The Wisdom of Father Brown
The God of the Gongs
IT was one of those chilly and empty afternoons in early winter, when the daylight is
silver rather than gold and pewter rather than silver. If it was dreary in a hundred bleak
offices and yawning drawing-rooms, it was drearier still along the edges of the flat Essex
coast, where the monotony was the more inhuman for being broken at very long intervals
by a lamp-post that looked less civilized than a tree, or a tree that looked more ugly than
a lamp-post. A light fall of snow had half-melted into a few strips, also looking leaden
rather than silver, when it had been fixed again by the seal of frost; no fresh snow had
fallen, but a ribbon of the old snow ran along the very margin of the coast, so as to
parallel the pale ribbon of the foam.
The line of the sea looked frozen in the very vividness of its violet-blue, like the vein of a
frozen finger. For miles and miles, forward and back, there was no breathing soul, save
two pedestrians, walking at a brisk pace, though one had much longer legs and took much
longer strides than the other.
It did not seem a very appropriate place or time for a holiday, but Father Brown had few
holidays, and had to take them when he could, and he always preferred, if possible, to
take them in company with his old friend Flambeau, ex-criminal and ex-detective. The
priest had had a fancy for visiting his old parish at Cobhole, and was going north-
eastward along the coast.
After walking a mile or two farther, they found that the shore was beginning to be
formally embanked, so as to form something like a parade; the ugly lamp-posts became
less few and far between and more ornamental, though quite equally ugly. Half a mile
farther on Father Brown was puzzled first by little labyrinths of flowerless flower-pots,
covered with the low, flat, quiet-coloured plants that look less like a garden than a
tessellated pavement, between weak curly paths studded with seats with curly backs. He
faintly sniffed the atmosphere of a certain sort of seaside town that be did not specially
care about, and, looking ahead along the parade by the sea, he saw something that put the
matter beyond a doubt. In the grey distance the big bandstand of a watering-place stood
up like a giant mushroom with six legs.
"I suppose," said Father Brown, turning up his coat-collar and drawing a woollen scarf
rather closer round his neck, "that we are approaching a pleasure resort."
"I fear," answered Flambeau, "a pleasure resort to which few people just now have the
pleasure of resorting. They try to revive these places in the winter, but it never succeeds
except with Brighton and the old ones. This must be Seawood, I think-- Lord Pooley's
experiment; he had the Sicilian Singers down at Christmas, and there's talk about holding
one of the great glove-fights here. But they'll have to chuck the rotten place into the sea;
it's as dreary as a lost railway-carriage."
They had come under the big bandstand, and the priest was looking up at it with a
curiosity that had something rather odd about it, his head a little on one side, like a bird's.
It was the conventional, rather tawdry kind of erection for its purpose: a flattened dome