The Grand Babylon Hotel

26. The Night Chase And The Mudlark
'I'LL board her to start with,' said Hazell, whispering to Racksole. 'I'll make out
that I suspect they've got dutiable goods on board, and that will give me a chance
to have a good look at her.'
Dressed in his official overcoat and peaked cap, he stepped, rather jauntily as
Racksole thought, on to the low deck of the launch. 'Anyone aboard?'
Racksole heard him cry out, and a woman's voice answered. 'I'm a Customs
examining officer, and I want to search the launch,' Hazell shouted, and then
disappeared down into the little saloon amidships, and Racksole heard no more.
It seemed to the millionaire that Hazell had been gone hours, but at length he
'Can't find anything,' he said, as he jumped into the boat, and then privately to
Racksole: 'There's a woman on board. Looks as if she might coincide with your
description of Miss Spencer. Steam's up, but there's no engineer. I asked where
the engineer was, and she inquired what business that was of mine, and
requested me to get through with my own business and clear off. Seems rather a
smart sort. I poked my nose into everything, but I saw no sign of any one else.
Perhaps we'd better pull away and lie near for a bit, just to see if anything queer
'You're quite sure he isn't on board?' Racksole asked.
'Quite,' said Hazell positively: 'I know how to search a vessel. See this,'
and he handed to Racksole a sort of steel skewer, about two feet long, with a
wooden handle. 'That,' he said, 'is one of the Customs' aids to searching.'
'I suppose it wouldn't do to go on board and carry off the lady?' Racksole
suggested doubtfully.
'Well,' Hazell began, with equal doubtfulness, 'as for that - '
'Where's 'e orf?' It was the man in the bows who interrupted Hazell.
Following the direction of the man's finger, both Hazell and Racksole saw with
more or less distinctness a dinghy slip away from the forefoot of the Norwegian
vessel and disappear downstream into the mist.
'It's Jules, I'll swear,' cried Racksole. 'After him, men. Ten pounds apiece if we
overtake him!'
'Lay down to it now, boys!' said Hazell, and the heavy Customs boat shot out in
'This is going to be a lark,' Racksole remarked.
'Depends on what you call a lark,' said Hazell; 'it's not much of a lark tearing
down midstream like this in a fog. You never know when you mayn't be in
kingdom come with all these barges knocking around. I expect that chap hid in
the dinghy when he first caught sight of us, and then slipped his painter as soon
as I'd gone.'
The boat was moving at a rapid pace with the tide. Steering was a matter of luck
and instinct more than anything else. Every now and then Hazell, who held the
lines, was obliged to jerk the boat's head sharply round to avoid a barge or an
anchored vessel. It seemed to Racksole that vessels were anchored all over the