THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS
: Stories By English Authors: England
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 thoroug
ly English roof of my excellent friend,
Jonathan Jelf, Esq., of Dumbleton Manor, Clayborough, East Anglia.
Travelling in the interests of the wellknown firm in which it
is my lot to be a junior partner, I had been called upon to visit
not only the capitals of Russia and Poland, but had found it also
necessary to pass some weeks among the trading ports of the Baltic;
whence it came that the year was already far spent before I again
set foot on English soil, and that, instead of shooting pheasants
with him, as I had hoped, in October, I came to be my friend's
guest during the more genial Christmas-tide.
My voyage over, and a few days given up to business in Liverpool
and London, I hastened down to Clayborough with all the delight of
a school-boy whose holidays are at hand. 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. It was a fogey afternoon, singularly
warm for the 4th of December, and I had arranged to leave London by
the 4:15 express. The early darkness of winter had already closed
in; the lamps were lighted in the carriages; a clinging damp
dimmed the windows, adhered to the door-handles, and pervaded all
the atmosphere; while the gas-jets at the neighbouring book-stand
diffused a luminous haze that only served to make the gloom of the
terminus more visible. Having arrived some seven minutes before the
starting of the train, and, by the connivance of the guard, taken
sole possession of 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, a 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 gray hair worn somewhat long upon collar.
He carried a light waterproof coat, an umbrella, and a large brown
japanned deed-box, which last he placed under the seat. This done, he
felt carefully in his breast-pocket, as if to make certain of the
safety of his purse or pocket-book, laid his umbrella in the netting
overhead, spread the waterproof across his knees, and exchanged
his hat for a travelling-cap of some Scotch mateial. By this time
the train was moving out of the station and into the faint gray of
the wintry twilight beyond.
I now recognised my companion. I recognised him from the moment when
he removed his hat and uncovered the lofty, furrowed, and somewhat
narrow brow beneath. 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 knew also that he was a
man eminently "well-to-do," both as regarded his professional and
private means. The Jelfs entertained him with that sort of observant
courtesy which falls to the lot of the rich relation, the children
made much of him, and the old butler, albeit somewhat surly "to the
general," treated him with deference. 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. He had
glanced at me as he came in, but without any gleam of recognition
in his face. Now he glanced again, as I fancied, somewhat doubtfully.
When he did so for the third or fourth time I ventured to address
"Mr. John Dwerrihouse, I think?"
"That is my name," he replied.
"I had the pleasure of meeting you at Dumbleton about three years
Mr. Dwerrihouse bowed.
"I thought I knew your face," he said; "but your name, I regret to
"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,--rather troublesome business too,--while
you, doubtless, have only pleasure in view."
"Just so. I am in the habit of looking forward to this visit as to
the brightest three weeks in all the year."
"It is a pleasant house," said Mr. Dwerrihouse.
"The pleasantest I know."
"And Jelf is thoroughly hospitable."
"The best and kindest fellow in the world!"
"They have invited me to spend Christmas week with them," pursued
Mr. Dwerrihouse, after a moment's pause.
"And you are coming?"
"I cannot tell. It must depend on the issue of this business
which I have in hand. You have heard perhaps that we are about to
construct a branch line from Blackwater to Stockbridge."
I explained that I had been for some months away from England, and
had therefore heard nothng of the contemplated improvement. Mr.
Dwerrihouse smiled complacently.
"It _will_ be an improvement,"he said," a great improvement.
Stockbridge is a flourishing town, and needs but a more direct
railway communicaion with the metropolis to become an important
centre of commerce. This branch was my own idea. I brought the project
before the board, and have myself superintended the execution of
it up to the present time."
"You are an East Anglian director, I presume?"
"My interest in the company," replied Mr. Dwerringhouse, "is
threefold. I am a director, I am a considerable shareholder, and,
as 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, the culpable
indifference of the Stockbridge townspeople, who could _not_
be brought to see that their most vital interests hinged upon a
junction with the Great East Anglian line; the spite of the local
newspaper, and the unheard-of difficulties attending the Common
question, were each and all laid before me with a circumstantiality
that possessed the deepest interest for my excellent fellow-traveller,
but none whatever for myself. From these, to my despair, he went on
to more intricate matters: to the approximate expenses of construction
per mile; to the estimates sent in by different contractors; to
the probable traffic returns of the new line; to the provisional
clauses of the new act as enumerated in Schedule D of the company's
last half-yearly report; 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 breastpocket, "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 to-night?"
"Precisely. I shall get a conveyance from the 'Blackwater Arms.'
'Oh, Jelf sends a trap to meet me at Clayborbough! 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."
Mr. Dwerrihouse smiled grimly. "Well," he said, "you may tell my
cousin that she need not burn the hall down in my honour _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, on 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
"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,
"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 up 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
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, mustachioed, 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 direcion.
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 man. The whistle shrilled
out again. The guard, far up 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, walking, 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 mysteious?
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
"And now, my dear fellow," said my host, when the first greeting
was over, "you have no time to spare. We dine at eight, and there
are people coming to meet you, so you must just get the dressing
business over as quickly as may be. By the way, you will meet some
acquaintances; the Biddulphs are coming, and Prendergast (Prendergast
of the Skirmishers) is staying in the house. Adieu! Mrs. Jelf will
be expecting you in the drawing-room."
