. . .was in a television drama. Judy and I are discovering the “Father Brown” series on PBS TV. Originally made for the BBC, and based on a series of short stories by G.K. Chesterton, these who-dun-it tales feature a middle-aged, frumpy Catholic priest who has an uncanny knack for solving crimes, much to the dismay of Inspector Valentine, who is usually sure who the culprit is and is always wrong.
The episode we watched over the weekend was “The Wrong Shape,” which revolved around the apparent suicide of Leonard Quinton, a prominent poet/adventurer, while his wife, his mistress, his doctor, his Indian guru, Father Brown and a couple of others are in the other room. After the usual intrigues, Father Brown pinned the crime on the doctor, who had a long-time secret crush on Martha, the poet’s wife.
In the process of discovery, Father Brown gets Martha to reveal that, early in their marriage, she had experienced a difficult pregnancy. Leonard, then a practicing physician, prescribed an experimental medicine to relieve the symptoms. Unfortunately, the medication had very bad side effects, and the baby girl was born grotesquely deformed (thus the title, “The Wrong Shape”). Martha had gone into a deep depression, and Leonard went off to India for a period of time. When he returned, the baby died within hours, which suggested that he performed euthanasia. Over the years since, the couple had lived apart, though in the same house to keep up appearances.
After the perpetrator has been apprehended and the crowd has drifted away, Father Brown finds Martha alone and sees that she has a number of pills in her hand, and she admits she intends to take her life. Here’s the conversation between them:
Martha: “Every time I looked at him I saw her face. I can’t tell you how often I wished I’d never have to set eyes on him again. And yet, now that he’s gone, it’s like losing her all over again.”
Father Brown: “Because despite everything, you still loved him.”
Martha: “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t swallow these pills.”
Father Brown: “The fact you asked the question must stand for something.”
Martha: “So, you’re not going to tell me that everything happens for a reason; that this is God’s will?”
Father Brown: “I don’t know why your daughter died, and I don’t know why God let it happen.”
Martha: “Then, what do you know?”
Father Brown: “I know that God knows what it is to lose a child. And that he’s standing next to you. And that he can’t stop you suffering. But that he loves you, and that he loves your daughter. If you let him into your heart, you will see Olivia again.”
Martha: “I’ve never heard anyone say her name out loud before.”
Father Brown: “Olivia! Olivia! Olivia! Olivia!”
Best sermon I’ve heard in a long time.
— George Van Alstine