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Friday, February 9, 2018

The Gospel According to Father Brown—ALL the Detective Stories Summarized and Illustrated



Father Brown, a humble amateur detective created by G.K. Chesterton, represents Chesterton’s understanding of what an admirer of his called Mere Christianity. Here are illustrated summaries of all the Father Brown detective stories in chronological order, with key comments in bold type. Direct quotes appear often (with simplified punctuation and spelling). See for yourself this admirable character bringing the Gospel to bear throughout his detective stories while solving crimes brilliantly. All 50 Father Brown stories may be read here in their entirety. They were published long ago, and many social situations in the stories have changed, but human nature remains the same.

Book 1: The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

Image result for the blue cross father brown1. The Blue Cross

This tale is told from the perspective of a famous French detective named Valentin searching for a clever jewel thief called Flambeau, an unusually tall and powerful man said to be on the prowl against unsuspecting ministers attending a Eucharistic Congress in London. Notice how Father Brown, headed for that Congress by train, is first described: "The little priest … had a face as round and dull as a … dumpling, he had eyes as empty as the North Sea, and he had several brown-paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting. The Eucharistic Congress had doubtless sucked out of their local stagnation many such creatures, blind and helpless, like moles disinterred. Valentin was a skeptic in the severe style of France, and could have no love for priests. But he could have pity for them, and this one might have provoked pity in anybody. He had a large, shabby umbrella, which constantly fell on the floor. He did not seem to know which was the right end of his return ticket. He explained with a moon-calf simplicity to everybody in the carriage that he had to be careful because he had something made of real silver 'with blue stones' in one of his brown-paper parcels…. Valentin even had the good nature to warn him not to take care of the silver by telling everybody about it." As with Jesus, appearances can be deceiving: more is there than meets the eye.

Valentin ends up having quite a day following a wacky series of clues he does not understand: salt put in a sugar bowl and sugar in a salt shaker, soup tossed on a wall, an upset apple cart, mixed-up signs for nuts and oranges, a restaurant window paid for and then broken, and a mysterious parcel paid for and then found and shipped to safety. The clues lead to two men dressed like priests, having a conversation on a remote park bench at twilight. One man is very small and the other very large. The little priest speaks "simply, with his round face turned to the strengthening stars; the other talks with his head bowed, as if he were not even worthy to look at them." Valentin and his men sneak up behind and catch the tail of one of Father Brown's sentences, which ends: "... what they really meant in the Middle Ages by the heavens being incorruptible."

The taller priest nods his bowed head and replies, "Ah yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason, but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?"

"No," says Father Brown. "Reason is always reasonable, even in … the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God Himself is bound by reason."

The other priest looks up to the spangled sky and says, "Yet who knows if in that infinite universe—?"

"Only infinite physically," says the little priest, turning sharply in his seat, "not infinite in the sense of escaping from the laws of truth…. Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires?... Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a notice-board, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"

The tall priest responds, "Well, I think that other worlds may perhaps rise higher than our reason. The mystery of heaven is unfathomable, and I for one can only bow my head." Then, without changing his attitude or voice, he adds, "Just hand over that sapphire cross of yours, will you? We're all alone here, and I could pull you to pieces."

Father Brown calmly says no.  Flambeau suddenly casts aside all his priestly pretensions. "No," he cries out, "you won't give it me, you proud prelate. You won't give it me, you little celibate simpleton. Shall I tell you why you won't give it me? Because I've got it already in my own breast-pocket!"  Father Brown asks him if he is sure.  Flambeau takes out a brown-paper parcel from his inner pocket and tears it in pieces. Nothing but paper and sticks of lead are inside! He springs to his feet, saying, "I don't believe … a bumpkin like you could manage … that. I believe you've still got the stuff on you, and if you don't give it up—why, we're all alone, and I'll take it by force!"

"No, says Father Brown yet again. "You won't take it by force. First, because I really haven't still got it. And, second, because we are not alone. Behind that tree," says Father Brown, pointing, "are two strong policemen and the greatest detective alive. How did they come here, do you ask? Why, I brought them, of course! How did I do it? Why, I'll tell you if you like! Lord bless you, we have to know twenty such things when we work among the criminal classes! Well, I wasn't sure you were a thief, and it would never do to make a scandal against one of our own clergy. So I just tested you to see if anything would make you show yourself. A man generally makes a small scene if he finds salt in his coffee. If he doesn't, he has some reason for keeping quiet. I changed the salt and sugar, and you kept quiet. A man generally objects if his bill is three times too big. If he pays it, he has some motive for passing unnoticed. I altered your bill, and you paid it."

Flambeau may have wanted to leap like a tiger, "but he was held back as by a spell; he was stunned with the utmost curiosity."

"Well," Father Brown continues, "as you wouldn't leave any tracks for the police, of course somebody had to. At every place we went to, I took care to do something that would get us talked about for the rest of the day. I didn't do much harm—a splashed wall, spilled apples, a broken windowbut I saved the cross, as the cross will always be saved." When Father Brown mentions some of the criminal tricks he learned about from penitent members of his flock, Flambeau is flummoxed. Agreeably surprised, Father Brown remarks, "Oh, you can't have gone so very wrong yet!"

"How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" cries out Flambeau.

A tiny smile crosses the round, simple face of his clerical opponent. "Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose," says Brown. "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't
a priest."

"What?" asks the thief, almost gaping.  

"You attacked reason," answers Father Brown. "It's bad theology."

The three policemen come out from under the twilight trees. Flambeau, "an artist and a sportsman," steps back and sweeps Valentin a great bow. "Do not bow to me, mon ami," says Valentin. "Let us both bow to our master," which they do as the little priest looks for his umbrella. 

2. The Secret Garden

This garden is in back of Chief of Police Valentin’s large Parisian home, which is surrounded by thick and high walls. Inside the enclosure are Father Brown and other dinner guests.  Their illustrious host, however, is detained for a short time, "making some last arrangements about executions and such ugly things, and though these duties were … repulsive to him, he always performed them with precision. Ruthless in the pursuit of criminals, he was very mild about their punishment.... His great influence had been … used for the mitigation of sentences…. He was one of the great humanitarian French freethinkers, and the only thing wrong with them is that they make mercy even colder than justice."

Valentin arrives home and prepares to meet his guests. We are told that the one guest he was fixated on, "for special reasons," was "a man of world-wide fame whose friendship he had secured during some of his great detective tours and triumphs in the United States … Julius K. Brayne, that multi-millionaire whose colossal and even crushing endowments of small religions have occasioned so much easy sport ... for the American and English papers. Nobody could quite make out whether Mr. Brayne was an atheist or a Mormon or a Christian Scientist, but he was ready to pour money into any intellectual vessel, so long as it was an untried vessel."

After dinner, a horrifying discovery is made in the secret garden: an unrecognized corpse with its head severed! "I say," observes Father Brown, "there are no gates to this garden."

"You are right," says Detective Valentin. "Before we find out how he came to be killed, we may have to find out how he came to be here." Mr. Brayne is the only guest not accounted for, so he is assumed to be the murderer. Upon further examination just outside Valentin’s walls, the murder weapon and another human head is discovered. Father Brown examines that head. "It's Brayne," says the priest sadly. "He had exactly that chip in the left ear." Valentin, "who had been regarding the priest with steady and glittering eyes, opened his clenched mouth and said sharply: 'You seem to know a lot about him, Father Brown.'"

"I do," says the little priest simply. "I've been with him for some weeks. He was thinking of joining our church."  

"Perhaps, cries Valentin with a sneer, "he was also thinking of leaving all his money to your church!"

"Perhaps he was," says Brown steadily; "it is possible." But "Valentin (under the steady, humble gaze of the priest) had already recovered himself," and excuses himself to his study.

Two of the other guests resume talking about the murder but turn to stare "at Father Brown, who had sprung stiffly to his feet, and was holding his temples tight like a man in sudden and violent pain. "'Stop, stop, stop!' he cried; ‘stop talking a minute, for I see half. Will God give me strength? Will my brain make the one jump and see all? Heaven help me! I used to be fairly good at thinking. I could paraphrase any page in Aquinas once. Will my head split—or will it see?' He buried his head in his hands, and stood in a sort of rigid torture of thought or prayer…. When Father Brown's hands fell they showed a face quite fresh and serious, like a child's. He heaved a huge sigh, and said: 'Let us get this said and done with as quickly as possible.'" With the insight he gratefully received, he explains that the murder victim is the multi-millionaire Brayne, whom the murderer lured into the garden and entranced with sword tricks. When Brayne was distracted, the killer brought down the sword, severed his victim’s head, and tossed it and the murder weapon as far as he could over the wall. Then he placed another head by Brayne’s body.

"What other head? Heads don't grow on garden bushes, do they?" protests one of the guests.

"No," agrees Father Brown. "There is only one place where they grow. They grow in the basket of the guillotine, beside which the chief of police, Aristide Valentin, was standing not an hour before the murder…. Did you never see in that cold, gray eye of his that he is mad! He would do anything, anything, to break what he calls the superstition of the Cross.... Brayne's crazy millions had hitherto been scattered among so many sects that they did little to alter the balance of things. But Valentin heard a whisper that Brayne ... was drifting to us, and that was quite a different thing. Brayne would pour supplies into the impoverished and pugnacious Church of France."  Sadly, Valentin is soon found dead by suicide in his study. He knew that Father Brown had deduced he was guilty of murder.


Image result for the queer feet father brown
3. The Queer Feet

Father Brown once heard very odd footsteps at an exclusive hotel restaurant when carrying out the last wishes of a waiter who died of a stroke that afternoon. An illustrious group is being served their annual club dinner that evening. The main course is always served with their "celebrated set of fish knives and forks … each being exquisitely wrought in silver in the form of a fish, and each loaded at the hilt with one large pearl."


We are told this story is important because if you were to ask Father Brown "what he thought was the most singular luck of his life, he would probably reply that upon the whole his best stroke was … where he had averted a crime and, perhaps, saved a soul, merely by listening to a few footsteps in a passage." He was in a little room just off that passage, writing out what the dying waiter asked him to while it was still fresh in his mind, when he became distracted. First, "there came a long rush of rapid little steps, such as a light man might make in winning a walking race. At a certain point they stopped and changed to a sort of slow, swinging stamp, numbering not a quarter of the steps, but occupying about the same time. The moment the last echoing stamp had died away would come again the run or ripple of light, hurrying feet, and then again the thud of the heavier walking. It was certainly the same pair of boots, partly because … there were no other boots about, and partly because they had a small but unmistakable creak in them. Father Brown had the kind of head that cannot help asking questions…. For an instant he smelt evil as a dog smells rats."

The little priest keeps listening and thinking. Suddenly he leaps into action by slipping into the cloak room and waiting upon the very tall, powerfully built gentleman who shortly appears. "I want my hat and coat, please. I find I have to go away at once," says the man. Father Brown "obediently went to look for the coat; it was not the first menial work he had done in his life. He brought it and laid it on the counter. Meanwhile, the strange gentleman, who had been feeling in his waistcoat pocket, said laughing: 'I haven't got any silver; you can keep this.' And he threw down half a sovereign, and caught up his coat."

Father Brown in that instant "lost his head. His head was always most valuable when he had lost it. In such moments he put two and two together and made four million. Often the Catholic Church (which is wedded to common sense) did not approve of it. Often he did not approve of it himself. But it was real inspiration—important at rare crises—when whosoever shall lose his head the same shall save it."

"I think, sir," Father Brown says cheerfully, "that you have some silver in your pocket."

The tall gentleman, dumbfounded, exclaims, "Hang it, if I choose to give you gold, why should you complain?"

"Because silver is sometimes more valuable than gold," says the priest: "that is, in large quantities."

The powerful man puts one hand on the counter, vaults over, and towers above the priest, putting one tremendous hand upon his collar. "Stand still," he says in a harsh whisper. "I don't want to threaten you, but—"

"I do want to threaten you," says Father Brown in a voice like a rolling drum, "I want to threaten you with the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched."

"You're a rum sort of cloak-room clerk," says the other.

"I am a priest, Monsieur Flambeau," says Father Brown, "and I am ready to hear your confession."

Flambeau stands gasping for a few moments, and then staggers back into a chair. The famous jewel thief confesses his sin and gives up the pearl-handled utensils for the priest to return to their rightful owners. "I don't know his real name," says Father Brown when the exclusive club with the fisherman theme presses him on details, "but I know something of his fighting weight, and a great deal about his spiritual difficulties. I formed the physical estimate when he was trying to throttle me, and the moral estimate when he repented."

"Oh, I say—repented!" cries out one of the younger club members in a mocking tone. 

Father Brown replies, "Odd, isn't it, that a thief … should repent, when so many who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous, and without fruit for God or man? But there, if you will excuse me, you trespass a little upon my province. If you doubt the penitence as a practical fact, there are your knives and forks. You are The Twelve True Fishers, and there are all your silver fish. But He has made me a fisher of men."
 
"Did you catch this man?" asks a colonel, frowning.

"Yes," answers Father Brown. "I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread." 

Image result for drawing of a gentlemanAfter long silence the colonel says quietly to the priest, "He must have been a clever fellow, but I think I know a cleverer" and then asks how he caught the thief. Without divulging private information about Flambeau, Father Brown tells what he discerned about the queer footsteps he heard. The fast ones were of a person pretending to be a busy waiter. The lumbering footsteps were of the same person pretending to be an idle gentleman. Both were dressed in black-and-white formal clothing. "Reverend sir, your friend must have been very smart to act the gentleman," says the colonel.

Father Brown replies, "Yes, it must be very hard work to be a gentleman but, do you know, I have sometimes thought that it may be almost as laborious to be a waiter."


4. The Flying Stars 

This is a tale about three magnificent diamonds that sparkle like stars in the night sky, but once glittered in the treetops. Sir Leopold Fischer, the elderly man who presents them to his beloved god-daughter at a family Christmas party, explains: "They're the three great African diamonds called 'The Flying Stars' because they've been stolen so often." He returns them in their case to his coat pocket for safekeeping during the party, which is at the home of the young lady’s father: a recently widowed colonel.

The colonel is accompanied by his big, boisterous brother-in-law, newly arrived to England from Canada. With him also is Father Brown from the neighboring Roman Church, which the colonel's late wife had attended. The colonel "had always found something companionable about him, and frequently asked him to such family gatherings." 

One other person present is a young man from next door who is obviously attracted to the young lady, and she to him. He is a Socialist and starts quarreling with the rich godfather. "Now, now, now," says the Canadian visitor, "don't let's spoil a jolly evening…. Why couldn't we have a proper old English pantomime—clown, columbine, and so on. I saw one when I left England at twelve years old, and it's blazed in my brain like a bonfire ever since." Just then he gets a call from a French Canadian actor friend of his in town, and receives the colonel’s glad permission to invite him to join their festivities.

The Canadian takes the lead in getting everyone involved in finding household props and costumes to play a part in a wacky comedy performance that evening. He even phones his actor friend to swing by a costume shop so he can arrive dressed as a policeman who will be knocked about in comic fashion as part of the fun. How "such a banquet of bosh was got ready … remained a riddle. But they went at it with that mixture of recklessness and industry that lives when youth is in a house."

The high-energy Canadian "was getting almost out of hand in his excitement: he was like a schoolboy. He put a paper donkey's head unexpectedly on Father Brown, who bore it patiently, and even found some private manner of moving his ears. He even essayed to put the paper donkey's tail to the coat-tails of Sir Leopold Fischer." This, however, is frowned down. "Uncle is too absurd!" cries out the young lady.

But things get even crazier when they decide to start their play before the policeman arrives, working in his part at his arrival. The Canadian, playing a harlequin trickster, opens the front door (serving as their stage exit) when the policeman arrives, and leaps upon him, hitting him over the head on his helmet and swinging him around in a comical way. The policeman faces about "in admirably simulated astonishment," and then gives a "celebrated imitation of a dead man. It was almost impossible to believe that a living person could appear so limp."

"At about this limit of mental anarchy," Father Brown's view is obscured when Sir Leopold Fischer rises to his full height, fumbles through his pockets, and rushes out of the room. The harlequin dances slowly backwards out the front door into the garden. His silvery costume, "which had been too glaring in the footlights," looks magical under a brilliant moon.

Father Brown is discretely called into the colonel’s study, where he learns that the diamonds are missing. The wealthy man suspects the Socialist, but Father Brown observes, "Men who mean to steal diamonds don't talk Socialism. They are more likely to denounce it." Very slowly a light begins to creep in his gray eyes, and then he asks the colonel when his brother-in-law showed up relative to his wife's death.

He answers, "Her brother James arrived just a week too late to see her."
"Come on!" shouts the priest. "We've got to look at that policeman!" They discover to their horror he is a real policeman who was drugged while being manhandled. Father Brown runs outside and gazes at a sparkling figure climbing like a monkey up a tree near the exit wall. "Well, Flambeau," he says, "you really look like a Flying Star, but that always means a Falling Star at last."

The silver, sparkling figure above seems to lean forward in the laurels. Confident of escape, he decides to listen to the little figure below, who says, "You never did anything better, Flambeau. It was clever to come from Canada (with a Paris ticket, I suppose) just a week after Mrs. Adams died, when no one was in a mood to ask questions. It was cleverer to have marked down the Flying Stars and the very day of Fischer's coming. But there's ... mere genius in what followed. Stealing the stones, I suppose, was nothing to you. You could have done it by sleight of hand in a hundred other ways besides that pretense of putting a paper donkey's tail to Fischer's coat. But in the rest you eclipsed yourself.
 
"I know you not only forced the pantomime, but put it to a double use.... News came by an accomplice that you were already suspected, and a capable police-officer was coming to rout you up that very night. A common thief would have been thankful for the warning and fled, but you are a poet. You already had the clever notion of hiding the jewels in a blaze of false stage jewelry.... The worthy officer ... walked into the queerest trap ever set in this world. When the front door opened he walked straight onto the stage of a Christmas pantomime, where he could be kicked, clubbed, stunned, and drugged by the dancing harlequin, amid roars of laughter from all the most respectable people.... Oh, you will never do anything better! And now, by the way, you might give me back those diamonds."
 
The voice goes on: "I want you to give them back, Flambeau, and I want you to give up this life. There is still youth and honor and humor in you; don't fancy they will last in that trade. Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down.... Many a man I've known started like you to be an honest outlaw, a merry robber of the rich, and ended stamped into slime…. I know the woods look very free behind you, Flambeau; I know that in a flash you could melt into them like a monkey. But some day you will be an old gray monkey, Flambeau. You will sit up in your free forest cold at heart and close to death, and the treetops will be very bare."

Everything was still, "as if the small man below held the other in the tree in some long invisible leash." Father Brown makes his final appeal: "Your downward steps have begun. You used to boast of doing nothing mean, but you are doing something mean tonight. You are leaving suspicion on an honest boy with a good deal against him already; you are separating him from the woman he loves and who loves him. But you will do meaner things than that before you die."
 
Three flashing diamonds fall from the tree to the turf. The little priest stoops to pick them up and when he looks up again, the green cage of the tree is empty of its silver bird. "The most beautiful crime I ever committed," Flambeau would often say in his highly moral old age, "was also, by a singular coincidence, my last.... It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."


5. The Invisible Man

In a sweet shop a red-headed young man declares his love for the young lady working there. She warns him about two other young men who also made their feelings known: a very little man and a very skinny man, whom she gently but foolishly put off by urging them first to seek their fortunes in the wide world. Over time the tiny man did and wrote her recently that he would be coming by her shop to court her. The skinny man seems to have vanished, but she's sure she heard him say, "He will never have you!" shortly after receiving the other man's letter, so she fears she is going mad.


Just then the little man barges in the shop and demands to know if the lady has seen the threatening note pasted on the store window against him. He recognizes the handwriting of his rival since he has received several letters from him, threatening him not to pursue the lady. The redhead assures him that note was not pasted there 10 minutes ago and, compassionately sensing that the little man is in serious danger, suggests they drive at once to see his friend Flambeau, who is a private detective. The little man gratefully takes his advice and off they go.
Since the man’s luxury suite is just around the corner from Flambeau’s apartment, they stop there so he can retrieve the other threatening letters to show Flambeau. On the way up he checks with the doorman and commissioner of the building to see if anyone has been up to his rooms. They assure him that no one has slipped past them since his last inquiry. Once they get inside, however, they immediately notice "a white, tattered scrap of paper scrawled with red ink…. The ink on it actually was not dry, and the message ran, 'If you have been to see her today, I shall kill you.'"

There is a short silence, and then the little man says quietly, "Would you like a little whiskey? I rather feel as if I should."
 
"Thank you. I should like a little Flambeau," says the redhead, gloomily. "This business seems to me to be getting rather grave. I'm going round at once to fetch him."
 
"Right you are," says the other with admirable cheer. "Bring him round here as quick as you can." The redhead dashes off but then takes the precaution of making it worth the while of the doorman, the commissioner, a policeman, and a vendor outside to stand guard until he returns. Happily, Flambeau is in and Father Brown is visiting him. They are both willing to hear the young man’s story. "If you don't mind," says, Flambeau, "I think you had better tell me the rest on the nearest road to this man's house. It strikes me, somehow, that there is no time to be lost."
 
"Delighted," says the redhead, "though he's safe enough for the present, for I've set four men to watch the only hole to his burrow."
 
Each sentinel they pass by reports than no one has slipped passed their net, but after the last one speaks, Father Brown asks, "Has nobody been up and down stairs, then, since the snow began to fall? It began while we were all round at Flambeau's." He then points to tracks in the snow.

The redhead cries out involuntarily, "The Invisible Man!"

Upstairs Flambeau and the redhead find alarming evidence of murder, but cannot find the victim. Flambeau remarks, "Not only is your murderer invisible, but he makes invisible also the murdered man." The two meet Father Brown below. "Father," says Flambeau, after a pause, "upon my soul I believe it is more in your department than mine. No friend or foe has entered the house, but Smythe [the tiny man] is gone, as if stolen by the fairies. If that is not supernatural, I—"
 
As he speaks, a policeman runs up to Brown and says, "You're right, sir. They've just found poor Mr. Smythe's body in the canal down below ... and he wasn't drowned either, for he died of a great stab over the heart."
 
Father Brown explains, "When those four quite honest men said that no man had gone into the Mansions, they did not really mean that no man had gone into them. They meant no man whom they could suspect of being your man. A man did go into the house, and did come out of it, but they never noticed him."
 
"An invisible man?" inquires the redhead.

"A mentally invisible man," says Father Brown. Then the
little priest takes three quick strides forward, and puts his hand on the shoulder of an ordinary postman who just passed by them.

"Nobody ever notices postmen somehow," he observes thoughtfully, "yet they have passions like other men, and even carry large bags where a small corpse can be stowed quite easily."

The very skinny mailman, instead of turning naturally, ducks and tumbles against a garden fence. Flambeau goes back to his apartment, the redhead goes back to the lady at the sweet shop, but "Father Brown walked those snow-covered hills under the stars for many hours with a murderer, and what they said to each other will never be known."


6. The Honor of Israel Gow

In the Scottish highlands Father Brown snatches "a day from
his business at Glasgow to meet his friend Flambeau, the amateur detective, who was at Glengyle Castle with another officer investigating the life and death of the late Earl of Glengyle." They find unusual and disturbing things at the Earl’s gloomy castle. Equally gloomy is his one servant, Israel Gow, a quiet fellow who remains busy about the place. The servant had reported his master’s death to the town officials. When they arrived, "they found that the gardener, groom, and cook had added to his many professions that of an undertaker, and had nailed up his noble master in a coffin…. The thing had never been legally investigated till Flambeau had gone north…. By then the body of Lord Glengyle (if it was the body) had lain for some time in the little churchyard on the hill."

Some of the mysterious items that Flambeau, Father Brown, and an inspector named Craven seek to understand the meaning of are piles of precious stones cut loose from their settings, many candles but no candlesticks, gears emptied out of clocks or mechanical toys, and raised letters and images gouged out of beautiful religious books. Several times Flambeau and Craven say they are inexplicable, moving the teacher in  Father Brown to come up with a few wild theories that fit all the facts. He then remarks, "Ten false philosophies will fit the universe; ten false theories will fit Glengyle Castle. But we want the real explanation of the castle and the universe." When, however, the priest realizes that what has been torn out of the religious books are letters referring to God and the halo over the Baby Jesus’ head, he suspects something sinister is afoot and suggests the "shortest cut to the mystery is up the hill to the grave." Even though it is the dead of night, they go up and Flambeau starts to dig but then stops.

"Go on," says the priest very gently. "We are only trying to find the truth. What are you afraid of?"
 
"I am afraid of finding it," says Flambeau. He digs to the coffin, pries it open, and find a headless body!

"Father, what are we to do?" asks Flambeau.

"Sleep!" cries out Father Brown. When they reach the castle, he throws himself into "sleep with the simplicity of a dog."

He is up early the next morning, having a quiet conversation
with Israel Gow.  Later he observes the gardener digging methodically around the potatoes except in one spot. In that spot Flambeau and the inspector unearth a human skull. Flambeau, feeling at his wits' end, says, “This detective business is … too much for my French impatience. All my life, for good or evil, I have done things at the instant: I always fought duels the next morning, I always paid bills on the nail, I never even put off a visit to the dentist—"

"The dentist!" Father Brown repeats. "Six hours in the spiritual abyss, and all because I never thought of the dentist! Such a simple, such a beautiful and peaceful thought! Friends, we have passed a night in hell, but now the sun is risen, the birds are singing, and the radiant form of the dentist consoles the world.... You don't know how unhappy I have been. And now I know that there has been no deep sin in this business at all. Only a little lunacy, perhaps—and who minds that?... This is not a story of crime," he says. "Rather, it is the story of a strange and crooked honesty. We are dealing with the one man on earth, perhaps, who has taken no more than his due."

Father Brown explains that the Glengyle family "gathered gold; they had a huge collection of ornaments and utensils in that metal.... In the light of that fact," he instructs his fellow detectives, "run through all the things we found in the castle: Diamonds without their gold rings, candles without their gold candlesticks, snuff without the gold snuff-boxes, pencil-leads without the gold pencil-cases, a walking-stick without its gold top, clockwork without the gold clocks—or rather watches. And, mad as it sounds, because the halos and the name of God in the old missals were of real gold, these also were taken away … but not stolen. Thieves would never have left this mystery. Thieves would have taken the gold snuff-boxes, snuff and all; the gold pencil-cases, lead and all. We have to deal with a man with a peculiar conscience, but certainly a conscience."

44-minute video of the Israel Gow story faithful to the text
Father Brown now tells his companions what he learned from Israel Gow, the servant, when he spoke with him early that morning: the late Earl of Glengyle, being distrustful of humanity, "swore if he could find one man who took his exact rights, he should have all the gold of Glengyle." Not long after, a "seemingly senseless lad from a distant village brought him a belated telegram. Glengyle, in his acrid pleasantry, gave him a new farthing. At least he thought he had done so, but when he turned over his change he found the new farthing still there and a sovereign gone." In the middle of that night, the Lord Glengyle heard a persistent knock at the door and was forced to open it himself since he lived alone. It was the telegram lad, who came to return "not the sovereign, but exactly nineteen shillings and eleven-pence three-farthings in change." 

The amazed Earl felt he was like Diogenes of old, who "had long sought an honest man, and at last had found one. He made a new will, which I have seen," adds Father Brown. "He took the literal youth into his huge, neglected house, and trained him up as his solitary servant and—after an odd manner—his heir. And whatever that queer creature understands, he understood absolutely his lord's two fixed ideas: first, that the letter of right is everything; and second, that he himself was to have the gold of Glengyle. So far, that is all, and that is simple. He has stripped the house of gold, and taken not a grain that was not gold: not so much as a grain of snuff. He lifted the gold leaf off an old illumination, fully satisfied that he left the rest unspoiled.

"All that I understood, but I could not understand this skull business. I was really uneasy about that human head buried among the potatoes. It distressed me—till Flambeau said the word. It will be all right. He will put the skull back in the grave when he has taken the gold out of the tooth." 


Image result for The Wrong Shape Father Brown7. The Wrong Shape

Father Brown and Flambeau visit Leonard Quinton, a celebrated author of Oriental tales "who ... indulged his lust for color somewhat to the neglect of ... good form,... having nothing to typify or to teach…. He dealt much in eastern heavens, rather worse than most western hells…. His health had suffered heavily from Oriental experiments with opium. His wife—a handsome, hard-working, and, indeed, over-worked womanobjected to the opium, but objected much more to a live Indian hermit in white and yellow robes, whom her husband insisted on entertaining for months together, a Virgil to guide his spirit through the heavens and the hells of the east."

It was out of this artistic household that Father Brown andImage result for The Wrong Shape Father Brown his friend stepped, and "to judge from their faces, they stepped out of it with much relief. Flambeau had known Quinton in wild student days in Paris, and they had renewed the acquaintance for a weekend, but … from Flambeau's more responsible developments of late, he did not get on well with the poet now. Choking oneself with opium and writing … erotic verses … was not his notion of how a gentleman should go to the devil." On their way out they are stopped by a dissipated young man on his way in, inquiring about Mr. Quinton. Father Brown tells him Mr. Quinton is currently being seen by his doctor. The doctor, on his way out from Quinton’s study, tells the young man there is no point in seeing him now since he just gave Quinton his afternoon sleeping medication. As the young man mills about, the doctor takes a stroll with Father Brown and Flambeau in Quinton’s garden.

"That was a sound, spanking lie I told just now," confides the medical man, laughing. "Poor Quinton doesn't have his sleeping drought for nearly half an hour. But I'm not going to have him bothered with that little beast, who only wants to borrow money that he wouldn't pay back if he could. He's a … scamp, though he is Mrs. Quinton's brother, and she's as fine a woman as ever walked."

"Yes," says Father Brown. "She's a good woman." He then stops and picks up something almost hidden in the long grass: a crooked Oriental knife, exquisitely inlaid with colored stones and metals. "It's very beautiful," says the priest in a low, dreaming voice. "But it's the wrong shape."
 
"What for?" asks Flambeau, staring.

"For anything," answers Father Brown. "Don't you see that it has no hearty and plain purpose? It does not point like a spear. It does not sweep like a scythe. It does not look like a weapon. It looks like an instrument of torture."
 
"Well, as you don't seem to like it," says Dr. Harris, "it had better be taken back to its owner."

Exactly in their path is a tall, dark man looking through the glass at the still form of Mr. Quinton. He "is more motionless than a mountain."

The doctor wonders out loud what Quinton's Indian guest is doing there. 
 
"It looks like hypnotism," says Flambeau. He takes one long stride toward the guest and says, "Good evening, sir. Do you want anything?"

"Thank you," the man replies in excellent English with his eyes virtually closed, "I want nothing." Then, half opening his eyes, he repeats, "I want nothing." Then opening his eyes wide and staring, he says emphatically, "I want nothing!" Then he walks away.

"The Christian is more modest," mutters Father Brown. "He wants something."

Just then Mrs. Quinton appears. She looks a little stern but is courteous. Father Brown remarks after she leaves, "That woman's over-driven: that's the kind of woman who does her duty for twenty years, and then does something dreadful."
 
The doctor looks at him for the first time with an eye of interest. "Did you ever study medicine?" he asks.

"You have to know something of the mind as well as the body," answers the priest. "We have to know something of the body as well as the mind."
 
The doctor heads off to Quinton’s study and the other two sit down in the garden to talk. "When that Indian spoke to us," says Father Brown to Flambeau softly, "I had a … vision of him and all his universe…. When first he said 'I want nothing,' it meant only that he was impenetrable.... Then he said again, 'I want nothing,' and I knew that he meant that he was sufficient to himself, like a cosmos, that he needed no God, neither admitted any sins. And when he said the third time, 'I want nothing,' he said it with blazing eyes. And I knew that he meant literally what he said: that nothing was his desire and his home—"

They are interrupted by the doctor, who says, "Things are not right with Quinton!... I could just see him through the glass, and I don't like the way he's lying. It's not as I left him, anyhow." Father Brown goes off with the doctor to investigate while Flambeau makes sure that Quinton’s pesky brother-in-law stays out of the way.  In the middle of Quinton’s writing table is a single sheet of paper, evidently left there on purpose. The doctor snatches it up, glances at it, hands it to Father Brown, and plunges toward the glass room beyond.

Father Brown reads the words three times before he puts down the paper. The words are: "I die by my own hand, yet I die murdered." They are in the distinctive handwriting of Leonard Quinton.

Father Brown, still keeping the paper in his hand, walks towards the conservatory, only to meet his medical friend coming back with a face of assurance and collapse. "He's done it," says Harris.  Into Quinton's left side was thrust the exotic dagger they picked up in the garden, and Quinton's limp hand rested on the hilt.

Father Brown studies the paper more than the corpse. "Doctor," he says, "this paper is the wrong shape." 

"What do you mean?" asks Doctor Harris, with a frowning stare.

"It isn't square," answers the priest. "It has a sort of edge snipped off at the corner. What does it mean?"
 
"Oh, stop fooling with that scrap of paper! It was a fad of his," says the doctor, pointing to a stack of paper still unused on another table. Father Brown walks up to it and holds out a sheet, observing that it has the same irregular shape.

"Quite so," he says. "And here I see the corners that were snipped off." To the indignation of his colleague, he  counts them. "Twenty-three sheets cut and twenty-two corners cut off them. And as I see you are impatient we will rejoin the others."
 
Father Brown "now went to break the news to the wife of the dead man. When he came out again he looked a little pale and tragic, but what passed between them in that interview was never known, even when all was known."

Flambeau is talking quietly with the doctor when Father Brown comes out. The priest draws the doctor apart and says, "You have sent for the police, haven't you?"

"Yes," answers Harris. "They ought to be here in ten minutes."

"Will you do me a favor?" asks the priest quietly. "The truth is, I make a collection of these curious stories, which often contain, as in the case of our Hindu friend, elements which can hardly be put into a police report. Now, I want you to write out a report of this case for my private use. Yours is a clever trade," he says, looking at the doctor gravely and steadily in the face. "I sometimes think that you know some details of this matter which you have not thought fit to mention. Mine is a confidential trade like yours, and I will treat anything you write for me in strict confidence. But write the whole."
 
The doctor, listening intently, looks the priest in the face for an instant, and simply says, "All right."  He goes into the study, closing the door behind him.

Flambeau and Father Brown sit down to talk again. "There has been in this incident," says the priest, "a twisted, ugly, complex quality that does not belong to the straight bolts either of heaven or hell. As one knows the crooked track of a snail, I know the crooked track of a man…. Of all these crooked things, the crookedest was the shape of that piece of paper. It was crookeder than the dagger that killed him. There were twenty-three snipped papers and only twenty-two pieces snipped off. Therefore one of the pieces had been destroyed, probably that from the written paper. Does that suggest anything to you?"
 
A light dawns on Flambeau's face and he replies, "There was something else written by Quinton, some other words. 'They will tell you I die by my own hand,' or 'Do not believe that—'"
 
"The piece was hardly half an inch across; there was no room for one word, let alone five. Can you think of anything hardly bigger than a comma which the man with hell in his heart had to tear away as a testimony against him?" asks Brown.
"I can think of nothing," says Flambeau at last.

"What about quotation marks?" says the priest.

The doctor comes out and puts a long envelope into the priest's hands. "That's the document you wanted," he says. "I must be getting home. Good night."
 
"Good night," says Father Brown. He opens the envelope and reads the following:
Dear Father Brown,
  
Vicisti, Galilee!
[You have conquered, Galilean!
dying words of Julian the Apostate]…. 
Can it be possible that there is something in all that stuff of yours after all?
I am a man who has ever since boyhood believed in Nature and in all natural functions and instincts, whether men called them moral or immoral.... But just now I am shaken: I have believed in Nature, but it seems as if Nature could betray a man. Can there be anything in your bosh? I am really getting morbid.

I loved Quinton's wife.
What was there wrong in that? Nature told me to, and it's love that makes the world go round. I also thought quite sincerely that she would be happier....

According to my own creed I was quite free to kill Quinton, which was the best thing for everybody, even himself. But … I resolved … I would never do it until I saw a chance that would leave me scot free. I saw that chance this morning.

I have been three times, all told, into Quinton's study today. The first time I went in he would talk about nothing but the weird tale … he was writing, which was all about how some Indian hermit made an English colonel kill himself by thinking about him. He … read me the last paragraph ... "I die by my own hand, yet I die murdered." It so happened by one chance out of a hundred, that those last words were written at the top of a new sheet of paper. I left the room, and went out into the garden intoxicated with a frightful opportunity.

We walked round the house, and two more things happened in my favor. You ... found a dagger which the Indian might most probably use. Taking the opportunity to stuff it in my pocket I went back to Quinton's study, locked the door, and gave him his sleeping drought…. Quinton lay down in the conservatory, and I … emptied ... Quinton's romance into the fireplace, where it burnt to ashes. Then I saw that the quotation marks wouldn't do, so I snipped them off, and to make it seem likelier, snipped the whole quire to match. Then I came out with the knowledge that Quinton's confession of suicide lay on the front table, while Quinton lay alive but asleep in the conservatory beyond.

The last act was a desperate one; you can guess it: I pretended to have seen Quinton dead and rushed to his room. I delayed you with the paper, and, being a quick man with my hands, killed Quinton while you were looking at his confession of suicide. He was half-asleep, being drugged, and I put his own hand on the knife and drove it into his body....

