The Wisdom of Father Brown eBook: Page1

G. K. Chesterton (1995)

  Produced by Martin Ward


  By G. K. Chesterton




  1. The Absence of Mr Glass 2. The Paradise of Thieves 3. The Duel of Dr Hirsch 4. The Man in the Passage 5. The Mistake of the Machine 6. The Head of Caesar 7. The Purple Wig 8. The Perishing of the Pendragons 9. The God of the Gongs 10. The Salad of Colonel Cray 11. The Strange Crime of John Boulnois 12. The Fairy Tale of Father Brown

  ONE -- The Absence of Mr Glass

  THE consulting-rooms of Dr Orion Hood, the eminent criminologist andspecialist in certain moral disorders, lay along the sea-front atScarborough, in a series of very large and well-lighted french windows,which showed the North Sea like one endless outer wall of blue-greenmarble. In such a place the sea had something of the monotony of ablue-green dado: for the chambers themselves were ruled throughout by aterrible tidiness not unlike the terrible tidiness of the sea. It mustnot be supposed that Dr Hood's apartments excluded luxury, or evenpoetry. These things were there, in their place; but one felt that theywere never allowed out of their place. Luxury was there: there stoodupon a special table eight or ten boxes of the best cigars; but theywere built upon a plan so that the strongest were always nearest thewall and the mildest nearest the window. A tantalus containing threekinds of spirit, all of a liqueur excellence, stood always on this tableof luxury; but the fanciful have asserted that the whisky, brandy, andrum seemed always to stand at the same level. Poetry was there: theleft-hand corner of the room was lined with as complete a set ofEnglish classics as the right hand could show of English and foreignphysiologists. But if one took a volume of Chaucer or Shelley from thatrank, its absence irritated the mind like a gap in a man's front teeth.One could not say the books were never read; probably they were, butthere was a sense of their being chained to their places, like theBibles in the old churches. Dr Hood treated his private book-shelf asif it were a public library. And if this strict scientific intangibilitysteeped even the shelves laden with lyrics and ballads and the tablesladen with drink and tobacco, it goes without saying that yet moreof such heathen holiness protected the other shelves that held thespecialist's library, and the other tables that sustained the frail andeven fairylike instruments of chemistry or mechanics.

  Dr Hood paced the length of his string of apartments, bounded--as theboys' geographies say--on the east by the North Sea and on the west bythe serried ranks of his sociological and criminologist library. He wasclad in an artist's velvet, but with none of an artist's negligence; hishair was heavily shot with grey, but growing thick and healthy; his facewas lean, but sanguine and expectant. Everything about him and his roomindicated something at once rigid and restless, like that great northernsea by which (on pure principles of hygiene) he had built his home.

  Fate, being in a funny mood, pushed the door open and introduced intothose long, strict, sea-flanked apartments one who was perhaps the moststartling opposite of them and their master. In answer to a curt butcivil summons, the door opened inwards and there shambled into the rooma shapeless little figure, which seemed to find its own hat and umbrellaas unmanageable as a mass of luggage. The umbrella was a black andprosaic bundle long past repair; the hat was a broad-curved black hat,clerical but not common in England; the man was the very embodiment ofall that is homely and helpless.

  The doctor regarded the new-comer with a restrained astonishment, notunlike that he would have shown if some huge but obviously harmlesssea-beast had crawled into his room. The new-comer regarded the doctorwith that beaming but breathless geniality which characterizes acorpulent charwoman who has just managed to stuff herself into anomnibus. It is a rich confusion of social self-congratulation and bodilydisarray. His hat tumbled to the carpet, his heavy umbrella slippedbetween his knees with a thud; he reached after the one and duckedafter the other, but with an unimpaired smile on his round face spokesimultaneously as follows:

  "My name is Brown. Pray excuse me. I've come about that business of theMacNabs. I have heard, you often help people out of such troubles. Prayexcuse me if I am wrong."

  By this time he had sprawlingly recovered the hat, and made an oddlittle bobbing bow over it, as if setting everything quite right.

