The Four-fifteen Express





AMELIA B. EDWARDS





The events which I am about to relate took place between nine and ten

years ago. Sebastopol had fallen in the early spring, the peace of Paris

had been concluded since March, our commercial relations with the

Russian Empire were but recently renewed; and I, returning home after my

first northward journey since the war, was well pleased with the

prospect of spending the month of December under the hospitable and

thoroughly English roof of my excellent friend Jonathan Jelf, Esq., of

Dumbleton Manor, Clayborough, East Anglia. My way lay by the Great East

Anglian line as far as Clayborough station, where I was to be met by one

of the Dumbleton carriages and conveyed across the remaining nine miles

of country. Having arrived some seven minutes before the starting of the

train, and, by the connivance of the guard, taken sole possession of an

empty compartment, I lighted my travelling-lamp, made myself

particularly snug, and settled down to the undisturbed enjoyment of a

book and a cigar. Great, therefore, was my disappointment when, at the

last moment, a gentleman came hurrying along the platform, glanced into

my carriage, opened the locked door with a private key, and stepped in.



It struck me at the first glance that I had seen him before--a tall,

spare man, thin-lipped, light-eyed, with an ungraceful stoop in the

shoulders, and scant grey hair worn somewhat long upon the collar. He

carried a light waterproof coat, an umbrella, and a large brown japanned

deed-box, which last he placed under the seat.



I now recognized my companion. I had met him, as I distinctly

remembered, some three years before, at the very house for which, in all

probability, he was now bound, like myself. His name was Dwerrihouse; he

was a lawyer by profession, and, if I was not greatly mistaken, was

first cousin to the wife of my host. I thought, observing him by the

vague mixture of lamplight and twilight, that Mrs. Jelf's cousin looked

all the worse for the three years' wear and tear which had gone over his

head since our last meeting. He was very pale, and had a restless light

in his eye that I did not remember to have observed before. The anxious

lines, too, about his mouth were deepened, and there was a cavernous,

hollow look about his cheeks and temples which seemed to speak of

sickness or sorrow. When he had glanced at me for the third or fourth

time I ventured to address him.



"Mr. John Dwerrihouse, I think?"



"That is my name," he replied.



"I had the pleasure of meeting you at Dumbleton about three years ago."



Mr. Dwerrihouse bowed.



"I thought I knew your face," he said; "but your name, I regret to

say----"



"Langford--William Langford. I have known Jonathan Jelf since we were

boys together at Merchant Taylor's, and I generally spend a few weeks at

Dumbleton in the shooting season. I suppose we are bound for the same

destination?"



"Not if you are on your way to the manor," he replied. "I am travelling

upon business. You have heard perhaps that we are about to construct a

branch line from Blackwater to Stockbridge."



"You are an East Anglian director, I presume?"



"My interest in the company," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse, "is threefold. I

am a director, I am a considerable shareholder, and, as the head of the

firm of Dwerrihouse, Dwerrihouse & Craik, I am the company's principal

solicitor."



Loquacious, self-important, full of his pet project, and apparently

unable to talk on any other subject, Mr. Dwerrihouse then went on to

tell of the opposition he had encountered and the obstacles he had

overcome in the cause of the Stockbridge branch. I was entertained with

a multitude of local details and local grievances. The rapacity of one

squire, the impracticability of another, the indignation of the rector

whose glebe was threatened; and so on and on and on, till my head ached

and my attention flagged and my eyes kept closing in spite of every

effort that I made to keep them open. At length I was roused by these

words:



"Seventy-five thousand pounds, cash down."



"Seventy-five thousand pounds, cash down," I repeated, in the liveliest

tone I could assume. "That is a heavy sum."



"A heavy sum to carry here," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse, pointing

significantly to his breast-pocket, "but a mere fraction of what we

shall ultimately have to pay."



"You do not mean to say that you have seventy-five thousand pounds at

this moment upon your person?" I exclaimed.



