed his hand over the outside sill of the open window, and in the far corner his fingers closed upon a key. A touch might have swept it into the street, but Mr Beck's fingers were quick to grip and hold.

It proved to be the key of a room door, with a tag of metal attached, and a number engraved on the tag.

"The key that I lost, no doubt," cried Betty Barry. "Didn't I tell you, Barbara, I lost the key of my room two days ago? Brought it with me to the theatre; must have dropped it in my dressing-room or on the stage. I left orders it should be hunted for."

JUST a shadow of disappointment crossed Mr Beck's face, too swift and faint to notice. He examined the key closely for a moment, ignoring the hand held out for it.

"Yes, I suppose it must be mine," she said, looking at the number when at last he passed it to her. "But how in wonder's name did it come there?"

"That's what we have to find out," said Mr Beck, oracularly.

"If I can be of any help," interposed the Hon. Staunton.

"Perhaps you may be later on. Meanwhile I'd like a word with Mr Moulang. Good-evening, Miss Barry, and don't despair of seeing your jewels again," he said as he left the room.

"The man's a fraud," said Mr Nichols to Staunton Toleron as the door closed upon the rival detective. "My dear sir, he knows as much about this business as you do."

"Oh, I hope not," retorted Staunton, "I know too much about it for my own peace of mind."

"I believe in Mr Beck," said Betty Barry, gravely. "Good-evening, Mr Toleron; good-evening, Mr Nichols. I've got to dress in ten minutes."

"You'll remember," said Mr Beck as he shook hands with Mr Moulang at parting, "just one line to me when any person specially wants those rooms after Miss Barry has left them, and not a syllable to anyone except me."

A FEW days later Betty Barry called at Mr Beck's office.

"I hope I haven't put you on the wrong track, Mr Beck," she said, "or off the right one. My door key has just been discovered in Ophelia's grave at the theatre. So you see it couldn't have been mine you found on the window-sill."

"Oh, I knew that, of course," said Mr Beck.

"Then why didn't you say so?"

She glanced at him for a moment with sharp suspicion, but he smiled his imperturbable smile.

"I thought it better not at the time."

"What are you doing about the jewels?" she asked after a pause.


"Nothing, Mr Beck!" she cried in surprise. "Then have you given up in despair?"

"Not in the least, my dear Miss Barry. I'm just waiting for someone to show me where the jewels are hidden."

"How long do you propose to wait?"

"Until my guide turns up."

IT was only a fortnight later that Mr Moulang telephoned to Mr Beck that the rooms were taken, and within ten minutes Mr Beck's hansom was at the hotel door. His dialogue with Mr Moulang was brevity itself.

"Who is your guest?"

"The Duke of Waldshire."

"You are sure it is he?"


"Then good-bye till the next time. He is not my guide to the jewels." The visit lasted thirty seconds by the clock.

The next time the guest was a young American millionaire, Bertram D. Corcoran, who had come across from Paris. It was his first visit to England, and he was very particular about his rooms. He had seen half a dozen suites before he made his choice.

"Is he your guide?" asked Mr Moulang, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice as he gabbled his news in guttural English.

"Don't know till I try. Can you give me a place here as a waiter for a day or so?"

"Certainly. You want to——"

"Look after Mr Bertram D. Corcoran; to take care that he is quite comfortable. I'll be back in half an hour."

The man that came back in half an hour with a light overcoat over his well-kept dress suit was like Mr Beck and yet quite different. A man who knew Mr Beck very well would say: "What an extraordinary resemblance," but he would never be tempted to confuse the two. The features were alike, but in the expression and manner there was not a suggestion of resemblance.

This was an unmistakable waiter, who had been all his life a waiter. The deft movements of his hands, the gliding walk, the smile insinuating and deferential, all proclaimed him to the manner born.

Mr Moulang presented the newcomer to the head waiter. "An outsider, Jenkins," he said. "I've been asked to give him a trial. I want you to let him wait on our last American arrival, Mr Corcoran."

Jenkins frowned and growled. He had marked the American millionaire for his own particular quarry. But the new hand was so good-humoured, so civil, so efficient that he soon emerged from his sulk.

Mr Corcoran dined out, and returned, after the theatre, to supper, and the new hand waited upon him with respectful assiduity.

Mr Corcoran professed himself well pleased with his repast, only the green Chartreuse, which he tossed off at a gulp, had a peculiar taste he thought. When the waiter brought him a second glass he found the same taste still, but less marked. He gave the waiter half a crown, directing that he should be called at six next morning, and Mr Beck pocketed the coin without a twinge of conscience.

