Infomotions, Inc.Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo / Le Queux, William, 1864-1927



Author: Le Queux, William, 1864-1927
Title: Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): henfrey; dorise; hugh; ranscomb; benton; lady ranscomb; mademoiselle; monte carlo; sparrow; hugh henfrey; villa amette; police; yvonne ferad; young henfrey; louise lambert; george sherrard; mademoiselle yvonne; dorise ranscomb
Contributor(s): Wieland, Christoph Martin, 1733-1813 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 82,736 words (short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext4694
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Title: Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo

Author: William Le Queux

Release Date: April 13, 2006 [EBook #4694]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MADEMOISELLE OF MONTE CARLO ***




Produced by Dagny; John Bickers





MADEMOISELLE OF MONTE CARLO

By William Le Queux

1921




MADEMOISELLE OF MONTE CARLO





FIRST CHAPTER

THE SUICIDE'S CHAIR

"Yes! I'm not mistaken at all! _It's the same woman!_" whispered the
tall, good-looking young Englishman in a well-cut navy suit as he stood
with his friend, a man some ten years older than himself, at one of the
roulette tables at Monte Carlo, the first on the right on entering the
room--that one known to habitual gamblers as "The Suicide's Table."

"Are you quite certain?" asked his friend.

"Positive. I should know her again anywhere."

"She's very handsome. And look, too, by Jove!--how she is winning!"

"Yes. But let's get away. She might recognize me," exclaimed the younger
man anxiously. "Ah! If I could only induce her to disclose what she
knows about my poor father's mysterious end then we might clear up the
mystery."

"I'm afraid, if all we hear is true about her, Mademoiselle of Monte
Carlo will never do that," was the other's reply as they moved away
together down the long saloon towards the trente-et-quarante room.

"_Messieurs! Faites vos jeux_," the croupiers were crying in their
strident, monotonous voices, inviting players to stake their counters
of cent-sous, their louis, or their hundred or five hundred franc notes
upon the spin of the red and black wheel. It was the month of March, the
height of the Riviera season, the fetes of Mi-Careme were in full swing.
That afternoon the rooms were overcrowded, and the tense atmosphere of
gambling was laden with the combined odours of perspiration and perfume.

Around each table were crowds four or five deep behind those fortunate
enough to obtain seats, all eager and anxious to try their fortune upon
the rouge or noir, or upon one of the thirty-six numbers, the columns,
or the transversales. There was but little chatter. The hundreds of
well-dressed idlers escaping the winter were too intent upon the game.
But above the click of the plaques, blue and red of different sizes,
as they were raked into the bank by the croupiers, and the clatter of
counters as the lucky players were paid with deft hands, there rose ever
and anon:

"_Messieurs! Faites vos jeux!_"

Here English duchesses rubbed shoulders with the most notorious women in
Europe, and men who at home in England were good churchmen and exemplary
fathers of families, laughed merrily with the most gorgeously attired
cocottes from Paris, or the stars of the film world or the variety
stage. Upon that wide polished floor of the splendidly decorated Rooms,
with their beautiful mural paintings and heavy gilt ornamentation, the
world and the half-world were upon equal footing.

Into that stifling atmosphere--for the Administration of the Bains de
Mer of Monaco seem as afraid of fresh air as of purity propaganda--the
glorious afternoon sunlight struggled through the curtained windows,
while over each table, in addition to the electric light, oil-lamps
shaded green with a billiard-table effect cast a dull, ghastly
illumination upon the eager countenances of the players. Most of those
who go to Monte Carlo wonder at the antiquated mode of illumination.
It is, however, in consequence of an attempted raid upon the tables one
night, when some adventurers cut the electric-light main, and in the
darkness grabbed all they could get from the bank.

The two English visitors, both men of refinement and culture, who had
watched the tall, very handsome woman in black, to whom the older
man had referred as Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, wandered through
the trente-et-quarante rooms where all was silence, and counters,
representing gold, were being staked with a twelve-thousand franc
maximum.

Those rooms beyond are the haunt of the professional gambler, the man
or woman who has been seized by the demon of speculation, just as others
have been seized by that of drugs or drink. Curiously enough women
are more prone to gamble than men, and the Administration of the
Etablissement will tell you that when a woman of any nationality starts
to gamble she will become reckless until her last throw with the devil.

Those who know Monte Carlo, those who have been habitues for twenty
years--as the present writer has been--know too well, and have seen
too often, the deadly influence of the tables upon the lighter side of
woman's nature. The smart woman from Paris, Vienna, or Rome never loses
her head. She gambles always discreetly. The fashionable cocottes seldom
lose much. They gamble at the tables discreetly and make eyes at men if
they win, or if they lose. If the latter they generally obtain a "loan"
from somebody. What matter? When one is at "Monty" one is not in a
Wesleyan chapel. English men and women when they go to the Riviera leave
their morals at home with their silk hats and Sunday gowns. And it is
strange to see the perfectly respectable Englishwoman admiring the same
daring costumes of the French pseudo-"countesses" at which they have
held up their hands in horror when they have seen them pictured in the
papers wearing those latest "creations" of the Place Vendome.

Yes. It is a hypocritical world, and nowhere is canting hypocrisy more
apparent than inside the Casino at Monte Carlo.

While the two Englishmen were strolling over the polished parquet of the
elegant world-famous _salles-de-jeu_ "Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo" was
experiencing quite an extraordinary run of luck.

But "Mademoiselle," as the croupiers always called her, was usually
lucky. She was an experienced, and therefore a careful player. When she
staked a maximum it was not without very careful calculation upon the
chances. Mademoiselle was well known to the Administration. Often her
winnings were sensational, hence she served as an advertisement to the
Casino, for her success always induced the uninitiated and unwary to
stake heavily, and usually with disastrous results.

The green-covered gaming table, at which she was sitting next to the end
croupier on the left-hand side, was crowded. She sat in what is known at
Monte as "the Suicide's Chair," for during the past eight years ten men
and women had sat in that fatal chair and had afterwards ended their
lives abruptly, and been buried in secret in the Suicide's Cemetery.

The croupiers at that table are ever watchful of the visitor who, all
unawares, occupies that fatal chair. But Mademoiselle, who knew of it,
always laughed the superstition to scorn. She habitually sat in that
chair--and won.

Indeed, that afternoon she was winning--and very considerably too. She
had won four maximums _en plein_ within the last half-hour, and the
crowd around the table noting her good fortune were now following her.

It was easy for any novice in the Rooms to see that the handsome,
dark-eyed woman was a practised player. Time after time she let the
coups pass. The croupiers' invitation to play did not interest her. She
simply toyed with her big gold-chain purse, or fingered her dozen piles
or so of plaques in a manner quite disinterested.

She heard the croupier announce the winning number and saw the rakes at
work dragging in the stakes to swell the bank. But she only smiled, and
now and then shrugged her shoulders.

Whether she won or lost, or whether she did not risk a stake, she simply
smiled and elevated her shoulders, muttering something to herself.

Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo was, truth to tell, a sphinx to the staff
of the Casino. She looked about thirty, but probably she was older.
For five years she had been there each season and gambled heavily with
unvarying success. Always well but quietly dressed, her nationality
was as obscure as her past. To the staff she was always polite, and she
pressed hundred-franc notes into many a palm in the Rooms. But who she
was or what were her antecedents nobody in the Principality of Monaco
could ever tell.

The whole Cote d'Azur from Hyeres to Ventimiglia knew of her. She was
one of the famous characters of Monte Carlo, just as famous, indeed, as
old Mr. Drewett, the Englishman who lost his big fortune at the tables,
and who was pensioned off by the Administration on condition that he
never gamble at the Casino again. For fifteen years he lived in Nice
upon the meagre pittance until suddenly another fortune was left him,
whereupon he promptly paid up the whole of his pension and started at
the tables again. In a month, however, he had lost his second
fortune. Such is gambling in the little country ruled over by Prince
Rouge-et-Noir.

As the two Englishmen slipped past the end table unseen on their way out
into the big atrium with its many columns--the hall in which players
go out to cool themselves, or collect their determination for a final
flutter--Mademoiselle had just won the maximum upon the number four, as
well as the column, and the croupier was in the act of pushing towards
her a big pile of counters each representing a thousand francs.

The eager excited throng around the table looked across at her with
envy. But her handsome countenance was quite expressionless. She simply
thrust the counters into the big gold-chain purse at her side, glanced
at the white-gloved fingers which were soiled by handling the counters,
and then counting out twenty-five, each representing a louis, gave them
to the croupier, exclaiming:

"_Zero-trois!_"

Next moment a dozen persons followed her play, staking their cent-sous
and louis upon the spot where she had asked the croupier at the end of
the table to place her stake.

"_Messieurs! Faites vos jeux!_" came the strident cry again.

Then a few seconds later the croupier cried:

"_Rien ne vas plus!_"

The red and black wheel was already spinning, and the little ivory
ball sent by the croupier's hand in the opposite direction was clicking
quickly over the numbered spaces.

Six hundred or more eyes of men and women, fevered by the gambling
mania, watched the result. Slowly it lost its impetus, and after
spinning about unevenly it made a final jump and fell with a loud click.

"_Zer-r-o!_" cried the croupier.

And a moment later Mademoiselle had pushed before her at the end of
the croupier's rake another pile of counters, while all those who had
followed the remarkable woman's play were also paid.

"Mademoiselle is in good form to-day," remarked one ugly old Frenchwoman
who had been a well-known figure at the tables for the past ten years,
and who played carefully and lived by gambling. She was one of those
queer, mysterious old creatures who enter the Rooms each morning as soon
as they are open, secure the best seats, occupy them all the luncheon
hour pretending to play, and then sell them to wealthy gamblers for a
consideration--two or three louis--perhaps--and then at once go to their
ease in their own obscure abode.

The public who go to Monte know little of its strange mysteries, or of
the odd people who pick up livings there in all sorts of queer ways.

"Ah!" exclaimed a man who overheard her. "Mademoiselle has wonderful
luck! She won seventy-five thousand francs at the _Cercle Prive_ last
night. She won _en plein_ five times running. _Dieu!_ Such luck! And it
never causes her the slightest excitement."

"The lady must be very rich!" remarked an American woman sitting next to
the old Frenchwoman, and who knew French well.

"Rich! Of course! She must have won several million francs from the
Administration. They don't like to see her here. But I suppose her
success attracts others to play. The gambling fever is as infectious
as the influenza," declared the old Frenchwoman. "Everyone tries to
discover who she is, and where she came from five years ago. But nobody
has yet found out. Even Monsieur Bernard, the chief of the Surveillance,
does not know," she went on in a whisper. "He is a friend of mine, and I
asked him one day. She came from Paris, he told me. She may be American,
she may be Belgian, or she may be English. She speaks English and French
so well that nobody can tell her true nationality."

"And she makes money at the tables," said the American woman in the
well-cut coat and skirt and small hat. She came from Chelsea, Mass., and
it was her first visit to what her pious father had always referred to
as the plague spot of Europe.

"Money!" exclaimed the old woman. "Money! _Dieu!_ She has losses, it is
true, but oh!--what she wins! I only wish I had ten per cent of it. I
should then be rich. Mine is a poor game, madame--waiting for someone to
buy my seat instead of standing the whole afternoon. You see, there is
only one row of chairs all around. So if a smart woman wants to play,
some man always buys her a chair--and that is how I live. Ah! madame,
life is a great game here in the Principality."

Meanwhile young Hugh Henfrey, who had travelled from London to the
Riviera and identified the mysterious mademoiselle, had passed with
his friend, Walter Brock, through the atrium and out into the afternoon
sunshine.

As they turned upon the broad gravelled terrace in front of the great
white facade of the Casino amid the palms, the giant geraniums and
mimosa, the sapphire Mediterranean stretched before them. Below, beyond
the railway line which is the one blemish to the picturesque scene,
out upon the point in the sea the constant pop-pop showed that the
tir-aux-pigeons was in progress; while up and down the terrace, enjoying
the quiet silence of the warm winter sunshine with the blue hills of
the Italian coast to the left, strolled a gay, irresponsible crowd--the
cosmopolitans of the world: politicians, financiers, merchants, princes,
authors, and artists--the crowd which puts off its morals as easily as
it discards its fur coats and its silk hats, and which lives only for
gaiety and without thought of the morrow.

"Let's sit down," suggested Hugh wearily. "I'm sure that she's the same
woman--absolutely certain!"

"You are quite confident you have made no mistake--eh?"

"Quite, my dear Walter. I'd know that woman among ten thousand. I only
know that her surname is Ferad. Her Christian name I do not know."

"And you suspect that she knows the secret of your father's death?"

"I'm confident that she does," replied the good-looking young
Englishman. "But it is a secret she will, I fear, never reveal,
unless--unless I compel her."

"And how can you compel her?" asked the elder of the two men, whose dark
hair was slightly tinged with grey. "It is difficult to compel a woman
to do anything," he added.

"I mean to know the truth!" cried Hugh Henfrey fiercely, a look of
determination in his eyes. "That woman knows the true story of my
father's death, and I'll make her reveal it. By gad--I will! I mean it!"

"Don't be rash, Hugh," urged the other.

"Rash!" he cried. "It's true that when my father died so suddenly I had
an amazing surprise. My father was a very curious man. I always thought
him to be on the verge of bankruptcy and that the Manor and the land
might be sold up any day. When old Charman, the solicitor, read the
will, I found that my father had a quarter of a million lying at the
bank, and that he had left it all to me--provided I married Louise!"

"Well, why not marry her?" queried Brock lazily. "You're always so
mysterious, my dear Hugh."

"Why!--because I love Dorise Ranscomb. But Louise interests me, and I'm
worried on her account because of that infernal fellow Charles
Benton. Louise poses as his adopted daughter. Benton is a bachelor of
forty-five, and, according to his story, he adopted Louise when she was
a child and put her to school. Her parentage is a mystery. After leaving
school she at first went to live with a Mrs. Sheldon, a young widow, in
an expensive suite in Queen Anne's Mansions, Westminster. After that she
has travelled about with friends and has, I believe, been abroad quite
a lot. I've nothing against Louise, except--well, except for the
strange uncanny influence which that man Benton has over her. I hate the
fellow!"

"I see! And as you cannot yet reach Woodthorpe and your father's
fortune, except by marrying Louise--which you don't intend to do--what
are you going to do now?"

"First, I intend that this woman they call 'Mademoiselle of Monte
Carlo,' the lucky woman who is a decoy of the Administration of the
Bains de Mer, shall tell me the true circumstance of my father's death.
If I know them--then my hand will be strengthened."

"Meanwhile you love Lady Ranscomb's daughter, you say?"

"Yes. I love Dorise with all my heart. She, of course, knows nothing of
the conditions of the will."

There was a silence of some moments, interrupted only by the pop-pop of
the pigeon-shots below.

Away across the white balustrade of the broad magnificent terrace the
calm sapphire sea was deepening as the winter afternoon drew in. An
engine whistled--that of the flower train which daily travels express
from Cannes to Boulogne faster than the passenger train-deluxe, and
bearing mimosa, carnations, and violets from the Cote d'Azur to Covent
Garden, and to the florists' shops in England.

"You've never told me the exact circumstances of your father's death,
Hugh," remarked Brock at last.