  "I hardly understand you," replied the scientist, with a cold intensityof manner. "I fear you have mistaken the chambers. I am Dr Hood, and mywork is almost entirely literary and educational. It is true that I havesometimes been consulted by the police in cases of peculiar difficultyand importance, but--"

  "Oh, this is of the greatest importance," broke in the little man calledBrown. "Why, her mother won't let them get engaged." And he leaned backin his chair in radiant rationality.

  The brows of Dr Hood were drawn down darkly, but the eyes under themwere bright with something that might be anger or might be amusement."And still," he said, "I do not quite understand."

  "You see, they want to get married," said the man with the clerical hat."Maggie MacNab and young Todhunter want to get married. Now, what can bemore important than that?"

  The great Orion Hood's scientific triumphs had deprived him of manythings--some said of his health, others of his God; but they had notwholly despoiled him of his sense of the absurd. At the last plea of theingenuous priest a chuckle broke out of him from inside, and he threwhimself into an arm-chair in an ironical attitude of the consultingphysician.

  "Mr Brown," he said gravely, "it is quite fourteen and a half yearssince I was personally asked to test a personal problem: then it wasthe case of an attempt to poison the French President at a Lord Mayor'sBanquet. It is now, I understand, a question of whether some friend ofyours called Maggie is a suitable fiancee for some friend of hers calledTodhunter. Well, Mr Brown, I am a sportsman. I will take it on. I willgive the MacNab family my best advice, as good as I gave the FrenchRepublic and the King of England--no, better: fourteen years better. Ihave nothing else to do this afternoon. Tell me your story."

  The little clergyman called Brown thanked him with unquestionablewarmth, but still with a queer kind of simplicity. It was rather asif he were thanking a stranger in a smoking-room for some trouble inpassing the matches, than as if he were (as he was) practically thankingthe Curator of Kew Gardens for coming with him into a field to find afour-leaved clover. With scarcely a semi-colon after his hearty thanks,the little man began his recital:

  "I told you my name was Brown; well, that's the fact, and I'm thepriest of the little Catholic Church I dare say you've seen beyond thosestraggly streets, where the town ends towards the north. In the last andstraggliest of those streets which runs along the sea like a sea-wallthere is a very honest but rather sharp-tempered member of my flock, awidow called MacNab. She has one daughter, and she lets lodgings, andbetween her and the daughter, and between her and the lodgers--well, Idare say there is a great deal to be said on both sides. At present shehas only one lodger, the young man called Todhunter; but he has givenmore trouble than all the rest, for he wants to marry the young woman ofthe house."

  "And the young woman of the house," asked Dr Hood, with huge and silentamusement, "what does she want?"

  "Why, she wants to marry him," cried Father Brown, sitting up eagerly."That is just the awful complication."

  "It is indeed a hideous enigma," said Dr Hood.

  "This young James Todhunter," continued the cleric, "is a very decentman so far as I know; but then nobody knows very much. He is a bright,brownish little fellow, agile like a monkey, clean-shaven like an actor,and obliging like a born courtier. He seems to have quite a pocketful ofmoney, but nobody knows what his trade is. Mrs MacNab, therefore (beingof a pessimistic turn), is
quite sure it is something dreadful, andprobably connected with dynamite. The dynamite must be of a shy andnoiseless sort, for the poor fellow only shuts himself up for severalhours of the day and studies something behind a locked door. He declareshis privacy is temporary and justified, and promises to explain beforethe wedding. That is all that anyone knows for certain, but Mrs MacNabwill tell you a great deal more than even she is certain of. You knowhow the tales grow like grass on such a patch of ignorance as that.There are tales of two voices heard talking in the room; though, whenthe door is opened, Todhunter is always found alone. There are tales ofa mysterious tall man in a silk hat, who once came out of the sea-mistsand apparently out of the sea, stepping softly across the sandy fieldsand through the small back garden at twilight, till he was heard talkingto the lodger at his open window. The colloquy seemed to end in aquarrel. Todhunter dashed down his window with violence, and the man inthe high hat melted into the sea-fog again. This story is told by thefamily with the fiercest mystification; but I really think Mrs MacNabprefers her own original tale: that the Other Man (or whatever it is)crawls out every night from the big box in the corner, which is keptlocked all day. You see, therefore, how this sealed door of Todhunter'sis treated as the gate of all the fancies and monstrosities of the'Thousand and One Nights'. And yet there is the little fellow in hisrespectable black jacket, as punctual and innocent as a parlour clock.He pays his rent to the tick; he is practically a teetotaller; he istirelessly kind with the younger children, and can keep them amusedfor a day on end; and, last and most urgent of all, he has made himselfequally popular with the eldest daughter, who is ready to go to churchwith him tomorrow."