When I had done it, the extraordinary thing happened: Nature deserted me. I felt ill. I felt just as if I had done something wrong. I think my brain is breaking up. I feel some sort of desperate pleasure in thinking I have told the thing to somebody: that I shall not have to be alone with it.... What is the matter with me?... Madness ... or remorse.... I cannot write any more.
James Erskine Harris

Father Brown carefully folds up the letter, and puts it "in his breast pocket just as there came a loud peal at the gate bell, and the wet waterproofs of several policemen gleamed in the road outside."
 
8. The Sins of Prince Saradine


Flambeau decides to go on a sailboat holiday with Father Brown. Years ago, when he had been "a king of thieves and the most famous figure in Paris, he had often received wild communications of approval, denunciation, or even love, but one had somehow stuck in his memory. It consisted simply of a visiting-card, in an envelope with an English postmark. On the back of the card was written in French and in green ink: 'If you ever retire and become respectable, come and see me. I want to meet you, for I have met all the other great men of my time. That trick of yours of getting one detective to arrest the other was the most splendid scene in French history.' On the front of the card was engraved in the formal fashion, 'Prince Saradine, Reed House, Reed Island, Norfolk.'"

Flambeau "had not troubled much about the prince then, beyond ascertaining that he had been a brilliant and fashionable figure in southern Italy. In his youth, it was said, he had eloped with a married woman of high rank; the escapade was scarcely startling in his social world, but it had clung to men's minds because of an additional tragedy: the alleged suicide of the insulted husband, who appeared to have flung himself over a precipice in Sicily. The prince then lived in Vienna for a time, but his more recent years seemed to have been passed in perpetual and restless travel. But when Flambeau, like the prince himself, had left European celebrity and settled in England, it occurred to him that he might pay a surprise visit."


Father Brown and Flambeau eventually find the remote place, but it has about it "a curious luminous sadness." Hours pass like days there. "We have taken a wrong turning, and come to a wrong place," says Father Brown. "Never mind: one can sometimes do good by being the right person in the wrong place."

"Do you believe in doom?" asks a man Father Brown assumes to be Prince Saradine. 

"No," answers the priest. "I believe in Doomsday."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry," answers Father Brown. "The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person." 

That is, in fact, exactly what happens in this sad tale. Father Brown is unable to do much good, other than figure out that the real Prince Saradine mimicked the criminal exploit of Flambeau’s that he complimented: "With an enemy on each side of him, he slipped swiftly out of the way and let them collide and kill each other."



9. The Hammer of God

This is a tale of the two Bohun brothers, the elder a rascal
aristocrat and the younger an austere clergyman. The two happen to meet just after daybreak, "though one was beginning the day and the other finishing it." The rascal, sporting a flamboyant green hat, declares his intention of seeking the company of the village blacksmith’s beautiful wife while her husband is away. The cleric warns his brother that if he does not fear God, he has good reason to fear man, for the time of the powerful blacksmith’s return is unsettled. He then walks into his church, "crossing himself like one who wishes to be quit of an unclean spirit. He was anxious to forget such grossness in the cool twilight of his tall Gothic cloisters." About a half hour later, he is interrupted there to be informed that his brother is dead.


Image result for The Hammer of God Father Brown The rascal is discovered face down with his green-hatted head crushed by a small hammer besmeared with his hair and blood. Villagers assemble and accusations fly. Father Brown, a visitor, listens carefully and observes. 

Image result for The Hammer of God Father BrownHe asks Wilfred, the cleric, to give him a tour of his church. Standing together in the heights, a serious conversation begins. "I think there is something rather dangerous about standing on these high places even to pray," says Father Brown. "Heights were made to be looked at, not to be looked from."

"Do you mean that one may fall over?" asks Wilfred.

"I mean that one's soul may fall if one's body doesn't," answers Father Brown.  "One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak…. I knew a man who began by worshiping with others before the altar, but who grew fond of high and lonely places to pray from, corners or niches in the belfry or the spire. And once in one of those dizzy places, where the whole world seemed to turn under him like a wheel, his brain turned also, and he fancied he was God. So that, though he was a good man, he committed a great crime."
 
Wilfred's face turned away, "but his bony hands … tightened on the parapet of stone."

Father Brown continues, "He thought it was given to him to judge the world and strike down the sinner. He would never have had such a thought if he had been kneeling with other men upon a floor. But he saw all men walking about like insects. He saw one especially strutting just below him, insolent and evident by a bright green hat—a poisonous insect…. This also tempted him, that he had in his hand one of the most awful engines of nature: I mean gravitation, that mad and quickening rush by which all earth's creatures fly back to her heart when released…. If I were to drop a hammer—even a small hammer—"

Wilfred Bohun throws one leg over the precipice, but Father Brown grabs him by the collar. "Not by that door," he says gently: "That door leads to hell."
 
Bohun staggers back against the wall and stares at him with wide eyes. "How do you know all this?" he cries. "Are you a devil?"

"I am a man," says Father Brown gravely, "and therefore have all devils in my heart.… But hear me further. I say I know all this, but no one else shall know it. The next step is for you."

They go down the winding stairs in silence and come out into the sunlight. Wilfred Bohun walks straight to the police inspector and says, "I wish to give myself up: I have killed my brother."


10. The Eye of Apollo

This story opens with Father Brown walking down a London street with his friend Flambeau to see Flambeau’s new office:  "The building was American in its sky-scraping altitude, and American also in the oiled elaboration of its machinery of telephones and lifts." It was barely finished and only three tenants had moved in: the office just above Flambeau is occupied, as also the office just below him. Outside the office building is "an enormous gilt effigy of the human eye, surrounded with rays of gold, and taking up as much room as two or three of the office windows."
Image result for The Eye of Apollo Father Brown
"What on earth is that?" asks Father Brown.

"Oh, a new religion," answers Flambeau, laughing. "One of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any. Rather like Christian Science, I should think. The fact is that a fellow calling himself Kalon … has taken the flat just above me. I have two lady typewriters underneath me, and this enthusiastic old humbug on top. He calls himself the New Priest of Apollo, and he worships the sun."
 
"Let him look out," says Father Brown. "The sun was the cruelest of all the gods."
 
Flambeau explains that Kalon’s religion claims it can cure all physical diseases.

"Can it cure the one spiritual disease?" asks Father Brown.
 
"And what is the one spiritual disease?" Flambeau  wants to know.
 
"Oh, thinking one is quite well.

Kalon obviously thinks he is quite well and has a daily routine of dressing in golden vestments and uttering a loud, showy prayer to the sun from the rooftop. As Flambeau and Brown approach, Kalon steps out for his noon liturgy. Flambeau has seen enough of these daily salutations and plunges into the tall building without even looking for his friend to follow him. But Father Brown, "whether from a professional interest in ritual or a strong individual interest in tomfoolery," stops and stares up at the sun worshiper. The ritual, however, is punctuated by a terrible scream and crash, yet the litany drones on. One of the lady typists is found dead at the bottom of the elevator shaft. She is actually a wealthy, headstrong heiress who was wooed by Kalon and literally blinded by his religion. The blindness she refused to accept enabled her sister to trick her into using a pen without ink to foil her intention of listing Kalon as the beneficiary of her newly rewritten will. That stubborn blindness also afforded another opportunity for deception.

Father Brown says to Kalon, "I wish you would tell me a lot about your religion."

"I shall be proud to do it," says Kalon, "but I am not sure that I understand."

"Why, it's like this," says Father Brown: "We are taught that if a man has really bad first principles, that must be partly his fault. But, for all that, we can make some difference between a man who insults his quite clear conscience and a man with a conscience more or less clouded with sophistries. Now, do you really think that murder is wrong at all?"
 

Kalon replies, "We meet at last, Caiaphas. Your church and mine are the only realities on this earth. I adore the sun, and you the darkening of the sun; you are the priest of the dying and I of the living God. Your present work of suspicion and slander is worthy of your coat and creed. All your church is but a black police; you are only spies and detectives seeking to tear from men confessions of guilt, whether by treachery or torture. You would convict men of crime, I would convict them of innocence. You would convince them of sin, I would convince them of virtue." 

Once Kalon finds he has been cheated out of his inheritance, however, he takes a much less lofty tone. The would-be sun-god then makes an effort to climb back on his pedestal. "It is not the mere money," he cries, "though that would equip the cause throughout the world. It is also my beloved one's wishes. To Pauline all this was holy. In Pauline's eyes—"

"In Pauline's eyes," repeats the priest, his own shining brightly. "Go on—in God's name, go on. The foulest crime the fiends ever prompted feels lighter after confession, and I implore you to confess. Go on, go on—in Pauline's eyes—"

"Let me go, you devil!" thunders Kalon, struggling like a giant in chains, yet lurching toward the door.

"Shall I stop him?" asks Flambeau, bounding towards the exit.

"No, let him pass," says Father Brown. "Let Cain pass by, for he belongs to God."

Father Brown sighs and observes, "Oh, if these new pagans would only be old pagans, they would be a little wiser! The old pagans knew that mere naked Nature-worship must have a cruel side. They knew that the eye of Apollo can blast and blind….  Whether or no that devil deliberately made her blind, there is no doubt that he deliberately killed her through her blindness. 

"The very simplicity of the crime is sickening. You know he and she went up and down in those lifts without official help; you know also how smoothly and silently the lifts slide. Kalon brought the lift to the girl's landing, and saw her, through the open door, writing in her slow, sightless way the will she had promised him. He called out to her cheerily that he had the lift ready for her, and she was to come out when she was ready. Then he pressed a button and shot soundlessly up to his own floor, walked through his own office, out onto his own balcony, and was safely praying before the crowded street when the poor girl, having finished her work, ran gaily out to where lover and lift were to receive her, and stepped—"
 
"Don't!" cries out the horrified Flambeau, who then wonders out loud how Father Brown knew.

"I tell you I knew he had done it, even before I knew what he had done," says Father Brown. "These pagan stoics always fail by their strength. There came a crash and a scream down the street, and the priest of Apollo did not start or look round. I did not know what it was. But I knew that he was expecting it."

 
11. The Sign of the Broken Sword


The thousand arms of the forest are gray, and "its million fingers silver." A large frozen moon hangs "like a lustrous snowball." In this chilly environment Father Brown and Flambeau trudge up a hill to look at a monument in a graveyard: "a massive metal figure of a soldier recumbent, the strong hands sealed in an everlasting worship, the great head pillowed upon a gun. The venerable face was bearded…. By his right side lay a sword, of which the tip was broken off; on the left side lay a Bible…. On it was cut in black letters … 'Sacred to the Memory of General Sir Arthur St. Clare, Hero and Martyr, who Always Vanquished his Enemies and Always Spared Them, and Was Treacherously Slain by Them at Last. May God in Whom he Trusted both Reward and Revenge him.'"

Father Brown says, "I saw what I wanted…. And now we must walk a mile and a half along the road to the next inn, and I will try to tell you all about it. For Heaven knows a man should have a fire and ale when he dares tell such a story."

Once they get comfortably settled, Brown continues, "First there is what everybody knows, and then there is what I know. Now, what everybody knows is short and plain enough. It is also entirely wrong."
 
"Right you are," says Flambeau cheerfully. "Let's begin at the wrong end."

"If not wholly untrue, it is at least very inadequate," continues Brown. "Arthur St. Clare was a great and successful English general... After splendid yet careful campaigns both in India and Africa he was in command against Brazil when the great Brazilian patriot Olivier issued his ultimatum.... On that occasion St. Clare with a very small force attacked Olivier with a very large one, and was captured after heroic resistance.... After his capture, and to the abhorrence of the civilized world, St. Clare was hanged on the nearest tree. He was found swinging there after the Brazilians had retired, with his broken sword hung round his neck."

"And that popular story is untrue?" suggests Flambeau.

"No," says his friend quietly, "that story is quite true, so far as it goes…. It is a mystery of two psychologies. In that Brazilian business two of the most famous men of modern history acted flat against their characters." St. Clare "was always more for duty than for dash, and with all his personal courage was decidedly a prudent commander, particularly indignant at any needless waste of soldiers. Yet in this last battle he attempted something that a baby could see was absurd…. Well, that is the first mystery: what had become of the English general's head? The second riddle is, what had become of the Brazilian general's heart? President Olivier might be called a visionary or a nuisance, but even his enemies admitted that he was magnanimous to the point of knight errantry. Almost every other prisoner he had ever captured had been set free or even loaded with benefits. Men who had really wronged him came away touched by his simplicity and sweetness. Why … should he diabolically revenge himself only once in his life, and that for the one particular blow that could not have hurt him?"
 
Father Brown goes on to cite the written accounts of two major eyewitnesses: "There was a certain Captain Keith, who was at that time engaged to St. Clare's daughter, and who afterwards married her. He was one of those who were captured by Olivier, and, like all the rest except the general, appears to have been bounteously treated and promptly set free. Some twenty years afterwards this man, then Lieutenant-Colonel Keith, published a sort of autobiography." In it he writes regarding the notorious incident, "I can assure my countrymen that St. Clare was by no means such a fool nor Olivier such a brute as he looked. This is all I have to say, nor shall any earthly consideration induce me to add a word." Olivier’s account is also brief: "We captured General St. Clare and several other officers ... the general himself facing us on horseback bare-headed and with a broken sword." On what happened to the general afterwards Olivier was as silent as Captain Keith.

What broke the silence for Father Brown was testimony he heard as a priest from an old soldier on his deathbed, whose last words were that his colonel "was not responsible for that ridiculous raid. It must have been imposed on him by the general.  There goes the damned old donkey with the end of his sword knocked off. I wish it was his head!" Brown dryly observes, "Everyone seems to have noticed this detail about the broken sword blade, though most people regard it somewhat more reverently."

Brown tells Flambeau he received further intelligence: "Only a month or two ago a certain Brazilian official died in England, having quarreled with Olivier and left his country.... For various private reasons I had permission to see the documents he had left." Among them was the diary of an English soldier. "I can only suppose that it was found by the Brazilians on one of those who fell. Anyhow, it stopped abruptly the night before the battle." The first part of that entry is full of jokes about a spy called the Vulture who fits the description of the Brazilian official who died, and the person he was most often seen talking to: Major Murray, "a north of Ireland man and a Puritan. There are continual jests about the contrast between this Ulsterman's austerity and the conviviality of Colonel Clancy."

The night before the battle, the general rode in "to discuss matters with Major Murray…. When the general mounted again he was still talking earnestly to Murray.... The soldiers watched the two until they vanished behind a clump of trees where the road turned towards the river." Soon the general galloped back alone, shouting they must prepare to attack based what he and the major saw at the river. Brown adds, "There was one other little and enormous thing. When the general urged them to their chivalric charge, he half drew his sword from the scabbard and then, as if ashamed of such melodrama, thrust it back again. The sword again, you see."

Flambeau asks, "Well, what's the matter with the sword? Officers generally have swords, don't they?"

Brown replies, "They are not often mentioned in modern war, but in this affair one falls over the blessed sword everywhere." He comes to the tragic conclusion that it was broken before the battle and that the missing piece must be in the body of Major Murray. Then he asks and answers a series of chilling questions:

"Where would a wise man hide a leaf? In the forest."

"If there were no forest, he would make a forest."

"And if a man had to hide a dead body, he would make a field of dead bodies to hide it in."

Flambeau "felt truth all round him as an atmosphere."
 
Father Brown expresses what he learned about the character of General St. Clare: "In each of the hot and secret countries to which the man went he kept a harem, he tortured witnesses, he amassed shameful gold, but certainly he would have said with steady eyes that he did it to the glory of the Lord. My own theology is sufficiently expressed by asking which Lord? Anyhow, there is this about such evil, that it opens door after door in hell, and always into smaller and smaller chambers. This is the real case against crime: that a man does not become wilder and wilder, but only meaner and meaner." St Clare was soon suffocated by difficulties of bribery and blackmail.

Olivier would not permit a secret service and spies, but it was done behind his back by the Vulture, who realized the English general was a ripe target for bribery. The young major guessed the truth and confronted the general, who stabbed him when they were out of sight at the river. Father Brown surmises, "He saw that men must find the unaccountable corpse, must extract the unaccountable sword-point, must notice the unaccountable broken sword—or absence of sword. He had killed, but not silenced. But … there was one way yet. He could make the corpse less unaccountable. He could create a hill of corpses to cover this one. In twenty minutes eight hundred English soldiers were marching down to their death."

"But what about Olivier and the hanging?" asks Flambeau.

"Olivier, partly from chivalry, partly from policy, seldom encumbered his march with captives," explains Brown. "He released everybody…. It was an English hand that put the rope round St. Clare's neck: I believe the hand that put the ring on his daughter's finger. They were English hands that dragged him up to the tree of shame: the hands of men that had adored him and followed him to victory…. They tried him in the wilderness and destroyed him, and then, for the honor of England and of his daughter, they took an oath to seal up forever the story of the traitor's purse and the assassin's sword blade. Perhaps—Heaven help them—they tried to forget it."
 
What is Father Brown to do with this knowledge? He says, "If anywhere, by name, in metal or marble that will endure like the pyramids ... any innocent man was wrongly blamed, then I would speak. If it were only that St. Clare was wrongly praised, I would be silent. And I will."


12. The Three Tools of Death


Father Brown is put to the test about speaking up to protect an innocent man from being wrongly blamed to protect the reputation of an illustrious dead man and his family. The  dead man here is Sir Aaron Armstrong, a popular philanthropist who dealt with the darker side of society, but "prided himself on dealing with it in the brightest possible style. His political and social speeches were cataracts of anecdotes and loud laughter, his bodily health was of a bursting sort, his ethics were all optimism, and he dealt with the Drink problem (his favorite topic) with that ... monotonous gaiety which is so often a mark of the prosperous total abstainer. The established story ... was ... he had been, when only a boy, drawn away from Scotch theology to Scotch whiskey, and ... had risen out of both and become (as he modestly put it) what he was."

Sir Aaron’s body is discovered crushed at the bottom of a grassy knoll near his home with a rope around his leg. Father Brown, standing by the body with a police inspector, notices a fragment of rope in a corner window of Sir Aaron’s home. That moves the investigation inside. Father Brown asks a penetrating question about the deceased: "He was cheerful. But did he communicate his cheerfulness? Frankly, was anyone else in the house cheerful but he?"

A window in the detective’s mind "let in that strange light of surprise in which we see for the first time things we have known all along. He had often been to the Armstrongs' on little police jobs of the philanthropist and, now he came to think of it, it was in itself a depressing house."

"Do you think people dislike cheerfulness?" asks the detective.

"People like frequent laughter," answers Father Brown, "but I don't think they like a permanent smile. Cheerfulness without humor is a very trying thing…. Of course, drink is neither good nor bad in itself. But I can't help sometimes feeling that men like Armstrong want an occasional glass of wine to sadden them."

Inside the house they find not only a rope but also a bloody dagger and a gun that had been discharged 6 times. A half-empty whiskey bottle is in the corner of Sir Aaron’s room. The philanthropist’s secretary confesses to murdering his boss. After examining the room, however, Father Brown says, "Private lives are more important than public reputations. I am going to save the living, and let the dead bury their dead…. All those grisly toolsthe noose, the bloody knife, the exploding pistolwere instruments of a curious mercy. They were not used to kill Sir Aaron, but to save him."

"To save him!" repeats the detective. "From what?"

"From himself," says Father Brown. "He was ... suicidal."

"What?... And the Religion of Cheerfulness—"

"It is a cruel religion," remarks the priest. "Why couldn't they  let him weep a little, like his fathers before him? His … views grew cold: behind that merry mask was the empty mind of the atheist. At last, to keep up his hilarious public level, he fell back on that dram-drinking he had abandoned long ago. But there is this horror about alcoholism in a sincere teetotaler: that he pictures and expects that psychological inferno from which he has warned others. It leapt upon poor Armstrong prematurely, and by this morning he was in such a case that he sat here and cried he was in hell, in so crazy a voice that his daughter did not know it. He was mad for death, and with the monkey tricks of the mad he had scattered round him death in many shapes."

Royce, the secretary, entered "and acted in a flash. He flung the knife on the mat behind him, snatched up the revolver, and having no time to unload it, emptied it shot after shot all over the floor. The suicide saw a fourth shape of death, and made a dash for the window. The rescuer did the only thing he could: ran after him with the rope and tried to tie him hand and foot. Then it was that the unlucky girl ran in and, misunderstanding the struggle, strove to slash her father free. At first she only slashed poor Royce's knuckles, from which has come all the little blood in this affair. But … before the poor woman swooned, she did hack her father loose, so that he went crashing through that window into eternity. You and the young lady are worth more than Armstrong's obituary notices."

"Confound Armstrong's notices!" answers Royce roughly. "Don't you see it was because she mustn't know?"
 
"Mustn't know what?" asks the detective.

"Why, that she killed her father!... He'd have been alive now but for her. It might craze her to know that."

"No, I don't think it would," says Father Brown. "I rather think I should tell her. Even the most murderous blunders don't poison life like sins. Anyhow, I think you may both be the happier now."

 
Book 2: The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)

1. The Absence of Mr. Glass

Father Brown visits Dr. Orion Hood, seeking his advice to help  a church family. The arrogant doctor assumes Brown’s visit must be a mistake, saying, "My work is almost entirely literary and educational. It is true that I have sometimes been consulted by the police in cases of peculiar difficulty and importance, but—"

"Oh, this is of the greatest importance," interrupts Brown. "Why, her mother won't let them get engaged…. You see, they want to get married, Maggie MacNab and young Todhunter…. Now, what can be more important than that?" He leans "back in his chair in radiant rationality."

Orion Hood's "scientific triumphs had deprived him of many things—some said of his health, others of his God; but they had not wholly despoiled him of his sense of the absurd. At the last plea of the ingenuous priest a chuckle broke out of him from inside, and he threw himself into an armchair in an ironical attitude of the consulting physician."

Father Brown tells him of the decency of the young couple, but of the mystery of Toddhunter’s profession: "He shuts himself up for several hours of the day and studies something behind a locked door. He declares his privacy is temporary and justified, and promises to explain before the wedding. That is all that anyone knows for certain, but Mrs. MacNab will tell you a great deal more than even she is certain of. You know how the tales grow like grass on such a patch of ignorance as that." Despite that obvious good sense from Father Brown, Orion Hood concocts a theory that accuses Brown’s church and the MacNabs of ignorance and superstition, but admirably abandons it when sensible Maggie shows up looking for Father Brown in what appears to be a life-and-death situation.

The three sprint to Maggie’s house and Hood breaks into Toddhunter’s room. This is what they find: "Playing-cards lay littered across the table or fluttered about the floor as if a game had been interrupted. Two wine glasses stood ready for wine on a side-table, but a third lay smashed.... A few feet from it lay what looked like a long knife or short sword, straight, but with an ornamental and pictured handle, its dull blade just caught a gray glint from the dreary window behind…. Towards the opposite corner of the room was rolled a gentleman's silk top hat, as if it had just been knocked off…. And in the corner behind it, thrown like a sack of potatoes, but corded like a railway trunk, lay Mr. James Todhunter, with a scarf across his mouth, and six or seven ropes knotted round his elbows and ankles. His brown eyes were alive and shifted alertly." Several times previously behind the closed door, Toddhunter was heard referring to a Mr. Glass, who seemed to answer him with a strange high-pitched voice. Maggie and Father Brown want to untie the young man, but Orion Hood thinks otherwise.

"I have looked at all the knots on Mr Todhunter," says Hood. "I happen to know something about knots; they are quite a branch of criminal science. Every one of those knots he has made himself and could loosen himself. Not one of them would have been made by an enemy really trying to pinion him. The whole of this affair of the ropes is a clever fake, to make us think him the victim of the struggle instead of the wretched Glass, whose corpse may be hidden in the garden or stuffed up the chimney." Once Father Brown learns about the knots, a much simpler explanation comes to his mind.

"Yes, that's it!" he cries with excitement. "Can't you see it in the man's face? Why, look at his eyes!... Can't you see he's laughing?"

"Laughing!" repeats the doctor, with a start. "What on earth can he be laughing at?"

"Well," answers the little priest apologetically, "I think he is laughing at you. And indeed, I'm a little inclined to laugh at myself, now I know about it…. Mr. Todhunter is learning to be a professional conjurer, as well as juggler, ventriloquist, and expert in the rope trick. The conjuring explains the hat. It is without traces of hair, not because it is worn by the prematurely bald Mr. Glass, but because it has never been worn by anybody. The juggling explains the three glasses, which Todhunter was teaching himself to throw up and catch in rotation…. He was also practicing the trick of a release from ropes … and he was just about to free himself when we all burst into the room. The cards, of course, are for card tricks, and they are scattered on the floor because he had just been practicing one of those dodges of sending them flying through the air. He merely kept his trade secret because he had to keep his tricks secret, like any other conjurer."

"But what about the two voices?" asks Maggie.

"Have you never heard a ventriloquist?" answers Father Brown. "Don't you know they speak first in their natural voice, and then answer themselves in just that shrill, squeaky, unnatural voice that you heard?"

After a long silence, Dr. Hood says to Father Brown with a smile, "You are certainly a very ingenious person; it could not have been done better in a book. But there is just one part of Mr. Glass you have not succeeded in explaining away, and that is his name. Miss MacNab distinctly heard him so addressed by Mr. Todhunter."
 
Father Brown breaks into a childish giggle, saying, "That's the silliest part of the whole silly story. When our juggling friend here threw up the three glasses in turn, he counted them aloud as he caught them, and also commented aloud when he failed to catch them. What he really said was: 'One, two and three—missed a glass one, two—missed a glass.' And so on."
 
Soon enough, "everyone with one accord burst out laughing. As they did so the figure in the corner complacently uncoiled all the ropes and let them fall with a flourish. Then, advancing into the middle of the room with a bow, he produced from his pocket a big bill printed in blue and red, which announced that ZALADIN, the World's Greatest Conjurer, Contortionist, Ventriloquist and Human Kangaroo would be ready with an entirely new series of Tricks at the Empire Pavilion, Scarborough, on Monday next at eight o'clock precisely."
 

2. The Paradise of Thieves
 
The last story had something to do with marriage and so, in
a sense, does this one. Father Brown is in Italy, at a hotel restaurant where a wealthy British businessman is staying with his son and his unusually beautiful and sweet daughter, who is admired by an honorable Italian poet. Father Brown catches the son, Frank Harrogate, for a private word: "The odd thing I have to say will come far better from a stranger. Mr. Harrogate, I say one word and go: take care of your sister in her great sorrow." His sister seems perfectly happy and the priest does not explain further, but Frank is a good enough judge of character to heed Father Brown and be wary of an upcoming trip with his father and company through a notorious mountainous region known as the Paradise of Thieves.

Father Brown and Muscari the poet are wary as well and manage to attach themselves to that company. Sure enough, they soon are surrounded by thieves who claim to want ransom for Mr. Samuel Harrowgate, but Father Brown knows something is not right. He whispers to Muscari that he overheard the man demanding the ransom say to the English millionaire before the trip, "Well, let her have a little fun: you know the blow may smash her any minute." Father Brown noticed that "Mr. Harrogate answered nothing, so the words must have had some meaning. On the impulse of the moment" says he, "I warned her brother that she might be in peril. I said nothing of its nature, for I did not know. But if it meant this capture in the hills, the thing is nonsense. Why should the brigand-courier warn his patron, even by a hint, when it was his whole purpose to lure him into the mountain-mousetrap? It could not have meant that. But if not, what is this disaster, known both to courier and banker, which hangs over Miss Harrogate's head?"

Just then they hear the sounds of policemen approaching their location. Father Brown quickly says to Muscari, "You will permit me the impertinent intimacy, but do you care about that girl? Care enough to marry her and make her a good husband, I mean?"
 
"Yes," says the poet quite simply.

"Does she care about you?"

"I think so."

"Then go over there and offer yourself," says the priest. "Offer her everything you can: offer her heaven and earth if you've got them. The time is short."

"Why?" asks the astonished poet.

"Because," says Father Brown, "her Doom is coming up the road."

"Nothing is coming up the road," argues Muscari, "except the rescue."

"Well, you go over there," says his adviser, "and be ready to rescue her from the rescue."

The main officer pronounces the Doom: "Samuel Harrogate, I arrest you in the name of the law for embezzlement of the funds of the Hull and Huddersfield Bank." The banker suddenly makes a fatal dive off the cliff. "It was like him to escape us at last," says the officer. "He was a great brigand if you like. This last trick of his I believe to be absolutely unprecedented. He flees with the company's money to Italy, and actually gets himself captured by sham brigands in his own pay, so as to explain both the disappearance of the money and the disappearance of himself.... For years he's been doing things as good as that. He will be a serious loss to his family."

Thanks to Father Brown, "Muscari was leading away the unhappy daughter, who held hard to him, as she did for many a year after."


  3. The Duel of Dr. Hirsch

The story opens with two men in a Parisian setting: "They
were both young. They were both atheists, with a depressing fixity of outlook but great mobility of exposition. They were both pupils of the great Dr. Hirsch, scientist, publicist and moralist." Soon they are puzzling over a mysterious message that the doctor sends to them from his house: "I cannot come down to speak to you. There is a man in this house whom I refuse to meet. He is a Chauvinist officer, Dubosc. He is sitting on the stairs. He has been kicking the furniture about in all the other rooms. I have locked myself in my study, opposite that café. If you love me, go over to the café and wait at one of the tables outside. I will try to send him over to you. I want you to answer him and deal with him. I cannot meet him myself. I cannot: I will not."

The disciples head over to the café, as instructed, where Father Brown and Flambeau happen to be dining. Soon they see storming out of Dr. Hirsch’s home "a sturdy figure in a small and tilted Tyrolean felt hat…. The man's shoulders were big and broad, but his legs were neat and active in knee-breeches and knitted stockings. His face was brown like a nut, he had very bright and restless brown eyes, his dark hair was brushed back stiffly in front and cropped close behind, outlining a square and powerful skull. He had a huge black mustache like the horns of a bison. Such a substantial head is generally based on a bull neck, but this was hidden by a big colored scarf…. Altogether the man had something a shade barbaric about him."

Showing keen political insight, the agitated French officer runs across to a corner of the café, springs on one of the tables, and shouts, "Frenchmen!... I am Jules Dubosc, Colonel of Artillery. We caught a German spy … and a paper was found on him—a paper I hold in my hand. Oh, they tried to hush it up, but I took it direct to the man who wrote it—the man in that house! It is in his hand. It is signed with his initials. It is a direction for finding the secret of this new Noiseless Powder. Hirsch invented it; Hirsch wrote this note about it. This note is in German, and was found in a German's pocket. 'Tell the man the formula for powder is in gray envelope in first drawer to the left of Secretary's desk, War Office, in red ink. He must be careful. P.H.'… I went to this man in straight and civil style. If he had any explanation it could have been given in complete confidence. He refuses to explain. He refers me to two strangers in a café as to two flunkeys. He has thrown me out of the house, but I am going back into it, with the people of Paris behind me!"

Dubosc shoots himself like a cannonball back into Paul Hirsch’s home "and was heard crying and thundering inside. Every instant the human sea grew wider and wider; it surged up against the rails and steps of the traitor's house. It was already certain that the place would be burst into like the Bastille, when … Dr. Hirsch came out on the balcony. For an instant the fury half turned to laughter, for he was an absurd figure in such a scene. His long bare neck and sloping shoulders were the shape of a champagne bottle…. His coat hung on him as on a peg; he wore his carrot-colored hair long and weedy."

He speaks so precisely that the mob soon falls silent: "It is true I will not meet Mr. Dubosc, though he is storming outside this very room. It is true I have asked two other men to confront him for me. And I will tell you why! Because I will not and must not see him— because it would be against all rules of dignity and honor to see him…. I myself should always prefer weapons purely intellectual, [but] the French ask for a duelist as the English ask for a sportsman. Well, I … will pay this barbaric bribe, and then go back to reason for the rest of my life." Two men instantly volunteer to duel on his behalf with Colonel Dubosc. One of them is Flambeau, despite Father Brown’s objections.

Flambeau soon discovers that things are not as they appear. The note definitely appears to be in Hirsch’s handwriting, but all its stated facts are wrong so it doesn’t seem that any vital information was betrayed. Flambeau sighs, "I'm afraid I must chuck this business. I'm all on the side of the French soldiers like Dubosc, and I'm all against the French atheists like Hirsch, but it seems to me in this case we've made a mistake." 

Brown responds, "The Doctor has been dabbling in some of the old brimstone after all…. The man who wrote that note knew all about the facts…. You have to know an awful lot to be wrong on every subject—like the devil."
 
"Do you mean—?"

"I mean a man telling lies on chance would have told some of the truth….  The man must have known that particular house to be so accurately inaccurate…. Three is a mystical number; it finishes things. It finishes this. That the direction about the drawer, the color of ink, the color of envelope should none of them be right by accident: that can't be a coincidence. It wasn't…. Suppose a person in a position of trust began to give the enemy information because it was false information. Suppose he even thought he was saving his country by misleading the foreigner. Suppose this brought him into spy circles, and little loans were made to him, and little ties tied on to him. Suppose he kept up his contradictory position in a confused way by never telling the foreign spies the truth, but letting it more and more be guessed. The better part of him (what was left of it) would still say: 'I have not helped the enemy; I said it was the left drawer.' The meaner part of him would already be saying: 'But they may have the sense to see that means the right.'… You'd expect a secret paper passing between such people, officials or officers, to look quite different … probably a cipher, certainly abbreviations; most certainly scientific and strictly professional terms. But this thing's elaborately simple…. It looks as if it were meant to be seen through at once."

Just then they receive the stunning news that Dubosc has offered a hasty apology, dropping the whole matter and intending to slip out of town. Brown says, "We may still be in time to catch him," and by the look on his face, Flambeau knows his friend has solved the mystery, which leads them back to Hirsch’s house. They see Dubosc enter through a garden door so Flambeau climbs up the wall for a better view inside. He says in a low voice, "Yes, they will meet now after all!"

"They will never meet," says Father Brown. "Hirsch was right when he said that in such an affair the principals must not meet…. They will not meet on the Day of Judgement. If God Almighty held the truncheon of the lists, if St. Michael blew the trumpet for the swords to cross—even then, if one of them stood ready, the other would not come." The strange thing Flambeau now sees explains those mysterious words:  "The solidity and squareness of Dubosc's chest and shoulders was all a powerful piece of padding and came off with his coat. In his shirt and trousers he was a comparatively slim gentleman…. He bent over a basin, dried his dripping hands and face on a towel, and turned again so that the strong light fell on his face. His brown complexion had gone, his big black mustache had gone; he was clean-shaven."

Flambeau's complexion is now white as a sheet. He sees the man smiling in a mirror at his orange-haired reflection: "Seen thus in the glass the white face looked like the face of Judas laughing horribly and surrounded by capering flames of hell.... Slipping on a loose black coat, the figure vanished towards the front of the house. A few moments later a roar of popular applause from the street beyond announced that Dr. Hirsch had once more appeared upon the balcony."


   4. The Man in the Passage
 
The passage in this story is in back of a London theater. Two illustrious men, a respected politician and a war hero, approach the passage from opposite ends to seek an audience with a lovely actress famed for her magnetic appeal. Miss Aurora Rome "was of the kind that does not inflame admiration without inflaming jealousy." Her door "was opened to them by an aged servant or 'dresser,' whose broken-down face and figure and black shabby coat and trousers contrasted queerly with the glittering interior of the great actress's dressing-room." At the moment, however, Miss Rome’s leading man is demanding her attention and soon another man arrives looking for her: Father Brown, who came at her request.

Although she greets both of her distinguished visitors "with the beaming and baffling smile which kept so many males at the same just dangerous distance from her," it becomes immediately obvious to Father Brown that "the great Aurora, though by no means indifferent to the admiration of the other sex, wanted at this moment to get rid of all the men who admired her and be left alone with the man who did not—did not admire her in that sense at least: for the little priest did admire and even enjoy the firm feminine diplomacy with which she set about her task."

Soon the priest and the dresser are the only ones left in the room, "neither of them men with a taste for superfluous conversation. The dresser went round the room, pulling out looking-glasses and pushing them in again," and then left. Father Brown hears a strangled cry in the passage, where he finds Aurora Rome dead from a stab wound near her heart. The rivals for her attention are soon accusing and fighting one another, but the shabbily dressed dresser gazes at the corpse and then moves shakily back into the dressing room again, sitting down suddenly on one of the richly cushioned chairs. Father Brown instantly runs across to him, but he is too late to be of service. The war hero comments sadly, "I remember he used to watch her wherever she walked more than—anybody. She was his air, and he's dried up. He's just dead."

The police come on the scene, spotty evidence is gathered, and a sensational criminal trial takes place over what is called "The Passage Mystery." The passage "is of such length that anyone in the middle of it appears quite black against the light at the other end." The war hero testifies that he saw something that looked like a great hulking beast with bristly hair, but the respected politician says he saw a man with trousers yet with curves and hair like a woman. The third witness, Father Brown, testifies that the shape he saw "was short and thick, but had two sharp, black projections curved upwards on each side of the head or top, rather like horns."
 
"Oh! the devil with horns, no doubt," says the condescending judge.  

"No," replies the priest dispassionately. "I know who it was."

The judge looks at Father Brown with level and piercing eyes. "You are a most extraordinary witness, but there is something about you that makes me think you are trying to tell the truth. Well, who was the man you saw in the passage?"
 