"My good sir, have I not been telling you so for the last half-hour?"

said Mr. Dwerrihouse, testily. "That money has to be paid over at

half-past eight o'clock this evening, at the office of Sir Thomas's

solicitors, on completion of the deed of sale."



"But how will you get across by night from Blackwater to Stockbridge

with seventy-five thousand pounds in your pocket?"



"To Stockbridge!" echoed the lawyer. "I find I have made myself very

imperfectly understood. I thought I had explained how this sum only

carries us as far as Mallingford--the first stage, as it were, of our

journey--and how our route from Blackwater to Mallingford lies entirely

through Sir Thomas Liddell's property."



"I beg your pardon," I stammered. "I fear my thoughts were wandering.

So you only go as far as Mallingford tonight?"



"Precisely. I shall get a conveyance from the 'Blackwater Arms.' And

you?"



"Oh, Jelf sends a trap to meet me at Clayborough! Can I be the bearer of

any message from you?"



"You may say, if you please, Mr. Langford, that I wished I could have

been your companion all the way, and that I will come over, if possible,

before Christmas."



"Nothing more?"



Mr. Dwerrihouse smiled grimly. "Well," he said, "you may tell my cousin

that she need not burn the hall down in my honour this time, and that

I shall be obliged if she will order the blue-room chimney to be swept

before I arrive."



"That sounds tragic. Had you a conflagration on the occasion of your

last visit to Dumbleton?"



"Something like it. There had been no fire lighted in my bedroom since

the spring, the flue was foul, and the rooks had built in it; so when I

went up to dress for dinner I found the room full of smoke and the

chimney on fire. Are we already at Blackwater?"



The train had gradually come to a pause while Mr. Dwerrihouse was

speaking, and, putting my head out of the window, I could see the

station some few hundred yards ahead. There was another train before us

blocking the way, and the guard was making use of the delay to collect

the Blackwater tickets. I had scarcely ascertained our position when

the ruddy-faced official appeared at our carriage door.



"Tickets, sir!" said he.



"I am for Clayborough," I replied, holding out the tiny pink card.



He took it, glanced at it by the light of his little lantern, gave it

back, looked, as I fancied, somewhat sharply at my fellow-traveller, and

disappeared.



"He did not ask for yours," I said, with some surprise.



"They never do," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse; "they all know me, and of

course I travel free."



"Blackwater! Blackwater!" cried the porter, running along the platform

beside us as we glided into the station.



Mr. Dwerrihouse pulled out his deed-box, put his travelling-cap in his

pocket, resumed his hat, took down his umbrella, and prepared to be

gone.



"Many thanks, Mr. Langford, for your society," he said, with

old-fashioned courtesy. "I wish you a good-evening."



"Good-evening," I replied, putting out my hand.



But he either did not see it or did not choose to see it, and, slightly

lifting his hat, stepped out upon the platform. Having done this, he

moved slowly away and mingled with the departing crowd.



Leaning forward to watch him out of sight, I trod upon something which

proved to be a cigar-case. It had fallen, no doubt, from the pocket of

his waterproof coat, and was made of dark morocco leather, with a

silver monogram upon the side. I sprang out of the carriage just as the

guard came to lock me in.



"Is there one minute to spare?" I asked, eagerly. "The gentleman who

travelled down with me from town has dropped his cigar-case; he is not

yet out of the station."



"Just a minute and a half, sir," replied the guard. "You must be quick."



I dashed along the platform as fast as my feet could carry me. It was a

large station, and Mr. Dwerrihouse had by this time got more than

half-way to the farther end.



I, however, saw him distinctly, moving slowly with the stream. Then, as

I drew nearer, I saw that he had met some friend, that they were talking

as they walked, that they presently fell back somewhat from the crowd

and stood aside in earnest conversation. I made straight for the spot

where they were waiting. There was a vivid gas-jet just above their

heads, and the light fell full upon their faces. I saw both

distinctly--the face of Mr. Dwerrihouse and the face of his companion.

