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Catching The Train
by [?]


Arthur Cotterill awoke. It was not exactly with a start that he awoke, but rather with a swift premonition of woe and disaster. The strong, bright glare from the patent incandescent street lamp outside, which the lavish Corporation of Bursley kept burning at the full till long after dawn in winter, illuminated the room (through the green blind) almost as well as it illuminated Trafalgar Road. He clearly distinguished every line of the form of his brother Simeon, fast and double-locked in sleep in the next bed. He saw also the open trunk by the dressing-table in front of the window. Then he looked at the clock on the mantelpiece, the silent witness of the hours. And a pair of pincers seemed to clutch his heart, and an anvil to drop on his stomach and rest heavily there, producing an awful nausea. Why had he not looked at the clock before? Was it possible that he had been awake even five seconds without looking at the clock–the clock upon which it seemed that his very life, more than his life, depended? The clock showed ten minutes to seven, and the train went at ten minutes past. And it was quite ten minutes’ walk to the station, and he had to dress, and button those new boots, and finish packing–and the porter from the station was late in coming for the trunk! But perhaps the porter had already been; perhaps he had rung and rung, and gone away in despair of making himself heard (for Mrs Hopkins slept at the back of the house).

Something had to be done. Yet what could he do with those hard pincers pinching his soft, yielding heart, and that terrible anvil pressing on his stomach? He might even now, by omitting all but the stern necessities of his toilet, and by abandoning the trunk and his brother, just catch the train, the indispensable train. But somehow he could not move. Yet he was indubitably awake.

“Simeon!” he cried at length, and sat up.

The younger Cotterill did not stir.

“Sim!” he cried again, and, leaning over, shook the bed.

“What’s up?” Simeon demanded, broad awake in a second, and, as usual, calm, imperturbable.

“We’ve missed the train! It’s ten–eight–minutes to seven,” said Arthur, in a voice which combined reproach and terror. And he sprang out of bed and began with hysteric fury to sort out his garments.

Simeon turned slowly on his side and drew a watch from under his pillow. Putting it close to his face, Simeon could just read the dial.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Still, you’d better get up. It’s eight minutes to six. We’ve got an hour and eighteen minutes.”

“What do you mean? That clock was right last night.”

“Yes. But I altered it.”


“After you got into bed.”

“I never saw you.”

“No. But I altered it.”


“To be on the safe side.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“If I’d told you, I might just as well have not altered it. The man who puts a clock on and then goes gabbling all over the house about what he has done is an ass; in fact, to call him an ass is to flatter him.”

Arthur tried to be angry.

“That’s all very well–” he began to grumble.

But he could not be angry. The pincers and the anvil had suddenly ceased their torment. He was free. He was not a disgraced man. He would catch the train easily. All would be well. All would be as the practical Simeon had arranged that it should be. And in advancing the clock Simeon had acted for the best. Of course, it was safer to be on the safe side! In an affair such as that in which he was engaged, he felt, and he honestly admitted to himself, that he would have been nowhere without Simeon.

“Light the stove first, man,” Simeon enjoined him. “There’s been a change in the weather, I bet. It’s as cold as the very deuce.”