"He was myself," says Father Brown.

"Your lordship will allow me to cross-examine?" asks one of the attorneys, sharing the judge’s new eagerness to focus on the one witness who really seems to know something. Receiving permission, he quickly elicits this testimony: that the old dresser killed his actress wife with a prop spear "just when she'd sent for me to settle their family troubles," says Father Brown. "I came just too late, God forgive me! But he died penitent—he just died of being penitent. He couldn't bear what he'd done." The priest then testifies that in the dressing room he noticed that any of its many looking-glasses or mirrors could easily be pushed into the passage.

The judge clarifies, "So you really mean that when you looked down that passage, the man you saw was yourself—in a mirror?"
 
"Yes, my lord; that was what I was trying to say," says Brown. "Our hats have corners just like horns, and so I—"

The judge interrupts, stating the priest therefore means that, without realizing it, the willowy politician must have seen his own reflection, which he described as both mannish and womanish, and that the burly war hero inadvertently saw himself as a bristly beast. Finding himself torn between cynicism and admiration, he asks, "Can you tell us why you should know your own figure in a looking-glass, when two such distinguished men don't?"

Father Brown responds with irony: "Really, my lord, I don't know unless it's because I don't look at it so often."
 
 
   5. The Mistake of the Machine
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Flambeau is reading about the lie-detector device and
wants to know what Father Brown thinks about it. "There's a disadvantage in a stick pointing straight," says Father Brown. "The other end of the stick always points the opposite way. It depends whether you get hold of the stick by the right end. I saw the thing done once and I've never believed in it since." 

It happened when he was a prison chaplain in America years ago.  An official at the prison was an ex-detective named Usher who "liked Father Brown in a slightly patronizing way, and Father Brown liked him, though he heartily disliked his theories. His theories were extremely complicated and were held with extreme simplicity."

Usher catches a bedraggled man he thinks is guilty of both murdering a prison guard and  being responsible for the disappearance of Lord Falconroy, a visiting dignitary. When Usher hooks up the suspect to a polygraph machine, he receives a startled response when Falconroy’s name is mentioned. "Now, in my opinion, that machine can't lie," Usher says to Brown in triumph.
 
"No machine can," observes Father Brown, "nor can it tell the truth…. The reliable machine always has to be worked by an unreliable machine."

"Why, what do you mean?" asks the former detective.

"I mean Man," says Father Brown, "the most unreliable machine I know of. I don't want to be rude, and I don't think you will consider Man to be an offensive or inaccurate description of yourself. You say you observed his manner, but how do you know you observed it right?"

Usher admits that the suspect "in every sense acted as you would expect an innocent man to act. There was nothing against him in the world except that little finger on the dial that pointed to the change of his pulse." He says, "By the time I came with him out of the private room into the vestibule where all sorts of other people were awaiting examination, I think he had already more or less made up his mind to clear things up by something like a confession. He turned to me and began to say in a low voice: 'Oh, I can't stick this anymore. If you must know all about me—'" At the same instant one of the poor women pointed at the suspect and accused him of being a notorious petty swindler named Drugger Davis. That halted the man's confession.

Father Brown points out the incongruity of the suspect being guilty of such a wide variety of crimes, ranging from storming out of a prison after murdering a guard to drugging poor women to steal their meager belongings. "Can't you see the whole character is different?" says he. "One would think you'd never had any vices of your own."

Just then a respected man shows up who truthfully clears the suspect, but the former detective is slow to believe. Father Brown helps him understand: "Why, look here, Mr. Usher, you said the machine couldn't make a mistake, and in one sense it didn't. But the other machine did: the machine that worked it. You assumed that the man in rags jumped at the name of Lord Falconroy, because he was Lord Falconroy's murderer. He jumped at the name of Lord Falconroy because he is Lord Falconroy."
 
"Then why the blazes didn't he say so?" demands Usher.

"He felt his plight and recent panic were hardly patrician," replies Father Brown, "so he tried to keep the name back at first. But he was just going to tell it to you when a woman found another name for him."

 
   6. The Head of Caesar

Flambeau and Father Brown are in the window seat of a
London pub when Father Brown notices two things in sequence: a man looking in and a young red-haired woman sitting at the bar with a glass of milk. Father Brown says to Flambeau just loud enough for the woman to hear, "If you've got ten minutes, I wish you'd follow that man with the false nose."
 
Flambeau looks up in surprise, as does the young lady, "with something that was stronger than astonishment" in her face. Flambeau trusts Father Brown so he heads out quickly without explanation to determine the strange man’s heading. The lady comes over to Brown’s table and tells him her tale, for he correctly deduces that she ducked into the pub to avoid the man with the false nose. But first she wants to know how Father Brown is sure about the false nose. He answers, "The wax always spots like that just a little in this weather…. This man, I think, wears it because his real nose is so much nicer."

"But why?"

"What is the nursery-rhyme? There was a crooked man and he went a crooked mile.... That man, I fancy, has gone a very crooked road—by following his nose." 


The red-headed lady says, "My name is Christabel Carstairs, and my father was that Colonel ... who made the famous Carstairs Collection of Roman coins.... He was very like a Roman coin himself.... His extraordinary character came out most in his will. He had two sons and one daughter. He quarreled with one son, my brother Giles, and sent him to Australia on a small allowance. He then made a will leaving the Carstairs Collection, actually with a yet smaller allowance, to my brother Arthur. He meant it as a reward.... He left me practically all his pretty large fortune.... Arthur, you may say, might well complain of this, but Arthur is my father over again.... No sooner had he taken over the Collection  than he became like a pagan priest dedicated to a temple ... in the same stiff, idolatrous way as his father before him. He acted as if Roman money must be guarded by all the Roman virtues. He ... spent nothing on himself; he ... pattered about ... in an old brown dressing-gown. With its rope and tassel and his pale, thin, refined face, it made him look like an old ascetic monk....

"Now, if you've known any young people, you won't be shocked if I say that I got into rather a low frame of mind with all this.... I'm not like my brother Arthur: I can't help enjoying enjoyment.... Poor Giles was the same ... though he really did wrong and nearly went to prison. But he didn't behave any worse than I did, as you shall hear."

Christabel became friends with an acquaintance  of her brother Giles, a handsome young man named Phillip
Hawker with a striking profile resembling a Roman Caesar coin in the Carstairs Collection. She had heard of that coin before, but had not seen it until she saw that Arthur neglected to take it with other coins he was carrying as she was leaving to meet Phillip at the seaside area where their families were staying. Christabel picked up the coin left behind, telling Father Brown, "I felt a thousand such things at once. Then there yawned under me, like the pit, the enormous, awful notion of what I was doing: above all the unbearable thought, which was like touching hot iron, of what Arthur would think of it. A Carstairs a thief, and a thief of the Carstairs treasure!... Nature is older than the Carstairs Collection. As I ran down the streets to the sea, the coin clenched tight in my fist, I felt all the Roman Empire on my back ...  all the eagles of the Caesars seemed flapping and screaming in pursuit of me.... Philip stood already up to his ankles in the shallow shining water, some hundred yards out to sea....  We were quite alone in a circle of sea-water and wet sand, and I gave him the head of Caesar. 

"At the very instant I had a shock of fancy: that a man far away on the sand-hills was looking at me intently.... He started walking briskly in a bee-line towards us across the wide wet sands. As he drew nearer and nearer I saw that he was dark and bearded, and that his eyes were marked with dark spectacles."

Phillip did not notice the mysterious man and wandered off. Mystery Man came within speaking distance of Christabel. She felt repulsed by his strange voice and odd nose, which "was just slightly turned sideways at the tip." Even more repulsive was the fact he was trying to blackmail her for stealing the coin. How could he have known? Christabel ran over to Phillip, but Phillip gave the man a surprised look, told him to go away, and walked in another direction with Christabel. When they parted, Phillip told her two things that struck her as strange: that Giles was newly back from Australia and that, all things considered, he thought she should put the coin back in the Collection but that he would keep it for the time being.

Just then Flambeau returns from tailing the man with the false nose, reporting that he was headed to an Australian section of London. Later when looking for her brother Arthur, Christabel tells her new friends what she saw when she opened the door: "My brother's chair was empty, and he was obviously out. But the man with the crooked nose was sitting waiting for his return ... reading one of my brother's books." Christabel lost her head in terror and gave him all the money she had on hand, relieved that he left before Arthur returned.

"It is an extraordinary problem," admits Flambeau.

"Not so extraordinary as the answer," remarks Father Brown rather gloomily. "Miss Carstairs, will you be at home if we call at your Fulham place in an hour and a half hence?"

She agrees to meet them there and leaves. Flambeau comments that this mystery "lies between few people, but at least three. You want one person for suicide, two people for murder, but at least three people for blackmail.... There must be one to be exposed, one to threaten exposure, and one at least whom exposure would horrify." 

Father Brown replies,  "You miss a logical step. Three persons are needed as ideas. Only two are needed as agents." 

"What can you mean?" asks the other.

"Why shouldn't a blackmailer threaten his victim with himself?" asks Brown in return. When he and Flambeau arrive at the Fulham place, an active figure runs down the steps of the house, revealing  under the lamplight the head that resembles the Roman coin. "Miss Carstairs," says Hawker without introduction, "wouldn't go in till you came." 
 
"Well," observes Brown confidently, "don't you think it's the best thing she can do to stop outside—with you to look after her? You see, I rather guess you have guessed it all yourself." Hawker admits that he has and gives Father Brown the Roman coin to return to its owner. Flambeau expects to see Arthur Carstairs, but instead sees the man with the false nose. Brown walks up to him, hands him the coin, and says, "This man is Mr. Arthur Carstairs."

Carstairs' color changes so horribly that the crooked nose on his face stands out like a separate and comic thing. He speaks, nevertheless, with a despairing dignity: "You shall see that I have not lost all the family qualities." Then he turns suddenly, strides into his  room, and locks the door. By the time Flambeau wrenches it open, Carstairs is dead from poison they find in a bottle near his body. Beside him are parcels filled not with Roman coins, but with English money.

Brown observes, "It was a cruel will his wicked father made, and you see he did resent it.... He hated the Roman money he had, and grew fonder of the real money denied him. He not only sold the Collection bit by bit, but sank bit by bit to the basest ways of making money—even to blackmailing his own family in a disguise. He blackmailed his brother from Australia for his little forgotten crime ... he blackmailed his sister for the theft he alone could have noticed."

"Well," growls Flambeau, this "coin-collector was nothing but a vulgar miser."

"Is there so great a difference?" asks Father Brown in a gentle tone. "What is there wrong about a miser that is not often as wrong about a collector?... Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image; thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them, for I ..." his voice trailing off before he finishes quoting the Second Commandment.


7. The Purple Wig

A newspaper editor busily replacing words with religious

implications, like adultery with impropriety, supernatural with marvelous, and God with circumstances, receives a story suggestion from a reporter who understands him: an exposé of the Duke of Exmoor and his lineage, said to be cursed by a hideous ear. The reporter says, "Of course I don't believe in the old legend ... and as for you, you don't believe in anything.... If a miracle happened in your office, you'd have to hush it up.... By the end of the week I think I can get you the truth about it." The editor likes the story idea and encourages Finn, the reporter, to pursue it.
Finn finds the Duke at a pub, seated with two men dressed in black. He writes to his editor, "The big man in black seemed very learned, especially about local antiquities; the small man in black, though he talked much less, surprised me with a yet wider culture. So we got on very well together." The Duke himself "seemed rather distant and haughty, until I slid into the subject of ... his ancestry. I thought the subject seemed to embarrass the other two a little, but it broke the spell of the third man's silence most successfully.... He proceeded to tell me some of the most horrible stories I have ever heard in my life.... Some of the tales, indeed, are not fit for public print—such as the story of the Scarlet Nuns, the abominable story of the Spotted Dog, or the thing that was done in the quarry....

"I could see that the big man opposite me was trying ... to stop him, but he evidently held the old gentleman in considerable respect, and could not venture to do so at all abruptly. And the little priest at the other end of the table, though free from any such air of embarrassment, looked steadily at the table, and seemed to listen to the recital with great pain—as well as he might."

After the Duke leaves the pub, the little priest introduces himself to Finn as Father Brown and the big man as the Duke's librarian. Finn decides to ask a question. The Duke "seems really to believe," answers Brown, that he is under a curse. "That's why he wears a wig."

"You don't mean that fable about the fantastic ear?" says Finn. "I've heard of it, of course, but surely it must be a superstitious yarn."

The librarian answers that there might be something to that fable because of what his predecessor told him about when the Duke's family lawyer, Isaac Green, took advantage of the Duke's carelessness to put the family in a bad financial situation. Green proposed to "the great landlord that they should halve the estates between them. The Duke, in dead silence, smashed a decanter on the man's bald head.... It left a red triangular scar on the scalp." The lawyer then threatened to use the law to take everything, but the Duke issued a greater threat: "If you take it I shall take off my wig.... Why, you pitiful plucked fowl, anyone can see your bare head. But no man shall see mine and live!" It is said that the horrified lawyer "simply ran from the room and never reappeared in the countryside, and since then Exmoor has been feared more for a warlock than even for a landlord and a magistrate."

Finn later checks the facts and finds "there was a lawsuit threatened, and at least begun, by one Green against the Duke of Exmoor." He further tells his editor, "I have made an astounding discovery. I freely confess it is quite different from anything I expected to discover.... I owe it all to the small priest Brown; he is an extraordinary man."

The discovery began when Father Brown tells Finn, "There's
one thing I don't like about the Duke's wigthe color.... There never was hair of that color in this world. It looks more like a sunset-cloud coming through the wood. Why doesn't he conceal the family curse better if he's really so ashamed of it? Shall I tell you? It's because he isn't ashamed of it. He's proud of it."
 
"It's an ugly wig to be proud of—and an ugly story," Finn replies.

When Father Brown learns from the Duke's librarian that the Duke has his servants do everything for him except handle his clothes and hair, a lightbulb goes on in his head. Emboldened, he implores the Duke in the presence of Finn and others to take off his wig.

"I spare you," says the Duke in a voice of inhuman pity. "I refuse. If I gave you the faintest hint of the load of horror I have to bear alone, you would lie shrieking at these feet of mine and begging to know no more. I will spare you the hint. You shall not spell the first letter of what is written on the altar of the Unknown God."

"I know the Unknown God," says the little priest with an unconscious grandeur of certitude. "His name ... is Satan. The true God was made flesh and dwelt among us. And I say to you, wherever you find men ruled merely by mystery, it is the mystery of iniquity. If the devil tells you something is too fearful to look at, look at it. If he says something is too terrible to hear, hear it. If you think some truth unbearable, bear it. I entreat your Grace to end this nightmare now and here."

"If I did," says the Duke in a low voice, "you and all you believe, and all by which alone you live, would be the first to shrivel and perish. You would have an instant to know the great Nothing before you died."

"The Cross of Christ be between me and harm," says Father Brown. "Take off your wig!"

Finn, listening to this extraordinary duel with excitement he cannot contain, cries out, "Your Grace, I call your bluff. Take off that wig or I will knock it off!" When the Duke refuses, Finn carries out his threat and stares at the bare head of the wig-less Duke.

The librarian exclaims, "What can it mean? Why, the man had nothing to hide. His ears are just like everybody else's."

"Yes," says Father Brown, "that is what he had to hide." He walks straight up to the Duke, but ignores his ears, pointing instead to a three-cornered scar on the man's forehead. "Mr Green, I think," he says politely, "and he did get the whole estate after all."



8. The Perishing of the Pendragons

Father Brown "was in no mood for adventures. He had lately
fallen ill with over-work, and when he began to recover, his friend Flambeau had taken him on a cruise in a small yacht with Sir Cecil Fanshaw, a young Cornish squire and an enthusiast for Cornish coast scenery. But Brown was still rather weak; he was no very happy sailor. Though he was never of the sort that either grumbles or breaks down, his spirits did not rise above patience and civility." He listens listlessly as the others talk.


The pilot recites, "Both eyes bright, she's all right; one eye winks, down she sinks."

Flambeau says, "No doubt this means a good sailor must keep both eyes open and be spry."

"Oddly enough," says Fanshaw, "it doesn't mean that: it means while they see two of the coast lights, one near and the other distant, exactly side by side, they are in the right river channel. If one light is hidden behind the other, they are headed for ruin on the rocks." He adds that his countrymen have a plethora of such sayings and decides to take his friends to visit a colorful old admiral up the river who discovered some of the last South Sea islands to be mapped before he retired from the sea.

Near Admiral Pendragon's grand island home is an odd and

ugly tower patched together with old and new wood boards. As the pilot approaches, he tells a story: Centuries ago, the seafaring Pendragons set up that tower to view ships as they enter the river channel. The most famous of them all, Sir Peter Pendragon, was said to be under a family curse because of his cruelty to prisoners he had taken from the Spanish Main. Fanshaw the pilot remarks, "This tower has been burnt down two or three times, and the family can't be called lucky, for more than two, I think, of the admiral's near kin have perished by shipwreck," and one at least at the treacherous opening of the river channel.

Flambeau has his eye on a pretty girl in a canoe nearby and observes, "She seems bothered by the queer tower just as we were." The young lady ignores his small yacht and paddles away. Flambeau soon has his eye on something else after he and his friends dock at Admiral Pendragon's landing: a flashing weapon! Its wielder, the admiral himself,  is savagely hacking away and cursing at foliage connecting the tower to the grounds of the house. He leaves a 14-foot gap by the time he is done.

Pendragon explains to his guests, "Perhaps I do go at it a bit rabidly, and feel a kind of pleasure in smashing anything. So would you if your only pleasure was in cruising about to find some new Cannibal Islands, and you had to stick on this muddy little rockery in a sort of rustic pond. When I remember how I've cut down a mile and a half of green poisonous jungle with an old cutlass half as sharp as this, and then remember I must stop here and chop this matchwood because of some confounded old bargain scribbled in a family Bible, why I—"

During dinner he tells his guests about that bargain, but first makes it clear he does not believe in the family curse, saying, "I don't believe in anything. I'm a man of science.... I hope it'll all end tonight, when my nephew comes back safe from his ship. You see, my father had two sons. I remained a bachelor, but my elder brother married, and had a son who became a sailor like all the rest of us, and will inherit the proper estate. Well, my father was a strange man: he somehow combined Fanshaw's superstition with a good deal of my skepticism—they were always fighting in him. After my first voyages, he developed a notion which he thought somehow would settle finally whether the curse was truth or trash. If all the Pendragons sailed about anyhow, he thought there would be too much chance of natural catastrophes to prove anything. But if we went to sea one at a time in strict order of succession to the property, he thought it might show whether any connected fate followed the family as a family. It was a silly notion, I think, and I quarreled with my father pretty heartily, for I was an ambitious man and was left to the last, coming, by succession, after my own nephew."

"And your father and brother died at sea, I fear," says Father Brown gently.

"Yes," groans the admiral, "by one of those brutal accidents on which are built all the lying mythologies of mankind: they were both shipwrecked. My father, coming up this coast out of the Atlantic, was washed up on these Cornish rocks. My brother's ship was sunk, no one knows where, on the voyage home from Tasmania. His body was never found. I tell you it was from perfectly natural mishap; lots of other people besides Pendragons were drowned, and both disasters are discussed in a normal way by navigators. But, of course, it set this forest of superstition on fire.... That's why I say it will be all right when Walter returns. The girl he's engaged to was coming today, but I was so afraid of some chance delay frightening her that I wired her not to come till she heard from me. But he's practically sure to be here some time tonight, and then it'll all end in smoke—tobacco smoke."

"Admiral," says Father Brown, "will you do me a favor? Let me, and my friends if they like, stop in that tower of yours just for tonight? Do you know that in my business you're an exorcist almost before anything else?"

Pendragon cries out, "I tell you there is nothing in it! There is one thing I know about this matter. You may call me an atheist. I am an atheist. This business is perfectly natural. There is no curse in it at all."

Father Brown smiles. "In that case," he replies, "there can't be any objection to my sleeping in your delightful summer-house."

"The idea is utterly ridiculous," replies the Admiral. "You do it at your own peril," he says in a lower voice, "but wouldn't you be an atheist to keep sane in all this devilry?"

Some three hours after dinner, "Fanshaw, Flambeau, and the priest were still dawdling about the garden in the dark, and it began to dawn on the other two that Father Brown had no intention of going to bed either in the tower or the house." In fact, he becomes unusually lively, having a sudden fierce desire to do garden chores. When he gets a hose going at full blast, he lops off the heads of several red flowers as he aims at red flames coming from the tower! "One of the admiral's scientific predictions is coming true tonight. This story is going to end in smoke," Brown explains to his amazed friends, whom he enlists to fight off servants of the admiral coming to stop his firefighting. Flambeau soon wrestles with the admiral himself, but the powerful seaman breaks free and is pursued by men sent by the lady who was in the canoe. Finding them closing in on every side, the admiral springs upon one of the higher river banks and disappears.

"You can do no more, I fear," says Father Brown sadly. "He has been washed down to the rocks by now, where he has sent so many others. He knew the use of a family legend."

"Oh, don't talk in these parables," exclaims Flambeau impatiently. "Can't you put it simply in words of one syllable?"

"Yes," answers Brown, with his eye still on the hose. "Both eyes bright, she's all right; one eye blinks, down she sinks.... Whenever this tower, with its pitch and resin-wood, really caught fire, the spark on the horizon always looked like the twin light to the coast lighthouse."

"And that," says Flambeau, "is how the father and brother died. The wicked uncle ... very nearly got his estate after all."
9. The God of the Gongs


It did not seem "a very appropriate place or time for a holiday, but Father Brown had few holidays, and had to take them when he could, and he always preferred, if possible, to take them in company with his old friend Flambeau, ex-criminal and ex-detective. The priest had had a fancy for visiting his old parish at Cobhole, and was going north-eastward along the coast. Seawards there was no sail or sign of life save a few seagulls: and even they looked like the last snowflakes, and seemed to float rather than fly." The two friends are walking on a cold winter day along an isolated stretch of beach when they catch sight of a big bandstand that looks "like a giant mushroom with six legs."

Flambeau comments, "It looks just like a little pagan
temple." 

"Yes," says Father Brown. "Let's have a look at the god." With an agility hardly to be expected of him, he hops onto the raised platform.

"Oh, very well," says Flambeau, laughing. He looks toward the beach to admire the gray view after he steps onto the bandstand, but turns when he hears a cry of dismay behind him. For some reason or other the platform gives way under Father Brown, and the unfortunate little man drops through: "He was just tall enough, or short enough, for his head alone to stick out of the hole in the broken wood, looking like St. John the Baptist's head on a charger. The face wore a disconcerted expression, as did, perhaps, that of St. John the Baptist."

"This wood must be rotten," says Flambeau. "Though it seems odd it should bear me, and you go through the weak place. Let me help you out."

But "the little priest was looking rather curiously at the corners and edges of the wood alleged to be rotten, and there was a sort of trouble on his brow."

"Come along," cries Flambeau impatiently, his large hand extended. "Don't you want to get out?"

"Want to get out? Why, no. I rather think I want to get in." A short while later Father Brown scrambles out of the hole faster than he fell in, his face pale.

"Well?" asks his tall friend. "Have you found the god of the temple?"

"No," answers Father Brown. "I have found what was sometimes more important. The Sacrifice."

"What the devil do you mean?" cries Flambeau, feeling alarmed.

Father Brown does not answer. He surveys the scene and points to a hotel and restaurant associated with the bandstand. When the two arrive in silence, Brown says to the proprietor, "My friend would like a glass of sherry to keep out the cold." When the proprietor returns with the sherry, he stays to chat with his guests, explaining that his staff is gone because of a big prizefight that brings income to the area in winter. Brown notices that the man is wearing a black necktie secured by a gold pin "with some grotesque head to it."

"I rather wonder," says Father Brown, "that there are so few people about the beach when this big fight is coming on after all. We only met one man for miles." Flambeau is mystified by that comment since they passed no one on their solitary walk up the beach, but says nothing.

The restaurant proprietor shrugs his shoulders in response. "They are only interested in the sport, and will stop in hotels for the night only. After all, it is hardly weather for basking on the shore." After a short period of silence he asks, "Whereabouts did you meet the one man on your march?"

"Close by here—just by that bandstand," answers the priest.

"What was he like?"

"It was rather dark when I saw him. Round his neck was
wrapped a long purple scarf.... It was fixed at the throat rather in the way that nurses fix children's comforters with a safety-pin. Only this," adds the priest, "was not a safety-pin. It was a very long gold pin, and had the carved head of a monkey or some such thing, and it was fixed in a rather odd way."

Suddenly the proprietor draws out a dagger and Father Brown would surely have fallen dead but for the swift, powerful moves of Flambeau, whom the proprietor seems to have forgotten. The assailant flees; Flambeau grabs his friend and runs in the opposite direction, anticipating the bullets that soon follow. When trapped in a garden, "three hinges and a lock burst at the same instant, and he went out into the empty path behind, carrying the great garden door with him, as Samson carried the gates of Gaza." 

Poor Father Brown is quite shaken. He explains to Flambeau when they are safe away that he really did see the person he described, but adds, "I'm afraid I didn't describe him so very accurately after all, for ... the long gold pin wasn't stuck through his purple scarf but through his heart.... I may have been wrong in what I did. I acted on impulse. But I fear this business has deep roots and dark." 

"Well," says Flambeau, "I never murdered anyone, even in my criminal days, but I can almost sympathize with anyone doing it in such a dreary place. Of all God-forsaken dustbins of Nature, I think the most heartbreaking are places like that bandstand, that were meant to be festive and are forlorn."

"Don't you think there's something rather tricky about this solitude, Flambeau? Do you feel sure a wise murderer would always want the spot to be lonely? It's very, very seldom a man is quite alone. And, short of that, the more alone he is, the more certain he is to be seen." As soon as Father Brown says that, Flambeau realizes his friend has led them to where the big prizefight is about to begin. Brown enters the place like a man on a mission.

"I didn't know pugilism was your latest hobby. Are you going
to see the fight?" inquires Flambeau.

"I don't think there will be any fight," says Father Brown as he makes his mission known to the manager: "I have come to prevent a man being killed." He quickly makes it clear he is not talking about either of the boxers.

"Who's going to be killed? The referee?" asks the manager.

"I don't know who's going to be killed," replies Father Brown. "If I did I shouldn't have to spoil your pleasure. I could simply get him to escape. I never could see anything wrong about prizefights. As it is, I must ask you to announce that the fight is off for the present."

"Anything else?" jeers the manager. "And what do you say to the 2,000 people who have come to see it?"

"I say there will be 1,999 of them left alive when they have seen it," says Father Brown.

The manager turns to Flambeau and asks, "Is your friend mad?"

"Far from it" is the reply.

The manager is obviously a good judge of character. He tells his assistant, "I have a serious announcement to make to the audience shortly. Meanwhile, would you kindly tell the two champions that the fight will have to be put off?" But he rightfully demands of Father Brown, "What authority have you for what you say? Whom did you consult?"

"I consulted a bandstand," says Father Brown, adding that he also consulted a book he providentially purchased when traveling. Taking out a small leather-bound volume he reads, "The only form of voodoo that is widely organized outside Jamaica itself is in the form known as the Monkey, or the God of the Gongs, which is powerful in many parts of the two American continents... It differs from most other forms of devil-worship and human sacrifice in the fact that the blood is not shed formally on the altar, but by a sort of assassination among the crowd."

Just then one of the prizefighters interrupts, demanding to know, "What is this?... You steal a colored gentleman's prize!" obviously assuming he would win. Father Brown recognizes that fighter from the seaside hotel.

"The matter is only deferred," says the manager. "I will be with you to explain in a minute or two.... I advise you just now to leave the room."

"Who is this fellow?" demands the dark champion, pointing to the priest disdainfully.

"My name is Brown," comes the reply. "And I advise you just now to leave the country." Later talking privately with Flambeau and the manager, Brown theorizes, "For an intelligent murderer ... it is an impossible plan to make sure that nobody is looking at you."

"But what other plan is there?" the other two want to know.

"There is only one," answers the priest. "To make sure that everybody is looking at something else." He turns to Flambeau and says that is what happened to "that poor fellow under the bandstand. He was dropped through the hole (it wasn't an accidental hole) just at some very dramatic moment of the entertainment, when the bow of some great violinist or the voice of some great singer ... came to its climax. And here [at the prizefight], of course, when the knockout blow came—it would not be the only one." While Father Brown is relieved a crime was averted, he comments sadly, "I fear the English decline to draw any fine distinction between the moral character produced by my religion and that which blooms out of Voodoo."

10. The Salad of Colonel Cray

Father Brown is coming home from an early-morning church

service when he hears a gun firing several shots and then a succession of strange, soft sounds he cannot quite make out. He puzzles over what those sounds might be, but is reluctant to get involved in matters that are not his business. Then he recalls "that pistol-shots are sometimes serious things, accompanied with consequences with which he was legitimately concerned." Soon he is on the property of a cheerful major who served in India, in the company of a morose colonel who served with him and had just fired the shots.

"Did you hit anything?" asks Father Brown.
 
"I thought so," answers Colonel Cray, gravely.

Major Putnam asks, "Did he fall or cry out, or anything?"

Colonel Cray looks at his host with a strange and steady stare. "I'll tell you exactly what he did: he sneezed."

Father Brown jerks his hand halfway to his head, "with the gesture of a man remembering somebody's name." Knowing now the soft, repetitive sound he heard after the gunfire, he asks, "Was it a burglar?"
 
"Let us go inside," says Major Putnam rather sharply, leading the way into his house. The table is set for an early farewell lunch in honor of Colonel Cray. "All the silver gone!" he proclaims. "Fish-knives and forks gone. Old cruet-stand gone."

"They're simply a blind," says Cray mysteriously. "I know better ..."

The major pats him on the shoulder like a child, saying, "It was a burglar. Obviously it was a burglar."

Father Brown later observes the colonel back at the scene of the shooting, carefully examining the ground for evidence of burglary. He himself looks for evidence of a particular kind in the outside dustbin and then heads back inside, where he meets Audrey, an attractive ward of the major. Father Brown notices "a look in her mouth and around her eyes which suggested that some sorrows wasted her." Audrey obviously functions more as a housekeeper than as a ward, for she is talking with the major about her concerns that Sunday morning whether the two officers can manage their luncheon without her.

"Oh yes we can, my dear," says the major with a smile. "We've often done ourselves well in very rough places, as you might know by now. And it's time you had a treat, Audrey: you mustn't be a housekeeper every hour of the day, and I know you want to hear the music."

"I want to go to church," she replies. Father Brown gathers from the conversation that Cray has to leave before the usual lunch time, but that his host, not to be done out of a final feast with an old crony, has made arrangements for a special meal while Audrey attends the worship service. She was to go there "under the escort of a relative and old friend of hers, Dr. Oliver Oman, who, though a scientific man of a somewhat bitter type, was enthusiastic for music, and would go even to church to get it.

Father Brown lingers "much longer than politeness required or even, in the ordinary sense, permitted." He returns his attention to Colonel Cray, still searching the ground on his hands and knees.
 
"Well!" says Cray, observing his observer. "I suppose you think I'm mad, like the rest?" 

"I incline to think you are not," says Brown. "You are trying to find traces of the burglar, even when there aren't any. You want what no madman ever wants."

"And what is that?"

"You want to be proved wrong." 

Cray decides to confide in Father Brown. He fears he is under a curse because of something that happened the last day he and Major Putnam were in India. When seeking to buy souvenir cigars across from where the major was lodging, Cray wandered in the wrong door and found himself shut inside a dark corridor that led to the back of an idol. A guardian of that idol pronounced this doom on him: "A hair shall slay you like a sword, and a breath shall bite you like an adder. Weapons shall come against you out of nowhere, and you shall die many times." The idol's creepy guardian disappeared behind a sliding door, and Cray heard the unlocking of another door that lead him outside.

The colonel continues,  "Putnam, of course, with his jolly common sense, pooh-poohed all my fears, and from that time dates his doubt of my mental balance." Cray's fears became serious when three things happened hundreds of miles away from the idol: "I woke in black midnight ... when I felt a faint tickling thing, like a thread or a hair, trailed across my throat.... When I got up and sought lights and a mirror, the line across my neck was a line of blood. The second happened in a lodging in Port Said ... I woke again in the dark with a sensation that could not be put in colder or more literal words than that a breath bit like an adder.... Putnam, poor fellow, who had called the other thing a chance scratch, was bound to take seriously the fact of finding me half insensible on the grass at dawn. But I fear it was my mental state he took seriously, and not my story. The third happened in Malta. We were in a fortress there, and as it happened our bedrooms overlooked the open sea.... I woke up again, but it was not dark. There was a full moon as I walked to the window: I could have seen a bird on the bare battlement, or a sail on the horizon. What I did see was a sort of stick or branch circling, self-supported, in the empty sky. It flew straight in at my window and smashed the lamp beside the pillow I had just left. It was one of those queer-shaped war-clubs some Eastern tribes use. But it had come from no human hand."

Father Brown asks, "Has Major Putnam got any Eastern curios, idols, weapons and so on, from which one might get a hint?"

"Plenty," replies Cray so they head to the major's study, where they pass Audrey getting ready for church and the major lecturing his cook about the meal. Inside the study they find a man looking intently and with some alarm at a large open dictionary on a table. He is Dr. Oman, introduced cordially enough to Father Brown by Colonel Cray, but in a way that betrays to the perceptive priest that the men are rivals.

Major Putnam sticks his head in the room, saying, "Come along, Cray. Your lunch is just coming in. And the bells are ringing for those who want to go to church." 

Cray, Audrey, and Dr. Oman leave the room, but Father Brown remains, examining the dictionary of drugs and other things. He notices that Dr. Oman looks back with concern before he leaves the house with Audrey. Father Brown, concerning other people, "was as sensitive as a barometer, but today he seemed about as sensitive as a rhinoceros. By no social law, rigid or implied, could he be supposed to linger round the lunch of the Anglo-Indian friends, but he lingered, covering his position with torrents of amusing but quite needless conversation. He was the more puzzling because he did not seem to want any lunch."

The talkative priests exclaims, "I'll tell you what I'll do for you: I'll mix you a salad! I can't eat it, but I'll mix it like an angel! You've got lettuce there."

"Unfortunately it's the only thing we have got," says the major. "You must remember that mustard, vinegar, oil and so on vanished with the cruet and the burglar."

"I know," replies Brown. "That's what I've always been afraid
would happen. That's why I always carry a cruet-stand about with me. I'm so fond of salads." To the amazement of the two men he takes out a silver pepper shaker and cruet stand with all the condiments!

"You're an astounding fellow," says Colonel Cray, staring. "I shall come and hear your sermons, if they're as amusing as your manners." His voice changes a little, and he leans back in his chair.

"Oh, there are sermons in a cruet-stand, too," replies Father Brown. "Have you heard of faith like a grain of mustard-seed, or charity that anoints with oil?"  

Colonel Cray leans forward and clutches the tablecloth. Father Brown instantly tips two spoonfuls of mustard into the water glass beside him and says in a loud voice, "Drink that!"

Dr. Oman, who was silently observing at the window, bursts into the room, crying out, "Am I wanted? Has he been poisoned?"

"Pretty near," says Brown, with the shadow of a smile, for the emetic had suddenly taken effect. Cray "lay in a deck-chair, gasping as for life, but alive."

Major Putnam springs from his chair, shouting, "A crime! I will go for the police!"

After the major leaves, Father Brown says to Cray, "I shall not talk to you much, but I will tell you what you want to know. There is no curse on you.... There is only one weapon that will bring blood with that mere feathery touch: a razor.... There is one way of making a common room full of invisible, overpowering poison: turning on the gas.... And there is only one kind of club that can be thrown out of a window, turn in mid-air and come back to the window next to it: the Australian boomerang. You'll see some of them in the major's study."

Father Brown then goes outside to speak with the doctor. Audrey rushes past them and falls on her knees beside Cray's chair. Observing their faces, Brown says confidentially to the doctor, "I suppose the major was in love with her, too?" The other nods his head. "You were very generous, doctor," replies Brown. You did a fine thing. But what made you suspect?"

"A very small thing," says Oman, "but it kept me restless in church till I came back to see that all was well. That book on his table was a work on poisons, and was put down open at the place where it stated that a certain Indian poison, though deadly and difficult to trace, was particularly easily reversible by the use of the commonest emetics."

The major must have suddenly remembered early in the morning when preparing to poison his longtime rival "that there were emetics in the cruet-stand," says Father Brown. "He threw the cruet in the dustbin—where I found it, along with other silver—for the sake of a burglary blind. But if you look at that pepper-pot I put on the table, you'll see a small hole. That's where Cray's bullet struck, shaking up the pepper and making the criminal sneeze."

Dr. Oman observes, "The major is a long time looking for the police."

"Or the police in looking for the major?" says the priest.



11. The Strange Crime of John Boulnois
 
When an inconspicuous Oxford scholar named John Boulnois wrote "a series of articles on alleged weak points in Darwinian evolution, it fluttered no corner of the English papers, though Boulnois's theory (which was that of a comparatively stationary universe visited occasionally by convulsions of change) had some rather faddy fashionableness at Oxford, and got so far as to be named Catastrophism. But many American papers seized on the challenge as a great event, and the Sun threw the shadow of Mr. Boulnois quite gigantically across its pages. An American reporter from the Western Sun is on his way to Oxford because the scholar "had consented, in a somewhat dazed manner, to receive the interviewer, and had named the hour of nine that evening."

