On 16th November, 1870, Mr. Shchapoff, a Russian squire, the narrator, came home from a visit to a country town, Iletski, and found his family in some disarray. There lived with him his mother and his wife's mother, ladies of about sixty-nine,... Read more of The Dancing Devil at Scary Stories.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Tales of Mystery

The Beetle-hunter
The Black Doctor
The Brazilian Cat
The Japanned Box
The Lost Special
The Man With The Watches

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Scandal In Bohemia
A Case Of Identity
His Last Bow
My Friend The Murderer
Silver Blaze
The Adventure Of Black Peter
The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange
The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet
The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure Of The Bruce-partington Plans
The Adventure Of The Cardboard Box
The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches
The Adventure Of The Dancing Men
The Adventure Of The Devil's Foot
The Adventure Of The Dying Detective
The Adventure Of The Empty House
The Adventure Of The Engineer's Thumb
The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-nez
The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter
The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor
The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder
The Adventure Of The Priory School
The Adventure Of The Red Circle
The Adventure Of The Second Stain
The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons
The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist
The Adventure Of The Speckled Band
The Adventure Of The Three Students
The Adventure Of Wisteria Lodge
The Beetle-hunter
The Black Doctor
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Brazilian Cat
The Case Of Lady Sannox
The Crooked Man
The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax
The Final Problem
The Five Orange Pips
The Gloria Scott
The Greek Interpreter
The Horror Of The Heights
The Japanned Box
The Jew's Breastplate
The Leather Funnel
The Lost Special
The Man With The Twisted Lip
The Man With The Watches
The Musgrave Ritual
The Naval Treaty
The New Catacomb
The Red-headed League
The Reigate Puzzle
The Resident Patient
The Stock-broker's Clerk
The Terror Of Blue John Gap
The Yellow Face



The Lost Special








The confession of Herbert de Lernac, now lying under sentence of
death at Marseilles, has thrown a light upon one of the most
inexplicable crimes of the century--an incident which is, I
believe, absolutely unprecedented in the criminal annals of any
country: Although there is a reluctance to discuss the matter in
official circles, and little information has been given to the
Press, there are still indications that the statement of this
arch-criminal is corroborated by the facts, and that we have at
last found a solution for a most astounding business. As the
matter is eight years old, and as its importance was somewhat
obscured by a political crisis which was engaging the public
attention at the time, it may be as well to state the facts as
far as we have been able to ascertain them. They are collated
from the Liverpool papers of that date, from the proceedings at
the inquest upon John Slater, the engine-driver, and from the
records of the London and West Coast Railway Company, which
have been courteously put at my disposal. Briefly, they are as
follows:

On the 3rd of June, 1890, a gentleman, who gave his name as
Monsieur Louis Caratal, desired an interview with Mr. James Bland,
the superintendent of the London and West Coast Central Station in
Liverpool. He was a small man, middle-aged and dark, with a stoop
which was so marked that it suggested some deformity of the spine.
He was accompanied by a friend, a man of imposing physique, whose
deferential manner and constant attention showed that his position
was one of dependence. This friend or companion, whose name did
not transpire, was certainly a foreigner, and probably from his
swarthy complexion, either a Spaniard or a South American. One
peculiarity was observed in him. He carried in his left hand a
small black, leather dispatch box, and it was noticed by a sharp-
eyed clerk in the Central office that this box was fastened to
his wrist by a strap. No importance was attached to the fact at
the time, but subsequent events endowed it with some significance.
Monsieur Caratal was shown up to Mr. Bland's office, while his
companion remained outside.

Monsieur Caratal's business was quickly dispatched. He had
arrived that afternoon from Central America. Affairs of the utmost
importance demanded that he should be in Paris without the loss of
an unnecessary hour. He had missed the London express. A special
must be provided. Money was of no importance. Time was
everything. If the company would speed him on his way, they might
make their own terms.

