The Innocence of Father Brown HTML version
The Invisible Man
In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop at the corner, a
confectioner's, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One should rather say, perhaps, like the
butt of a firework, for the light was of many colours and some complexity, broken up by
many mirrors and dancing on many gilt and gaily-coloured cakes and sweetmeats.
Against this one fiery glass were glued the noses of many gutter-snipes, for the
chocolates were all wrapped in those red and gold and green metallic colours which are
almost better than chocolate itself; and the huge white wedding-cake in the window was
somehow at once remote and satisfying, just as if the whole North Pole were good to eat.
Such rainbow provocations could naturally collect the youth of the neighbourhood up to
the ages of ten or twelve. But this corner was also attractive to youth at a later stage; and
a young man, not less than twenty-four, was staring into the same shop window. To him,
also, the shop was of fiery charm, but this attraction was not wholly to be explained by
chocolates; which, however, he was far from despising.
He was a tall, burly, red-haired young man, with a resolute face but a listless manner. He
carried under his arm a flat, grey portfolio of black-and-white sketches, which he had
sold with more or less success to publishers ever since his uncle (who was an admiral)
had disinherited him for Socialism, because of a lecture which he had delivered against
that economic theory. His name was John Turnbull Angus.
Entering at last, he walked through the confectioner's shop to the back room, which was a
sort of pastry-cook restaurant, merely raising his hat to the young lady who was serving
there. She was a dark, elegant, alert girl in black, with a high colour and very quick, dark
eyes; and after the ordinary interval she followed him into the inner room to take his
His order was evidently a usual one. "I want, please," he said with precision, "one
halfpenny bun and a small cup of black coffee." An instant before the girl could turn
away he added, "Also, I want you to marry me."
The young lady of the shop stiffened suddenly and said, "Those are jokes I don't allow."
The red-haired young man lifted grey eyes of an unexpected gravity.
"Really and truly," he said, "it's as serious--as serious as the halfpenny bun. It is
expensive, like the bun; one pays for it. It is indigestible, like the bun. It hurts."
The dark young lady had never taken her dark eyes off him, but seemed to be studying
him with almost tragic exactitude. At the end of her scrutiny she had something like the
shadow of a smile, and she sat down in a chair.