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Title: The Mask of Midas
Author: G.K. Chesterton
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1302281h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  May 2013
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The Mask of Midas


G.K. Chesterton


Written in 1936

A MAN was standing outside a small shop, as rigidly as a wooden Highlander outside an old-fashioned tobacconist's. It was hard to believe that anyone would stand so steadily outside the shop unless he were the shopkeeper; but there was an almost grotesque incongruity between the shopkeeper and the shop. For the shop was one of those delightful dens of rubbish which children and the very wise explore with their eyes like a fairyland; but which many of a tidier and tamer taste are unable to distinguish from a dustbin. In short, it called itself in its prouder moments a curiosity shop; but was more generally called a junk shop; especially by the hard-headed and hustling commercial population of the industrial seaport in one of whose meaner streets it stood. Those who have a taste for such things will not need to have unrolled the tale of its treasures, of which the most precious were difficult to connect with any purpose whatever. Tiny models of fully-rigged ships sealed in bubbles of glass or glue or some queer Oriental gum; crystal balls in which snowstorms descended on very stolid human figures; enormous eggs that might have been laid by prehistoric birds; misshapen gourds that might have been swollen with poison rather than wine; queer weapons; queer musical instruments, and all the rest; and all sinking deeper and deeper in dust and disorder. The guardian standing outside such a shop might well be some decrepit Jew, with something of the dignity and long dress of the Arab; or some gypsy of a brazen and tropical beauty, hung with hoops of gold or brass. But the sentinel was something quite startlingly different. He was a lean, alert young man, in neat clothes of American cut, with the long, rather hard face so often seen in the Irish- American. He had a Stetson cocked over one eye and a stinking Pittsburgh cigar sticking out at a sharp angle from one corner of his mouth. If he had also had an automatic in his hip-pocket, those then gazing at him would not have been very much surprised. The name dimly printed above his shop was "Denis Hara".

Those thus gazing at him happened to be persons of some importance; and even perhaps of some importance to him. But nobody could have guessed it from his flinty features and his angular repose. The most prominent of these was Colonel Grimes, the Chief Constable of that county. A loose-built man with long legs and a long head; trusted by those who knew him well, but not very popular even with his own class, because he showed distinct signs of wanting to be a policeman rather than a country gentleman. In short, the Constable had committed the subtle sin of preferring the Constabulary to the County. This eccentricity had encouraged his natural taciturnity; and he was, even for a capable detective, unusually silent and secretive about his plans and discoveries. His two companions, who knew him well, were all the more surprised when he stopped in front of the man with the cigar and spoke in a loud clear voice, very seldom heard from him in public.

"It is only fair to tell you, Mr. Hara, that my men have received information which justifies my obtaining a search-warrant to examine your premises. It may turn out, as I hope, that it will be unnecessary to incommode you further. But I must warn you that a watch is being kept on any movements of departure from this place."

"Are you all out to get one of my nice little toy ships done up in gum?" enquired Mr. Hara with calm. "Well, Colonel, I wouldn't like to set any limits to your free and glorious British Constitution; or I would rather doubt whether you can burgle my little grey home like that."

"You will find I am right," replied the Colonel; "in fact I am going straight to two of the magistrates, whose signatures are needed for the search- warrant."

The two men standing behind the Chief Constable exhibited fine though different shades of a faint mystification. Inspector Beltane, a big dark heavy man, reliable in his work if not very rapid in it, looked a little dazed as his superior turned sharply away. The third man was stumpy and sturdy, with a round black clerical hat and a round black clerical figure, as well as a round face which had looked up to that moment a little sleepy; but a sharper gleam shone between his screwed eyelids; and he also was looking at the Chief Constable; but with something a little more than mere bewilderment; rather as if a new notion had suddenly come into his head.

"Look here," said Colonel Grimes, "you fellows will be wanting your lunch; it's a shame to trail you about like this after three o'clock. Fortunately, the first man I want to see is in the bank we are just passing; and there's quite a decent restaurant next door. I'll dash round to the other man who is only in the next street, when I've settled you down to some grub. They are the only two J.P.s in this part of the town; and it's lucky they live so near together. The banker will do what I want straight away; so we'll just go in and settle that first."