"Exact circumstances? Ah! That's what I want to know. Only that woman
knows the secret," answered the young man. "All I know is that the
poor old guv'-nor was called up to London by an urgent letter. We had
a shooting party at Woodthorpe and he left me in charge, saying that he
had some business in London and might return on the following night--or
he might be away a week. Days passed and he did not return. Several
letters came for him which I kept in the library. I was surprised that
he neither wrote nor returned, when, suddenly, ten days later, we had a
telegram from the London police informing me that my father was lying in
St. George's Hospital. I dashed up to town, but when I arrived I found
him dead. At the inquest, evidence was given to show that at half-past
two in the morning a constable going along Albemarle Street found him in
evening dress lying huddled up in a doorway. Thinking him intoxicated,
he tried to rouse him, but could not. A doctor who was called pronounced
that he was suffering from some sort of poisoning. He was taken to
St. George's Hospital in an ambulance, but he never recovered. The
post-mortem investigation showed a small scratch on the palm of the
hand. That scratch had been produced by a pin or a needle which had
been infected by one of the newly discovered poisons which, administered
secretly, give a post-mortem appearance of death from heart disease."

"Then your father was murdered--eh?" exclaimed the elder man.

"Most certainly he was. And that woman is aware of the whole
circumstances and of the identity of the assassin."

"How do you know that?"

"By a letter I afterwards opened--one that had been addressed to him at
Woodthorpe in his absence. It was anonymous, written in bad English,
in an illiterate hand, warning him to 'beware of that woman you
know--Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo.' It bore the French stamp and the
postmark of Tours."

"I never knew all this," Brock said. "You are quite right, Hugh! The
whole affair is a tangled mystery. But the first point we must establish
before we commence to investigate is--who is Mademoiselle of Monte
Carlo?"




SECOND CHAPTER

CONCERNS A GUILTY SECRET

Just after seven o'clock that same evening young Henfrey and his friend
Brock met in the small lounge of the Hotel des Palmiers, a rather
obscure little establishment in the Avenue de la Costa, behind the
Gardens, much frequented by the habitues of the Rooms who know Monte
Carlo and prefer the little place to life at the Paris, the Hermitage,
and the Riviera Palace, or the Gallia, up at Beausoleil.

The Palmiers was a place where one met a merry cosmopolitan crowd, but
where the cocotte in her bright plumage was absent--an advantage which
only the male habitue of Monte Carlo can fully realize. The eternal
feminine is always so very much in evidence around the Casino, and the
most smartly dressed woman whom one might easily take for the wife of an
eminent politician or financier will deplore her bad luck and beg for "a
little loan."

"Well," said Hugh as his friend came down from his room to the lounge,
"I suppose we ought to be going--eh? Dorise said half-past seven, and
we'll just get across to the Metropole in time. Lady Ranscomb is always
awfully punctual at home, and I expect she carries out her time-table
here."

The two men put on light overcoats over their dinner-jackets and
strolled in the warm dusk across the Gardens and up the Galerie, with
its expensive little shops, past the original Ciro's to the Metropole.

In the big hall they were greeted by a well-preserved, grey-haired
Englishwoman, Lady Ranscomb, the widow of old Sir Richard Ranscomb, who
had been one of the greatest engineers and contractors of modern times.
He had begun life as a small jerry-builder at Golder's Green, and had
ended it a millionaire and a knight. Lady Ranscomb was seated at a
little wicker table with her daughter Dorise, a dainty, fair-haired girl
with intense blue eyes, who was wearing a rather daring jazzing gown of
pale-blue, the scantiness of which a year or two before would have been
voted quite beyond the pale for a lady, and yet in our broad-minded
to-day, the day of undressing on the stage and in the home, it was
nothing more than "smart."

Mother and daughter greeted the two men enthusiastically, and at Lady
Ranscomb's orders the waiter brought them small glasses of an aperitif.

"We've been all day motoring up to the Col di Tenda. Sospel is lovely!"
declared Dorise's mother. "Have you ever been there?" she asked of
Brock, who was an habitue of the Riviera.

"Once and only once. I motored from Nice across to Turin," was his
reply. "Yes. It is truly a lovely run there. The Alps are gorgeous. I
like San Dalmazzo and the chestnut groves there," he added. "But the
frontiers are annoying. All those restrictions. Nevertheless, the run to
Turin is one of the finest I know."

Presently they rose, and all four walked into the crowded
_salle-a-manger_, where the chatter was in every European language, and
the gay crowd were gossiping mostly of their luck or their bad fortune
at the _tapis vert_. At Monte Carlo the talk is always of the run of
sequences, the many times the zero-trois has turned up, and of how
little one ever wins _en plein_ on thirty-six.

To those who visit "Charley's Mount" for the first time all this is as
Yiddish, but soon he or she, when initiated into the games of roulette
and trente-et-quarante, quickly gets bitten by the fever and enters into
the spirit of the discussions. They produce their "records"--printed
cards in red and black numbers with which they have carefully pricked
off the winning numbers with a pin as they have turned up.

The quartette enjoyed a costly but exquisite dinner, chatting and
laughing the while.

Both men were friends of Lady Ranscomb and frequent visitors to her fine
house in Mount Street. Hugh's father, a country landowner, had known Sir
Richard for many years, while Walter Brock had made the acquaintance of
Lady Ranscomb a couple of years ago in connexion with some charity in
which she had been interested.

Both were also good friends of Dorise. Both were excellent dancers, and
Lady Ranscomb often allowed them to take her daughter to the Grafton,
Ciro's, or the Embassy. Lady Ranscomb was Hugh's old friend, and he
and Dorise having been thrown together a good deal ever since the girl
returned from Versailles after finishing her education, it was hardly
surprising that the pair should have fallen in love with each other.

As they sat opposite each other that night, the young fellow gazed into
her wonderful blue eyes, yet, alas! with a sinking heart. How could they
ever marry?

He had about six hundred a year--only just sufficient to live upon
in these days. His father had never put him to anything since he left
Brasenose, and now on his death he had found that, in order to recover
the estate, it was necessary for him to marry Louise Lambert, a girl for
whom he had never had a spark of affection. Louise was good-looking,
it was true, but could he sacrifice his happiness; could he ever cut
himself adrift from Dorise for mercenary motives--in order to get back
what was surely by right his inheritance?

Yet, after all, as he again met Dorise's calm, wide-open eyes, the grim
truth arose in his mind, as it ever did, that Lady Ranscomb, even though
she had been so kind to him, would never allow her only daughter to
marry a man who was not rich. Had not Dorise told him of the sly hints
her mother had recently given her regarding a certain very wealthy man
named George Sherrard, an eligible bachelor who lived in one of the most
expensive flats in Park Lane, and who was being generally sought after
by mothers with marriageable daughters. In many cases mothers--and
especially young, good-looking widows with daughters "on their
hands"--are too prone to try and get rid of them "because my daughter
makes me look so old," as they whisper to their intimates of their own
age.

After dinner all four strolled across to the Casino, presenting their
yellow cards of admission--the monthly cards granted to those who are
approved by the smug-looking, black-coated committee of inspection, who
judge by one's appearance whether one had money to lose.

Dorise soon detached herself from her mother and strolled up the Rooms
with Hugh, Lady Ranscomb and Brock following.

None of them intended to play, but they were strolling prior to going to
the opera which was beneath the same roof, and for which Lady Ranscomb
had tickets.

Suddenly Dorise exclaimed:

"Look over there--at that table in the corner. There's that remarkable
woman they call 'Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo'!"

Hugh started, and glancing in the direction she indicated saw
the handsome woman seated at the table staking her counters quite
unconcernedly and entirely absorbed in the game. She was wearing a dead
black dress cut slightly low in the neck, but half-bare shoulders, with
a string of magnificent Chinese jade beads of that pale apple green so
prized by connoisseurs.

Her eyes were fixed upon the revolving wheel, for upon the number
sixteen she had just thrown a couple of thousand franc counters. The
ball dropped with a sudden click, the croupier announced that number
five had won, and at once raked in the two thousand francs among others.

Mademoiselle shrugged her shoulders and smiled faintly. Yvonne Ferad
was a born gambler. To her losses came as easily as gains. The
Administration knew that--and they also knew how at the little
pigeon-hole where counters were exchanged for cheques she came often and
handed over big sums in exchange for drafts upon certain banks, both in
Paris and in London.

Yet they never worried. Her lucky play attracted others who usually
lost. Once, a year before, a Frenchman who occupied a seat next to her
daily for a month lost over a quarter of a million sterling, and one
night threw himself under the Paris _rapide_ at the long bridge over
the Var. But on hearing of it the next day from a croupier Mademoiselle
merely shrugged her shoulders, and said:

"I warned him to return to Paris. The fool! It is only what I expected."

Hugh looked only once across at the mysterious woman whom Dorise
had indicated, and then drew her away. As a matter of fact he had no
intention that mademoiselle should notice him.

"What do you know of her?" he asked in a casual way when they were on
the other side of the great saloon.

"Well, a Frenchman I met in the hotel the day before yesterday told
me all sorts of queer stories about her," replied the girl. "She's
apparently a most weird person, and she has uncanny good luck at the
tables. He said that she had won a large fortune during the last couple
of years or so."

Hugh made no remark as to the reason of his visit to the Riviera, for,
indeed, he had arrived only the day previously, and she had welcomed him
joyously. Little did she dream that her lover had come out from London
to see that woman who was declared to be so notorious.

"I noticed her playing this afternoon," Hugh said a moment later in
a quiet reflective tone. "What do the gossips really say about her,
Dorise? All this is interesting. But there are so many interesting
people here."

"Well, the man who told me about her was sitting with me outside the
Cafe de Paris when she passed across the Place to the Casino. That
caused him to make the remarks. He said that her past was obscure. Some
people say that she was a Danish opera singer, others declare that
she was the daughter of a humble tobacconist in Marseilles, and others
assert that she is English. But all agree that she is a clever and very
dangerous woman."

"Why dangerous?" inquired Hugh in surprise.

"Ah! That I don't know. The man who told me merely hinted at her past
career, and added that she was quite a respectable person nowadays in
her affluence. But--well----" added the girl with a laugh, "I suppose
people gossip about everyone in this place."

"Who was your informant?" asked her lover, much interested.

"His name is Courtin. I believe he is an official of one of the
departments of the Ministry of Justice in Paris. At least somebody said
so yesterday."

"Ah! Then he probably knew more about her than he told you, I expect."

"No doubt, for he warned my mother and myself against making her
acquaintance," said the girl. "He said she was a most undesirable
person."

At that moment Lady Ranscomb and Walter Brock joined them, whereupon the
former exclaimed to her daughter:

"Did you see that woman over there?--still playing--the woman in black
and the jade beads, against whom Monsieur Courtin warned us?"

"Yes, mother, I noticed her. I've just been telling Hugh about her."

"A mysterious person--eh?" laughed Hugh with well-affected indifference.
"But one never knows who's who in Monte Carlo."

"Well, Mademoiselle is apparently something of a mystery," remarked
Brock. "I've seen her here before several times. Once, about two years
ago, I heard that she was mixed up in a very celebrated criminal case,
but exactly what it was the man who told me could not recollect. She is,
however, one of the handsomest women in the Rooms."

"And one of the wealthiest--if report be true," said Lady Ranscomb.

"She fascinates me," Dorise declared. "If Monsieur Courtin had not
warned us I should most probably have spoken to her."

"Oh, my dear, you must do no such thing!" cried her mother, horrified.
"It was extremely kind of monsieur to give us the hint. He has probably
seen how unconventional you are, Dorise."

And then, as they strolled on into the farther room, the conversation
dropped.

"So they've heard about Mademoiselle, it seems!" remarked Brock to his
friend as they walked back to the Palmiers together in the moonlight
after having seen Lady Ranscomb and her daughter to their hotel.

"Yes," growled the other. "I wish we could get hold of that Monsieur
Courtin. He might tell us a bit about her."

"I doubt if he would. These French officials are always close as
oysters."

"At any rate, I will try and make his acquaintance at the Metropole
to-morrow," Hugh said. "There's no harm in trying."

Next morning he called again at the Metropole before the ladies were
about, but to his chagrin, he learnt from the blue-and-gold concierge
that Monsieur Courtin, of the Ministry of Justice, had left at
ten-fifteen o'clock on the previous night by the _rapide_ for Paris. He
had been recalled urgently, and a special _coupe-lit_ had been reserved
for him from Ventimiglia.

That day Hugh Henfrey wandered about the well-kept palm-lined gardens
with their great beds of geraniums, carnations and roses. Brock had
accepted the invitation of a bald-headed London stock-broker he knew to
motor over to lunch and tennis at the Beau Site, at Cannes, while Dorise
and her mother had gone with some people to lunch at the Reserve at
Beaulieu, one of the best and yet least pretentious restaurants in all
Europe, only equalled perhaps by Capsa's, in Bucharest.

"Ah! If she would only tell!" Hugh muttered fiercely to himself as he
walked alone and self-absorbed. His footsteps led him out of Monte Carlo
and up the winding road which runs to La Turbie, above the beautiful
bay. Ever and anon powerful cars climbing the hill smothered him in
white dust, yet he heeded them not. He was too full of thought.

"Ah!" he kept on repeating to himself. "If she would only tell the
truth--if she would only tell!"

Hugh Henfrey had not travelled to Monte Carlo without much careful
reflection and many hours of wakefulness. He intended to clear up the
mystery of his father's death--and more, the reason of that strange
incomprehensible will which was intended to wed him to Louise.

At four o'clock that afternoon he entered the Rooms to gain another
surreptitious look at Mademoiselle. Yes! She was there, still playing
on as imperturbably as ever, with that half-suppressed sinister smile
always upon her full red lips.

Sight of her aroused his fury. Was that smile really intended for
himself? People said she was a sphinx, but he drew his breath, and when
outside the Casino again in the warm sunshine he halted upon the broad
red-carpeted steps and beneath his breath said in a hard, determined
tone:

"Gad! She shall tell me! She shall! I'll compel her to speak--to tell me
the truth--or--or----!"

That evening he wrote a note to Dorise explaining to her that he was not
feeling very well and excusing himself from going round to the hotel.
This he sent by hand to the Metropole.

Brock did not turn up at dinner. Indeed, he did not expect his friend
back till late. So he ate his meal alone, and then went out to the
Cafe de Paris, where for an hour he sat upon the _terrasse_ smoking and
listening to the weird music of the red-coated orchestra of Roumanian
gipsies.

All the evening, indeed, he idled, chatting with men and women he knew.
_Carmen_ was being given at the Opera opposite, but though he loved
music he had no heart to go. The one thought obsessing him was of the
handsome and fascinating woman who was such a mystery to all.

At eleven o'clock he returned to the cafe and took a seat on the
_terrasse_ in a dark corner, in such a position that he could see anyone
who entered or left the Casino. For half an hour he watched the people
passing to and fro. At last, in a long jade-green coat, Mademoiselle
emerged alone, and, crossing the gardens, made her way leisurely home
on foot, as was her habit. Monte Carlo is not a large place, therefore
there is little use for taxis.

When she was out of sight, he called the waiter to bring him a liqueur
of old cognac, which he sipped, and then lit another cigarette. When he
had finished it he drained the little glass, and rising, strolled in the
direction the woman of mystery had taken.

A walk of ten minutes brought him to the iron gates of a great white
villa, over the high walls of which climbing roses and geraniums and
jasmine ran riot. The night air was heavy with their perfume. He opened
the side gate and walked up the gravelled drive to the terrace
whereon stood the house, commanding a wonderful view of the moon-lit
Mediterranean and the far-off mountains of Italy.

His ring at the door was answered by a staid elderly Italian manservant.

