I now had no hesitation in following the guide’s instructions to the letter. Platform No. 5 was completely deserted as I emerged breathless from the long staircase and I had no difficulty in getting into the last first-class carriage unobserved. I sat down by the window on the far side of the carriage.
Alongside it ran the brown panels and gold lettering of a German restaurant car.
I looked at my watch. It was ten minutes to seven. There was no sign of my mysterious friend. I wondered vaguely, too, what had become of my porter. True, there was nothing of importance in Semlin’s bag, but a traveller with luggage always commands more confidence than one without.
Five minutes to seven! Still no word from the guide. The minutes ticked away. By Jove! I was going to miss the train. But I sat resolutely in my corner. I had put my trust in this man. I would trust him to the last.
Suddenly his face appeared in the window at my elbow. The door was flung open.
“Quick!” he whispered in my ear, “follow me.”
“My things ...” I gasped with one foot on the foot-board of the other train. At the same moment the train began to move.
The guide pointed to the carriage into which I had clambered.
“The porter ...” I cried from the open door, thinking he had not understood me.
The guide pointed towards the carriage again, then tapped himself on the chest with a significant smile.
The next moment he had disappeared and I had not even thanked him.
The Berlin train bumped ponderously out of the station. Peering cautiously out of the carriage, I caught a glimpse of the waiter, Karl, hurrying down the platform. With him was a swarthy, massively built man who leaned heavily on a stick and limped painfully as he ran. One of his feet, I could see, was misshapen and the sweat was pouring down his face.
I would have liked to wave my hand to the pair, but I prudently drew back out of sight of the platform.
Caution, caution, caution, must henceforward be my watchword.
IN WHICH A SILVER STAR ACTS AS A CHARM
I have often remarked in life that there are days when some benevolent deity seems to be guiding one’s every action. On such days, do what you will, you cannot go wrong. As the Berlin train bumped thunderously over the culverts spanning the canals between the tall, grey houses of Rotterdam and rushed out imperiously into the plain of windmills and pollards beyond, I reflected that this must be my good day, so kindly had some fairy godmother shepherded my footsteps since I had left the cafe.
So engrossed had I been, indeed, in the great enterprise on which I was embarked, that my actions throughout the morning had been mainly automatic. Yet how uniformly had they tended to protect me! I had bought my ticket in advance; I had given my overcoat and bag to a porter that I now knew to have been my saviour in disguise; I had sallied forth from the station and thus given him an opportunity for safe converse with me. The omens were good: I could trust my luck to-day, I felt, and, greatly comforted, I began to look about me.