An array of doors decorated with glass and gilding led them through a labyrinth of passages in the Casterville and County Bank; and the Chief Constable went straight to the inner sanctum, with which he seemed to be fairly familiar. There he found Sir Archer Anderson, the famous financial writer and organiser, and the head of this and many other highly respectable banking enterprises; a grave and graceful old gentleman with grey curly hair and a grey pointed beard of a rather old-fashioned cut; but dressed otherwise in a sober but exact version of the current fashion. A glance at him would suggest that he was quite at home with the County as well as the Constable; but he seemed to share something of the Constable's preference for work rather than play. He pushed a formidable block of documents on one side; and said a word of welcome, pointing to a chair and suggesting a readiness to do banking business at any moment.

"I'm afraid this isn't banking business," said Grimes, "but anyhow, my business won't interrupt yours for more than a minute or two. You're a magistrate, aren't you; well, the law requires me to have the signatures of two magistrates, for a search-warrant on premises I have reason to believe are very suspicious."

"Indeed," said Sir Archer politely. "What sort of suspicion?"

"Well," said Grimes, "it's rather a queer case, and quite new, I should say, in these parts. Of course we have our own little criminal population, you may say; and, what is quite different and much more natural, the ordinary disposition of down-and-outs to hang together, even a little outside the law. But it looks to me as if that man Hara, who's certainly an American, is also an American gangster. A gangster on a large scale and with a whole machinery of crime practically unknown in this country. To begin with, I don't know whether you know the very latest news of this neighbourhood?"

"Very possibly not," replied the banker, with a rather frosty smile. "I am not very well instructed in the police news; and I only came here recently to look over the affairs of the branch. Till then I was in London."

"A convict escaped yesterday," said the Colonel gravely. "You know there is a large penal settlement on the moors, a mile or two from this town. There are a good many men doing time there; but there is one less than there was the day before yesterday."

"Surely that is not so very unheard of," said the other. "Prisoners do sometimes break prison, don't they?"

"True," assented the Chief Constable. "Perhaps that would not be so extraordinary in itself. What is extraordinary is that he has not only escaped but disappeared. Prisoners break prison; but they almost always go back to prison; or at least we get some notion of how they managed to get away. This man seems to have simply and suddenly vanished, like a ghost or a fairy, a few hundred yards from the prison gates. Now as I have sceptical doubts myself about whether he really is a ghost or a fairy, I must fall back on the only possible natural explanation. And that is that he was spirited away instantly in a car, almost certainly part of a whole organization of cars, to say nothing of spies and conspirators working out a completed plan. Now I take it as certain that his own friends and neighbours, however much they might sympathise, could not possibly organize anything like that. He is quite a poor man, accused of being a poacher; all his friends are poor and probably most of them poachers; and there is no doubt that he killed a game keeper. It's only fair to say that some thought it ought to have been called manslaughter and not murder; indeed they had to commute the sentence to a long imprisonment; and since then, perhaps on a fairer reconsideration, they have reduced it to a comparatively short sentence. But somebody has shortened it very much more than that. And in a way which means money and petrol and practical experience in such raids; he certainly could not have done it for himself and none of his companions in the common way could have done it for him. Now I won't bother you with the details of our discoveries; but I'm quite certain that the headquarters of the organization is in that little junk-shop round the corner; and our best chance is to get a warrant to search it at once. You will understand, Sir Archer, that this does not commit you to anything beyond the preliminary search; if the man in the shop is innocent, we are all quite free to testify to it; but I'm certain a preliminary search ought to be made, and for that I must have the signatures of two magistrates. That is why I am wasting your time with the police news; when it is so valuable in the financial news. If you feel you can sign such a document, I have it here ready for you; and there will be no excuse for my interrupting your own financial duties any further."

He laid a paper in front of Sir Archer Anderson; and, after reading it rapidly, but with a frown of habitual responsibility, the banker picked up his pen and signed it.

The Chief Constable rose with rapid but warm expressions of obligation, and passed towards the door, merely remarking at random, as a man might talk about the weather, "I don't suppose a business of your standing is affected by slumps or modern complications. But I'm told these are anxious days, sometimes, even for the most solid of the smaller corporations."

Sir Archer Anderson rose at once swiftly and stiffly, with a certain air of indignation at being even momentarily associated with small corporations.

"If you know anything of the Casterville and County Bank," he said, not without a faint touch of fire, "you will know it is not likely to be affected by anything or anybody."