"I believe Mademoiselle is at home," Hugh said in French. "I desire to
see her, and also to apologize for the lateness of the hour. My visit is
one of urgency."

"Mademoiselle sees nobody except by appointment," was the man's polite
but firm reply.

"I think she will see me if you give her this card," answered Hugh in a
strained, unusual voice.

The man took it hesitatingly, glanced at it, placed it upon a silver
salver, and, leaving the visitor standing on the mat, passed through the
glass swing-doors into the house.

For some moments the servant did not reappear.

Hugh, standing there, entertained just a faint suspicion that he heard a
woman's shrill exclamation of surprise. And that sound emboldened him.

At last, after an age it seemed, the man returned, saying:

"Mademoiselle will see you, Monsieur. Please come this way."

He left his hat and stick and followed the man along a corridor richly
carpeted in red to a door on the opposite side of the house, which the
servant threw open and announced the visitor.

Mademoiselle had risen to receive him. Her countenance was, Hugh saw,
blanched almost to the lips. Her black dress caused her pallor to be
more apparent.

"Well, sir? Pray what do you mean by resorting to this ruse in order to
see me? Who are you?" she demanded.

Hugh was silent for a moment. Then in a hard voice he said:

"I am the son of the dead man whose card is in your hands, Mademoiselle!
And I am here to ask you a few questions!"

The handsome woman smiled sarcastically and shrugged her half-bare
shoulders, her fingers trembling with her jade beads.

"Oh! Your father is dead--is he?" she asked with an air of indifference.

"Yes. _He is dead_," Hugh said meaningly, as he glanced around the
luxurious little room with its soft rose-shaded lights and pale-blue
and gold decorations. On her right as she stood were long French windows
which opened on to a balcony. One of the windows stood ajar, and it was
apparent that when he had called she had been seated in the long wicker
chair outside enjoying the balmy moonlight after the stifling atmosphere
of the Rooms.

"And, Mademoiselle," he went on, "I happen to be aware that you knew
my father, and--that you are cognizant of certain facts concerning his
mysterious end."

"I!" she cried, raising her voice in sudden indignation. "What on earth
do you mean?" She spoke in perfect English, though he had hitherto
spoken in French.

"I mean, Mademoiselle, that I intend to know the truth," said Hugh,
fixing his eyes determinedly upon hers. "I am here to learn it from your
lips."

"You must be mad!" cried the woman. "I know nothing of the affair. You
are mistaken!"

"Do you, then, deny that you have ever met a man named Charles Benton?"
demanded the young fellow, raising his voice. "Perhaps, however, that is
a bitter memory, Mademoiselle--eh?"

The strikingly handsome woman pursed her lips. There was a strange look
in her eyes. For several moments she did not speak. It was clear that
the sudden appearance of the dead man's son had utterly unnerved her.
What could he know concerning Charles Benton? How much of the affair did
he suspect?

"I have met many people, Mr.--er--Mr. Henfrey," she replied quietly at
last. "I may have met somebody named Benton."

"Ah! I see," the young man said. "It is a memory that you do not wish to
recall any more than that of my dead father."

"Your father was a good man. Benton was not."

"Ah! Then you admit knowing both of them, Mademoiselle," cried Hugh
quickly.

"Yes. I--well--I may as well admit it! Why, indeed, should I seek to
hide the truth--_from you_," she said in a changed voice. "Pardon me. I
was very upset at receiving the card. Pardon me--will you not?"

"I will not, unless you tell me the truth concerning my father's death
and his iniquitous will left concerning myself. I am here to ascertain
that, Mademoiselle," he said in a hard voice.

"And if I tell you--what then?" she asked with knit brows.

"If you tell me, then I am prepared to promise you on oath secrecy
concerning yourself--provided you allow me to punish those who are
responsible. Remember, my father died by foul means. _And you know it!_"

The woman faced him boldly, but she was very pale.

"So that is a promise?" she asked. "You will protect me--you will be
silent regarding me--you swear to be so--if--if I tell you something.
I repeat that your father was a good man. I held him in the highest
esteem, and--and--after all--it is but right that you, his son, should
know the truth."

"Thank you Mademoiselle. I will protect you if you will only reveal to
me the devilish plot which resulted in his untimely end," Hugh assured
her.

Again she knit her brows and reflected for a few moments. Then in a low,
intense, unnatural voice she said:

"Listen, Mr. Henfrey. I feel that, after all, my conscience would be
relieved if I revealed to you the truth. First--well, it is no use
denying the fact that your father was not exactly the man you and his
friends believed him to be. He led a strange dual existence, and I will
disclose to you one or two facts concerning his untimely end which will
show you how cleverly devised and how cunning was the plot--how----"

At that instant Hugh was startled by a bright flash outside the
half-open window, a loud report, followed by a woman's shrill shriek of
pain.

Then, next moment, ere he could rush forward to save her, Mademoiselle,
with the truth upon her lips unuttered, staggered and fell back heavily
upon the carpet!




THIRD CHAPTER

IN THE NIGHT

Hugh Henfrey, startled by the sudden shot, shouted for assistance, and
then threw himself upon his knees beside the prostrate woman.

From a bullet wound over the right ear blood was slowly oozing and
trickling over her white cheek.

"Help! Help!" he shouted loudly. "Mademoiselle has been shot from
outside! _Help!_"

In a few seconds the elderly manservant burst into the room in a state
of intense excitement.

"Quick!" cried Hugh. "Telephone for a doctor at once. I fear your
mistress is dying!"

Henfrey had placed his hand upon Mademoiselle's heart, but could detect
no movement. While the servant dashed to the telephone, he listened
for her breathing, but could hear nothing. From the wall he tore down
a small circular mirror and held it against her mouth. There was no
clouding.

There was every apparent sign that the small blue wound had proved
fatal.

"Inform the police also!" Hugh shouted to the elderly Italian who was at
the telephone in the adjoining room. "The murderer must be found!"

By this time four female servants had entered the room where their
mistress was lying huddled and motionless. All of them were in
_deshabille_. Then all became excitement and confusion. Hugh left them
to unloosen her clothing and hastened out upon the veranda whereon the
assassin must have stood when firing the shot.

Outside in the brilliant Riviera moonlight the scent of a wealth of
flowers greeted his nostrils. It was almost bright as day. From the
veranda spread a wide, fairy-like view of the many lights of Monte Carlo
and La Condamine, with the sea beyond shimmering in the moonlight.

The veranda, he saw, led by several steps down into the beautiful
garden, while beyond, a distance of a hundred yards, was the main gate
leading to the roadway. The assassin, after taking careful aim and
firing, had, no doubt, slipped along, and out of the gate.

But why had Mademoiselle been shot just at the moment when she was about
to reveal the secret of his lamented father's death?

He descended to the garden, where he examined the bushes which cast
their dark shadows. But all was silence. The assassin had escaped!

Then he hurried out into the road, but again all was silence. The only
hope of discovering the identity of the criminal was by means of the
police vigilance. Truth to tell, however, the police of Monte Carlo are
never over anxious to arrest a criminal, because Monte Carlo attracts
the higher criminal class of both sexes from all over Europe. If the
police of the Principality were constantly making arrests it would be
bad advertisement for the Rooms. Hence, though the Monte Carlo police
are extremely vigilant and an expert body of officers, they prefer
to watch and to give information to the bureaux of police of other
countries, so that arrests invariably take place beyond the frontiers of
the Principality of Monaco.

It was not long before Doctor Leneveu, a short, stout, bald-headed
little man, well known to habitues of the Rooms, among whom he had a
large practice, entered the house of Mademoiselle and was greeted by
Hugh. The latter briefly explained the tragic circumstances, whereupon
the little doctor at once became fussy and excited.

Having ordered everyone out of the room except Henfrey, he bent and made
an examination of the prostrate woman.

"Ah! m'sieur," he said, "the unfortunate lady has certainly been shot at
close quarters. The wound is, I tell you at once, extremely dangerous,"
he added, after a searching investigation. "But she is still alive," he
declared. "Yes--she is still breathing."

"Still alive!" gasped Henfrey. "That's excellent! I--I feared that she
was dead!"

"No. She still breathes," the doctor replied. "But, tell me exactly what
has occurred. First, however, we will get them to remove her upstairs.
I will telephone to my colleague Duponteil, and we will endeavour to
extract the bullet."

"But will she recover, doctor?" asked Hugh eagerly in French. "What do
you think?"

The little man became serious and shook his head gravely.

"Ah! m'sieur, that I cannot say," was his reply. "She is in a very grave
state--very! And the brain may be affected."

Hugh held his breath. _Surely Yvonne Ferad was not to die with the
secret upon her lips!_

At the doctor's orders the servants were about to remove their mistress
to her room when two well-dressed men of official aspect entered. They
were officers of the Bureau of Police.

"Stop!" cried the elder, who was the one in authority, a tall,
lantern-jawed man with a dark brown beard and yellow teeth. "Do not
touch that lady! What has happened here?"

Hugh came forward, and in his best French explained the circumstances
of the tragedy--how Mademoiselle had been shot in his presence by an
unknown hand.

"The assassin, whoever he was, stood out yonder--upon the veranda--but
I never saw him," he added. "It was all over in a second--and he has
escaped!"

"And pray who are you?" demanded the police officer bluntly. "Please
explain."

Hugh was rather nonplussed. The question required explanation, no doubt.
It would, he saw, appear very curious that he should visit Mademoiselle
of Monte Carlo at that late hour.

"I--well, I called upon Mademoiselle because I wished to obtain some
important information from her."

"What information? Rather late for a call, surely?"

The young Englishman hesitated. Then, with true British grit, he assumed
an attitude of boldness, and asked:

"Am I compelled to answer that question?"

"I am Charles Ogier, chief inspector of the Surete of Monaco, and I
press for a reply," answered the other firmly.

"And I, Hugh Henfrey, a British subject, at present decline to satisfy
you," was the young man's bold response.

"Is the lady still alive?" inquired the inspector of Doctor Leneveu.

"Yes. I have ordered her to be taken up to her room--of course, when
m'sieur the inspector gives permission."

Ogier looked at the deathly countenance with the closed eyes, and noted
that the wound in the skull had been bound up with a cotton handkerchief
belonging to one of the maids. Mademoiselle's dark well-dressed hair had
become unbound and was straying across her face, while her handsome gown
had been torn in the attempt to unloosen her corsets.

"Yes," said the police officer; "they had better take her upstairs. We
will remain here and make inquiries. This is a very queer affair--to say
the least," he added, glancing suspiciously at Henfrey.

While the servants carried their unconscious mistress tenderly upstairs,
the fussy little doctor went to the telephone to call Doctor Duponteil,
the principal surgeon of Monaco. He had hesitated whether to take the
victim to the hospital, but had decided that the operation could be done
just as effectively upstairs. So, after speaking to Duponteil, he also
spoke to the sister at the hospital, asking her to send up two nurses
immediately to the Villa Amette.

In the meantime Inspector Ogier was closely questioning the young
Englishman.

Like everyone in Monte Carlo he knew the mysterious Mademoiselle by
sight. More than once the suspicions of the police had been aroused
against her. Indeed, in the archives of the Prefecture there reposed a
bulky dossier containing reports of her doings and those of her friends.
Yet there had never been anything which would warrant the authorities to
forbid her from remaining in the Principality.

This tragedy, therefore, greatly interested Ogier and his colleague.
Both of them had spent many years in the service of the Paris Surete
under the great Goron before being appointed to the responsible
positions in the detective service of Monaco.

"Then you knew the lady?" Ogier asked of the young man who was naturally
much upset over the startling affair, and the more so because the secret
of his father's mysterious death had been filched from him by the hand
of some unknown assassin.

"No, I did not know her personally," Henfrey replied somewhat lamely. "I
came to call upon her, and she received me."

"Why did you call at this hour? Could you not have called in the
daytime?"

"Mademoiselle was in the Rooms until late," he said.

"Ah! Then you followed her home--eh?"

"Yes," he admitted.

The police officer pursed his lips and raised his eyes significantly at
his colleague.

"And what was actually happening when the shot was fired? Describe it to
me, please," he demanded.

"I was standing just here"--and he crossed the room and stood upon the
spot where he had been--"Mademoiselle was over there beside the window.
I had my back to the window. She was about to tell me something--to
answer a question I had put to her--when someone from outside shot her
through the open glass door."

"And you did not see her assailant?"

"I saw nothing. The shot startled me, and, seeing her staggering,
I rushed to her. In the meantime the assailant--whoever he
was--disappeared!"

The brown-bearded man smiled dubiously. As he stood beneath the electric
light Hugh saw doubt written largely upon his countenance. He instantly
realized that Ogier disbelieved his story.

After all it was a very lame one. He would not fully admit the reason of
his visit.

"But tell me, m'sieur," exclaimed the police officer. "It seems
extraordinary that any person should creep along this veranda." And he
walked out and looked about in the moonlight. "If the culprit wished to
shoot Mademoiselle in secret, then he would surely not have done so in
your presence. He might easily have shot her as she was on her way home.
The road is lonely up here."

"I agree, monsieur," replied the Englishman. "The whole affair is, to
me, a complete mystery. I saw nobody. But it was plain to me that when
I called Mademoiselle was seated out upon the veranda. Look at her
chair--and the cushions! It was very hot and close in the Rooms
to-night, and probably she was enjoying the moonlight before retiring to
bed."

"Quite possibly," he agreed. "But that does not alter the fact that the
assassin ran considerable risk in coming along the veranda in the full
moonlight and firing through the open door. Are you quite certain that
Mademoiselle's assailant was outside--and not inside?" he asked, with a
queer expression upon his aquiline face.

Hugh saw that he was hinting at his suspicion that he himself had shot
her!

"Quite certain," he assured him. "Why do you ask?"

"I have my own reasons," replied the police officer with a hard laugh.
"Now, tell me what do you know about Mademoiselle Ferad?"

"Practically nothing."

"Then why did you call upon her?"

"I have told you. I desired some information, and she was about to give
it to me when the weapon was fired by an unknown hand."

"Unknown--eh?"

"Yes. Unknown to me. It might be known to Mademoiselle."

"And what was this information you so urgently desired?"

"Some important information. I travelled from London to Monte Carlo in
order to obtain it."

"Ah! Then you had a motive in coming here--some strong motive, I take
it?"

"Yes. A very strong motive. I wanted her to clear up certain mysterious
happenings in England."

Ogier was instantly alert.

"What happenings?" he asked, for he recollected the big dossier and
the suspicions extending over four or five years concerning the real
identity and mode of life of the handsome, sphinx-like woman Yvonne
Ferad.

Hugh Henfrey was silent for a few moments. Then he said:

"Happenings in London that--well, that I do not wish to recall."

Ogier again looked him straight in the face.

"I suggest, M'sieur Henfrey"--for Hugh had given him his name--"I
suggest that you have been attracted by Mademoiselle as so many other
men have been. She seems to exercise a fatal influence upon some
people."

"I know," Hugh said. "I have heard lots of things about her. Her success
at the tables is constant and uncanny. Even the Administration are
interested in her winnings, and are often filled with wonder."

"True, m'sieur. She keeps herself apart. She is a mysterious person--the
most remarkable in all the Principality. We, at the Bureau, have heard
all sorts of curious stories concerning her--once it was rumoured that
she was the daughter of a reigning European sovereign. Then we take all
the reports with the proverbial grain of salt. That Mademoiselle is a
woman of outstanding intellect and courage, as well as of great beauty,
cannot be denied. Therefore I tell you that I am intensely interested in
this attempt upon her life."