Running, breathless, eager as I was, getting in the way of porters and

passengers, and fearful every instant lest I should see the train going

on without me, I yet observed that the new-comer was considerably

younger and shorter than the director, that he was sandy-haired,

moustachioed, small-featured, and dressed in a close-cut suit of Scotch

tweed. I was now within a few yards of them. I ran against a stout

gentleman, I was nearly knocked down by a luggage-truck, I stumbled

over a carpet-bag; I gained the spot just as the driver's whistle warned

me to return.



To my utter stupefaction, they were no longer there. I had seen them but

two seconds before--and they were gone! I stood still. I looked to right

and left; I saw no sign of them in any direction. It was as if the

platform had gaped and swallowed them.



"There were two gentlemen standing here a moment ago," I said to a

porter at my elbow; "which way can they have gone?"



"I saw no gentlemen, sir," replied the guard.



The whistle shrilled out again. The guard, far up on the platform, held

up his arm, and shouted to me to "come on"!



"If you're going on by this train, sir," said the porter, "you must run

for it."



I did run for it, just gained the carriage as the train began to move,

was shoved in by the guard, and left breathless and bewildered, with Mr.

Dwerrihouse's cigar-case still in my hand.



It was the strangest disappearance in the world; it was like a

transformation trick in a pantomime. They were there one

moment--palpably there, talking, with the gaslight full upon their

faces--and the next moment they were gone. There was no door near, no

window, no staircase; it was a mere slip of barren platform, tapestried

with big advertisements. Could anything be more mysterious?



It was not worth thinking about, and yet, for my life, I could not help

pondering upon it--pondering, wondering, conjecturing, turning it over

and over in my mind, and beating my brains for a solution of the enigma.

I thought of it all the way from Blackwater to Clayborough. I thought of

it all the way from Clayborough to Dumbleton, as I rattled along the

smooth highway in a trim dog-cart, drawn by a splendid black mare and

driven by the silentest and dapperest of East Anglian grooms.



We did the nine miles in something less than an hour, and pulled up

before the lodge gates just as the church clock was striking half-past

seven. A couple of minutes more, and the warm glow of the lighted hall

was flooding out upon the gravel, a hearty grasp was on my hand, and a

clear jovial voice was bidding me "welcome to Dumbleton."



I am not going to describe either the guests or the dinner that night.

All provincial parties bear the strictest family resemblance, and I am

not aware that an East Anglian banquet offers any exception to the rule.

There was the usual country baronet and his wife; there were the usual

country parsons and their wives; there was the sempiternal turkey and

haunch of venison. Vanitas vanitatum. There is nothing new under the

sun.



At length there came a pause. The entrees had just been removed, and the

turkey had come upon the scene. The conversation had all along been of

the languidest, but at this moment it happened to have stagnated

altogether. Moved by an unlucky impulse, I thought I would relate my

adventure.



"By the way, Jelf," I began, "I came down part of the way today with a

friend of yours."



"Indeed!" said the master of the feast, slicing scientifically into the

breast of the turkey. "With whom, pray?"



"It was no less a person than your wife's cousin, Mr. John Dwerrihouse."



Jonathan Jelf laid down his knife and fork. Mrs. Jelf looked at me in a

strange, startled way, and said never a word.



"And he desired me to tell you, my dear madam, that you need not take

the trouble to burn the hall down in his honour, this time, but only to

have the chimney of the blue room swept before his arrival."



Before I had reached the end of my sentence I became aware of something

ominous in the faces of the guests. I felt I had said something which I

had better have left unsaid, and that for some unexplained reason my

words had evoked a general consternation. I sat confounded, not daring

to utter another syllable, and for at least two whole minutes there was

dead silence round the table. The guests hitherto had been simply dull,

but now they were evidently uncomfortable and embarrassed.



The dessert had scarcely been placed upon the table when the ladies left

the room. I seized the opportunity to select a vacant chair next a

certain Captain Prendergast.



"In Heaven's name," I whispered, "what was the matter just now? What had

I said?"



"You mentioned the name of John Dwerrihouse."



"What of that? I had seen him not two hours before."