Colonel Grimes shepherded his friends out of the Bank and, with a certain benevolent despotism, deposited them in the restaurant next door; while he himself darted on to complete his task by pouncing on the other local magistrate; an old lawyer who was also an old friend, one Wicks by name, who had sometimes assisted him in details of legal theory. Inspector Beltane and Father Brown were left facing each other somewhat solemnly in the restaurant, to await his return.

"Am I wrong," asked Father Brown with a friendly smile, "if I suspect that you are a little puzzled by something?"

"I wouldn't say puzzled," said the Inspector. "All that business with the banker was simple enough; but when you know a man very well, there is always a funny feeling when he doesn't act quite like himself. Now the Colonel is the most silent and secret worker I've ever known in the police. Often he never tells the colleagues nearest to him what's in his mind at the moment. Why did he stand talking at the top of his voice in a public street to a public enemy: to tell him he was going to raid his shop? Other people, let alone ourselves, were beginning to gather and listen. Why the devil should he tell this godforsaken gunman that he was going to raid his shop? Why didn't he simply raid it?"

"The answer is," said Father Brown, "that he wasn't going to raid his shop."

"Then why did he shout to the whole town that he was going to?"

"Well, I think," said Father Brown, "so that the whole town might talk about his visit to the gangster and not notice his visit to the banker. The only words he really wanted to say were those last few words he said to the banker; watching for the reaction. But if there are any rumours about the bank, the town would have been all up in the air about his going straight to the bank. He had to have a good ordinary reason for going there; and he could hardly have had a better one than asking two ordinary magistrates to sign an ordinary document. Quite a flight of imagination."

Inspector Beltane was gaping at him across the table.

"What on earth do you mean?" he demanded at last.

"I mean," replied the priest, "that perhaps Colonel Grimes was not so far out in talking of the poacher as a fairy. Or shall we say a ghost?"

"You can't possibly mean," said the Inspector incredulously, "that Grimes invented the murdered gamekeeper and the escaped convict out of his own head? Why, he told me about them himself beforehand, as a bit of ordinary police- business."

"I wouldn't go quite so far as that," said Father Brown indifferently. "There may be some such local story; but it's got nothing to do with the story Grimes is after just now. I wish it had."

"Why do you say that?" asked the other.

Father Brown looked him full in the face with grey eyes of unmistakable gravity and candour.

"Because I am out of my depth," he said. "Oh, I know well enough when I'm out of my depth; and I knew I should be, when I found we were hunting a fraudulent financier instead of an ordinary human murderer. You see, I don't quite know how I came to take a hand originally in this sort of detective business; but almost all my experience was with ordinary human murderers. Now murder's almost always human and personal; but modern theft has been allowed to become quite impersonal. It isn't only secret; it's anonymous; almost avowedly anonymous. Even if you die, you may catch a glimpse of the face of the man who stabbed you. But however long you live, you may never get even a glimpse of the name of the man who robbed you. My first case was just a small private affair about a man's head being cut off and another head put on instead; I wish I were back among quiet homely little idylls like that. I wasn't out of my depth with them."

"A very idyllic incident indeed," said the Inspector.

"A very individual incident, anyhow," replied the priest. "Not like all this irresponsible officialism in finance. They can't cut off heads as they cut off hot water, by the decision of a Board or a Committee; but they can cut off dues or dividends in that way. Or again, although two heads could be put on one man, we all know that one man hasn't really got two heads. But one firm can have two heads; or two faces, or half-a hundred faces. No, I wish you could lead me back to my murderous poacher and my murdered gamekeeper. I should understand all about them; but for the unfortunate fact that they possibly never existed."

"Oh this is all nonsense," cried the Inspector, trying to throw off an atmosphere. "I tell you Grimes did talk about it before. I rather fancy the poacher would have been released soon anyhow, though he did kill the other man pretty savagely, bashing him again and again with the butt of his gun. But he'd found the gamekeeper pretty indefensibly occupied on his own premises. In fact, the gamekeeper was poaching this time. He hadn't a good character in the neighbourhood; and there was certainly what's called provocation. Sort of Unwritten Law business."

"That's just what I mean," said Father Brown. "Modern murder still, very often, has some remote and perverted connection with an unwritten law. But modern robbery takes the form of littering the world with paper and parchment, covered merely with written lawlessness."

"Well, I can't make head or tail of all this," said the Inspector. "There is the poacher who is a prisoner, or an escaped prisoner; there is, or was the gamekeeper; and there is, to all mortal appearance, the gangster. What you mean by starting all this wild stuff about the bank next door is more than I can imagine."

