A man carrying a lantern, bent double as he made his way against the wind, crawled up to them. He was a porter from the station close at hand.
“My God!” he exclaimed. “Any one alive here?”
“I’m all right,” Gerald muttered, “at least, I suppose I am. What’s it all—what’s it all about? We’ve had an accident.”
The porter caught hold of a piece of the wreckage with which to steady himself.
“Your train ran right into three feet of water,” he answered. “The rails had gone—torn up. The telegraph line’s down.”
“Why didn’t you stop the train?”
“We were doing all we could,” the man retorted gloomily. “We weren’t expecting anything else through to-night. We’d a man along the line with a lantern, but he’s just been found blown over the embankment, with his head in a pool of water. Any one else in your carriage?”
“One gentleman travelling with me,” Gerald answered. “We’d better try to get him out. What about the guard and engine-driver?”
“The engine-driver and stoker are both alive,” the porter told him. “I came across them before I saw you. They’re both knocked sort of sillylike, but they aren’t much hurt. The guard’s stone dead.”
“Where are we?”
“A few hundred yards from Wymondham. Let’s have a look for the other gentleman.”
Mr. John P. Dunster was lying quite still, his right leg doubled up, and a huge block of telegraph post, which the saloon had carried with it in its fall, still pressing against his forehead. He groaned as they dragged him out and laid him down upon a cushion in the shelter of the wreckage.
“He’s alive all right,” the porter remarked. “There’s a doctor on the way. Let’s cover him up quick and wait.”
“Can’t we carry him to shelter of some sort?” Gerald proposed.
The man shook his head. Speech of any sort was difficult. Even with his lips close to the other’s ears, he had almost to shout.
“Couldn’t be done,” he replied. “It’s all one can do to walk alone when you get out in the middle of the field, away from the shelter of the embankment here. There’s bits of trees flying all down the lane. Never was such a night! Folks is fair afraid of the morning to see what’s happened. There’s a mill blown right over on its side in the next field, and the man in charge of it lying dead. This poor chap’s bad enough.”
Gerald, on all fours, had crept back into the compartment. The bottle of wine was smashed into atoms. He came out, dragging the small dressing-case which his companion had kept on the table before him. One side of it was dented in, but the lock, which was of great strength, still held.
“Perhaps there’s a flask somewhere in this dressing-case,” Gerald said. “Lend me a knife.”
Strong though it had been, the lock was already almost torn out from its foundation. They forced the spring and opened it. The porter turned his lantern on the widening space. Just as Gerald was raising the lid very slowly to save the contents from being scattered by the wind, the man turned his head to answer an approaching hail. Gerald raised the lid a little higher and suddenly closed it with a bang.