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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS by AMELIA B. EDWARDS.
"By no means. I had a fellow-traveller as far as Blackwater, and it was in trying to restore him the cigar-case which he had dropped in the carriage that I so nearly let you go on without me."
"I remember your saying something about a cigar-case, certainly," replied the guard, "but--"
"You asked for my ticket just before we entered the station."
"I did, sir."
"Then you must have seen him. He sat in the corner next the very door to which you came."
"No, indeed. I saw no one."
I looked at Jelf. I began to think the guard was in the ex-director's confidence, and paid for his silence.
"If I had seen another traveller I should have asked for his ticket," added Somers. "Did you see me ask for his ticket, sir?"
"I observed that you did not ask for it, but he explained that by saying--" I hesitated. I feared I might be telling too much, and so broke off abruptly.
The guard and the station-master exchanged glances. The former looked impatiently at his watch.
"I am obliged to go on in four minutes more, sir," he said.
"One last question, then," interposed Jelf, with a sort of desperation. "If this gentleman's fellow-traveller had been Mr. John Dwerrihouse, and he had been sitting in the corner next the door by which you took the tickets, could you have failed to see and recognize him?"
"No, sir; it would have been quite impossible."
"And you are certain you did _not_ see him?"
"As I said before, sir, I could take my oath I did not see him. And if it wasn't that I don't like to contradict a gentleman, I would say I could also take my oath that this gentleman was quite alone in the carriage the whole way from London to Clayborough. Why, sir," he added, dropping his voice so as to be inaudible to the station-master, who had been called away to speak to some person close by, "you expressly asked me to give you a compartment to yourself, and I did so. I locked you in, and you were so good as to give me something for myself."
"Yes; but Mr. Dwerrihouse had a key of his own."
"I never saw him, sir; I saw no one in that compartment but yourself. Beg pardon, sir, my time's up."
And with this the ruddy guard touched his cap and was gone. In another minute the heavy panting of the engine began afresh, and the train glided slowly out of the station.
We looked at each other for some moments in silence. I was the first to speak.
"Mr. Benjamin Somers knows more than he chooses to tell," I said.
"Humph! do you think so?"
"It must be. He could not have come to the door without seeing him. It's impossible."
"There is one thing not impossible, my dear fellow."
"What is that?"
"That you may have fallen asleep, and dreamt the whole thing."
"Could I dream of a branch line that I had never heard of? Could I dream of a hundred and one business details that had no kind of interest for me? Could I dream of the seventy-five thousand pounds?"
"Perhaps you might have seen or heard some vague account of the affair while you were abroad. It might have made no impression upon you at the time, and might have come back to you in your dreams,--recalled, perhaps, by the mere names of the stations on the line."
"What about the fire in the chimney of the blue room,--should I have heard of that during my journey?"