The Mistake Of The Machine by G. K. Chesterton

Story type: Literature

FLAMBEAU and his friend the priest were sitting in the Temple Gardens about sunset; and their neighbourhood or some such accidental influence had turned their talk to matters of legal process. From the problem of the licence in cross-examination, their talk strayed to Roman and mediaeval torture, to the examining magistrate in France and the Third Degree in America.

“I’ve been reading,” said Flambeau, “of this new psychometric method they talk about so much, especially in America. You know what I mean; they put a pulsometer on a man’s wrist and judge by how his heart goes at the pronunciation of certain words. What do you think of it?”

“I think it very interesting,” replied Father Brown; “it reminds me of that interesting idea in the Dark Ages that blood would flow from a corpse if the murderer touched it.”

“Do you really mean,” demanded his friend, “that you think the two methods equally valuable?”

“I think them equally valueless,” replied Brown. “Blood flows, fast or slow, in dead folk or living, for so many more million reasons than we can ever know. Blood will have to flow very funnily; blood will have to flow up the Matterhorn, before I will take it as a sign that I am to shed it.”

“The method,” remarked the other, “has been guaranteed by some of the greatest American men of science.”

“What sentimentalists men of science are!” exclaimed Father Brown, “and how much more sentimental must American men of science be! Who but a Yankee would think of proving anything from heart-throbs? Why, they must be as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman is in love with him if she blushes. That’s a test from the circulation of the blood, discovered by the immortal Harvey; and a jolly rotten test, too.”

“But surely,” insisted Flambeau, “it might point pretty straight at something or other.”

“There’s a disadvantage in a stick pointing straight,” answered the other. “What is it? Why, 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.” And he proceeded to tell the story of his disillusionment.

It happened nearly twenty years before, when he was chaplain to his co-religionists in a prison in Chicago–where the Irish population displayed a capacity both for crime and penitence which kept him tolerably busy. The official second-in-command under the Governor was an ex-detective named Greywood Usher, a cadaverous, careful-spoken Yankee philosopher, occasionally varying a very rigid visage with an odd apologetic grimace. He 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.

One evening he had sent for the priest, who, according to his custom, took a seat in silence at a table piled and littered with papers, and waited. The official selected from the papers a scrap of newspaper cutting, which he handed across to the cleric, who read it gravely. It appeared to be an extract from one of the pinkest of American Society papers, and ran as follows:

“Society’s brightest widower is once more on the Freak Dinner stunt. All our exclusive citizens will recall the Perambulator Parade Dinner, in which Last-Trick Todd, at his palatial home at Pilgrim’s Pond, caused so many of our prominent debutantes to look even younger than their years. Equally elegant and more miscellaneous and large-hearted in social outlook was Last-Trick’s show the year previous, the popular Cannibal Crush Lunch, at which the confections handed round were sarcastically moulded in the forms of human arms and legs, and during which more than one of our gayest mental gymnasts was heard offering to eat his partner. The witticism which will inspire this evening is as yet in Mr Todd’s pretty reticent intellect, or locked in the jewelled bosoms of our city’s gayest leaders; but there is talk of a pretty parody of the simple manners and customs at the other end of Society’s scale. This would be all the more telling, as hospitable Todd is entertaining in Lord Falconroy, the famous traveller, a true-blooded aristocrat fresh from England’s oak-groves. Lord Falconroy’s travels began before his ancient feudal title was resurrected, he was in the Republic in his youth, and fashion murmurs a sly reason for his return. Miss Etta Todd is one of our deep-souled New Yorkers, and comes into an income of nearly twelve hundred million dollars.”

“Well,” asked Usher, “does that interest you?”

“Why, words rather fail me,” answered Father Brown. “I cannot think at this moment of anything in this world that would interest me less. And, unless the just anger of the Republic is at last going to electrocute journalists for writing like that, I don’t quite see why it should interest you either.”

“Ah!” said Mr Usher dryly, and handing across another scrap of newspaper. “Well, does that interest you?”