"Tell the boots to knock hard until I answer," said Mr Corcoran, as he tossed the napkin on the back of his chair and lit a cigarette, "I'm a heavy sleeper."

"Well," said Mr Moulang, when he met Mr Beck an hour later, "what do you propose to do next?"

"Burglary," said Mr Beck, laconically. "I want the key of his room."

"But," expostulated Mr Moulang, "I really do not see how I can. After all, there is nothing so far as I know against Mr Corcoran. He is a guest at our hotel, and if you——"

He stammered and came to a full stop. It was not easy to put his suspicions into words.

Mr Beck helped him out. "Mr Moulang," he said gravely, "I'm acting on a certainty. But I see you've got to safeguard your hotel and your guests. Will you be satisfied if Mr Nichols comes with me?"

Mr Moulang eagerly welcomed this way out of his difficulty.

"Then send for Mr Nichols," said Mr Beck.

But Mr Nichols made difficulties of his own. With his keen eyes on Mr Beck's face he listened to his suggestion; his sharp, clean-shaven face imperturbable as a mask. Only the tight-closed lips twitched with a scornful smile.

"I don't like it," he said quietly when Mr Beck had finished. "It is too crude and amateurish for my taste. Besides, I'm quite certain that this man Corcoran has nothing to do with the theft. By analytic reasoning I have already, by a process of exhaustion, fixed the identity of the real thief."

Mr Beck was modestly persistent. "Give me a chance," he pleaded. "I hope to find the clue to the mystery in Mr Corcoran's pockets. If I am wrong there is no harm done, and you are at liberty to call me a fool."

Mr Nichols consented under protest. He thought a lesson would do Mr Beck no harm.

"But if Mr Corcoran should wake?" he suggested.

"He won't wake," said Mr Beck, confidently, "he's a very heavy sleeper. I heard him say so himself."

Mr Nichols caught his meaning. "Drugged!" he whispered in amazement. "You take heavy risks, Mr Beck."

"There are no risks in the game when you hold the right cards," said Mr Beck, philosophically, "besides, my luck always pulls me through."

Mr Nichols smiled scornfully, but made no further comment. "If you're ready," he said, "I am."

The two detective burglars slipped off their shoes while Mr Moulang watched the proceedings in bewildered terror.

FORTUNATELY the hotel was not full. By one o'clock in the morning there was no one stirring in the corridor. Mr Beck fitted the key to the door and pushed softly, but it refused to open. "There is something against the door, Nichols," he whispered to his brother burglar. "Slip your hand through and push it gently aside." Nichols' long arm went through the opening and he pushed gently. The next moment there was a crash of breaking crockery. A chair had been put against the door, and the water-jug set on the chair's edge.

Mr Beck instantly shoved the door open, overturning the chair, and drew Mr Nichols with him into the room.

Then he listened eagerly for a step or sound in the corridor. There was none. The tick, tick of a clock on the chimney-piece, and the soft snoring of Mr Corcoran in the inner room, like the cooing of an unseen pigeon, alone broke the silence.

Mr Beck switched on the electric lamps and flooded the room with sudden light.

"First to clear up the rubbish," he said, and stooped to gather the bits of delf from the carpet.

Mr Nichols fumed at the delay. "Cannot we get to our task at once," he said, "and be done with it? I have no liking for this business."

"I want our friend when he wakes up to find things as he left them," Mr Beck explained respectfully. "It may prevent trouble. While I carry off these bits of delf with me and get another water-jug you might go through his pockets, if you don't mind."

Silent as a cat Mr Beck crept out through the open door, and presently returned with a water-jug which he had purloined from an empty room on the same corridor. Meanwhile, Mr Nichols, who had carried Mr Corcoran's clothes out from the bedroom, went through the pockets with methodical dexterity.

He noted the contents of each pocket in a little notebook as he set them on the table in order that everything he took out might be properly replaced.

When his task was completed he turned somewhat contemptuously to Mr Beck.

"Where's your clue now?" he asked.

The contents of the pockets were of the most commonplace description. There was a plain, heavy gold watch and guard, a leather purse with gold and silver coins in it, a gold cigarette-case and an amber holder, and a dark green morocco leather pocketbook with a number of notes neatly folded. The only one thing out of the common was a little ivory tape measure.

"This is what I expected," Mr Beck said complacently, touching the tape measure with a stout forefinger. "Are there no papers?"