"It is a most astounding circumstance that you should have seen him,"

said Captain Prendergast. "Are you sure it was he?"



"As sure as of my own identity. We were talking all the way between

London and Blackwater. But why does that surprise you?"



"Because," replied Captain Prendergast, dropping his voice to the lowest

whisper--"because John Dwerrihouse absconded three months ago with

seventy-five thousand pounds of the company's money, and has never been

heard of since."



John Dwerrihouse had absconded three months ago--and I had seen him only

a few hours back! John Dwerrihouse had embezzled seventy-five thousand

pounds of the company's money, yet told me that he carried that sum upon

his person! Were ever facts so strangely incongruous, so difficult to

reconcile? How should he have ventured again into the light of day? How

dared he show himself along the line? Above all, what had he been doing

throughout those mysterious three months of disappearance?



Perplexing questions these--questions which at once suggested themselves

to the minds of all concerned, but which admitted of no easy solution. I

could find no reply to them. Captain Prendergast had not even a

suggestion to offer. Jonathan Jelf, who seized the first opportunity of

drawing me aside and learning all that I had to tell, was more amazed

and bewildered than either of us. He came to my room that night, when

all the guests were gone, and we talked the thing over from every point

of view; without, it must be confessed, arriving at any kind of

conclusion.



"I do not ask you," he said, "whether you can have mistaken your man.

That is impossible."



"As impossible as that I should mistake some stranger for yourself."



"It is not a question of looks or voice, but of facts. That he should

have alluded to the fire in the blue room is proof enough of John

Dwerrihouse's identity. How did he look?"



"Older, I thought; considerably older, paler, and more anxious."



"He has had enough to make him look anxious, anyhow," said my friend,

gloomily, "be he innocent or guilty."



"I am inclined to believe that he is innocent," I replied. "He showed no

embarrassment when I addressed him, and no uneasiness when the guard

came round. His conversation was open to a fault. I might almost say

that he talked too freely of the business which he had in hand."



"That again is strange, for I know no one more reticent on such

subjects. He actually told you that he had the seventy-five thousand

pounds in his pocket?"



"He did."



"Humph! My wife has an idea about it, and she may be right----"



"What idea?"



"Well, she fancies--women are so clever, you know, at putting themselves

inside people's motives--she fancies that he was tempted, that he did

actually take the money, and that he has been concealing himself these

three months in some wild part of the country, struggling possibly with

his conscience all the time, and daring neither to abscond with his

booty nor to come back and restore it."



"But now that he has come back?"



"That is the point. She conceives that he has probably thrown himself

upon the company's mercy, made restitution of the money, and, being

forgiven, is permitted to carry the business through as if nothing

whatever had happened."



"The last," I replied, "is an impossible case. Mrs. Jelf thinks like a

generous and delicate-minded woman, but not in the least like a board of

railway directors. They would never carry forgiveness so far."



"I fear not; and yet it is the only conjecture that bears a semblance of

likelihood. However, we can run over to Clayborough tomorrow and see if

anything is to be learned. By the way, Prendergast tells me you picked

up his cigar-case."



"I did so, and here it is."



Jelf took the cigar-case, examined it by the light of the lamp, and said

at once that it was beyond doubt Mr. Dwerrihouse's property, and that he

remembered to have seen him use it.



"Here, too, is his monogram on the side," he added--"a big J.

transfixing a capital D. He used to carry the same on his note-paper."



"It offers, at all events, a proof that I was not dreaming."



"Ay, but it is time you were asleep and dreaming now. I am ashamed to

have kept you up so long. Good-night."



"Good-night, and remember that I am more than ready to go with you to

Clayborough, or Blackwater, or London, or anywhere, if I can be of the

least service."



"Thanks! I know you mean it, old friend, and it may be that I shall put

you to the test. Once more, good-night."



So we parted for that night, and met again in the breakfast-room at

half-past eight the next morning. It was a hurried, silent,

uncomfortable meal; none of us had slept well, and all were thinking of

the same subject. Within twenty minutes after we had left the

breakfast-table the dog-cart was brought round, and my friend and I were

on the road to Clayborough.