Mr. Bland struck the electric bell, summoned Mr. Potter Hood,
the traffic manager, and had the matter arranged in five minutes.
The train would start in three-quarters of an hour. It would take
that time to insure that the line should be clear. The powerful
engine called Rochdale (No. 247 on the company's register) was
attached to two carriages, with a guard's van behind. The first
carriage was solely for the purpose of decreasing the inconvenience
arising from the oscillation. The second was divided, as usual,
into four compartments, a first-class, a first-class smoking, a
second-class, and a second-class smoking. The first compartment,
which was nearest to the engine, was the one allotted to the
travellers. The other three were empty. The guard of the special
train was James McPherson, who had been some years in the service
of the company. The stoker, William Smith, was a new hand.

Monsieur Caratal, upon leaving the superintendent's office,
rejoined his companion, and both of them manifested extreme
impatience to be off. Having paid the money asked, which amounted
to fifty pounds five shillings, at the usual special rate of five
shillings a mile, they demanded to be shown the carriage, and at
once took their seats in it, although they were assured that the
better part of an hour must elapse before the line could be
cleared. In the meantime a singular coincidence had occurred in
the office which Monsieur Caratal had just quitted.

A request for a special is not a very uncommon circumstance in
a rich commercial centre, but that two should be required upon the
same afternoon was most unusual. It so happened, however,
that Mr. Bland had hardly dismissed the first traveller before a
second entered with a similar request. This was a Mr. Horace
Moore, a gentlemanly man of military appearance, who alleged that
the sudden serious illness of his wife in London made it absolutely
imperative that he should not lose an instant in starting upon the
journey. His distress and anxiety were so evident that Mr. Bland
did all that was possible to meet his wishes. A second special was
out of the question, as the ordinary local service was already
somewhat deranged by the first. There was the alternative,
however, that Mr. Moore should share the expense of Monsieur
Caratal's train, and should travel in the other empty first-class
compartment, if Monsieur Caratal objected to having him in the one
which he occupied. It was difficult to see any objection to such
an arrangement, and yet Monsieur Caratal, upon the suggestion being
made to him by Mr. Potter Hood, absolutely refused to consider it
for an instant. The train was his, he said, and he would insist
upon the exclusive use of it. All argument failed to overcome his
ungracious objections, and finally the plan had to be abandoned.
Mr. Horace Moore left the station in great distress, after learning
that his only course was to take the ordinary slow train which
leaves Liverpool at six o'clock. At four thirty-one exactly by the
station clock the special train, containing the crippled Monsieur
Caratal and his gigantic companion, steamed out of the Liverpool
station. The line was at that time clear, and there should have
been no stoppage before Manchester.

The trains of the London and West Coast Railway run over the
lines of another company as far as this town, which should have
been reached by the special rather before six o'clock. At a
quarter after six considerable surprise and some consternation were
caused amongst the officials at Liverpool by the receipt of a
telegram from Manchester to say that it had not yet arrived. An
inquiry directed to St. Helens, which is a third of the way between
the two cities, elicited the following reply--

"To James Bland, Superintendent, Central L. & W. C.,
Liverpool.--Special passed here at 4:52, well up to time.--Dowster,
St. Helens."

This telegram was received at six-forty. At six-fifty a second
message was received from Manchester--


"No sign of special as advised by you."

And then ten minutes later a third, more bewildering--

"Presume some mistake as to proposed running of special. Local
train from St. Helens timed to follow it has just arrived and has
seen nothing of it. Kindly wire advices.--Manchester."

The matter was assuming a most amazing aspect, although in some
respects the last telegram was a relief to the authorities at
Liverpool. If an accident had occurred to the special, it seemed
hardly possible that the local train could have passed down the
same line without observing it. And yet, what was the alternative?
Where could the train be? Had it possibly been sidetracked for
some reason in order to allow the slower train to go past? Such an
explanation was possible if some small repair had to be effected.
A telegram was dispatched to each of the stations between St.
Helens and Manchester, and the superintendent and traffic manager
waited in the utmost suspense at the instrument for the series of
replies which would enable them to say for certain what had become
of the missing train. The answers came back in the order of
questions, which was the order of the stations beginning at the St.
Helens end--

"Special passed here five o'clock.--Collins Green."

"Special passed here six past five.--Earlstown."

"Special passed here 5:10.--Newton."

"Special passed here 5:20.--Kenyon Junction."

"No special train has passed here.--Barton Moss."