The paragraph was headed “Savage Murder of a Warder. Convict Escapes,” and ran: “Just before dawn this morning a shout for help was heard in the Convict Settlement at Sequah in this State. The authorities, hurrying in the direction of the cry, found the corpse of the warder who patrols the top of the north wall of the prison, the steepest and most difficult exit, for which one man has always been found sufficient. The unfortunate officer had, however, been hurled from the high wall, his brains beaten out as with a club, and his gun was missing. Further inquiries showed that one of the cells was empty; it had been occupied by a rather sullen ruffian giving his name as Oscar Rian. He was only temporarily detained for some comparatively trivial assault; but he gave everyone the impression of a man with a black past and a dangerous future. Finally, when daylight had fully revealed the scene of murder, it was found that he had written on the wall above the body a fragmentary sentence, apparently with a finger dipped in blood: ‘This was self-defence and he had the gun. I meant no harm to him or any man but one. I am keeping the bullet for Pilgrim’s Pond–O.R.’ A man must have used most fiendish treachery or most savage and amazing bodily daring to have stormed such a wall in spite of an armed man.”

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“Well, the literary style is somewhat improved,” admitted the priest cheerfully, “but still I don’t see what I can do for you. I should cut a poor figure, with my short legs, running about this State after an athletic assassin of that sort. I doubt whether anybody could find him. The convict settlement at Sequah is thirty miles from here; the country between is wild and tangled enough, and the country beyond, where he will surely have the sense to go, is a perfect no-man’s land tumbling away to the prairies. He may be in any hole or up any tree.”

“He isn’t in any hole,” said the governor; “he isn’t up any tree.”

“Why, how do you know?” asked Father Brown, blinking.

“Would you like to speak to him?” inquired Usher.

Father Brown opened his innocent eyes wide. “He is here?” he exclaimed. “Why, how did your men get hold of him?”

“I got hold of him myself,” drawled the American, rising and lazily stretching his lanky legs before the fire. “I got hold of him with the crooked end of a walking-stick. Don’t look so surprised. I really did. You know I sometimes take a turn in the country lanes outside this dismal place; well, I was walking early this evening up a steep lane with dark hedges and grey-looking ploughed fields on both sides; and a young moon was up and silvering the road. By the light of it I saw a man running across the field towards the road; running with his body bent and at a good mile-race trot. He appeared to be much exhausted; but when he came to the thick black hedge he went through it as if it were made of spiders’ webs;–or rather (for I heard the strong branches breaking and snapping like bayonets) as if he himself were made of stone. In the instant in which he appeared up against the moon, crossing the road, I slung my hooked cane at his legs, tripping him and bringing him down. Then I blew my whistle long and loud, and our fellows came running up to secure him.”

“It would have been rather awkward,” remarked Brown, “if you had found he was a popular athlete practising a mile race.”

“He was not,” said Usher grimly. “We soon found out who he was; but I had guessed it with the first glint of the moon on him.”

“You thought it was the runaway convict,” observed the priest simply, “because you had read in the newspaper cutting that morning that a convict had run away.”

“I had somewhat better grounds,” replied the governor coolly. “I pass over the first as too simple to be emphasized–I mean that fashionable athletes do not run across ploughed fields or scratch their eyes out in bramble hedges. Nor do they run all doubled up like a crouching dog. There were more decisive details to a fairly well-trained eye. The man was clad in coarse and ragged clothes, but they were something more than merely coarse and ragged. They were so ill-fitting as to be quite grotesque; even as he appeared in black outline against the moonrise, the coat-collar in which his head was buried made him look like a hunchback, and the long loose sleeves looked as if he had no hands. It at once occurred to me that he had somehow managed to change his convict clothes for some confederate’s clothes which did not fit him. Second, there was a pretty stiff wind against which he was running; so that I must have seen the streaky look of blowing hair, if the hair had not been very short. Then I remembered that beyond these ploughed fields he was crossing lay Pilgrim’s Pond, for which (you will remember) the convict was keeping his bullet; and I sent my walking-stick flying.”

“A brilliant piece of rapid deduction,” said Father Brown; “but had he got a gun?”

As Usher stopped abruptly in his walk the priest added apologetically: “I’ve been told a bullet is not half so useful without it.”

“He had no gun,” said the other gravely; “but that was doubtless due to some very natural mischance or change of plans. Probably the same policy that made him change the clothes made him drop the gun; he began to repent the coat he had left behind him in the blood of his victim.”

“Well, that is possible enough,” answered the priest.

“And it’s hardly worth speculating on,” said Usher, turning to some other papers, “for we know it’s the man by this time.”

His clerical friend asked faintly: “But how?” And Greywood Usher threw down the newspapers and took up the two press-cuttings again.