  A man warmly concerned with any large theories has always a relishfor applying them to any triviality. The great specialist havingcondescended to the priest's simplicity, condescended expansively. Hesettled himself with comfort in his arm-chair and began to talk in thetone of a somewhat absent-minded lecturer:

  "Even in a minute instance, it is best to look first to the maintendencies of Nature. A particular flower may not be dead in earlywinter, but the flowers are dying; a particular pebble may never bewetted with the tide, but the tide is coming in. To the scientific eyeall human history is a series of collective movements, destructions ormigrations, like the massacre of flies in winter or the return of birdsin spring. Now the root fact in all history is Race. Race producesreligion; Race produces legal and ethical wars. There is no strongercase than that of the wild, unworldly and perishing stock which wecommonly call the Celts, of whom your friends the MacNabs are specimens.Small, swarthy, and of this dreamy and drifting blood, they accepteasily the superstitious explanation of any incidents, just as theystill accept (you will excuse me for saying) that superstitiousexplanation of all incidents which you and your Church represent. It isnot remarkable that such people, with the sea moaning behind themand the Church (excuse me again) droning in front of them, should putfantastic features into what are probably plain events. You, with yoursmall parochial responsibilities, see only this particular Mrs MacNab,terrified with this particular tale of two voices and a tall man out ofthe sea. But the man with the scientific imagination sees, as itwere, the whole clans of MacNab scattered over the whole world, in itsultimate average as uniform as a tribe of birds. He sees thousandsof Mrs MacNabs, in thousands of houses, dropping their little drop ofmorbidity in the tea-cups of their friends; he sees--"

  Before the scientist could conclude his sentence, another and moreimpatient summons sounded from without; someone with swishing skirts wasmarshalled hurriedly down the corridor, and the door opened on a younggirl, decently dressed but disordered and red-hot with haste. She hadsea-blown blonde hair, and would have been entirely beautiful if hercheek-bones had not been, in the Scotch manner, a little high in reliefas well as in colour. Her apology was almost as abrupt as a command.

  "I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir," she said, "but I had to follow FatherBrown at once; it's nothing less than life or death."

  Father Brown began to get to his feet in some disorder. "Why, what hashappened, Maggie?" he said.

  "James has been murdered, for all I can make out," answered the girl,still breathing hard from her rush. "That man Glass has been with himagain; I heard them talking through the door quite plain. Two separatevoices: for James speaks low, with a burr, and the other voice was highand quavery."

  "That man Glass?" repeated the priest in some perplexity.

  "I know his name is Glass," answered the girl, in great impatience."I heard it through the door. They were quarrelling--about money, Ithink--for I heard James say again and again, 'That's right, Mr Glass,'or 'No, Mr Glass,' and then, 'Two or three, Mr Glass.' But we're talkingtoo much; you must come at once, and there may be time yet."

  "But time for what?" asked Dr Hood, who had been studying the younglady with marked interest. "What is there about Mr Glass and his moneytroubles that should impel such urgency?"

  "I tried to break down the door and couldn't," answered the girlshortly, "Then I ran to the back-yard, and managed to climb on to thewindow-sill that looks into the room. It was all dim, and seemed to beempty, but I swear I saw James lying huddled up in a corner, as if hewere drugged or strangled."