"Not a scrap, except the bank-notes."

"Ah!" said Mr Beck, "let me see." He carefully unfolded the notes. In the fold of the third he found a sheet of thin blue paper with an irregular cross in red ink extending almost the whole length and breadth of the sheet, thus:

There was no other mark of any kind on the paper.

"That's not much use to you," sneered Mr Nichols.

Mr Beck did not seem to hear him. He was staring intently at the cross. All the good-humoured easiness was gone from his face; his lips were tightly closed; his brows were drawn together in concentrated thought. His keen eyes wandered restlessly round the room, the furniture, ceiling, carpet, seeking an inspiration.

For the first time Mr Nichols caught a glimpse of the real Mr Beck.

The tension suddenly relaxed. Mr Beck breathed a deep breath of relief, as a man who has solved at last a tantalising problem. The tape measure lay on the table at his hand. He pulled out the tiny ribbon and measured the long arm of the cross on the paper—exactly ten inches, the shorter eight inches.

Then he turned sharply to Mr Nichols. "Be quick," he said. "Measure that carpet."

There was no deference in his tone now; he spoke in curt command.

Mr Nichols meekly accepted the situation. He was beginning to feel foolish. At last he recognised his master.

"Twenty feet by sixteen," he said, when he had completed the measurement.

"Half-inch scale," muttered Mr Beck to himself.

He took the tape measure from the passive hand of Mr Nichols, who looked on wonderingly, and measured each of the four sections of the cross. Then he measured by scale the cross on the carpet, allowing two feet for the inch, and so found the lines corresponding to the lines on the paper, and the point of intersection.

"Here," he said, pressing his thumb on the exact spot, and with his shoulder pushing away an easy-chair that stood over it.

Down he went on all fours with his eyes close to the carpet.

"Give me the magnifying-glass," he said. Mr Nichols fetched it. Even with the strong glass Mr Beck's keen eyes could hardly detect an angular slit cut with a razor edge—a mere hair line in the thick carpet. At the point of the angle there was the pinhead of a tiny tack that kept the tongue of carpet in its place.

Mr Beck prised the little tack out with the blade of his pocket-knife, lifted the angular flap, and exposed some inches of the naked floor with what looked like a circular scratch on the polished wood.

"Neat!" said Mr Beck with professional appreciation of fine workmanship. He inserted the sharp-pointed corkscrew of his pocket-knife in the wood and whipped out a circular bit with a plop like a plug from a jar.

A long horsehair which had been bent by the wood came up through the hole. Mr Beck took it gingerly between his finger and thumb and drew out a small silk bag from which he spilt out on the carpet the big ruby heart and a string of diamonds that blazed splendidly in the glow of the electric light.

Mr Nichols looked on in envious, bewildered admiration. "Shall we arrest him at once?" he whispered. "It's a clear case."

"Not so clear as you think," said Mr Beck. "How can we connect Mr Corcoran, who has only just arrived, with the jewellery found in the bedroom floor? But why did he want to be called at six this morning? Now let me think."

As a result of his thoughts he put the bag back into the hole, pressed the button of wood down on the protruding horsehair, and tacked the slip of carpet over it.

"You are satisfied," he said to Mr Nichols, "that we have found the jewels anyway?"

"And caught the thief," suggested Mr Nichols.

"Not quite," replied Mr Beck, "but we may presently. I will bait the trap. Now," he continued, "we will tell Mr Moulang how far we have got."

Mr Moulang was intensely excited. He wanted to arrest Mr Corcoran at once, but Mr Beck explained they had not a scrap of evidence against him. "I'm going out to look for some," he explained. "You needn't wait up for me; good-night."

When he was gone Mr Nichols was good enough to explain to Mr Moulang that it was sheer, blind, blundering luck that carried Mr Beck through in defiance of all recognised scientific methods.

IN about an hour's time Mr Beck returned to the hotel, and again he crept up silently to the door behind which the unconscious Mr Corcoran still slept the deep sleep so kindly provided for him. Mr Beck entered this time alone, and without trouble replaced the chair at the door and balanced the water-jug on its edge. Then ensconcing himself behind the silk window curtains, through which he cut a small slit with his knife, he leant his shoulder against the wall and went quietly to sleep on his feet.

A slight tap at the outer door awakened him at once, but there was no sound in the bedroom. The tap grew to a clamorous knocking. Still no movement from Mr Corcoran. Just as Mr Beck was beginning to fear he had made the dose too strong, his mind was relieved by the welcome sound of a yawn, followed by a sleepy cry: "All right."

