At Dover the weather was as bad, but in a different way. Leaden clouds went scudding from horizon to horizon, accentuating the chalky whiteness of the cliffs, and reflecting their sombre hue on the gray waters. A cold, raw wind swept through the old town, lashing the sea to milk-crested waves. It was an ugly day for cross-Channel passages, but the expectant onlookers sighted the black smoke of the Calais-Douvres fully twenty minutes before she was due. The steamer’s outline grew more distinct. On she came, pitching and rolling, until knots of people could be seen on the fore-deck.
The majority of the passengers, excepting a few Frenchmen and other foreigners, were heartily glad to be at home again, after sojourns of various lengths on the Continent. Two, in particular, could scarcely restrain their impatience as they looked eagerly landward, though the social gulf that separated them was as wide as the Channel itself. On the upper deck, exposed to the buffeting of the wind, stood a short, portly gentleman in a dark-blue suit and cape-coat; he had a soldierly carriage, a ruddy complexion, and an iron-gray mustache. Sir Lucius Chesney was in robust health again, and his liver had ceased to trouble him. Norway had pulled him together, and a few months of aimless roaming on the Continent had done the rest. He was anxious to get back to Priory Court, among his pictures and hot-houses, his horses and cattle, and he intended to go there after a brief stop in London.
Down below, among the second-class passengers, Mr. Noah Hawker paced to and fro, gazing meditatively toward the Shakespeare Cliff. Mr. Hawker, to give him the name by which he was known in Scotland Yard circles, was a man of fifty, five feet nine in height, and rather stockily built. He was lantern-jawed and dark-haired, with a coarse, black mustache curled up at the ends like a pair of buffalo horns, and so strong a beard that his cheeks were the color of blue ink, though he had shaved only three hours before. His long frieze overcoat, swinging open, disclosed beneath a German-made suit of a bad cut and very loud pattern. His soft hat, crushed in, was perched to one side; a big horseshoe pin and a scarlet cravat reposed on a limited space of pink shirt-front.
There was about one chance in ten of guessing his calling. He looked equally like a successful sporting man, an ex-prize fighter, a barman, a racing tout, a book-maker, or a public house thrower-out. But the most unprejudiced observer would never have taken him for a gentleman.
It was a thrilling moment when the Calais-Douvres, slipping between the waves, ran close in to the granite pier. She accomplished the feat safely, and was quickly made fast. The gangway was thrown across, and there was a mad rush of passengers hurrying to get ashore. A babel of shouting voices broke loose: “London train ready!” “Here you are, sir!” “Luggage, sir?” “Extry! extry!”