"And so am I," Hugh said. "I have a strong reason to be."

"Cannot you tell me that reason?" inquired the officer of the Surete,
still looking at him very shrewdly. "Why fence with me?"

Henfrey hesitated. Then he replied:

"It is a purely personal matter."

"And yet, you have said that you were not acquainted with Mademoiselle!"
remarked Ogier suspiciously.

"That is quite true. The first time I have spoken to her was this
evening, a few minutes before the attempt was made upon her life."

"Then your theory is that while you stood in conversation with her
somebody crept along the veranda and shot her--eh?"

"Yes."

Ogier smiled sarcastically, and turning to his colleague, ordered him to
search the room. The inspector evidently suspected the young Englishman
of having shot Mademoiselle, and the search was in order to try and
discover the weapon.

Meanwhile the brown-bearded officer called the Italian manservant, who
gave his name as Giulio Cataldi, and who stated that he had been in
Mademoiselle Ferad's service a little over five years.

"Have you ever seen this Englishman before?" Ogier asked, indicating
Hugh.

"Never, until to-night, m'sieur," was the reply. "He called about twenty
minutes after Mademoiselle's return from the Rooms."

"Has Mademoiselle quarrelled with anybody of late?"

"Not to my knowledge, m'sieur. She is of a very quiet and even
disposition."

"Is there anyone you know who might possess a motive to shoot her?"
asked Ogier. "The crime has not been committed with a motive of robbery,
but either out of jealousy or revenge."

"I know of nobody," declared the highly respectable Italian, whose
moustache was tinged with grey. He shrugged his shoulders and showed his
palms as he spoke.

"Mademoiselle arrived here two months ago, I believe?" queried the
police official.

"Yes, m'sieur. She spent the autumn in Paris, and during the summer she
was at Deauville. She also went to London for a brief time, I believe."

"Did she ever live in London?" asked Hugh eagerly, interrupting Ogier's
interrogation.

"Yes--once. She had a furnished house on the Cromwell Road for about six
months."

"How long ago?" asked Henfrey.

"Please allow me to make my inquiries, monsieur!" exclaimed the
detective angrily.

"But the question I ask is of greatest importance to me in my own
inquiries," Hugh persisted.

"I am here to discover the identity of Mademoiselle's assailant," Ogier
asserted. "And I will not brook your interference."

"Mademoiselle has been shot, and it is for you to discover who fired at
her," snapped the young Englishman. "I consider that I have just as much
right to put a question to this man as you have, that is"--he added with
sarcasm--"that is, of course, if you don't suspect him of shooting his
mistress."

"Well, I certainly do not suspect that," the Frenchman said. "But,
to tell you candidly, your story of the affair strikes me as a very
improbable one."

"Ah!" laughed Hugh, "I thought so! You suspect me--eh? Very well. Where
is the weapon?"

"Perhaps you have hidden it," suggested the other meaningly. "We shall,
no doubt, find it somewhere."

"I hope you will, and that will lead to the arrest of the guilty
person," Hugh laughed. Then he was about to put further questions to the
man Cataldi when Doctor Leneveu entered the room.

"How is she?" demanded Hugh breathlessly.

The countenance of the fussy little doctor fell.

"Monsieur," he said in a low earnest voice, "I much fear that
Mademoiselle will not recover. My colleague Duponteil concurs with that
view. We have done our best, but neither of us entertain any hope that
she will live!" Then turning to Ogier, the doctor exclaimed: "This is an
amazing affair--especially in face of what is whispered concerning the
unfortunate lady. What do you make of it?"

The officer of the Surete knit his brows, and with frankness replied:

"At present I am entirely mystified--entirely mystified!"




FOURTH CHAPTER

WHAT THE DOSSIER CONTAINED

Walter Brock was awakened at four o'clock that morning by Hugh touching
him upon the shoulder.

He started up in bed and staring at his friend's pale, haggard face
exclaimed:

"Good Heavens!--why, what's the matter?"

"Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo has been shot!" the other replied in a hard
voice.

"Shot!" gasped Brock, startled. "What do you mean?"

Briefly Hugh who had only just entered the hotel, explained the curious
circumstances--how, just at the moment she had been about to reveal the
secret of his father's death she was shot.

"Most extraordinary!" declared his friend. "Surely, we have not been
followed here by someone who is determined to prevent you from knowing
the truth!"

"It seems much like it, Walter," replied the younger man very seriously.
"There must be some strong motive or no person would dare to shoot her
right before my eyes."

"Agreed. Somebody who is concerned in your father's death has adopted
this desperate measure in order to prevent Mademoiselle from telling you
the truth."

"That's exactly my opinion, my dear Walter. If it was a crime for gain,
or through motives of either jealousy or revenge, Mademoiselle would
certainly have been attacked on her way home. The road is quite deserted
towards the crest of the hill."

"What do the police say?"

"They do not appear to trouble to track Mademoiselle's assailant. They
say they will wait until daylight before searching for footprints on the
gravel outside."

"Ah! They are not very fond of making arrests within the Principality.
It's such a bad advertisement for the Rooms. The Administration like to
show a clean sheet as regards serious crime. Our friends here leave it
to the French or Italian police to deal with the criminals so that the
Principality shall prove itself the most honest State in Europe," Brock
said.

"The police, I believe, suspect me of shooting her," said Hugh bluntly.

"That's very awkward. Why?"

"Well--they don't know the true reason I went to see her, or they
would never believe me to be guilty of a crime so much against my own
interests."

Brock, who was still sitting up in bed in his pale blue silk pyjamas,
reflected a few moments.

"Well, Hugh," he said at last, "after all it is only natural that they
should believe that you had a hand in the matter. Even though she told
you the truth, it is quite within reason that you should have suddenly
become incensed against her for the part she must have played in your
father's mysterious death, and in a frenzy of anger you shot her."

Hugh drew a long breath, and his eyebrows narrowed.

"By Jove! I had never regarded it in that light before!" he gasped. "But
what about the weapon?"

"You might easily have hidden it before the arrival of the police. You
admit that you went out on the veranda. Therefore if they do chance to
find the weapon in the garden then their suspicions will, no doubt, be
considerably increased. It's a pity, old man, that you didn't make a
clean breast of the motive of your visit."

"I now see my horrible mistake," Henfrey admitted. "I thought myself
wise to preserve silence, to know nothing, and now I see quite plainly
that I have only brought suspicion unduly upon myself. The police,
however, know Yvonne Ferad to be a somewhat mysterious person."

"Which renders the situation only worse," Brock said. Then, after a
pause, he added: "Now that you have declined to tell the police why you
visited the Villa Amette and have, in a way, defied them, it will
be best to maintain that attitude. Tell them nothing, no matter what
happens."

"I intend to pursue that course. But the worst of it is, Walter, that
the doctors hold out no hope of Mademoiselle's recovery. I saw Duponteil
half an hour ago, and he told me that he could give me no encouraging
information. The bullet has been extracted, but she is hovering between
life and death. I suppose it will be in the papers to-morrow, and
Dorise and her mother will know of my nocturnal visit to the house of a
notorious woman."

"Don't let that worry you, my dear chap. Here, they keep the news of all
tragedies out of the papers, because shooting affairs may be thought by
the public to be due to losses at the Rooms. Recollect that of all the
suicides here--the dozens upon dozens of poor ruined gamesters who are
yearly laid to rest in the Suicides' Cemetery--not a single report has
appeared in any newspaper. So I think you may remain assured that Lady
Ranscomb and her daughter will not learn anything."

"I sincerely hope they won't, otherwise it will go very hard with me,"
Hugh said in a low, intense voice. "Ah! What a night it has been for
me!"

"And if Mademoiselle dies the assailant, whoever he was, will be guilty
of wilful murder; while you, on your part, will never know the truth
concerning your father's death," remarked the elder man, running his
fingers through his hair.

"Yes. That is the position of this moment. But further, I am suspected
of the crime!"

Brock dressed while his friend sat upon the edge of the bed, pale-faced
and agitated. Suppose that the assailant had flung his pistol into the
bushes, and the police eventually discovered it? Then, no doubt, he
would be put across the frontier to be arrested by the police of the
Department of the Alpes Maritimes.

Truly, the situation was most serious.

Together the two men strolled out into the early morning air and sat
upon a seat on the terrace of the Casino watching the sun as it rose
over the tideless sea.

For nearly an hour they sat discussing the affair; then they ascended
the white, dusty road to the beautiful Villa Amette, the home of the
mysterious Mademoiselle.

Old Giulio Cataldi opened the door.

"Alas! m'sieur, Mademoiselle is just the same," he replied in response
to Hugh's eager inquiry. "The police have gone, but Doctor Leneveu is
still upstairs."

"Have the police searched the garden?" inquired Hugh eagerly.

"Yes, m'sieur. They made a thorough examination, but have discovered no
marks of footprints except those of yourself, myself, and a tradesman's
lad who brought up a parcel late last night."

"Then they found no weapon?" asked the young Englishman.

"No, m'sieur. There is no clue whatever to the assailant."

"Curious that there should be no footmarks," remarked Brock. "Yet they
found yours, Hugh."

"Yes. The man must surely have left some trace outside!"

"One would certainly have thought so," Brock said. "I wonder if we may
go into the room where the tragedy happened?" he asked of the servant.

"Certainly, m'sieur," was the courteous reply, and he conducted them
both into the apartment wherein Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo had been
shot down.

"Did you accompany Mademoiselle when she went to London, Giulio?"
asked young Henfrey of the old Italian, after he had described to Brock
exactly what had occurred.

"Yes, m'sieur," he replied. "I was at Cromwell Road for a short time.
But I do not care for London, so Mademoiselle sent me back here to look
after the Villa because old Jean, the concierge, had been taken to the
hospital."

"When in London you knew some of Mademoiselle's friends, I suppose?"

"A few--only a few," was the Italian's reply.

"Did you ever know a certain Mr. Benton?"

The old fellow shook his head blankly.

"Not to my knowledge, m'sieur," he replied. "Mademoiselle had really
very few friends in London. There was a Mrs. Matthews and her husband,
Americans whom she met here in Monte Carlo, and Sir George Cave-Knight,
who died a few weeks ago."

"Do you remember an elderly gentleman named Henfrey calling?" asked
Hugh.

Old Cataldi reflected for a moment, and then answered:

"The name sounds familiar to me, m'sieur, but in what connexion I cannot
recollect. That is your name, is it not?" he asked, remembering the card
he had taken to his mistress.

"Yes," Hugh replied. "I have reason to believe that my late father was
acquainted with your mistress, and that he called upon her in London."

"I believe that a gentleman named Henfrey did call, because when
I glanced at the card you gave me last night the name struck me as
familiar," the servant said. "But whether he actually called, or whether
someone at table mentioned his name I really cannot recollect."

"Ah! That's a pity," exclaimed Hugh with a sigh. "As a matter of fact it
was in order to make certain inquiries regarding my late father that I
called upon Mademoiselle last night."

Giulio Cataldi turned in pretence of rearranging a chair, but in reality
to avert his face from the young man's gaze--a fact which Hugh did not
fail to notice.

Had he really told the truth when he declared that he could not
recollect his father calling?

"How long were you in London with Mademoiselle?" asked Henfrey.

"About six weeks--not longer."

Was it because of some untoward occurrence that the old Italian did not
like London, Hugh wondered.

"And you are quite sure that you do not recollect my father calling upon
your mistress?"

"As I have said, m'sieur, I do not remember. Yet I recall the name, as
it is a rather unusual one."

"And you have never heard of Mr. Benton?"

Cataldi shook his head.

"Well," Hugh went on, "tell me whether you entertain any suspicions
of anyone who might be tempted to kill your mistress. Mademoiselle has
enemies, has she not?"

"Who knows?" exclaimed the man with the grey moustache and small, black
furtive eyes.

"Everyone has enemies of one sort or another," Walter remarked. "And
no doubt Mademoiselle has. It is for us to discover the enemy who shot
her."

"Ah! yes, it is, m'sieur," exclaimed the servant. "The poor Signorina! I
do hope that the police will discover who tried to kill her."

"For aught we know the attempt upon the lady's life may prove successful
after all," said Hugh despairingly. "The doctors hold out no hope of her
recovery."

"None. A third doctor has been in consultation--Doctor Bazin, from
Beaulieu. He only left a quarter of an hour ago. He told me that the
poor Signorina cannot possibly live! Ah! messieurs, how terrible all
this is--_povera Signorina_! She was always so kind and considerate to
us all." And the old man's voice trembled with emotion.

Walter Brock gazed around the luxurious room and at the long open window
through which streamed the bright morning sun, with the perfume of the
flowers outside. What was the mystery concerning Mademoiselle Yvonne?
What foundation had the gossips for those constant whisperings which had
rendered the handsome woman so notorious?

True, the story of the death of Hugh's father was an unusually strange
one, curious in every particular--and stranger still that the secret was
held by this beautiful, but mysterious, woman who lived in such luxury,
and who gambled so recklessly and with invariable good fortune.

As they walked back to the town Hugh's heart sank within him.

"She will die," he muttered bitterly to himself. "She'll die, and I
shall never learn the truth of the poor guv'nor's sad end, or the reason
why I am being forced to marry Louise Lambert."

"It's an iniquitous will, Hugh!" declared his friend. "And it's
infernally hard on you that just at the very moment when you could have
learnt the truth that shot was fired."

"Do you think the woman had any hand in my father's death?" Hugh asked.
"Do you think that she had repented, and was about to try and atone for
what she had done by confessing the whole affair?"

"Yes. That is just the view I take," answered Brock. "Of course, we have
no idea what part she played in the business. But my idea is that she
alone knows the reason why this marriage with Louise is being forced
upon you."

"In that case, then, it seems more than likely that I've been followed
here to Monte Carlo, and my movements watched. But why has she been
shot? Why did not her enemies shoot me? They could have done so twenty
times during the past few days. Perhaps the shot which hit her was
really intended for me?"

"I don't think so. There is a monetary motive behind your marriage with
Louise. If you died, your enemy would gain nothing. That seems clear."

"But who can be my secret enemy?" asked the young man in dismay.

"Mademoiselle alone knows that, and it was undoubtedly her intention to
warn you."

"Yes. But if she dies I shall remain in ignorance," he declared in
a hard voice. "The whole affair is so tangled that I can see nothing
clearly--only that my refusal to marry Louise will mean ruin to me--and
I shall lose Dorise in the bargain!"

Walter Brock, older and more experienced, was equally mystified. The
pessimistic attitude of the three doctors who had attended the injured
woman was, indeed, far from reassuring. The injury to the head caused by
the assailant's bullet was, they declared, most dangerous. Indeed, the
three medical men marvelled that she still lived.

The two men walked through the palm-lined garden, bright with flowers,
back to their hotel, wondering whether news of the tragedy had yet got
abroad. But they heard nothing of it, and it seemed true, as Walter
Brock had declared, that the police make haste to suppress any tragic
happenings in the Principality.

Though they were unconscious of it, a middle-aged, well-dressed
Frenchman had, during their absence from the hotel, been making diligent
inquiries regarding them of the night concierge and some of the staff.

The concierge had recognized the visitor as Armand Buisson, of the
police bureau at Nice. It seemed as though the French police were unduly
inquisitive concerning the well-conducted young Englishman and his
companion.

