CHAPTER I. MR. HAMILTON FYNES, URGENT
There was a little murmur of regret amongst the five hundred and eighty-seven saloon passengers on board the steamship Lusitania, mingled, perhaps, with a few expressions of a more violent character. After several hours of doubt, the final verdict had at last been pronounced. They had missed the tide, and no attempt was to be made to land passengers that night. Already the engines had ceased to throb, the period of unnatural quietness had commenced. Slowly, and without noticeable motion, the great liner swung round a little in the river.
A small tug, which had been hovering about for some time, came screaming alongside. There was a hiss from its wave-splashed deck, and a rocket with a blue light flashed up into the sky. A man who had formed one of the long line of passengers, leaning over the rail, watching the tug since it had come into sight, now turned away and walked briskly to the steps leading to the bridge. As it happened, the captain himself was in the act of descending. The passenger accosted him, and held out what seemed to be a letter.
“Captain Goodfellow,” he said, “I should be glad if you would glance at the contents of that note.”
The captain, who had just finished a long discussion with the pilot and was not in the best of humor, looked a little surprised.
“What, now?” he asked.
“If you please,” was the quiet answer. “The matter is urgent.”
“Who are you?” the captain asked.
“My name is Hamilton Fynes,” the other answered. “I am a saloon passenger on board your ship, although my name does not appear in the list. That note has been in my pocket since we left New York, to deliver to you in the event of a certain contingency happening.”
“The contingency being?” the captain asked, tearing open the envelope and moving a little nearer the electric light which shone out from the smoking room.
“That the Lusitania did not land her passengers this evening.”
The captain read the note, examined the signature carefully, and whistled softly to himself.
“You know what is inside this?” he asked, looking into his companion’s face with some curiosity.
“Certainly,” was the brief reply.
“Your name is Mr. Hamilton Fynes, the Mr. Hamilton Fynes mentioned in this letter?”
“That is so,” the passenger admitted.
The captain nodded.
“Well,” he said, “you had better get down on the lower deck, port side. By the bye, have you any friends with you?”
“I am quite alone,” he answered.
“So much the better,” the captain declared. “Don’t tell any one that you are going ashore if you can help it.”
“I certainly will not, sir,” the other answered. “Thank you very much.”
“Of course, you know that you can’t take your luggage with you?” the captain remarked.