Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.



Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover©

Ex Libris

First published in The Novel Magazine, #112, July 1914

Collected in Paul Beck, Detective, Talbot Press, Dublin, 1929

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-12-14

Produced by Paul Moulder, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author

Cover Image

"Paul Beck—Detective,"
Talbot Press, Dublin, 1929, with "A Bird of Prey"



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.

"WOULD you like another honeymoon, little woman?" asked Mr. Beck, coming in through the French window from the lawn where he had been lounging lazily on the close-cut grass, his panama hat tilted to the back of his head like a halo. "We have been Darby and Joan for the last three months, and I thought you might like to break away. The river isn't wet enough to keep one cool in this weather; we want the sea."

Dora smiled at him divinely.

"You are an angel, Paul, to think of it—a nice, stout, middle-aged angel with a red face and no wings, and a figure not adapted for flying. Where shall we go?"

"I leave that to you; lively or quiet as you please. Étretat or Connemara."

"Oh, quiet, quiet as God makes them. I don't want anyone round. Some place where we can climb and boat and swim and golf all by our two selves."

"That's not so easy, Dora. It wouldn't pay to run a decent hotel for one second-hand honeymoon party. We can't hope for a bathing place, boat club, golf links, and mountains all for our two selves. But I can promise you the loveliest climbing and boating and fishing and golf procurable at short notice in one of the loveliest corners of Connemara with first-class hotel accommodation thrown in."

"When can we start?"

"To-morrow, if you're packed."

"To-morrow, then, any hour you choose."

Three days later they were in the long, low dining-room of the Mulraney Hotel on the borders of the wide Atlantic, when a man came up to the door through the glow of the sunshine that streamed in from the radiant sea, a man who instantly roused their curiosity.

Heretofore they had, as the waiter put it, "kept themselves to themselves"—swum and boated and golfed together and made no acquaintances among the flock of excursionists who filled the hotel. But the instant this man came in they both wanted to know him.

He was a splendid specimen of a man, six feet four at the very least, but so broad across the shoulders that they had no idea how tall he was till he passed an ordinary sized man who was standing at the door. He was dressed in a light grey tweed coat that hung lightly on his massive figure, and as he came in he whipped off a panama hat as fine as linen and showed a head and face to match his figure. From the broad forehead to the square chin it was a comely face, a face that men might trust and women love. If he was thirty it was the limit of his age.

"Oh, Paul," whispered Dora, pinching her husband's arm, "what a glorious specimen of a man! Why aren't you like that?"

"That," snorted Mr. Beck, "is Finn Ma Cool, the Irish giant. He has boiled baby for breakfast every morning, though he looks so charming. Who is he, waiter?"

"Jim Cullinane, your honour."


"That's what he likes people to call him. He is a returned American, the best of the kind I ever struck on. They say he has lashings and lavings of money and he is free enough about it too. The day before yesterday he came, and he don't know when he will be leaving."

"Oh, Paul, I must meet him! I'm head over ears in love."

"Of course you must; that is the only way to cure you," assented Paul. "You'll find him a big, beautiful booby, and not in the same street with your own fascinating husband." Mr. Beck had a taking way with him, and within an hour from dinner he and the stranger were seated in wicker chairs beside a small table at the hotel door, chatting like old comrades.

After breakfast next morning Beck delayed him in the hotel till Dora appeared, looking wonderfully fresh and pretty in a linen costume and light straw hat.

"Allow me to introduce you to my wife, Jim," said Mr. Beck. "She declares she is in love with you."

The three quickly and smoothly drifted into friendship. The second honeymoon was broken up. Jim Cullinane knew no one at the hotel and wanted to know no one but the Becks, and they went everywhere together. He was just what might be guessed from his appearance, a marvel at all forms of outdoor sports and games. Though he had only taken up golf a fortnight before, he could hardly be described as a duffer. The long, loose swing of a champion hammer-thrower went into his drive, and when he hit the ball fair, which he did once out of three times, it travelled out of sight.

He swam and dived like a salmon, and could row all day long without a hint of fatigue. Once he took Beck and his wife in a row boat over the shining floor of the sea to Clare Island that lay like a crouching lion a good twelve miles off at the opening of the bay, and came rushing back in the afterglow of the red sunset as fresh as he had started in the morning.

