Smoothly the huge engine came gliding into the station—a dumb, silent creature now, drawing slowly to a standstill as though exhausted after its great effort. Through the windows of the saloon the station-master could see the train attendant bending over this mysterious passenger, who did not seem, as yet, to have made any preparations for leaving his place. Mr. Hamilton Fynes was seated at a table covered with papers, but he was leaning back as though he had been or was still asleep. The station-master stepped forward, and as he did so the attendant came hurrying out to the platform, and, pushing back the porters, called to him by name.
“Mr. Rice,” he said, “If you please, sir, will you come this way?”
The station-master acceded at once to the man’s request and entered the saloon. The attendant clutched at his arm nervously. He was a pale, anaemic-looking little person at any time, but his face just now was positively ghastly.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” the station-master asked brusquely.
“There’s something wrong with my passenger, sir,” the man declared in a shaking voice. “I can’t make him answer me. He won’t look up, and I don’t—I don’t think he’s asleep. An hour ago I took him some whiskey. He told me not to disturb him again—he had some papers to go through.”
The station-master leaned over the table. The eyes of the man who sat there were perfectly wide-open, but there was something unnatural in their fixed stare,—something unnatural, too, in the drawn grayness of his face.
“This is Euston, sir,” the station-master began,—“the terminus—”
Then he broke off in the middle of his sentence. A cold shiver was creeping through his veins. He, too, began to stare; he felt the color leaving his own cheeks. With an effort he turned to the attendant.
“Pull down the blinds,” he ordered, in a voice which he should never have recognized as his own. “Quick! Now turn out those porters, and tell the inspector to stop anyone from coming into the car.”
The attendant, who was shaking like a leaf, obeyed. The station-master turned away and drew a long breath. He himself was conscious of a sense of nausea, a giddiness which was almost overmastering. This was a terrible thing to face without a second’s warning. He had not the slightest doubt but that the man who was seated at the table was dead!
At such an hour there were only a few people upon the platform, and two stalwart station policemen easily kept back the loiterers whose curiosity had been excited by the arrival of the special. A third took up his position with his back to the entrance of the saloon, and allowed no one to enter it till the return of the station-master, who had gone for a doctor. The little crowd was completely mystified. No one had the slightest idea of what had happened. The attendant was besieged by questions, but he was sitting on the step of the car, in the shadow of a policeman, with his head buried in his hands, and he did not once look up. Some of the more adventurous tried to peer through the windows at the lower end of the saloon. Others rushed off to interview the guard. In a very few minutes, however, the station-master reappeared upon the scene, accompanied by the doctor. The little crowd stood on one side and the two men stepped into the car.