The American stops at a pub on the way, inquiring, "Could you do me the favor  of directing me to the Gray Cottage, where Mr. Boulnois lives, as I understand?"

"It's a few yards down the road," says the only other customer.  "I shall be passing it myself in a minute, but I'm going on to Pendragon Park to try and see the fun."

"What is Pendragon Park?" asks the American.

"Sir Claude Champion's place—haven't you come down for that, too?" asks the other newspaperman, looking up. "You're a journalist, aren't you?"

"I have come to see Mr. Boulnois," says Kidd, the American.

"I've come to see Mrs. Boulnois," replies Dalroy, an English reporter. "But I shan't catch her at home." He laughs unpleasantly.

"Are you interested in Catastrophism?" asks Kidd.

"I'm interested in catastrophes, and there are going to be some," replies his fellow reporter. "Mine's a filthy trade, and I never pretend it isn't."

Kidd already knew that Sir Claude Champion was a wealthy sportsman who raced yachts around the world, wrote books about his travels, became an influential politician, and dabbled in art, music, literature, and especially acting. Dalroy fills him in on more details: Champion and Boulnois went to school and college together. Although "their social destinies had been very different (for Champion was a great landlord ... while Boulnois was a poor scholar and, until lately, an unknown one), they still kept in close touch with each other. Indeed, Boulnois's cottage stood just outside the gates of Pendragon Park. But whether the two men could be friends much longer was becoming a dark and ugly question. A year or two before, Boulnois had married a beautiful ... actress, to whom he was devoted in his own shy and ponderous style.... Sir Claude had carried the arts of publicity to perfection, and he seemed to take a crazy pleasure ... in an intrigue that could do him no sort of honor. Footmen from Pendragon were perpetually leaving bouquets for Mrs. Boulnois, carriages and motor-cars were perpetually calling at the cottage for Mrs. Boulnois, balls and masquerades perpetually filled the grounds in which the baronet paraded Mrs. Boulnois, like the Queen of Love and Beauty at a tournament. That very evening, marked by Mr. Kidd for the exposition of Catastrophism, had been marked by Sir Claude Champion for an open-air rendering of Romeo and Juliet, in which he was to play Romeo to a Juliet it was needless to name."

When the American arrives at the scholar's home, he is met at the door by a large, plain man who says, "Mr. Boulnois asked me to offer his apologies, sir,  but he has been obliged to go out suddenly."

"But see here, I had an appointment!" says Kidd, feeling slighted. "Do you know where he went to?"

"To Pendragon Park, sir," came the reply, followed by a shut door. 

Marching angrily away, Kidd thinks to himself, "If that's the way he goes on, he deserves to lose his wife's purest devotion, but perhaps he's gone over to make a row. In that case a man from the Western Sun will be on the spot." The judgmental reporter finds much more than he expects when a bloody ornamental sword sails in his direction. Heading where it came from, Kidd sees a man in Renaissance costume leaning against a large sundial illuminated by moonlight and then sliding off it and rolling in the grass. Kidd recognizes him at once as Sir Claude Champion, and realizes that sword must have run through his body.

The injured man moans and manages to speak: "Boulnois did it ... jealous of me ... he was jealous, Boulnois ... with my own sword ... he threw it." Champion then dies.

Others begin arriving at the scene, and a doctor and a priest are sent for. Father Brown, hearing the American's testimony of Champion's last words, says, "I understood that Mr. Boulnois was not coming to Pendragon Park this evening." 

Kidd hotly replies, "Yes, sir, John Boulnois was going to stay in all this evening: he fixed up a real good appointment there with me. But John Boulnois changed his mind [and] left his home abruptly and all alone, and came over to this darned Park an hour or so ago. His butler told me so. I think we hold what the all-wise police call a clue."

"Just before the police come, has anyone got a light?" Father Brown inquires. The American takes out a flashlight, which Brown uses to examine the middle of the ornamental sword. "I fear I'm no use here," he says with a sigh. He says good night and walks towards the house, where he finds the lovely wife of John Boulnois. Observing her approach him, the perceptive priest replies, "I see you know about Sir Claude."

"How do you know I know?" she asks without great surprise.

Father Brown does not answer the question, but asks another: "Have you seen your husband?"

"My husband is at home. He has nothing to do with this. Shall I tell you something more? I don't think he did it, and you don't either." The priest stares at her and then nods gravely.

"Father Brown," says the lady, "I am going to tell you all I know, but I want you to do me a favor first. Will you tell me why you haven't jumped to the conclusion of poor John's guilt? Don't mind what you say: I know about the gossip and the appearances that are against me."

"Two very little things," he answers. "At least, one's very trivial and the other very vague. But such as they are, they don't fit in with Mr. Boulnois being the murderer. To take the vague idea first. I attach a good deal of importance to vague ideas. All those things that 'aren't evidence' are what convince me. I think a moral impossibility the biggest of all impossibilities. I know your husband only slightly, but I think this crime of his, as generally conceived, something very like a moral impossibility. Please do not think I mean that Boulnois could not be so wicked. Anybody can be wicked.... We can direct our moral wills, but we can't generally change our instinctive tastes and ways of doing things. Boulnois might commit a murder, but not this murder. He would not snatch Romeo's sword from its romantic scabbard, or slay his foe on the sundial as on a kind of altar.... If Boulnois killed anyone he'd do it quietly and heavily.... The romantic setting is ... more like Champion."

"Ah!" says the lady, her eyes sparkling.

The other  thing, says Brown, is this: "There were fingerprints on that sword ... halfway down the blade.... Why should anybody hold a sword halfway down? It was a long sword, but length is an advantage in lunging at an enemy. At least, at most enemies. At all enemies except one."

"Except one," she repeats.

"There is only one enemy whom it is easier to kill with a dagger than a sword."

"I know," says Mrs. Boulnois. "Oneself."

After a long silence Father Brown asks, "Am I right, then? Did Sir Claude kill himself?"

"Yes," she answers with a face like marble. "I saw him do it."

"He died," inquires Father Brown gently, "for love of you?"

Looking astonished at the thought, she exclaims,  "I don't believe he ever cared about me.... He hated my husband!"

"Why?"

"He hated my husband because ... it is so strange I hardly know how to say it ... because ... my husband wouldn't hate him. My husband is a great man. Sir Claude Champion was not a great man: he was a celebrated and successful man. My husband has never been celebrated or successful, and it is the solemn truth that he has never dreamed of being so. He no more expects to be famous for thinking than for smoking cigars. On all that side he has a sort of splendid stupidity. He has never grown up. He still liked Champion exactly as he liked him at school; he admired him as he would admire a conjuring trick done at the dinner-table. But he couldn't be got to conceive the notion of envying Champion. And Champion wanted to be envied."

"Yes," says Father Brown; "I think I begin to understand."

"Champion put John in a little house at his very door, like a dependent—to make him feel a failure. He never felt it. He thinks no more about such things than—than an absent-minded lion. Champion would burst in on John's shabbiest hours or homeliest meals with some dazzling present or announcement or expedition ... and John would accept or refuse amiably ...  like one lazy schoolboy agreeing or disagreeing with another. After five years of it John had not turned a hair, and Sir Claude Champion was a monomaniac." 

That comment prompts Father Brown to recite a verse from the biblical book of Esther: "Haman began to tell them of all the ways the king had honored him, but he said: 'All these things profit me nothing while I see Mordecai the Jew sitting in the gate.'"

Mrs. Boulnois continues, "The crisis came when I persuaded John to let me take down some of his speculations and send them to a magazine. They began to attract attention, especially in America, and one paper wanted to interview him. When Champion (who was interviewed nearly every day) heard of this late little crumb of success falling to his unconscious rival, the last link snapped that held back his devilish hatred. Then he began to lay that insane siege to my own love and honor which has been the talk of the shire. You will ask me why I allowed such atrocious attentions. I answer that I could not have declined them except by explaining to my husband, and there are some things the soul cannot do, as the body cannot fly. Nobody could have explained to my husband.... If you said to him in so many words, 'Champion is stealing your wife,' he would think the joke a little vulgar: that it could be anything but a joke—that notion could find no crack in his great skull to get in by. Well, John was to come and see us act this evening, but just as we were starting he said he wouldn't; he had got an interesting book and a cigar. I told this to Sir Claude, and it was his death-blow. The monomaniac suddenly saw despair. He stabbed himself, crying out like a devil that Boulnois was slaying him; he lies there in the garden dead of his own jealousy to produce jealousy, and John is sitting in the dining-room reading a book."

Father Brown, thinking carefully, replies, "There is only one weak point, Mrs. Boulnois, in all your very vivid account. Your husband is not sitting in the dining-room reading a book. That American reporter told me he had been to your house, and your butler told him Mr. Boulnois had gone to Pendragon Park after all."

Looking bewildered, she cries out, "Why, what can you mean? All the servants were out of the house, seeing the theatricals. And we don't keep a butler, thank goodness!"

"What, what?" Father Brown cries out in turn, seeming
energized. He takes his leave of the lady to see her husband, whom he finds "reading by a shaded lamp, exactly as his wife described him. A decanter of port and a wineglass were at his elbow, and the instant the priest entered he noted the long ash stand out unbroken on his cigar. 'He has been here for half an hour at least,' thought Father Brown. 'Don't get up, Mr. Boulnois. I shan't interrupt you a moment. I fear I break in on some of your scientific studies.'"

"No," says Boulnois, "I was reading The Bloody Thumb." He says it with neither frown nor smile, and his visitor becomes "conscious of a certain deep and virile indifference in the man which his wife had called greatness."

"I won't keep you long from The Bloody Thumb or any other catastrophic affairs," says Father Brown, smiling. "I only came to ask you about the crime you committed this evening."

Boulnois slowly turns red.

"I know it was a strange crime," says Father Brown in a low voice. "The little sins are sometimes harder to confess than the big onesbut that's why it's so important to confess them."

The scholar admits, "It makes one feel such a damned fool." 

"I know, but one often has to choose between feeling a damned fool and being one," says the priest.

"I can't analyze myself well," continues Boulnois, "but sitting in that chair with that story I was as happy as a schoolboy on a half-holiday. It was security, eternity—I can't convey it ... the cigars were within reach ... the Thumb had four more appearances ... it was not only a peace, but a plenitude. Then that bell rang, and I thought for one long, mortal minute that I couldn't get out of that chair—literally, physically, muscularly couldn't. Then I did it like a man lifting the world because I knew all the servants were out. I opened the front door, and there was a little man with his mouth open to speak and his notebook open to write in. I remembered the Yankee interviewer I had forgotten.... I said I had gone across to Pendragon Park and shut the door in his face. That is my crime, Father Brown, and I don't know what penance you would inflict for it." 

"I shan't inflict any penance," says the priest: "quite the contrary. I came here specially to let you off the little penance which would otherwise have followed your little offense." 

"And what," asks Boulnois, smiling, "is the little penance I have so luckily been let off?"

"Being hanged."


12. The Fairy Tale of Father Brown

This is the tale of a German prince who was shot dead after he banned guns in his kingdom. Flambeau explains it this way to Father Brown: Prince Otto was a usurper of a kingdom, repelled by three brothers who led a revolt against him, but one of those brothers betrayed his people and joined Otto. Another of the brothers died heroically defending his people. The remaining brother "retired into something like a hermitage ... and never mixed with men except to give nearly all he had to the poor." Father Brown mentions he met that hermit once.

Flambeau, surprised to hear that, goes on to tell about Otto. Towards the end of his life, he "began to have those tricks of the nerves not uncommon with tyrants. He multiplied the ordinary daily and nightly guard round his castle till there seemed to be more sentry-boxes than houses in the town, and doubtful characters were shot without mercy. He lived almost entirely in a little room that was in the very center of the enormous labyrinth of all the other rooms.... Under the floor ... was a secret hole in the earth, no more than large enough to hold him, so that, in his anxiety to avoid the grave, he was willing to go into a place pretty much like it. But he went further yet. The populace had been supposed to be disarmed ever since the suppression of the revolt, but Otto now insisted, as governments very seldom insist, on an absolute and literal disarmament. It was carried out with extraordinary thoroughness and severity.

"On the evening in question ... the Prince was expected to
appear in one of the outer rooms because he had to receive certain visitors whom he really wished to meet. They were geological experts sent to investigate the old question of the alleged supply of gold from the rocks ... upon which (as it was said) the small city-state had so long maintained its credit and been able to negotiate with its neighbors." It was rumored that two of the three rebel brothers knew the location of the gold vein. The traitor was not one of them so Otto kept searching for it himself, obsessed to the point of secretly digging under his own palace. The prince's meeting with the geologists lasted long into the night, but the prince himself went missing. In the morning Otto was discovered on the grounds of the castle, shot to death in the temple and jaw, with a bullet hole through the ceremonial sash of his uniform, which lay crumpled to his side: "He was a riddlehe who had always hidden in the inmost chamber out there in the wet woods, unarmed and alone."

"Who found his body?" asks Father Brown.

"Some girl attached to the Court named Hedwig ... who had been out in the wood picking wild flowers."

"Had she picked any?"

"Yes."

"Had the flowers got long stalks?"

"What an odd person you are!" remarks Flambeau, saying that's exactly what his German detective friend mentioned. "He said the ugliest part of it ... uglier than the blood and bulletwas that the flowers were quite short, plucked close under the head."

"Of course," says the priest, "when a grown-up girl is really picking flowers, she picks them with plenty of stalk. If she just pulled their heads off, as a child does, it looks as if ... she had snatched them nervously to make an excuse for being there."

"I know what you're driving at," says Flambeau, "but that and every other suspicion breaks down on the one point the want of a weapon.... They had the girl most ruthlessly searched.... There was no pistol, though there were two pistol shots."

"How do you know there were two shots?"

"There was only one in his head, but there was another bullet-hole in the sash."

"What became of this Hedwig eventually?" asks Father Brown.

"She is married to General Schwartz," answers Flambeau. "He rose from the ranks, which is very unusual."

Father Brown becomes suddenly alert. "Rose from the ranks!" he cries out, and makes a mouth as if to whistle. "What a queer way of killing a man, but I suppose it was the only one possible. But to think of hate so patient"

"What do you mean?" demands the other. "In what way did they kill the man?"

"They killed him with the sash. Yes, yes, I know about the bullet. Perhaps I ought to say he died of having a sash."

"I suppose," says Flambeau, "that you've got some notion in your head, but it won't easily get the bullet out of his ... he was shot. By whom? By what?" 

"He was shot by his own orders," says the priest.

"You mean he committed suicide?"

"I didn't say by his own wish," replies Father Brown. "I said by his own orders." Then he tells Flambeau a sort-of fairy tale based on what he already knew and now knows: the secret exit of Prince Otto from his castle was a sudden impulse. His great passion "was not the much nobler dread of death, but the strange desire of gold. For this legend of the gold he had left Grossenmark and invaded Heiligwaldenstein. For this and only this he had bought the traitor and butchered the hero, for this he had long questioned and cross-questioned the false [brother], until he had come to the conclusion that, touching his ignorance, the renegade really told the truth. For this he ... had stolen out of his palace like a thief ... for he had thought of another way to get the desire of his eyes, and to get it cheap."

Prince Otto is on his way to the hermitage. He remembered that the great Ludwig, in the hour of death, looked at the brother who would become a hermit, but pointed at the traitor and said, "You have not told him ..." before becoming incapable of speech. The thought came on Otto like a thunderclap that the hermit "could have no real reason for refusing to give up the gold. He had known its place for years, and made no effort to find it, even before his new ascetic creed had cut him off from property or pleasures. True, he had been an enemy, but he now professed a duty of having no enemies. Some concession to his cause, some appeal to his principles, would probably get the mere money secret out of him," he figures. Otto reckons he is in no danger since he has disarmed the kingdom, many sentry stations are at his beck and call, and the hermit is old and nearly blind.

As Otto approaches the cave of the humble hermitage, he
sees Heinrich the Hermit bent over a large German Bible on a lectern, evidently reading some daily lesson as part of his religious exercises. "They trust in their horses ..." 

"Sir," interrupts the prince, "I should like only one word with you." 

"And in their chariots," continues the old man weakly, "but we will trust in the name of the Lord of Hosts." He closes the Bible reverently and makes a groping movement, gripping the lectern. Instantly two assistant come out of the cavern and support him. Prince Otto is mildly alarmed to discover that the assistants are  young and strong, "but his courage and diplomatic sense stood firm."

"I fear we have not met," says Otto, "since that awful cannonade in which your poor brother died."

"All my brothers died," replies the old man.

"I hope you'll understand," continues the prince, making an effort to remain calm, "that I do not come here to haunt you as a mere ghost of those great quarrels. We will not talk about who was right or wrong in that, but at least there was one point on which ... you were always right.... No one for one moment imagines that you were moved by the mere gold; you have proved yourself above the suspicion that ..."

The hermit "continued to gaze at him with watery blue eyes and a sort of weak wisdom in his face. But when the word gold was said he held out his hand as if in arrest of something, and turned away his face to the mountains. 'He has spoken of gold. He has spoken of things not lawful. Let him cease to speak.'" The signal has just been given to initiate a long-conceived plan of vengeance. 

Otto has no idea of what is coming next. He had "the vice of his Prussian type and tradition, which is to regard success not as an incident but as a quality. He conceived himself and his like as perpetually conquering peoples.... Consequently, he was ill acquainted with the emotion of surprise, and ill prepared for the next movement, which startled and stiffened him. He had opened his mouth to answer the hermit, when the mouth was stopped and the voice strangled by a strong, soft gag suddenly twisted round his head like a tourniquet." The assistants use his military sash. 

Heinrich the Hermit hobbles over again weakly to his Bible, and turns the pages "with a patience that had something horrible about it, till he came to the Epistle of St. James, and then began to read: 'The tongue is a small part of the body, but'"

Prince Otto's nerve breaks at this point and he ran "down the mountain-path he had climbed. He was halfway towards the gardens of the palace before he even tried to tear the strangling scarf from his neck and jaws. He tried again and again, and it was impossible: the men who had knotted that gag knew the difference between what a man can do with his hands in front of him and what he can do with his hands behind his head. His legs were free to leap like an antelope on the mountains, his arms were free to use any gesture or wave any signal, but he could not speak. A dumb devil was in him. He had come close to the woods that walled in the castle before he had quite realized what his wordless state meant and was meant to mean." Otto was rendered speechless, like the hermit's heroic brother was rendered speechless before his death. A sentry post nearby hears the noise Otto is making in his panicked run and issues a challenge. A shot rings out, as ordered, when no answer comes. The soldier who fired, a private named Schwartz, moves out to investigate.  He unwraps the sash he shot through that bound the man he shot in the dark, and is horrified when he recognizes the dead prince.

Father Brown concludes, "We cannot be certain of the next phase. But I incline to believe that there was a fairy tale, after all, in that little wood, horrible as was its occasion. Whether the young lady named Hedwig had any previous knowledge of the soldier she saved and eventually married, or whether she came accidentally upon the accident ... we shall probably never know. But we can know, I fancy, that this Hedwig was a heroine, and deserved to marry a man who became something of a hero. She did the bold and the wise thing. She persuaded the sentry to go back to his post.... She remained by the body and gave the alarm.... Well, I hope they're happy."


Book 3: The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)

1.   The Resurrection of Father Brown

"There was a brief period during which Father Brown enjoyed, or rather did not enjoy, something like fame. He was a nine days' wonder in the newspapers," mainly because of what happened in this story, but also because his many adventures as a detective began appearing in magazines through word of mouth. Strangely enough, he was at the time living in one of the most remote of his many places of residence.  Father Brown had been sent out as a missionary on the northern coast of South America.

The trouble begins when Mr. Snaith, a newly arrived American reporter, wanders onto Father Brown's mission station in a hostile mood because one of his suitcases is missing and because he has a low view of priests and religion. When, however, he observes the good Father Brown is doing for the people he serves and their respect for him, "he became quite enthusiastic about the priest's program—at least on its secular and social side—and announced himself ready at any moment to act in the capacity of a live wire for its communication to the world at large. And it was at this point that Father Brown began to find the journalist rather more troublesome in his sympathy than in his hostility."

Mr. Snaith "set out vigorously to feature Father Brown.... He

took snapshots of the unfortunate cleric in the most commonplace occupations, and exhibited them in gigantic photographs.... He turned his sayings into slogans, and was continually presenting the world with 'A message' from the reverend gentleman in South America." Father Brown "received handsome and eager offers to go on a lecturing tour in the States, and when he declined, the terms were raised with expressions of respectful wonder. A series of stories about him, like the stories of Sherlock Holmes, were, by the instrumentality of Mr. Snaith, planned out and put before the hero with requests for his assistance and encouragement. As the priest found they had started, he could offer no suggestion except that they should stop."

Father Brown's fame was becoming a steady nuisance to him. He was especially troubled by local traders and shopkeepers "who were perpetually pestering him to try their wares and to give them testimonials. Even if the testimonials were not forthcoming, they would prolong the correspondence for the purpose of collecting autographs. As he was a good-natured person they got a good deal of what they wanted out of him." One time that proved disastrous.

A wine merchant "was wildly anxious that the priest should not only try some of his celebrated medicinal port, but should let him know where and when he would drink it, in acknowledging its receipt. The priest was not particularly surprised at the request, for he was long past surprise at the lunacies of advertisement. So he scribbled something down and turned to other business which seemed a little more sensible." Later in the evening, after he finishes his glass of port at the promised time, he goes outside for a stroll. Suddenly, Father Brown has "a strong sense of the smell of evil ... but he did not think of stopping. His courage, which was considerable, was perhaps even less strong a part of him than his curiosity. All his life he had been led by an intellectual hunger for the truth, even of trifles. He often controlled it in the name of proportion, but it was always there. He walked straight through the gateway, and on the other side a man sprang like a monkey out of the treetop and struck at him with a knife. At the same moment another man came crawling swiftly along the wall and, whirling a cudgel round his head, brought it down."

Soon the cry rings out, "Father Brown is dead!" It rocks the world of everyone in that South American community,  especially John Adams Race, a young American working there as an engineer who became a distant admirer of Father Brown: "He was quite sure the Bible religion was really the right thing, only he vaguely missed it wherever he went in the modern world. He could hardly be expected to sympathize with the religious externals of Catholic countries," but "the only thing he had ever met in his travels that in the least reminded him of ... the Bible on his mother’s knee was (for some inscrutable reason) the round face and black clumsy umbrella of Father Brown. He found himself insensibly watching that commonplace and even comic black figure as it went bustling about."

A doctor soon arrives to confirm there is no doubt of Father

Brown's death, and a large open-casket funeral is speedily arranged. It came to a dramatic climax when "the priest in the coffin gave a groan and raised himself on one elbow, looking with bleary and blinking eyes at the crowd," saying in a high and quavering voice, "Oh, you silly, silly people!" He leaps out and heads to the telegraph office, pausing long enough to answer the obvious question: "No, of course it's not a miracle.  Why should there be a miracle? Miracles are not so cheap as all that." The telegram Father Brown sends to his bishop is simple: "There is some mad story about a miracle here; hope his lordship not give authority. Nothing in it."

As Father Brown sighs with relief after sending his message, he stumbles as he turns to head home and discovers John Adams Race coming to his aid, saying, "Let me see you home."

When the two men sit down later to talk, Father Brown begins, "I have pretty often had the task of investigating murders. Now I have got to investigate my own murder. Do you know what I felt like when I died? You may not believe it, but my feeling was one of overwhelming astonishment."

"Well," comments Race, "I suppose you were astonished at being knocked on the head."

Brown replies, "I was astonished at not being knocked on the head. When that man brought his bludgeon down with a great swipe, it stopped at my head and did not even touch it. In the same way, the other fellow made as if to strike me with a knife, but he never gave me a scratch.... But then followed the extraordinary thing: I began to feel my legs doubling up under me and my very life failing. I knew I was being struck down by something, but it was not those weapons. Do you know what I think it was?" Brown points to the medicinal wine he was asked to write a testimonial about.

R
ace picks up the wine glass and smells it. "I think you are right," he says. "I began as a druggist and studied chemistry. I couldn't say for certain without an analysis, but I think there's something very unusual in this stuff. There are drugs [that produce] a temporary sleep that looks like death."

"Quite so," says the priest calmly at first. "The whole of this miracle was faked, for some reason or other. That funeral scene was staged — and timed." Then he loses his composure and walks away.

"Where are you going?" asks the other in some wonder.

Father Brown, who was quite pale, replies, "I was going to pray. Or rather, to praise."

"I’m not sure I understand. What is the matter with you?"

"I was going to praise God for having so strangely and so incredibly saved me—saved me by an inch."

"Of course," says Race, "I have religion enough to understand that. Of course, you would thank God for saving you from death."

"No," says Father Brown. "Not from death. From disgrace. And if it had only been my disgrace! But it was the disgrace of all I stand for: the disgrace of the Faith." The wine merchant, the doctor, and others "would have boomed the miracle. Then they would have bust up the miracle. And what is the worst, they would have proved that I was in the conspiracy [from unwitting testimonials]. That’s all there is to it, and about as near hell as you and I will ever be, I hope. They certainly would have got quite a lot of good copy out of me."


John Race appears to be very thoughtful. "You’ve told me a lot I didn’t know," he says at last, "and I feel inclined to tell you the only thing you don’t know. I can imagine how those fellows calculated well enough. They thought any man alive, waking up in a coffin to find himself canonized like a saint, and made into a walking miracle for everyone to admire, would be swept along with his worshipers and accept the crown of glory that fell on him out the sky. And I reckon their calculation was pretty practical psychology, as men go. I’ve seen all sorts of men in all sorts of places, and I tell you frankly I don’t believe there’s one man in a thousand who could wake up like that with all his wits about him, and while he was still almost talking in his sleep, would have the sanity and the simplicity and the humility to—"

Now it is John Race who loses his composure. Father Brown, staring at the drugged wine on his table, says, "Look here, what about a bottle of real wine?"



2. The Arrow of Heaven
 

This is the story of three murdered American millionaires who possessed a "chalice inlaid with precious stones and commonly called the Coptic Cup." An American named Peter Wain tells Father Brown what happened to the first two. Wain has "an uncle named Crake who had a partner named Merton, who was number three in the series of rich business men to whom the cup had belonged. The first of them, Titus P. Trant, the Copper King, had received threatening letters from somebody signing himself Daniel Doom.... Trant was found one morning with his head in his own lily-pond, and there was not the shadow of a clue. The cup was, fortunately, safe in the bank and it passed with the rest of Trant’s property to his cousin, Brian Horder, who was also a man of great wealth and ... also threatened by the nameless enemy. Brian Horder was picked up dead at the foot of a cliff outside his seaside residence, at which there was a burglarythis time on a large scale. For though the cup apparently again escaped, enough bonds and securities were stolen to leave Horder’s financial affairs in confusion. Brian Horder’s widow had to sell most of his valuables, I believe, and Brander Merton must have purchased the cup at that time, for he had it when I first knew him."

"Has Mr. Merton ever had any of the threatening letters?" asks Father Brown.

"I’m pretty sure he has," answers Peter Wain. ‘I’ve not seen the letters, only his secretary sees any of his letters." The secretary tells Wain he is certain his employer's life is in danger so Wain takes the liberty of asking Father Brown to visit the wealthy and influential man in his secure compound to see if murder can be averted.


"It is my duty to visit prisoners and all miserable men in captivity," the priest replies. He happens to arrive at the one time of day when Merton shuts himself alone for 15 minutes. Wain introduces Father Brown to his frontiersman uncle, who tells a striking story about fighting native Americans, and Merton's secretary, who describes his employer's elaborate security system and the reason he risks being alone once a day.
"He doesn't trust any of us about the Coptic Cup," explains the secretary. "It's locked up somewhere and somehow in that room so that only he can find it, and he won’t take it out till we’re all out of the way. So we have to risk that quarter of an hour while he sits and worships it. I reckon it’s the only worshiping he does." 

Listening to all the man says, Father Brown observes, "The arrangements are very elaborate.... But they seem even more designed to catch a murderer than to save a man."

"Father Brown, you're very smart, but there's something more to you than smartness. Somehow you're the sort of man to whom one wants to tell the truth.... My full name is John Wilton Horder.... This fellow who calls himself Doom killed my father and uncle and ruined my mother. When Merton wanted a secretary I took the job, because I thought that where the cup was the criminal might sooner or later be. But I didn’t know who the criminal was and could only wait for him, and I meant to serve Merton faithfully."

"I understand," says Father Brown gently, "and, by the way, isn’t it time that we attended on him?" They do, but find Merton dead with an arrow in his throat. The Coptic Cup is still on the man's desk. Brown observes, "Look how far away everything looks. It seems extraordinary that an arrow could come so far, unless it were an arrow from heaven." Merton's chauffeur is quick to echo that mystical explanation, but Father Brown dismisses it as a figure of speech. A month later, he gathers with Merton's lawyer and other key figures at the scene of the crime to explain what he has discovered about Merton's mysterious death.

When Brown rules out supernatural explanations, the lawyer says with a sneer, "I should hardly have thought, sir, that you had any quarrel with mystical explanations."

"On the contrary," replies Father Brown amiably, "That's just why I can quarrel with 'em. Any sham lawyer could bamboozle me, but he couldn't bamboozle you because you're a lawyer yourself.... It's just because I have picked up a little about mystics that I have no use for mystagogues. Real mystics don't hide mysteries; they reveal them. They set a thing up in broad daylight, and when you've seen it, it's still a mystery. But the mystagogues hide a thing in darkness and secrecy, and when you find it, it's a platitude."

Crake the frontiersman asks, "If you know the truth about this, where the devil did you get it from?"

"I got it from you," answers the priest, "I made the first guess from ... a story of yours about an Indian who threw a knife and hit a man on the top of a fortress.... The moral of the story is that since a dagger can be turned into an arrow, so can an arrow be turned into a dagger.... Somebody had it in his hand as he ... thrust it into Merton's throat ... and then had the highly intelligent idea of placing the whole thing at such a place and angle that we all assumed ... it had flown in at the window.... Look here, I've just heard from Wilton [the secretary] on the phone, and he's given me permission to tell you some rather serious news. Now I suppose you all know by this time who Wilton was, and what he was after."

"I know he was after Daniel Doom and wouldn't be happy till he got him," answers Peter Wain. "He's the son of old Horder, and that’s why he’s the avenger of blood. Anyhow, he’s certainly looking for the man called Doom."

"Well," says Father Brown, "he has found him."

Peter Wain springs to his feet in excitement. "Is the murderer in the lock-up already?"

"No," answers Father Brown gravely. "I said the news was serious, and it’s more serious than that. I’m afraid poor Wilton has taken a terrible responsibility. I’m afraid he’s going to put a terrible responsibility on us. He hunted the criminal down, and just when he had him cornered at last—well, he has taken the law into his own hands."

"You mean that Daniel Doom—" begins the lawyer.

"I mean that Daniel Doom is dead," says the priest. "Wilton killed him."

"Serve him right," growls Mr. Hickory Crake.

"Can’t blame Wilton for downing a crook like that, especially considering the feud," agrees Wain. "It was like stepping on a viper."

"I don’t agree with you," says Father Brown. "If we lose our laws and liberties, we shall regret it. Besides, it seems to me illogical to say there is something to be said for Wilton committing murder, without even inquiring whether there was anything to be said for Doom committing it.... An objection to Wilton’s way of doing it is that we shall never hear Doom’s side of the case."

"How did Wilton kill him?" asks Crake abruptly.

"With an arrow. Your friend Merton was Daniel Doom," says Father Brown. He "was always crazy after that Coptic Cup that he used to worship like an idol every day, and in his wild youth he had really killed two men to get it, though I think the deaths may have been in a sense accidents of the robbery.... I fancy [Wilton] only discovered the truth when he'd got into this house ... and slew the slayer of his father."

"What are we going to do? What are we to say? Oh, it's all quite different!" exclaims Peter Wain. "Brander Merton is a thing like the President."

"I certainly think it is rather different," agrees the lawyer.

"No!" cries out Father Brown, striking a table sharply.

"There shall be no difference. I gave you your chance of pitying the poor devil when you thought he was a common criminal. You wouldn’t listen then: you were all for private vengeance then. You were all for letting him be butchered like a wild beast without a hearing or a public trial, and said he had only got his deserts. Very well then, if Daniel Doom has got his deserts, Brander Merton has got his deserts. If that was good enough for Doom, by all that is holy it is good enough for Merton. Take your wild justice or our dull legality, but in the name of Almighty God, let there be an equal lawlessness or an equal law."

Nobody answers except the lawyer, with something like a snarl: "What will the police say if we tell them we mean to condone a crime?"

"What will they say if I tell them you did condone it?" replies Father Brown. "Your respect for the law comes rather late.... I, for one, am ready to tell the truth if the proper authorities ask me, and the rest of you can do as you like. But as a fact, it will make very little difference. Wilton only rang me up to tell me that I was now free to lay his confession before you, for when you heard it, he would be beyond pursuit."

3. The Oracle of the Dog

"I always like a dog, so long as he isn't spelt backwards," says Father Brown, stroking the head of a gorgeous golden retriever belonging to a young man named Fiennes.

"You mean that people make too much of them?" asks the man. "Well, I don't know. They're marvelous creatures. Sometimes I think they know a lot more than we do." He tells Father Brown about the Invisible Murder Case involving a friend of his where the actions of the murdered man's dog struck him as the strangest aspect of the case. The victim, Colonel Druce, was found stabbed to death from behind while alone in his summer house. Fiennes was walking with the man's nephews and dog on the beach in back of the summer house. One of the nephews, Herbert, had been throwing his walking stick into the water for Nox, a black retriever, to fetch. Harry, the other nephew, decided to throw in his stick as well. At what later proved to be the time of his master's murder, "The dog swam out again, but ... he stopped swimming. He came back again onto the shore and ... suddenly threw up his head and sent up a howl or wail of woe.... It was broken by a faint and far-off shriek, like the shriek of a woman."

"You went back, I suppose. What happened then?" inquires Father Brown. He learns that the murdered colonel's daughter screamed when the bright white of the linen jacket her father was wearing caught her eye in such a way that she knew he must be crumpled up on the floor of the summer house, where she found him stabbed to death. No murder weapon was found despite a thorough search, and there was only one way in or out of the house. The colonel's secretary happened to be trimming shrubs for awhile on that path, and saw no one enter or exit after the colonel's lawyer left when the colonel was very much alive. Fiennes suspects the lawyer is guilty because Nox barked at him and chased him away. Father Brown inquires what the lawyer was there for.

"He told us the colonel sent for him to alter his will," answers Fiennes. "The colonel was a very wealthy man, and his will was important. Most of the money was transferred from the son to the daughter." The colonel disapproved of his son, Donald, who lived a dissipated life. 

Father Brown observes, "The problem is not who or what did it, but how it was done. We might find many men and even many tools ... but how did a man get into the room?" A sudden idea occurs to him but he keeps it to himself. He is not surprised to hear a few days later that Harry Druce, one of the colonel's nephews, pulled down a big landmark rock near the summer house on himself, leaving this note to be discovered by his lifeless body: "The Rock of Fortune falls on the Fool." 

"It was the colonel's will that did that," says Father Brown. "The young man had staked everything on profiting himself by Donald's disgrace, especially when his uncle sent for him on the same day as the lawyer.... He killed himself when he found he'd killed his kinsman for nothing." 

Fiennes agrees, saying "I suppose the suicide is almost a confession. But nobody will ever know the whole story."

Father Brown says softly, "I rather think I know the whole story." 

The young man loses his temper, saying loudly: "How do you come to know the whole story, or to be sure it's the true story? You've been sitting here a hundred miles away writing a sermon!" 

"The dog!" answers Father Brown. "You had the whole story in your hands in the business of the dog on the beach, if you'd only noticed the dog properly. The dog had everything to do with it, as you'd have found out if you'd only treated the dog as a dog, and not as God Almighty judging the souls of men. The truth is, I happen to be awfully fond of dogs. And it seemed to me that in all this lurid halo of dog superstitions, nobody was really thinking about the poor dog at all.... You asked how I could guess things a hundred miles away, but honestly it's mostly to your credit, for you described people so well that I know the types.

"I know you're awfully clever, and nobody of sense sneers at cleverness. But ... you are too clever to understand animals. Sometimes you are too clever to understand men, especially when they act almost as simply as animals. Animals are very literal; they live in a world of truisms. Take this case: a dog barks at a man and a man runs away.... The dog barked because he disliked the man and the man fled because he was frightened of the dog.... But you ... suppose the dog had super-normal vision, and was a mysterious mouthpiece of doom.... If the dog really could completely and consciously realize the murderer of his master ... he's much more likely to fly at his throat."

Father Brown continues, "When we come to that business by the seashore, things are much more interesting.... Once a dog is actually chasing a thing, a stone or a stick or a rabbit, my experience is that he won't stop for anything but the most peremptory command, and not always for that. That he should turn around because his mood changed seems to be unthinkable." 

"But he did turn around," insists Fiennes, "and came back without the stick."

"He came back without the stick for the best reason in the world: he couldn't find it. He whined because he couldn't find it. That's the sort of thing a dog really does whine about.... Never had an eminent and distinguished dog been so treated by a rotten old walking-stick!"

