“It would make anybody faint,” chimed in another. “Murder and robbery in one night and on one car. I’m thankful I always wear my rings in a bag around my neck—even if they do get under me and keep me awake.”
The girl in blue was looking at us with wide, startled eyes. I saw her pale a little, saw the quick, apprehensive glance which she threw at her traveling companion, the small woman I had noticed before. There was an exchange—almost a clash—of glances. The small woman frowned. That was all. I turned my attention again to my patient.
She had revived somewhat, and now she asked to have the window opened. The train had stopped again and the car was oppressively hot. People around were looking at their watches and grumbling over the delay. The doctor bustled in with a remark about its being his busy day. The amateur detective and the porter together mounted guard over lower ten. Outside the heat rose in shimmering waves from the tracks: the very wood of the car was hot to touch. A Camberwell Beauty darted through the open door and made its way, in erratic plunges, great wings waving, down the sunny aisle. All around lay the peace of harvested fields, the quiet of the country.
THE GIRL IN BLUE
I was growing more and more irritable. The thought of what the loss of the notes meant was fast crowding the murder to the back of my mind. The forced inaction was intolerable.
The porter had reported no bag answering the description of mine on the train, but I was disposed to make my own investigation. I made a tour of the cars, scrutinizing every variety of hand luggage, ranging from luxurious English bags with gold mountings to the wicker nondescripts of the day coach at the rear. I was not alone in my quest, for the girl in blue was just ahead of me. Car by car she preceded me through the train, unconscious that I was behind her, looking at each passenger as she passed. I fancied the proceeding was distasteful, but that she had determined on a course and was carrying it through. We reached the end of the train almost together—empty-handed, both of us.
The girl went out to the platform. When she saw me she moved aside, and I stepped out beside her. Behind us the track curved sharply; the early sunshine threw the train, in long black shadow, over the hot earth. Forward somewhere they were hammering. The girl said nothing, but her profile was strained and anxious.
“I—if you have lost anything,” I began, “I wish you would let me try to help. Not that my own success is anything to boast of.”
She hardly glanced at me. It was not flattering. “I have not been robbed, if that is what you mean,” she replied quietly. “I am —perplexed. That is all.”
There was nothing to say to that. I lifted my hat—the other fellow’s hat—and turned to go back to my car. Two or three members of the train crew, including the conductor, were standing in the shadow talking. And at that moment, from a farm-house near came the swift clang of the breakfast bell, calling in the hands from barn and pasture. I turned back to the girl.