By mere chance they discovered that he had one almost miraculous accomplishment. Some children had perched a green glass bottle on a pile of boulders at the water's edge and pelted it with pebbles from the beach, and presently a number of grown-ups got entangled in the game. The shower of stones hopped and rattled round the bottle, which seemed to bear a charmed life, and, glittering bravely in the sunshine, defied them all.

It chanced that Beck, his wife, and the now inevitable Jim, passing down to the sea, had a clear view of the sport. Jim was a boy still. Instinctively his fingers closed round a smooth pebble.

"I won't spoil the sport," he said with a deprecatory look to Dora. "I'll just snip the neck off."

Straight as a rifle bullet the pebble flew. Crash! The neck was snapped off in a shower of glittering sparks, leaving the bottle still standing, and a cheer went up from the crowd further down on the beach.

"A lucky hit!" said Beck as they went on towards the boat.

"I could do it most times," Jim answered carelessly, "if I could get a pebble to fit nicely in my fingers."

"Are you a good shot?" Beck asked from the back of the boat as Jim, with long even strokes, drove her out across the broad Atlantic.

"Pretty fair," the other answered with that dangerous diffidence which even the most modest men assume when they know themselves supreme.

"Rifle or pistol?" Beck asked eagerly. He had never met his master at either.

"Well, I can manage to do a bit with both, but I find the automatic pistol the handier weapon sighted to a thousand yards."

"Have you one here?" Dora asked, taking up the running. "I'm sure you must be wonderful from the way you talk. You must show me what you can do some day."

"I have one here now," Jim answered. "I always carry a gun." He shipped the oars as he spoke, and let the boat drift while he drew an automatic pistol from his hip pocket and looked round for a mark.

A puffin bobbed up and down on the sparkling waves nearly a hundred yards away. The pistol barked sharply, there was a splash of water, a flutter of feathers, and the poor little body lay sidelong on the water.

Beck took the pistol from the other's hands.

"It is beautifully balanced," he said admiringly, as he raised and poised it and pointed to where a white gull with taut wings moved slowly through the blue sky athwart the boat. Plumb straight it dropped stone dead into the sea.

"Oh, stop, stop, you butchers!" cried Dora. "How dare you kill things like that?"

"Just one more shot," pleaded Jim, "at a bird that is bound to be killed anyhow. He'll have an easier death if I hit him, that's all. You see those fellows out there to the right, Mrs. Beck; they have put off from the smack in a small row-boat; they are fishing for gannets."

"Gannets? I never heard of a fish called a gannet."

"It isn't a fish, it's a big white bird that kills a deal of fish, more than any other in the sky of its weight and age, and naturally the fishermen don't like them."

"But how do they fish for birds?" she asked curiously.

"See them at it now. They are floating boards with herrings fastened to them. The gannet watches the sea from a thousand feet in the sky and can see every fish that comes near the surface of the water. He's the chap that can shoot, if you like. He shoots himself straight down like an arrow and spears the fish with his beak. If there is nothing else in the way the gannet is all right; if there is a board behind the fish the beak goes through the board and it's all up with the bird. Now watch."

Two or three birds were soaring, white dots, far up in the soft blue of the sky over the place where the herrings and the floats dimmed the surface of the sparkling water.

"Now!" A dot suddenly became a streak of white lightning flashing down into the sea. Again the pistol flashed, half way down the streak broke and a great white bird fell out of it fluttering wildly. The pistol spoke again and it dropped straight and motionless into the sea.

"Don't fire any more," laughed Mr. Beck. "I'll come down."

"Where are you off to this morning, Mrs. Beck?" asked Jim, as they sat after breakfast next morning on a broad bench facing the sea. Beck was getting ready his rod for an expedition to a lake in the hollow of the hills where, so his guide assured him, the trout were only praying for some person to come and catch them, it was so crowded.

"You won't tell Paul? Promise?"

"I promise."

"Well, I'm going for a climb on the cliffs all by myself. There are some wonderful wild flowers and ferns, and the view is lovely."

"Are the cliffs dangerous?"

"Not a bit. I'm as sure-footed as a goat."

"Why not tell Paul?"

"Because if I did he would ask me not to, and of course I couldn't."


Jim was puzzled at the feminine logic which allowed her to go because her husband didn't get the chance to tell her not.

"Remember your promise," were Dora's last words to him as he sheered off to the smoking-room.