The two officials stared at each other in amazement.

"This is unique in my thirty years of experience," said Mr.
Bland.

"Absolutely unprecedented and inexplicable, sir. The special
has gone wrong between Kenyon Junction and Barton Moss."

"And yet there is no siding, so far as my memory serves me,
between the two stations. The special must have run off the
metals."

"But how could the four-fifty parliamentary pass over the same
line without observing it?"

"There's no alternative, Mr. Hood. It must be so.
Possibly the local train may have observed something which may
throw some light upon the matter. We will wire to Manchester for
more information, and to Kenyon Junction with instructions that the
line be examined instantly as far as Barton Moss."
The answer from Manchester came within a few minutes.

"No news of missing special. Driver and guard of slow train
positive no accident between Kenyon Junction and Barton Moss.
Line quite clear, and no sign of anything unusual.--Manchester."

"That driver and guard will have to go," said Mr. Bland,
grimly. "There has been a wreck and they have missed it. The
special has obviously run off the metals without disturbing the
line--how it could have done so passes my comprehension--but so it
must be, and we shall have a wire from Kenyon or Barton Moss
presently to say that they have found her at the bottom of an
embankment."

But Mr. Bland's prophecy was not destined to be fulfilled.
Half an hour passed, and then there arrived the following message
from the station-master of Kenyon Junction--

"There are no traces of the missing special. It is quite
certain that she passed here, and that she did not arrive at Barton
Moss. We have detached engine from goods train, and I have myself
ridden down the line, but all is clear, and there is no sign of any
accident."

Mr. Bland tore his hair in his perplexity.

"This is rank lunacy, Hood!" he cried. "Does a train vanish
into thin air in England in broad daylight? The thing is
preposterous. An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five
human beings--and all lost on a straight line of railway! Unless
we get something positive within the next hour I'll take Inspector
Collins, and go down myself."

And then at last something positive did occur. It took the
shape of another telegram from Kenyon Junction.

"Regret to report that the dead body of John Slater, driver of
the special train, has just been found among the gorse bushes at a
point two and a quarter miles from the Junction. Had fallen from
his engine, pitched down the embankment, and rolled among the
bushes. Injuries to his head, from the fall, appear to be cause of
death. Ground has now been carefully examined, and there is no
trace of the missing train."

The country was, as has already been stated, in the throes of
a political crisis, and the attention of the public was
further distracted by the important and sensational developments in
Paris, where a huge scandal threatened to destroy the Government
and to wreck the reputations of many of the leading men in France.
The papers were full of these events, and the singular
disappearance of the special train attracted less attention than
would have been the case in more peaceful times. The grotesque
nature of the event helped to detract from its importance, for the
papers were disinclined to believe the facts as reported to them.
More than one of the London journals treated the matter as an
ingenious hoax, until the coroner's inquest upon the unfortunate
driver (an inquest which elicited nothing of importance) convinced
them of the tragedy of the incident.

Mr. Bland, accompanied by Inspector Collins, the senior
detective officer in the service of the company, went down to
Kenyon Junction the same evening, and their research lasted
throughout the following day, but was attended with purely negative
results. Not only was no trace found of the missing train, but no
conjecture could be put forward which could possibly explain the
facts. At the same time, Inspector Collins's official report
(which lies before me as I write) served to show that the
possibilities were more numerous than might have been expected.

"In the stretch of railway between these two points," said he,
"the country is dotted with ironworks and collieries. Of these,
some are being worked and some have been abandoned. There are no
fewer than twelve which have small-gauge lines which run trolly-
cars down to the main line. These can, of course, be disregarded.
Besides these, however, there are seven which have, or have had,
proper lines running down and connecting with points to the main
line, so as to convey their produce from the mouth of the mine to
the great centres of distribution. In every case these lines are
only a few miles in length. Out of the seven, four belong to
collieries which are worked out, or at least to shafts which are no
longer used. These are the Redgauntlet, Hero, Slough of Despond,
and Heartsease mines, the latter having ten years ago been one of
the principal mines in Lancashire. These four side lines may be
eliminated from our inquiry, for, to prevent possible accidents,
the rails nearest to the main line have been taken up, and
there is no longer any connection. There remain three other side
lines leading--

(a) To the Carnstock Iron Works;
(b) To the Big Ben Colliery;
(c) To the Perseverance Colliery.