Now, as a matter of fact, half an hour after Hugh had left the Villa
Amette, Ogier had telegraphed to Buisson in Nice, and the latter had
come along the Corniche road in a fast car to make his own inquiries
and observations upon the pair of Englishmen. Ogier strongly suspected
Henfrey of firing the shot, but was, nevertheless, determined to remain
inactive and leave the matter to the Prefecture of the Department
of Alpes Maritimes. Hence the reason that the well-dressed Frenchman
lounged in the hall of the hotel pretending to read the "Phare du
Littoral."

Just before noon Hugh went to the telephone in the hotel and inquired of
Cataldi the progress of his mistress.

"She is just the same, m'sieur," came the voice in broken English.
"_Santa Madonna!_ How terrible it all is! Doctor Leneveu has left, and
Doctor Duponteil is now here."

"Have the police been again?"

"No, m'sieur. Nobody has been," was the reply.

So Hugh rang off and crossed the hall, little dreaming that the
well-dressed Frenchman had been highly interested in his questions.

Half an hour later he went along to the Metropole, where he had an
engagement to lunch with Dorise and her mother.

When they met, however, Lady Ranscomb exclaimed:

"Why, Hugh, you look very pale. What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing," he laughed forcedly. "I'm not very bright to-day. I think
it was the sirocco of yesterday that has upset me a little, that's all."

Then, while they were seated at table, Dorise suddenly exclaimed:

"Oh! do you know, mother, that young French lady over yonder, Madame
Jacomet, has just told me something. There's a whisper that the
mysterious woman, Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, was shot during the night
by a discarded lover!"

"Shot!" exclaimed Lady Ranscomb. "Dear me! How very dreadful. What
really happened?"

"I don't know. Madame Jacomet was told by her husband, who heard it in
Ciro's this morning."

"How terrible!" remarked Hugh, striving to remain calm.

"Yes. But women of her class invariably come to a bad end," remarked the
widow. "How pleased I am, Dorise, that you never spoke to her. She's a
most dreadful person, they say."

"Well, she evidently knows how to win money at the tables, mother," said
the girl, lifting her clear blue eyes to those of her lover.

"Yes. But I wonder what the scandal is all about?" said the widow of the
great engineer.

"Oh! don't trouble to inquire Lady Ranscomb," Hugh hastened to remark.
"One hears scandal on every hand in Monte Carlo."

"Yes. I suppose so," replied the elder woman, and then the subject was
dropped.

So the ugly affair was being rumoured. It caused Hugh a good deal of
apprehension, for he feared that his name would be associated with that
of the mysterious Mademoiselle. Evidently one or other of the servants
at the Villa Amette had been indiscreet.

At that moment, in his private room at the bureau of police down
in Monaco, Superintendent Ogier was carefully perusing a dossier of
official papers which had been brought to him by the archivist.

Between his thin lips was a long, thin, Swiss cigar--his favorite
smoke--and with his gold-rimmed pince-nez poised upon his aquiline
nose he was reading a document which would certainly have been of
considerable interest to Hugh Henfrey and his friend Walter Brock could
they have seen it.

Upon the pale yellow paper were many lines of typewriting in French--a
carbon copy evidently.

It was headed: "Republique Francaise. Department of Herault. Prefecture
of Police. Bureau of the Director of Police. Reference Number 20197.B.,"
and was dated nearly a year before.

It commenced:


"Copy of an 'information' in the archives of the Prefecture of the
Department of Herault concerning the woman Marie Mignot, or Leullier,
now passing under the name of Yvonne Ferad and living at the Villa
Amette at Monte Carlo.

"The woman in question was born in 1884 at Number 45 Rue des Etuves,
in Montpellier, and was the daughter of one Doctor Rigaud, a noted
toxicologist of the Faculty of Medicine, and curator of the University
Library. At the age of seventeen, after her father's death, she became
a school teacher at a small school in the Rue Morceau, and at nineteen
married Charles Leullier, a good-looking young scoundrel who posed
as being well off, but who was afterwards proved to be an expert
international thief, a member of a gang of dangerous thieves who
committed robberies in the European express trains.

"This fact was unknown to the girl, therefore at first all went
smoothly, until the wife discovered the truth and left him. She then
joined the chorus of a revue at the Jardin de Paris, where she met a
well-to-do Englishman named Bryant. The pair went to England, where she
married him, and they resided in the county of Northampton. Six months
later Bryant died, leaving her a large sum of money. In the meantime
Leullier had been arrested by the Italian police for a daring robbery
with violence in a train traveling between Milan and Turin and been
sentenced to ten years on the penal island of Gorgona. His wife, hearing
of this from an Englishman named Houghton, who, though she was unaware
of it, was following the same profession as her husband, returned to
France. She rented an apartment in Paris, and afterwards played at Monte
Carlo, where she won a considerable sum, with the proceeds of which she
purchased the Villa Amette, which she now occupies each season."


"Extracts of reports concerning Marie Leullier, alias Yvonne Ferad, are
herewith appended:

"Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard, London--to the
Prefecture of Police, Paris.

"Mademoiselle Yvonne Ferad rented a furnished house at Hove, near
Brighton, in June, 1918. Afterwards moved to Worthing and to Exeter,
and later took a house in the Cromwell Road, London, in 1919. She was
accompanied by an Italian manservant named Cataldi. Her conduct was
suspicious, though she was undoubtedly possessed of considerable
means. She was often seen at the best restaurants with various
male acquaintances, more especially with a man named Kenworthy. Her
association with this person, and with another man named Percy Stendall,
was curious, as both men were habitual criminals and had served several
terms of penal servitude each. Certain suspicions were aroused, and
observation was kept, but nothing tangible was discovered. It is agreed,
however, that some mystery surrounds this woman in question. She left
London quite suddenly, but left no debts behind."


"Information from the Borough Police Office, Worthing, to the Prefecture
of Police, Department of Herault.

"Mademoiselle Yvonne Ferad has been identified by the photograph sent as
having lived in Worthing in December, 1918. She rented a small furnished
house facing the sea, and was accompanied by an Italian manservant and a
French maid. Her movements were distinctly mysterious. A serious
fracas occurred at the house on the evening of December 18th, 1918. A
middle-aged gentleman, whose name is unknown, called there about seven
o'clock and a violent quarrel ensued between the lady and her visitor,
the latter being very seriously assaulted by the Italian. The constable
on duty was called in, but the visitor refused to prosecute, and after
having his injuries attended to by a doctor left for London. Three days
later Mademoiselle disappeared from Worthing. It is believed by the
Chief Constable that the woman is of the criminal class."


Then Charles Ogier, inspector of the detective police of Monaco, smiled,
laid down his cigar, and took up another and even more interesting
document.




FIFTH CHAPTER

ON THE HOG'S BACK

Three days later. On a cold afternoon just as the wintry light was
fading a tall, dark, middle-aged, rather handsome man with black hair
and moustache, and wearing a well-cut, dark-grey overcoat and
green velour hat, alighted from the train at the wayside station of
Wanborough, in Surrey, and inquired of the porter the way to Shapley
Manor.

"Shapley, sir? Why, take the road there yonder up the hill till you
get to the main road which runs along the Hog's Back from Guildford to
Farnborough. When you get on the main road, turn sharp to the left past
the old toll-gate, and you'll find the Manor on the left in among a big
clump of trees."

"How far?"

"About a mile, sir."

The stranger, the only passenger who had alighted, slipped sixpence
into the man's hand, buttoned his coat, and started out to walk in the
direction indicated, breasting the keen east wind.

He was well-set-up, and of athletic bearing. He took long strides as
with swinging gait he went up the hill. As he did so, he muttered to
himself:

"I was an infernal fool not to have come down in a car! I hate these
beastly muddy country roads. But Molly has the telephone--so I can ring
up for a car to fetch me--which is a consolation, after all."

And with his keen eyes set before him, he pressed forward up the steep
incline to where, for ten miles, ran the straight broad highway over
the high ridge known as the Hog's Back. The road is very popular with
motorists, for so high is it that on either side there stretches a wide
panorama of country, the view on the north being towards the Thames
Valley and London, while on the south Hindhead with the South Downs in
the blue distance show beyond.

Having reached the high road the stranger paused to take breath, and
incidentally to admire the magnificent view. Indeed, an expression of
admiration fell involuntarily from his lips. Then he went along for
another half-mile in the teeth of the cutting wind with the twilight
rapidly coming on, until he came to the clump of dark firs and presently
walked up a gravelled drive to a large, but somewhat inartistic,
Georgian house of red brick with long square windows. In parts the ivy
was trying to hide its terribly ugly architecture for around the deep
porch it grew thickly and spread around one corner of the building.

A ring at the door brought a young manservant whom the caller addressed
as Arthur, and, wishing him good afternoon, asked if Mrs. Bond were at
home.

"Yes, sir," was the reply.

"Oh! good," said the caller. "Just tell her I'm here." And he proceeded
to remove his coat and to hang it up in the great flagged hall with the
air of one used to the house.

The Manor was a spacious, well-furnished place, full of good pictures
and much old oak furniture.

The servant passed along the corridor, and entering the drawing-room,
announced:

"Mr. Benton is here, ma'am."

"Oh! Mr. Benton! Show him in," cried his mistress enthusiastically.
"Show him in at once!"

Next moment the caller entered the fine, old-fashioned room, where a
well-preserved, fair-haired woman of about forty was taking her tea
alone and petting her Pekinese.

"Well, Charles? So you've discovered me here, eh?" she exclaimed,
jumping up and taking his hand.

"Yes, Molly. And you seem to have very comfortable quarters," laughed
Benton as he threw himself unceremoniously into a chintz-covered
armchair.

"They are, I assure you."

"And I suppose you're quite a great lady in these parts--eh?--now that
you live at Shapley Manor. Where's Louise?"

"She went up to town this morning. She won't be back till after dinner.
She's with her old school-fellow--that girl Bertha Trench."

"Good. Then we can have a chat. I've several things to consult you about
and ask your opinion."

"Have some tea first," urged his good-looking hostess, pouring him some
into a Crown Derby cup.

"Well," he commenced. "I think you've done quite well to take this
place, as you've done, for three years. You are now safely out of the
way. The Paris Surete are making very diligent inquiries, but the Surrey
Constabulary will never identify you with the lady of the Rue Racine. So
you are quite safe here."

"Are you sure of that, Charles?" she asked, fixing her big grey eyes
upon him.

"Certain. It was the wisest course to get back here to England, although
you had to take a very round-about journey."

"Yes. I got to Switzerland, then to Italy, and from Genoa took an Anchor
Line steamer across to New York. After that I came over to Liverpool,
and in the meantime I had become Mrs. Bond. Louise, of course, thought
we were travelling for pleasure. I had to explain my change of name by
telling her that I did not wish my divorced husband to know that I was
back in England."

"And the girl believed it, of course," he laughed.

"Of course. She believes anything I tell her," said the clever,
unscrupulous woman for whom the Paris police were in active search,
whose real name was Molly Maxwell, and whose amazing career was well
known to the French police.

Only recently a sum of a quarter of a million francs had fallen into
her hands, and with it she now rented Shapley Manor and had set up as
a country lady. Benton gazed around the fine old room with its Adams
ceiling and its Georgian furniture, and reflected how different were
Molly's present surroundings from that stuffy little flat _au troisieme_
in the Rue Racine.

"Yes," he said. "You had a very narrow escape, Molly. I dared not come
near you, but I knew that you'd look after the girl."

"Of course. I always look after her as though she were my own child."

Benton's lip curled as he sipped his China tea, and said:

"Because so much depends upon her--eh? I'm glad you view the situation
from a fair and proper stand-point. We're now out for a big thing,
therefore we must not allow any little hitch to prevent us from bringing
it off successfully."

"I quite agree, Charles. Our great asset is Louise. But she must be
innocent of it all. She must know absolutely nothing."

"True. If she had an inkling that we were forcing her to marry Hugh she
would fiercely resent it. She's a girl of spirit, after all."

"My dear Charles, I know that," laughed the woman. "Ever since she came
home from school I've noticed how independent she is. She certainly
has a will of her own. But she likes Hugh, and we must encourage it.
Recollect that a fortune is at stake."

"I have not overlooked that," the man said. "But of late I've come
to fear that we are treading upon thin ice. I don't like the look of
affairs at the present moment. Young Henfrey is head over ears in love
with that girl Dorise Ranscomb, and--"

"Bah! It's only a flirtation, my dear Charles," laughed the woman.
"When just a little pressure is put upon the boy, and a sly hint to Lady
Ranscomb, then the affair will soon be off, and he'll fall into Louise's
arms. She's really very fond of him."

"She may be, but he takes no notice of her. She told me so the other
day. He's gone to the Riviera--followed Dorise, I suppose," Benton said.

"Yvonne wrote me a few days ago to say that he was there with a friend
of his named Walter Brock. Who's he?"

"Oh! a naval lieutenant-commander who served in the war and was
invalided out after the Battle of Jutland. He got the D.S.O. over the
Falklands affair, and has now some post at the Admiralty. He was
in command of a torpedo boat which sank a German cruiser, and was
afterwards blown up."

"They are both out at Monte Carlo, Yvonne says. And Henfrey is with
Dorise daily," remarked the woman.

"Yvonne is always apprehensive lest young Henfrey should learn the
secret of the old fellow's end," said Benton. "But I don't see how the
truth of the--well, rather ugly affair can ever come out, except by an
indiscretion by one or other of us."

"And that is scarcely likely, Charles, is it?" his hostess laughed
as she pushed across to him a big silver box of cigarettes and then
reclined lazily among her cushions.

"No. It would certainly be a very sensational affair if the newspapers
got hold of the facts, my dear Molly. But don't let us anticipate such a
thing. Fortunately Louise, in her girlish innocence, knows nothing. Old
Henfrey left his money to his son upon certain conditions, one of which
is that Hugh shall marry Louise. And that marriage must, at all hazards,
take place. After that, we care for nothing."

The handsome woman who was rolling a cigarette between her
well-manicured fingers hesitated. Her countenance assumed a strange
look as she reflected. She was far too clever to express any off-hand
opinion. She had outwitted the police of Paris, Brussels, and Rome in
turn. Her whole career had been a criminal one, punctuated by periods of
pretended high respectability--while the funds to support it had lasted.
And upon her hands had been placed Louise Lambert, the child Charles
Benton had adopted ten years before.

"We shall have to exercise a good deal of discretion and caution in
regard to Louise," she declared. "The affair is not at all so plain
sailing as I at first believed."

"No. It is a serious contretemps that you had to leave Paris, Molly,"
agreed her well-dressed visitor. "The young American was a fool, of
course, but I think--"

"Paris was flooded by rich young men from the United States who came
over to fight the Boche and to spend their money like water when on
leave in Paris. Frank was only one of them."

Benton was silent. The affair was a distinctly unsavoury one. Frank van
Geen, the son of the Dutch-American millionaire cocoa manufacturer of
Chicago, had, by reason of his association with Molly, found himself the
poorer by nearly a quarter of a million francs, and his body had been
found in the Seine between the Pont d'Auteuil and the Ile St. Germain.
At the inquiry some ugly disclosures were made, but already the lady
of the Rue Racine and her supposed niece had left Paris; and though
the affair was one of suicide, the police raised a hue and cry, and the
frontiers had been watched, but the pair had disappeared.