"That's what troubles me," said Father Brown in a sobered and humbled tone. "The Bank next door is beyond my imagination."

At this moment, the restaurant door swung open and the Colonel returned with a swing of triumph; trailing behind him a little lively figure with white hair and a face wrinkled with smiles. It was the other magistrate, whose signature was so essential to the required document.

"Mr. Wicks," said the Colonel, with an introductory gesture, "is the best modern expert in all matters of financial fraud. It is sheer luck that he happens to be a J.P. in this district."

Inspector Beltane gave a gulp and then gasped. "You don't mean to say Father Brown was right."

"I have known it happen," said Colonel Grimes, with moderation.

"If Father Brown said that Sir Archer Anderson is a colossal swindler, he was most certainly right," said Mr. Wicks. "I needn't give you all the steps of the proof here; in fact it will be wiser to give only the earlier stages of it even to the police-and the swindler. We must watch him carefully; and see that he takes no advantage of any mistake of ours. But I think we'd better go round and have a rather more candid interview with him than you seem to have had; an interview in which the poacher and the junk-shop will not perhaps be so exclusively prominent. I think I can let him know enough of what we know to wake him up, without running any risk of libel or damages. And there is always the chance he will let something out, in the very attempt to keep it in. Come, we have heard very disquieting rumours about the business, and want this or that explained on the spot. That is our official position at present." And he sprang up, as if with the mere alertness or restlessness of youth.

The second interview with Sir Archer Anderson was certainly very different in its tone, and especially in its termination. They had gone there without any final determination to challenge the great banker; but they soon found that it was he who was already determined to challenge them. His white moustaches were curled like silver sabres; his white pointed beard was thrust forward like a spike of steel. Before any of them had said more than a few sentences, he stood up and struck the table.

"This is the first time that the Casterville and County Bank has been referred to in this fashion; and I promise you it shall be the last. If my own reputation did not already stand too high for such grotesque calumnies, the credit of the institution itself would alone have made them ludicrous. Leave this place, gentlemen, and go away and amuse yourselves with exposing the High Court of Chancery or inventing naughty stories about the Archbishop of Canterbury."

"That is all very well," said Wicks, with his head at an angle of pertinacity and pugnacity like a bulldog, "but I have a few facts here, Sir Archer, which you will be bound sooner or later to explain."

"To say the least of it," said the Colonel in a milder tone, "there are a good many things that we want to know rather more about."

The voice of Father Brown came in like something curiously cool and distant, as if it came from another room, or from the street outside, or at least from a long way off.

"Don't you think, Colonel, that we know now all that we want to know?"

"No," said the Colonel shortly, "I am a policeman. I may think a great deal and think I am right. But I don't know it."

"Oh," said Father Brown, opening his eyes wide for a moment. "I don't mean what you think you know."

"Well, I suppose it's the same as what you think you know," said Grimes rather gruffly.

"I'm awfully sorry," said Father Brown penitently, "but what I know is quite different."

The air of doubt and difference, in which the small group moved off, leaving the haughty financier apparently master of the field after all, led them to drift once more to the restaurant, for an early tea, a smoke and some attempt at an explanation all round.

"I always knew you were an exasperating person," said the policeman to the priest, "but I have generally had some sort of wild guess about what you meant. My impression at this moment is that you have gone mad."

"It's odd you should say that," said Father Brown; "because I've tried to discover my own deficiencies in a good many directions, and the only thing I think I really know about myself is that I am not mad. I pay the penalty, of course, in being dull. But I have never to my knowledge lost touch with reality; and it seems queer to me that men so brilliant as you are can lose it so quickly."

"What do you mean-reality?" demanded Grimes after a bristling silence.

"I mean common sense," said Father Brown, with one of the explosions so rare in him that it sounded like a gun. "I've said already that I'm out of my depth, about all this financial complexity and corruption. But, hang it all, there is a way of testing things by human beings. I don't know anything about finance; but I have known financiers. In a general way, I've known fraudulent financiers. But you must know much more about them than I do. And yet you can swallow an impossibility like that."

"An impossibility like what?" enquired the staring Colonel.

Father Brown had suddenly leaned across the table, with piercing eyes fixed on Wicks, with an intensity he rarely showed.