On the edge of the cliff she stood, the sky above, the gulls like feathers blown about by the wind, close to the sea three hundred feet below, and the big waves mere wrinkles on its surface.

With short steps she moved cautiously to the verge and looked out through sheer empty space to where the ocean seemed to pile itself up in a great mountain of water at the horizon's rim.

Then, without warning, the great stone on which she stood broke from under her feet, leapt a ledge and crashed into the sea. Feet foremost, Dora dropped after it into the abyss, but three yards down she lit on a ledge not a foot wide, and the ribbed rubber of her tennis shoes steadied her on her precarious footing. Instinctively she caught and held a taut cord of young mountain ash that poked itself out from a crevice and drew close to the cliff, crushing her bosom against the rough side of the rock.

For a moment she paused silent, shivering, bereft of motion, thought, or speech; one look she cast downward at the far-off gleam of the sea, and looked no more—that way madness lay. Then thought and hope returned. She felt she could not hold out long in that strained position; her one desperate chance was that help might be somewhere within reach of her voice in that lonely place.

She steadied herself on her perch and put all her breath into the cry that seemed to fill the wide space of heaven.

"Help!" And again: "Help!"

Her heart gave one great leap of joy and then stood still, for from close at hand came an answering cry in a voice she knew, the deep voice of Jim Cullinane, and she could hear fast footsteps running towards her across the sward that led to the cliff's edge.

"Keep back!" she shouted again. "It's rotten at the brink. Run and fetch a rope. I'm too far down for you to reach."

"Let me have a try," he answered. "Your voice sounds close." In a moment more she saw his face and half his head and chest stretched over the edge right above where she stood.

"Have a care—for God's sake have a care!"

"It's all right," he answered quietly. "I've anchored my feet in a cleft in the rocks right behind: nothing can stir me. Stretch up as far as you can go, stand on your toes. Can you reach my hands?"

It was no use. His right hand was strained down and hers were strained up. The tips of their fingers touched and no more. The strong man groaned in a very agony of impotent terror.

"It's no use," Dora called out. "I cannot get an inch higher and I'm afraid to try. Run for a rope a quick as you can."

But he didn't run. From under the shallow ledge on which she stood he saw a little trickle of sand break out like the first gush of water when it's about to burst the embankment. Something was giving—there was not a second to spare.

"Mrs. Beck," he said very quietly, "you must let go the sapling and jump for my hands. It is a horrible thing to do, but it is the only chance."

Only one woman in a thousand would have the nerve for such a risk, but Dora was that one. She stooped a little for the spring, and breathed a prayer as she stooped. Then with her two hands high over her head she leapt for his hands. As she leapt the push of her feet sent the ledge on which she had stood crashing down the face of the precipice and she hung poised for a second in empty air.

But as the eagle swoops on his prey and grips it, those two strong hands gripped her wrists; gripped and held. He steadied himself for the strain, when she dropped back from her leap until she hung down straight and limp over the sea. Then his arms bent, his muscles grew hard and taut as ropes of steel, a great lump, round and hard as a cricket ball, swelled his biceps, and the girl came slowly up the face of the cliff.

With his toes in the cleft Cullinane lifted himself to his knees, his hands went slowly over his head till her face showed at the edge—her breast—her waist; then he flung himself backwards, drawing her over him to the smooth turf. A shrill cry pierced the air, wilder than the shriek of a seabird, and she shook with hysterical laughter that filled him with terror and amazement.

"Dora, Dora, don't do that!" he pleaded piteously. "I can't stand it. The thing is all over. Besides, there's nothing to laugh at anyway."

"I'm not laughing," she said, with a change as sudden and as startling to perfect composure. She shook herself and got upon her feet. "And I'm not frightened, but I don't know what to say."

"Say nothing."

"Perhaps that is best. If I talked for a hundred years I could not say all that is in my heart. I knew the kind of man you were, Jim, the moment I saw you. Will you come down to the hotel with me? I feel a little weak."

He half carried her down the long slope, lifting her clean over the worst parts. Where the ground was smoother he paused for a moment.

"There is one thing I want you to promise me," he said.

She looked him in the eyes before she answered.

"No," she said firmly, "I must tell Paul."

When the story was told that evening in their bedroom and she had got back her breath a little, for Beck had crushed her to him in a very agony of fear and joy, "Paul," she said, "I wish we could do something for him."

