The Vanished Messenger
The young man sat on one side of the saloon and Mr. John P. Dunster on the other.
Although both of them were provided with a certain amount of railway literature, neither
of them made any pretence at reading. The older man, with his feet upon the opposite seat
and his arms folded, was looking pensively through the rain-splashed window-pane into
the impenetrable darkness. The young man, although he could not ignore his companion's
unsociable instincts, was fidgety.
"There will be some floods out to-morrow," he remarked.
Mr. Dunster turned his head and looked across the saloon. There was something in the
deliberate manner of his doing so, and his hesitation before he spoke, which seemed
intended to further impress upon the young man the fact that he was not disposed for
"Very likely," was his sole reply.
Gerald Fentolin sighed as though he regretted his companion's taciturnity and a few
minutes later strolled to the farther end of the saloon. He spent some time trying to peer
through the streaming window into the darkness. He chatted for a few minutes with the
guard, who was, however, in a bad temper at having had to turn out and who found little
to say. Then he took one of his golf clubs from the bag and indulged in several half
swings. Finally he stretched himself out upon one of the seats and closed his eyes.
"May as well try to get a nap," he yawned. "There won't be much chance on the steamer,
if it blows like this."
Mr. Dunster said nothing. His face was set, his eyes were looking somewhere beyond the
confines of the saloon in which he was seated. So they travelled for over an hour. The
young man seemed to be dozing in earnest when, with a succession of jerks, the train
rapidly slackened speed. Mr. Dunster let down the window. The interior of the carriage
was at once thrown into confusion. A couple of newspapers were caught up and whirled
around, a torrent of rain beat in. Mr. Dunster rapidly closed the window and rang the bell.
The guard came in after a moment or two. His clothes were shiny from the wet; raindrops
hung from his beard.
"What is the matter?" Mr. Dunster demanded. "Why are we waiting here?"
"There's a block on the line somewhere, the man replied. "Can't tell where exactly. The
signals are against us; that's all we know at present."
They crawled on again in about ten minutes, stopped, and resumed their progress at an
even slower rate. Mr. Dunster once more summoned the guard.
"Why are we travelling like this?" he asked impatiently. "We shall never catch the boat."
"We shall catch the boat all right if it runs, sir," the man assured him. "The mail is only a
mile or two ahead of us; that's one reason why we have to go so slowly. Then the water is
right over the line where we are now, and we can't get any news at all from the other side
of Ipswich. If it goes on like this, some of the bridges will be down; that's what I'm afraid