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A Cold World
by [?]

Herbert is a man who knows all about railway tickets, and packing, and being in time for trains, and things like that. But I fancy I have taught him a lesson at last. He won’t talk quite so much about tickets in future.

I was just thinking about getting up when he came into my room. He looked at me in horror.

“My dear fellow!” he said. “And you haven’t even packed! You’ll be late. Here, get up, and I’ll pack for you while you dress.”

“Do,” I said briefly.

“First of all, what clothes are you going to travel in?”

There was no help for it. I sat up in bed and directed operations.

“Right,” said Herbert. “Now, what about your return ticket? You mustn’t forget that.”

“You remind me of a little story,” I said. “I’ll tell it you while you pack–that will be nice for you. Once upon a time I lost my return ticket, and I had to pay two pounds for another. And a month afterwards I met a man–a man like you who knows all about tickets–and he said, ‘You could have got the money back if you had applied at once.’ So I said, ‘Give me a cigarette now, and I’ll transfer all my rights in the business to you.’ And he gave me a cigarette; but unfortunately–“

“It was too late?”

“No. Unfortunately it wasn’t. He got the two pounds. The most expensive cigarette I’ve ever smoked.”

“Well, that just shows you,” said Herbert. “Here’s your ticket. Put it in your waistcoat pocket now.”

“But I haven’t got a waistcoat on, silly.”

“Which one are you going to put on?”

“I don’t know yet. This is a matter which requires thought. Give me time, give me air.”

“Well, I shall put the ticket here on the dressing-table, and then you can’t miss it.” He looked at his watch. “And the trap starts in half an hour.”

“Help!” I cried, and I leapt out of bed.

Half an hour later I was saying good-bye to Herbert.

“I’ve had an awfully jolly time,” I said, “and I’ll come again.”

“You’ve got the ticket all right?”

“Rather!” and I drove away amidst cheers. Cheers of sorrow.

It was half an hour’s drive to the station. For the first ten minutes I thought how sickening it was to be leaving the country; then I had a slight shock; and for the next twenty minutes I tried to remember how much a third single to the nearest part of London cost. Because I had left my ticket on the dressing-table after all.

I gave my luggage to a porter and went off to the station-master.

“I wonder if you can help me,” I said. “I’ve left my return ticket on the dress–Well, we needn’t worry about that, I’ve left it at home.”

He didn’t seem intensely excited.

“What did you think of doing?” he asked.

“I had rather hoped that YOU would do something.”

“You can buy another ticket, and get the money back afterwards.”

“Yes, yes; but can I? I’ve only got about one pound six.”

“The fare to London is one pound five and tenpence ha’penny.”

“Ah; well, that leaves a penny ha’penny to be divided between the porter this end, lunch, tea, the porter the other end, and the cab. I don’t believe it’s enough. Even if I gave it all to the porter here, think how reproachfully he would look at you ever afterwards. It would haunt you.”

The station-master was evidently moved. He thought for a moment, and then asked if I knew anybody who would vouch for me. I mentioned Herbert confidently. He had never even heard of Herbert.

“I’ve got a tie-pin,” I said (station-masters have a weakness for tie-pins), “and a watch and a cigarette case. I shall be happy to lend you any of those.”

The idea didn’t appeal to him.

“The best thing you can do,” he said, “is to take a ticket to the next station and talk to them there. This is only a branch line, and I have no power to give you a pass.”