“Well, since you are so obstinate,” he said, “let’s begin at the beginning. You will notice that these two cuttings have only one thing in common, which is the mention of Pilgrim’s Pond, the estate, as you know, of the millionaire Ireton Todd. You also know that he is a remarkable character; one of those that rose on stepping-stones–“

“Of our dead selves to higher things,” assented his companion. “Yes; I know that. Petroleum, I think.”

“Anyhow,” said Usher, “Last-Trick Todd counts for a great deal in this rum affair.”

He stretched himself once more before the fire and continued talking in his expansive, radiantly explanatory style.

“To begin with, on the face of it, there is no mystery here at all. It is not mysterious, it is not even odd, that a jailbird should take his gun to Pilgrim’s Pond. Our people aren’t like the English, who will forgive a man for being rich if he throws away money on hospitals or horses. Last-Trick Todd has made himself big by his own considerable abilities; and there’s no doubt that many of those on whom he has shown his abilities would like to show theirs on him with a shot-gun. Todd might easily get dropped by some man he’d never even heard of; some labourer he’d locked out, or some clerk in a business he’d busted. Last-Trick is a man of mental endowments and a high public character; but in this country the relations of employers and employed are considerably strained.

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“That’s how the whole thing looks supposing this Rian made for Pilgrim’s Pond to kill Todd. So it looked to me, till another little discovery woke up what I have of the detective in me. When I had my prisoner safe, I picked up my cane again and strolled down the two or three turns of country road that brought me to one of the side entrances of Todd’s grounds, the one nearest to the pool or lake after which the place is named. It was some two hours ago, about seven by this time; the moonlight was more luminous, and I could see the long white streaks of it lying on the mysterious mere with its grey, greasy, half-liquid shores in which they say our fathers used to make witches walk until they sank. I’d forgotten the exact tale; but you know the place I mean; it lies north of Todd’s house towards the wilderness, and has two queer wrinkled trees, so dismal that they look more like huge fungoids than decent foliage. As I stood peering at this misty pool, I fancied I saw the faint figure of a man moving from the house towards it, but it was all too dim and distant for one to be certain of the fact, and still less of the details. Besides, my attention was very sharply arrested by something much closer. I crouched behind the fence which ran not more than two hundred yards from one wing of the great mansion, and which was fortunately split in places, as if specially for the application of a cautious eye. A door had opened in the dark bulk of the left wing, and a figure appeared black against the illuminated interior–a muffled figure bending forward, evidently peering out into the night. It closed the door behind it, and I saw it was carrying a lantern, which threw a patch of imperfect light on the dress and figure of the wearer. It seemed to be the figure of a woman, wrapped up in a ragged cloak and evidently disguised to avoid notice; there was something very strange both about the rags and the furtiveness in a person coming out of those rooms lined with gold. She took cautiously the curved garden path which brought her within half a hundred yards of me–, then she stood up for an instant on the terrace of turf that looks towards the slimy lake, and holding her flaming lantern above her head she deliberately swung it three times to and fro as for a signal. As she swung it the second time a flicker of its light fell for a moment on her own face, a face that I knew. She was unnaturally pale, and her head was bundled in her borrowed plebeian shawl; but I am certain it was Etta Todd, the millionaire’s daughter.

“She retraced her steps in equal secrecy and the door closed behind her again. I was about to climb the fence and follow, when I realized that the detective fever that had lured me into the adventure was rather undignified; and that in a more authoritative capacity I already held all the cards in my hand. I was just turning away when a new noise broke on the night. A window was thrown up in one of the upper floors, but just round the corner of the house so that I could not see it; and a voice of terrible distinctness was heard shouting across the dark garden to know where Lord Falconroy was, for he was missing from every room in the house. There was no mistaking that voice. I have heard it on many a political platform or meeting of directors; it was Ireton Todd himself. Some of the others seemed to have gone to the lower windows or on to the steps, and were calling up to him that Falconroy had gone for a stroll down to the Pilgrim’s Pond an hour before, and could not be traced since. Then Todd cried ‘Mighty Murder!’ and shut down the window violently; and I could hear him plunging down the stairs inside. Repossessing myself of my former and wiser purpose, I whipped out of the way of the general search that must follow; and returned here not later than eight o’clock.