"Why, what had the walking-stick done?"

"It had sunk," says Father Brown, "because it was not really
a stick, but a rod of steel with a very thin shell of cane and a sharp point. In other words, it was a sword stick. I suppose a murderer never gets rid of a bloody weapon so oddly and yet so naturally as by throwing it into the sea for a retriever." 

"I begin to see what you mean," admits Fiennes, "but even if a sword-stick was used, I have no guess of how it was used."

"I had a sort of guess right at the beginning when you said the word summer-house. And another when you said that Druce wore a white coat. As long as everybody was looking for a short dagger, nobody thought of it." Father Brown explains that summer houses are often made of "closely interlaced but separate boughs and strips of wood, in which there are chinks here and there." What if there was one "just behind Druce's back as he sat in his chair up against the wall"? The white jacket would make the colonel stand out as a target, and the beach was near the summer house.

Fiennes shudders. "You mean he drew his blade there and sent it through the hedge at the white spot. But surely it was a very odd chance and a very sudden choice. Besides, he couldn't be certain the old man's money had passed to him, and as a fact it hadn't."

"You misunderstand the man's character," Brown says, as if he himself had known the man all his life. "This man was a gambler.... The temptation of that kind of man is to do a mad thing precisely because the risk will be wonderful in retrospect. He wants to say, 'Nobody but I could have seized that chance or see that it was then or never.... Anybody would say I was mad to risk it, but that is how fortunes are made.' The white speck and the hole in the hedge intoxicated him like a vision of the world's desire.... That is how the devil talks to the gambler.... As he stood there, dizzy with his diabolical opportunity, he looked up and saw that strange outline that might have been the image of his own tottering soul ... and remembered that it was called the Rock of Fortune. Can you guess how such a man at such a moment would read such a signal?... He who would be a tower must not fear to be a toppling tower." Harry fell for the temptation and made his fatal move. His next move was to cover up his crime. That is when he noticed the dog playing catch in the surf. 

"It's queer," remarks Fiennes, "that the dog really was in the story after all."

"The dog could almost have told you the story, if he could talk. All I complain of," says the priest, "is that because he couldn't talk you made up his story for him, and made him talk with the tongues of men and angels. It's part of something I've noticed more and more in the modern world ... something that's arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims.... It's drowning all your old rationalism and skepticism ... and the name of it is superstition. It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there's a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen ... and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt ... all because you are frightened of four words: 'He was made Man.'"

Fiennes rises to leave "with a little embarrassment, almost as if he had overheard a soliloquy." He had to call his dog twice to follow him, "for the dog had remained behind quite motionless for a moment, looking up steadily at Father Brown as the wolf looked at St. Francis."


4. The Miracle of the Crescent Moon

Moon Crescent "was meant to be as romantic as its name." Its exterior "had a gray and weather-stained stateliness," but the interior apartments consisted of "a sitting-room, bedroom, and bathroom, as identical as the hundred cells of a hive. In one of these the celebrated Warren Wynd sat at his desk sorting letters. He was a very little man with a big reputation as "a reformer and regulator of many good works." All sorts of stories and "even legends were told of the miraculous rapidity with which he could form a sound judgment, especially of human character." It was said he selected his wife by picking her out of a line of women in uniform, marching at some official celebration. Another story was told of how three homeless men "presented themselves before him asking for charity. Without a moment's hesitation he sent one of them to a particular hospital devoted to a certain nervous disorder, recommended the second to an inebriates' home, and engaged the third at a handsome salary as his own private servant," a powerfully built man who served him well for many years.

The busy little philanthropist is now hurrying up a meeting with a millionaire named Vandam in the presence of the aforementioned personal servant, Wilson, and his secretary, Fenner. Mr. Warren Wynd orders Fenner to escort Vandam to his car and Wilson to bring papers up to his storeroom in the apartment directly above his own. He instructs both of his employees to let him work undisturbed for half an hour but then to return for further instructions. The three men go out into the hallway together, Wilson heading upstairs and the other two walking toward the elevator since Wynd's apartment is on the fourteenth floor. A large striking-looking man with white hair approaches them, asking if Mr. Warren Wynd is in. He explains that he is Mr. Art Alboin of Oklahoma City, representing a new religion that Mr. Wynd should invest in. Fenner the secretary explains that Wynd is not to be disturbed.

Alboin quips, "I calculate there's a big breeze getting up in the West that will have to disturb you. He's been figuring out how much money must go to this and that stuffy old religion, but I tell you any scheme that leaves out the new Great Spirit movement in Texas and Oklahoma is leaving out the religion of the future."

Vandam the millionaire responds sourly, "Oh, I've sized up those religions of the future. I've been through them with a tooth-comb and they're as mangy as yellow dogs.... I'm through with all that. From now on I only believe what I see. I believe they call it being an atheist."

"I guess you got me wrong," says the man from Oklahoma. "I guess I'm as much of an atheist as you are. No supernatural or superstitious stuff in our movement, just plain science. The only real right science is just health, and the only real right health is just breathing. Fill your lungs with the wide air of the prairie and you could blow all your old eastern cities into the sea.... We don't pray; we breathe.... What did the Jews want with a God except to breathe into man's nostrils the breath of life?... Life, progress, prophecy: it's all breath."

"Some would allow it's all wind," says Vandam, "but I'm glad you've got rid of the divinity stunt, anyhow."

"I'm not glad," retorts Fenner the secretary with a bitter expression on his face. "I'm just sure. You seem to like being atheists so you may be just believing what you like to believe. But I wish to God there were a God, and there ain't. It's just my luck."

Suddenly the three men realize they have been joined silently by a fourth, a little Roman Catholic priest, waiting patiently but eager to speak. When he asks to see Mr. Warren Wynd, he is quickly rebuffed by the secretary, but the priest stands his ground: "I do really want to see Mr. Wynd. It seems odd, but that's exactly what I do want to do. I don't want to speak to him. I just want to see him. I just want to see if he's there to be seen."

The secretary replies that they left him in his office five minutes ago and they've stood outside the door ever since. Father Brown says gravely, "I have a serious, I might say solemn, reason for doubting whether he is all right." He explains that when he was walking outside, a very ragged man ran around the corner of Mr. Wynd's building, someone whom he "once helped a little."

The ragged man stopped in his tracks, saying, "Saints alive, it's Father Brown! You're the only man whose face could frighten me today."

"I knew he meant he'd been doing some wild thing or other, and ... he was soon telling me about it," says the priest. "He asked me if I knew Warren Wynd, and I said no."

The wild man said, "That's a man who thinks he's a saint of

God, but if he knew what I was saying of him he should be ready to hang himself." Father Brown asked if he'd done any harm to Wynd, but the man gave this strange answer: "I took a pistol and I loaded it with neither shot nor slug, but only with a curse. I cursed him with the great curse that the justice of God should take him by the hair and the vengeance of hell by the heels, and he should be torn asunder like Judas and the world know him no more."

After the man left, Father Brown decided to investigate: in a little alley there lay a pistol. "It had been loaded only with a little powder," says the priest. "There were the black marks of powder and smoke on the wall, and even the mark of the muzzle, but not even a dent of any bullet. He had left no trace of destruction ... so I came back here to ask for this Warren Wynd and find out if he's all right.... I should like to look in and see."

"Well, you can't," retorts the secretary. "Good Lord, you don't tell me you think anything of the curse!"

"You forget," says the millionaire with a sneer, "the reverend gentleman's whole business is blessings and cursings. Come, sir, if he's been cursed to hell, why don't you bless him back again?"

"Does anybody believe such things now?" protests the Westerner.

"Father Brown believes a good number of things, I take it," says Vandam the millionaire, whose temper was suffering from Wynd's dismissive treatment of him. 

"Well," says the priest gravely, "it is true enough that I believe in a good many things that you probably don't. But it would take a considerable time to explain all the things I believe in, and all the reasons I have for thinking I'm right. It would take about two seconds to open that door and prove I am wrong."

Those words strike a chord in the wild and restless spirit of the man from the West, who moves past the fussy secretary, saying, "I'd love to prove you wrong, and I will." He throws open the door and looks in: Wynd is nowhere to be found! After notifying the authorities, it is almost nightfall when the four men find themselves talking outside. "I give up!" exclaims Alboin. "I never thought I should come to such things, but what happens when the things come to you? I beg your pardon, Father Brown; I reckon I'll just come across, so far as you and your fairy-tales are concerned. After this, it's me for the fairy-tales. Why, you said yourself, Mr. Vandam, that you're an atheist and only believe what you see. Well, what was it you did see? Or rather, what was it you didn't see?"

"I know," nods Vandam in a glum voice.

"Oh, it's partly all this moon and trees that get on one's nerves," says Fenner stubbornly. That comment leads Father Brown to notice an odd-looking branch that the young secretary investigates closely. He finds his employer's small body with a large rope around his neck that was coiled about the rest of his body to keep it from plain sight.

"Well," says Vandam, "I never thought to see or say such a thing. But what can one say except that the curse has worked?"

Fenner the secretary covers his face with hands, looking grief stricken. Father Brown lays a hand on his arm and asks gently, "Were you very fond of him?"

"I hated him like hell, " he confesses, "and if he died by a curse, it might have been mine."

"It wasn't your curse; pray be comforted," replies Father Brown earnestly. He needed to return to his pastoral duties so the men ask him to join them a few days later to discuss the case. They all now ascribe it to something supernatural, but Father Brown does not. He guides their thinking by asking this question: "What would happen to you if a lunatic let off a firearm without rhyme or reason right under your window?"

Vandam the millionaire replies, "I guess I should look out of the window."

"Yes, you'd look out of the window. That’s the whole story. It’s a sad story."

The Westerner observes, however, that "he didn't fall out, or he'd have been found in the lane."

Father Brown agrees: "He didn’t fall. He rose. Don’t you remember Wilson, that big servant of his, a man of huge strength, while Wynd was the lightest of little shrimps? Didn’t Wilson go to the floor above...? Has Wilson been seen since that day? I fancy not."

"Do you mean," asks the secretary, "that Wilson whisked him clean out of his own window like a trout on a line?" 

"Yes, and let him down again out of the other window into the park, where the third accomplice hooked him onto a tree. Remember the lane was always empty....  There were three of them in it, of course, and I wonder whether you can all guess who they were. By the way, don’t think I blame you for jumping to [supernatural] conclusions. The reason’s very simple, really. You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists, and as a matter of fact you were all balanced on the very edge of belief—of belief in almost anything. There are thousands balanced on it today, but it’s a sharp, uncomfortable edge to sit on. You won’t rest till you believe something: that’s why Mr. Vandam went through new religions with a tooth-comb, and Mr. Alboin quotes Scripture for his religion of breathing exercises, and Mr. Fenner grumbles at the very God he denies.... It’s natural to believe in the supernatural. It never feels natural to accept only natural things. But though it wanted only a touch to tip you into preternaturalism about these things, these things really were only natural things."

Fenner laughs out loud, but then looks puzzled, saying, "I don’t understand one thing: if it was Wilson, how did Wynd come to ... be killed by a man he’d seen every day for years? He was famous as being a judge of men."

"Yes!" says Father Brown emphatically. "He was killed for just that. He was killed for being a judge of men. What is any man that he should be a judge of men?" Those three were the homeless men who "once stood before him and were dismissed rapidly right and left to one place or another, as if for them there were no cloak of courtesy, no stages of intimacy, no free-will in friendship. And twenty years has not exhausted the indignation born of that unfathomable insult in that moment when he dared to know them at a glance."

"Yes," says the secretary. "I understand ... and I understand how it is that you understand—all sorts of things."


5. The Curse of the Golden Cross

Six people are sitting around a small table in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a large ship bound for England. One is Father Brown, who along with a journalist, lecturer, celebrated traveler, and stylish but quiet observer, is listening to a professor of Byzantine studies comment about anything but a sensational tomb of that era recently unearthed in England. Professor Smaill has come to respect Father Brown, however, and confides in him alone: "You see, up to a point it's all simple enough. A Christian tomb of the Dark Ages, apparently that of a bishop, has been found under a little church ... on the Sussex coast. The Vicar happens to be a good bit of an archaeologist himself ....  In the coffin is a chain with a cross, common enough to look at, but with a certain secret symbol on the back found on only one other cross in the world. It is from the ... very earliest Church, and is supposed to indicate St. Peter ... at Antioch before he came to Rome. Anyhow, I believe there is but one other like it, and it belongs to me. I hear there is some story about a curse on it, but I take no notice of that. But whether or no there is a curse, there really is, in one sense, a conspiracy, though the conspiracy should only consist of one man."


"Of one man?" repeats Father Brown.

"Of one madman, for all I know," says the professor. "It’s a long story and in some ways a silly one. It began ... when I was conducting some investigations ...  in the antiquities of Crete and the Greek islands. I did a great deal of it practically single-handed, sometimes ... alone. It was under the latter circumstances that I found a maze of subterranean passages which led at last to a heap of rich refuse, broken ornaments, and scattered gems which I took to be the ruins of some sunken altar, and in which I found the curious gold cross. I turned it over, and on the back of it I saw the Ichthus or fish, which was an early Christian symbol, but of a shape and pattern rather different from that commonly found."

The professor also soon discovered he was being secretly
observed. Then he was openly threatened, but his stalker remained hidden from sight, saying he would kill the professor or anyone else who  possessed the cross with the mark of the fish. The man told Smaill he was not fool enough to attack him in the labyrinth, knowing the professor had a loaded revolver, but he said he would plan his murder with the certainty of success. 

"Since then," says the professor, "I have received from time to time signs and symbols and queer impersonal messages that have made me certain, at least, that if the man is a maniac he is a monomaniac.... He does not seem to have any religious sentiment or fanaticism on the point; he seems to have no passion but the passion of a collector of curiosities.... And then came this report, as yet unsubstantiated, about the duplicate relic found on an embalmed body in a Sussex tomb. If he had been a maniac before, this news turned him into a demoniac possessed of seven devils.... His mad messages began to come thick and fast like showers of poisoned arrows, and each cried out more confidently than the last that death would strike me at the moment when I stretched out my unworthy hand towards the cross in the tomb."

Realizing that the assassin could be any man from the professor's perspective, Father Brown humbly comments, "He may be me."

"He may be anybody else," replies the professor with warm sincerity. He suspects the assassin may be one of the four other table companions so he tells Brown of his plan to remove himself from their company as soon as the ship docks in England, and invites this trustworthy minister to join him on his trip up the Sussex coast to visit the tomb. The professor's plan fails comically, however, for all four of the ship acquaintances turn up one by one near the tomb, drawn like moths to a flame. 

The vicar himself then appears, a gray-haired gentleman "with a droop accentuated by doublet eyeglasses, and while rapidly establishing sympathetic relations with the professor as a fellow-antiquarian, he did not seem to regard his rather motley group of companions with anything more hostile than amusement."

"I hope you are none of you superstitious," he remarks. "I ought to tell you, to start with, that there are supposed to be all sorts of bad omens and curses hanging over our devoted heads in this business. I have just been deciphering a Latin inscription which was found over the entrance to the chapel, and it would seem that there are no less than three curses involved: a curse for entering the sealed chamber, a double curse for opening the coffin, and a triple and most terrible curse for touching the gold relic found inside it. According to the story, the curses descend in a rather lingering fashion."

"What story is that?" asks Professor Smaill.

The vicar answers, "The substance of it is embodied in the inscription and is roughly this: Guy de Gisors, a lord of the manor here early in the thirteenth century, had set his heart on a beautiful black horse in the possession of an envoy from Genoa, which that practical merchant prince would not sell except for a huge price. Guy was driven by avarice to the crime of pillaging the shrine and, according to one story, even killing the bishop, who was then resident there. Anyhow, the bishop uttered a curse that was to fall on anybody who should continue to withhold the gold cross from its resting-place in his tomb, or should take steps to disturb it when it had returned there. The feudal lord raised the money for the horse by selling the gold relic to a goldsmith in the town, but on the first day he mounted the horse the animal reared and threw him in front of the church porch, breaking his neck. Meanwhile the goldsmith, hitherto wealthy and prosperous, was ruined by a series of inexplicable accidents, and fell into the power of a Jewish money-lender living in the manor. Eventually the unfortunate goldsmith, faced with nothing but starvation, hanged himself on an apple-tree. The gold cross with all his other goods, his house, shop, and tools, had long ago passed into the possession of the money-lender. Meanwhile, the son and heir of the feudal lord, shocked by the judgment on his blasphemous sire ... conceived it his duty to persecute all heresy and unbelief among his vassals. Thus the Jewish money-lender ...  was ruthlessly burnt by order of the son so that he, in his turn, suffered for the possession of the relic. After these three judgments, it was returned to the bishop’s tomb, since when no eye has seen and no hand has touched it."

All the adventurers follow the vicar to the tomb, and "all eyes went first to the face of the dead, preserved across all those ages .... The professor could hardly repress an exclamation of wonder; for, though the face was as pale as a mask of wax, it looked otherwise like a sleeping man, who had but that moment closed his eyes. The face was of the ascetic ... with a high framework of bones. The figure was clad in ... gorgeous vestments, and high up on the breast, at the base of the throat, glittered the famous gold cross upon a short gold chain or rather necklace. The stone coffin had been opened by lifting the lid of it at the head and propping it aloft upon two strong wooden shafts or poles, hitched above under the edge of the upper slab and wedged below into the corners of the coffin behind the head of the corpse. Less could therefore be seen of the feet or the lower part of the figure, but the candlelight shone full on the face, and in contrast with its tones of dead ivory the cross of gold seemed to stir and sparkle like a fire."

Image result for the curse of the golden crossAs the "professor laid a finger on the gold cross, the wooden props ... seemed to jump and straighten themselves with a jerk. The lip of the stone slab slipped from its wooden perch.... Smaill had withdrawn his head swiftly, but not in time, and he lay senseless beside the coffin in a red puddle of blood from scalp or skull. And the old stone coffin was once more closed as it had been for centuries." Professor Smaill acted quickly enough to spare his life, but a new mystery presents itself: the vicar's disappearance. Since his clothes are discovered by a rocky seaside cliff, suicide as a result of the curse is the consensus of the group.

"Hold on," says Father Brown, in a sharp voice he very seldom used. "This has got to stop. What a fool I am!... The tale of the curse ought to have told me.... It’s not the supernatural part I doubt. It’s the natural part.... I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable. It really is more natural to believe a supernatural story that deals with things we don’t understand, than a natural story that contradicts things we do understand. Does anybody know anything about the Middle Ages?... I don’t claim to know a lot myself, but I know enough to see that story is stuff and nonsense from beginning to end. It was illegal for a money-lender to seize on a man’s shop and tools. It’s exceedingly unlikely that the Guild would not have saved a man from such utter ruin.... Those people had vices and tragedies of their own: they sometimes tortured and burned people. But that idea of a man, without God or hope in the world, crawling away to die because nobody cared whether he lived—that isn’t a medieval idea. That’s a product of our economic science and progress. The Jew wouldn’t have been a vassal of the feudal lord. The Jews normally had a special position as servants of the King." The whole story "was made up by somebody whose notions came from novels and newspapers, and probably made up on the spur of the moment."

Since Father Brown's companions can guess neither the criminal nor crime, he explains that the body in the tomb is really the corpse of a recently murdered man: the real vicar, who was killed by an imposter. That imposter set the trap for Professor Smaill and almost got away with killing him, but he did get away with the cross. 

As the professor recovers from his injury, he finds it therapeutic to have discussions with Father Brown, reflecting, "I thought I had a right to be alarmed because I was creeping through the bowels of the earth in the dark and there was a man who would destroy me. What would it have been like if the destroyer had been up in the daylight and had owned all the earth and commanded all the armies and the crowds? How if he had been able to stop all the earths or smoke me out of my hole, or kill me the moment I put my nose out in the daylight? What was it like to deal with murder on that scale? The world has forgotten these things."

"Yes," replies Father Brown, "The fish may be driven underground again, but it will come up into the daylight once more. As St. Antony of Padua humorously remarked, 'It is only fishes who survive the Flood.'"




6. The Dagger with Wings

Father Brown, "at one period of his life, found it difficult to hang his hat on a hat-peg without repressing a slight shudder.... Its remote origin was to be found in the facts that led Dr. Boyne, the medical officer attached to the police force, to send for the priest on a particular frosty morning in December. Dr. Boyne was ... one of those rather baffling Irishmen ... who will talk scientific skepticism, materialism, and cynicism at length and at large, but who never dream of referring anything touching ... religion to anything except the traditional religion of their native land. It would be hard to say whether their creed is a very superficial varnish or a very fundamental substratum, but most probably it is bothwith a mass of materialism in between. Anyhow, when he thought that matters of that sort might be involved, he [consulted] Father Brown."

Dr. Boyne tells Father Brown about the  Aylmer family, headed by a man who married late in life and had three sons, but had an adopted son as well from his youth. This is what the medical officer says to Brown about the adopted son (John Strake) and his father: "Aylmer in his old age dabbled in all sorts of dingy occultism, including palmistry and astrology, and his three sons say that Strake encouraged him in it.... They said Strake was an amazing scoundrel, and especially an amazing liar: a genius in inventing lies on the spur of the moment, and telling them so as to deceive a detective." The father left his considerable estate to Strake, but his sons succeeded in contesting the will on the grounds that Strake terrorized their father on his deathbed. Strake swore he would kill all three of them, one after another, and that nothing could hide them from his vengeance. It is the third and last of the brothers, Arnold Aylmer, who is asking for police protection.
 
"Third and last," repeats the priest, looking at him gravely.

"Yes," says Boyne. "The other two are dead. That is where the doubt comes in. There is no proof they were murdered, but they might possibly have been.... I want somebody of sense, who isn’t an official, to go up and have a talk with this Mr. Arnold Aylmer and form an impression of him. You know what a man with a delusion is like, and how a man looks when he is telling the truth.... I can’t take the responsibility of a flat refusal till I’ve tried a compromise. You are the compromise."

"Very well," answers Father Brown. "I’ll go and call on him now if you like." It begins snowing on his way up to the Aylmer house. He knocks on the door several times and finally checks around the side.

"Who is that?" a voice calls out sharply and rather suspiciously.

"Could I see Mr. Aylmer?" asks the priest apologetically.

The door opens and a man in a green robe comes out with an inquiring look. His hair is rough and untidy, "as if he had been in bed or lived in a state of slowly getting up, but his eyes were not only awake but alert, and some would have said alarmed. Father Brown knew that the contradiction was likely enough in a man who had rather run to seed under the shadow either of a delusion or a danger."

"I am Mr. Aylmer," he says, "but I’ve got out of the way of expecting visitors."

"I was wondering," says Father Brown gently, "whether it is quite true that you never expect visitors."

"You are right," replies his host steadily. "I always expect one visitor. And he may be the last."

"You mean," observes Father Brown, “that the tragedies in your unfortunate family were not normal deaths?"

“I mean they were not even normal murders,” answers the other. “The man who is hounding us all to death is a hell-hound, and his power is from hell."

"All evil has one origin," says the priest gravely. “But how do you know they were not normal murders?"

"Sir," he answers, "I don’t want you to imagine that I’m in the least an unreasonable person. I have come to these conclusions by reason, because unfortunately reason really leads there.... In my eldest brother’s case I was not certain at first. There were no marks or footprints where he was found shot, and the pistol was left beside him. But he had just received a threatening letter certainly from our enemy, for it was marked with a sign like a winged dagger.... And a servant said she had seen something moving along the garden wall in the twilight that was much too large to be a cat.... But when my brother Stephen died it was different, and since then I have known. A machine was working in an open scaffolding under the factory tower. I scaled the platform a moment after he had fallen under the iron hammer that struck him.... I saw on the top of it a dark human figure wrapped in what looked like a black cloak.... My brother’s brains were knocked out, but his body was not much damaged. And in his pocket we found one of those warning messages dated the day before and stamped with the flying dagger."

"Did you notice what sort of paper it was on?" asks Father Brown.

"You can see what they’re like, for I got one myself this morning," says Aylmer grimly.

Father Brown reads the message: "Death comes the day after this, as it came to your brothers." He tosses it aside and replies firmly, "You mustn’t let that sort of stuff stupefy you. These devils always try to make us helpless by making us hopeless." 

"You’re right, you’re right!" cries out Aylmer. "Perhaps I have more hope and better help than you fancy.... My brothers were wrong about the antidote. The antidote to black magic is not brute materialism or worldly wisdom. The antidote to black magic is white magic."

"It rather depends," says Father Brown, "on what you mean by white magic."

"I mean silver magic," says the other in a low voice, like one speaking of a secret revelation. He gets even more animated when showing Father Brown a ridiculous revolver loaded with a silver bullet that he intends to use against the devilish stalker. After he excuses himself from the room, Father Brown decides to call his police friend, suggesting an immediate stakeout of the Aylmer residence.

Suddenly, "an inhuman howl in a human voice" comes from outside, almost simultaneously with the sound of of a discharged gun. Before the echoes of the shot die away, the door swings open and his host staggers into the room. "Glory be to the White Magic!" he cries. "Glory be to the silver bullet! The hell-hound had hunted once too often, and my brothers are avenged at last."

Father Brown runs past him to see what awaits outside. On
the field of snow, "which had been so blank a little while before, lay one black object. At the first glance it looked a little like an enormous bat. A second glance showed that it was, after all, a human figure.... The appearance of black wings came from the two flaps or loose sleeves of a very vast black cloak." Father Brown and his host decide to leave the man there for the police to examine.

"Whatever else happens," says Aylmer, "I’m going to have a drink. After that, they can hang me if they like." Inside the central apartment, between a palm plant and a fish bowl, Aylmer tumbles into a chair. He nearly knocks the bowl over as he clumsily moves into the room, but manages to find "the decanter of brandy after plunging his hand rather blindly into several cupboards and corners." Father Brown looks at him suspiciously.

"I see you are still doubtful," he says, "though you have seen the thing with your own eyes.... Besides, you have no business to be an unbeliever. You ought to stand for all the things these stupid people call superstitions. Come now, don’t you think there’s a lot in those old wives’ tales about luck and charms and so on, silver bullets included? What do you say about them as a Catholic?"

"I say I’m an agnostic," replies Father Brown, smiling.

"Nonsense," says Aylmer impatiently. "It’s your business to believe things."

"Well, I do believe some things" concedes Father Brown. "Therefore, of course, I don’t believe other things."

Aylmer leans forward and looks at him with a strange
intensity. "You do believe it," he says. "We all believe everything, even when we deny everything. The deniers believe. The unbelievers believe. Don’t you feel in your heart that these contradictions do not really contradict: that ... Good and evil go round in a wheel that is one thing and not many. Do you not realize in your heart, do you not believe behind all your beliefs that there is but one reality and we are its shadows, and that all things are but aspects of one thing: a center where men melt into Man and Man into God?"

"No," says Father Brown, noticing long shadows in the darkening sky "like gray caricatures of the figures of men. Dr. Boyne had already obeyed the telephone message. The house was surrounded."

"What is the good of saying no?" insists his host, still with the same hypnotic stare. "You have seen part of that eternal drama with your own eyes.... You have seen Arnold Aylmer slay John Strake by white magic."

"No, I do not believe it,"  says Father Brown, rising from his chair like one terminating a visit. "You are not Arnold Aylmer. Your name is John Strake, and you have murdered the last of the brothers, who is lying outside in the snow."

A ring of white shows around the iris of the other man’s eyes, seeming to be making, "with bursting eyeballs, a last effort to mesmerize and master his companion." Then he makes a sudden movement, but as he does so, the door behind him opens and a big detective puts one hand on his shoulder. The other hand holds a revolver.

That evening Father Brown speaks with Dr. Boyne about the tragedy of the Aylmer family. By that time "there was no longer any doubt of the central fact of the case, for John Strake had confessed his identity and even confessed his crimes, only it would be truer to say that he boasted of his victories. Compared to the fact that he had rounded off his life’s work with the last Aylmer lying dead, everything else, including existence itself, seemed to be indifferent to him."

"How on earth did you discover it?" asks Boyne.

"Oh, you provided me with very valuable information," replies Father Brown modestly, "especially the one piece of information that really counted: that Strake was a very inventive and imaginative liar with great presence of mind in producing his lies.... Perhaps his only mistake was in choosing a supernatural story: he had the notion that because I am a clergyman, I should believe anything. Many people have little notions of that kind."

"But I can’t make head or tail of it," says the doctor. "You must really begin at the beginning."

"The beginning of it was a dressing-gown," says Father Brown. "It was the one really good disguise I’ve ever known. When you meet a man in a house with a dressing-gown on, you assume quite automatically that he’s in his own house. I assumed it myself, but afterwards queer little things began to happen. When he took the pistol down he clicked it at arm’s length, as a man does to make sure a strange weapon isn’t loaded. Of course he would know whether the pistols in his own hall were loaded or not. I didn’t like the way he looked for the brandy, or the way he nearly barged into the bowl of fishes. A man who has a fragile thing of that sort as a fixture in his rooms gets a quite mechanical habit of avoiding it....

"Poor Arnold Aylmer ... saw a tall bearded man in a broad-brimmed black hat and a large flapping black cloak. He did not see much more in this world. Strake sprang at him, throttling or stabbing him; we cannot be sure till the inquest. Then Strake ... heard something he had not expected. He heard footsteps in the parlor beyond. It was me entering by the French windows.... He took off his big black hat and cloak and put on the dead man’s dressing-gown.

"Then he did a rather grisly thing ... he hung the corpse like a coat on one of the hat pegs. He draped it in his own long cloak, and found it hung well below the heels; he covered the head entirely with his own wide hat. It was the only possible way of hiding it in that little passage with the locked door, but it was really a very clever one. I myself walked past the hat-stand once without knowing it was anything but a hat-stand. I think that unconsciousness of mine will always give me a shiver....

"Then there dawned on this strange and frightfully fertile mind the conception of a story of substitution: the reversal of the parts. He had already assumed the part of Arnold Aylmer. Why should not his dead enemy assume the part of John Strake? There must have been something in that topsy-turvydom to take the fancy of that darkly fanciful man.... I knew that right at the end he was trying to hypnotize me.... That’s what he used to do with old Aylmer, no doubt. But it wasn’t only the way he said it, it was what he said. It was the religion and philosophy of it."


"I’m afraid I’m a practical man,” says the doctor, "and I don’t bother much about religion and philosophy."

"You’ll never be a practical man till you do," says Father
Brown. "Look here, doctor: you know me pretty well; I think you know I’m not a bigot. You know I know there are all sorts in all religions: good men in bad ones and bad men in good ones. But there’s just one little fact I’ve learned ... by experience.... I’ve scarcely ever met a criminal who philosophized at all, who didn’t philosophize along those lines of ...  the wheel of destiny and the serpent biting its own tail. I have found merely in practice that there is a curse on the servants of that serpent: on their belly shall they go and the dust shall they eat, and there was never a blackguard or a profligate born who could not talk that sort of spirituality.... In our working world it is the religion of rascals, and I knew it was a rascal who was speaking."


7. The Doom of the Darnaways


Two artists, Harry and Martin, are staring at a dreary castle residence on a barren seascape. To one it is new and to the other it is old news.

Martin explains, "The last of the great Darnaways live in that house.... They can’t even afford to make their own top-story habitable, but have to live in the lower rooms of a ruin, like bats and owls. Yet they have family portraits that go back to the Wars of the Roses and the first portrait-painting in England, and very fine some of them are. I happen to know because they asked for my professional advice in overhauling them. There’s one of them especially, and one of the earliest, but it’s so good that it gives you the creeps."

"The whole place gives you the creeps ... by the look of it," replies Harry.

Another man approaches and Martin says, "Good evening, Doctor. Are you going up to the house? I hope nobody’s ill."

"Everybody’s always ill in a place like that,” growls the doctor, "only sometimes they’re too ill to know it. The very air of the place is a blight and a pestilence. I don’t envy the young man from Australia."

"And who may the young man from Australia be?" asks Harry.

"Ah!" says the doctor, "hasn’t your friend told you about him? As a matter of fact I believe he is arriving today. Quite a romance in the old style of melodrama: the heir back from the colonies to his ruined castle, all complete even down to an old family compact for his marrying the lady watching in the ivied tower." 

"What does Miss Darnaway herself, in her ivied tower, think of the business?" asks Martin Wood.

"What she thinks of everything else by this time," replies the doctor. "They don’t think in this weedy old den of superstitions: they only dream and drift. I think she accepts the family contract and the colonial husband as part of the Doom of the Darnaways."
  
The three men enter the strange subterranean household. Receiving them are "old Vine, the steward ... a Roman Catholic priest, and Miss Darnaway." Her face is said to stand out from the darkness of her dress and hair with a beauty that was "almost awfully alive." Harry Payne looks at it "as long as he dared, and he was to look at it a good deal longer before he died." Martin Wood receives permission to show his fellow artist the portrait he described as being so magnificent. The priest joins them to take a look at it.  

"I’m rather proud of having spotted this," says Wood. "I believe it’s a Holbein. If it isn’t, there was somebody living in Holbein’s time who was as great as Holbein." Before them is "a portrait in the hard but sincere and living fashion of the period, representing a man clad in black trimmed with gold and fur, with a heavy, full, rather pale face but watchful eyes."

"Don’t you see it’s just realistic enough to be real?" Wood continues. "Don’t you see the face speaks all the more because it stands out from a rather stiffer framework of less essential things? And the eyes are even more real than the face. On my soul, I think the eyes are too real for the face! It’s just as if those sly, quick eyeballs were protruding out of a great pale mask."


"The stiffness extends to the figure a little, I think," says Harry Payne. "That left leg looks to me a good deal out of drawing."

"I’m not so sure," replies Wood quietly. "Those fellows who painted just when realism began to be done, and before it began to be overdone, were often more realistic than we think. They put real details of portraiture into things.... You might say this fellow’s eyebrows or eye-sockets are a little lop-sided, but I bet if you knew him you’d find that one of his eyebrows did really stick up more than the other. And I shouldn’t wonder if he was lame or something, and that black leg was meant to be crooked."

"What an old devil he looks!" bursts out Payne suddenly. "I trust his reverence will excuse my language."

"I believe in the devil, thank you," says the priest. "Curiously enough there was a legend that the devil was lame."

"I say," protests Payne, "you can’t really mean that he was the devil, but who the devil was he?"

"He was the Lord Darnaway under Henry VII and Henry VIII," replies his companion. "But there are curious legends about him, too. One of them is referred to in that inscription round the frame, and further developed in some notes left by somebody in a book I found here. They are both rather curious reading." The inscription reads:

In the seventh hour I shall return:
In the seventh hour I shall depart:
None in that hour shall hold my hand:
And woe to her that holds my heart.


Martin Wood says that the book he found tells how the Lord Darnaway "deliberately killed himself in such a way that his wife was executed for his murder. Another note commemorates a later tragedy, seven successions later—under the Georges—in which another Darnaway committed suicide, having first thoughtfully left poison in his wife’s wine. It’s said that both suicides took place at seven in the evening... The inference is that he does really return with every seventh inheritor and makes things unpleasant, as the rhyme suggests, for any lady unwise enough to marry him."

"It would be a trifle uncomfortable for the next seventh gentleman," replies Payne.

Wood practically whispers, "The new heir will be the seventh."
 
Harry Payne blurts out, "What crazy stuff are we all talking? We’re all educated men in an enlightened age, I suppose. Before I came into this damned dank atmosphere I’d never have believed I should be talking of such things, except to laugh at them."
 
"You are right," says Wood. "If you lived long enough in this underground palace you’d begin to feel differently about things. I’ve begun to feel very curiously about that picture, having had so much to do with handling and hanging it. It sometimes seems to me that the painted face is more alive than the dead faces of the people living here, that it is a sort of talisman or magnet: that it commands the elements and draws out the destinies of men and things."

"What is that noise?" says Payne suddenly. They quickly realize it is the sound of a man calling out. It is the expected Australian heir. When he comes into view, they can't help noticing he looks exactly like the portrait!  He has a limp and is carrying a large camera on a tripod. The lady, "in some sense already betrothed to him, was certainly beautiful enough to attract him, but she evidently also frightened him. The old steward brought him a sort of feudal homage, yet treated him as if he were the family ghost." The young man is polite but somewhat unnerved by the dank surroundings, and invites the other men to visit often, which they do. In time he confesses his thoughts to them.

"Is there anything in it?" the Australian asks. "I think of the portrait and the rhyme and ... I go cold.... Is there any Doom of the Darnaways ...? Have I got a right to marry, or shall I bring something big and black out of the sky ... on myself and somebody else?" He screws up his courage but then becomes undone again, saying, "It is no good; we are dealing with something too terrible."

"Yes," agrees the priest, "we are dealing with something terrible: with the most terrible thing I know, and the name of it is Nonsense."


"What did you say?" says Darnaway, looking towards him.

"I said nonsense," repeats the priest. "I have not said anything in particular up to now, for it was none of my business. I was only taking temporary duty in the neighborhood and Miss Darnaway wanted to see me. But since you’re asking me personally and point-blank why, it’s easy enough to answer. Of course there’s no Doom of the Darnaways to prevent your marrying anybody you have any decent reason for marrying. A man isn’t fated to fall into the smallest venial sin, let alone into crimes like suicide and murder. You can’t be made to do wicked things against your will because your name is Darnaway, any more than I can because my name is Brown. The Doom of the Browns," he adds with relish.