"Tell you what it is, Langford," he said, as we sped along between the

wintry hedges, "I do not much fancy to bring up Dwerrihouse's name at

Clayborough. All the officials know that he is my wife's relation, and

the subject just now is hardly a pleasant one. If you don't much mind,

we will take the 11:10 to Blackwater. It's an important station, and we

shall stand a far better chance of picking up information there than at

Clayborough."



So we took the 11:10, which happened to be an express, and, arriving at

Blackwater about a quarter before twelve, proceeded at once to prosecute

our inquiry.



We began by asking for the station-master, a big, blunt, businesslike

person, who at once averred that he knew Mr. John Dwerrihouse perfectly

well, and that there was no director on the line whom he had seen and

spoken to so frequently.



"He is not known to have been down the line any time yesterday, for

instance?"



The station-master shook his head.



"The East Anglian, sir," said he, "is about the last place where he

would dare to show himself. Why, there isn't a station-master, there

isn't a guard, there isn't a porter who doesn't know Mr. Dwerrihouse by

sight as well as he knows his own face in the looking-glass, or who

wouldn't telegraph for the police as soon as he had set eyes on him at

any point along the line. Bless you, sir! there's been a standing order

out against him ever since the 25th of September last."



"Can you tell me who took the Blackwater tickets of that train?"



"I can, sir. It was the guard, Benjamin Somers."



"And where can I find him?"



"You can find him, sir, by staying here, if you please, till one

o'clock. He will be coming through with the up express from Crampton,

which stays at Blackwater for ten minutes."



We waited for the up express, beguiling the time as best we could by

strolling along the Blackwater road till we came almost to the

outskirts of the town, from which the station was distant nearly a

couple of miles. By one o'clock we were back again upon the platform and

waiting for the train. It came punctually, and I at once recognized the

ruddy-faced guard who had gone down with my train the evening before.



"The gentlemen want to ask you something about Mr. Dwerrihouse, Somers,"

said the station-master, by way of introduction.



The guard flashed a keen glance from my face to Jelf's and back again to

mine.



"Mr. John Dwerrihouse, the late director?" said he, interrogatively.



"The same," replied my friend. "Should you know him if you saw him?"



"Anywhere, sir."



"Do you know if he was in the 4:15 express yesterday afternoon?"



"He was not, sir."



"How can you answer so positively?"



"Because I looked into every carriage and saw every face in that train,

and I could take my oath that Mr. Dwerrihouse was not in it. This

gentleman was," he added, turning sharply upon me. "I don't know that I

ever saw him before in my life, but I remember his face perfectly. You

nearly missed taking your seat in time at this station, sir, and you got

out at Clayborough."



"Quite true, guard," I replied; "but do you not also remember the face

of the gentleman who travelled down in the same carriage with me as far

as here?"



"It was my impression, sir, that you travelled down alone," said Somers,

with a look of some surprise.



"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 that

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 dreamed 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?"



"Well, no; I admit there is a difficulty about that point."



"And what about the cigar-case?"



"Ay, by Jove! there is the cigar-case. That is a stubborn fact. Well,

it's a mysterious affair, and it will need a better detective than

myself, I fancy, to clear it up. I suppose we may as well go home."



A week had not gone by when I received a letter from the secretary of

the East Anglian Railway Company, requesting the favour of my attendance

at a special board meeting not then many days distant. No reasons were

alleged and no apologies offered for this demand upon my time, but they

had heard, it was clear, of my inquiries anent the missing director, and

had a mind to put me through some sort of official examination upon the

subject. Being still a guest at Dumbleton Hall, I had to go up to London

for the purpose, and Jonathan Jelf accompanied me. I found the direction

of the Great East Anglian line represented by a party of some twelve or

fourteen gentlemen seated in solemn conclave round a huge green baize

table, in a gloomy board-room adjoining the London terminus.