"I'd cut off my right hand here and now to do him a service."

"I wouldn't have that," she said. "I want your right hand for myself, and he has a strong one of his own for some other girl. But we might be able to help him in some other way. He's not happy. I think he's in love."

Beck just shook hands with Jim when he found him next morning loitering moodily by the shore of the darkening sea. Words could not say as much as that fervent grip of two strong hands. It was a minute before either spoke.

"I wish I could do something to show how I feel," Beck said at last.

"It was nothing," Jim answered. "A little bit of gymnastics, that's all. Your wife saved herself. She's the pluckiest woman alive."

"I don't need to be told that. Still, I wish I could do something." They walked a hundred yards shoulder to shoulder before either spoke again.

"It's darned mean," Jim began hesitatingly, "but I'm going to take you at your word. I hear that you are a devil at finding out things. I want you to find out two people for me that I'm after—a woman and a man."

"What for?" asked Beck. "Don't tell me if you don't want to, but it might help."

"I've no objection in the world. The woman I want to marry—"

"By Jove, Dora's right!" The thought flashed through Beck's mind. "And the man?" he asked.

"I mean to kill." He said it simply and quietly, but there could be no doubt that he was in deadly earnest.

"Are you mad?" Beck broke out.

"Sane as you are. Wait a bit till you hear the story and you'll agree. Old Simon Morice and I were pals. We had worked together for five years at the same claim, and a straighter man never shouldered pick. His daughter Mercy was just an angel whom God fashioned into the prettiest girl you ever set eyes on. We made our pile, old Simon and I, and when we had shared up Morice started straight through for the old country, while I was kept back at the last minute to straighten out one or two bits of business that wanted straightening out at Frisco. We fixed up where he was to stay in London, and I was to follow by the next boat. Well, sir, I never saw him or the girl again. Simon was about sixty at the time. Mercy was no more than seventeen, as fresh as a flower and as free from guile.

"There was no letter waiting for me in London as we had arranged. I went straight to the Savoy, but they had never been there. Father and daughter had vanished as if the earth had swallowed them. Then I came by chance on a man who was over on the boat with them, and he told me that Morice had met a cousin named Jacob Carruthers on board, and that they took to each other tremendously. Carruthers talked religion to him all the time, and Morice, whose mind seemed failing, listened to him by the hour, and soon had no will of his own. The girl didn't seem to like it much, my man said, but she could do nothing. They left the boat all together, and there the story ended for six months. I was still searching, when Carruthers suddenly came over the surface into broad daylight.

"One morning as I opened the paper, I found he was being tried for the murder of poor old Simon. It was as clear a case as ever came into court. The scoundrel had got the old man to leave him in charge of his daughter and his dollars, and then he had poisoned him. I was there the second day and the thing was proved as clear as daylight; but the barrister chap talked a lot of rot about the benefit of the doubt, and the judge pitched more of the same stuff into the jury-box, and I'm hanged if the jury didn't let the ruffian off.

"'My lord,' said the foreman, 'we have given the prisoner the benefit of the doubt, but there is a grave suspicion, and we don't think he is a proper person to have charge of the daughter of the deceased or her fortune.'

"'I can't help that,' said the judge; 'neither you nor I have anything to say to that. The prisoner is discharged.'

"It was then I clipped in."

"You—what had you to do with it?"

"Wasn't the old man my pal? Wasn't the girl my girl? I didn't care a curse for judge or jury. Read that." From his breast pocket Jim took a leather letter-case and sorted out a bundle of press clippings. "This is the report of the trial. You can read it later if you want to. Read that paragraph now."

Beck read out aloud the paragraph on which Jim put his big finger:

"At this juncture a startling incident occurred. A very tall man in the body of the court, an American by his accent, stood up and addressed the jury:

"'You should have hanged the devil when you had the chance,' he shouted. 'But don't fret; I'll do your job for you. He won't trouble the girl long—I'll shoot him on sight.'

"There was considerable confusion in court, during which the prisoner disappeared. The tall man, who appeared to be either drunk or labouring under extreme excitement, was sentenced to a week's imprisonment for contempt of court."