That was several months ago. And now Molly Maxwell the adventuress in
Paris had been transformed into the wealthy and highly respectable widow
Mrs. Bond, who having presented such excellent references had become
tenant of that well-furnished mansion, Shapley Manor, and the beautiful
grounds adjoining. For nearly two centuries it had been the home of the
Puttenhams, but Sir George Puttenham, Baronet, the present owner, had
found himself ruined by war-taxation, and as one of the new poor he had
been glad to let the place and live upon the rent obtained for it. His
case, indeed, was only one of thousands of others in England, where
adventurers and war-profiteers were ousting the landed gentry.

"Yvonne is evidently keeping a good watch upon young Hugh," remarked
Benton presently, as he blew a ring of cigarette smoke towards the
ceiling.

"Yes," replied the woman, her eyes fixed out of the big window which
commanded a glorious view of Gibbet Hill, at Hindhead, and the blue
South Downs towards the English Channel. But all was dark and lowering
in the winter twilight, now fast darkening into night.

In old-world Guildford, the county town of Surrey, with its steep High
Street containing many seventeenth-century houses, its old inns, and its
balconied Guildhall--the scene of so many unseemly wrangles among the
robed and cocked-hatted borough councillors who are, _par excellence_,
outstanding illustrations of the provincial petty jealousies of
bumbledom--Mrs. Bond was welcomed by the trades-people who vied with
each other to "serve her." Almost daily she went up and down the High
Street in her fine Rolls-Royce driven by Mead, an ex-soldier and a
worthy fellow whom she had engaged through an advertisement in the
_Surrey Advertiser_. He had been in the Queen's West Surrey, and his
home being in Guildford, Molly knew that he would serve as a testimonial
to her high respectability. Molly Maxwell was an outstandingly
clever woman. She never let a chance slip by that might be taken
advantageously.

Mead, who went on his "push-bike" every evening along the Hog's Back
to Guildford, was never tired of singing the praises of his generous
mistress.

"She's a real good sort," he would tell his friends in the bar of the
Lion or the Angel. "She knows how to treat a man. She's a widow, and
good-looking. I suppose she'll marry again. Nearly all the best people
about here have called on her within the last week or two. Magistrates
and their wives, retired generals, and lots of the gentry. Yes, my job
isn't to be sneezed at, I can tell you. It's better than driving a lorry
outside Ypres!"

Mrs. Bond treated Mead extremely well, and paid him well. She knew
that by so doing she would secure a good advertisement. She had done so
before, when four or five years ago she had lived at Keswick.

"Do you know, Charles," she said presently, "I'm really very
apprehensive regarding the present situation. Yvonne is, no doubt,
keeping a watchful eye upon the young fellow. But what can she do if
he has followed the Ranscomb girl and is with her each day? Each day,
indeed, must bring the pair closer together, and--"

"That's what we must prevent, my dear Molly!" exclaimed the lady's
visitor. "Think of all it means to us. You are quite safe here--as safe
as I am to-day. But we can't last out without money--either of us. We
must have cash-money--and cash-money always."

"Yes. That's so. But Yvonne is wonderful--amazing."

"She hasn't the same stake in the affair as we have."

"Why not?" asked the woman for whom the European police were in search.

"Well, because she is rich--she's won pots of money at the tables--and
we--well, both of us have only limited means. Yours, Molly, are larger
than mine--thanks to Frank. But I must have money soon. My expenses in
town are mounting up daily."

"But your rooms don't cost you very much! Old Mrs. Evans looks after
things as she has always done."

"Yes. But everything is going up in price, and remember, I dare not
cross the Channel just now. At Calais, Boulogne, Cherbourg, and other
places, they have my photograph, and they are waiting for me to fall
into the trap. But the rat, once encaged, is shy! And I am very shy just
now," he added with a light laugh.

"You'll stay and have dinner, won't you?" urged his hostess.

Benton hesitated.

"If I do Louise may return, and just now I don't want to meet her. It is
better not."

"But she won't be back till the last train to Guildford. Mead is meeting
her. Yes--stay."

"I must get a car to take me back to town. I have to go to Glasgow by
the early train in the morning."

"Well, we're order one from one of the garages in Guildford. You really
must stay, Charles. There's lots we have to talk over--a lot of things
that are of vital consequence to us both."

At that moment there came a rap at the door and the young manservant
entered, saying:

"You're wanted on the telephone, ma'am."

Mrs. Bond rose from the settee and went to the telephone in the library,
where she heard the voice of a female telephone operator.

"Is that Shapley Manor?" she asked. "I have a telegram for Mrs.
Bond. Handed in at Nice at two twenty-five, received here at four
twenty-eight. 'To Bond, Shapley Manor, near Guildford. Yvonne shot by
some unknown person while with Hugh. In grave danger.--S.' That is the
message. Have you got it please?"

Mrs. Bond held her breath.

"Yes," she gasped. "Anything else?"

"No, madam," replied the telephone operator at the Guildford Post
Office. "Nothing else. I will forward the duplicate by post."

And she switched off.




SIXTH CHAPTER

FACING THE UNKNOWN

That the police were convinced that Hugh Henfrey had shot Mademoiselle
was plain.

Wherever he went an agent of detective police followed him. At the Cafe
de Paris as he took his aperitif on the _terrasse_ the man sat at a
table near, idly smoking a cigarette and glancing at an illustrated
paper on a wooden holder. In the gardens, in the Rooms, in the Galerie,
everywhere the same insignificant little man haunted him.

Soon after luncheon he met Dorise and her mother in the Rooms. With them
were the Comte d'Autun, an elegant young Frenchman, well known at the
tables, and Madame Tavera, a very chic person who was one of the most
admired visitors of that season. They were only idling and watching the
players at the end table, where a stout, bearded Russian was making some
sensational coups _en plein_.

Presently Hugh succeeded in getting Dorise alone.

"It's awfully stuffy here," he said. "Let's go outside--eh?"

Together they descended the red-carpeted steps and out into the
palm-lined Place, at that hour thronged by the smartest crowd in Europe.
Indeed, the war seemed to have led to increased extravagance and daring
in the dress of those gay Parisiennes, those butterflies of fashion who
were everywhere along the Cote d'Azur.

They turned the corner by the Palais des Beaux Arts into the Boulevard
Peirara.

"Let's walk out of the town," he suggested to the girl. "I'm tired of
the place."

"So am I, Hugh," Dorise admitted. "For the first fortnight the unceasing
round of gaiety and the novelty of the Rooms are most fascinating, but,
after that, one seems cooped up in an atmosphere of vicious unreality.
One longs for the open air and open country after this enervating,
exotic life."

So when they arrived at the little church of Ste. Devote, the patron
saint of Monaco, that little building which everyone knows standing at
the entrance to that deep gorge the Vallon des Gaumates, they descended
the steep, narrow path which runs beside the mountain torrent and were
soon alone in the beautiful little valley where the grey-green olives
overhang the rippling stream. The little valley was delightfully quiet
and rural after the garish scenes in Monte Carlo, the cosmopolitan
chatter, and the vulgar display of the war-rich. The old habitue of
pre-war days lifts his hands as he watches the post-war life around the
Casino and listens to the loud uneducated chatter of the profiteer's
womenfolk.

As the pair went along in the welcome shadows, for the sun fell strong
upon the tumbling stream, Hugh was remarking upon it.

He had been at Monte Carlo with his father before the war, and realized
the change.

"I only wish mother would move on," Dorise exclaimed as they strolled
slowly together.

She presented a dainty figure in cream gabardine and a broad-brimmed
straw hat which suited her admirably. Her clothes were made by a certain
famous _couturiere_ in Hanover Square, for Lady Ranscomb had the art of
dressing her daughter as well as she did herself. Gowns make the lady
nowadays, or the fashionable dressmakers dare not make their exorbitant
charges.

"Then you also are tired of the place?" asked Hugh, as he strolled
slowly at her side in a dark-blue suit and straw hat. They made a
handsome pair, and were indeed well suited to each other. Lady Ranscomb
liked Hugh, but she had no idea that the young people had fallen so
violently in love with each other.

"Yes," said the girl. "Mother promised to spend Easter in Florence.
I've never been there and am looking forward to it so much. The Marchesa
Ruggeri, whom we met at Harrogate last summer, has a villa there,
and has invited us for Easter. But mother said this morning that she
preferred to remain here."

"Why?"

"Oh! Somebody in the hotel has put her off. An old Englishwoman who
lives in Florence told her that there's nothing to see beyond the
Galleries, and that the place is very catty."

Hugh laughed and replied:

"All British colonies in Continental cities are catty, my dear Dorise.
They say that for scandal Florence takes the palm. I went there for two
seasons in succession before the war, and found the place delightful."

"The Marchesa is a charming woman. Her husband was an attache at the
Italian Embassy in Paris. But he has been transferred to Washington, so
she has gone back to Florence. I like her immensely, and I do so want to
visit her."

"Oh, you must persuade your mother to take you," he said. "She'll be
easily persuaded."

"I don't know. She doesn't like travelling in Italy. She once had her
dressing-case stolen from the train between Milan and Genoa, so she's
always horribly bitter against all Italians."

"There are thieves also on English railways, Dorise," Hugh remarked.
"People are far too prone to exaggerate the shortcomings of foreigners,
and close their eyes to the faults of the British."

"But everybody is not so cosmopolitan as you are, Hugh," the girl
laughed, raising her eyes to those of her lover.

"No," he replied with a sigh.

"Why do you sigh?" asked the girl, having noticed a change in her
companion ever since they had met in the Rooms. He seemed strangely
thoughtful and preoccupied.

"Did I?" he asked, suddenly pulling himself together. "I didn't know,"
he added with a forced laugh.

"You don't look yourself to-day, Hugh," she said.

"I've been told that once before," he replied. "The weather--I think!
Are you going over to the _bal blanc_ at Nice to-night?"

"Of course. And you are coming also. Hasn't mother asked you?" she
inquired in surprise.

"No."

"How silly! She must have forgotten. She told me she intended to ask you
to have a seat in the car. The Comte d'Autun is coming with us."

"Ah! He admires you, Dorise, hence I don't like him," Hugh blurted
forth.

"But, surely, you're not jealous, you dear old thing!" laughed the girl,
tantalizing him. Perhaps she would not have uttered those words which
cut deeply into his heart had she known the truth concerning the tragedy
at the Villa Amette.

"I don't like him because he seems to live by gambling," Hugh declared.
"I know your mother likes him very much--of course!"

"And she likes you, too, dear."

"She may like me, but I fear she begins to suspect that we love each
other, dearest," he said in a hard tone. "If she does, she will take
care in future to keep us apart, and I--I shall lose you, Dorise!"

"No--no, you won't."

"Ah! But I shall! Your mother will never allow you to marry a man who
has only just sufficient to rub along with, and who is already in debt
to his tailor. What hope is there that we can ever marry?"

"My dear Hugh, you are awfully pessimistic to-day," the girl cried.
"What is up with you? Have you lost heavily at the tables--or what?"

"No. I have been thinking of the future," he said in a hard voice so
very unusual to him. "I am thinking of your mother's choice of a husband
for you--George Sherrard."

"I hate him--the egotistical puppy!" exclaimed the girl, her fine eyes
flashing with anger. "I'll never marry him--_never_!"

But Hugh Henfrey made no reply, and they went on together in silence.

"Cannot you trust me, Hugh?" asked the girl at last in a low earnest
tone.

"Yes, dearest. I trust you, of course. But I feel certain that your
mother, when she knows our secret, will forbid your seeing me, and press
on your marriage with Sherrard. Remember, he's a rich man, and your
mother adores the Golden Calf."

"I know she does. If people have money she wants to know them. Her first
inquiry is whether they have money."

It was on the tip of Hugh's tongue to remark with sarcasm that such
ideals might well be expected of the wife of a jerry-builder in Golder's
green. But he hesitated. Lady Ranscomb was always well disposed towards
him, and he had had many good times at her house and on the grouse
moor she rented in Scotland each year for the benefit of her intimate
friends. Though she had been the wife of a small builder and had
commenced her married life in an eight-roomed house on the fringe of
Hampstead Heath, yet she had picked up society manners marvellously
well, being a woman of quick intelligence and considerable wit.
Nevertheless, she had no soul above money, and gaiety was as life to
her. She could not live without it. Dorise had been given an excellent
education, and after three years at Versailles was now voted one of the
prettiest and most charming girls in London society. Hence mother and
daughter were sought after everywhere, and their doings were constantly
being chronicled in the newspapers.

"Yes," he said. "Your mother has not asked me over to Nice to-night
because she believes you and I have been too much together of late."

"No," declared Dorise. "I'm sure it's not that, Hugh--I'm quite sure!
It's simply an oversight. I'll see about it when we get back. We leave
the hotel at half-past nine. It is the great White Ball of the Nice
season."

"Please don't mention it to her on any account, Dorise," Hugh urged. "If
you did it would at once show her that you preferred my company to that
of the Count. Go with him. I shan't be jealous! Besides, in view of
my financial circumstances, what right have I to be jealous? You can't
marry a fellow like myself, Dorise. It wouldn't be fair to you."

The girl halted. In her eyes shone the light of unshed tears.

"Hugh! What do you mean? What are you saying?" she asked in a low,
faltering voice. "Have I not told you that whatever happens I shall
never love another man but yourself?"

He drew a long breath, and without replying placed his strong arms
around her and, drawing her to him, kissed her passionately upon the
lips.

"Thank you, my darling," he murmured. "Thank you for those words. They
put into me a fresh hope, a fresh determination, and a fearlessness--oh!
you--you don't know!" he added in a low, earnest voice.

"All I know, Hugh, is that you love me," was the simple response as she
reciprocated his fierce caress.

"Love you, darling!" he cried. "Yes. You are mine--mine!"

"True, Hugh. I love no other man. I hate that tailor's dummy, George
Sherrard, and as for the Count--well, he's an idiotic Frenchman--the
'hardy annual of Monte Carlo' I heard him called the other day. No,
Hugh, I assure you that you have no cause for jealousy."

And she smiled sweetly into his eyes.

They were standing together beneath a twisted old olive tree through the
dark foliage of which the sun shone in patches, while by their feet the
mountain torrent from the high, snow-clad Alps rippled and splashed over
the great grey boulders towards the sea.

"I know it, darling! I know it," Hugh said in a stifled voice. He was
thinking of the tragedy of that night, but dare not disclose to her his
connexion with it, because he knew the police suspected him of making
that murderous attack upon the famous "Mademoiselle."

"Forgive me, Hugh," exclaimed the girl, still clasped in her lover's
arms. "But somehow you don't seem your old self to-day. What is the
matter? Can't you tell me?"

He drew a long breath.

"No, darling. Excuse me. I--I'm a bit upset that's all."

"Why?"

"I'm upset because for the last day or two I have begun to realize that
our secret must very soon come out, and then--well, your mother will
forbid me the house because I have no money. You know that she worships
Mammon always--just as your father did--forgive me for my words."

"I do forgive you because you speak the truth," Dorise replied. "I know
that mother wants me to marry a rich man, and--"

"And she will compel you to do so, darling. I am convinced of that."

"She won't!" cried the girl. "I will never marry a man I do not love!"

"Your mother, if she doesn't suspect our compact, will soon do so," he
said. "She's a clever woman. She is on the alert, because she intends
you to marry soon, and to marry a rich man."

"Mother is far too fond of society, I admit. She lives only for her gay
friends now that father is dead. She spends lavishly upon luncheons and
dinners at the Ritz, the Carlton, and Claridge's; and by doing so we get
to know all the best people. But what does it matter to me? I hate it
all because----"

And she looked straight into his eyes as she broke off.