"Mr. Wicks, you ought to know better. I'm only a poor parson, and of course I know no better. After all, our friends the police do not often meet bankers; except when a casual cashier cuts his throat. But you must have been perpetually interviewing bankers; and especially bankrupt bankers. Haven't you been in this precise position twenty times before? Haven't you again and again had the pluck to throw the first suspicions on very solid persons, as you did this afternoon? Haven't you talked to twenty or thirty financiers who were crashing, just about a month or two before they crashed?"

"Well, yes," said Mr. Wicks slowly and carefully, "I suppose I have."

"Well," asked Father Brown, "did any single one of the others ever talk like that?"

The little figure of the lawyer gave the faintest imperceptible start; so that one could say no more than that he was sitting up a shade straighter than before.

"Did you ever in your born days," asked the priest with all his new thrusting emphasis, "know a handler of hanky-panky finance who got on the high horse at the first flash of suspicion; and told the police not to dare to meddle with the secrets of his sacred bank? Why, it was like asking the Chief Constable to raid his bank and arrest him on the spot. Well, you know about these things and I don't. But I'd risk a long bet that every single dubious financier you have ever known has done exactly the opposite. Your first queries would have been received not with anger but amusement; if it ever went so far, it would have ended in a bland and complete answer to every one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine questions you had to ask. Explanations! They swim in explanations! Do you suppose a slippery financier has never been asked questions before?"

"But hang it all, you generalise too much," said Grimes. "You seem to be quite captivated with your vision of the perfect swindler. But after all even swindlers are not perfect. It doesn't prove much that one bankrupt banker broke down and lost his nerve."

"Father Brown is right," said Wicks, interceding suddenly after a period of digestive silence. "It's quite true that all that swagger and flamboyant defiance couldn't be the very first line of defence for a swindle. But what else could it be? Respectable bankers don't throw out the banner and blow the trumpet and draw the sword, at a moment's notice, any more than disreputable bankers."

"Besides," said Grimes, "why should he get on the high horse at all? Why should he order us all out of the bank, if he has nothing to hide?"

"Well," said Father Brown very slowly, "I never said he had nothing to hide."

The meeting broke up in a silent, dazed disorder, in which the pertinacious Beltane hooked the priest by the arm for an instant and held him.

"Do you or do you not mean," he asked harshly, "that the banker is not a suspect?"

"No," said Father Brown, "I mean that the suspect is not a banker."

As they filed out of the restaurant, with movements much more vague and groping than were normal to any of them, they were brought up short by a shock and noise in the street outside. It first gave the impression of people breaking windows all along the street; but an instant of nervous recovery enabled them to localise it. It was the gilt glass-doors and windows of the pompous building they had entered that morning; the sacred enclosure of the Casterville and County Bank, that was shaken from within by a din like a dynamite explosion, but proving to be in fact only the direct dynamic destructiveness of man. The Chief Constable and the Inspector darted through the shattered glass-doorways to the dark interior, and returned with faces fixed in astonishment; even more assured and stolid for being astonished.

"There's no doubt about it now," said the Inspector, "he's clubbed the man we left to watch to the ground with a poker; and hurled a cash-box so as to catch in the waistcoat the first man who came in to find out the trouble. He must be a wild beast."

Amid all the grotesque bewilderment, Mr. Wicks the lawyer turned with a gesture of apology and compliment and said to Father Brown, "Well, Sir, you have completely convinced me. He is certainly an entirely new rendering of the absconding banker."

"Well, you must send our men in to hold him at once," said the Constable to the Inspector; "or he'll break up the whole town."

"Yes," said Father Brown, "he's a pretty violent fellow; it's his great temptation. Think how he used his gun blindly as a club on the game-keeper, bringing it down again and again; but never having even the sense to fire. Of course, that is the sort of man who mismanages most things, even murders. But he does generally manage to break prison."

His companions gazed on him with faces that seemed to grow rounder and rounder with wonder; but they got no enlightenment out of his own round and commonplace countenance, before he turned away and went slowly down the street.

"And so," said Father Brown, beaming round at the company over a very mild lager in the restaurant, and looking rather like Mr. Pickwick in a village club; "and so we come back again to our dear old rustic tale of the poacher and the gamekeeper after all. It does so inexpressibly raise my spirits dealing with a cosy fireside crime instead of all this blank bewildering fog of finance; a fog really full of ghosts and shadows. Well, of course you all know the old, old story. At your mothers' knees you have heard it; but it is so important, my friends, to keep those old stories clear in our minds as they were told to us. This little rural tale has been told often enough. A man is imprisoned for a crime of passion, shows a similar violence in captivity, knocks down a warder and escapes in a mist on the moor. He has a stroke of luck; for he meets a gentleman who is well-dressed and presentable, and he forces him to change clothes."