"That was it," cried Jim indignantly, "he got the benefit of the doubt again. I only put my foot in it by breaking out as I did. I could have got Carruthers handy that evening, but when I came out of prison he had vanished with the girl. For three years I have been hunting for him up and down. I have set half-a-dozen 'tecs on the track, but they can't pick up a scent worth a curse. Sometimes I hear of him at one place, sometimes at another. The very latest news pointed to the west of Ireland; that's what brought me down here. That's what took me to Clare Island the other day. But I draw a blank every time. Now I want you to give me a helping hand."

"To kill a man and get hanged for it? Not if I know it."

"I tell you he murdered old Morice. When you read those newspapers cuttings you'll see for yourself that I'm right."

"I don't want to read them; I remember the case. I was quite certain at the time it was murder."

"Very well, then?"

"That's no reason why you should get yourself hanged."

"They wouldn't hang a man for killing a thing like that—a cross between a skunk and a wolf."

"Oh, wouldn't they, though! It would cost you the same to kill him as to kill the decentest man in England. English law takes the same care of her scoundrels as of her gentlemen."

"Then I'll try to slip across with Mercy to the States when I've done for him. They've more sense than that in America. There you can shoot a bad man cheap. So you won't lend a hand, Paul?"

"Not unless you leave the killing out of the programme."

"Well, I'll think it over, but it would be a cruel pity to let up on him."

That was the end of the discussion. Next day Jim was called away by a wire. Beck and his wife were out when the telegram arrived, and he started in a great hurry, leaving no message. But three days later Paul heard of him in a startling fashion from the neighbouring island of Achill.

"I'm held up for the murder of Jacob Carruthers" (the telegram ran). "Guess you are right after all. Come over if you can conveniently, and fetch Dora along. Mercy wants a woman with her.—Jim."

A train runs from Mulraney to Achill, and within two hours from the receipt of the telegram Beck and his wife were crossing the newly constructed causeway that joins the island to the mainland.

There was an outside car waiting for them at the station, and they drove over a wide stretch of rocky moorland straight to the only hotel the island contained, about nine miles away. Dora stayed at the hotel to give what comfort she could to the wretched girl, Mercy Morice, while Paul went on to the police barracks.

Cheerily as ever Jim met him in the guard-room.

"The scoundrel is dead, Paul, with his head stove in," he said, "and I can't say I'm sorry. I'm glad, though, that I didn't do it. I believe the devil, his master, had a hand in the job."

"Would you like to see the spot, sir?" interposed a brawny, red-headed sergeant. "We've stirred nothing as yet."

"The spot" was a wide stretch of sand, smooth and firm and white as marble, edged by the Cathedral Cliffs, which rose in huge grotesque Gothic pinnacles five hundred feet sheer into the sky.

Carruthers had gone out with a rifle the evening before to get a shot, he said, at one of the wild goats that harboured on the cliffs. He had not returned for dinner, but little alarm was felt as he was often out late at night. In the morning the body was found on the sand. Jim, who had been seen lurking near the place, was promptly arrested, and the papers and cuttings found on him confirmed the suspicion that he was the murderer.

"The old gentleman and the young lady have been staying at the hotel a month and more, and a fine, pretty, friendly young lady she is," the red-headed sergeant confided to Beck as they drove together to the place. "But the gentleman hadn't a word to throw to a dog. All the time he seemed mighty uneasy in himself, and ever and always he was going on as if he thought some one was after him, and never a step he stirred out of the house without his gun on his shoulder. This morning we found him as if a thunderbolt had fallen out of heaven and struck him, and the queerest thing of all—there was a bird, an eagle, no less, lying beside him as dead as himself on the strand. But here we are, and there's Constable Mulready guarding the remains."

The sergeant was not exaggerating when he spoke of a thunderbolt. Beck found the man's head stove in with a blow of horrible, inconceivable violence. The skull was struck on the top and was literally crushed like an eggshell from the roof to the chin. A few yards away a rifle had been tossed from his hand. Beck picked it up—a magazine Morland rifle of the latest pattern; the magazine was made to hold fifteen cartridges, but there were only twelve in it, and the barrel was fouled from a recent discharge. Beside him lay an automatic pistol, shattered to pieces by the terrific impact of the blow, the metal bent, the wood shivered. The police had picked up the fragments and put them roughly together. On the shattered butt of the pistol there was a small silver plate with the initials "E.A."

"We found the twin brother of it on the prisoner when we searched him," said the sergeant, "but there were no letters on it."