“I now ask you to recall that little Society paragraph which seemed to you so painfully lacking in interest. If the convict was not keeping the shot for Todd, as he evidently wasn’t, it is most likely that he was keeping it for Lord Falconroy; and it looks as if he had delivered the goods. No more handy place to shoot a man than in the curious geological surroundings of that pool, where a body thrown down would sink through thick slime to a depth practically unknown. Let us suppose, then, that our friend with the cropped hair came to kill Falconroy and not Todd. But, as I have pointed out, there are many reasons why people in America might want to kill Todd. There is no reason why anybody in America should want to kill an English lord newly landed, except for the one reason mentioned in the pink paper–that the lord is paying his attentions to the millionaire’s daughter. Our crop-haired friend, despite his ill-fitting clothes, must be an aspiring lover.

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“I know the notion will seem to you jarring and even comic; but that’s because you are English. It sounds to you like saying the Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter will be married in St George’s, Hanover Square, to a crossing-sweeper on ticket-of-leave. You don’t do justice to the climbing and aspiring power of our more remarkable citizens. You see a good-looking grey-haired man in evening-dress with a sort of authority about him, you know he is a pillar of the State, and you fancy he had a father. You are in error. You do not realize that a comparatively few years ago he may have been in a tenement or (quite likely) in a jail. You don’t allow for our national buoyancy and uplift. Many of our most influential citizens have not only risen recently, but risen comparatively late in life. Todd’s daughter was fully eighteen when her father first made his pile; so there isn’t really anything impossible in her having a hanger-on in low life; or even in her hanging on to him, as I think she must be doing, to judge by the lantern business. If so, the hand that held the lantern may not be unconnected with the hand that held the gun. This case, sir, will make a noise.”

“Well,” said the priest patiently, “and what did you do next?”

“I reckon you’ll be shocked,” replied Greywood Usher, “as I know you don’t cotton to the march of science in these matters. I am given a good deal of discretion here, and perhaps take a little more than I’m given; and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to test that Psychometric Machine I told you about. Now, in my opinion, that machine can’t lie.”

“No machine can lie,” said Father Brown; “nor can it tell the truth.”

“It did in this case, as I’ll show you,” went on Usher positively. “I sat the man in the ill-fitting clothes in a comfortable chair, and simply wrote words on a blackboard; and the machine simply recorded the variations of his pulse; and I simply observed his manner. The trick is to introduce some word connected with the supposed crime in a list of words connected with something quite different, yet a list in which it occurs quite naturally. Thus I wrote ‘heron’ and ‘eagle’ and ‘owl’, and when I wrote ‘falcon’ he was tremendously agitated; and when I began to make an ‘r’ at the end of the word, that machine just bounded. Who else in this republic has any reason to jump at the name of a newly-arrived Englishman like Falconroy except the man who’s shot him? Isn’t that better evidence than a lot of gabble from witnesses–if the evidence of a reliable machine?”

“You always forget,” observed his companion, “that the reliable machine always has to be worked by an unreliable machine.”

“Why, what do you mean?” asked the detective.

“I mean Man,” said 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? You say the words have to come in a natural way; but how do you know that you did it naturally? How do you know, if you come to that, that he did not observe your manner? Who is to prove that you were not tremendously agitated? There was no machine tied on to your pulse.”

“I tell you,” cried the American in the utmost excitement, “I was as cool as a cucumber.”

“Criminals also can be as cool as cucumbers,” said Brown with a smile. “And almost as cool as you.”

“Well, this one wasn’t,” said Usher, throwing the papers about. “Oh, you make me tired!”

“I’m sorry,” said the other. “I only point out what seems a reasonable possibility. If you could tell by his manner when the word that might hang him had come, why shouldn’t he tell from your manner that the word that might hang him was coming? I should ask for more than words myself before I hanged anybody.”

Usher smote the table and rose in a sort of angry triumph.

“And that,” he cried, “is just what I’m going to give you. I tried the machine first just in order to test the thing in other ways afterwards and the machine, sir, is right.”

He paused a moment and resumed with less excitement. “I rather want to insist, if it comes to that, that so far I had very little to go on except the scientific experiment. There was really nothing against the man at all. His clothes were ill-fitting, as I’ve said, but they were rather better, if anything, than those of the submerged class to which he evidently belonged. Moreover, under all the stains of his plunging through ploughed fields or bursting through dusty hedges, the man was comparatively clean. This might mean, of course, that he had only just broken prison; but it reminded me more of the desperate decency of the comparatively respectable poor. His demeanour was, I am bound to confess, quite in accordance with theirs. He was silent and dignified as they are; he seemed to have a big, but buried, grievance, as they do. He professed total ignorance of the crime and the whole question; and showed nothing but a sullen impatience for something sensible that might come to take him out of his meaningless scrape. He asked me more than once if he could telephone for a lawyer who had helped him a long time ago in a trade dispute, and 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.