"Because," she whispered, "because--because I love you, Hugh!"

"Ah! darling! You have never been so frank with me before," he said
softly. "You do not know how much those words of yours mean to me! You
do not know how all my life, all my hopes, all my future, is centred
in your own dear self!" and clasping her again tightly in his arms he
pressed his lips fondly to hers in a long passionate embrace.

Yet within the stout heart of Hugh Henfrey, who was so straight, honest
and upright a young fellow as ever trod the Broad at Oxford, lay that
ghastly secret--indeed, a double secret--that of his revered father's
mysterious end and the inexplicable attack upon Yvonne Ferad at the very
moment when he had been about to learn the truth.

They lingered there beside the mountain stream for a long time, until
the sun sank and the light began to fail. Again and again he told her of
his great love for her, but he said nothing of the strange clause in his
father's will. She knew Louise Lambert, having met her once walking in
the park with her lover. Hugh had introduced them, and had afterwards
explained that the girl was the adopted daughter of a great friend of
his father.

Dorise little dreamed that if her lover married her he would inherit the
remainder of old Mr. Henfrey's fortune.

"Do come over to the ball at Nice to-night," the girl urged presently as
they stood with hands clasped gazing into each other's eyes. "It will be
nothing without you."

"Ah! darling, that's very nice of you to say so, but I think we ought to
be discreet. Your mother has invited the Count to go with you."

"I hate him!" Dorise declared. "He's all elegance, bows and flattery. He
bores me to death."

"I can quite understand that. But your mother is fond of his society.
She declares that he is so amusing, and in Paris he knows everyone worth
knowing."

"Oh, yes. He gave us an awfully good time in Paris last season--took us
to Longchamps, and we afterwards went to Deauville with him. He wins and
loses big sums on the turf."

"A born gambler. Everyone knows that. I heard a lot about him in the
Travellers' Club, in Paris."

"But if mother telephones to you, you'll come with us--won't you?"
entreated the girl again.

The young man hesitated. His mind was full of the tragic affair of
the previous night. He was wondering whether the end had come--whether
Mademoiselle's lips were already sealed by Death.

He gave an evasive reply, whereupon Dorise, taking his hand in hers,
said:

"What is your objection to going out with us to-night, Hugh? Do tell me.
If you don't wish me to go, I'll make an excuse to mother and she can
take the Count."

"I have not the slightest objection," he declared at once. "Go,
dearest--only leave me out of it. The _bal blanc_ is always good fun."

"I shall not go if you refuse to go," she said with a pout.

Therefore in order to please her he consented--providing Lady Ranscomb
invited him.

They had wandered a long way up the narrow, secluded valley, but had met
not a soul. All was delightful and picturesque, the profusion of wild
flowers, the huge grey moss-grown boulders, the overhanging ilexes and
olives, and the music of the tumbling current through a crooked course
worn deep by the waters of primeval ages.

It was seldom that in the whirl of society the pair could get a couple
of hours together without interruption. And under the blue Riviera sky
they were indeed fraught with bliss to both.

When they returned to the town the dusk was already falling, and the
great arc lamps along the terrace in front of the Casino were already
lit. Hugh took her as far as the entrance to the Metropole and then,
after wishing her au revoir and promising to go with her to Nice if
invited, he hastily retraced his steps to the Palmiers. Five minutes
later he was speaking to the old Italian at the Villa Amette.

"Mademoiselle is still unconscious, m'sieur," was the servant's reply to
his eager inquiry. "The doctors have been several times this afternoon,
but they hold out no hope."

"I wonder if I can be of any assistance?" Hugh asked in French.

"I think not, m'sieur. What assistance can any of us give poor
Mademoiselle?"

Ah, what indeed, Hugh thought as he put down the receiver.

Yet while she lived, there was still a faint hope that he would be
able to learn the secret which he anticipated would place him in such a
position that he might defy those who had raised their hands against his
father and himself.

His marriage with Dorise, indeed his whole future, depended upon the
disclosure of the clever plot whereby Louise Lambert was to become his
wife.

His friend Brock was not in the hotel, so he went to his room to
dress for dinner. Ten minutes later a page brought a message from Lady
Ranscomb inviting him to go over to Nice to the ball.

He drew a long breath. He was in no mood for dancing that night, for he
was far too perturbed regarding the critical condition of the notorious
woman who had turned his friend.

On every hand there were whispers and wild reports concerning the
tragedy at the Villa Amette. He had heard about it from a dozen people,
though not a word was in the papers. Yet nobody dreamed that he, of all
men, had been present when the mysterious shot was fired, or that he
was, indeed, the cause of the secret attack.

He dressed slowly, and having done so, descended to the _salle a
manger_. The big white room was filled with a gay, reckless cosmopolitan
crowd--the crowd of well-dressed moths of both sexes which eternally
flutters at night at Monte Carlo, attracted by the candle held by the
great god Hazard.

Brock was not there, and he seated himself alone at their table near
the long-curtained window. He was surprised at his friend's absence.
Perhaps, however, he had met friends and gone over to Beaulieu, Nice, or
Mentone with them.

He had but little appetite. He ate a small portion of langouste with an
exquisite salad, and drank a single glass of chablis. Then he rose
and quitted the chattering, laughing crowd of diners, whose gossip was
mainly upon a sensational run on the red at five o'clock that evening.
One woman, stout and of Hebrew type, sitting with three men, was wildly
merry, for she had won the equivalent to sixty thousand pounds.

All that recklessness jarred upon the young man's nerves. He tried to
close his ears to it all, and ascended again to his room, where he
sat in silent despondency till it was time for him to go round to the
Metropole to join Lady Ranscomb and Dorise.

He had brushed his hair and rearranged his tie, and was about to put on
the pierrot's costume of white satin with big buttons of black velvet
which he had worn at the _bal blanc_ at Mentone about a week before,
when the page handed him another note.

Written in a distinctly foreign hand, it read:


"Instantly you receive this get into a travelling-suit and put what
money and valuables you have into your pockets. Then go to a dark-green
car which will await you by the reservoir in the Boulevard du Midi.
Trust the driver. You must get over the frontier into Italy at the
earliest moment. Every second's delay is dangerous to you. Do not
trouble to find out who sends you this warning! _Bon voyage!_"


Hugh Henfrey read it and re-read it. The truth was plain. The police
of Monaco suspected him, and intended that he should be arrested on
suspicion of having committed the crime.

But who was his unknown friend?

He stood at the window reflecting. If he did not keep his appointment
with Dorise she would reproach him for breaking his word to her. On the
other hand, if he motored to Nice he would no doubt be arrested on the
French frontier a few miles along the Corniche road.

Inspector Ogier suspected him, hence discretion was the better part of
valour. So, after brief consideration, he threw off his dress clothes
and assumed a suit of dark tweed. He put his money and a few articles of
jewellry in his pockets, and getting into his overcoat he slipped out of
the hotel by the back entrance used by the staff.

Outside, he walked in the darkness along the Boulevard du Nord, past the
Turbie station, until he came to the long blank wall behind which lay
the reservoir.

At the kerb he saw the dim red rear-light of a car, and almost at the
same moment a rough-looking Italian chauffeur approached him.

"Quick, signore!" he whispered excitedly. "Every moment is full of
danger. There is a warrant out for your arrest! The police know that
you intended to go to Nice and they are watching for you on the Corniche
road. But we will try to get into Italy. You are an invalid, remember!
You'll find in the car a few things with which you can make up to look
the part. You are an American subject and a cripple, who cannot leave
the car when the customs officers search it. Now, signore, let's be off
and trust to our good fortune in getting away. I will tell the officers
of the _dogana_ at Ventimiglia a good story--trust me! I haven't been
smuggling backwards and forwards for ten years without knowing the
ropes!"

"But where are we going?" asked Hugh bewildered.

"You, signore, are going to prison if we fail on this venture, I fear,"
was the rough-looking driver's reply.

So urged by him Hugh got into the car, and then they drove swiftly along
the sea-road of the littoral towards the rugged Italian frontier.

Hugh Henfrey was going forth to face the unknown.




SEVENTH CHAPTER

FROM DARK TO DAWN

In the darkness the car went swiftly through Mentone and along the steep
winding road which leads around the rugged coast close to the sea--the
road over the yellow rocks which Napoleon made into Italy.

Presently they began to ascend a hill, a lonely, wind-swept highway with
the sea plashing deep below, when, after a sudden bend, some lights came
into view. It was the wayside Italian Customs House.

They had arrived at the frontier.

Hugh, by the aid of a flash-lamp, had put on a grey moustache and
changed his clothes, putting his own into the suit case wherein he had
found the suit already prepared for him. He had wrapped himself up in
a heavy travelling-rug, and by his side reposed a pair of crutches, so
that when they drew up before the little roadside office of the Italian
_dogana_ he was reclining upon a cushion presenting quite a pathetic
figure.

But who had made all these preparations for his flight?

He held his breath as the chauffeur sounded his horn to announce his
arrival. Then the door opened, shedding a long ray of light across the
white dusty road.

"_Buona sera, signore_!" cried the chauffeur merrily, as a Customs
officer in uniform came forward. "Here's my driving licence and papers
for the car. And our two passports."

The man took them, examined them by the light of his electric torch, and
told the chauffeur to go into the office for the visas.

"Have you anything to declare?" he added in Italian.

"Half a dozen very bad cigarettes," replied the other, laughing.
"They're French! And also I've got a very bad cold! No duty on that, I
suppose?"

The officer laughed, and then turned his attention to the petrol tank,
into which he put his measuring iron to see how much it contained, while
the facetious chauffeur stood by.

During this operation two other men came out of the building, one an
Italian carabineer in epaulettes and cocked hat, while the other, tall
and shrewd-faced, was in mufti. The latter was the agent of French
police who inspects all travellers leaving France by road.

The chauffeur realized that the moment was a critical one.

He was rolling a cigarette unconcernedly, but bending to the Customs
officer, he said in a low voice:

"My _padrone_ is an _Americano_. An invalid, and a bit eccentric. Lots
of money. A long time ago he injured his spine and can hardly move.
He fell down a few days ago, and now I've got to take him to Professor
Landrini, in Turin. He's pretty bad. We've come from Hyeres. His doctor
ordered me to take him to Turin at once. We don't want any delay. He
told me to give you this," and he slipped a note for a hundred lire into
the man's hand.

The officer expressed surprise, but the merry chauffeur of the rich
American exclaimed:

"Don't worry. The _Americano_ is very rich; I only wish there were more
of his sort about. He's the great Headon, the meat-canner of Chicago.
You see his name on the tins."

The man recognized the name, and at once desisted in his examination.

Then to the two police officers who came to his side, he explained:

"The American gentleman inside is an invalid, going to Turin to
Professor Landrini. He wants to get off at once, for he has a long
journey over the Alps."

The French agent of police grunted suspiciously. Both the French and
Italian police are very astute, but money always talks. It is the same
at a far-remote frontier station as in any circle of society.

Here was a well-known American--the Customs officer had mentioned the
name of Headon, which both police officers recognized--an invalid sent
with all haste to the famous surgeon in Turin. It was not likely that he
would be carrying contraband, or be an escaping criminal.

Besides, the chauffeur, in full view of the two police agents, slipped a
second note into the hand of the Customs officer, and said:

"So all is well, isn't it, signori? Just visa my papers, and we'll get
along. It looks as though we're to have a bad thunderstorm, and, if so,
we shall catch it up on the Col di Tenda!"

Thus impelled, the quartette went back to the well-lit little building,
where the beetle-browed driver again chaffed the police-agents, while
the Customs officer placed his rubber stamp upon the paper, scribbled
his initials and charged three-lire-twenty as fee.

All this was being watched with breathless anxiety by the supposed
invalid reclining against the cushion with his crutches at his side.

Again the mysterious chauffeur reappeared, and with him the French
police officer in plain clothes.

"We are keeping watch for a young Englishman from Monte Carlo who has
shot a woman," remarked the latter.

"Oh! But they arrested him to-night in Mentone," replied the driver. "I
heard it half an hour ago as I came through."

"Are you sure?"

"Well, they told me so at the Garage Grimaldi. He shot a woman known as
Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo--didn't he?"

"Yes, that's the man! But they have not informed us yet. I'll telephone
to Mentone." Then he added: "As a formality I'll just have a peep at
your master."

The chauffeur held his breath.

"He's pretty bad, I think. I hope we shall be in Turin early in the
morning."

Advancing to the car, the police officer opened the door and flashed his
torch upon the occupant.

He saw a pale, elderly man, with a grey moustache, wearing a golf cape
and reclining uneasily upon the pillow, with his leg propped up and
wrapped with a heavy travelling-rug. Upon the white countenance was an
expression of pain as he turned wearily, his eyes dazzled by the sudden
light.

"Where are we?" he asked faintly in English.

"At the Italian _douane_, m'sieur," was the police officer's reply, as
for a few seconds he gazed upon the invalid's face, seconds that seemed
hours to Hugh. He was, of course, unaware of the cock-and-bull story
which his strange chauffeur had told, and feared that at any moment he
might find himself under arrest.

While the door remained open there was danger. At last, however, the man
reclosed it.

Hugh's heart gave a great bound. The chauffeur had restarted the engine,
and mounting to the wheel shouted a merry:

"_Buona notte, signori_!"

Then the car moved away along the winding road and Hugh knew that he was
on Italian soil--that he had happily escaped from France.

But why had he escaped, he reflected? He was innocent. Would not his
flight lend colour to the theory that Yvonne Ferad had been shot by his
hand?

Again, who was his unknown friend who had warned him of his peril and
made those elaborate arrangements for his escape? Besides, where was
Walter?

His brain was awhirl. As they tore along in the darkness ever beside
the sea over that steep and dangerous road along the rock coast, Hugh
Henfrey fell to wondering what the motive of it all could be. Why had
Yvonne been shot just at that critical moment? It was evident that she
had been closely watched by someone to whom her silence meant a very
great deal.

She had told him that his father had been a good man, and she was on
the point of disclosing to him the great secret when she had been struck
down.

What was the mystery of it all? Ay, what indeed?

He recalled every incident of that fateful night, her indignation at his
presence in her house, and her curious softening of manner towards him,
as though repentant and ready to make amends.

Then he wondered what Dorise would think when he failed to put in an
appearance to go with her to the ball at Nice. He pictured the car
waiting outside the hotel, Lady Ranscomb fidgeting and annoyed, the
count elegant and all smiles and graces, and Dorise, anxious and eager,
going to the telephone and speaking to the concierge at the Palmiers.
Then inquiry for Monsieur Henfrey, and the discovery that he had left
the hotel unseen.

So far Dorise knew nothing of Hugh's part in the drama of the Villa
Amette, but suddenly he was horrified by the thought that the police,
finding he had escaped, would question her. They had been seen together
many times in Monte Carlo, and the eyes of the police of Monaco are
always very wide open. They know much, but are usually inactive. When
one recollects that all the _escrocs_ of Europe gather at the _tapis
vert_ in winter and spring, it is not surprising that they close their
eyes to such minor crimes as theft, blackmail and false pretences.

In his excited and unnerved state, he pictured Ogier calling upon Lady
Ranscomb and questioning her closely concerning her young English friend
who was so frequently seen with her daughter. That would, surely,
end their friendship! Lady Ranscomb would never allow her daughter to
associate further with a man accused of attempting to murder a notorious
woman after midnight!

