“That is of no consequence at all, sir,” Mr. Hamilton Fynes answered. “I will leave instructions for my trunk to be sent on after me. I have all that I require, for the moment, in this suitcase.”
The captain blew his whistle. Mr. Hamilton Fynes made his way quietly to the lower deck, which was almost deserted. In a very few minutes he was joined by half a dozen sailors, dragging a rope ladder. The little tug came screaming around, and before any of the passengers on the deck above had any idea of what was happening, Mr. Hamilton Fynes was on board the Anna Maria, and on his way down the river, seated in a small, uncomfortable cabin, lit by a single oil lamp.
No one spoke more than a casual word to him from the moment he stepped to the deck until the short journey was at an end. He was shown at once into the cabin, the door of which he closed without a moment’s delay. A very brief examination of the interior convinced him that he was indeed alone. Thereupon he seated himself with his back to the wall and his face to the door, and finding an English newspaper on the table, read it until they reached the docks. Arrived there, he exchanged a civil good-night with the captain, and handed a sovereign to the seaman who held his bag while he disembarked.
For several minutes after he had stepped on to the wooden platform, Mr. Hamilton Fynes showed no particular impatience to continue his journey. He stood in the shadow of one of the sheds, looking about him with quick furtive glances, as though anxious to assure himself that there was no one around who was taking a noticeable interest in his movements. Having satisfied himself at length upon this point, he made his way to the London and North Western Railway Station, and knocked at the door of the station-master’s office. The station-master was busy, and although Mr. Hamilton Fynes had the appearance of a perfectly respectable transatlantic man of business, there was nothing about his personality remarkably striking,—nothing, at any rate, to inspire an unusual amount of respect.
“You wished to see me, sir?” the official asked, merely glancing up from the desk at which he was sitting with a pile of papers before him.
Mr. Hamilton Fynes leaned over the wooden counter which separated him from the interior of the office. Before he spoke, he glanced around as though to make sure that he had not forgotten to close the door.
“I require a special train to London as quickly as possible,” he announced. “I should be glad if you could let me have one within half an hour, at any rate.”
The station-master rose to his feet.
“Quite impossible, sir,” he declared a little brusquely. “Absolutely out of the question!”
“May I ask why it is out of the question?” Mr. Hamilton Fynes inquired.
“In the first place,” the station-master answered, “a special train to London would cost you a hundred and eighty pounds, and in the second place, even if you were willing to pay that sum, it would be at least two hours before I could start you off. We could not possibly disorganize the whole of our fast traffic. The ordinary mail train leaves here at midnight with sleeping-cars.”