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4:50 from Paddington – Agatha Christie

Chapter 1

Mrs. McGillicuddy panted along the platform in the wake of the porter carrying her suitcase. Mrs. McGillicuddy was short and stout, the porter was tall and free-striding. In addition, Mrs. McGillicuddy was burdened with a large quantity of parcels; the result of a day’s Christmas shopping. The race was, therefore, an uneven one, and the porter turned the corner at the end of the platform whilst Mrs. McGillicuddy was still coming up the straight.

No.1 Platform was not at the moment unduly crowded, since a train had just gone out, but in the no-man’s land beyond, a milling crowd was rushing in several directions at once, to and from undergrounds, left-luggage offices, tearooms, inquiry offices, indicator boards, and the two outlets. Arrival and Departure, to the outside world.

Mrs. McGillicuddy and her parcels were buffeted to and fro, but she arrived eventually at the entrance to No.3 platform, and deposited one parcel at her feet whilst she searched her bag for the ticket that would enable her to pass the stern uniformed guardian at the gate. At that moment, a voice, raucous yet refined, burst into speech over her head.

“The train standing at Platform 3,” the voice told her, “is the 4:50 for Brackhampton, Milchester, Waverton, Carvil Junction, Roxeter and stations to Chadmouth. Passengers for Brackhampton and Milchester travel at the rear of the train. Passengers for Vanequay change at Roxeter 5!”

The Voice shut itself off with a click, and then reopened conversation by announcing the arrival at Platform 9 of the 4:33 from Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Mrs. McGillicuddy found her ticket and presented it. The man clipped it, murmured: “On the right-rear portion.”

Mrs. McGillicuddy padded up the platform and found her porter, looking bored and staring into space, outside the door of a third-class carriage.

“Here you are, lady.”

“I’m travelling first-class,” said Mrs. McGillicuddy.

“You didn’t say so,” grumbled the porter. His eye swept her masculine-looking pepper-and-salt tweed coat disparagingly.

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