The Man in Lower Ten HTML version

4. Numbers Seven And Nine
Afterwards, when I tried to recall our discovery of the body in lower ten, I found that my
most vivid impression was not that made by the revelation of the opened curtain. I had an
instantaneous picture of a slender blue-gowned girl who seemed to sense my words rather
than hear them, of two small hands that clutched desperately at the seat beside them. The
girl in the aisle stood, bent toward us, perplexity and alarm fighting in her face.
With twitching hands the porter attempted to draw the curtains together. Then in a
paralysis of shock, he collapsed on the edge of my berth and sat there swaying. In my
excitement I shook him.
"For Heaven's sake, keep your nerve, man," I said bruskly. "You'll have every woman in
the car in hysterics. And if you do, you'll wish you could change places with the man in
there." He rolled his eyes.
A man near, who had been reading last night's paper, dropped it quickly and tiptoed
toward us. He peered between the partly open curtains, closed them quietly and went
back, ostentatiously solemn, to his seat. The very crackle with which he opened his paper
added to the bursting curiosity of the car. For the passengers knew that something was
amiss: I was conscious of a sudden tension.
With the curtains closed the porter was more himself; he wiped his lips with a
handkerchief and stood erect.
"It's my last trip in this car," he remarked heavily. "There's something wrong with that
berth. Last trip the woman in it took an overdose of some sleeping stuff, and we found
her, jes' like that, dead! And it ain't more'n three months now since there was twins born
in that very spot. No, sir, it ain't natural."
At that moment a thin man with prominent eyes and a spare grayish goatee creaked up
the aisle and paused beside me.
"Porter sick?" he inquired, taking in with a professional eye the porter's horror-struck
face, my own excitement and the slightly gaping curtains of lower ten. He reached for the
darky's pulse and pulled out an old-fashioned gold watch.
"Hm! Only fifty! What's the matter? Had a shock?" he asked shrewdly.
"Yes," I answered for the porter. "We've both had one. If you are a doctor, I wish you
would look at the man in the berth across, lower ten. I'm afraid it's too late, but I'm not
experienced in such matters."
Together we opened the curtains, and the doctor, bending down, gave a comprehensive
glance that took in the rolling head, the relaxed jaw, the ugly stain on the sheet. The