“Then, sir, the machine was on its trial; and the machine was right. 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 any more. If you must know all about me–‘

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“At the same instant one of the poor women sitting on the long bench stood up, screaming aloud and pointing at him with her finger. I have never in my life heard anything more demoniacally distinct. Her lean finger seemed to pick him out as if it were a pea-shooter. Though the word was a mere howl, every syllable was as clear as a separate stroke on the clock.

“‘Drugger Davis!’ she shouted. ‘They’ve got Drugger Davis!’

“Among the wretched women, mostly thieves and streetwalkers, twenty faces were turned, gaping with glee and hate. If I had never heard the words, I should have known by the very shock upon his features that the so-called Oscar Rian had heard his real name. But I’m not quite so ignorant, you may be surprised to hear. Drugger Davis was one of the most terrible and depraved criminals that ever baffled our police. It is certain he had done murder more than once long before his last exploit with the warder. But he was never entirely fixed for it, curiously enough because he did it in the same manner as those milder–or meaner–crimes for which he was fixed pretty often. He was a handsome, well-bred-looking brute, as he still is, to some extent; and he used mostly to go about with barmaids or shop-girls and do them out of their money. Very often, though, he went a good deal farther; and they were found drugged with cigarettes or chocolates and their whole property missing. Then came one case where the girl was found dead; but deliberation could not quite be proved, and, what was more practical still, the criminal could not be found. I heard a rumour of his having reappeared somewhere in the opposite character this time, lending money instead of borrowing it; but still to such poor widows as he might personally fascinate, but still with the same bad result for them. Well, there is your innocent man, and there is his innocent record. Even, since then, four criminals and three warders have identified him and confirmed the story. Now what have you got to say to my poor little machine after that? Hasn’t the machine done for him? Or do you prefer to say that the woman and I have done for him?”

“As to what you’ve done for him,” replied Father Brown, rising and shaking himself in a floppy way, “you’ve saved him from the electrical chair. I don’t think they can kill Drugger Davis on that old vague story of the poison; and as for the convict who killed the warder, I suppose it’s obvious that you haven’t got him. Mr Davis is innocent of that crime, at any rate.”

“What do you mean?” demanded the other. “Why should he be innocent of that crime?”

“Why, bless us all!” cried the small man in one of his rare moments of animation, “why, because he’s guilty of the other crimes! I don’t know what you people are made of. You seem to think that all sins are kept together in a bag. You talk as if a miser on Monday were always a spendthrift on Tuesday. You tell me this man you have here spent weeks and months wheedling needy women out of small sums of money; that he used a drug at the best, and a poison at the worst; that he turned up afterwards as the lowest kind of moneylender, and cheated most poor people in the same patient and pacific style. Let it be granted–let us admit, for the sake of argument, that he did all this. If that is so, I will tell you what he didn’t do. He didn’t storm a spiked wall against a man with a loaded gun. He didn’t write on the wall with his own hand, to say he had done it. He didn’t stop to state that his justification was self-defence. He didn’t explain that he had no quarrel with the poor warder. He didn’t name the house of the rich man to which he was going with the gun. He didn’t write his own, initials in a man’s blood. Saints alive! Can’t you see the whole character is different, in good and evil? Why, you don’t seem to be like I am a bit. One would think you’d never had any vices of your own.”

The amazed American had already parted his lips in protest when the door of his private and official room was hammered and rattled in an unceremonious way to which he was totally unaccustomed.

The door flew open. The moment before Greywood Usher had been coming to the conclusion that Father Brown might possibly be mad. The moment after he began to think he was mad himself. There burst and fell into his private room a man in the filthiest rags, with a greasy squash hat still askew on his head, and a shabby green shade shoved up from one of his eyes, both of which were glaring like a tiger’s. The rest of his face was almost undiscoverable, being masked with a matted beard and whiskers through which the nose could barely thrust itself, and further buried in a squalid red scarf or handkerchief. Mr Usher prided himself on having seen most of the roughest specimens in the State, but he thought he had never seen such a baboon dressed as a scarecrow as this. But, above all, he had never in all his placid scientific existence heard a man like that speak to him first.

