It wasn’t wholly an interrogation—it seemed to Madison that there was even sympathy in the parlor-car conductor’s voice, as the other took his seat check.
“Health,” said Madison meekly. “Perfect rest and quiet—been overdoing it, you know.”
“Needley!”—the train conductor of the Bar Harbor Express, collecting the transportation, threw the word at Madison as though it were a personal affront.
The tone seemed to demand an apology from Madison—and Madison apologized.
“Health,” he said apologetically. “Perfect rest and quiet—been overdoing it, you know.”
“We’re five minutes late now,” grunted the conductor uncompromisingly and, to Madison, quite irrelevantly, as he passed on down the aisle.
Somehow, this inspired Madison to consult his timetable. He drew it from his pocket, ran his eye down the long list of stations—and stopped at “Needley.” Needley had an asterisk after it. By consulting a block of small type at the bottom of the page, he found a corresponding asterisk with the words: “Flag station. Stops only on signal, or to discharge eastbound passengers from Portland.”
John Garfield Madison went into the smoking compartment of the car for a cigar—several cigars—until Needley was reached some two hours later, when the dusky attendant, as he pocketed Madison’s dollar, set down his little rubber-topped footstool with a flourish on a desolate and forbidding-looking platform.
Madison was neither surprised nor dismayed—the parlor-car conductor, the train conductor and the timetable had in no way attempted to deceive him—he was only cold. He turned up his coat collar—and blew on his kid-gloved fingers.
As far as he could see everything was white with a thin layer of snow—he kicked some of it off his toes onto the unshovelled platform. The landscape was disconsolately void of even a vestige of life, there was not a sign of habitation—just woods of bare trees, except the firs, whose green seemed out of place.
“I have arrived,” said John Garfield Madison to himself, “at a cemetery.”
There was a very small station, and through the window he caught sight of a harassed-faced, red-haired man. There was a thump, another one, a very vicious one—and Madison stirred uneasily—the train, with its five minutes’ delinquency hanging over it, was already moving out, as his trunks, from the baggage car ahead, shot unceremoniously to the platform. Madison watched a man, the sole occupant of the platform apart from himself, save the trunks from rolling under the wheels of the train; then his eyes fastened on a rickety, two-seated wagon, drawn by a horse that at first glance appeared to earn all it got.