Close up to the corpse the dead eagle lay, a superb bird with great wings outstretched, and hooked beak buried in the sand. It had been killed by a single bullet clean through the body. Beck carefully examined the marks on the bird.

The orifice was larger at the breast than it was on the back, where some of the small feathers had been carried into the wound. To judge by these signs the bird had probably been shot from above, by someone perhaps perched on a dizzy pinnacle of the Cathedral Cliffs. Carruthers, too, had been struck down from above, some giant towering over him had felled him with overwhelming force. Jim Cullinane was six feet four, but even Jim himself could hardly strike like that; there was the force of fifty men in the superhuman violence of the blow. Traces were found of the dead man's footsteps in the sand, but no others within a radius of a hundred yards.

"If it wasn't the divil done it himself," said the red-headed sergeant, "sure he must have a hand in it. No Christian man, except he were a goat, could fling a pistol like that; it's a thing that couldn't be done by mortal hand. Sure, he had a right to shoot the man clean and decent as others were shot if he were that bent on killing him."

The tide was nearly dead out at the time. Far away to seawards the wide spread of sand stretched dazzlingly white in the hot autumn sunshine. Small edges of water rolled in with a sparkle of foam at their crests and ran gaily up the strand, smaller and smaller till they faded and disappeared. Beyond, the wide ocean showed with Clare Island silhouetted against the intense blue of the sky; the half circle of the Cathedral Cliffs closed round the scene where the man and bird lay dead together.

Beck's eyes saw neither cliffs nor sea nor sky; they were searching the white floor of the sand as he paced slowly up and down.

Suddenly he stooped over a small round hole in the smooth, firm texture of the strand. He thrust his little finger in, the hole went down further than his little finger could probe. A lead pencil which he took from his pocket dropped down as into a well.

Opening his big clasp knife he dug with the blade round the hole, and a foot down he came on a solid stone and a bullet flattened out of shape—the bullet that shot the eagle most likely. How came it to be buried perpendicularly in the sand?

This curious problem didn't seem to worry Beck in the least. He looked as pleased as a man who had guessed the answer to a puzzling riddle.

"Sergeant," he said, "I am going up to Dublin. I have found out how the man was killed, and I have made quite sure that it wasn't your man that killed him."

"Most likely not, Mr. Beck," said the sergeant, for Beck's name had penetrated even into the wilds of Achill. "Most likely not, sir, as you say it. But we must hold on to him all the same till we get word to let him go from Dublin Castle itself, no less."

"Well, I'm going to try to get that word for you," replied Beck promptly. He looked at his watch. "I must catch the night mail up to Dublin. Would you mind taking me back to the hotel, Sergeant?"

Dora came down to him with the news that the girl was asleep at last.

"She's a dear, Paul," she said, "and beautifully in love with Jim. I didn't think any girl was good enough for him, but I've changed my mind. Of course he didn't do it; he told her he didn't do it. Have you found out who did?"

"There is only one man in Ireland who could have done it the way it was done, my dear. I am going up to Dublin to meet him. Don't ask me any more for the present. I hope to have a pleasant surprise for you and Miss Mercy very soon."

When Beck's train crept into the Broadstone next morning there wasn't a car at the station and he had to wait until a porter went to fetch one. The whole city was tingling with excitement at the expected arrival in Phoenix Park out of the sky of the famous airman, Arkwright, whose arrival was timed for noon on the conclusion of his flight round Ireland.

"If you are wishful to catch anyone, Mr. Beck," the waiter at the Shelbourne Hotel had said, "Phoenix Park is the place to catch them. All Dublin will be there."

It was plain that Mr. Beck thought the advice good, for he at once took a tram to the Park. From noon he waited patiently in the vast and ever-growing crowd that covered the huge space on which the Wellington Memorial stands and swarmed up the sloping steps round the obelisk. The day was very fine and still, and a dazzling sunshine over all made the intense green of the grass glow like emeralds. Away to the right the Dublin and Wicklow mountains rimmed the horizon, and thither all eyes were turned watching for the coming of the daring aviator who had started from the Park a week before to make a complete circuit of the island. As the minutes went slowly by and no speck broke the clear blue of the sky over the mountains there were ominous murmurings of disaster amongst the crowd.

