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Napoleon At Work
by [?]

“I’ve just made another discovery,” I said in a hurt voice. “There’s a map over John’s head, if he’d only had the sense to look there before. There we are,” and I pointed with my stick; “there’s Byres. The line goes round and round and eventually goes through Dearmer. We get out at Dearmer, and we’re only three miles from Brookfield.”

“What they call a loop line,” assisted John, “because it’s in the shape of a loop.”

“It’s not so bad as it might be,” admitted Beatrice grudgingly, after studying the map, “but it’s five miles home from Dearmer; and what about my trunk?”

I sighed and pulled out a pencil.

“It’s very simple. We write a telegram:–

‘Stationmaster, Brookfield. Send wagonette and trunk to wait for us at Dearmer Station.'”

“Love to mother and the children,” added John.

Our train stopped again. I summoned a porter and gave him the telegram.

“It’s so absurdly simple,” I repeated, as the train went on. “Just a little presence of mind; that’s all.”

We got out at Dearmer and gave up our tickets to the porter-station-master-signalman.

“What’s this?” he said. “These are no good to me.”

“Well, they’re no good to us. We’ve finished with them.”

We sat in the waiting-room with him for half an hour and explained the situation. We said that, highly as we thought of Dearmer, we had not wantonly tried to defraud the Company in order to get a sight of the place; and that, so far from owing him three shillings apiece, we were prepared to take a sovereign to say nothing more about it…. And still the wagonette didn’t come.

“Is there a post-office here?” I asked the man. “Or a horse?”

“There might be a horse at the ‘Lion.’ There’s no post-office.”

“Well, I suppose I could wire to Brookfield Station from here?”

“Not to Brookfield.”

“But supposing you want to tell the station-master there that the train’s off the line, or that you’ve won the first prize at the Flower Show in the vegetable class, how would you do it?”

“Brookfield’s not on this line. That’s why you’ve got to pay three shill–“

“Yes, yes. You said all that. Then I shall go and explore the village.”

I explored, as Napoleon would have done, and I came back with a plan.

“There is no horse,” I said to my eager audience; “but I have found a bicycle. The landlady of the ‘Lion’ will be delighted to look after Beatrice and the baby, and will give her tea; John will stay here with the bags in case the wagonette turns up, and I will ride to Brookfield and summon help.”

“That’s all right,” said John, “only I would suggest that I go to the ‘Lion’ and have tea, and Beatrice and the child–“

We left him in disgust at his selfishness. I established the ladies at the inn, mounted the bicycle, and rode off. It was a windy day, and I had a long coat and a bowler hat. After an extremely unpleasant two miles something drove past me. I lifted up my head and looked round. It was the wagonette.

I rode back behind it in triumph. When it turned up the road to the station, I hurried straight on to the “Lion” to prepare Beatrice. I knocked, and peered into rooms, and knocked again, and at last the landlady came.

“Er–is the lady–“

“Oh, she’s gone, sir, a long time ago. A gentleman she knew drove past, and she asked him to give her a lift home in his trap. She was going to tell the other gentleman, and he’d wait for you.”

“Oh yes. That’s all right.”

I returned my bicycle to its owner, distributed coppers to his children, and went up to the station. The porter came out to meet me. He seemed surprised.

“The gentleman thought you wouldn’t be coming back, sir, as you didn’t come with the wagonette.”

“I just went up to the ‘Lion’–“

“Yessir. Well, he drove off quarter of an hour ago; said it was no good waiting for you, as you’d ride straight ‘ome when you found at Brookfield that the wagonette ‘ad come.”