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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS by AMELIA B. EDWARDS.
"You hear this person's statement, Mr. Langford," said the chairman. "It contradicts yours in every particular. What have you to say in reply?"
"I can only repeat what I said before. I am quite as positive of the truth of my own assertions as Mr. Somers can be of the truth of his."
"You say that Mr. Dwerrihouse alighted at Blackwater, and that he was in possession of a private key. Are you sure that he had not alighted by means of that key before the guard came round for the tickets?"
"I am quite positive that he did not leave the carriage till the train had fairly entered the station, and the other Blackwater passengers alighted. I even saw that he was met there by a friend."
"Indeed! Did you see that person distinctly?"
"Can you describe his appearance?"
"I think so. He was short and very slight, sandy-haired, with a bushy mustache and beard, and he wore a closely fitting suit of gray tweed. His age I should take to be about thirty-eight or forty."
"Did Mr. Dwerrihouse leave the station in this person's company?"
"I cannot tell. I saw them walking together down the platform, and then I saw them standing aside under a gas-jet, talking earnestly. After that I lost sight of them quite suddenly; and just then my train went on, and I with it."
The chairman and secretary conferred together in an undertone. The directors whispered to each other. One or two looked suspiciously at the guard. I could see that my evidence remained unshaken, and that, like myself, they suspected some complicity between the guard and the defaulter.
"How far did you conduct that 4.15 express on the day in question, Somers?" asked the chairman.
"All through, sir," replied the guard; "from London to Crampton."
"How was it that you were not relieved at Clayborough? I thought there was always a change of guards at Clayborough."
"There used to be, sir, till the new regulations came in force last midsummer; since when, the guards in charge of express trains go the whole way through."
The chairman turned to the secretary.
"I think it would be as well," he said, "if we had the day-book to refer to upon this point."
Again the secretary touched the silver hand-bell, and desired the porter in attendance to summon Mr. Raikes. From a word or two dropped by another of the directors, I gathered that Mr. Raikes was one of the under-secretaries.
He came,--a small, slight, sandy-haired, keen-eyed man, with an eager, nervous manner, and a forest of light beard and mustache. He just showed himself at the door of the board-room, and, being requested to bring a certain day-book from a certain shelf in a certain room, bowed and vanished.
He was there such a moment, and the surprise of seeing him was so great and sudden, that it was not till the door had closed upon him that I found voice to speak. He was no sooner gone, however, than I sprang to my feet.
"That person," I said, "is the same who met Mr. Dwerrihouse upon the platform at Blackwater!"
There was a general movement of surprise. The chairman looked grave, and somewhat agitated.
"Take care, Mr. Langford," he said, "take care what you say!"
"I am as positive of his identity as of my own."
"Do you consider the consequences of your words? Do you consider that you are bringing a charge of the gravest character against one of the company's servants?"
"I am willing to be put upon my oath, if necessary. The man who came to that door a minute since is the same whom I saw talking with Mr. Dwerrihouse on the Blackwater platform. Were he twenty times the company's servant, I could say neither more nor less."