“The Invisible Man” by G. K. Chesterton
Card picked: K♥
From: Found at East of the Web
Young Angus wants Laura to marry him. His is not Laura’s first proposal. Before she moved to London, two other men asked for her hand in marriage. The first, Smythe, is an imp of a man, short as a jockey and swarthy. The second, Welkin, is tall and almost handsome aside from an alarming squint. Since she is attracted to neither and neither seems to have good prospects, Laura lies and says she can’t marry a man who hasn’t made his own fortune. Both men vow to come back for her after they’ve earned her hand. Unfortunately for Angus, that day has come, at least in the form of Smythe. Always the inventor, he has become an appliance mogul. His business, Smythe’s Silent Service, provides automaton butlers and maids.
Until Laura mentions Smythe’s Silent Service, I couldn’t remember why Chesterton’s “The Invisible Man” had ended up on my Deal Me In list. Not that it’s a sub-standard story or that I don’t care of a mystery, but it didn’t strike me as a story that I would have added to my list after coming across a review of it from someone else’s Deal Me In roster. But automatons? Of course, it made my list! The automatons are a minor detail, really, but one doesn’t expect to find the odd science fiction element in a mystery story. But maybe one does in a 1911 mystery. At the turn of the 20th century the Western world seemed enamored enough with science and technology to regularly include it in fiction.
But back to the story: What has really been scaring Laura isn’t Smythe’s inevitable return to claim her, but the fact that she hasn’t heard anything from the creepier Welkin. That is until Smythe’s last letter was delivered. As she read it, standing where it was delivered, she clearly heard Welkin laugh and say “he shan’t have you” though no one was around. Welkin also leaves a large message tacked up on the display window of the bakery where Laura works:
“If you marry Smythe, he will die.”
No one saw anyone deface the bakery.
Queue Smythe’s return. Despite his interest in Laura, Angus decides to take an interest in events and even tries to protect Smythe while he goes off to find his detective friend Flambeau. Visiting Flambeau is Father Brown, a Catholic priest who is actually the one to solve the mystery of the invisible man. I had previously not read any of Chesterton or his Father Brown mysteries. I’m kind of surprised that Father Brown has almost as much “screen time” as Smythe’s futuristic residence and robot butler and maid.