The Four-Fifteen Express
by 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. Travelling in the interests of the
well-known 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
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 foggy 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 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. 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 material. By this time the train was moving out of
the station and into the faint grey of the wintry twilight
I now recognized my companion. I recognized
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 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."
"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
Taylors', and I generally spend a few weeks at Dumbleton in
the shooting season. I suppose we are bound for the same
"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
"Just so. I am in the habit of looking
forward to this visit as to the brightest three weeks in all
"It is a pleasant house," said Mr.
"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 nothing of the
contemplated improvement. Mr. Dwerrihouse smiled
"It will be an improvement," he
said, "a great improvement. Stockbridge is a flourishing
town, and needs but a more direct railway communication 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
"My interest in the company," replied Mr.
Dwerrihouse, "is threefold. I am a director, I am a
considerable shareholder, and, as head of the firm of
Dwerrihouse, Dwerrihouse and Craik, I am the company's
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
"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
"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
"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."
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, 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 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
"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
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
"Good-evening," I replied, putting out my
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
"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
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 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 newcomer 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 man.
The whistle shrilled out again. The guard,
far up the platform, held up his arm, and shouted to me to
"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
"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, it 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 entrées 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 today with a friend of yours."
"Indeed!" said the master of the feast,
slicing scientifically into the breast of the turkey. "With
"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
"It must be Major Thorp," suggested Mrs.
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," replied
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 table. 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 breach. "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
"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
"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?"
Prendergast, dropping his voice to the lowest
whisper--"because John Dwerrihouse absconded three
months ago with s 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
ofthe 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
"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
"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 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 I had
"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
"Ay, but it is time you were asleep and
dreaming now. I am ashamed to have kept you up so long.
"Goodnight, 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,
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 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 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,
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
"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
"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. Dwerrihouse alighted at
"Quite impossible, sir," replied the
"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 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
"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
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
"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?"
"Do you know if he was in the 4.15 express
"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
"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
"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
"No, sir; it would have been quite
"And you are certain you did not see
"As I said before, sir, I could take my oath
I did not see him. And if it wasn't that I don't like to
contradict a gentleman, I would say I could also take my
oath that this gentleman was quite alone in the carriage the
whole way from London to Clayborough. Why, sir," he added,
dropping his voice so as to be inaudible to the
station-master, who had been called away to speak to some
person close by, "you expressly asked me to give you a
compartment to yourself, and I did so. I locked you in, and
you were so good as to give me something for myself."
"Yes; but Mr. Dwerrihouse had a key of his
"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
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
"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 Jonathanjelf 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
boardroom 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
ofthe 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 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 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
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?"
"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 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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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:
"Where were you, Mr. Raikes, on the
"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
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
"You hear, Mr. Langford?" he said.
"I hear, sir; but my conviction remains
"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
here to do him an ill turn with his employers? What was it
to me whether or not 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 his head.
"This is no mere resemblance,"he said. "It
isjohn 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
"Look at Raikes," he whispered; "look at
I turned to where the under-secretary had
been standing a moment before, and saw him, white as death,
with lips trembling and livid, stealing towards the door.
To conceive a sudden, strange, and indefinite
suspicion, to fling myself in his way, to take him by the
shoulders as if he were a child, and turn his craven face,
perforce, towards the board, were with me the work of an
"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
"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
"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
"Mr. Raikes took his leave in September,"
said the secretary, "about the time when Mr. Dwerrihouse
"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!
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
"You made 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 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 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
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 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 in his hand the identical life-preserver
with which he committed it.