I was ushered to my room--not the blue room, of which Mr. Dwerrihouse
had made disagreeable experience, but a pretty little bachelor's
chamber, hung with a delicate chintz and made cheerful by a blazing
fire. I unlocked my portmanteau. I tried to be expeditious, but the
memory of my railway adventure haunted me. I could not get free of
it; I could not shake it off. It impeded me, worried me, it tripped
me up, it caused me to mislay my studs, to mistie my cravat, to
wrench the buttons off my gloves. Worst of all, it made me so late
that the party had all assembled before I reached the drawing-room.
I had scarcely paid my respects to Mrs. Jelf when dinner was
announced, and we paired off, some eight or ten couples strong,
into the dining-room.
I am not going to describe either the guests or the dinner. 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.
I was placed about midway down the table. I had taken one rector's
wife down to dinner, and I had another at my left hand. They talked
across me, and their talk was about babies; it was dreadfully dull.
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. Jelf was carving the turkey; Mrs. Jelf
looked as if she was trying to think of something to say; everybody
else was silent. 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 to-day
with a friend of yours."
"Indeed!" said the master of the feast, slicing scientifically into
the breast of the turkey. "With whom, pray?"
"With one who bade me tell you that he should, if possible, pay
you a visit before Christmas."
"I cannot think who that could be," said my friend, smiling.
"It must be Major Thorp," suggested Mrs. Jelf.
I shook my head.
"It was not Major Thorp," I replied; "it was a near relation of
your own, Mrs. Jelf."
"Then I am more puzzled than ever," rep! my hostess. "Pray tell
me who it was."
"It was no less a person than your 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 toble.
Then Captain Prendergast came to the rescue.
"You have been abroad for some months, have you not, Mr. Langford?"
he said, with the desperation of one who flings himself into the
"I heard you had been to Russia. Surely you have something to tell
us of the state and temper of the country after the war?"
I was heartily grateful to the gallant Skirmisher for this diversion
in my favour. I answered him, I fear, somewhat lamely; but he kept
the conversation up, and presently one or two others joined in
and so the difficulty, whatever it might have been, was bridged
over--bridged over, but not repaired. A something, an awkwardness,
a visible constraint remained. 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 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
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
"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?"
"Humph! My wife has an idea about it, and she may be right--"
"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
"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
"I fear not; and yet it is the only conjecture that bears a semblance
of likelihood. However we can run over to Clayborough to-morrow 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 next morning. It was a hurried, silent,
uncomfortable meal; none of us had slept well, and all were thinking
of the same subject. Mrs. Jelf had evidently been crying. Jelf
was impatient to be off, and both Captain Prendergast and myself
felt ourselves to be in the painful position of outsiders who are
involuntarily brought into a domestic trouble. 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 make 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
pefectly well, and that there was no director on the line whom he
had seen and spoken to so frequently.
"He used to be down here two or three times a week about three
months ago," said he, "when the new line was first set afoot; but
since then, you know, gentlemen--"
He paused significantly.
Jelf flushed scarlet.
"Yes, yes," he said, hurriedly; "we know all about that. The point
now to be ascertained is whether anything has been seen or heard
of him lately."
"Not to my knowledge," replied the stationmaster.
"He is not known to have been down the line any time yesterday,
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 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 telegrapg 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."
"And yet," pursued my friend, "a gentleman who travelled down yesterday
from London to Clayborough by the afternoon express testifies that
he saw Mr. Dwerrihouse in the train, and that Mr. Dwerrinhouse
alighted at Blackwater station."
"Quite impossible, sir," replied the station-master promptly.
"Because there is no station along the line where he is so well
known or where he would run so great a risk. It would be just
running his head into the lion's mouth; he would have been mad to
come nigh Blackwater station; and if he had come he would have been
en arrested before he left the platform."
"Can you tell me who took the Blackwater tickets of that train?"
"I can, sir. It was the guard, Benjamin Sommers."
"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 in 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 recognised 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
"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 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 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 in which you took the tickets, could you have failed to see
and recognise 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 gentlemen 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;
"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, 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 that 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 recognised
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 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 express on the afternoon in
question, that he remembered me, and that, there being one or two
empty first-class compartments on that especial 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 Claylborough. He was ready to take his oath
that Dwerrihouse was neither in that carriage with me nor in any
compartment of that train. He remembered distinctly to have examined
my ticket to 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
"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
"You say that Mr. Dwerrihouse alighted in 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
"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 moustache and beard, and he wore a closely fitting suit
of gray tweed. His age I should take to be about thirty-eight or
"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 inside 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 handbell, 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
"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:
"Where were you, Mr. Raikes, on the same afternoon?"
"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
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 his 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 impatience
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 empoyers? What was it to me whether or no he was
absent without leave?
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'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
"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
"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
Vainly trying to wrench himself from my grasp, the under-secretary
stammered out an incohereent denial.
"Let me go," he said. "I know nothin--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
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 upon 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
"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 it 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 22d of September!"
On the 22d of September! I looked in Jonathan Jelf's face, and he
in mine. I felt my own smiling with a strange sense of wonder and
dread. I saw his 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 revealed 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 23d, 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 lonelyplace,
he struck him down with the life-preserver, and so killed him, and
how, finding what he had done, he gged 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 in 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
ing in his hand the identical life-preserve, with which he committed