The Vanished Messenger
As the young man staggered to his feet, he had somehow a sense of detachment, as
though he were commencing a new life, or had suddenly come into a new existence. Yet
his immediate surroundings were charged with ugly reminiscences. Through a great gap
in the ruined side of the saloon the rain was tearing in. As he stood up, his head caught
the fragments of the roof. He was able to push back the wreckage with ease and step out.
For a moment he reeled, as he met the violence of the storm. Then, clutching hold of the
side of the wreck, he steadied himself. A light was moving back and forth, close at hand.
He cried out weakly: "Hullo!"
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.