Being courteously received by the chairman (who at once began by saying

that certain statements of mine respecting Mr. John Dwerrihouse had come

to the knowledge of the direction, and that they in consequence desired

to confer with me on those points), we were placed at the table, and the

inquiry proceeded in due form.



I was first asked if I knew Mr. John Dwerrihouse, how long I had been

acquainted with him, and whether I could identify him at sight. I was

then asked when I had seen him last. To which I replied "On the 4th of

this present month, December, 1856." Then came the inquiry of where I

had seen him on the fourth day of December; to which I replied that I

met him in a first-class compartment of the 4:15 down express, that he

got in just as the train was leaving the London terminus, and that he

alighted at Blackwater station. The chairman then inquired whether I had

held any communication with my fellow-traveller, whereupon I related, as

nearly as I could remember it, the whole bulk and substance of Mr. John

Dwerrihouse's diffuse information respecting the new branch line.



To all this the board listened with profound attention, while the

chairman presided and the secretary took notes. I then produced the

cigar-case. It was passed from hand to hand, and recognized by all.

There was not a man present who did not remember that plain cigar-case

with its silver monogram, or to whom it seemed anything less than

entirely corroborative of my evidence. When at length I had told all

that I had to tell, the chairman whispered something to the secretary;

the secretary touched a silver hand-bell, and the guard, Benjamin

Somers, was ushered into the room. He was then examined as carefully as

myself. He declared that he knew Mr. John Dwerrihouse perfectly well,

that he could not be mistaken in him, that he remembered going down with

the 4:15 on the afternoon in question, that he remembered me, and that,

there being one or two empty first-class compartments on that special

afternoon, he had, in compliance with my request, placed me in a

carriage by myself. He was positive that I remained alone in that

compartment all the way from London to Clayborough. He was ready to take

his oath that Mr. Dwerrihouse was neither in that carriage with me, nor

in any compartment of that train. He remembered distinctly to have

examined my ticket at Blackwater; was certain that there was no one else

at that time in the carriage; could not have failed to observe a second

person, if there had been one; had that second person been Mr. John

Dwerrihouse should have quietly double-locked the door of the carriage

and have at once given information to the Blackwater station-master. So

clear, so decisive, so ready was Somers with this testimony, that the

board looked fairly puzzled.



"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?"



"Quite distinctly."



"Can you describe his appearance?"



"I think so. He was short and very slight, sandy-haired, with a bushy

moustache and beard, and he wore a loosely fitting suit of grey 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 one another. 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 moustache. 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."



The chairman turned again to the guard.



"Did you see Mr. Raikes in the train or on the platform?" he asked.



Somers shook his head.



"I am confident Mr. Raikes was not in the train," he said, "and I

certainly did not see him on the platform."



The chairman turned next to the secretary.



"Mr. Raikes is in your office, Mr. Hunter," he said. "Can you remember

if he was absent on the 4th instant?"



"I do not think he was," replied the secretary, "but I am not prepared

to speak positively. I have been away most afternoons myself lately, and

Mr. Raikes might easily have absented himself if he had been disposed."



At this moment the under-secretary returned with the day-book under his

arm.



"Be pleased to refer, Mr. Raikes," said the chairman, "to the entries of

the 4th instant, and see what Benjamin Somers's duties were on that

day."



Mr. Raikes threw open the cumbrous volume, and ran a practised eye and

finger down some three or four successive columns of entries. Stopping

suddenly at the foot of a page, he then read aloud that Benjamin Somers

had on that day conducted the 4:15 express from London to Crampton.



The chairman leaned forward in his seat, looked the under-secretary full

in the face, and said, quite sharply and suddenly:



"And where were you, Mr. Raikes, on the same afternoon?"



"I, sir?"



"You, Mr. Raikes. Where were you on the afternoon and evening of the 4th

of the present month?"



"Here, sir, in Mr. Hunter's office. Where else should I be?"



There was a dash of trepidation in the under-secretary's voice as he

said this, but his look of surprise was natural enough.



"We have some reason for believing, Mr. Raikes, that you were absent

that afternoon without leave. Was this the case?"