Their fears for the aviator, however, did not prevent the crowd from partaking of any refreshments that were available, till all at once the cry "Here he comes!" brought them to their feet in intense excitement, which found vent in a burst of cheers.

Beck, with a powerful glass pointed across the city, was among the first to see the little moving speck growing out of the blue. Almost at the same moment a thousand others found it.

A tiny speck, but it grew before their eyes—it grew to a bird, a kite, a flying man sailing on outstretched wings over the pointed pillars and spires of the city straight for the Park. Hats and handkerchiefs were waved and tossed into the air. The cheering was a continuous peal as he twice circled the slope over the sea of upturned faces, and then, wheeling swiftly down, lighted like a bird on the close-cut sward of the Phoenix cricket ground.

Beck, the instant he had caught sight of the speck, had slipped through the crowd on the slope and raced for the cricket club. He was close to the monoplane as it sloped down from the sky to run along the sward.

In all that swarming crowd it is probable that his were the only eyes to note that two small round holes had been neatly drilled through the tough canvas of one of the supporting planes.

Impetuously he broke through a regiment of pressmen who closed in on Arkwright the moment he slipped from his seat. Beck had been twice up with the great aviator, and those hawk-like eyes recognised him at a glance as he forced his way to the front of the throng.

"Hallo, Beck!" he cried in cordial greeting. "What brings you here?"

"A matter of life or death, Arkwright," Beck said in a low voice as he took the airman's hand. "Can you come with me at once?"

"Must have a drink first," Arkwright gasped out. "I'm frozen to the marrow of my bones. The air is ice up there."

The mechanic who waited for his coming was pouring brandy and water from a flask into the silver cup.

"Full to the top," said Arkwright, and he tossed it down at a gulp. "Now, Beck, I'm with you. Take it easy, my legs are cramped." To the pressmen: "I'll see you later, gentlemen, at the Shelbourne Hotel, and tell you all there is to tell."

A few hundred yards away they picked up a fast outside car on the broad avenue of the Park. The driver, wild with delight at the honour, jumped from the side seat to the dicky, and with Beck and Arkwright clinging to either side drove at a breakneck pace towards the city, followed by a cheering crowd.

"Now, Beck, what's it all about?" demanded Arkwright, as they found themselves in a small private room in the Shelbourne Hotel with the door locked on the inside. The waiter had laid lunch, opened a bottle of champagne and disappeared. "You can talk as I eat. I'm just famished. What's up? Was it a trick to get me clear of the crowd?"

"You killed a man the evening before last on Achill Island," said Beck quietly.

"My God!" cried Arkwright. The champagne glass stopped half way to his lips and the slender stemmed glass in his fingers sprinkled a golden shower on the cloth.

"It is all right," Beck added cheerily, "he was about the vilest wretch that cumbered the earth; the hand of God was in the accident. But a splendid young chap is up for the murder of the man you killed, and your story is wanted to help him out. Do you mind telling it to me?"

"You probably know more about it than I do," retorted Arkwright. "I didn't think I killed anything in Achill but an eagle, but I expect you are right all the same. It was the chap that fired the rifle at me, I suppose."

"Your pistol dropped on his head," put in Beck.

"So I guessed when you spoke."

"Don't take it to heart, man. The man you smashed was a poisonous ruffian, a cold blooded murderer. You never did a better day's work in your life, though you didn't mean to do it. Now I want you to tell me exactly what happened."

"There isn't much to tell. As I swept round Achill over the cliffs I saw a little speck of a man on the pure white of the sand. I was flying low at the time and could just see him from the corner of my eye, for there was a shifting wind blowing and I had to look the way I was going. He pointed a gun and I saw a puff of white smoke, but I never dreamt for a moment he was firing at me. At the same instant an eagle shot out from the highest peak of the cliffs and drove full tilt straight at the machine.

"I had heard of eagles attacking airmen before and only half believed it, but I had brought the pistol up in case of accidents. The great bird was incredibly fierce and daring. Big as he was the machine was as big as a score of his kind, the engine was panting, and the propeller was whirring in a way to frighten the wits out of anything that flew; but that eagle didn't care a bit. He just drove straight at the invader of his dominion, regardless of consequences. When I saw him coming I handled the joystick pretty smartly, I can tell you, and he went by so close that I could hear the rustle of his wings. I didn't like it, not one little bit. If he caught on to the machine at all it was all up, we were bound to come smash, his talons would tear the canvas of the wings like tissue paper.