"And you of all people," says the Australian, staring, "tell me to think like that about it."


"I tell you to think about something else," replies the priest cheerfully. "What has become of the rising art of photography? How is the camera getting on? I know it’s rather dark downstairs, but those hollow arches on the floor above could easily be turned into a first-rate photographic studio. A few workmen could fit it out with a glass roof in no time."

"Really," protests Martin Wood, "I do think you should be the last man in the world to tinker about with those beautiful Gothic arches, which are about the best work your own religion has ever done in the world. I should have thought you’d have had some feeling for that sort of art, but I can’t see why you should be so uncommonly keen on photography."

"I’m uncommonly keen on daylight," answers Father Brown, "especially in this dingy business, and photography has the virtue of depending on daylight. And if you don’t know that I would grind all the Gothic arches in the world to powder to save the sanity of a single human soul, you don’t know so much about my religion as you think you do."
 
The young Australian springs to his feet like a man rejuvenated. “By George! That’s the talk, though I never thought to hear it from that quarter. I’ll tell you what, reverend sir, I’ll do something that will show I haven’t lost my courage after all.... I am going to photograph the portrait," replies Darnaway. That good action, however, leads to the doom of this particular Darnaway.

At the suggestion of Wood, "who knew the castle well and had got over his first aesthetic grumblings, a small room remaining intact in the upper ruins was easily turned into a dark room.... Darnaway had risen at daybreak on the day that he meant to photograph the mysterious portrait, and had it carried up from the library by the single corkscrew staircase that connected the two floors. There he had set it up in the wide white daylight on a sort of easel and planted his photographic tripod in front of it. He said he was anxious to send a reproduction of it to a great antiquary who had written on the antiquities of the house, but the others knew that this was an excuse covering much deeper things. It was, if not exactly a spiritual duel between Darnaway and the demoniac picture, at least a duel between Darnaway and his own doubts. He wanted to bring the daylight of photography face to face with that dark masterpiece of painting, and to see whether the sunshine of the new art would not drive out the shadows of the old. Perhaps this was why he preferred to do it by himself, even if some of the details seemed to take longer and involve more than normal delay."

Meals were left for the man by trays that day. Father Brown and then Harry Payne went to check on his progress, but looking through the key hole, they couldn't see much. Just before the large spectral clock is to strike seven, the subject of conversation turns to the curse. In reply to a query, Martin Wood says, "There’s something about that in the book I was reading in ... the family archives.  I’ll fetch it for you." He steps into the library just beyond.

Harry Payne blurts out a suspicion: "There is a rational explanation. A man from anywhere might have made up to look like the portrait. What do we know about Darnaway? He is behaving rather oddly—"

The others stare at him in a rather startled fashion, but the priest seems to take it very calmly. "I don’t think the old portrait’s ever been photographed," he says. “That’s why he wants to do it. I don’t think there’s anything odd about that."


"Quite an ordinary state of things, in fact," says Wood with a smile, having just returned with the book in his hand. And even as he spoke there was a stir in the clockwork of the great dark clock behind him and successive strokes thrilled through the room up to the number of seven. With the last stroke there came a crash from the floor above that shook the house like a thunderbolt, and Father Brown was already two steps up the winding staircase before the sound had ceased."

When the rest "recovered from their first paralysis and ran helter-skelter up the stone steps and found their way to the new studio,... they found him lying in a wreck of his tall camera.... For the moment the dark heap looked as if he were entangled with some huge and horrible spider. Little more than a glance and a touch were needed to tell them that he was dead. Only the portrait stood untouched upon the easel, and one could fancy the smiling eyes shone."

"You and your daylight!" cries out the old steward to Father Brown. "Even you won’t say now there is no Doom for the Darnaways."
 
"My opinion about that is unchanged," answers Father Brown mildly. "I hope you will observe poor Darnaway’s last wish, and see the photograph is sent off."
 
"The photograph!" says the doctor sharply. "What’s the good of that? As a matter of fact, it’s rather curious, but there isn’t any photograph. It seems he never took it after all, after pottering about all day."
 
Father Brown swings around sharply. "Then take it yourselves," he says. "Darnaway was perfectly right. It’s most important that the photograph should be taken."
 
Walking away together from the dreary place later on, Martin Wood says,  "I’m afraid everybody will always believe in the Darnaway superstition now."
 
"I know one who won’t," responds the doctor. "Why should I indulge in superstition because somebody else indulges in suicide?"
 
"You think poor Mr. Darnaway committed suicide?" asks the priest.
 
"I’m sure he committed suicide," replies the doctor.
 
"It is possible," agrees the other.
 
"He was quite alone up there, and he had a whole drug-store of poisons in the dark room. Besides, it’s just the sort of thing that Darnaways do.... I believe in one family curse, and that is the family constitution. I told you it was heredity, and they are all half mad. If you stagnate and breed in and brood in your own swamp like that, you’re bound to degenerate whether you like it or not. The laws of heredity can’t be dodged; the truths of science can’t be denied. The minds of the Darnaways are falling to pieces, as their blighted old sticks and stones are falling to pieces, eaten away by the sea and the salt air. Suicide—of course he committed suicide. I dare say all the rest will commit suicide. Perhaps the best thing they could do."

"I see," says Father Brown to the doctor, "so you do believe in the superstition after all?"
 
"What do you mean—believe in the superstition? I believe in the suicide as a matter of scientific necessity."  

"Well," replies the priest, "I don’t see a pin to choose between your scientific superstition and the other
magical superstition. They both seem to end in turning people into paralytics, who can’t move their own legs or arms or save their own lives or souls. The rhyme said it was the Doom of the Darnaways to be killed, and the scientific textbook says it is the Doom of the Darnaways to kill themselves. Both ways they seem to be slaves."  

"But I thought you said you believed in rational views of these things," says Dr. Barnet. "Don’t you believe in heredity?"  

"I said I believed in daylight," answers the priest in a loud and clear voice, "and I won’t choose between two tunnels of subterranean superstition that both end in the dark. And the proof of it is this: that you are all entirely in the dark about what really happened in that house."
   
"Do you mean about the suicide?" asks Harry Payne.  

"I mean about the murder," says Father Brown. "It was murder, but murder is of the will, which God made free."  
Harry Payne excuses himself and returns to the castle to speak with Miss Darnaway. He promptly tells her about Father Brown's revelation, and she naturally asks who murdered the young Australian.  

"I do not know," answers Harry calmly, "but Father Brown knows. And as Father Brown says, murder is at least done by the will, free as that wind from the sea."

"Father Brown is a wonderful person," she says after a pause. "He was the only person who ever brightened my existence in any way at all until—"


"Until what?" asks Harry Payne,  leaning towards her. 

"Well, until you did," she replies with a smile.

It was more than a month later that "Payne returned to his London house to keep an appointment with Father Brown, taking the required photograph with him. His personal romance had prospered as well as was fitting under the shadow of such a tragedy.... It was not until the Darnaway household had resumed its somewhat stern routine, and the portrait had long been restored to its place in the library, that he had managed to photograph it.... Before sending it to the antiquary, as originally arranged, he brought it to the priest who had so pressingly demanded it."

 
The priest shakes his head mournfully upon greeting Payne and remarks, "I’m quite stuck, stuck about the most practical point of all. It’s a queer business, so simple up to a point and then—Let me have a look at that photograph, will you?" He looks at it closely and then asks, "Have you got a magnifying glass?"
 
Payne produces one, and the priest looks through it intently for some time and then says, "Look at the title of that book at the edge of the bookshelf beside the frame: it’s The History of Pope Joan. Now, I wonder . . . yes,  what a queer way to find it out!" He notices two other strange book titles. Father Brown then muses about the original Lord Darnaway, saying, "He was a cultivated, humorous sort of eccentric, I believe. Being cultivated, he knew there was no such person as Pope Joan. Being humorous, he was very likely to have thought of the title of The Snakes of Iceland or something else that didn’t exist. I venture to reconstruct the third title as The Religion of Frederick the Great—which also doesn’t exist. Now, doesn’t it strike you that those would be just the titles to put on the backs of books ... on a bookcase that wasn’t a bookcase?... We were mixed up in a real musty old romance of decayed gentility and a fallen family mansion, and it was too much to hope that we could escape having a secret passage!"

Now Father Brown knows how the murderer accomplished his wicked deed: "Darnaway did not die at seven o’clock that evening. He had been already dead for a whole day.... I think we both saw him, or thought we saw him, fussing about with the focusing of his camera. Wasn’t his head under that black cloak when you passed through the room? It was when I did.... It was the murderer. He had already killed Darnaway at daybreak and hid the corpse and himself in the dark room—an excellent hiding-place because nobody normally goes into it, or can see much if he does. But he let it fall out on the floor at seven o’clock, of course, that the whole thing might be explained by the curse."

"But I don’t understand" responds Payne. "Why didn’t he kill him at seven o’clock then, instead of loading himself with a corpse for fourteen hours?"
 
"Let me ask you another question," says the priest. "Why was there no photograph taken? Because the murderer made sure of killing him when he first got up, and before he could take it. It was essential to the murderer to prevent that photograph reaching the expert on the Darnaway antiquities. Don’t you see how simple it is? Why, you yourself saw one side of the possibility, but it’s simpler even than you thought. You said a man might be faked to resemble an old picture. Surely it’s simpler that a picture should be faked to resemble a man.... There was no Doom of the Darnaways. There was no old picture, there was no old rhyme, there was no legend of a man who caused his wife’s death. But there was a very wicked and a very clever man who was willing to cause another man’s death in order to rob him of his promised wife."

Martin Wood had been called in "to catalogue the pictures. In an aristocratic dustbin of that sort that practically means simply to tell the Darnaways what art treasures they had got. They would not be surprised at things turning up they had never noticed before. It had to be done well, and it was: perhaps he was right when he said that if it wasn’t Holbein, it was somebody of the same genius."

"I feel rather stunned," says Payne. "How did he know what Darnaway looked like? How did he actually kill him? The doctors seem rather puzzled at present."

"I saw a photograph the lady had which the Australian sent on before him," says the priest. Wood "used to help in the dark room. It seems to me an ideal place, say, to prick a man with a poisoned pin.... The difficulty that stumped me was how Wood could be in two places at once. How could he take the corpse from the dark-room and prop it against the camera so that it would fall in a few seconds ... when he was in the library looking out a book?" The hidden staircase solves the mystery. 
 
8. The Ghost of Gideon Wise

James Byrne, a journalist, "came as near as anybody could
to being in two places at once: for he was in two places at the opposite extremes of the social and political world within the space of twenty minutes. The first was in ... the meeting place of the three commercial magnates concerned with arranging for a coal lock-out and denouncing it as a coal-strike; the second was in a curious tavern ... where met the ... triumvirate of those who would have been very glad to turn the lock-out into a strike—and the strike into a revolution. The reporter passed to and fro between the three millionaires and the three Bolshevist leaders with the immunity of the modern herald."


Gideon Wise was one of the three millionaires, Stein and Gallup being the other two. There was an old argument between Wise and Gallup about combination and competition: Wise was an individualist, but "Gallup was always trying to persuade him to cut out competition and pool the resources of the world." When the journalist walks in, both Stein and Gallup are trying to get Wise to combine with them not only economically but also politically. The three parallel the revolutionary trio: Jake "the common tub thumper," Elias "the cosmopolitan wire puller," and Home the poet, who knew Gideon Wise from Sunday School years ago. The poet "had what is called a careful upbringing, had gone to chapel in his childhood, and carried through life a teetotalism which he could not shake off when he cast away such trifles as Christianity and marriage." 

The journalist, leaving the company of the revolutionaries,
is startled by who he sees coming their way: "Father Brown!" he cries out, 'I think you must have come into the wrong door. You’re not likely to be in this little conspiracy."
 
"Mine is a rather older conspiracy," replies Father Brown with a smile, "but it is quite a widespread conspiracy."

 
"Well," says Byrne, "you can’t imagine any of the people here being within a thousand miles of your concern."
 
"It is not always easy to tell," replies the priest equably, "but as a matter of fact, there is one person here who’s within an inch of it."
 
He disappears into the dark entrance. The next morning  the headlines read,
"Terrific Triple Murder: Three Millionaires Slain in One Night!" The murders took place in three different locations so the chief investigator decides to question the three revolutionaries at the closest crime scene: the seaside home of Gideon Wise. Joining them are Byrne the journalist and Father Brown. The meeting is frosty, and the revolutionaries walk out since they know there's no evidence against them.  Brown offers to help the investigator by explaining his presence at that meeting: to look after the interests of his friend Jake Halket, the most outspoken of the revolutionaries, whom he believes will soon renounce his radical ties and become a faithful Christian.

"Halket!" exclaims the inspector incredulously. "Why, he curses priests from morning till night!"

"I don’t think you quite understand that kind of man," says Father Brown mildly. "He curses priests for failing (in his opinion) to defy the whole world for justice. Why should he expect them to defy the whole world for justice, unless he had already begun to assume they were—what they are? But we haven’t met here to discuss the psychology of conversion. I only mention this because it may simplify your task—perhaps narrow your search."


Home, the mildest revolutionary, runs back in at this point, claiming to have seen the ghost of Gideon Wise! Father Brown listens to him while the others scoff, but they all decide they should look at what Home claims he saw. But Home refuses to move, saying dramatically, "I can’t do it. You may just as well know why. You will know it sooner or later. I killed him.... I was mad, I suppose. He was intolerable and insolent, I know. I was on his land and I believe he struck me; anyhow, we came to a grapple and he went over the cliff. When I was well away from the scene it burst upon me that I had done a crime that cut me off from men: the brand of Cain throbbed on my brow and my very brain. I realized for the first time that I had indeed killed a man. I knew I should have to confess it sooner or later." He sits up suddenly erect in his chair and adds,  "But I will say nothing against anybody else. It is no use asking me about plots or accomplices—I will say nothing.... I am a murderer, but I will not be a traitor."

They all move out toward the cliff with Home brought
along as a prisoner. A specter appears there and Brown moves steadily forward while the others hang back until Home breaks away and falls before the specter, saying, "I have confessed. Why have you come to tell them I killed you?"
 
"I have come to tell them you did not," answers Gideon Wise
in the flesh. He declares that Home had not thrown him over, that the unsteady ground had given way underneath him, and that Home even made some attempt at rescue. "On that providential bit of rock down there," he says solemnly, "I promised the Lord to forgive my enemies, and the Lord would think it mighty mean if I didn’t forgive a little accident like that." The author comments wryly that "perhaps it is good for millionaires to spend twenty-four hours on a ledge of rock within a foot of eternity" and "it is not every murderer who can put the murdered man in the witness-box to give him a testimonial."

Father Brown, however, smells a rat or two, telling  the journalist"I’ve heard a good many confessions, and there was never a genuine one like that.... Look how he talked about having the brand of Cain. That’s out of books. It’s not what anyone would feel who had ... done a thing hitherto horrible to him. Suppose you were an honest clerk ... shocked to feel that for the first time you’d stolen money. Would you immediately reflect that your action was the same as that of Barabbas?... Believe me, our own crimes are far too hideously private and prosaic to make our first thoughts turn towards historical parallels, however apt. And why did he go out of his way to say he would not give his colleagues away? Even in saying so, he was giving them away. Nobody had asked him so far to give away anything or anybody. No, I don’t think he was genuine.... This story has nothing whatever to do with Bolshevism, except perhaps as a blind."
 
"I don’t see how that can be," says the journalist. "Here you have the three millionaires ... murdered —"

 
"No!" says the priest. "You have two millionaires murdered, and you have the third millionaire very much alive and kicking ... freed forever from the threat that was thrown at his head before your very face.... Gallup and Stein threatened the ... independent old huckster that if he would not come into their combine they would freeze him out.... These trust magnates have their ... spies in the enemy camp. Home was one of old Gideon’s spies ... but he was used here against ... the rivals who were ruining him for standing out."

 
"I still don’t quite see how he was used," says Byrne, "or what was the good of it."

 
"Don’t you see," answers Father Brown, "that they gave each other an alibi?... Most people would say a man who confesses a murder must be sincere, and a man who forgives his murderer must be sincere. Nobody would think of the notion that the thing never happened, so that one man had nothing to forgive and the other nothing to fear." That left them free to murder the two millionaires without suspicion
"too convincing to convince."
 

Book 4: The Secret of Father Brown (1927)


1. The Secret of Father Brown

This is a bookend story that opens with The Secret of Father Brown and, after 8 more stories, closes with The Secret of Flambeau. Both stories take place in Spain, where Flambeau settles down to marry and have a large family. Father Brown comes to visit. Joining them one evening is a Boston traveler renting the Spanish villa nearby. When the Bostonian realizes he is in the company of Father Brown, he gently tries to draw out of him the secret to his astonishing success as an amateur detective. As soon as he informs the good priest that Americans are theorizing that an occult explanation is most likely, Father Brown speaks up quietly. 

"Oh, I say. This will never do.... Very well, I will tell the secret.... You see, it was I who killed all those people," he explains, "so, of course, I knew how it was done.... I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was."

With that last statement, the Bostonian lets out a sigh of relief, stating, "Just for the minute I kind of saw it splashed over all the papers in the States: 'Saintly Sleuth Exposed as Killer: Hundred Crimes of Father Brown.' Why, of course, if it’s just a figure of speech and means you tried to reconstruct the psychology—"

Father Brown stops him so he can distinguish between  the science of detection, which he describes as getting outside a man and studying him like an insect, and what he does: "I try to get inside the murderer ... thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred. Till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking ... up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer."

"Oh ... that is what you call a religious exercise?" asks the surprised Bostonian.

"Yes," answers Father Brown. "That is what I call a religious exercise. It’s so real a religious exercise that I’d rather not have said anything about it. But I simply couldn’t have you going off and telling all your countrymen that I had a secret magic connected with Thought-Forms, could I? I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is or might be, till he’s realized exactly how little right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about 'criminals,' as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away. Till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and ... he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees."

Flambeau comes forward with two great goblets of Spanish wine that he sets before his guests. Then he says, "I believe Father Brown has had a new batch of mysteries." 

The American asks if Father Brown is willing to tell about them in the heart-searching manner he has just explained. As Brown stares into his goblet of wine, images flash in his mind from the following 8 mysteries, and he begins to form the words on his lips.


2. The Mirror of the Magistrate

A policeman and amateur detective are walking down a street at night, speaking of their mutual interests. 

"I heard something," says the amateur, "but I really don’t know what it was."

"I know what it was," replies the professional: "It was a rather heavy revolver, fired twice, followed by a cry for help. And it came straight out of the back garden of Mr. Justice Gwynne, that paradise of peace and legality."

The tall, thin elderly judge is found dead in the garden near his office cottage, and three short men are discovered nearby. A mirror in the hallway of the main house across from the garden is broken into large shards. One of the men knows Father Brown, who is called in as a character witness. When the case goes to trial, Brown discusses the matter with Bagshaw, the professional detective, who comments that Sir Arthur Travers, the prosecuting attorney, is being particularly zealous in his pursuit of a man labeled as a revolutionary poet.

Observing that the attorney is tall, thin, and bald, Father Brown quietly tells Bagshaw, "You’ve been following the movements of a good many people in this business.... The man whose movements seem to have been rather forgotten is the dead man himself. His servant was quite honestly astonished at finding his master had returned. His master had gone to a great dinner of all the leaders of the legal profession, but had left it abruptly and come home. He was not ill, for he summoned no assistance. He had almost certainly quarreled with some leader of the legal profession. It’s among the leaders of that profession that we should have looked first for his enemy. He returned, and shut himself up in the bungalow, where he kept all his private documents about treasonable practices. But the leader of the legal profession, who knew there was something against him in those documents, [followed] his accuser home, he also being in evening-dress, but with a pistol in his pocket.... Nobody could ever have guessed it except for the mirror." The humble priest gives credit to the one providential fact of the crime enabling him to know that the murderer looked enough like the victim for the mirror to be shot at. 

A week later the priest meets the police detective, and learns that the authorities were moving on the new lines of inquiry when they were interrupted by a sensational event.

"Sir Arthur Travers is dead," says Bagshaw, briefly.

"Ah!" replies Father Brown with a catch in his voice, "you mean that he—"

"Yes," says Bagshaw, "he shot at the same man again, but not in a mirror."


3. The Man with Two Beards 

"My good sir," says a professor disapprovingly to Father Brown, "don’t you believe that criminology is a science?"

"I’m not sure," replies the priest. "Do you believe that hagiology is a science?"

"What’s that?" asks the specialist sharply.


"It’s not the study of hags, and has nothing to do with burning witches," says Father Brown with a smile. "It’s the study of holy things, saints and so on. You see, the Dark Ages tried to make a science about good people. But our own ... age is only interested in a science about bad ones. Yet I think our general experience is that every conceivable sort of man has been a saint. And I suspect you will find, too, that every conceivable sort of man has been a murderer."

The professor disagrees, ticking off a list of what he believes is a criminal profile.

Father Brown responds, "I was thinking of a man I once knew. He was a murderer, but I can’t see where he fits into your museum of murderers. He was not mad, nor did he like killing. He did not hate the man he killed; he hardly knew him, and certainly had nothing to avenge on him. The other man did not possess anything that he could possibly want. The other man was not behaving in any way which the murderer wanted to stop. The murdered man was not in a position to hurt, or hinder, or even affect the murderer in any way. There was no woman in the case. There were no politics in the case. This man killed a fellow-creature who was practically a stranger, and that for a very strange reason."

The story opens with the Bankes family reading in their local newspaper about a Robin Hood-like robber known as Michael Moonshine who had been released from prison and quietly resettled in their general location. The mother of the family is concerned about the safety of her valuable emerald necklace, and a family friend casts suspicion on a newcomer staying with a beekeeper on the outskirts of town. The friend and John Bankes decide to visit the newcomer, a man named Carver, who is staying with the beekeeper Smith. When there, they meet Smith's good friend Father Brown. John Bankes, a motor enthusiast, offers to take Smith for a joyride. Smith does not want to go but is too polite to refuse. Carver is actually a detective who suspects Smith not only is Michael Moonshine, but is also resuming his thieving ways.

After Bankes drives away with Smith, Carver discovers Michael Moonshine's trademark fake red beard and goggles disguise, which he displays to the Bankes family. Opal Bankes gasps, for she had earlier claimed to see a face looking in the window fitting that description, but was not taken seriously, except by Father Brown. We are told this past history between them: "She liked him. He did not encourage her psychic views, quite the contrary, but he discouraged them as if they mattered and not as if they did not matter. It was not so much that he did not sympathize with her opinions, as that he did sympathize but did not agree."

The reason for Father Brown's visit to the Bankes family is very serious: he informs them about the theft of jewels from a neighbor that resulted in a shooting fatality, but the thief got away with the jewels. John Bankes rises up suddenly and runs off, yelling that he's off to make sure his mother's emerald necklace is safe. Soon after, Opal rises up and screams, pointing again to a face with a red beard at the window. John calls out that the necklace is gone and runs out to the garden, where two shots are heard. Dead on the ground is beekeeper Smith, wearing the red beard with a discharged revolver near his hand.

John, panting from all his exertion, gasps, "I had to do it. I’m sorry, he fired at me."

"There will have to be an inquest, of course," says Carver the detective, gravely. "But I think there will be nothing for you to worry about."

Father Brown says he is sure that the dead man Smith did not commit the murder and robberies. Carver wonders how he could disbelieve what they saw acted before their eyes. Brown replies, "I’ve seen a good many things acted before my eyes that I didn’t believe in. So have you, on the stage and off.... I knew this dead man very well indeed: I was his confessor, and his friend. So far as a man can, I knew his mind when he left that garden today, and his mind was like a glass hive full of golden bees. It’s an under-statement to say his reformation was sincere. He was one of those great penitents who manage to make more out of penitence than others can make out of virtue. I say I was his confessor but, indeed, it was I who went to him for comfort. It did me good to be near so good a man."

"Hang it all," says John Bankes restlessly, "he was a convicted thief!"


"Yes," answers Father Brown, "and only a convicted thief has ever in this world heard that assurance: 'This night shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.'" When pressed for proof of his conviction that Smith is innocent, Brown replies, "Here’s something to follow up, if you want to know. Why did he have two beards?" One was on the face of the dead man, and the other was what Detective Carver found at Smith's place. He soon hears John Bankes start up his noisy motor car and quickly figures he's off on a long journey with the stolen jewels, having used his victim's body merely as a stage prop to disguise his copycat thefts and murder when the first theft turned deadly.

"Why had your friend Michael kept the old beard?" asks a friend of the Bankes family.

"He didn’t want the old disguise anymore," answers Father Brown, "but he wasn’t frightened of it. He would have felt it false to destroy the false beard. It would have been like hiding, and he was not hiding. He was not hiding from God; he was not hiding from himself. He was in the broad daylight. If they’d taken him back to prison, he’d still have been quite happy. He was not whitewashed, but washed white. There was something very strange about him, almost as strange as the grotesque dance of death through which he was dragged after he was dead. When he moved to and fro smiling among these beehives, even then, in a most radiant and shining sense, he was dead. He was out of the judgment of this world."


4. The Song of the Flying Fish

This story begins, "The soul of Mr. Peregrine Smart hovered like a fly round one possession and one joke. It ... consisted merely of asking people if they had seen his goldfish." As the story title implies, his fish would soon fly awaya problem because they are rare objects made of gold that he foolishly boasts about to all his neighbors and their visitors. To Father Brown, from a church in the neighboring town, Mr. Not-So-Smart's verbal train of thought ran like this: Rome—St. Peter—fisherman—fish—goldfish.

Here is how these curious fish are described: "They were part of an eccentric but expensive toy, said to have been made by ... some rich Eastern prince, and Mr. Smart had picked it up at some sale or in some curiosity shop, such as he frequented for the purpose of lumbering up his house with unique and useless things. From the other end of the room it looked like a ... large bowl containing ... large living fish. A closer inspection showed it to be a huge bubble of beautifully blown Venetian glass, very thin and delicately clouded with faintly iridescent color in ... which hung grotesque golden fishes with great rubies for eyes. The whole thing was undoubtedly worth a great deal."

Mr. Smart’s new secretary, a young man named Francis Boyle, is  surprised that his employer talks so freely of the expensive fish since "collectors are commonly vigilant and sometimes secretive." Mr. Boyle soon finds he is not alone in this sentiment, ranging from mild wonder to grave disapproval.

"It's extraordinary how he leaves things about," says Mr. Smart’s head clerk, Jameson. "He won’t even put up those ramshackle old bars across his ramshackle old door."

When a group of neighbors are discussing home security, a mystically minded Count tells two tales. The first is, "There was an ancient Hindu hermit who lived naked in a cave and passed through the three armies that encircled the Mogul and took the great ruby out of the tyrant’s turban, and went back unscathed like a shadow. For he wished to teach the great how small are the laws of space and time."

The second tale is said to have created an international incident in Cairo, Egypt: "A sentinel was standing inside the grating of an iron gateway looking out between the bars on to the street. There appeared outside the gate a beggar ... who asked him ... for a certain official document kept in the building for safety. The soldier told the man, of course, that he could not come inside, and the man answered, smiling: 'What is inside and what is outside?' The soldier was still staring scornfully through the iron grating when he gradually realized that, though neither he nor the gate had moved, he was actually standing in the street and looking in at the barrack yard, where the beggar stood still and smiling and equally motionless. Then, when the beggar turned towards the building, the sentry ... shouted a warning to all the soldiers within the gated enclosure to hold the prisoner fast. 'You won’t get out of there anyhow,' he said vindictively. Then the beggar said in his silvery voice: 'What is outside and what is inside?' And the soldier, still glaring through the same bars, saw that they were once more between him and the street, where the beggar stood free and smiling with a paper in his hand."

The mystic concludes, "The wise man can get behind time and space and turn the levers of them, so to speak, so that the whole world turns round before our eyes. But it is so hard for you people to believe that spiritual powers are really more powerful than material ones."

"Well," says old Smart cheerfully, "I don’t profess to be an authority on spiritual powers. What do you say, Father Brown?"

"The only thing that strikes me," answers the little priest, "is that all the supernatural acts we have yet heard of seem to be thefts. And stealing by spiritual methods seems to me much the same as stealing by material ones."

That night Mr. Peregrine Smart takes more precautions than usual with his precious fish since he is taking the train to London. The old employee, Jameson, and the new one, Boyle, are asked to sleep upstairs. Early in the morning, Boyle hears poetry in his sleep:

Over the land and over the sea
My flying fishes will come to me,
For the note is not of the world that wakes them,
But in—

He struggles to his feet when he awakes and sees Jameson "peering out of the long window on to the balcony and calling out sharply to someone in the street below."

"Who’s that?" he calls out sharply. "What do you want?" He turns to Boyle in agitation, saying, "There’s somebody prowling about just outside. I knew it wasn’t safe. I’m going down to bar that front door." He runs downstairs and Boyle hears the clattering of the bars upon the front door. Boyle himself groggily steps out upon the balcony and sees a man dressed in Oriental garb holding a mysterious musical instrument and chanting:

As the golden birds go back to the tree
My golden fishes return to me.
Return—

"You’ve no right here," calls out Boyle in exasperation, hardly knowing what to say. He turns back to check on the fishes when he hears a sound, seeing Jameson return when he does. They both find the bowl broken and the fish missing. Later when Boyle and Father Brown discuss the mystery and Boyle leans towards a supernatural explanation, Brown points out a couple of natural facts: the alleged Oriental thief left no footprints heading away from the house, and the iron bars on the door make no noise when being locked, but do when they are opened.

"Jameson opened the door," realizes Boyle.

"Yes," answers Father Brown. "He had taken the goldfish already.... But if he had simply taken them, everybody would have realized that he had twenty chances of doing it. By creating a mysterious magician from the end of the earth, he set everybody’s thoughts wandering far afield to Arabia and India, so that you yourself can hardly believe that the whole thing was so near home. It was too close to you to be seen."

"If this is true," says Boyle, "it was an extraordinary risk to run, and he had to cut it very fine. It’s true I never heard the man in the street say anything while Jameson was talking from the balcony, so I suppose that was all a fake. And I suppose it’s true that there was time for him to [put on a disguise and] get outside before I had fully woken up and got out on to the balcony."

"Every crime depends on somebody not waking up too soon," replies Father Brown, "and in every sense most of us wake up too late. I, for one, have woken up much too late. For I imagine he’s bolted long ago, just before or just after they took his fingerprints."

"You woke up before anybody else, anyhow," says Boyle with admiration, "and I should never have woken up in that sense. Jameson was so correct and colorless that I forgot all about him."

"Beware of the man you forget: he is the one man who has you entirely at a disadvantage," concludes Brown. "Beware of the woman you forget ... even more. This man was a very high-class criminal. He had been an excellent actor, and therefore he was a good psychologist ... [who knew] exactly the right note to strike to lead you all astray. But he made one bad mistake in the psychology of Mrs. Robinson, the housekeeper."
 
"I don’t understand," replies Boyle, "what she can have to do with it."

"Jameson did not expect the doors to be barred," answers Father Brown. "He knew that a lot of men, especially careless men like you and your employer, could go on saying for days that something ought to be done.... But if you convey to a woman that something ought to be done, there is always a dreadful danger that she will suddenly do it."



5. The Actor and the Alibi

Father Brown seems "to take it quite naturally and even
casually that he should be called in to consider the queer conduct of one of his flock, whether she was to be regarded as a black sheep or only as a lost lamb." The lamb in question is an Italian actress who has locked herself in her dressing room, refusing to speak to the theater manager, Mr. Mandeville. Father Brown naturally asks, "I suppose there was some reason for her flying off the handle like that. Does anybody know what it was?"

"Dissatisfied with her part, I believe," answers another actor.

"They always are," growls Mr. Mandeville. "And I thought my wife would look after those arrangements."

"I can only say," replies Mrs. Mandeville rather wearily, "that I gave her what ought to be the best part. It’s supposed to be what stage-struck young women want, isn’t it—to act the beautiful young heroine and marry the beautiful young hero in a shower of bouquets and cheers from the gallery? Women of my age naturally have to fall back on acting respectable matrons, and I was careful to confine myself to that."

The actors disperse for a rehearsal being viewed by a small audience, and Father Brown looks about the theater while he patiently waits for his parishioner to open her door. While the rehearsal is going on and he hears actors' voices thundering above him, he stumbles onto the theater manager in a small room below, murdered from a recent wound caused by a theatrical knife lying at his side. Everyone seems to have an alibi, until Father Brown learns what play the actors were performing. He is not surprised to hear that Mrs. Mandeville appears to have run off with the handsome young leading man, saying, "I knew ... she was not really being fair to the poor Italian, with all her fine airs of frigid magnanimity. And again, I realized it when I knew that the play was The School for Scandal."


"You are going rather too fast for me," says one of the actors in some bewilderment. "What does it matter what the play was?"

"Well," says the priest, "she said she had given the girl the part of the beautiful heroine and had retired into the background herself with the older part of a matron. Now that might have applied to almost any play, but it falsifies the facts about that particular play. She can only have meant that she gave the other actress the part of Maria, which is hardly a part at all. And the part of the obscure and self-effacing married woman ... must have been the part of Lady Teazle, which is the only part any actress wants to act. If the Italian was a first-rate actress who had been promised a first-rate part, there was really some excuse ... for her ... rage." The knowledgeable Brown also points out that when Lady Teazle is supposedly onstage, she actually is confined to a screen for awhile, which gave Mrs. Mandeville ample time to slip through the trap door beneath the screen to do the dreadful deed without being observed.

"I can’t understand what all this means," says the actor, who has long had a high view of Mrs. Mandeville. "Everybody regarded her as a person of the most exalted ideals, almost moving on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of us."

"She regarded herself in that light," answers Father Brown, "and she knew how to hypnotize everybody else into it." He further adds, "Obviously from what every man said, she had confided in every man about her confounded intellectual loneliness. You yourself said she never complained, and then quoted her about how her uncomplaining silence strengthened her soul. And that is just the note ... the unmistakable style. People who complain are just jolly, human Christian nuisances; I don’t mind them. But people who complain that they never complain are the devil.... There’s another thing you’ve got to remember. You talk about these highbrows having a higher art and a more philosophical drama. But remember what a lot of the philosophy is!... All about the Will to Power and the Right to Live and the Right to Experience—damned nonsense and more than damned nonsense—nonsense that can damn."


6. The Vanishing of Vaudrey

Sir Arthur Vaudrey, "wearing on his gray head the white hat which he so boldly affected, went walking briskly up the road by the river from his own house to the little group of houses that were almost like outhouses to his own, entered that little hamlet, and then vanished completely as if he had been carried away by the fairies." He is last known to be seen alive by two men shopping at the little tobacco store: the first is Sir Arthur's secretary and the second is engaged to Sybil Rye, a beautiful young woman taken into Sir Arthur's care some years before. 

Sensible Sybil "had sent for Father Brown, who was a friend of hers and had helped her out of a difficulty in the past, and under the pressure of the apparent peril he had consented to remain at the house and see it through. Thus it happened that when the new day’s dawn broke without news, Father Brown was early afoot and on the lookout for anything. His black, stumpy figure could be seen pacing the garden path where the garden was embanked along the river, as he scanned the landscape up and down." That is where Father Brown finds the body of Sir Arthur, who obviously was murdered, but first he learns two illuminating facts about Arthur's character that, along with clues on Arthur's body, lead him to understand who murdered him where and why. 

Father Brown learns that when Sir Arthur was a young man in Egypt, an Egyptian official insulted him by saying that a good Moslem would avoid swine and Englishmen, but preferred swine. Years later when that official happened to visit England near Sir Arthur's country house, Arthur "dragged the man to a pig-sty on the farm attached to the country house and threw him in, breaking his arm and leg and leaving him there till the next morning." Arthur rightfully spent time in prison for committing that dreadful assault.

Some time after, as Father Brown learns from Arthur's secretary, hot-tempered Arthur surprised his neighbors by taking in lovely little Sybil Rye as a penniless orphan, but when she turned 17,  "the explanation came to her with a shock, for her guardian asked her to marry him." Somehow or other, Sybil had heard about Sir Arthur's criminal offense, which made him seem like a monster to her.  With helpless terror and "heroic courage, she told him the truth.... She admitted that her repulsion might be morbid; she confessed it like a secret madness. To her relief and surprise he took it quietly and courteously, and apparently said no more on the subject."

There came into her lonely life an equally lonely man named John Dalmon. He was camping on one of the islands in the nearby river and became a rival with Evan Smith, the secretary, for Sybil's affections. Smith says, "To this day I’m not sure how far she really accepted him, but it got as far as his getting permission to see her guardian. I can fancy her awaiting that interview in an agony of terror and wondering how the old beau would take the appearance of a rival. But here, again, she found she had apparently done him an injustice. He received the younger man with hearty hospitality and seemed to be delighted with the prospects of the young couple.... One day she had another shock: Dalmon let slip in conversation some chance phrase that the old man 'had not changed much in thirty years'.... All that introduction and hospitality had been a masquerade: the men had obviously known each other before."

