Mr. Hamilton Fynes held out a letter which he had produced from his breast pocket, and which was, in appearance, very similar to the one which he had presented, a short time ago, to the captain of the Lusitania.
“Perhaps you will kindly read this,” he said. “I am perfectly willing to pay the hundred and eighty pounds.”
The station-master tore open the envelope and read the few lines contained therein. His manner underwent at once a complete change, very much as the manner of the captain of the Lusitania had done. He took the letter over to his green-shaded writing lamp, and examined the signature carefully. When he returned, he looked at Mr. Hamilton Fynes curiously. There was, however, something more than curiosity in his glance. There was also respect.
“I will give this matter my personal attention at once, Mr. Fynes,” he said, lifting the flap of the counter and coming out. “Do you care to come inside and wait in my private office?”
“Thank you,” Mr. Hamilton Fynes answered; “I will walk up and down the platform.”
“There is a refreshment room just on the left,” the station-master remarked, ringing violently at a telephone. “I dare say we shall get you off in less than half an hour. We will do our best, at any rate. It’s an awkward time just now to command an absolutely clear line, but if we can once get you past Crewe you’ll be all right. Shall we fetch you from the refreshment room when we are ready?”
“If you please,” the intending passenger answered.
Mr. Hamilton Fynes discovered that place of entertainment without difficulty, ordered for himself a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and drew a chair close up to the small open fire, taking care, however, to sit almost facing the only entrance to the room. He laid his hat upon the counter, close to which he had taken up his position, and smoothed back with his left hand his somewhat thick black hair. He was a man, apparently of middle age, of middle height, clean-shaven, with good but undistinguished features, dark eyes, very clear and very bright, which showed, indeed, but little need of the pince-nez which hung by a thin black cord from his neck. His hat, low in the crown and of soft gray felt, would alone have betrayed his nationality. His clothes, however, were also American in cut. His boots were narrow and of unmistakable shape. He ate his sandwich with suspicion, and after his first sip of coffee ordered a whiskey and soda. Afterwards he sat leaning back in his chair, glancing every now and then at the clock, but otherwise manifesting no signs of impatience. In less than half an hour an inspector, cap in hand, entered the room and announced that everything was ready. Mr. Hamilton Fynes put on his hat, picked up his suitcase, and followed him on to the platform. A long saloon carriage, with a guard’s brake behind and an engine in front, was waiting there.
“We’ve done our best, sir,” the station-master remarked with a note of self-congratulation in his tone. “It’s exactly twenty-two minutes since you came into the office, and there she is. Finest engine we’ve got on the line, and the best driver. You’ve a clear road ahead too. Wish you a pleasant journey, sir.”