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The Innocence of Father Brown

The Hammer of God
The little village of Bohun Beacon was perched on a hill so steep that the tall spire of its
church seemed only like the peak of a small mountain. At the foot of the church stood a
smithy, generally red with fires and always littered with hammers and scraps of iron;
opposite to this, over a rude cross of cobbled paths, was "The Blue Boar," the only inn of
the place. It was upon this crossway, in the lifting of a leaden and silver daybreak, that
two brothers met in the street and spoke; though one was beginning the day and the other
finishing it. The Rev. and Hon. Wilfred Bohun was very devout, and was making his way
to some austere exercises of prayer or contemplation at dawn. Colonel the Hon. Norman
Bohun, his elder brother, was by no means devout, and was sitting in evening dress on
the bench outside "The Blue Boar," drinking what the philosophic observer was free to
regard either as his last glass on Tuesday or his first on Wednesday. The colonel was not
particular.
The Bohuns were one of the very few aristocratic families really dating from the Middle
Ages, and their pennon had actually seen Palestine. But it is a great mistake to suppose
that such houses stand high in chivalric tradition. Few except the poor preserve traditions.
Aristocrats live not in traditions but in fashions. The Bohuns had been Mohocks under
Queen Anne and Mashers under Queen Victoria. But like more than one of the really
ancient houses, they had rotted in the last two centuries into mere drunkards and dandy
degenerates, till there had even come a whisper of insanity. Certainly there was
something hardly human about the colonel's wolfish pursuit of pleasure, and his chronic
resolution not to go home till morning had a touch of the hideous clarity of insomnia. He
was a tall, fine animal, elderly, but with hair still startlingly yellow. He would have
looked merely blonde and leonine, but his blue eyes were sunk so deep in his face that
they looked black. They were a little too close together. He had very long yellow
moustaches; on each side of them a fold or furrow from nostril to jaw, so that a sneer
seemed cut into his face. Over his evening clothes he wore a curious pale yellow coat that
looked more like a very light dressing gown than an overcoat, and on the back of his head
was stuck an extraordinary broad-brimmed hat of a bright green colour, evidently some
oriental curiosity caught up at random. He was proud of appearing in such incongruous
attires--proud of the fact that he always made them look congruous.
His brother the curate had also the yellow hair and the elegance, but he was buttoned up
to the chin in black, and his face was clean-shaven, cultivated, and a little nervous. He
seemed to live for nothing but his religion; but there were some who said (notably the
blacksmith, who was a Presbyterian) that it was a love of Gothic architecture rather than
of God, and that his haunting of the church like a ghost was only another and purer turn
of the almost morbid thirst for beauty which sent his brother raging after women and
wine. This charge was doubtful, while the man's practical piety was indubitable. Indeed,
the charge was mostly an ignorant misunderstanding of the love of solitude and secret
prayer, and was founded on his being often found kneeling, not before the altar, but in
 
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