"Yes, I've heard that story often," said Grimes frowning. "You say it is important to remember the story?"

"It is important to remember the story," said Father Brown, "because it is a very clear and correct account of what did not happen."

"And what did happen?" demanded the Inspector.

"Only the flat contrary," said Father Brown. "A small but neat emendation. It was not the convict who set out looking for a well-dressed gentleman, that he might disguise himself in his clothes. It was the gentleman who set out on the moor looking for a convict; that he might enjoy the ecstasy of wearing a convict's clothes. He knew there was a convict loose on the moor; and he ardently wanted his clothes. He probably knew also that there was a well- organised scheme for picking up the convict and rushing him rapidly off the moor. It is not quite certain what part Denis Hara and his gang played in this business; or whether they were cognisant only of the first plot or of the second. But I think it probable they were working for the poacher's friends, and merely in the interest of the poacher, who had very wide public sympathy among the poorer population. I prefer to think that our friend the well-dressed gentleman effected his own little transformation scene by his own native talents. He was a very well-dressed gentleman, being clad in very fashionable gents' suitings, as the tailors say; also with beautiful white hair and moustaches etc. which he owed rather to the barber than the tailor. He had found this very complete costume useful at many times of his life; and you must remember he had only appeared for a very short time as yet, in this particular town and bank. On hailing at last the figure of the convict whose clothes he coveted, he verified his information that he was a man of much the same general figure as himself; and the rest consisted merely of covering the convict with the hat, the wig, the whiskers, the splendid raiment, until the warder he knocked on the head would hardly have known him. Then our brilliant financier put on the convict's clothes; and felt, for the first time for months and perhaps years, that he had escaped and was free.

"For he had no band of poor sympathisers who would help or hide him if they knew the truth. He had no movement in his favour, among the more decent lawyers and governors, suggesting that he had suffered enough or that his liberation might soon be allowable. He had no friends even in the underworld; for he had always been an ornament of the upper world; the world of our conquerors and our masters, whom we allow so easily to have the upper hand. He was one of the modern magicians; he had a genius for finance; and his thefts were thefts from thousands of the poor. When he did cross a line (a pretty faint line, in modern law), when the world did find him out, then the whole world would be against him. I fancy he did subconsciously look towards the prison as a home. We don't know exactly what his plans were; even if the prison authorities captured him and took the trouble to prove by prints and so on that he was not the escaped convict, it's not easy to see what else they could prove against him, at this stage. But I think it more likely that he knew Hara's organisation would help him, and hurry him out of the country without a moment's delay. He may have had dealings with Hara, neither perhaps telling the whole truth; such compromises are common in America between the big business man and the racketeer; because they are both really in the same business.

"Nor was there much trouble in persuading the convict, I imagine. It would seem to him at sight a scheme very hopeful for himself; perhaps he thought it was part of Hara's scheme. Anyhow, the convict got rid of the clothes of conviction, and stepped in first class clothes into a first class position where he might be socially acceptable and at least consider his next move in peace. But, heavens, what an irony! What a trap; what a trick of inverted doom! A man breaking jail nearly at the end of his sentence, for an obscure half- forgiven crime, delighting to dress himself up like a dandy in the costume of the world's greatest criminal, to be hunted tomorrow by searchlights round the whole earth. Sir Archer Anderson has entrapped a good many people in his time; but he never entrapped a man in such a tragedy as the man he benevolently clothed with his best clothes on the moor."

"Well," said Grimes good-humouredly, "now you have given us the tip, we can probably prove it all right; because the convict anyhow will have had his finger-prints taken."

Father Brown bowed his head with a vague gesture as of awe and reverence. "Of course," he said, "Sir Archer Anderson has never had his prints taken. My dear Sir! A man in that position."

"The truth is," said Wicks, "that nobody seems to know very much about him; prints or anything else. When I started studying his ways, I had to start with a blank map that only afterwards turned into a labyrinth. I do happen to know something about such labyrinths; but this was more labyrinthine than the others."

"It's all a labyrinth to me," said the priest with a sigh. "I said I was out of my depth in all this financial business. The one and only thing I was quite sure of was the sort of man who sat opposite me. And I was certain he was much too jumpy and nervy to be a swindler."


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