“I guessed I would find you here,” said the station-agent, looking in with an indulgent smile.
“You’re a thoughtful man,” retorted Edgar. “You may as well tell me what you want.”
“I’ve a wire from Flett, sent at Hatfield, down the line.”
“What can he be doing there?” Edgar exclaimed; and Miss Taunton showed her interest.
“He was coming through on the train. Wanted Mr. Lansing to meet him at the station, if he was in town. Hadn’t you better go along?”
“I suppose so,” said Edgar resignedly, glancing at his watch. “It looks as if your men had taken their time. Flett should be here in about a quarter of an hour now.”
“Operator had train orders to get through; we have two freights side-tracked,” the agent explained. “Don’t be late; she’s coming along on time.”
He hurried out, and a few minutes later Edgar crossed the street and strolled along the low wooden platform, upon which a smart constable was waiting. A long trail of smoke, drawing rapidly nearer, streaked the gray and ochre of the level plain, and presently the big engine and dusty cars rolled into the station amid the hoarse tolling of the bell. As they ran slowly past him, Edgar saw a police trooper leaning out from a vestibule, and when the train stopped the constable on the platform hurried toward the car. A hum of excited voices broke out and Edgar had some difficulty in pushing through the growing crowd to reach the steps. A constable, who had hard work to keep the others back, let him pass, and he found Flett standing on the platform above, looking rather jaded, with a pistol loose in his holster.
“Isn’t Mr. Lansing here?” Flett asked eagerly, and then turned to the trooper. “Keep those fellows off!”
“No,” answered Edgar; “he hasn’t come into town. But what’s the cause of this commotion? Have you got your men?”
“Three of them,” said Flett, with a look of pride. “I expect we’ll get the fourth. But come in a minute, out of the noise.”
The car was besieged. Curious men were clambering up the side of it, trying to peer in through the windows; others disputed angrily with the trooper who drove them off the steps. Eager questions were shouted and scraps of random information given, and groups of people were excitedly running across the street to the station. It was, however, a little quieter in the vestibule when Flett had banged the door. He next opened the inner door that led to the smoking compartment of the Colonist car. In spite of its roominess, it was almost insufferably hot and very dirty; the sunlight struck in through the windows; sand and fine cinders lay thick upon the floor. A pile of old blue blankets lay, neatly folded, on one of the wooden seats, and on those adjoining sat three men. Two wore brown duck overalls, gray shirts, and big soft hats; one was dressed in threadbare cloth; but there was nothing that particularly suggested the criminal in any of their sunburned faces. They looked hot and weary with the journey, and though their expression was perhaps a little hard, they looked like harvest hands traveling in search of work. One, who was quietly smoking, took his pipe from his mouth and spoke to Flett.