“You are very good, sir,” Mr. Hamilton Fynes declared. “I am sure that my friends on the other side will appreciate your attention. By what time do you suppose that we shall reach London?”
The station-master glanced at the clock.
“It is now eight o’clock, sir,” he announced. “If my orders down the line are properly attended to, you should be there by twenty minutes to twelve.”
Mr. Hamilton Fynes nodded gravely and took his seat in the car. He had previously walked its entire length and back again.
“The train consists only of this carriage?” he asked. “There is no other passenger, for instance, travelling in the guard’s brake?”
“Certainly not, sir,” the station-master declared. “Such a thing would be entirely against the regulations. There are five of you, all told, on board,—driver, stoker, guard, saloon attendant, and yourself.”
Mr. Hamilton Fynes nodded, and appeared satisfied.
“No more luggage, sir?” the guard asked.
“I was obliged to leave what I had, excepting this suitcase, upon the steamer,” Mr. Hamilton Fynes explained. “I could not very well expect them to get my trunk up from the hold. It will follow me to the hotel tomorrow.”
“You will find that the attendant has light refreshments on board, sir, if you should be wanting anything,” the station-master announced. “We’ll start you off now, then. Good-night, sir!”
Mr. Fynes nodded genially.
“Good-night, Station-master!” he said. “Many thanks to you.”
Southward, with low funnel belching forth fire and smoke into the blackness of the night, the huge engine, with its solitary saloon carriage and guard’s brake, thundered its way through the night towards the great metropolis. Across the desolate plain, stripped bare of all vegetation, and made hideous forever by the growth of a mighty industry, where the furnace fires reddened the sky, and only the unbroken line of ceaseless lights showed where town dwindled into village and suburbs led back again into town. An ugly, thickly populated neighborhood, whose area of twinkling lights seemed to reach almost to the murky skies; hideous, indeed by day, not altogether devoid now of a certain weird attractiveness by reason of low-hung stars. On, through many tunnels into the black country itself, where the furnace fires burned oftener, but the signs of habitation were fewer. Down the great iron way the huge locomotive rushed onward, leaping and bounding across the maze of metals, tearing past the dazzling signal lights, through crowded stations where its passing was like the roar of some earth-shaking monster. The station-master at Crewe unhooked his telephone receiver and rang up Liverpool.
“What about this special?” he demanded.
“Passenger brought off from the Lusitania in a private tug. Orders are to let her through all the way to London.”