"A ticklish situation, wasn't it? A thousand feet in the air, where a slip meant a fall and a fall meant death. I drove the machine at the bird on the off-chance that I might hit him with the propeller, which would cut him in two like a knife, but he was a deal quicker on wings than I was. He just swerved and came at me again.

"Then I shut off the engine, and slipped down on a steep glide for the strand. I had my pistol out and meant to shoot my friend from terra firma. But when I was two hundred yards from the ground the ruffian below pointed his rifle, and began to fire at me. I heard two bullets whiz past my ear and snip through the canvas."

"He thought it was Jim Cullinane pouncing down on him from the sky," cried Beck. "I beg your pardon, Arkright, go on. I'll explain later."

"I don't know who Jim Cullinane may be," said Arkwright; "but I wish he had been in my place at the time; it was about the tightest fix I have ever found myself in. Here was the madman blazing away at me from the strand, and the mad eagle ready to pounce from above. A nice choice. I took the eagle. With every ounce of power I had I planed up and up, the bird circling round me all the time and screaming fit to burst. The land faded away to a mere patch of white, we broke through a patch of cloud and up into the sunlight again with a floor of vapour under us. It grew colder and colder. I could hardly hold the pistol in my frozen fingers.

"The eagle didn't like it much more than myself; it was rather high, even for him; six thousand feet up if it was an inch. But he came at me again with a scream like a wild Indian's war-whoop. I turned her nose up and got over him. Then, as he steadied himself for an instant I had a fair shot at his back and let drive. I must have sent the bullet clean through, for he went fluttering down till he broke into the bank of cloud and disappeared. As I worked the joy-stick to descend, I plopped into an air pocket and dropped fifty yards with a jerk which sent the pistol flying from my fingers. That's all."

"You settled them both before you left. Your pistol dropped on the rifleman's head and smashed it like an eggshell. No wonder, from six thousand feet! The eagle lay dead beside him on the sand."

"How in the devil's name did you guess it was I, Beck?"

"The eagle on the strand had been shot through the back. I found the bullet a foot deep in the sand. It could only have got there from an aeroplane, and of course I knew you were on this job round the island. The first thing I have to do now is to get the man who is up for your handiwork out of prison. I owe this chap more than I can ever repay in a lifetime. I'll tell you the story in the taxi—I 'phoned one as I came in and it's waiting outside. You must come with me straight to the Castle; we will catch the Attorney-General there most likely, and get him, when he has heard your story, to telegraph to Achill to release Jim Cullinane."

"I'm afraid you will have to attend the inquest at Achill, Mr. Arkwright," said the Attorney-General when he heard the strange story through. "It was a pure accident, of course, but the coroner and jury must have your account of it as a matter of form. I know that Mr. Beck is quite right; the man you killed was a rotten lot. Evidence was found later that proved without doubt that he murdered the man Morice; it would have hanged him if it was available at the time of the trial. You have got to start at once. Do you go by 'plane or rail?"

"Rail," said Arkwright. "I don't like Connemara eagles."

The Attorney-General wired directing Cullinane's release. Beck sent a wire of his own as long as a letter to Dora and he was at the Broadstone to meet the first train early next morning. While the train was still moving she leapt out into her husband's arms.

"I knew you would do it, Paul," she cried. "I never doubted you."

A tall slim girl followed shyly, dark-eyed and red-lipped, with great coils of shining black hair crowning her shapely head. She stood like a stag at gaze, staring at Mr. Beck. "That's him, Mercy," cried Jim, "That's the man who did the trick. That is the man who jerked me out of this trouble. Oh, he's a wonder!"

Mercy Morice never said a word in reply, but she took the astonished Mr. Beck suddenly round the neck and kissed him.

"Hallo, hallo!" cried Jim Cullinane. "I say, Dora, is this to go on round?"

"Certainly not!" said Dora, as she slipped her hand between his moustache and her lips. "I've never kissed any man but one in my life, and I'm not going to begin on such a good looking chap as you, Jim. It's not safe. Paul, you wretched old sinner, aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

"I've never yet missed a fair chance of kissing a pretty girl!" cried Paul shamelessly. "But," he whispered in his wife's ear, "I never had but one sweetheart."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.