(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Aristide Valentin, the chief of the Paris police, arrives from Holland by boat at the English port of Harwich. He is pursuing an infamous thief and con man named Flambeau, to whom Parisian reporters attribute numerous mysterious and unsolved crimes committed in the French capital. Flambeau has become somewhat of a sympathetic rogue in the eyes of certain Frenchmen, and Valentin definitely wants to arrest this troublemaker, who has managed to avoid arrest by the French, Belgian, and Dutch police. Valentin’s chances of catching Flambeau seem slim, however, because all he knows about the man is that he is six feet, four inches tall. Valentin certainly cannot arrest every tall man whom he encounters in England, but he is a tireless investigator. During his train journey to London, Valentin sees many short people, including a rotund Roman Catholic priest who tells him that he is carrying a valuable silver cross with blue sapphires to a eucharistic congress in London. A skeptic with no love of priests, Valentin regards this priest with contempt for revealing such information to a stranger.

After a quick visit to Scotland Yard, where he speaks with his English colleagues, Valentin formulates a plan for finding Flambeau. He decides to look for Flambeau in out-of-the-way places, believing that an escaped criminal such as Flambeau will avoid public places such as banks and railroad stations. As he eats breakfast in an Italian restaurant, he notices an odd, short...

(The entire section is 586 words.)