"Certainly not, sir. I have not had a day's holiday since September. Mr.

Hunter will bear me out in this."



Mr. Hunter repeated what he had previously said on the subject, but

added that the clerks in the adjoining office would be certain to know.

Whereupon the senior clerk, a grave, middle-aged person in green

glasses, was summoned and interrogated.



His testimony cleared the under-secretary at once. He declared that Mr.

Raikes had in no instance, to his knowledge, been absent during office

hours since his return from his annual holiday in September.



I was confounded. The chairman turned to me with a smile, in which a

shade of covert annoyance was scarcely apparent.



"You hear, Mr. Langford?" he said.



"I hear, sir; but my conviction remains unshaken."



"I fear, Mr. Langford, that your convictions are very insufficiently

based," replied the chairman, with a doubtful cough. "I fear that you

'dream dreams,' and mistake them for actual occurrences. It is a

dangerous habit of mind, and might lead to dangerous results. Mr. Raikes

here would have found himself in an unpleasant position had he not

proved so satisfactory an alibi."



I was about to reply, but he gave me no time.



"I think, gentlemen," he went on to say, addressing the board, "that we

should be wasting time to push this inquiry further. Mr. Langford's

evidence would seem to be of an equal value throughout. The testimony of

Benjamin Somers disproves his first statement, and the testimony of the

last witness disproves the second. I think we may conclude that Mr.

Langford fell asleep in the train on the occasion of his journey to

Clayborough, and dreamed an unusually vivid and circumstantial dream, of

which, however, we have now heard quite enough."



There are few things more annoying than to find one's positive

convictions met with incredulity. I could not help feeling impatient at

the turn that affairs had taken. I was not proof against the civil

sarcasm of the chairman's manner. Most intolerable of all, however, was

the quiet smile lurking about the corners of Benjamin Somers's mouth,

and the half-triumphant, half-malicious gleam in the eyes of the

under-secretary. The man was evidently puzzled and somewhat alarmed. His

looks seemed furtively to interrogate me. Who was I? What did I want?

Why had I come there to do him an ill turn with his employers? What was

it to me whether or no he was absent without leave?



Seeing all this, and perhaps irritated by it more 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's right enough;

you dreamed 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 honour 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

toward 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, toward 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?"



"I was in Devonshire. I had three weeks' leave of absence--I appeal to

Mr. Hunter--Mr. Hunter knows I had three weeks' leave of absence! I was

in Devonshire all the time; I can prove I was in Devonshire!"



Seeing him so abject, so incoherent, so wild with apprehension, the

directors began to whisper gravely among themselves, while one got

quietly up and called the porter to guard the door.



"What has your being in Devonshire to do with the matter?" said the

chairman. "When were you in Devonshire?"



"Mr. Raikes took his leave in September," said the secretary, "about the

time when Mr. Dwerrihouse disappeared."



"I never even heard that he had disappeared till I came back!"



"That must remain to be proved," said the chairman. "I shall at once put

this matter in the hands of the police. In the meanwhile, Mr. Raikes,

being myself a magistrate and used to deal with these cases, I advise

you to offer no resistance, but to confess while confession may yet do

you service. As for your accomplice----"



The frightened wretch fell upon his knees.



"I had no accomplice!" he cried. "Only have mercy upon me--only spare my

life, and I will confess all! I didn't mean to harm him! I didn't mean

to hurt a hair of his head! Only have mercy on me, and let me go!"



The chairman rose in his place, pale and agitated. "Good Heavens!" he

exclaimed, "what horrible mystery is this? What does it mean?"



"As sure as there is a God in heaven," said Jonathan Jelf, "it means

that murder has been done."



"No! no! no!" shrieked Raikes, still upon his knees, and cowering like a

beaten hound. "Not murder! No jury that ever sat could bring it in

murder. I thought I had only stunned him--I never meant to do more than

stun him. Manslaughter--manslaughter--not murder!"



Overcome by the horror of this unexpected revelation, the chairman

covered his face with his hand and for a moment or two remained silent.