"Of these the Big Ben line is not more than a quarter of a mile
long, and ends at a dead wall of coal waiting removal from the
mouth of the mine. Nothing had been seen or heard there of any
special. The Carnstock Iron Works line was blocked all day upon
the 3rd of June by sixteen truckloads of hematite. It is a single
line, and nothing could have passed. As to the Perseverance line,
it is a large double line, which does a considerable traffic, for
the output of the mine is very large. On the 3rd of June this
traffic proceeded as usual; hundreds of men including a gang of
railway platelayers were working along the two miles and a quarter
which constitute the total length of the line, and it is
inconceivable that an unexpected train could have come down there
without attracting universal attention. It may be remarked in
conclusion that this branch line is nearer to St. Helens than the
point at which the engine-driver was discovered, so that we have
every reason to believe that the train was past that point before
misfortune overtook her.

"As to John Slater, there is no clue to be gathered from his
appearance or injuries. We can only say that, so far as we can
see, he met his end by falling off his engine, though why he fell,
or what became of the engine after his fall, is a question upon
which I do not feel qualified to offer an opinion." In conclusion,
the inspector offered his resignation to the Board, being much
nettled by an accusation of incompetence in the London papers.

A month elapsed, during which both the police and the company
prosecuted their inquiries without the slightest success. A reward
was offered and a pardon promised in case of crime, but they were
both unclaimed. Every day the public opened their papers with the
conviction that so grotesque a mystery would at last be solved, but
week after week passed by, and a solution remained as far off as
ever. In broad daylight, upon a June afternoon in the most thickly
inhabited portion of England, a train with its occupants had
disappeared as completely as if some master of subtle chemistry had
volatilized it into gas. Indeed, among the various conjectures
which were put forward in the public Press, there were some which
seriously asserted that supernatural, or, at least, preternatural,
agencies had been at work, and that the deformed Monsieur Caratal
was probably a person who was better known under a less polite
name. Others fixed upon his swarthy companion as being the author
of the mischief, but what it was exactly which he had done could
never be clearly formulated in words.

Amongst the many suggestions put forward by various newspapers
or private individuals, there were one or two which were feasible
enough to attract the attention of the public. One which appeared
in The Times, over the signature of an amateur reasoner of some
celebrity at that date, attempted to deal with the matter in a
critical and semi-scientific manner. An extract must suffice,
although the curious can see the whole letter in the issue of the
3rd of July.

"It is one of the elementary principles of practical
reasoning," he remarked, "that when the impossible has been
eliminated the residuum, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must contain the
truth. It is certain that the train left Kenyon Junction. It is
certain that it did not reach Barton Moss. It is in the highest
degree unlikely, but still possible, that it may have taken one of
the seven available side lines. It is obviously impossible for a
train to run where there are no rails, and, therefore, we may
reduce our improbables to the three open lines, namely the
Carnstock Iron Works, the Big Ben, and the Perseverance. Is there
a secret society of colliers, an English Camorra, which is
capable of destroying both train and passengers? It is improbable,
but it is not impossible. I confess that I am unable to suggest
any other solution. I should certainly advise the company to
direct all their energies towards the observation of those three
lines, and of the workmen at the end of them. A careful
supervision of the pawnbrokers' shops of the district might
possibly bring some suggestive facts to light."

The suggestion coming from a recognized authority upon such
matters created considerable interest, and a fierce opposition from
those who considered such a statement to be a preposterous
libel upon an honest and deserving set of men. The only
answer to this criticism was a challenge to the objectors to lay
any more feasible explanations before the public. In reply to this
two others were forthcoming (Times, July 7th and 9th). The
first suggested that the train might have run off the metals and be
lying submerged in the Lancashire and Staffordshire Canal, which
runs parallel to the railway for some hundred of yards. This
suggestion was thrown out of court by the published depth of the
canal, which was entirely insufficient to conceal so large an
object. The second correspondent wrote calling attention to the
bag which appeared to be the sole luggage which the travellers had
brought with them, and suggesting that some novel explosive of
immense and pulverizing power might have been concealed in it. The
obvious absurdity, however, of supposing that the whole train might
be blown to dust while the metals remained uninjured reduced any
such explanation to a farce. The investigation had drifted into
this hopeless position when a new and most unexpected incident
occurred.