  "This is very serious," said Father Brown, gathering his errant hat andumbrella and standing up; "in point of fact I was just putting your casebefore this gentleman, and his view--"

  "Has been largely altered," said the scientist gravely. "I do not thinkthis young lady is so Celtic as I had supposed. As I have nothing elseto do, I will put on my hat and stroll down town with you."

  In a few minutes all three were approaching the dreary tail of theMacNabs' street: the girl with the stern and breathless stride of themountaineer, the criminologist with a lounging grace (which wasnot without a certain leopard-like swiftness), and the priest at anenergetic trot entirely devoid of distinction. The aspect of this edgeof the town was not entirely without justification for the doctor'shints about desolate moods and environments. The scattered houses stoodfarther and farther apart in a broken string along the seashore; theafternoon was closing with a premature and partly lurid twilight; thesea was of an inky purple and murmuring ominously. In the scrappyback garden of the MacNabs which ran down towards the sand, two black,barren-looking trees stood up like demon hands held up in astonishment,and as Mrs MacNab ran down the street to meet them with lean handssimilarly spread, and her fierce face in shadow, she was a little like ademon herself. The doctor and the priest made scant reply to her shrillreiterations of her daughter's story, with more disturbing detailsof her own, to the divided vows of vengeance against Mr Glass formurdering, and against Mr Todhunter for being murdered, or againstthe latter for having dared to want to marry her daughter, and for nothaving lived to do it. They passed through the narrow passage in thefront of the house until they came to the lodger's door at the back,and there Dr Hood, with the trick of an old detective, put his shouldersharply to the panel and burst in the door.

  It opened on a scene of silent catastrophe. No one seeing it, even for aflash, could doubt that the room had been the theatre of some thrillingcollision between two, or perhaps more, persons. Playing-cards laylittered across the table or fluttered about the floor as if a game hadbeen interrupted. Two wine glasses stood ready for wine on a side-table,but a third lay smashed in a star of crystal upon the carpet. A few feetfrom it lay what looked like a long knife or short sword, straight, butwith an ornamental and pictured handle, its dull blade just caught agrey glint from the dreary window behind, which showed the black treesagainst the leaden level of the sea. Towards the opposite corner ofthe room was rolled a gentleman's silk top hat, as if it had just beenknocked off his head; so much so, indeed, that one almost looked to seeit still rolling. And in the corner behind it, thrown like a sack ofpotatoes, but corded like a railway trunk, lay Mr James Todhunter,with a scarf across his mouth, and six or seven ropes knotted round hiselbows and ankles. His brown eyes were alive and shifted alertly.

  Dr Orion Hoo
d paused for one instant on the doormat and drank in thewhole scene of voiceless violence. Then he stepped swiftly across thecarpet, picked up the tall silk hat, and gravely put it upon the headof the yet pinioned Todhunter. It was so much too large for him that italmost slipped down on to his shoulders.

  "Mr Glass's hat," said the doctor, returning with it and peering intothe inside with a pocket lens. "How to explain the absence of Mr Glassand the presence of Mr Glass's hat? For Mr Glass is not a careless manwith his clothes. That hat is of a stylish shape and systematicallybrushed and burnished, though not very new. An old dandy, I shouldthink."

  "But, good heavens!" called out Miss MacNab, "aren't you going to untiethe man first?"

  "I say 'old' with intention, though not with certainty" continued theexpositor; "my reason for it might seem a little far-fetched. The hairof human beings falls out in very varying degrees, but almost alwaysfalls out slightly, and with the lens I should see the tiny hairs in ahat recently worn. It has none, which leads me to guess that Mr Glass isbald. Now when this is taken with the high-pitched and querulousvoice which Miss MacNab described so vividly (patience, my dear lady,patience), when we take the hairless head together with the tone commonin senile anger, I should think we may deduce some advance in years.Nevertheless, he was probably vigorous, and he was almost certainlytall. I might rely in some degree on the story of his previousappearance at the window, as a tall man in a silk hat, but I think Ihave more exact indication. This wineglass has been smashed all overthe place, but one of its splinters lies on the high bracket beside themantelpiece. No such fragment could have fallen there if the vesselhad been smashed in the hand of a comparatively short man like MrTodhunter."

