Early the next day we were on our way to England, Simon and I taking turns in watching the wily Egyptian.
THE SECOND CHRISTMAS EVE
The skies were clear when we left Turin, and the air pure and free. We had not got far into France, however, when we found everything changed. It was snow—snow everywhere. On ordinary occasions I should not have minded much, but now everything depended on my getting to London at a certain hour. How slowly the train seemed to creep, to be sure; and how long we stopped at the little roadside stations!
Simon did his best to cheer me, while Kaffar furtively watched us both, as if in fear. I was silent and fearful, for I felt sure the Egyptian meditated escape. The laughter of the light-hearted French people, who were preparing for Christmas festivities, grated on my ears; for, although I had succeeded almost beyond my hopes, a great fear rested upon me that I should fail even yet. Especially was this realized when I knew that our train was hours late, and I knew that did we not arrive in Paris at something like reasonable time, we should miss the express trains for England.
When we got to the French metropolis we were nearly five hours late. It was not to be wondered at, for the snow fell in blinding drifts, until, in some cases, the railways were completely blocked. The wonder was how we got to Paris so soon, when we considered what had to be contended with.
Anxiously I inquired after trains by which I could catch the boats for England, but the replies were vague. First, it was now Christmas Eve, which at all times caused the general traffic to be delayed; and, second, the weather was so bad that to state times of arrival was impossible.
It was now Wednesday morning, and I started from Paris with sixteen hours before me in which to get to London. Ordinarily I should have had time enough and to spare, but everything was delayed and confused. I had thought of going back by Dieppe and Newhaven; but a storm was blowing, and I knew that meant a longer sea-passage, so I went to Calais, thus riding through one of the most uninteresting parts of France. It was five o’clock on Christmas Eve when we arrived at this little French seaport, and then it took us two hours to cross the straits, although we happened to be on one of the fast-sailing steamers. We had now five hours to get to Kensington. I was getting terribly anxious now. If there should be a breakdown, or if anything should happen to hinder us! We were so near, and yet so far. Once I thought of telegraphing and telling of my success, but I refrained from that. I wanted to tell of my victory in person, and thus, if needs be, destroy Voltaire’s last hope.
The usual time for an express train to run from Dover to Victoria is about two hours; but it was Christmas Eve, special trains were running, and passengers crowded on every hand, thus we were more than three hours in accomplishing the journey. The train swept into Victoria at a quarter-past ten. There was one hour and three-quarters to go to Kensington.