"Miserable man," he said at length, "you have betrayed yourself."



"You bade me confess! You urged me to throw myself upon the mercy of the

board!"



"You have confessed to a crime which no one suspected you of having

committed," replied the chairman, "and which this board has no power

either to punish or forgive. All that I can do for you is to advise you

to submit to the law, to plead guilty, and to conceal nothing. When did

you do this deed?"



The guilty man rose to his feet, and leaned heavily against the table.

His answer came reluctantly, like the speech of one dreaming.



"On the 22nd of September."



"On the 22nd of September!" I looked in Jonathan Jelf's face, and he in

mine. I felt my own paling with a strange sense of wonder and dread. I

saw him blanch suddenly, even to the lips.



"Merciful heaven!" he whispered. "What was it, then, that you saw in

the train?"



* * * * *



What was it that I saw in the train? That question remains unanswered to

this day. I have never been able to reply to it. I only know that it

bore the living likeness of the murdered man, whose body had then been

lying some ten weeks under a rough pile of branches and brambles and

rotting leaves, at the bottom of a deserted chalk-pit about half-way

between Blackwater and Mallingford. I know that it spoke and moved and

looked as that man spoke and moved and looked in life; that I heard, or

seemed to hear, things related which I could never otherwise have

learned; that I was guided, as it were, by that vision on the platform

to the identification of the murderer; and that, a passive instrument

myself, I was destined, by means of these mysterious teachings, to bring

about the ends of justice. For these things I have never been able to

account.



As for that matter of the cigar-case, it proved, on inquiry, that the

carriage in which I travelled down that afternoon to Clayborough had not

been in use for several weeks, and was, in point of fact, the same in

which poor John Dwerrihouse had performed his last journey. The case had

doubtless been dropped by him, and had lain unnoticed till I found it.



Upon the details of the murder I have no need to dwell. Those who desire

more ample particulars may find them, and the written confession of

Augustus Raikes, in the files of the "Times" for 1856. Enough that the

under-secretary, knowing the history of the new line, and following the

negotiation step by step through all its stages, determined to waylay

Mr. Dwerrihouse, rob him of the seventy-five thousand pounds, and escape

to America with his booty.



In order to effect these ends he obtained leave of absence a few days

before the time appointed for the payment of the money, secured his

passage across the Atlantic in a steamer advertised to start on the

23rd, provided himself with a heavily loaded "life-preserver," and went

down to Blackwater to await the arrival of his victim. How he met him on

the platform with a pretended message from the board, how he offered to

conduct him by a short cut across the fields to Mallingford, how, having

brought him to a lonely place, he struck him down with the

life-preserver, and so killed him, and how, finding what he had done, he

dragged the body to the verge of an out-of-the-way chalk-pit, and there

flung it in and piled it over with branches and brambles, are facts

still fresh in the memories of those who, like the connoisseurs in De

Quincey's famous essay, regard murder as a fine art. Strangely enough,

the murderer, having done his work, was afraid to leave the country. He

declared that he had not intended to take the director's life, but only

to stun and rob him; and that, finding the blow had killed, he dared not

fly for fear of drawing down suspicion upon his own head. As a mere

robber he would have been safe in the States, but as a murderer he would

inevitably have been pursued and given up to justice. So he forfeited

his passage, returned to the office as usual at the end of his leave,

and locked up his ill-gotten thousands till a more convenient

opportunity. In the meanwhile he had the satisfaction of finding that

Mr. Dwerrihouse was universally believed to have absconded with the

money, no one knew how or whither.



Whether he meant murder or not, however, Mr. Augustus Raikes paid the

full penalty of his crime, and was hanged at the Old Bailey in the

second week of January, 1857. Those who desire to make his further

acquaintance may see him any day (admirably done in wax) in the Chamber

of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's exhibition, in Baker Street. He is there

to be found in the midst of a select society of ladies and gentlemen of

atrocious memory, dressed in the close-cut tweed suit which he wore on

the evening of the murder, and holding in his hand the identical

life-preserver with which he committed it.





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