  "By the way," said Father Brown, "might it not be as well to untie MrTodhunter?"

  "Our lesson from the drinking-vessels does not end here," proceeded thespecialist. "I may say at once that it is possible that the man Glasswas bald or nervous through dissipation rather than age. Mr Todhunter,as has been remarked, is a quiet thrifty gentleman, essentially anabstainer. These cards and wine-cups are no part of his normal habit;they have been produced for a particular companion. But, as ithappens, we may go farther. Mr Todhunter may or may not possess thiswine-service, but there is no appearance of his possessing any wine.What, then, were these vessels to contain? I would at once suggestsome brandy or whisky, perhaps of a luxurious sort, from a flask in thepocket of Mr Glass. We have thus something like a picture of the man, orat least of the type: tall, elderly, fashionable, but somewhat frayed,certainly fond of play and strong waters, perhaps rather too fond ofthem. Mr Glass is a gentleman not unknown on the fringes of society."

  "Look here," cried the young woman, "if you don't let me pass to untiehim I'll run outside and scream for the police."

  "I should not advise you, Miss MacNab," said Dr Hood gravely, "to bein any hurry to fetch the police. Father Brown, I seriously ask you tocompose your flock, for their sakes, not for mine. Well, we have seensomething of the figure and quality of Mr Glass; what are the chieffacts known of Mr Todhunter? They are substantially three: that he iseconomical, that he is more or less wealthy, and that he has a secret.Now, surely it is obvious that there are the three chief marks of thekind of man who is blackmailed. And surely it is equally obvious thatthe faded finery, the profligate habits, and the shrill irritation of MrGlass are the unmistakable marks of the kind of man who blackmails him.We have the two typical figures of a tragedy of hush money: on the onehand, the respectable man with a mystery; on the other, the West-endvulture with a scent for a mystery. These two men have met here todayand have quarrelled, using blows and a bare weapon."

  "Are you going to take those ropes off?" asked the girl stubbornly.

  Dr Hood replaced the silk hat carefully on the side table, and wentacross to the captive. He studied him intently, even moving him a littleand half-turning him round by the shoulders, but he only answered:

  "No; I think these ropes will do very well till your friends the policebring the handcuffs."

  Father Brown, who had been looking dully at the carpet, lifted his roundface and said: "What do you mean?"

  The man of science had picked up the peculiar dagger-sword from thecarpet and was examining it intently as he answered:

  "Because you find Mr Todhunter tied up," he said, "you all jump to theconclusion that Mr Glass had tied him up; and then, I suppose, escaped.There are four objections to this: First, why should a gentleman sodressy as our friend Glass leave his hat behind him, if he left of hisown free will? Second," he continued, moving towards the window, "thisis the only exit, and it is locked on the inside. Third, this bladehere has a tiny touch of blood at the point, but there is no wound on MrTodhunter. Mr Glass took that wound away with him, dead or alive. Addto all this primary probability. It is much more likely that theblackmailed person would try to kill his incubus, rather than that theblackmailer would try to kill the goose that lays his golden egg. There,I think, we have a pretty complete story."

  "But the ropes?" inquired the priest, whose eyes had remained open witha rather vacant admiration.

  "Ah, the ropes," said the expert with a singular intonation. "MissMacNab very much wanted to know why I did not set Mr Todhunter free fromhis ropes. Well, I will tell her. I did not do it because Mr Todhuntercan set himself free from them at any minute he chooses."

  "What?" cried the audience on quite different notes of astonishment.

  "I have looked at all the knots on Mr Todhunter," reiterated Hoodquietly. "I happen to know something about knots; they are quite abranch of criminal science. Every one of those knots he has made himselfand could loosen himself; not one of them would have been made by anenemy really trying to pinion him. The whole of this affair of theropes is a clever fake, to make us think him the victim of the struggleinstead of the wretched Glass, whose corpse may be hidden in the gardenor stuffed up the chimney."

