Mr Harris liked trains. He was afraid of aeroplanes, and didn’t like buses. But trains – they were big and noisy and exciting. When he was a boy of ten, he liked trains. Now he was a man of fifty, and he still liked trains.
So he was a happy man on the night of the 14th of September. He was on the night train from Helsinki to
Oulu in Finland, and he had ten hours in front of him.
‘I’ve got a book and my newspaper,’ he thought. ‘And there’s a good restaurant on the train. And then I’ve got two weeks’ holiday with my Finnish friends in Oulu.’
There weren’t many people on the train, and nobody came into Mr Harris’s carriage. He was happy about that. Most people on the train slept through the night, but Mr Harris liked to look out of the window, and to read and think.
After dinner in the restaurant Mr Harris came back to his carriage, and sat in his seat next to the window. For an hour or
two he watched the trees and lakes of Finland out of the window. Then it began to get dark, so he opened his book and began to read.
At midnight the train stopped at the small station of Otava. Mr Harris looked out of the window, but he saw nobody. The train moved away from the station, into the black night again. Then the door of Mr Harris’s carriage opened, and two people came in. A young man and a young woman.
The young woman was angry. She closed the door and shouted at the man: ‘Carl! You can’t do this to me!’ The young man laughed loudly and sat down.
Mr Harris was a small, quiet man. He wore quiet clothes, and he had a quiet voice. He did not like noisy people and loud voices. So he was not pleased. ‘Young people are always noisy,’ he thought. ‘Why can’t they talk quietly?’
He put his book down and closed his eyes. But he could not sleep because the two young people didn’t stop talking.
The young woman sat down and said in a quieter voice: ‘Carl, you’re my brother and I love you, but please listen to me. You can’t take my diamond necklace. Give it back to me now. Please!’
Carl smiled. ‘No, Elena,’ he said. ‘I’m going back to Russia soon, and I’m taking your diamonds with me.’ He took off his hat and put it on the seat. ‘Elena, listen. You have a rich husband, but I – I have no money. I have nothing! How can I live without money? You can’t give me money, so I need your diamonds, little sister.’
Mr Harris looked at the young woman. She was small, with black hair and dark eyes. Her face was white and afraid. Mr Harris began to feel sorry for Elena. She and her brother didn’t look at him once. ‘Can’t they see me?’ he thought.
‘Carl,’ Elena said. Her voice was very quiet now, and Mr Harris listened carefully. ‘You came to dinner at our house tonight, and you went to my room and took my diamond necklace. How could you do that to me? My husband gave the diamonds to me. They were his mother’s diamonds before that. He’s going to be very, very angry – and I’m afraid of him.’
Her brother laughed. He put his hand in his pocket, then took it out again and opened it slowly. The diamond necklace in his hand was very beautiful. Mr Harris stared at it. For a minute or two nobody moved and it was quiet in the carriage. There was only the noise of the train, and it went quickly on through the dark cold night.
Mr Harris opened his book again, but he didn’t read it. He watched Carl’s face, with its hungry eyes and its cold smile.
‘What beautiful, beautiful diamonds!’ Carl said. ‘I can get a lot of money for these.’
‘Give them back to me, Carl,’ Elena whispered, ‘My husband’s going to kill me. You’re my brother. . . Please help me. Please!’