Tales of Terror and Mystery HTML version

The Man with the Watches
There are many who will still bear in mind the singular circumstances which, under the
heading of the Rugby Mystery, filled many columns of the daily Press in the spring of the
year 1892. Coming as it did at a period of exceptional dullness, it attracted perhaps rather
more attention than it deserved, but it offered to the public that mixture of the whimsical
and the tragic which is most stimulating to the popular imagination. Interest drooped,
however, when, after weeks of fruitless investigation, it was found that no final
explanation of the facts was forthcoming, and the tragedy seemed from that time to the
present to have finally taken its place in the dark catalogue of inexplicable and
unexpiated crimes. A recent communication (the authenticity of which appears to be
above question) has, however, thrown some new and clear light upon the matter. Before
laying it before the public it would be as well, perhaps, that I should refresh their
memories as to the singular facts upon which this commentary is founded. These facts
were briefly as follows:
At five o'clock on the evening of the 18th of March in the year already mentioned a train
left Euston Station for Manchester. It was a rainy, squally day, which grew wilder as it
progressed, so it was by no means the weather in which anyone would travel who was not
driven to do so by necessity. The train, however, is a favourite one among Manchester
business men who are returning from town, for it does the journey in four hours and
twenty minutes, with only three stoppages upon the way. In spite of the inclement
evening it was, therefore, fairly well filled upon the occasion of which I speak. The guard
of the train was a tried servant of the company--a man who had worked for twenty-two
years without a blemish or complaint. His name was John Palmer.
The station clock was upon the stroke of five, and the guard was about to give the
customary signal to the engine-driver when he observed two belated passengers hurrying
down the platform. The one was an exceptionally tall man, dressed in a long black
overcoat with astrakhan collar and cuffs. I have already said that the evening was an
inclement one, and the tall traveller had the high, warm collar turned up to protect his
throat against the bitter March wind. He appeared, as far as the guard could judge by so
hurried an inspection, to be a man between fifty and sixty years of age, who had retained
a good deal of the vigour and activity of his youth. In one hand he carried a brown leather
Gladstone bag. His companion was a lady, tall and erect, walking with a vigorous step
which outpaced the gentleman beside her. She wore a long, fawn- coloured dust-cloak, a
black, close-fitting toque, and a dark veil which concealed the greater part of her face.
The two might very well have passed as father and daughter. They walked swiftly down
the line of carriages, glancing in at the windows, until the guard, John Palmer, overtook
"Now then, sir, look sharp, the train is going," said he.
"First-class," the man answered.