  There was a rather depressed silence; the room was darkening, thesea-blighted boughs of the garden trees looked leaner and blacker thanever, yet they seemed to have come nearer to the window. One couldalmost fancy they were sea-monsters like krakens or cuttlefish, writhingpolypi who had crawled up from the sea to see the end of this tragedy,even as he, the villain and victim of it, the terrible man in the tallhat, had once crawled up from the sea. For the whole air was dense withthe morbidity of blackmail, which is the most morbid of human things,because it is a crime concealing a crime; a black plaster on a blackerwound.

  The face of the little Catholic priest, which was commonly complacentand even comic, had suddenly become knotted with a curious frown. Itwas not the blank curiosity of his first innocence. It was rather thatcreative curiosity which comes when a man has the beginnings of an idea."Say it again, please," he said in a simple, bothered manner; "do youmean that Todhunter can tie himself up all alone and untie himself allalone?"

  "That is what I mean," said the doctor.

  "Jerusalem!" ejaculated Brown suddenly, "I wonder if it could possiblybe that!"

  He scuttled across the room rather like a rabbit, and peered with quitea new impulsiveness into the partially-covered face of the captive. Thenhe turned his own rather fatuous face to the company. "Yes, that's it!"he cried in a certain excitement. "Can't you see it in the man's face?Why, look at his eyes!"

  Both the Professor and the girl followed the direction of his glance.And though the broad black scarf completely masked the lower half ofTodhunter's visage, they did grow conscious of something struggling andintense about the upper part of it.

  "His eyes do look queer," cried the young woman, strongly moved. "Youbrutes; I believe it's hurting him!"

  "Not that, I think," said Dr Hood; "the eyes have certainly a singularexpression. But I should interpret those transverse wrinkles asexpressing rather such slight psychological abnormality--"

  "Oh, bosh!" cried Father Brown: "can't you see he's laughing?"

  "Laughing!" repeated the doctor, with a start; "but what on earth can hebe laughing at?"

  "Well," replied the Reverend Brown apologetically, "not to put too finea point on it, I think he is laughing at you. And indeed, I'm a littleinclined to laugh at myself, now I know about it."

  "Now you know about what?" asked Hood, in some exasperation.

  "Now I know," replied the priest, "the profession of Mr Todhunter."

  He shuffled about the room, looking at one object after another withwhat seemed to be a vacant stare, and then invariably bursting into anequally vacant laugh, a highly irritating process for those who had towatch it. He laughed very much over the hat, still more uproariouslyover the broken glass, but the blood on the sword point sent himinto mortal convulsions of amusement. Then he turned to the fumingspecialist.

  "Dr Hood," he cried enthusiastically, "you are a great poet! You havecalled an uncreated being out of the void. How much more godlike that isthan if you had only ferreted out the mere facts! Indeed, the mere factsare rather commonplace and comic by comparison."

  "I have no notion what you are talking about," said Dr Hood ratherhaughtily; "my facts are all inevitable, though necessarily incomplete.A place may be permitted to intuition, perhaps (or poetry if you preferthe term), but only because the corresponding details cannot as yet beascertained. In the absence of Mr Glass--"

  "That's it, that's it," said the little priest, nodding quite eagerly,"that's the first idea to get fixed; the absence of Mr Glass. He is soextremely absent. I suppose," he added reflectively, "that there wasnever anybody so absent as Mr Glass."

  "Do you mean he is absent from the town?" demanded the doctor.

  "I mean he is absent from everywhere," answered Father Brown; "he isabsent from the Nature of Things, so to speak."

  "Do you seriously mean," said the specialist with a smile, "that thereis no such person?"

  The priest made a sign of assent. "It does seem a pity," he said.

  Orion Hood broke into a contemptuous laugh. "Well," he said, "beforewe go on to the hundred and one other evidences, let us take the firstproof we found; the first fact we fell over when we fell into this room.If there is no Mr Glass, whose hat is this?"

