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The Girl in the Train: An Agatha Christie Short Story
Агата Кристи

‘You don’t say so. I thought its name was Peter.’

‘So it is, sir. A great surprise to all of us.’

‘A case of careless christening and the deceitful sex, eh? Well, well, I shall have to go catless. Pack up those things at once, will you?’

‘Very good, sir.’

Rogers hesitated, then advanced a little farther into the room.

‘You’ll excuse the liberty, sir, but if I was you, I shouldn’t take too much notice of anything Mr Rowland said this morning. He was at one of those city dinners last night, and –’

‘Say no more,’ said George. ‘I understand.’

‘And being inclined to gout –’

‘I know, I know. Rather a strenuous evening for you, Rogers, with two of us, eh? But I’ve set my heart on distinguishing myself at Rowland’s Castle – the cradle of my historic race – that would go well in a speech, wouldn’t it? A wire to me there, or a discreet advertisement in the morning papers, will recall me at any time if a fricassée of veal is in preparation. And now – to Waterloo! – as Wellington said on the eve of the historic battle.’

Waterloo Station was not at its brightest and best that afternoon. Mr Rowland eventually discovered a train that would take him to his destination, but it was an undistinguished train, an unimposing train – a train that nobody seemed anxious to travel by. Mr Rowland had a first-class carriage to himself, up in the front of the train. A fog was descending in an indeterminate way over the metropolis, now it lifted, now it descended. The platform was deserted, and only the asthmatic breathing of the engine broke the silence.

And then, all of a sudden, things began to happen with bewildering rapidity.

A girl happened first. She wrenched open the door and jumped in, rousing Mr Rowland from something perilously near a nap, exclaiming as she did so: ‘Oh! hide me – oh! please hide me.’

George was essentially a man of action – his not to reason why, his but to do and die, etc. There is only one place to hide in a railway carriage – under the seat. In seven seconds the girl was bestowed there, and George’s suit-case, negligently standing on end, covered her retreat. None too soon. An infuriated face appeared at the carriage window.

‘My niece! You have her here. I want my niece.’

George, a little breathless, was reclining in the corner, deep in the sporting column of the evening paper, one-thirty edition. He laid it aside with the air of a man recalling himself from far away.

‘I beg your pardon, sir?’ he said politely.

‘My niece – what have you done with her?’

Acting on the policy that attack is always better than defence, George leaped into action.

‘What the devil do you mean?’ he cried, with a very creditable imitation of his own uncle’s manner.

The other paused a minute, taken aback by this sudden fierceness. He was a fat man, still panting a little as though he had run some way. His hair was cut en brosse, and he had a moustache of the Hohenzollern persuasion. His accents were decidedly guttural, and the stiffness of his carriage denoted that he was more at home in uniform than out of it. George had the true-born Briton’s prejudice against foreigners – and an especial distaste for German-looking foreigners.

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