This was nothing less than the receipt by Mrs. McPherson of a
letter from her husband, James McPherson, who had been the guard on
the missing train. The letter, which was dated July 5th, 1890, was
posted from New York and came to hand upon July 14th. Some doubts
were expressed as to its genuine character but Mrs. McPherson was
positive as to the writing, and the fact that it contained a
remittance of a hundred dollars in five-dollar notes was enough in
itself to discount the idea of a hoax. No address was given in the
letter, which ran in this way:

MY DEAR WIFE,--

"I have been thinking a great deal, and I find it very hard to
give you up. The same with Lizzie. I try to fight against it, but
it will always come back to me. I send you some money which will
change into twenty English pounds. This should be enough to bring
both Lizzie and you across the Atlantic, and you will find the
Hamburg boats which stop at Southampton very good boats, and
cheaper than Liverpool. If you could come here and stop at the
Johnston House I would try and send you word how to meet, but
things are very difficult with me at present, and I am not
very happy, finding it hard to give you both up. So no more at
present, from your loving husband,

"James McPherson."



For a time it was confidently anticipated that this letter
would lead to the clearing up of the whole matter, the more so as
it was ascertained that a passenger who bore a close resemblance to
the missing guard had travelled from Southampton under the name of
Summers in the Hamburg and New York liner Vistula, which
started upon the 7th of June. Mrs. McPherson and her sister Lizzie
Dolton went across to New York as directed and stayed for three
weeks at the Johnston House, without hearing anything from the
missing man. It is probable that some injudicious comments in the
Press may have warned him that the police were using them as a
bait. However, this may be, it is certain that he neither wrote
nor came, and the women were eventually compelled to return to
Liverpool.

And so the matter stood, and has continued to stand up to the
present year of 1898. Incredible as it may seem, nothing has
transpired during these eight years which has shed the least light
upon the extraordinary disappearance of the special train which
contained Monsieur Caratal and his companion. Careful inquiries
into the antecedents of the two travellers have only established
the fact that Monsieur Caratal was well known as a financier and
political agent in Central America, and that during his voyage to
Europe he had betrayed extraordinary anxiety to reach Paris. His
companion, whose name was entered upon the passenger lists as
Eduardo Gomez, was a man whose record was a violent one, and whose
reputation was that of a bravo and a bully. There was evidence to
show, however, that he was honestly devoted to the interests of
Monsieur Caratal, and that the latter, being a man of puny
physique, employed the other as a guard and protector. It may be
added that no information came from Paris as to what the objects of
Monsieur Caratal's hurried journey may have been. This comprises
all the facts of the case up to the publication in the Marseilles
papers of the recent confession of Herbert de Lernac, now under
sentence of death for the murder of a merchant named Bonvalot.
This statement may be literally translated as follows:


"It is not out of mere pride or boasting that I give this
information, for, if that were my object, I could tell a dozen
actions of mine which are quite as splendid; but I do it in order
that certain gentlemen in Paris may understand that I, who am able
here to tell about the fate of Monsieur Caratal, can also tell in
whose interest and at whose request the deed was done, unless the
reprieve which I am awaiting comes to me very quickly. Take
warning, messieurs, before it is too late! You know Herbert de
Lernac, and you are aware that his deeds are as ready as his words.
Hasten then, or you are lost!

"At present I shall mention no names--if you only heard the
names, what would you not think!--but I shall merely tell you how
cleverly I did it. I was true to my employers then, and no doubt
they will be true to me now. I hope so, and until I am convinced
that they have betrayed me, these names, which would convulse
Europe, shall not be divulged. But on that day . . . well, I say
no more!

