Far away the
train whistled. The sound moved in rings through the rain falling on the dark
On hearing the
whistle, the little man standing on the railway bridge gave a quick glance into
the up-line darkness and then began to hurry downward toward the station. Above
the metal footbridge, the lights came on weak and dim as he hurried along. The
train beat him to the station; all rattle and squeak and bright playing cards
placed in line, it drew in beneath the bridge. At the end of the station the
engine lurched uneasily; then it puffed and huffed, blackened and whitened, and
eventually, after a loud release of steam, stood chained.
descended?a large, awkward man with scarred brows and a flattened nose, a boxer
with little of the boxer's grace. He was dressed in a new cheap suit and
overcoat. A black stubble of beard littered his scowling jowls. The eyes under;
the cap-visor were black and daft. In his hand he carried an old attache-case
tied with a scrap of rope. Dourly slamming the carriage door behind him, he
stood glaring up and down the platform.
A passing porter
looked at him, abandoned him as being of little interest, then, as on
remembrance, glanced at him a second time. A hackney driver, viewing with
disgust the unprofitable door handles, smiled grimly to himself at the sight of
the big fellow. Barefooted boys grabbing cylinders of magazines that came
hurtling out of the luggage van took no notice of the man standing alone. The
rain's falling was visible in the pocking of the cut limestone on the edge of
Just then the
little man hurried in by the gateway of the station. His trouser-ends were tied
over clay-daubed boots above which he wore a cast-off green Army greatcoat. A
sweat-soiled hat sat askew on his head. After a moment of hesitation, he
hurried forward to meet the swaying newcomer.
are, Paddy," the small man wheezed brightly, yet not coming too close to
the big man.
The big man did
not answer. He began to walk heavily out of the station. The little man moved
hoppingly at his side, pelting questions to which he received no reply.
"Had you a
good crossing, Paddy?" "Is it true that the Irish Sea is as wicked as
May Eve?" "There's a fair share of Irish in Birmingham, I suppose?"
"How many fights is it you've won, in all?" Finally, in a tone that
indicated that this question was closer to the bone: "How long are you away
now, Paddy? Over six year, eh?"
ahead without replying. When they had reached the first of the houses of the
country town, he. glowered over his shoulder at the humpy bridge that led over
the railway line to the open country. After a moment or two he turned his gaze
away and looked at the street that led downhill from the station.
"We'll have a
drink, Timothy," the big man said dourly.