Father Brown and Evan Smith decide to visit the tobacco shop, which doubles as a barber shop, since Sir Arthur's body was discovered partially shaved and with a smile on his face. The barber cleaned up the mess by then, but forgot to remove Arthur's white hat from the hat peg. Father Brown points this out to the barber, who then confirms Brown's educated guess that he found his customer dead in the barber chair and covered up the crime because he hated his cruel landlord and feared everyone would assume he was guilty. The barber had been distracted by Dalmon for a tobacco purchase, and Dalmon happened to notice the razor that the barber laid down by the head of Sir Arthur in the chair as they waited for the barber to return with the requested tobacco from his storeroom. Father Brown explains, "It took but an instant for him to pick up the razor and cut the throat and come back to the counter. The victim would not even be alarmed at the razor and the hand. He died smiling at his own thoughts. And what thoughts! Nor, I think, was Dalmon alarmed. He had done it so quickly and quietly that Mr. Smith here could have sworn in court that the two were together all the time."

When Smith and Brown are alone again, Smith notices the little priest seems "to be in a sort of trance, like a man staring down into an abyss." At last his lips move and he murmurs, "Merciful God, what a horrible revenge! What a horrible tale of hatred! What a vengeance for one mortal worm to take on another! Shall we ever get to the bottom of this bottomless human heart, where such abominable imaginations can abide? God save us all from pride, but I cannot yet make any picture in my mind of hate and vengeance like that."

Father Brown explains that Sir Arthur Vaudrey became characterized by "poisonous pride, a pride that was not ever secure and self-satisfied. Every scratch on the surface of his soul festered. And that is the meaning of that old story about throwing the man into the pig-sty. If he’d thrown him then and there, after being called a pig, it might have been a pardonable burst of passion. But ...  Vaudrey remembered the silly insult for years and years, till ... he took what he considered the only appropriate and artistic revenge."

Brown asks Smith, "Had anybody else, to your knowledge, ever insulted Vaudrey, or offered him what he thought a mortal insult? Yes, a woman insulted him.... A girl, little more than a child, refused to marry him because he had once been a ... criminal ... for the outrage on the Egyptian. And that madman said, in the hell of his heart: 'She shall marry a murderer.'"

Vaudrey was in a position to blackmail Dalmon, who had committed a murder long ago. Father Brown suggests, "Probably it was a wild crime with some redeeming features, for the wildest murders are never the worst. Dalmon looks to me like a man who knows remorse, even for killing Vaudrey. But he was in Vaudrey’s power and, between them, they entrapped the girl very cleverly into an engagement, letting the lover try his luck first ... and the other only encouraging magnificently. But Dalmon himself did not know, nobody but the Devil himself did know, what was really in that old man’s mind."

Because of information found in Vaudrey's library, Brown realizes that "Dalmon made a dreadful discovery. He had obeyed, not altogether unwillingly: he had been a tool, and he suddenly found how the tool was to be broken and thrown away. He came upon certain notes of Vaudrey’s ... which, disguised as they were, told of preparations for giving information to the police. He understood the whole plot and stood stunned as I did when I first understood it. The moment the bride and bridegroom were married, the bridegroom would be arrested and hanged. The fastidious lady who objected to a husband who had been in prison should have no husband except a husband on the gallows. That is what Sir Arthur Vaudrey considered an artistic rounding off of the story."

"As you say, hate is a hateful thing," remarks Evan Smith at last, "and, do you know, one thing gives me a sort of relief. All my hatred of poor Dalmon is gone out of me—now I know how he was twice a murderer."


A doctor comes running toward Smith and Brown, saying, "There is dreadful news: Arthur’s body has been found. He seems to have died in his garden."


"Dear me," says Father Brown, rather mechanically. "How dreadful!"


"And there is more," cries the doctor breathlessly. "John Dalmon ... seems to have disappeared entirely."

"Dear me, how strange!"


7. The Worst Crime in the World

Father Brown meets his niece Betty in a museum, but he finds her startled at having just witnessed her fiancé, Captain Musgrave, laughing uproariously to himself when he obviously assumed he was alone. She doesn't know what to make of it, but providentially her uncle has an opportunity to investigate when asked to accompany a lawyer friend who is visiting Musgrave's estranged and reclusive father to inquire about the captain's future inheritance before approving a large loan. Father Brown and the lawyer visit Sir John Musgrave's large castle, which is surrounded by a moat.

The lawyer calls out for the drawbridge to be lowered, but the people inside the castle are having great difficulty managing it. Finally it comes down like a falling tower above them, but gets stuck "mid-air at a threatening angle." The impatient lawyer says, "Oh, I can’t stand these stick-in-the-mud ways! Why, it’d be less trouble to jump." That he does, landing with a slight stagger on the inner shore. Father Brown’s short legs "were not adapted to jumping. But his temper was more adapted than most people's to falling with a splash into very muddy water. By the promptitude of his companion he escaped falling in very far."
 
The lawyer remarks irritably, "Come on, muddy or no, we’ve got to present ourselves before the baronet." When they finally enter the castle, they are shown into a long room. Weapons of many different centuries hang in meticulously balanced patterns, and a complete suit of armor stands "like a sentinel beside the large fireplace." Another long hall of portraits lies beyond.

"I feel as if I’d got into a novel instead of a house," says the lawyer. He then complains about how long Sir John is keeping them waiting, but Father Brown observes, "You must expect everything to go slowly in a place like this. I think it’s very decent of him to see us at all: two total strangers come to ask him highly personal questions." In fact, when Sir John is presented to them, they find he shows "neither shyness nor impatience when they touch on the very private matter of their errand.... He seems to recognize their curiosity as justified under the circumstances." Sir John is described as "a thin, keen-looking old gentleman, with black eyebrows and a long chin, and though the carefully-curled hair he wore was undoubtedly a wig, he had the wisdom to wear the gray wig of an elderly man."

"As regards the question that immediately concerns you," says Sir John Musgrave, "the answer is very simple indeed. I do most certainly propose to hand on the whole of my property to my son, as my father handed it on to me, and nothing—I say advisedly, nothing—would induce me to take any other course."


"I am most profoundly grateful for the information," answers the lawyer. "But your kindness encourages me to say that you are putting it very strongly. I would not suggest that it is in the least likely that your son would do anything to make you doubt his fitness for the charge. Still, he might—"

"Exactly," says Sir John Musgrave dryly, "he might. It is rather an understatement to say that he might. Will you be good enough to step into the next room with me for a moment." He leads them to a row of "blackened and lowering portraits," telling them tale after lurid tale of Musgrave misdeeds. Nevertheless he concludes, "Musgrave shall leave it to Musgrave till the heavens fall."

"And we shall be only too glad," says the solicitor, "to convey such a happy assurance to your son."

"You may convey the assurance," replies their host gravely, "He is secure in any event of having the castle, the title, the land, and the money. There is only a small and merely private addition to that arrangement. Under no circumstances whatever will I ever speak to him as long as I live.... I am a private gentleman as well as the custodian of a great inheritance. And my son did something so horrible that he has ceased to be—I will not say a gentleman—but even a human being. It is the worst crime in the world."

He then offers his guests hospitality for the night, but Father Brown quickly responds in a dull voice, "Thank you, Sir John, but I think we had better go."

"I will have the bridge lowered at once," says their host, and
in a few moments "the creaking of that huge ... antiquated apparatus filled the castle like the grinding of a mill. Rusty as it was, however, it worked successfully this time, and they found themselves standing once more on the grassy bank beyond the moat."

Father Brown decides not to head back to London with the lawyer, explaining, "Your question is answered: it is simply whether your firm can afford to lend money on young Musgrave’s prospects. But my question isn’t answered: it is whether he is a fit husband for Betty. I must try to discover whether he’s really done something dreadful, or whether it’s the delusion of an old lunatic."

"But," objects the lawyer, "if you want to find out about him, why don’t you go after him? Why should you hang about in this desolate hole where he hardly ever comes?"

"What would be the use of my going after him?" asks Father Brown. There’s no sense in going up to a fashionable young man ... and saying: 'Excuse me, but have you committed a crime too horrible for a human being?' If he’s bad enough to do it, he’s certainly bad enough to deny it. And we don’t even know what it is. No, there’s only one man that knows, and may tell, in some further outburst of dignified eccentricity. I’m going to keep near him for the present." 

Father Brown does keep near the eccentric baronet, meeting him on more than one occasion, "with the utmost politeness on both sides. For the baronet, in spite of his years, was very vigorous and a great walker." On the last occasion he tells Father Brown, "If you are still interested in my son, you will not see very much of him. He has just ... fled the country." When Brown returns to London and meets with the lawyer, he has "an air of some depression. But it was as it was so often in his criminal investigations: It was not the depression of failure, but the depression of success."

"It’s rather a shock," he says in a flat voice, "but I ought to have guessed it ... when I saw there was only one suit of armor.... Only the other day I was just going to tell my niece that there are two types of men who can laugh when they are alone ... either very good or very bad. You see, he is either confiding the joke to God or confiding it to the Devil.... I know the crime that James Musgrave committed. It was really the worst crime in the world, at least many communities and civilizations have accounted it so."

"What did he do?” asks the lawyer.
 
"He killed his father," answers the priest. "I was a fool not to have known it from the first when something bothered me about that suit of armor. Don’t you remember the look of that room? How very carefully it was arranged and decorated? There were two crossed battle-axes hung on one side of the fire-place, two crossed battle-axes on the other. There was a round Scottish shield on one wall, a round Scottish shield on the other. And there was a stand of armor guarding one side of the hearth, and an empty space on the other. Nothing will make me believe that a man who arranged all the rest of that room with that exaggerated symmetry left that one feature of it lopsided. There was almost certainly another man in armor. And what has become of him?"

He pauses a moment and reflects, "When you come to think of it, it’s a very good plan for a murder, and meets the permanent problem of the disposal of the body. The body could stand inside that complete tilting-armor for hours ... until the murderer could simply drag it out in the dead of night and lower it into the moat."
 
"My brain is rather reeling," says the lawyer, "but I begin to have some notion of what all this nightmare is about."

"At the post office today, continues Father Brown, "I casually confirmed the statement the baronet made to me yesterday: that he had been there just after closing time on the day previous—that is, not only on the very day we arrived, but at the very time we arrived. Don’t you see what that means? It means that he was actually out when we called, and came back while we were waiting. That was why we had to wait so long. And when I saw that, I suddenly saw a picture that told the whole story."

"Well," asks the other impatiently, "what about it?"

"An old man of eighty can walk," says Father Brown, "even walk a good deal.... But an old man can’t jump. He would be an even less graceful jumper than I was. Yet, if the baronet came back while we were waiting, he must have come in as we came in—by jumping the moat—for the bridge wasn’t lowered till later. I rather guess he had hampered it himself to delay inconvenient visitors, to judge by the rapidity with which it was repaired. But that doesn’t matter. When I saw that fancy picture of the black figure with the gray hair taking a flying leap across the moat I knew instantly that it was a young man dressed up as an old man. And there you have the whole story."

"You mean," says the lawyer, "that ... the real old baronet would have negotiated very differently."

"He would have told you plainly that the captain would never get a penny," answers Father Brown. "The plot ... was really the only way of preventing his telling you so.... If the son was not even disinherited, it would look rather odd that the father and son never met. The theory of a private repudiation answered that. So there only remained one difficulty ...which is probably perplexing the [criminal] now. How on earth is the old man to die?"

"I know how he ought to die," says the lawyer.


8. The Red Moon of Meru

Lord and Lady Mounteagle are holding an esoteric bazaar on their estate since they are "interested in the creeds and culture of the East." With the lady are her skeptical cousin Tom and a politician named James. She catches sight of a black stumpy figure standing at a booth where children are throwing hoops and calls out, "Father Brown, I’ve been looking for you. I want to ask you something: Do you believe in fortune-telling?"

He stares at the little hoop in his hand and says, "I wonder in which sense you’re using the word 'believe.' Of course, if it’s all a fraud—"

"Oh, but the Master of the Mountain isn’t a fraud," she exclaims. "It’s really a great honor for him to condescend to tell fortunes at my parties. He’s a great religious leader in his own country: a Prophet and a Seer. And even his fortune-telling isn’t vulgar stuff about coming into a fortune. He tells you great spiritual truths about yourself, about your ideals."

"Quite so," says Father Brown. "That’s what I object to. I was just going to say that if it’s all a fraud, I don’t mind it so much. It can’t be much more of a fraud than most things at fancy bazaars and there, in a way, it’s a sort of practical joke. But if it’s a religion and reveals spiritual truths—then it’s all as false as hell and I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole."

"That is something of a paradox," replies the politician with a smile.

"It seems to me obvious enough," replies the priest. "I suppose it wouldn’t do very much harm if somebody dressed up as a ... spy and pretended to have told all sorts of lies to the [enemy]. But if a man is trading in the truth with [our enemies]—well! So I think if a fortune-teller is trading in truth like that—"

"You really think," begins James the politician grimly.

"Yes," says the other: "I think he is trading with the enemy."

Tom Hunter breaks into a chuckle. "Well," he says, "if Father Brown thinks they’re good so long as they’re frauds, I should think he’d consider this [Master of the Mountain] prophet a sort of saint."

"My cousin Tom is incorrigible," says Lady Mounteagle. "He’s always going about showing up adepts, as he calls it. He only came down here in a hurry when he heard the Master was to be here, I believe. He’d have tried to show up Buddha or Moses."

"Thought you wanted looking after a bit," says the young man with a grin. "So I toddled down."

Related image
Lady Mounteagle leads the little group into her estate so she can introduce them to the Master of the Mountain and show them her husband's prized jewel, a ruby known as the Red Moon of Meru. Lord Mounteagle is a person "who had taken his Oriental pleasures more sadly, or at least more seriously than his wife. He could talk of nothing whatever, except Oriental religion and philosophy, and had thought it necessary even to dress in the manner of an Oriental hermit. While he was delighted to show his treasures, he seemed to treasure them much more for the truths supposed to be symbolized in them than for their value.... Even when he brought out the great ruby, perhaps the only thing of great value in the museum ... he seemed to be much more interested in its name than in its size, let alone its price. The others were all staring at what seemed a stupendously large red stone, burning like a bonfire seen through a rain of blood. But Lord Mounteagle rolled it loosely in his palm without looking at it."

He carelessly places the precious red gem on a cloister wall when everyone's attention focuses on the grand entrance of the Master of the Mountain. Suddenly the jewel vanishes! It soon appears that the Master is responsible, and he happily takes credits for effecting the disappearance with his mental powers, but Father Brown has private words with the real thief: the young cousin Tom, who couldn't resist the opportunity of acting out a plan to humiliate his older relations and their esoteric beliefs. His secret remains safe with the good priest once Tom gives back the gem so Father Brown can put it on the wall to be discovered as if it were simply overlooked. In this way Father Brown wins a friend and helps an elderly English couple be more spiritually discerning.

When an astute observer later has a private chat with Father Brown, Brown says, "People will tell you that theories don’t matter and that logic and philosophy aren’t practical. Don’t you believe them. Reason is from God and when things are unreasonable, there is something the matter.

"'All religions are the same,' says Lady Mounteagle. Are they, by George! I tell you some of them are so different that the best man of one creed will be callous, where the worst man of another will be sensitive. I told you I didn't like spiritual power because the accent is on the word power. I don't say the Master would steal a ruby, very likely he wouldn't; very likely he wouldn't think it worth stealing. It wouldn't be specially his temptation to take jewels, but it would be his temptation to take credit for miracles that don't belong to him.... He liked us to think that he had marvelous mental powers that could make a material object fly through space, and even when he hadn't done it, he allowed us to think he had.... That is what I mean by religions being different. He is very proud of having what he calls spiritual powers. But what he calls spiritual doesn't mean what we call moral. It means rather mental: the power of mind over matter.

"We whose fathers at least were Christians ... have the very opposite ambition and the very opposite shame.... Here the traditions of Christendom tell at once under a test like this. Look at old Mounteagle himself for instance! Ah, you may be as Eastern and esoteric as you like ... but if a bit of stone is stolen in your house and your friends are suspected, you will jolly soon find out that you're an ordinary English gentleman in a fuss. The man who really did it would never want us to think he did, for he also was an English gentleman. He was also something very much better.... I hope and believe he was a penitent thief."

"By your account," says Father Brown's companion, "The Christian thief and the heathen fraud went by contraries. One was sorry he'd done it and the other was sorry he hadn't."

"We mustn't be too hard on either of them," concludes Father Brown with this humbling observation: "Other English gentlemen have stolen before now, and been covered by legal and political protection. The West has its own way of covering theft with sophistry."


9. The Chief Mourner of Marne

A young friend of Father Brown hears rumors about a nobleman named James who fled England after the death of his beloved cousin Maurice and only recently came back after a quarter century, but has shut himself in his mansion, dressing like a monk, surrounded by priests, and living a morose life. A newspaperman hearing the same rumors is planning to write an exposé. When Father Brown learns this and asks a few perceptive questions, he goes to the man whom he realizes can shed light on the situation, getting straight to the point: "I am very sorry to intrude, and all the more because I can't help the intrusion looking like interference. I want to speak to you about a private matter, but only in the hope of keeping it private. Unfortunately, some people are likely to make it public.... I understand from my friend Mr. Mallow, whom, I think, you know, that Sir John is going to print some scorching anti-clerical articles ... 'Monks Drive Marquis Mad,' etc."

"If he is," replies General Outram, "I don't see why you should come to me about it. I ought to tell you I'm a strong Protestant."

"I'm very fond of strong Protestants," says Father Brown. "I came to you because I was sure you would tell the truth. I hope it is not uncharitable to feel less sure of Sir John Cockspur. General, suppose Cockspur or his sort were going to make the world ring with tales against your country and your flag. Suppose he said your regiment ran away in battle, or your staff were in the pay of the enemy. Would you let anything stand between you and the facts that would refute him?... Well, I have a regiment, and I belong to an army. It is being discredited by what I am certain is a fictitious story, but I don't know the true story. Can you blame me for trying to find it out?"

In time, Father Brown does find it out, for he and the general help one another to get a clear picture of what really happened.

The general informs Father Brown that he assisted in what
was perhaps the last duel fought in England, which was fought between the two cousins. He explains that James "really was devoted to his cousin, who'd grown up with him like a younger brother. Elder brothers and sisters do sometimes devote themselves to a child like that, especially when he's a sort of infant phenomenon." Maurice "was first in every sort of sport and art and accomplishment," but if ever he lost, he was jealous. He became very jealous when James became engaged to an admiral's daughter, and "he couldn't keep his restless vanity from interfering." One of the things James was better at than Maurice was marksmanship, and Maurice fell forward instantly when James took aim on a remote stretch of beach. Horrified, he flung his pistol as he ran toward Maurice, begging the general to fetch the doctor over the hill. By the time the general returned to the scene on foot after the doctor hurried onward by horse, a shallow grave had been dug, the mess cleaned up, and the guilty man vanished to flee for his life.

Father Brown sees something in this account that the general has missed all along, and quickly excuses himself when he learns that General Outram's wife, an old friend of both James and Viola, the lady James was once engaged to, is going to try to force a meeting between them so the Marquis of Marne can come out of seclusion. Before Father Brown leaves, he says, "General, for God's sake don't let your wife and that other woman insist on seeing Marne again. Let sleeping dogs lie, or you'll unleash all the hounds of hell."

This leads to a dramatic showdown at the mansion, for the general, the two women, and others are determined to force a reconciliation, but Brown comes out of the cavernous castle doorway and says simply, "Look here, I told you you'd much better leave him alone. He knows what he's doing and it'll only make everybody unhappy."

Father Brown is treated with contempt and accused of lacking Christian charity. "A shot in a duel, followed instantly by remorse, is not such an awful offense," says one.

"I admit," replies Father Brown, "that I take a more serious view of his offense."

"God soften your hard heart," says Viola. "I am going to speak to my old friend." She mounts the stairs but soon screams in horror, saying as she staggers back down, "It isn't Jim at all. It's Maurice!"

Then a voice fell down on them like a stone from the top of the stair, "a voice that might have come out of an open grave. It was hoarse and unnatural, like the voices of men who are left alone with wild birds on desert islands." It was the voice of the Marquis of Marne, and it said: "Stop! Father Brown, before your friends disperse I authorize you to tell them all I have told you. Whatever follows, I will hide from it no longer."

"You are right," responds the priest, "and it shall be counted to you."

Father Brown explains, "I knew from the first that the blighting monkish influence was all nonsense out of novels. Our people might possibly, in certain cases, encourage a man to go regularly into a monastery, but certainly not to hang about in a medieval castle. In the same way, they certainly wouldn't want him to dress up as a monk when he wasn't a monk. But it struck me that he might himself want to wear a monk's hood or even a mask. I had heard of him as a mourner, and then as a murderer, but already I had hazy suspicious that his reason for hiding might not only be concerned with what he was, but with who he was."

The general protests that he saw James killed in the duel and asks if Father Brown thinks he was blind.

Brown responds, "You were blinded that you might not see because you are a good man and God had mercy on your innocence, and he turned your face away from that unnatural strife. He set a wall of sand and silence between you and what really happened on that horrible red shore, abandoned to the raging spirits of Judas and of Cain." Maurice feigned death and James, "already broken with remorse, rushed across to the fallen man and bent over to lift him up. He had thrown away his pistol like an unclean thing, but Maurice's pistol still lay under his hand and it was undischarged." Maurice "was not so good a shot, but there was no question of missing the heart at that distance."

The company rises and stares down at their narrator with pale faces, asking if he is sure.

"I am sure of it," says Father Brown, "and now I leave Maurice Mair, the present Marquis of Marne, to your Christian charity. You have told me something today about Christian charity. You seemed to me to give it almost too large a place, but now fortunate it is for poor sinners like this man that you err so much on the side of mercy, and are ready to be reconciled to all mankind."

But that is not the case at all. "There is a limit to human charity," says Lady Outram for one.

"There is," says Father Brown dryly, "and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity.... It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don't really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don't regard as crimes, but rather as conventions." He describes the function of all true Christian ministers: "We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favorite vices and being generous to fashionable crimes, and leave us ... to console those who really need consolation: who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend, and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes, mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came."

"The dawn," repeats Brown's friend Mallow doubtfully. "You mean hopefor him?"

"Yes." Then Father Brown asks a simple question about what would happen if they had committed the dreadful deed: "Which of you, years afterwards, when you were old and rich and safe, would have been driven by conscience or confessor to tell such a story of yourself? You say you could not commit so base a crime. Could you confess so base a crime?" The others drift silently away, but Father Brown goes "back to the melancholy castle of Marne."


10. The Secret of Flambeau


This story is the bookend to the first story in The Secret of Father Brown collection. It begins where the first one left off: "—the sort of murders in which I played the part of the murderer," says Father Brown, putting down his wine glass.

"It is true," he continues, "that somebody else had played the part of the murderer before me and done me out of the actual experience. I was a sort of understudy: always in a state of being ready to act the assassin. I always made it my business … to know the part thoroughly. What I mean is that, when I tried to imagine the state of mind in which such a thing would be done, I always realized that I might have done it myself under certain mental conditions, but not under others—and not generally under the obvious ones. And then … I knew who really had done it and he was not generally the obvious person.

"For instance, it seemed obvious to say that the revolutionary poet had killed the old judge who saw red about red revolutionaries. But that isn’t really a reason for the revolutionary poet killing him … if you think what it would really be like to be a revolutionary poet … that peculiar sort of pessimistic anarchical lover of revolt, not as reform, but rather as destruction. I tried to clear my mind of … sanity and constructive common sense as I have had the luck to learn or inherit. 

"I … darkened all the skylights through which comes the good daylight of heaven; I imagined a mind lit only by a red light from below, a fire rending rocks and cleaving abysses upwards. And even with the vision at its wildest and worst, I could not see why such a visionary should cut short his own career by … killing one out of a million conventional old fools, as he would have called them…. Then I thought of another sort of heathen: the sort that is not destroying the world but entirely depending on that the world. I thought that, save for the grace of God, I might have been a man for whom the world was a blaze of electric lights, with nothing but utter darkness beyond and around it. The worldly man … is the man who will really do anything when he is in danger of losing the whole world and saving nothing. It’s not the revolutionary man but the respectable man who would commit any crime—to save his respectability…. That is just where this little religious exercise is so wholesome."

Mr. Grandison Chace, the American with whom Father Brown has been dining in the Spanish home of the Flambeau family (living in Spain under the name Duroc), frowns upon what he is hearing, saying, "Some people would think it was rather morbid."


Brown responds, "Some people undoubtedly do think that charity and humility are morbid…. Some of your countrymen have apparently done me the honor to ask how I managed to frustrate a few miscarriages of justice. Well, you can go back and tell them that I do it by morbidity. But I most certainly don’t want them to think I do it by magic…. It’s not the great crimes but the small crimes that are really hard to imagine."


"I don’t quite know what you mean by that," says Chace.

"I mean commonplace crimes like stealing jewels," answers Father Brown, "like that affair of the emerald necklace or the ruby of Meru or the artificial goldfish. The difficulty in those cases is that you’ve got to make your mind small. High and mighty humbugs, who deal in big ideas, don’t do those obvious things. I was sure the Prophet hadn’t taken the ruby, or the Count the goldfish, though a man like Bankes might easily take the emeralds.

"Some things helped…. For instance, the sort of man who brags about having 'shown up' sham magicians or poor quacks of any sort—he’s always got a small mind. He is the sort of man who 'sees through' tramps and trips them up in telling lies. I daresay it might sometimes be a painful duty. It’s an uncommonly base pleasure. The moment I realized what a small mind meant, I knew where to look for it—in the man who wanted to expose the Prophet—and it was he that sneaked the ruby; in the man who jeered at his sister’s psychic fancies—and it was he who nabbed the emeralds. Men like that always have their eye on jewels. They could never rise, with the higher humbugs, to despising jewels.

"Begin by thinking of being a greedy child, of how you might have stolen a sweet in a shop.... Then you must subtract the childish poetry.... Imagine you really think you know the world and the market value of sweets.... Contract your mind like the camera focus … the thing shapes and then sharpens … and then, suddenly it comes!"

Father Brown speaks "like a man who had once captured a divine vision." Grandison Chace looks at him with a frown of mingled mystification and interest. "Don’t you think," he asks abruptly, "that this notion of yours—of a man trying to feel like a criminal—might make him a little too tolerant of crime?"


"I know it does just the opposite," answers Brown swiftly. "It solves the whole problem of time and sin. It gives a man his remorse beforehand. There are two ways of renouncing the devil: One is to have a horror of him because he is so far off, and the other to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues. You may think a crime horrible because you could never commit it. I think it horrible because I could commit it. You think of it as something like an eruption of Vesuvius, but that would not really be so terrible as this house catching fire. If a criminal suddenly appeared in this room—"

Chace smiles dismissively, stating, "Frankly, I don’t think it’s practical. I think that the practical effect would be that no criminal would ever reform. It’s easy enough to theorize and take hypothetical cases, but … sitting here in Mr. Duroc’s nice, comfortable house … just gives us a theatrical thrill to talk about thieves and murders and the mysteries of their souls. But the people who really have to deal with thieves and murderers have to deal with them differently."

The man Mr. Chace has known all summer as Mr. Duroc now
speaks: "There is a criminal in this room. I am one. I am Flambeau, and the police of two hemispheres are still hunting for me. There is nothing mystical … about my confession. I stole for twenty years with these two hands. I fled from the police on these two feet…. Have I not heard the sermons of the righteous and seen the cold stare of the respectable? Have I not been lectured in the lofty and distant style, asked how it was possible for anyone to fall so low, told that no decent person could ever have dreamed of such depravity? Do you think all that ever did anything but make me laugh? Only my friend told me that he knew exactly why I stole, and I have never stolen since. I have told you the exact truth, and it is open to you to hand me over to the police."

There was "an instant of profound stillness, in which could be faintly heard the belated laughter of Flambeau’s children in the high, dark house above them, and the crunching and snorting of the great, gray pigs in the twilight. And then it was cloven by a high voice, vibrant with a touch of offense, almost surprising for those who do not understand the sensitive American spirit, and how near—in spite of commonplace contrasts—it can sometime come to the chivalry of Spain." Chace gently rebukes his gracious host and summer neighbor, saying, "We have been friends, I hope, for some considerable period, and I should be pretty much pained to suppose you thought I could be capable of playing you such a trick while I was enjoying your hospitality and the society of your family, merely because you chose to tell me a little of your own autobiography of your own free will. And when you spoke merely in defense of your friend—"


Book 5: The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)


1. The Scandal of Father Brown

G.K. Chesterton begins this first story from his last Father Brown book with a touch of drama: "Burning Troy began with Helen; this disgraceful story began with the beauty of Hypatia Potter. Americans have a great power, which Europeans do not always appreciate, of creating institutions from below." By that he means the combination of beauty, wealth, and the attention of the press. Although lovely Hypatia had already married "a very worthy and respectable businessman of the name of Potter," she becomes associated with a notorious poet named Rudel Romanes. An American journalist named Rock tracks the would-be couple to a Mexican hotel.

Before he enters, he observes from a distance a confrontation between a strikingly handsome man in a cloak defending himself against "a stumpy stoutish bearded man," who storms into the hotel after the other man walks away. When the journalist arrives, he hears the little man telling the hotel staff, "You'd better not let him in again.... I won't have the lady pestered with him." Then the man stomps off. 

Mr. Rock is soon rewarded with the sight of Hypatia Potter, "one of those people to whom the word radiant really does apply definitively and derivatively. That is, she allowed what the papers called her Personality to go out from her in rays. She would have been equally beautiful, and to some tastes more attractive, if she had been self-contained, but she had always been taught to believe that self-containment was only selfishness. She would have said that she had lost Self in Service; it would perhaps be truer to say that she had asserted Self in Service."

The journalist address her, saying, "If you'll pardone me, Madam, I should like to have a word with you in private."

"Well," she says, sweeping the hotel lobby with her splendid gaze, "I don't know whether you consider this place private."

He too looks around and states arrogantly, "I don't imagine that padre knows our language. Catch those lumps of laziness learning any language but their own.... I'll answer for it he's not an American. Our ministries don't produce that debased type."

"As a matter of fact," says the little priest, "I'm English and my name is Brown. But pray let me leave you if you wish to be private."

"If you're English," says Rock, "you ought to have some ...
instinct for protesting against all this nonsense. Well, it's enough to say ... there's a pretty dangerous fellow hanging round this place, a tall fellow in a cloak, like those pictures of crazy poets."

"Well, you can't go much by that," replies the priest mildly. "A lot of people round here use those cloaks because the chill strikes very suddenly after sunset."

Rock casts a doubtful glance at him and then turns to the lady, saying, "If you'll forgive me, Madam, I strongly advise you to have nothing to do with him.... Your husband has already told the hotel people to keep him out"

Before he can finish what he is saying, the lady bursts out laughing and hurries away. At a loss, Rock turns back to Father Brown and begins talking pompously about civilization and morals, which the good priest gently corrects as best as he can before he leaves the journalist to think things through on his own. Mr. Rock does more spying than thinking, however. Late at night he comes across Father Brown in the lobby and utters a suspicious remark.

"Quite a dissipated character," responds Father Brown with a smile, "reading Economics of Usury at all wild hours of the night.... By the way, your friend with the beard is a little rattled; I thought he was rather cross at dinner."

"Natural enough," growls the other, "if he thinks savages in this savage place are out to wreck his home life."

"Wouldn't it be better," says Father Brown, "if a man tried to make his home life nice inside, while he was protecting it from the things outside."

"Oh, I know you will work up all the casuistical excuses," says the journalist. "Perhaps he was rather snappy with his wife, but he's got the right on his side. Look here, you seem to me to be rather a deep dog. I believe you know more about this than you say. What the devil is going on in this infernal place? Why are you sitting up all night to see it through?"

"Well," answers Father Brown patiently, "I rather thought my bedroom might be wanted. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Potter wanted another room. I gave her mine because I could open the window. Go and see, if you like."

"I'll see to something else first," says Rock, grinding his teeth and striding to the telephone booth to tell his newspaper "the whole tale of the wicked priest who helped the wicked poet." Then he runs upstairs into the priest's room: "He was just in time to see a ... ladder unhooked from the window-sill ... by a [tall] laughing gentleman on the lawn below ... accompanied by a blonde but equally laughing lady.... She and her troubadour disappeared into the dark thickets."

"Well, all America is going to hear of this," says the journalist to Father Brown. "You helped her to bolt with that curly-haired lover.... Isn't she a married woman?"

"Oh, yes," answers the priest.

"Well, oughtn't she to be with her husband?" demands the journalist.

"She is with her husband," says Father Brown. The short, bearded poet bribed the hotel staff to keep the lawful husband out. "And I," explains the priest, "helped him get in."

When a man is told something that turns things upside-down: "that the tail wags the dog, that the fish has caught the fisherman," it takes some time to digest the truth. Rock says at last, "You don't mean that little fellow is the romantic Ruden we're always reading about, and that curly haired fellow is Mr. Potter of Pittsburgh."

"Yes," says Father Brown. "I knew it the moment I clapped eyes on both of them. But I verified it afterwards.... The truth is, I'm not romantic. Now you are romantic. For instance, you see somebody looking poetical, and you assume he is a poet. Do you know what the majority of poets look like?

"A beautiful wealthy girl ... would have a ring of admirers
and whom would she choose? The chances are ... that she'd marry very young and choose the handsomest man she met.... Your whole case was founded on the idea that a man looking like a young god couldn't be called Potter. Believe me, names are not so appropriately distributed.... Priests know young people will have passions ... but Hypatia Potter is forty if she is a day, and she cares no more for that little poet than if he were her ... publicity man. That's just the pointhe was her publicity man. It's your newspapers that have ruined her ... wanting to see herself in the headlines, even in a scandal.... There'd be a lot less scandal if people didn't idealize sin and pose as sinners.... Well, Mr. Rock, that is my complete confession ... of how I helped a romantic elopement. You can do what you like with it."

"In that case," says Rock, "I must ring up my paper and tell them I've been telling them a pack of lies."


Not much more than half an hour passed between the time "Rock had telephoned to say the priest was helping the poet to run away with the lady, and the time when he telephoned to say that the priest had prevented the poet from doing precisely the same thing. But in that short interval of time was born and enlarged and scattered upon the winds the Scandal of Father Brown. The truth is still half an hour behind the slander, and nobody can be certain when or where it will catch up with it.... A positively incredible number of people seemed to have read the first issue of the paper and not the second. And so the two Father Browns chase each other ... the first a shameless criminal fleeing from justice, the second a martyr broken by slander.... But neither of them is very like the real Father Brown, who is not broken at all, but goes stumping with his stout umbrella through life, liking most of the people in it, accepting the world as his companion, but never as his judge."

2. The Quick One

Father Brown and a policeman friend enter the bar of a hotel being remodeled, but no one is around to serve them a drink. Suddenly a joyous band traveling salesmen roll into the room "like a shoal of porpoises, and the magnificent bellow of a big, beaming man, with an equally big and beaming tie-pin, [brings] the eager and obsequious manager running like a dog to the whistle, with a rapidity which the police in plain clothes had failed to inspire."

"I’m very sorry, Mr. Jukes," says the manager. "We’re rather understaffed at present, and I had to attend to something in the hotel, Mr. Jukes."

This leader of the pack "was magnanimous, but in a noisy way, and ordered drinks all round, conceding one even to the almost cringing manager. Mr Jukes was a traveler for a very famous and fashionable wine and spirits firm."

Father Brown's policeman friend soon needs to intervene in a bar-room incident between two men who do not belong there and one who does: a teetotaler and his Muslim guest, and an opinionated local character who comes by for his usual cherry brandy. It starts when the teetotaler orders a glass of milk from the bar. Mr. Jukes mocks the two men, saying, "They come and drink cold milk in cold blood, before my very eyes!" Mr. Raggley, the local crank, insults the Muslim's religion, and the Muslim man, who has been very quiet up until now, grabs a decorative dagger from the hotel wall and hurls it just above Raggley's ear. Instead of being outraged, Raggley laughs uproariously.

"Do you charge this man, Sir?" asks the the policeman, looking doubtful.

"Charge him, of course not," says Mr. Raggley. "I’d stand him a drink if he were allowed any drinks. I hadn’t any business to insult his religion, and I wish to God all you skunks had the guts to kill a manI won’t say for insulting your religion because you haven’t got anybut for insulting anything, even your beer."
 
"Now he’s called us all skunks," says Father Brown to the policeman, "peace and harmony seem to be restored."

Everyone parts amicably, but Mr. Raggedly is found dead in the bar room the next morning with that very dagger in his heart! The police inspector and Father Brown quickly realize the knife could not be the cause of death because of the small amount of blood at the scene, and proceed on the assumption of poisoning because someone obviously wanted to frame the Muslim, and because Raggedly's preference for cherry brandy was well known. Most of the bar's customers go for "a quick one" of whiskey or beer. Father Brown urges the inspector to set up a police dragnet for a lone customer he calls The Quick One, who by a hotel busboy's testimony came in alone for a quick drink just before Raggedly was served his cherry brandy.

"You seem very keen on this," says the Inspector, a little puzzled.

Father Brown explains, "All men matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe. We matter to God—God only knows why.... If all men matter, all murders matter. That which He has so mysteriously created, we must not suffer to be mysteriously destroyed."

Enough information is provided to enable a police dragnet to bring in The Quick One. In the meantime, poison in the cherry brandy is confirmed as the cause of death, which leads Father Brown and the police inspector not to suspect the hotel manager of committing the murder. He was guilty of sticking the victim, when discovered, with the dagger to keep from being accused of what he did not do.