"In a word, then, there was a famous trial in Paris, in the
year 1890, in connection with a monstrous scandal in politics and
finance. How monstrous that scandal was can never be known save by
such confidential agents as myself. The honour and careers of many
of the chief men in France were at stake. You have seen a group of
ninepins standing, all so rigid, and prim, and unbending. Then
there comes the ball from far away and pop, pop, pop--there are
your ninepins on the floor. Well, imagine some of the greatest men
in France as these ninepins and then this Monsieur Caratal was the
ball which could be seen coming from far away. If he arrived, then
it was pop, pop, pop for all of them. It was determined that he
should not arrive.

"I do not accuse them all of being conscious of what was to
happen. There were, as I have said, great financial as well as
political interests at stake, and a syndicate was formed to manage
the business. Some subscribed to the syndicate who hardly
understood what were its objects. But others understood very well,
and they can rely upon it that I have not forgotten their names.
They had ample warning that Monsieur Caratal was coming long before
he left South America, and they knew that the evidence which he
held would certainly mean ruin to all of them. The syndicate had
the command of an unlimited amount of money--absolutely
unlimited, you understand. They looked round for an agent who was
capable of wielding this gigantic power. The man chosen must be
inventive, resolute, adaptive--a man in a million. They chose
Herbert de Lernac, and I admit that they were right.

"My duties were to choose my subordinates, to use freely the
power which money gives, and to make certain that Monsieur Caratal
should never arrive in Paris. With characteristic energy I set
about my commission within an hour of receiving my instructions,
and the steps which I took were the very best for the purpose which
could possibly be devised.

"A man whom I could trust was dispatched instantly to South
America to travel home with Monsieur Caratal. Had he arrived in
time the ship would never have reached Liverpool; but alas! it had
already started before my agent could reach it. I fitted out a
small armed brig to intercept it, but again I was unfortunate.
Like all great organizers I was, however, prepared for failure, and
had a series of alternatives prepared, one or the other of which
must succeed. You must not underrate the difficulties of my
undertaking, or imagine that a mere commonplace assassination would
meet the case. We must destroy not only Monsieur Caratal, but
Monsieur Caratal's documents, and Monsieur Caratal's companions
also, if we had reason to believe that he had communicated his
secrets to them. And you must remember that they were on the
alert, and keenly suspicious of any such attempt. It was a task
which was in every way worthy of me, for I am always most masterful
where another would be appalled.

"I was all ready for Monsieur Caratal's reception in Liverpool,
and I was the more eager because I had reason to believe that he
had made arrangements by which he would have a considerable guard
from the moment that he arrived in London. Anything which was to
be done must be done between the moment of his setting foot upon
the Liverpool quay and that of his arrival at the London and West
Coast terminus in London. We prepared six plans, each more
elaborate than the last; which plan would be used would depend upon
his own movements. Do what he would, we were ready for him. If he
had stayed in Liverpool, we were ready. If he took an ordinary
train, an express, or a special, all was ready. Everything had
been foreseen and provided for.

"You may imagine that I could not do all this myself. What
could I know of the English railway lines? But money can
procure willing agents all the world over, and I soon had one of
the acutest brains in England to assist me. I will mention no
names, but it would be unjust to claim all the credit for myself.
My English ally was worthy of such an alliance. He knew the London
and West Coast line thoroughly, and he had the command of a band of
workers who were trustworthy and intelligent. The idea was his,
and my own judgement was only required in the details. We bought
over several officials, amongst whom the most important was James
McPherson, whom we had ascertained to be the guard most likely to
be employed upon a special train. Smith, the stoker, was also in
our employ. John Slater, the engine-driver, had been approached,
but had been found to be obstinate and dangerous, so we desisted.
We had no certainty that Monsieur Caratal would take a special, but
we thought it very probable, for it was of the utmost importance to
him that he should reach Paris without delay. It was for this
contingency, therefore, that we made special preparations--
preparations which were complete down to the last detail long
before his steamer had sighted the shores of England. You will be
amused to learn that there was one of my agents in the pilot-boat
which brought that steamer to its moorings.

"The moment that Caratal arrived in Liverpool we knew that he
suspected danger and was on his guard. He had brought with him as
an escort a dangerous fellow, named Gomez, a man who carried
weapons, and was prepared to use them. This fellow carried
Caratal's confidential papers for him, and was ready to protect
either them or his master. The probability was that Caratal had
taken him into his counsel, and that to remove Caratal without
removing Gomez would be a mere waste of energy. It was necessary
that they should be involved in a common fate, and our plans to
that end were much facilitated by their request for a special
train. On that special train you will understand that two out of
the three servants of the company were really in our employ, at a
price which would make them independent for a lifetime. I do not
go so far as to say that the English are more honest than any other
nation, but I have found them more expensive to buy.