  "It is Mr Todhunter's," replied Father Brown.

  "But it doesn't fit him," cried Hood impatiently. "He couldn't possiblywear it!"

  Father Brown shook his head with ineffable mildness. "I never said hecould wear it," he answered. "I said it was his hat. Or, if you insiston a shade of difference, a hat that is his."

  "And what is the shade of difference?" asked the criminologist with aslight sneer.

  "My good sir," cried the mild little man, with his first movement akinto impatience, "if you will walk down the street to the nearest hatter'sshop, you will see that there is, in common speech, a difference betweena man's hat and the hats that are his."

  "But a hatter," protested Hood, "can get money out of his stock of newhats. What could Todhunter get out of this one old hat?"

  "Rabbits," replied Father Brown promptly.

  "What?" cried Dr Hood.

  "Rabbits, ribbons, sweetmeats, goldfish, rolls of coloured paper," saidthe reverend gentleman with rapidity. "Didn't you see it all whenyou found out the faked ropes? It's just the same with the sword.Mr Todhunter hasn't got a scratch on him, as you say; but he's got ascratch in him, if you follow me."

  "Do you mean inside Mr Todhunter's clothes?" inquired Mrs MacNabsternly.

  "I do not mean inside Mr Todhunter's clothes," said Father Brown. "Imean inside Mr Todhunter."

  "Well, what in the name of Bedlam do you mean?"

  "Mr Todhunter," explained Father Brown placidly, "is learning to be aprofessional conjurer, as well as juggler, ventriloquist, and expert inthe rope trick. The conjuring explains the hat. It is without tracesof hair, not because it is worn by the prematurely bald Mr Glass, butbecause it has never been worn by anybody. The juggling explains thethree glasses, which Todhunter was teaching himself to throw up andcatch in rotation. But, being only at the stage of practice, he smashedone glass against the ceiling. And the juggling also explains the sword,which it was Mr Todhunter's professional pride and duty to swallow.But, again, being at the stage of practice, he very slightly grazed theinside of his throat with the weapon. Hence he has a wound inside him,which I am sure (from the expression on his face) is not a seriousone. He was also practising the trick of a release from ropes, like theDavenport Brothers, and he was just about to free himself when we allburst into the room. The cards, of course, are for card tricks, and theyare scattered on the floor because he had just been practising one ofthose dodges of sending them flying through the air. He merely kept histrade secret, because he had to keep his tricks secret, like any otherconjurer. But the mere fact of an idler in a top hat having oncelooked in at his back window, and been driven away by him with greatindignation, was enough to set us all on a wrong track of romance, andmake us imagine his whole life overshadowed by the silk-hatted spectreof Mr Glass."

  "But what about the two voices?" asked Maggie, staring.

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

  There was a long silence, and Dr Hood regarded the little man whohad spoken with a dark and attentive smile. "You are certainly a veryingenious person," he said; "it could not have been done better in abook. But there is just one part of Mr Glass you have not succeeded inexplaining away, and that is his name. Miss MacNab distinctly heard himso addressed by Mr Todhunter."

  The Rev. Mr Brown broke into a rather childish giggle. "Well, that,"he said, "that's the silliest part of the whole silly story. When ourjuggling friend here threw up the three glasses in turn, he countedthem aloud as he caught them, and also commented aloud when he failed tocatch them. What he really said was: 'One, two and three--missed a glassone, two--missed a glass.' And so on."

  There was a second of stillness in the room, and then everyone withone accord burst out laughing. As they did so the figure in the cornercomplacently uncoiled all the ropes and let them fall with a flourish.Then, advancing into the middle of the room with a bow, he producedfrom his pocket a big bill printed in blue and red, which announced thatZALADIN, the World's Greatest Conjurer, Contortionist, Ventriloquist andHuman Kangaroo would be ready with an entirely new series of Tricksat the Empire Pavilion, Scarborough, on Monday next at eight o'clockprecisely.