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It Could Happen Again To-Morrow
by [?]

“Sorry, ma’am,” said the Pullman conductor, “but there’s not a bit of space left in the chair car, nor the sleeper neither.”

“I’m sorry too,” said the young woman in the tan-colored tailor-mades. She was smartly hatted and smartly spatted; smart all over from toque-tip to toe-tip. “I didn’t know until almost the last minute that I’d have to catch this train, and trusted to chance for a seat.”

“Yes’m, I see,” commiserated the man in blue. “But you know what the rush is this time of year, and right now on top of all that so many of the soldiers getting home from the other side and their folks coming East to meet ’em and everything. I guess though, miss, you won’t have much trouble getting accommodated in one of the day coaches.”

“I’ll try it,” she said, “and thank you all the same.”

She picked up her hand bag.

“Wait a minute,” he suggested. “I’ll have my porter carry your valise on up to the other cars.”

Men of all stations in life were rather given to offering help to Miss Mildred Smith, the distinguished interior decorator and–on the side–amateur investigator for Uncle Sam with a wartime record for services rendered which many a professional might have envied. Perhaps they were the more ready to offer it since the young woman seemed so rarely to need it.

This man’s reward was a brisk little nod.

“Please don’t bother,” she said. “This bag isn’t at all heavy, and I’m used to traveling alone and looking out for myself.” She footed it briskly along the platform of the Dobb’s Ferry station. At the door of the third coach back from the baggage car a flagman stopped her.

“All full up in here, lady,” he told her, “but I think maybe you might find some place to sit in the next car beyond. If you’ll just leave your grip here I’ll bring it along to you after we pull out.”

As she reached the door of the coach ahead the train began to move. This coach was comfortably filled–and more than comfortably filled. Into the aisles projected elbows and feet and at either side doubled rows of backs of heads showed above the red plush seats. She shrugged her shoulders; it meant standing for a while at least; probably someone would be getting off soon–this train was a local, making frequent stops. It was not the train she would have chosen had the choosing been left altogether to her, but Mullinix of the Secret Service, her unofficial chief, had called her away from a furnishing and finishing contract at a millionaire’s mansion in the country back of Dobb’s Ferry to run up state to Troy, where there had arisen a situation which in the opinion of the espionage squad a woman was best fitted to handle, provided only that woman be Miss Mildred Smith. And so on an hour’s notice she had dropped her own work and started.

Now, though, near the more distant end of the car she saw a break in one line of heads. Perhaps the gap might mean there would be room for her. She made her way toward the spot, her trim small figure swaying to the motion as the locomotive picked up speed. Drawing nearer, she saw the back of one seat had been turned so that its occupants faced rearward toward her. In this seat, the one farther from her as she went up the aisle, were a man and a woman; in the nearer seat, facing this pair and sitting next the window, was a second woman–a girl rather–all three of them, she deduced from the seating arrangement, being members of the same party. A suitcase rested upon the cushions alongside the younger woman.

“I beg your pardon,” said the lone passenger, halting here, “but is this place taken?”

The man’s face twisted as though in annoyance. He made an undecided gesture which might be interpreted either as an affirmative or the other thing. “I’m sorry if I am disturbing you,” added Miss Smith, “but the car is crowded–every inch of it except this seems to be occupied.”