Everyone in the bar from the day before is brought in as The Quick One identifies the person who served him his quick glass of whiskey just after the bar was opened. He points to the gigantic Mr. Jukes, who runs away like a trumpeting elephant, but is quickly brought down by three policemen.

Father Brown remarks to his inspector friend, "A practical poisoner would probably do it as Jukes did, by substituting a poisoned bottle for the ordinary bottle that could be done in a flash. It was easy enough for him, as he traveled in bottles, to carry a flask of cherry brandy prepared and of the same pattern. Of course, it ... would hardly do to start poisoning the beer or whiskey that scores of people drink: it would cause a massacre. But when a man is well known as drinking only one special thing, like cherry brandy, that isn’t very widely drunk, it’s just like poisoning him in his own home. Only it’s a jolly sight safer. For practically the whole suspicion instantly falls on the hotel, or somebody to do with the hotel, and there’s no earthly argument to show that it was done by anyone out of a hundred customers that might come into the bareven if people realized that a customer could do it. It was about as absolutely anonymous and irresponsible a murder as a man could commit."

"And why exactly did the murderer commit it?" asks his friend.

Brown recalls that Raggedly "said in this very bar that he was going to expose a scandal about the management of hotels. The scandal was the pretty common one of a corrupt agreement between hotel proprietors and a salesman who took and gave secret commissions, so that his business had a monopoly of all the drink sold in the place. It ... was a swindle at the expense of everybody the manager was supposed to serve. It was a legal offense. So the ingenious Jukes, taking the first moment when the bar was empty ... stepped inside and made the exchange of bottles. Unfortunately at that very moment a Scotchman in an Inverness cape came in harshly demanding whiskey. Jukes saw his only chance was to pretend to be the barman and serve the customer. He was very much relieved that the customer was a Quick One."

"I think you’re rather a Quick One yourself," observes the inspector. "Did you suspect Jukes at all at the start?"

"Well, he sounded rather rich somehow," answers Father Brown. "I did sort of ask myself why he should have such a disgustingly rich voice, when all those honest fellows were fairly poor. But I think I knew he was a sham when I saw that big shining breast-pin."

"You mean because it was sham?" asks Greenwood the inspector.

"Oh no, because it was genuine," answers Father Brown.


3. The Blast of the Book

Professor Openshaw specializes both in debunking psychic phenomena and criticizing the simplicity of materialists who assume there is no basis for psychic phenomena. In his office he rereads the letter of a man he has an appointment to see that morning. No one knows better than he "the marks of the letter of the crank: the crowded details, the spidery handwriting, the unnecessary length and repetition. There were none of these things in this case, but a brief and businesslike typewritten statement that the writer had encountered some curious cases of Disappearance, which seemed to fall within the province of the professor as a student of psychic problems." At a slight noise he looks up and sees that the Reverend Luke Pringle is already in the room.

"Your clerk told me to come straight in," says Pringle apologetically, but with a pleasant grin. That grin "is partly masked by masses of reddish-gray beard and whiskers, a perfect jungle of a beard.... The wild beard might have belonged to a crank, but the eyes completely contradicted the beard: they were full of that quite frank and friendly laughter which is never found in the faces of those who are serious frauds or serious lunatics." Pringle explains, "I was missionary in Nya-Nya, a station in West Africa, in the thick of the forests, where almost the only other white man was the officer in command of the district, Captain Wales, and he and I grew rather thick. Not that he liked missions: he was, if I may say so, thick in many waysone of those square-headed, square-shouldered men of action who hardly need to think, let alone believe. That’s what makes it all the queerer."

Pringle goes on to explain that Captain Wales told him about an odd experience aboard ship. A man showed him a old leather-bound book belonging to an English scholar named Hankey. The man "swore that nobody must open the book, or look inside it, or else they would be carried off by the devil, or disappear, or something. Wales said this was all nonsense, of course, and they had a quarrel. The upshot seems to have been that this man, taunted with cowardice or superstition, actually did look into the book and instantly dropped it, walked to the side of the boat," and disappeared in fair weather without a splash, never to be seen again. Captain Wales, says Pringle, was grumbling about the whole business, "saying it was tomfoolery in the twentieth century to be frightened of opening a book, asking why the devil he shouldn’t open it himself. Then some instinct stirred in me and I said he had better not do that; it had better be returned to Dr. Hankey."

"What harm could it do?" Cutler asked restlessly, and when Pringle turned around, Captain Wales had disappeared without a trace through a large tear in his tent!  Pringle states he therefore resolved to return the book to Dr. Hankey, stopping by first to see Professor Openshaw since he heard he had a name for being balanced and with an open mind.

"Where is the book now," asks the professor.

"I left it ... in the outer office. It was a risk, perhaps, but the less risk of the two."

"What do you mean?" demands the professor. "Why didn’t you bring it straight in here?"

"Because," answers the missionary, "I knew that as soon as you saw it, you’d open it—before you had heard the story. I thought it possible you might think twice about opening it—after you’d heard the story. There was nobody out there but your clerk, and he looked a stolid steady-going specimen, immersed in business calculations."
 
Openshaw laughs, saying, "Your magic tomes are safe enough with him.... No human being, if you can call him a human being, would be less likely to open other people’s brown paper parcels. Well, we may as well go and bring it in now." But when they walk out, they see the book wide open, the clerk gone, and a big hole in the front window—"as if a human body had been shot through it into the world without"! Pringle suggests that Openshaw calls to see if the clerk went home or to furnish a description of him to the police, but the professor is not sure how to reach his clerk by telephone or even how to give a good description of him, being more preoccupied with things than people. Openshaw observes that his friend Father Brown is very much the opposite when he finds him chatting with a waiter at the restaurant where they meet to discuss the strange events of the day.

Earlier, Pringle had taken the book so he could bring it to Dr. Hankey nearby. He returned to Openshaw, explaining that Hankey wanted to see them both. When they arrived at the door bearing a brass plate with Hankey's name, they again find the book opened and signs that another man had vanished from the world! Pringle arrives at the restaurant and shows the book to Father Brown, who reads on the cover: 
Image result for scary book 
They that looked into this book, 
Them the Flying Terror took.

"You will dine with us, I hope," says the professor to the missionary, but Pringle  shakes his head.


"If you’ll forgive me," he says, "I’m going off to wrestle with this book and this business by myself somewhere. I suppose I couldn’t use your office for an hour or so?" Partway through the meal Openshaw receives a call from Pringle, saying, "I can’t stand it any longer. I’m going to look for myself. I’m speaking from your office and the book is in front of me. If anything happens to me, this is to say goodbye. No—it’s no good trying to stop me. You wouldn’t be in time anyhow. I'm opening the book now. I ..." and then a "thrilling or shivering yet almost soundless crash."

Openshaw shouts the name Pringle again and again, but he hears no more. The professor returns to his table companion and says, "Five men have no vanished in this impossible way."

Father Brown responds, "My dear Professor Openshaw, no men have disappeared. I suppose the hardest thing is to convince anybody that 0+0+0 = 0. Men believe the oddest things if they are in a series.... You saw nobody vanish. You did not see the man vanish from the boat. You did not see the man vanish from the tent. All that rests on the word of Mr. Pringle, which I will not discuss just now. But you’ll admit this: you would never have taken his word yourself, unless you had seen it confirmed by your clerk’s disappearance."

"That may be true," says the professor. "But when it was confirmed, I knew it was the truth.... I saw my own clerk disappear. Berridge did disappear."

"Berridge did not disappear," says Father Brown. "On the contrary ... he appeared in your study, disguised in a bushy red beard and buttoned up in a clumsy cape, and announced himself as the Rev. Luke Pringle. And you had never noticed your own clerk enough to know him again when he was in so rough-and-ready a disguise. Could you describe him for the police?... You probably knew he was clean-shaven and wore tinted glasses, and merely taking off those glasses was a better disguise than putting on anything else. You had never seen his eyes any more than his soul: jolly laughing eyes. He had planted his absurd book, [quietly] smashed the window, put on the beard and cape, and walked into your study, knowing that you had never looked at him in your life."

"But why should he play me such an insane trick?" demands Openshaw.

"Why, because you had never looked at him in your life," answers Father Brown. "You never found out even what a stranger strolling into your office could find out in five minutes’ chat: that he was a character, that he was full of antics, that he had all sorts of views on you and your theories and your reputation for 'spotting' people. Can’t you understand his itching to prove that you couldn’t spot your own clerk?... You are a great servant of truth and you know I could never be disrespectful to that. You’ve seen through a lot of liars, when you put your mind to it. But don’t only look at liars. Do, just occasionally, look at honest men."

There is long silence and then Professor Openshaw laughs "with the laugh of a great man who is great enough to look small." Then he admits, "I suppose I do deserve it for not noticing the nearest helpers I have. But you must admit the accumulation of incidents was rather formidable. Did you never feel just a momentary awe of the awful volume?"

Image result for old book with blank pages "Oh, that," says Father Brown. "I opened it as soon as I saw it lying there. It’s all blank pages. You see, I am not superstitious."


4. The Green Man

Image result for The Green Man tavern
This story opens with a breezy young man, Mr. Harker, who "was at present the private secretary of Admiral Sir Michael Craven.... He was ambitious, and had no intention of continuing indefinitely to be private secretary to anybody. But he was also reasonable, and he knew that the best way of ceasing to be a secretary was to be a good secretary. Consequently he was a very good secretary, dealing with the ever-accumulating arrears of the admiral’s correspondence." The admiral had been at sea for 6 months, but was due home shortly. Harker, in fact, sees his boss from a distance on the shore, striding across the sand in a full dress uniform and followed by a younger man in a similar uniform. Finding it hard to understand why the admiral would not trouble to change his clothes before heading home, Harker looks forward to finding out on his imminent arrivalbut his boss never makes it home. He is found the next day drowned in a little pool near a tavern called the Green Man, but few know this yet.

Harker, speaking with a police inspector named Burns, informs him that the admiral's daughter is his heir and that she wants her friend Father Brown to represent her. Inspector Burns comments, "I don’t take any stock in priests or parsons, but I take a lot of stock in Father Brown. I happened to have to do with him in a queer sort of society jewel case." They meet Father Brown at the lawyer's office, where the doctor plans to arrive with the autopsy results. When they arrive, "the mild and beaming expression of the priest’s moonlike face and spectacles, together with the silent chuckles of the jolly old grizzled lawyer, to whom he was talking, were enough to show that the doctor had not yet opened his mouth to bring the news of death."

The secretary announces, "I am sorry to say we are the bearers of bad news. Admiral Craven was drowned before reaching home." Both priest and lawyer repeated the word drowned and looked at each other, and then again at their informant. 

"When did this happen?" asks the priest.


"Where was he found?" asks the lawyer.

The inspector begins to explain but then notices that Father Brown suddenly looks like he is sick. "The Green Man," says Father Brown with a shudder. "I’m so sorry . . . I beg your pardon for being upset."

"Upset by what?" asks the staring officer.

"By his being covered with green scum, I suppose," says the priest, with a rather shaky laugh. Then he adds more firmly, "I thought it might have been seaweed."


Now the doctor speaks up: "Admiral Craven was not drowned. I have just examined the body. The cause of death was a stab through the heart with some pointed blade like a stiletto. It was after death, and even some little time after, that the body was hidden in the pool."

After this meeting, the secretary tells Father Brown on their way to meet the admiral's daughter at her home about seeing the admiral and a younger officer on the sands in their dress uniforms shortly before the murder took place. The younger officer grew up with the daughter and started to court her, but became aloof when he learned she would one day inherit her father's fortune. She confesses to Father Brown that she still cares for the young officer.

Father Brown responds, "I know very little, especially in this affair. I only know who murdered your father. I made a fool of myself when I first realized it." He tells the daughter that he will speak to her old friend. When he does, the young officer is no longer aloof, but joyfully approaches her, saying, "Now I can look after you, thank God. I am happy because I have heard the bad news."

Father Brown explains to the daughter: "I tell you the bad news bluntly and in few words because I think you are brave enough, and perhaps happy enough, to take it well. You have the chance, and I think the power, to be something like a great woman. You are not a great heiress. Most of your father’s money, I am sorry to say, has gone. It went by the financial dexterity of the gray-haired gentleman named Dyke [the lawyer], who is (I grieve to say) a swindler. Admiral Craven was murdered to silence him about the way in which he was swindled."

He then commends her young-officer friend, saying, "He did not want to live on his wife or have a wife who could call him a fortune-hunter. Therefore he sulked in a grotesque manner and only came to life again when I brought him the good news that you were ruined. He wanted to work for his wife and not be kept by her."

The police inspector naturally wants to know how Father Brown knew the lawyer was the murderer, and Brown responds, "The murderer made a slip at the start, and I can’t think why nobody else noticed it. When you brought the first news of the death to the solicitor’s office, nobody was supposed to know anything there, except that the Admiral was expected home. When you said he was drowned, I asked when it happened and Mr. Dyke asked where the corpse was found. Now when you are simply told of a seaman, returning from the sea, that he had drowned, it is natural to assume that he had been drowned at sea.... If he had been washed overboard, or gone down with his ship ... there would be no reason to expect his body to be found at all. The moment that man asked where it was found, I was sure he knew where it was found. Because he had put it there.... That is why I suddenly felt sick and turned green.... I never can get used to finding myself suddenly sitting beside a murderer."

5. The Pursuit of Mr. Blue  


Pursuit is the theme of this story, both in the the crime committed and the beach arcade game that preoccupies Father Brown. A private detective hired to protect a wealthy client almost driven mad by death threats from a jealous cousin is cleverly trapped at a meeting place on a remote pier at night. The detective is forced to watch helplessly as his client and the cousin chase one another. They pass out of his view and then he hears a gunshot and a splash into the ocean shortly afterwards. He tells Father Brown that when he was set free from the enclosed pier the following morning, he described the two men carefully to the police: the hunter looking like a tall hulk of a man in a red scarf, and the hunted resembling him in features, but immaculately dressed and groomed. Neither had yet been found, dead or alive, leading several people to doubt the detective's story.

The rich man's private secretary has a low opinion of that private detective, saying: "By his own account, he bungled his case and let his patron be killed a few yards away. He’s a pretty rotten fool and failure, on his own confession."

"Yes," says Father Brown. "I’m rather fond of people who are fools and failures on their own confession."

"I don’t know what you mean," snaps the other.

"Perhaps," answers Father Brown wistfully, "it’s because so many people are fools and failures without any confession."

The secretary counters, "We don’t know that the whole tale isn’t as false as a forgery. The fellow admits himself that the disappearance of his hunch-backed giant is utterly incredible and inexplicable."

"Yes," says Father Brown, “that’s what I like about Muggleton [the private detective]. He admits things."

Just then the body of the hulking, bearded giant appears on the shore in a fishing net. The secretary looks shocked to see him, but says nothing about his identity. Father Brown says something later to Muggleton as he again plays his arcade game.

"Father Brown," asks the private detective, "Will you tell me why you like that fool thing so much?"

"For one reason," replies the priest, peering closely into the
glass puppet show. "Because it contains the secret of this tragedy. I knew all along that you were telling the truth and the opposite of the truth. That corpse with the scarlet scarf over there is the corpse of Braham Bruce the millionaire.... These little clockwork dolls that chase each other round and round forever: Let us call them Mr. Blue and Mr. Red, after the color of their coats. I happened to start off with Mr. Blue, and so [it appears] that Mr. Red was running after him, but it would have looked exactly the contrary if I had started with Mr Red."

"Yes, I begin to see," says Muggleton. The family likeness, of course, cuts both ways, and they never saw the murderer leaving the pier—"


"They never looked for the murderer leaving the pier," says

the other. "Nobody told them to look for a quiet clean-shaven gentleman in an astrakhan coat. All the mystery of his vanishing revolved on your description of a hulking fellow in a red [scarf]. But the simple truth was that the [cousin] in the astrakhan coat murdered the millionaire with the red rag, and there is the poor fellow’s body. It’s just like the red and blue dolls, only because you saw one first, you guessed wrong about which was red with vengeance and which was blue with funk." The millionaire wasn't looking like a millionaire anymore because he was running like a hunted animal in the isolated last weeks of his life.


6. The Crime of the Communist

This story takes place in a small English college, where two wealthy foreigners recently completed an extensive tour to follow up on their offer to contribute money to the college's Economics Department. Three men who met them previously in the dining hall give them a brief greeting as they pass near their seats in the garden, but one turns back.

"I say," says Father Brown with the air of a frightened rabbit, "I don’t like the look of those men."


"Who could?" remarks the arrogant master of Mandeville College. "At least we have some rich men who don’t go about dressed up like tailors’ dummies."

"Yes," hisses the little cleric, "that’s what I mean. Like tailors' dummies."

"Why, what do you mean?" asks the college's financial officer, sharply.

"I mean they're like horrible waxworks," says Father Brown in a faint voice. "I mean they don't move. Why don't they move?" He promptly investigates and the figures topple over, stiff as mannequins: obviously victims of a fast-acting neurotoxin.

Father Brown turns over in his mind the dinnertime conversation before the murder took place. The academics he dined with were criticizing an absent fellow: Professor Cracken, a fiery Communist.

When an older professor asks the young financial officer what he thinks about class warfare and socialism, he answers: "I'm not a thinker. I'm only a business man, and as a business man I think it's all bosh. You can't make men equal and it's ... bad business to pay them equal, especially a lot of them not worth paying for at all. Whatever it is, you've got to take the practical way out, because it's the only way out. It's not our fault if nature made everything a scramble."

"I agree with you there," says the professor of chemistry. "A scientific government, with a really ethical responsibility to posterity, would be always looking for the line of promise and progress, not leveling and flattening.... Socialism is sentimentalism, and more dangerous than a pestilence, for in that at least the fittest would survive."


The college master replies, " 'Not differing much, except in opinion.' Isn’t that the motto of a university? To have hundreds of opinions and not be opinionated. If people fall here, it's by what they are, not what they think. Perhaps I'm a relic ... but I incline to the old sentimental heresy, 'For forms of faith let graceless zealots fight; he can't be wrong whose life is in the right.' What do you think about that, Father Brown?"

"I don't believe in that," says the priest. "How can his life be in the right if his whole view of life is wrong? That's a modern muddle that arose because people didn't know how much views of life can differ.... Heresy always does affect morality, if it's heretical enough. I suppose a man may honestly believe that thieving isn't wrong. But what’s the good of saying that he honestly believes in dishonesty?"

"Are any of your heresies really big enough to be dangerous?" asks the master.

"I think they have grown so big," answers Father Brown gravely, "that in some circles they are already taken for granted. They are actually unconscious. That is, without conscience."

"And the end of it," remarks a history professor, "will be the ruin of this country."

"The end will be something worse," says Father Brown.

At this point in the conversation, Professor Cracken the Communist walks up and trades a few barbed comments with the master. "Don’t be so cross, Craken," interposes Baker the financial officer, who offers him a glass of wine.

"Oh well, I’ll have a glass," says Cracken a little less ungraciously. "I really came down here to have a smoke in the garden. Then I looked out of the window and saw your two precious millionaires.... It might be worthwhile to give them a bit of my mind."

"Oh, as to that," says Baker, "I’m pretty tired of them myself, to tell the truth. I’ve been with them the best part of a day going into facts and figures and all the business of this new Professorship ... of Applied Economics."

"Do you think I don’t want to apply Economics?" responds Cracken. "Only when we apply it, you call it red ruin and anarchy, and when you apply it, I take the liberty of calling it exploitation. If only you fellows would apply Economics, it’s just possible that people might get something to eat. We are the practical people."

"Well, I don’t suppose we shall ever agree about all that," say the other. "But those fellows have come out ... into the garden, and if you want to have your smoke there, you’d better come." He watches with some amusement as his companion fumbles in his pockets until he produces a pipe, and then seems to be feeling all about again. Mr. Baker laughs, saying, "You are the practical people, and you will blow up the town with dynamite. Only you’ll probably forget the dynamite, as I bet you’ve forgotten the tobacco. Never mind, take a fill of mine. Matches?" He throws a tobacco pouch and its accessories across the table, which Cracken catches with dexterity.

The Communist looks at him with smouldering eyes and says after slowly draining the last of his wine, "Let’s say there’s another sort of practicality. I dare say I do forget details and so on. What I want you to understand is this: Because the inside of our intellect has changed, because we really have a new idea of right, we shall do things you think really wrong. And they will be very practical."

"Yes," says Father Brown. "That’s exactly what I said."


"Well," says Baker, "Craken is going out to smoke a pipe with the plutocrats, but I doubt whether it will be a pipe of peace.... That reminds me, as you won’t hand round your peace pipe, we must send out ... cigars to our distinguished guests. They must be longing for a smoke."


Craken explodes with a savage and jarring laugh. "Oh, I’ll take them their cigars," he says. "I’m only a proletarian." Baker and Brown  were "witnesses to the fact that the Communist strode furiously into the garden to confront the millionaires, but nothing more was seen or heard of them until ... Father Brown found them dead in their chairs."

It doesn't take long for the good priest to realize that the crime of the Communist is forgetfulness, not murder. Matches poisoned with a war toxin the chemistry professor was secretly working on were found in Cracken's pockets, but the poison was stolen by the man who tossed Cracken the matches.

Father Brown explains to his learned companions, "Communism is a heresy, but it isn't a heresy that you people take for granted. It is Capitalism you take for granted, or rather the vices of Capitalism disguised as a dead Darwinism. Do you recall what you were all saying in the Common Room about life being only a scramble, and nature demanding the survival of the fittest, and how it doesn’t matter whether the poor are paid justly or not? Why, that is the heresy that you have grown accustomed to ... and it's every bit as much a heresy as Communism. That’s the anti-Christian morality or immorality that you take quite naturally. And that’s the immorality that has made a man a murderer today.... It took [the millionaire victims] a remarkably short time to discover that the businessman in charge of the funds of this College was a swindler. Or shall I say, a true follower of the doctrine of the unlimited struggle for life and the survival of the fittest."



7. The Point of a Pin

Father Brown "always declared that he solved this problem in his sleep. And this was true, though in rather an odd fashion, because it occurred at a time when his sleep was rather disturbed. It was disturbed very early in the morning by the hammering that began in the huge building, or half-building, that was in process of erection opposite to his rooms." The strange thing was when the hammering stopped because of a labor dispute, but then started again only a little later than usual. Father Brown therefore was awakened later, but thinking about why helped him find a missing person.

The day before the labor strike, Father Brown stared up at the unfinished building and thought, "I wish all houses would stop while they still have the scaffolding up. It seems almost a pity that houses are ever finished. They look so fresh and hopeful with all that fairy filigree of white wood, all light and bright in the sun, and a man so often only finishes a house by turning it into a tomb." His thoughts turn from pyramids to making peace between laborers and employers when a death threat is found at the project site. Nailed up on a large loose flapping piece of paper is something "scrawled in crude and almost crazy capital letters, as if the writer were either almost illiterate or were affecting or parodying illiteracy." The threat reads: "The Council of the Workers warns Hubert Sand that he will lower wages and lock out workmen at his peril. If the notices go out tomorrow, he will be dead by the justice of the people."

Sir Hubert Sand is a decent, reasonable man who initially responds, "God knows I never like the idea of threatening English workmen with cheaper labor—"

His young nephew Henry cuts him off, saying, "We none of us liked it, but if I know you, Uncle, this has about settled it."

Eventually Sir Hubert is led to decide, "Well, I suppose all this business is over, as you say. No more negotiations possible now: we couldn’t pay the wages they want anyhow. But I shall want to see you again, Henry, about—about winding things up generally."

Henry agrees sulkily, as if he would rather wind things up himself, being a hands-on, energetic, and independent person. He then tells his uncle, "I shall be up in number 188 after lunch; got to know how far they’ve got up there." Two days later, Henry personally drives up to ask Father Brown to accompany him to Sir Hubert's estate to investigate a suicide note left by his missing uncle, who apparently was disturbed by the death threat.

Father Brown remarks, "I never should have thought he would be so illogical as to die in order to avoid death," but goes with Henry to the section of grounds where Sir Hubert liked to take a morning swim. On the smooth bark of a tree near the stream were these words carved in capital letters: "One more swim and then drowning. Good-bye. Hubert Sand." Nearby is a robe or dressing-gown that Father Brown takes in his hands to inspect. He soon finds blood.

"Whose blood?" asks Henry.

Image result for mens dressing gown silk
"Mine," says the priest. "There was a pin in this thing and I pricked myself. But I don’t think you quite appreciate ... the point of the pin. I do. You see, the gown was folded up and pinned together: nobody could have unfolded it—at least without scratching himself. In plain words, Hubert Sand never wore this dressing-gown. Any more than Hubert Sand ever wrote on that tree. Or drowned himself in that river.... A river is a good place to hide an imaginary body. It’s a rotten bad place to hide a real one.... The body is the chief witness in every murder. The hiding of the body, nine times out of ten, is the practical problem to be solved."

A month later, Sir Hubert is still missing. Discussing the matter with a new friend, Father Brown states, "It seems as if the criminal deliberately did two different thingseither of which might have been successfulbut which, when done together, could only defeat each other. I am assuming, what I firmly believe, that the same murderer pinned up the proclamation threatening ... murder, and also wrote on the tree confessing to an ordinary suicide." The problem isn’t merely who killed Sand: it’s why anybody should accuse somebody else of killing Sand, and then accuse Sand of killing himself.

Brown's friend asks the leading question, "So you think the thing the criminal wanted was …"

"The Lockout!" shouts out the priest energetically. "The Strike or whatever you call it: the cessation of work, anyhow. He wanted the work to stop at once!... Belatedly, desperately, and rather inconsistently, he tried to lay the other trail that led to the river, simply and solely because it led away from the [building construction].

"This is a murder story turning on the problem of How to Hide the Body, and I found it in my sleep. I was always woken up every morning by hammering from this building. On that morning I half-woke up, went to sleep again and woke once more, expecting to find it late but it wasn’t. Why? Because there had been hammering that morning, though all the usual work had stopped: short, hurried hammering in the small hours before dawn. Automatically a man sleeping stirs at such a familiar sound. But he goes to sleep again because the usual sound is not at the usual hour. Now why did a certain secret criminal want all the work to cease suddenly, and only new workers come in? Because, if the old workers had come in next day, they would have found a new piece of work done in the night. The old workers would have known where they left off, and they would have found the whole flooring of this room already nailed down. Nailed down by a man who knew how to do it, having mixed a good deal with the workmen and learned their ways."

Henry the nephew was found to have hidden thefts from his uncle's company for many years. When his uncle discovered them, he killed his uncle and hid the corpse in the flooring of the building under construction. That leads Father Brown to think of pyramids again and say to himself, "I was right in what I said first of all ... This house is supposed to be a hundred houses, and yet the whole mountain of building is only one man’s tomb."


8. The Insoluble Problem

Father Brown receives 3 telephone calls that trouble him, but they are followed by one that delights him. The truth is, "Father Brown was not very fond of the telephone. He was one who preferred to watch people’s faces and feel social atmospheres, and he knew well that without these things, verbal messages are apt to be very misleading, especially from total strangers." The first call comes from a lady sounding agitated but distracted, asking him to come at once to an inn 45 miles from him. She hangs up but then promptly calls back, sounding more distraught but telling him he is not needed now. A while later she calls a third time, saying he is wanted there after all. Father Brown "vaguely supposed that this marked some of the hesitations and panics not unknown among those who are vaguely veering in the direction of Instruction, but he confessed to a considerable relief when the voice of Flambeau wound up the series with a hearty threat of immediately turning up for breakfast."

Flambeau asks his beloved friend to join him on what proves to be their last adventure together. He wants Father Brown to help him prevent the theft of a bejeweled relic on its way to a cathedral town. The good priest is happy to accompany him, especially since the inn the lady asked him to stop by as soon as he could, the Green Dragon, is in the same direction. Since the relic isn't expected until the evening, they plan to have lunch at the Green Dragon, but before their car rolls to a stop there, a wild-looking young woman with untamed red hair runs out to tell them a murder has been committed.

She runs back to the inn and they follow her, meeting a shabby scholar who calmly explains, "My unfortunate sister-in-law has almost this moment suffered a most appalling shock which we should all have desired to spare her. I only wish that I myself had made the discovery and suffered only the further distress of bringing the terrible news. Unfortunately it was Mrs. Flood herself who found her aged grandfather, long sick and bedridden in this hotel, actually dead in the garden, in circumstances which point only too plainly to violence and assault. Curious circumstances, I may say." He asks if Flambeau and Father Brown would be willing to investigate since the police won't be by for awhile.
Image result for judas tree in a garden
At the end of the garden is a type of tulip tree Father Brown remembers is "commonly called the Judas tree. What assisted the association was the fact that there was hanging from one of the branches, like a dried fruit, the dry, thin body of an old man, with a long beard that wagged grotesquely in the wind." Stuck through the poor man's body is a rusty old sword. As Flambeau takes note of the footprints, rope, and blood left at the scene, Brown turns the opposite direction and sees Mrs. Flood in the distance by a young man on a motor bike, who then speeds away.

Flambeau asks the brother-in-law if anyone at the Green Dragon was on bad terms with the old grandfather.

Dr. Flood answers solemnly, "He was the object of almost universal affection. If there were any misunderstandings, they were mild and of a sort common in modern times. The old man was attached to the old religious habits, and perhaps his [younger relations have] rather wider views. All that can have had nothing to do with a ghastly and fantastic assassination like this."

"It depends on how wide the modern views were," says Father Brown, "or how narrow."

Dr. Flood is called away by his sister-in-law, leaving Father Brown and Flambeau to concur that the elderly man did not meet his death by either hanging or stabbing. They go to investigate his bedroom, noting on their way that the scanty footprints in the garden make no sense. Father Brown spots a broom in the corner and declares, "It’s a blunder, the first blunder that I’ve seen in this curious plot."

The pictures and images in the grandfather’s room make it clear "that what positive piety remained had been practically confined to him, and that his kindred had, for some reason or other, gone Pagan." Nevertheless, the priest knows that is  a hopelessly inadequate explanation even of an ordinary murder, let alone such an odd murder as this. "Hang it all," he mutters, "the murder is really the least extraordinary part of it." A slow light begins to dawn upon his face.

Flambeau discovers suspicious pills near the bedside and wants to get them tested to see if they are poison. He is determined to stay until he can solve the problem of this murder case. Father Brown declares it is insoluble and heads downstairs to talk with Mrs. Flood outside, who looks like she is grieving. He says to her, "The pictures in your grandfather’s room were truer to him than that ugly picture that we saw. Something tells me he was a good man, and it does not matter what his murderers did with his body."

"Oh, I am sick of his holy pictures and statues!" she says, turning away. "Why don’t they defend themselves, if they are what you say they are? But rioters can knock off the Blessed Virgin’s head and nothing happens to them. Oh, what’s the good? You can’t blame us, you daren’t blame us, if we’ve found out that Man is stronger than God."

"Surely," says Father Brown very gently, "it is not generous to make even God’s patience with us a point against Him."

"God may be patient and Man impatient," she answers, "and suppose we like the impatience better. You call it sacrilege, but you can’t stop it."

"Sacrilege!" thinks Father Brown and suddenly remembers the errand he and Flambeau were on to prevent the theft of the jeweled relic. With some difficulty, they are on their way again to the cathedral town and Father Brown explains, "First, a woman rang me up and asked me to go to that inn as soon as possible. What did that mean? Of course it meant that the old grandfather was dying. Then she rang up to say that I needn’t go, after all. What did that mean? Of course it meant that the old grandfather was dead. He had died quite peaceably in his bed, probably heart failure from sheer old age. And then she rang up a third time and said I was to go, after all. What did that mean? Ah, that is rather more interesting!" He suspects that her husband is a notorious jewel thief.

Father Brown says to Flambeau, "He had just heard that you were tracking him down.... He may have heard that I have sometimes been of some assistance. He wanted to stop us on the road, and his trick for doing it was to stage a murder. It was a pretty horrible thing to do, but it wasn’t a murder. Probably he bullied his wife with an air of brutal common sense, saying he could only escape penal servitude by using a dead body that couldn’t suffer anything from such use. Anyhow, his wife would do anything for him, but she felt all the unnatural hideousness of that hanging masquerade, and that’s why she talked about sacrilege."

They arrive in time to prevent the theft. When Flambeau, the former thief, catches the infamous Tiger Tyrone in the act, it was reported that they "looked at each other with steady eyes and exchanged something that was almost like a military salute."

Meanwhile Father Brown slips into the chapel "to say a prayer for several persons involved in these unseemly events. But he was rather smiling than otherwise, and, to tell the truth, he was not by any means hopeless about Mr. Tyrone and his deplorable family, but rather more hopeful than he was for many more respectable people. Then his thoughts widened with the grander perspectives of the place and the occasion." He observes part of the church in the shadows blazing "against the black enigma of the universe. For some are convinced that this enigma also is an Insoluble Problem. And others have equal certitude that it has but one solution."



9. The Vampire of the Village

The vampire of this village is allegedly a vamp, but instead turns out, like a vampire, to be a parasite. The alleged vamp, a lovely actress named Mrs. Maltravers, recently came to rent a house in Potter's Pond, the village where her actor husband was found dead with his head bashed in after a quarrel with local villagers. An inquest is held a few years after this tragedy since the local doctor was found incompetent, his past cases examined, and the facts of Mr. Maltravers's death show that his head wound was not sufficient to cause death. Poison is suspected. Dr. Mulborough, the new doctor, is a man of "very remarkable sense, which he ... showed in consulting a little priest named Brown, whose acquaintance he had made over a poisoning case long ago. The little priest was sitting opposite to him, with the air of a patient baby absorbing instruction."

The doctor informs Father Brown of the persons of interest in the village regarding this case, including gossipy women who say of Mrs. Maltravers, "Her seclusion is considered suspicious ... and all the young men are warned against her as a vamp."


Father Brown remarks, "People who lose all their charity generally lose all their logic. It’s rather ridiculous to complain that she keeps to herself, and then accuse her of vamping the whole male population."

There is also an old clergyman in the village. His son is a successful writer who is infatuated with Mrs. Maltravers, despite his father's flat refusal  even to look at her because of her profession. Another person Father Brown hears about is a former actor friend of Mr. Maltravers, who has been hanging around the village since the death of his friend and complaining, in an unbalanced way, of a fellow actor who did them both an injustice. The villagers tend to disregard all those people, but Father Brown does not and spends time talking with them, having a way of "getting people to explain at considerable length why they refuse to say a single word."

The actor assumed to be crazy says to Father Brown, "Maltravers never disappeared! He appeared: he appeared dead and I’ve appeared alive. But where’s all the rest of the company? Where’s that man, that monster, who deliberately stole my lines, crabbed my best scenes, and ruined my career?... That villain Hankin!" he shrieks. "Follow his trail. Follow him to the ends of the earth! Of course he’d left the village: trust him for that. Follow him—find him, and may the curses—" but by that point, Father Brown is hurrying down the alley where he found that troubled man to visit the elderly clergyman.

At the minister's home Father Brown notices "the narrow crucifix on the wall, the big Bible on the book-stand, and the old gentleman’s opening lament over the increasing disregard of Sunday, but all with a flavor of gentility that was not without its little refinements and faded luxuries. The ... priest had ... the weird feeling that everything was almost too perfect.... Only on one point the amiable old parson refused to melt into any further amiability: he meekly but firmly maintained that his conscience would not allow him to meet a stage player."

Father Brown meets up with the doctor, who has since learned that Mr. Maltravers was indeed poisoned. The priest then tells the doctor what he learned by private inquiry:  "The old clergyman has retired from parish work; indeed, this was never actually his parish. Such of the populace ... as goes to church at all goes to Dutton-Abbot, not a mile away. The old man has no private means, but his son is earning good money, and the old man is well looked after. He gave me some port of absolutely first-class vintage. I saw rows of dusty old bottles of it."

Father Brown suggests that he and the doctor visit the clergyman and his son to deliver the news that Mr. Maltravers died of poisoning, not by a blow to the head. When they do, the son promptly delivers a blow to the head of the clergyman! Father Brown defends him, explaining, "He has not struck his father, and he has not struck a clergyman. He has struck a blackmailing blackguard of an actor dressed up as a clergyman, who has lived on him like a leech for years. Now that he knows he is free of the blackmail, he lets flyand I can’t say I blame him much. More especially as I have very strong suspicions that the blackmailer is a poisoner as well."
 
He further explains, "The first thing that struck me was that this venerable cleric had got the whole thing incredibly mixed up. No Anglican parson could be so wrong about every Anglican problem. He was supposed to be an old Tory High Churchman, and then he boasted of being a Puritan. A man like that might personally be rather Puritanical, but he would never call it being a Puritan. He professed a horror of the stage; he didn’t know that High Churchmen generally don’t have that special horror, though Low Churchmen do. He talked like a Puritan about the Sabbath, and then he had a crucifix in his room. He evidently had no notion of what a very pious parson ought to be, except that he ought to be very solemn and venerable and frown upon the pleasures of the world.... It came to me suddenly: This is a Stage Parson. That is exactly the vague venerable old fool who would be the nearest notion a popular playwright or play-actor ... had of anything so odd as a religious man."

"To say nothing of a physician ... who does not know ... much about being a religious man," says the doctor good-naturedly. Both doctor and priest agree: the black coat of a parson stuffed with a blackmailer is  creepier and deadlier than a corpse stuffed with poison.