Gilbert Keith


The Innocence of Father Brown

Father Browns Einfalt

Übersetzt von Hedwig Maria von Lama
Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012
















Between the sil­ver rib­bon of morn­ing and the green glit­ter­ing rib­bon of sea,
the boat touched Har­wich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies,
among whom the man we must fol­low was by no means con­spicu­ous — nor wished to be.
There was noth­ing not­able about him, ex­cept a slight con­trast between the hol­i­day gaiety of his clothes and the of­fi­cial grav­ity of his face.
His clothes in­cluded a slight, pale grey jack­et, a white waist­coat, and a sil­ver straw hat with a grey-blue rib­bon.
His lean face was dark by con­trast, and ended in a curt black beard
that looked Span­ish and sug­ges­ted an Eliza­beth­an ruff.
He was smoking a ci­gar­ette with the ser­i­ous­ness of an idler.
There was noth­ing about him to in­dic­ate the fact that the grey jack­et covered a loaded re­volver,
that the white waist­coat covered a po­lice card, or that the straw hat covered one of the most power­ful in­tel­lects in Europe.
For this was Valentin him­self, the head of the Par­is po­lice and the most fam­ous in­vest­ig­at­or of the world;
and he was com­ing from Brus­sels to Lon­don to make the greatest ar­rest of the cen­tury.
Flam­beau was in Eng­land. The po­lice of three coun­tries had tracked the great crim­in­al at last from Ghent to Brus­sels, from Brus­sels to the Hook of Hol­land;
and it was con­jec­tured that he would take some ad­vant­age of the un­fa­mili­ar­ity and con­fu­sion of the Euchar­ist­ic Con­gress, then tak­ing place in Lon­don.
Prob­ably he would travel as some minor clerk or sec­ret­ary con­nec­ted with it;
but, of course, Valentin could not be cer­tain; nobody could be cer­tain about Flam­beau.
It is many years now since this co­los­sus of crime sud­denly ceased keep­ing the world in a tur­moil;
and when he ceased, as they said after the death of Ro­land, there was a great quiet upon the earth.
But in his best days (I mean, of course, his worst) Flam­beau was a fig­ure as statuesque and in­ter­na­tion­al as the Kais­er.
Al­most every morn­ing the daily pa­per an­nounced that he had es­caped the con­sequences of one ex­traordin­ary crime by com­mit­ting an­oth­er.
He was a Gas­con of gi­gant­ic stature and bod­ily dar­ing; and the wild­est tales were told of his out­bursts of ath­let­ic hu­mour;
how he turned the juge d’in­struc­tion up­side down and stood him on his head, “to clear his mind”;
how he ran down the Rue de Rivoli with a po­lice­man un­der each arm.
It is due to him to say that his fant­ast­ic phys­ic­al strength
was gen­er­ally em­ployed in such blood­less though un­dig­ni­fied scenes;
his real crimes were chiefly those of in­geni­ous and whole­sale rob­bery.
But each of his thefts was al­most a new sin, and would make a story by it­self.
It was he who ran the great Tyr­olean Dairy Com­pany in Lon­don,
with no dair­ies, no cows, no carts, no milk, but with some thou­sand sub­scribers.
These he served by the simple op­er­a­tion of mov­ing the little milk cans out­side people’s doors to the doors of his own cus­tom­ers.
It was he who had kept up an un­ac­count­able and close cor­res­pond­ence with a young lady whose whole let­ter-bag was in­ter­cep­ted,
by the ex­traordin­ary trick of pho­to­graph­ing his mes­sages in­fin­ites­im­ally small upon the slides of a mi­cro­scope.
A sweep­ing sim­pli­city, however, marked many of his ex­per­i­ments.
It is said that he once re­painted all the num­bers in a street in the dead of night merely to di­vert one trav­el­ler into a trap.
It is quite cer­tain that he in­ven­ted a port­able pil­lar-box,
which he put up at corners in quiet sub­urbs on the chance of strangers drop­ping postal or­ders into it.
Lastly, he was known to be a start­ling ac­robat;
des­pite his huge fig­ure, he could leap like a grasshop­per and melt into the tree-tops like a mon­key.
Hence the great Valentin, when he set out to find Flam­beau, was per­fectly aware
that his ad­ven­tures would not end when he had found him.
But how was he to find him?
On this the great Valentin’s ideas were still in pro­cess of set­tle­ment.
There was one thing which Flam­beau, with all his dex­ter­ity of dis­guise, could not cov­er, and that was his sin­gu­lar height.
If Valentin’s quick eye had caught a tall apple-wo­man, a tall gren­adier,
or even a tol­er­ably tall duch­ess, he might have ar­res­ted them on the spot.
But all along his train there was nobody that could be a dis­guised Flam­beau, any more than a cat could be a dis­guised gir­affe.
About the people on the boat he had already sat­is­fied him­self;
and the people picked up at Har­wich or on the jour­ney lim­ited them­selves with cer­tainty to six.
There was a short rail­way of­fi­cial trav­el­ling up to the ter­minus,
three fairly short mar­ket garden­ers picked up two sta­tions af­ter­wards,
one very short wid­ow lady go­ing up from a small Es­sex town,
and a very short Ro­man Cath­ol­ic priest go­ing up from a small Es­sex vil­lage.
When it came to the last case, Valentin gave it up and al­most laughed.
The little priest was so much the es­sence of those East­ern flats; he had a face as round and dull as a Nor­folk dump­ling;
he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had sev­er­al brown pa­per par­cels, which he was quite in­cap­able of col­lect­ing.
The Euchar­ist­ic Con­gress had doubt­less sucked out of their loc­al stag­na­tion many such creatures, blind and help­less, like moles dis­in­terred.
Valentin was a scep­tic in the severe style of France, and could have no love for priests.
But he could have pity for them, and this one might have pro­voked pity in any­body.
He had a large, shabby um­brella, which con­stantly fell on the floor.
He did not seem to know which was the right end of his re­turn tick­et.
He ex­plained with a moon-calf sim­pli­city to every­body in the car­riage that he had to be care­ful,
be­cause he had something made of real sil­ver “with blue stones” in one of his brown-pa­per par­cels.
His quaint blend­ing of Es­sex flat­ness with saintly sim­pli­city con­tinu­ously amused the French­man
till the priest ar­rived (some­how) at Tot­ten­ham with all his par­cels, and came back for his um­brella.
When he did the last, Valentin even had the good nature to warn him not to take care of the sil­ver by telling every­body about it.
But to whomever he talked, Valentin kept his eye open for someone else;
he looked out stead­ily for any­one, rich or poor, male or fe­male,
who was well up to six feet; for Flam­beau was four inches above it.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton
The Innocence of Father Brown / Father Browns Einfalt
Zweisprachige Ausgabe
Übersetzt von Hedwig Maria von Lama

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