"I have already spoken of my English agent--who is a man
with a considerable future before him, unless some complaint
of the throat carries him off before his time. He had charge of
all arrangements at Liverpool, whilst I was stationed at the inn at
Kenyon, where I awaited a cipher signal to act. When the special
was arranged for, my agent instantly telegraphed to me and warned
me how soon I should have everything ready. He himself under the
name of Horace Moore applied immediately for a special also, in the
hope that he would be sent down with Monsieur Caratal, which might
under certain circumstances have been helpful to us. If, for
example, our great coup had failed, it would then have become the
duty of my agent to have shot them both and destroyed their papers.
Caratal was on his guard, however, and refused to admit any other
traveller. My agent then left the station, returned by another
entrance, entered the guard's van on the side farthest from the
platform, and travelled down with McPherson the guard.

"In the meantime you will be interested to know what my
movements were. Everything had been prepared for days before, and
only the finishing touches were needed. The side line which we had
chosen had once joined the main line, but it had been disconnected.
We had only to replace a few rails to connect it once more. These
rails had been laid down as far as could be done without danger of
attracting attention, and now it was merely a case of completing a
juncture with the line, and arranging the points as they had been
before. The sleepers had never been removed, and the rails, fish-
plates and rivets were all ready, for we had taken them from a
siding on the abandoned portion of the line. With my small but
competent band of workers, we had everything ready long before the
special arrived. When it did arrive, it ran off upon the small
side line so easily that the jolting of the points appears to have
been entirely unnoticed by the two travellers.

"Our plan had been that Smith, the stoker, should chloroform
John Slater, the driver, so that he should vanish with the others.
In this respect, and in this respect only, our plans miscarried--I
except the criminal folly of McPherson in writing home to his wife.
Our stoker did his business so clumsily that Slater in his
struggles fell off the engine, and though fortune was with us so
far that he broke his neck in the fall, still he remained as a blot
upon that which would otherwise have been one of those complete
masterpieces which are only to be contemplated in silent
admiration. The criminal expert will find in John Slater the one
flaw in all our admirable combinations. A man who has had as many
triumphs as I can afford to be frank, and I therefore lay my finger
upon John Slater, and I proclaim him to be a flaw.

"But now I have got our special train upon the small line two
kilometres, or rather more than one mile, in length, which leads,
or rather used to lead, to the abandoned Heartsease mine, once one
of the largest coal mines in England. You will ask how it is that
no one saw the train upon this unused line. I answer that along
its entire length it runs through a deep cutting, and that, unless
someone had been on the edge of that cutting, he could not have
seen it. There WAS someone on the edge of that cutting. I was
there. And now I will tell you what I saw.

"My assistant had remained at the points in order that he might
superintend the switching off of the train. He had four armed men
with him, so that if the train ran off the line--we thought it
probable, because the points were very rusty--we might still have
resources to fall back upon. Having once seen it safely on the
side line, he handed over the responsibility to me. I was waiting
at a point which overlooks the mouth of the mine, and I was also
armed, as were my two companions. Come what might, you see, I was
always ready.

"The moment that the train was fairly on the side line, Smith,
the stoker, slowed-down the engine, and then, having turned it on
to the fullest speed again, he and McPherson, with my English
lieutenant, sprang off before it was too late. It may be that it
was this slowing-down which first attracted the attention of the
travellers, but the train was running at full speed again before
their heads appeared at the open window. It makes me smile to
think how bewildered they must have been. Picture to yourself your
own feelings if, on looking out of your luxurious carriage, you
suddenly perceived that the lines upon which you ran were rusted
and corroded, red and yellow with disuse and decay! What a catch
must have come in their breath as in a second it flashed upon them
that it was not Manchester but Death which was waiting for them at
the end of that sinister line. But the train was running with
frantic speed, rolling and rocking over the rotten line, while
the wheels made a frightful screaming sound upon the rusted
surface. I was close to them, and could see their faces. Caratal
was praying, I think--there was something like a rosary dangling
out of his hand. The other roared like a bull who smells the blood
of the slaughter-house. He saw us standing on the bank, and he
beckoned to us like a madman. Then he tore at his wrist and threw
his dispatch-box out of the window in our direction. Of course,
his meaning was obvious. Here was the evidence, and they would
promise to be silent if their lives were spared. It would have
been very agreeable if we could have done so, but business is
business. Besides, the train was now as much beyond our controls
as theirs.