“See here, old man Usher,” shouted the being in the red handkerchief, “I’m getting tired. Don’t you try any of your hide-and-seek on me; I don’t get fooled any. Leave go of my guests, and I’ll let up on the fancy clockwork. Keep him here for a split instant and you’ll feel pretty mean. I reckon I’m not a man with no pull.”

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The eminent Usher was regarding the bellowing monster with an amazement which had dried up all other sentiments. The mere shock to his eyes had rendered his ears, almost useless. At last he rang a bell with a hand of violence. While the bell was still strong and pealing, the voice of Father Brown fell soft but distinct.

“I have a suggestion to make,” he said, “but it seems a little confusing. I don’t know this gentleman–but–but I think I know him. Now, you know him–you know him quite well–but you don’t know him–naturally. Sounds paradoxical, I know.”

“I reckon the Cosmos is cracked,” said Usher, and fell asprawl in his round office chair.

“Now, see here,” vociferated the stranger, striking the table, but speaking in a voice that was all the more mysterious because it was comparatively mild and rational though still resounding. “I won’t let you in. I want–“

“Who in hell are you?” yelled Usher, suddenly sitting up straight.

“I think the gentleman’s name is Todd,” said the priest.

Then he picked up the pink slip of newspaper.

“I fear you don’t read the Society papers properly,” he said, and began to read out in a monotonous voice, “‘Or locked in the jewelled bosoms of our city’s gayest leaders; but there is talk of a pretty parody of the manners and customs of the other end of Society’s scale.’ There’s been a big Slum Dinner up at Pilgrim’s Pond tonight; and a man, one of the guests, disappeared. Mr Ireton Todd is a good host, and has tracked him here, without even waiting to take off his fancy-dress.”

“What man do you mean?”

“I mean the man with comically ill-fitting clothes you saw running across the ploughed field. Hadn’t you better go and investigate him? He will be rather impatient to get back to his champagne, from which he ran away in such a hurry, when the convict with the gun hove in sight.”

“Do you seriously mean–” began the official.

“Why, look here, Mr Usher,” said Father Brown quietly, “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?” demanded the staring Usher.

“He felt his plight and recent panic were hardly patrician,” replied the priest, “so he tried to keep the name back at first. But he was just going to tell it you, when”–and Father Brown looked down at his boots–“when a woman found another name for him.”

“But you can’t be so mad as to say,” said Greywood Usher, very white, “that Lord Falconroy was Drugger Davis.”

The priest looked at him very earnestly, but with a baffling and undecipherable face.

“I am not saying anything about it,” he said. “I leave all the rest to you. Your pink paper says that the title was recently revived for him; but those papers are very unreliable. It says he was in the States in youth; but the whole story seems very strange. Davis and Falconroy are both pretty considerable cowards, but so are lots of other men. I would not hang a dog on my own opinion about this. But I think,” he went on softly and reflectively, “I think you Americans are too modest. I think you idealize the English aristocracy–even in assuming it to be so aristocratic. You see a good-looking Englishman in evening-dress; you know he’s in the House of Lords; and you fancy he has a father. You don’t allow for our national buoyancy and uplift. Many of our most influential noblemen have not only risen recently, but–“

“Oh, stop it!” cried Greywood Usher, wringing one lean hand in impatience against a shade of irony in the other’s face.

“Don’t stay talking to this lunatic!” cried Todd brutally. “Take me to my friend.”

Next morning Father Brown appeared with the same demure expression, carrying yet another piece of pink newspaper.

“I’m afraid you neglect the fashionable press rather,” he said, “but this cutting may interest you.”

Usher read the headlines, “Last-Trick’s Strayed Revellers: Mirthful Incident near Pilgrim’s Pond.” The paragraph went on: “A laughable occurrence took place outside Wilkinson’s Motor Garage last night. A policeman on duty had his attention drawn by larrikins to a man in prison dress who was stepping with considerable coolness into the steering-seat of a pretty high-toned Panhard; he was accompanied by a girl wrapped in a ragged shawl. On the police interfering, the young woman threw back the shawl, and all recognized Millionaire Todd’s daughter, who had just come from the Slum Freak Dinner at the Pond, where all the choicest guests were in a similar deshabille. She and the gentleman who had donned prison uniform were going for the customary joy-ride.”

Under the pink slip Mr Usher found a strip of a later paper, headed, “Astounding Escape of Millionaire’s Daughter with Convict. She had Arranged Freak Dinner. Now Safe in–“

Mr Greenwood Usher lifted his eyes, but Father Brown was gone.

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