The next moment Mr Corcoran in his pyjamas appeared in the sitting-room, rubbing his half-closed eyes in which heavy sleep still lingered. Lifting off the water-jug he pushed the chair from the door and took in his boots and hot water.

"Down to breakfast in an hour," he said to the boots, and locked the door again and replaced the chair and jug. Then returning to his bedroom he threw up the window silently and coughed into the street.

Mr Beck, with ears strained like a hare's to the cry of far-off dogs, heard a faint echo of Mr Corcoran's cough from below.

With grim amusement, Mr Beck watched him take the sheet of blue paper from his pocket and repeat his own performance—measure the paper and the floor, lift the flap of carpet, and draw the bag of jewels from its hiding-place.

But as his hands closed on the treasure he was gripped from behind, drawn gently backwards from his knees to the flat of his back on the carpet, where he lay gazing up in helpless bewilderment at the good-humoured face of Mr Beck.

"Game is up," said Mr Beck, "hand over"—and without waiting for permission he took the bag of jewels from the nerveless hand of the prostrate Corcoran.

"Now tell me who is in this game with you?" said Mr Beck, pleasantly.

"See you hanged first," growled the other.

"Perhaps I know," suggested Mr Beck.

"Perhaps you don't! Here goes to warn him!" The man's muscles stiffened and he half rose to his feet, gripped Mr Beck, who leant over him, by the collar, and strove by a sudden effort to throw him off his balance. Muscle strained against muscle for a moment. Then Mr Corcoran's head went down with a bump on the carpet, a knee pressed heavily on his chest, and a sponge steeped in chloroform was squeezed tightly upon his lips and nostrils.


He gripped Mr. Beck by the collar and strove to throw him off his balance.

For a moment he struggled fiercely. His hands struck out in all directions, and his heels thudded on the soft carpet. But the struggle was soon over, and he lay limp on the floor.

Mr Beck put a forefinger to his pulse. "All right in half an hour," he said, "much simpler and safer than handcuffs and gag. Now for the other."

With the bag of jewels in his hand he crossed into the bedroom. The lower part of the window was curtained; but through the curtain Mr Beck could dimly distinguish the figure of a tall woman in the street below.

He raised the window and coughed a very echo of Corcoran's cough. There was an instant answer from the street, and the figure which had been slowly pacing up and down stopped right under the window.

Then Mr Beck did a very strange thing indeed. He thrust his hand with the bag in it out the full length of his arm, and let the precious parcel drop into the street.

The figure below caught it smartly, thrust it into a side pocket, and disappeared at a quick pace round the corner, to be brought up suddenly in the arms of a big policeman.

"No use struggling, sir," said the constable with a grin, as he slipped the handcuffs dexterously on the wrists of his wriggling prisoner; "don't want to hurt a lady, Mr Toleron, but I must do my duty. I arrest you for the robbery of the Barry jewels, which are at this moment concealed on your person."

"OF course, I guessed from the first who did the trick," said Mr Beck next day to Betty Barry.

He had shown her the nest in which her jewels had lain, and they were having afternoon tea together—a favourite meal of Mr Beck—in the same room. The ruby heart lay on the table beside her. She wanted to be sure, she said, that she had got it safe back again.

"I guessed," he went on, "but I wasn't quite sure. I might have suspected the girl if she had not said she locked the door. You see, if she had stolen the jewels she would have been quite sure to have left the door open to turn suspicion from herself. But, putting the girl out of the question, the facts pointed like a sign-post to the Hon. Staunton. He took the room to get ready the hiding-place, and to have a duplicate key made. I knew I would find that key in the room, for he dared not take it out with him to be discovered when he was searched. The fact that you had lost a key was a coincidence that might have drawn a red herring across the track, but the true scent of the fox was too strong. As it was, it served to make the thief over-confident and reckless.

"I knew that the jewels must be safe somewhere in one of the two rooms, but I hadn't the least notion which or where. So I waited for the thief's confederate to come and show me, and bring me the map of the hiding-place Toleron had posted to him. Afterwards, when I found a particularly tall lady loitering outside the window, the game was quite plain, and I had only to play up to the lead. That's the whole story."

"Not quite, Mr Beck. I have yet a small part to play in the piece. I don't know how to thank you enough. I am afraid to guess the value of the jewels you have given me back when they were quite lost. I want you to name your own fee."

"Another cup of tea, if you please, and a little more sugar," said Mr Beck.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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