"He ceased howling when the train rattled round the curve and
they saw the black mouth of the mine yawning before them. We had
removed the boards which had covered it, and we had cleared the
square entrance. The rails had formerly run very close to the
shaft for the convenience of loading the coal, and we had only to
add two or three lengths of rail in order to lead to the very brink
of the shaft. In fact, as the lengths would not quite fit, our
line projected about three feet over the edge. We saw the two
heads at the window: Caratal below, Gomez above; but they had both
been struck silent by what they saw. And yet they could not
withdraw their heads. The sight seemed to have paralysed them.

"I had wondered how the train running at a great speed would
take the pit into which I had guided it, and I was much interested
in watching it. One of my colleagues thought that it would
actually jump it, and indeed it was not very far from doing so.
Fortunately, however, it fell short, and the buffers of the engine
struck the other lip of the shaft with a tremendous crash. The
funnel flew off into the air. The tender, carriages, and van were
all smashed up into one jumble, which, with the remains of the
engine, choked for a minute or so the mouth of the pit. Then
something gave way in the middle, and the whole mass of green iron,
smoking coals, brass fittings, wheels, wood-work, and cushions all
crumbled together and crashed down into the mine. We heard the
rattle, rattle, rattle, as the debris struck against the walls, and
then, quite a long time afterwards, there came a deep roar as the
remains of the train struck the bottom. The boiler may have
burst, for a sharp crash came after the roar, and then a dense
cloud of steam and smoke swirled up out of the black depths,
falling in a spray as thick as rain all round us. Then the vapour
shredded off into thin wisps, which floated away in the summer
sunshine, and all was quiet again in the Heartsease mine.

"And now, having carried out our plans so successfully, it only
remained to leave no trace behind us. Our little band of workers
at the other end had already ripped up the rails and disconnected
the side line, replacing everything as it had been before. We were
equally busy at the mine. The funnel and other fragments were
thrown in, the shaft was planked over as it used to be, and the
lines which led to it were torn up and taken away. Then, without
flurry, but without delay, we all made our way out of the country,
most of us to Paris, my English colleague to Manchester, and
McPherson to Southampton, whence he emigrated to America. Let the
English papers of that date tell how throughly we had done our
work, and how completely we had thrown the cleverest of their
detectives off our track.

"You will remember that Gomez threw his bag of papers out of
the window, and I need not say that I secured that bag and brought
them to my employers. It may interest my employers now, however,
to learn that out of that bag I took one or two little papers as a
souvenir of the occasion. I have no wish to publish these papers;
but, still, it is every man for himself in this world, and what
else can I do if my friends will not come to my aid when I want
them? Messieurs, you may believe that Herbert de Lernac is quite
as formidable when he is against you as when he is with you, and
that he is not a man to go to the guillotine until he has seen that
every one of you is en route for New Caledonia. For your own
sake, if not for mine, make haste, Monsieur de----, and
General----, and Baron---- (you can fill up the blanks for
yourselves as you read this). I promise you that in the next
edition there will be no blanks to fill.

"P.S.--As I look over my statement there is only one omission
which I can see. It concerns the unfortunate man McPherson, who
was foolish enough to write to his wife and to make an appointment
with her in New York. It can be imagined that when interests like
ours were at stake, we could not leave them to the chance of
whether a man in that class of life would or would not give
away his secrets to a woman. Having once broken his oath by
writing to his wife, we could not trust him any more. We took
steps therefore to insure that he should not see his wife. I have
sometimes thought that it would be a kindness to write to her and
to assure her that there is no impediment to her marrying again."





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Previous: The Brazilian Cat



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