The Rome Express

Arthur Griffiths
The Rome Express

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Title: The Rome Express
Author: Arthur Griffiths
Release Date: March 5, 2004 [EBook #11451]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Ted Garvin and PG Distributed

[Illustration: "M. Floçon interposed with uplifted hand."]
By Arthur Griffiths

With a frontispiece in colours By Arthur O. Scott
The Rome Express, the direttissimo, or most direct, was approaching
Paris one morning in March, when it became known to the occupants
of the sleeping-car that there was something amiss, very much amiss, in
the car.
The train was travelling the last stage, between Laroche and Paris, a run
of a hundred miles without a stop. It had halted at Laroche for early
breakfast, and many, if not all the passengers, had turned out. Of those
in the sleeping-car, seven in number, six had been seen in the restaurant,
or about the platform; the seventh, a lady, had not stirred. All had
reëntered their berths to sleep or doze when the train went on, but
several were on the move as it neared Paris, taking their turn at the
lavatory, calling for water, towels, making the usual stir of preparation
as the end of a journey was at hand.
There were many calls for the porter, yet no porter appeared. At last the
attendant was found--lazy villain!--asleep, snoring loudly, stertorously,
in his little bunk at the end of the car. He was roused with difficulty,
and set about his work in a dull, unwilling, lethargic way, which
promised badly for his tips from those he was supposed to serve.
By degrees all the passengers got dressed, all but two,--the lady in 9
and 10, who had made no sign as yet; and the man who occupied alone
a double berth next her, numbered 7 and 8.
As it was the porter's duty to call every one, and as he was anxious, like
the rest of his class, to get rid of his travellers as soon as possible after
arrival, he rapped at each of the two closed doors behind which people
presumably still slept.

The lady cried "All right," but there was no answer from No. 7 and 8.
Again and again the porter knocked and called loudly. Still meeting
with no response, he opened the door of the compartment and went in.
It was now broad daylight. No blind was down; indeed, the one narrow
window was open, wide; and the whole of the interior of the
compartment was plainly visible, all and everything in it.
The occupant lay on his bed motionless. Sound asleep? No, not merely
asleep--the twisted unnatural lie of the limbs, the contorted legs, the
one arm drooping listlessly but stiffly over the side of the berth, told of
a deeper, more eternal sleep.
The man was dead. Dead--and not from natural causes.
One glance at the blood-stained bedclothes, one look at the gaping
wound in the breast, at the battered, mangled face, told the terrible
It was murder! murder most foul! The victim had been stabbed to the
With a wild, affrighted, cry the porter rushed out of the compartment,
and to the eager questioning of all who crowded round him, he could
only mutter in confused and trembling accents:
"There! there! in there!"
Thus the fact of the murder became known to every one by personal
inspection, for every one (even the lady had appeared for just a moment)
had looked in where the body lay. The compartment was filled for
some ten minutes or more by an excited, gesticulating, polyglot mob of
half a dozen, all talking at once in French, English, and Italian.
The first attempt to restore order was made by a tall man, middle-aged,
but erect in his bearing, with bright eyes and alert manner, who took
the porter aside, and said sharply in good French, but with a strong

English accent:
"Here! it's your business to do something. No one has any right to be in
that compartment now. There may be reasons--traces--things to remove;
never mind what. But get them all out. Be sharp about it; and lock the
door. Remember you will be held responsible to justice."
The porter shuddered, so did many of the passengers who had
overheard the Englishman's last words.
Justice! It is not to be trifled with anywhere, least of all in France,
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