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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS by AMELIA B. EDWARDS.
Seeing all this, and perhaps more irritated by it than the thing deserved, I begged leave to detain the attention of the board for a moment longer. Jelf plucked me impatiently by the sleeve.
"Better let the thing drop," he whispered. "The chairman is right enough. You dreamt it; and the less said now the better."
I was not to be silenced, however, in this fashion. I had yet something to say, and I would say it. It was to this effect: that dreams were not usually productive of tangible results, and that I requested to know in what way the chairman conceived I had evolved from my dream so substantial and well-made a delusion as the cigar-case which I had had the honor to place before him at the commencement of our interview.
"The cigar-case, I admit, Mr. Langford," the chairman replied, "is a very strong point in your evidence. It is your _only_ strong point, however, and there is just a possibility that we may all be misled by a mere accidental resemblance. Will you permit me to see the case again?"
"It is unlikely," I said, as I handed it to him, "that any other should bear precisely this monogram, and yet be in all other particulars exactly similar."
The chairman examined it for a moment in silence, and then passed it to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter turned it over and over, and shook his head.
"This is no mere resemblance," he said. "It is John Dwerrihouse's cigar-case to a certainty. I remember it perfectly. I have seen it a hundred times."
"I believe I may say the same," added the chairman. "Yet how account for the way in which Mr. Langford asserts that it came into his possession?"
"I can only repeat," I replied, "that I found it on the floor of the carriage after Mr. Dwerrihouse had alighted. It was in leaning out to look after him that I trod upon it; and it was in running after him for the purpose of restoring it that I saw--or believed I saw--Mr. Raikes standing aside with him in earnest conversation."
Again I felt Jonathan Jelf plucking at my sleeve.
"Look at Raikes," he whispered,--"look at Raikes!"
I turned to where the under-secretary had been standing a moment before, and saw him, white as death with lips trembling and livid, stealing towards the door.
To conceive a sudden, strange, and indefinite suspicion; to fling myself in his way; to take him by the shoulders as if he were a child, and turn his craven face, perforce, towards the board, were with me the work of an instant.
"Look at him!" I exclaimed. "Look at his face! I ask no better witness to the truth of my words."
The chairman's brow darkened.
"Mr. Raikes," he said, sternly, "if you know anything, you had better speak."
Vainly trying to wrench himself from my grasp, the under-secretary stammered out an incoherent denial.
"Let me go," he said. "I know nothing,--you have no right to detain me,--let me go!"
"Did you, or did you not, meet Mr. John Dwerrihouse at Blackwater station? The charge brought against you is either true or false. If true, you will do well to throw yourself upon the mercy of the board, and make full confession of all that you know."
The under-secretary wrung his hands in an agony of helpless terror.
"I was away," he cried. "I was two hundred miles away at the time! I know nothing about it--I have nothing to confess--I am innocent--I call God to witness I am innocent!"
"Two hundred miles away!" echoed the chairman. "What do you mean?"