The car presently descended the steep rocky road which wound up over the
promontory and back again down to the sea, until they passed through the
little frontier town of Ventimiglia.

It was late, and few people were about in the narrow, ill-lit streets.

Suddenly, a couple of Italian carabineers stopped the car.

Hugh's heart beat quickly. Had they at the _dogana_ discovered the trick
and telephoned from the frontier?

Instantly the fugitive reassumed his role of invalid, and no sooner had
he settled himself than the second man in a cocked hat and heavy black
cloak opened the door and peered within.

Another lamp was flashed upon his face.

The carabineer asked in Italian:

"What is your name, signore?"

But Hugh, pretending that he did not understand the language, asked:

"Eh? What?"

"Here are our papers, signore," interrupted the ever-ready chauffeur,
and he produced the papers for the officer's inspection.

He looked at them, bending to read them by the light of the torch which
his companion held.

Then, after an officious gesture, he handed them back, saying:

"_Benissimo_! You may pass!"

Again Hugh was free! Yet he wondered if that examination had been
consequent upon the hue and cry set up now that he had escaped from
Monaco.

They passed out of the straggling town of Ventimiglia, but instead of
turning up the valley by that long road which winds up over the Alps
until it reaches the snow and then passes through the tunnel on the Col
di Tenda and on to Cuneo and Turin, the mysterious driver kept on by the
sea-road towards Bordighera.

Hugh realised that his guide's intention was to go in the direction of
Genoa.

About two miles out of Ospedaletti, on the road to San Remo, Henfrey
rapped at the window, and the chauffeur, who was travelling at high
speed, pulled up.

Hugh got out and said in French:

"Well, so far we've been successful. I admire your ingenuity and your
pluck."

The man laughed and thanked him.

"I have done what I was told to do," he replied simply. "Monsieur is, I
understand, in a bit of a scrape, and it is for all of us to assist each
other--is it not?"

"Of course. But who told you to do all this?" Hugh inquired, standing in
the dark road beside the car. The pair could not see each other's faces,
though the big head-lamps glared far ahead over the white road.

"Well--a friend of yours, m'sieur."

"What is his name?"

"Pardon, I am not allowed to say."

"But all this is so very strange--so utterly mysterious!" cried Hugh.
"I have not committed any crime, and yet I am hunted by the police!
They are anxious to arrest me for an offence of which I am entirely
innocent."

"I know that, m'sieur," was the fellow's reply. "At the _dogana_,
however, we had a narrow escape. The man who looked at you was Morain,
the chief inspector of the Surete of the Alpes-Maritimes, and he was at
the outpost especially to stop you!"

"Again I admire your perfect nonchalance and ingenuity," Hugh said. "I
owe my liberty entirely to you."

"Not liberty, m'sieur. We are not yet what you say in English 'out of
the wood.'"

"Where are we going now?"

"To Genoa. We ought to be there by early morning," was the reply.
"Morain has, no doubt, telephoned to Mentone and discovered that my
story is false. So if later, on, they suspect the American invalid
they will be looking out for him on the Col di Tenda, in Cuneo, and in
Turin."

"And what shall we do in Genoa?"

"Let us get there first--and see."

"But I wish you would tell me who you are--and why you take such a keen
interest in my welfare," Hugh said.

The man gave vent to an irritating laugh.

"I am not permitted to disclose the identity of your friend," he
answered. "All I know is that you are innocent."

"Then perhaps you know the guilty person?" Hugh suggested.

"Ah! Let us talk of something else, signore," was the mysterious
chauffeur's reply.

"But I confess to you that I am bent upon solving the mystery of
Mademoiselle's assailant. It means a very great deal to me."

"How?" asked the man.

Hugh hesitated.

"Well," he replied. "If the culprit is found, then there would no longer
be any suspicion against myself."

"Probably he never will be found," the man said.

"But tell me, how did you know about the affair, and why are you risking
arrest by driving me to-night?"

"I have reasons," was all he would say. "I obey the demands of those who
are your friends."

"Who are they?"

"They desire to conceal their identity. There is a strong reason why
this should be done."

"Why?"

"Are they not protecting one who is suspected of a serious crime? If
discovered they would be punished," was the quiet response.

"Ah! There is some hidden motive behind all this!" declared the young
Englishman. "I rather regret that I did not remain and face the music."

"It would have been far too dangerous, signore. Your enemies would have
contrived to convict you of the crime."

"My enemies--but who are they?"

"Of that, signore, I am ignorant. Only I have been told that you have
enemies, and very bitter ones."

"But I have committed no crime, and yet I am a fugitive from justice!"
Hugh cried.

"You escaped in the very nick of time," the man replied. "But had we not
better be moving again? We must be in Genoa by daybreak."

"But do, I beg of you, tell me more," the young man implored. "To whom
do I owe my liberty?"

"As I have already told you, signore, you owe it to those who intend to
protect you from a false charge."

"Yes. But there is a lady in the case," Hugh said. "I fear that if she
hears that I am a fugitive she will misjudge me and believe me to be
guilty."

"Probably so. That is, I admit, unfortunate--but, alas! it cannot be
avoided. It was, however, better for you to get out of France."

"But the French police, when they know that I have escaped, will
probably ask the Italian police to arrest me, and then apply for my
extradition."

"If they did, I doubt whether you would be surrendered. The police of my
country are not too fond of assisting those of other countries. Thus if
an Italian commits murder in a foreign country and gets back to Italy,
our Government will refuse to give him up. There have been many such
cases, and the murderer goes scot free."

"Then you think I am safe in Italy?"

"Oh, no, not by any means. You are not an Italian subject. No, you must
not be very long in Italy."

"But what am I to do when we get to Genoa?" Hugh asked.

"The signore had better wait until we arrive there," was the driver's
enigmatical reply.

Then the supposed invalid re-entered the car and they continued on
their way along the bleak, storm-swept road beside the sea towards that
favourite resort of the English, San Remo.

The night had grown pitch dark, and rain had commenced to fall. Before
the car the great head-lamps threw long beams of white light against
which Hugh saw the silhouette of the muffled-up mysterious driver, with
his keen eyes fixed straight before him, and driving at such a pace that
it was apparent that he knew every inch of the dangerous road.

What could it all mean? What, indeed?




EIGHTH CHAPTER

THE WHITE CAVALIER

While Hugh Henfrey was travelling along that winding road over high
headlands and down steep gradients to the sea which stretched the whole
length of the Italian Riviera, Dorise Ranscomb in a white silk domino
and black velvet mask was pretending to enjoy herself amid the mad
gaiety at the Casino in Nice.

The great _bal blanc_ is always one of the most important events of the
Nice season, and everyone of note wintering on the Riviera was there,
yet all carefully masked, both men and women.

"I wonder what prevented Hugh from coming with us, mother?" the girl
remarked as she sat with Lady Ranscomb watching the merriment and the
throwing of serpentines and confetti.

"I don't know. He certainly ought to have let me know, and not have kept
me waiting nearly half an hour, as he did," her mother snapped.

The girl did not reply. The truth was that while her mother and the
Count had been waiting for Hugh's appearance, she had gone to the
telephone and inquired for Mr. Henfrey. Walter Brock had spoken to her.

"I'm awfully sorry, Miss Ranscomb," he had replied. "But I don't know
where Hugh can be. I've just been up to his room, but his fancy dress is
there, flung down as though he had suddenly discarded it and gone out.
Nobody noticed him leave. The page at the door is certain that he did
not go out. So he must have left by the staff entrance."

"That's very curious, isn't it?" Dorise remarked.

"Very. I can't understand it."

"But he promised to go with us to the ball at Nice to-night!"

"Well, Miss Ranscomb, all I can think is that something--something very
important must have detained him somewhere."

Walter knew that his friend was suspected by the police, but dared not
tell her the truth. Hugh's disappearance had caused him considerable
anxiety because, for aught he knew, he might already be arrested.

So Dorise, much perplexed, but resolving not to say to her mother that
she had telephoned to the Palmiers, rejoined the Count in the hotel
lounge, where they waited a further ten minutes. Then they entered the
car and drove along to Nice.

There are few merrier gatherings in all Europe than the _bal blanc_. The
Municipal Casino, at all times the center of revelry, of mild gambling,
smart dresses and gay suppers, is on that night an amazing spectacle of
black and white. The carnival colours--the two shades of colour chosen
yearly by the International Fetes Committee--are abandoned, and only
white is worn.

When the trio entered the fun was already in full swing. The gay crowd
disguised by their masks and fancy costumes were revelling as happily
as school children. A party of girls dressed as clowns were playing
leap-frog. Another party were dancing in a great and ever-widening
ring. Girls armed with jesters' bladders were being carried high on the
shoulders of their male acquaintances, and striking all and sundry as
they passed, staid, elderly folk were performing grotesque antics
for persons of their age. The very air of the Riviera seems to be
exhilarating to both old and young, and the constant church-goers
at home quickly become infected by the spirit of gaiety, and conduct
themselves on the Continental Sabbath in a manner which would horribly
disgust their particular vicar.

"Hugh must have been detained by something very unexpected, mother,"
Dorise said. "He never disappoints us."

"Oh, yes, he does. One night we were going to the Embassy Club--don't
you recollect it--and he never turned up."

"Oh, well, mother. It was really excusable. His cousin arrived from New
York quite unexpectedly upon some family business. He phoned to you and
explained," said the girl.

"Well, what about that night when I asked him to dinner at the Ritz to
meet the Courtenays and he rang up to say he was not well? Yet I saw him
hale and hearty next day at a matinee at the Comedy."

"He may have been indisposed, mother," Dorise said. "Really I think you
judge him just a little too harshly."

"I don't. I take people as I find them. Your father always said that,
and he was no fool, my dear. He made a fortune by his cleverness, and we
now enjoy it. Never associate with unsuccessful persons. It's fatal!"

"That's just what old Sir Dudley Ash, the steel millionaire, told me the
other day when we were over at Cannes, mother. Never associate with the
unlucky. Bad luck, he says, is a contagious malady."

"And I believe it--I firmly believe it," declared Lady Ranscomb. "Your
poor father pointed it out to me long ago, and I find that what he said
is too true."

"But we can't all be lucky, mother," said the girl, watching the revelry
before her blankly as she reflected upon the mystery of Hugh's absence.

"No. But we can, nevertheless, be rich, if we look always to the
main chance and make the best of our opportunities," her mother said
meaningly.

At that moment the Count d'Autun approached them. He was dressed as a
pierrot, but being masked was only recognizable by the fine ruby ring
upon his finger.

"Will mademoiselle do me the honour?" he said in French, bowing
elegantly. "They are dancing in the theatre. Will you come, Mademoiselle
Dorise?"

"Delighted," she said, with an inward sigh, for the dressed-up Parisian
always bored her. She rose quickly, and promising her mother to be back
soon, she linked her arm to that of the notorious gambler and passed
through the great palm-court into the theatre.

Then, a few moments later, she found herself carried around amid the
mad crowd of revellers, who laughed merrily as the coloured serpentines
thrown from the boxes fell upon them.

To lift one's _loup_ was a breach of etiquette. Everyone was closely
masked. British members of Parliament, French senators, Italian members
of the Camera, Spanish grandees and Russian princes, all with their
womenfolk, hob-nobbed with cocottes, _escrocs_, and the most
notorious adventurers and adventuresses in all Europe. Truly, it was a
never-to-be-forgotten scene of cosmopolitan fun.

The Count, who was a bad dancer, collided with a slim, well-dressed
French girl, but did not apologize.

"Oh! la la!" cried the girl to her partner, a stout figure in
Mephistophelian garb. "An exquisitely polite gentleman that, mon cher
Alphonse! I believe he must really be the Pork King from Chicago--eh?"

The Count heard it, and was furious. Dorise, however, said nothing. She
was thinking of Hugh's strange disappearance, and how he had broken his
word to her.

Meanwhile, Lady Ranscomb, secretly very glad that Hugh had been
prevented from accompanying them, and centring all her hopes upon her
daughter's marriage with George Sherrard, sat chattering with a Mrs.
Down, the fat wife of a war-profiteer, whose acquaintance she had made
in Paris six months before.

Dorise made pretense of enjoying the dance though eager to get back
again to Monte Carlo in order to learn the reason of her lover's
absence. She was devoted to Hugh. He was all in all to her.

She danced with several partners, having first made a rendezvous with
her mother at midnight at a certain spot under one of the great palms
in the promenade. At masked balls the chaperon is useless, and everyone,
being masked, looks so much alike that mistakes are easy.

About half-past one o'clock a big motor-car drew up in the Place before
the Casino, and a tall man in a white fancy dress of a cavalier, with
wide-brimmed hat and staggering plume, stepped from it and, presenting
his ticket, passed at once into the crowded ball-room. For a full ten
minutes he stood watching the crowd of revellers intently, eyeing each
of them keenly, though the expression on his countenance was hidden by
the strip of black velvet.

His eyes, shining through the slits in the mask, were, however, dark
and brilliant. In them could be seen alertness and eagerness, for it was
apparent that he had come there hot-foot in search of someone. In any
case he had a difficult task, for in the whirling, laughing, chattering
crowd each person resembled the other save for their feet and their
stature.

It was the feet of the dancers that the tall masked man was watching. He
stood in the crowd near the doorway with his hand upon his sword-hilt,
a striking figure remarked by many. His large eyes were fixed upon the
shoes of the dancers, until, of a sudden, he seemed to discover that
for which he was in search, and made his way quickly after a pair who,
having finished a dance, were walking in the direction of the great
hall.

The stranger never took his eyes off the pair. The man was slightly
taller than the woman, and the latter wore upon her white kid shoes a
pair of old paste buckles. It was for those buckles that he had been
searching.

"Yes," he muttered in English beneath his breath. "That's she--without a
doubt!"

He drew back to near where the pair had halted and were laughing
together. The girl with the glittering buckles upon her shoes was Dorise
Ranscomb. The man with her was the Count d'Autun.

The white cavalier pretended to take no interest in them, but was,
nevertheless, watching intently. At last he saw the girl's partner bow,
and leaving her, he crossed to greet a stout Frenchwoman in a plain
domino. In a moment the cavalier was at the girl's side.

"Please do not betray surprise, Miss Ranscomb," he said in a low,
refined voice. "We may be watched. But I have a message for you."

"For me?" she asked, peering through her mask at the man in the plumed
hat.

"Yes. But I cannot speak to you here. It is too public. Besides, your
mother yonder may notice us."

"Who are you?" asked the girl, naturally curious.

"Do not let us talk here. See, right over yonder in the corner behind
where they are dancing in a ring--under the balcony. Let us meet there
at once. _Au revoir_."

And he left her.

Three minutes later they met again out of sight of Lady Ranscomb, who
was still sitting at one of the little wicker tables talking to three
other women.

"Tell me, who are you?" Dorise inquired.

The white cavalier laughed.

"I'm Mr. X," was his reply.

"Mr. X? Who's that?"

"Myself. But my name matters nothing, Miss Ranscomb," he said. "I have
come here to give you a confidential message."

"Why confidential--and from whom?" she asked, standing against the wall
and surveying the mysterious masker.

"From a gentleman friend of yours--Mr. Henfrey."

"From Hugh?" she gasped. "Do you know him?"

"Yes."

"I expected him to come with us to-night, but he has vanished from his
hotel."

"I know. That is why I am here," was the reply.

There was a note in the stranger's voice which struck her as somehow
familiar, but she failed to recognize the individual. She was as quick
at remembering voices as she was at recollecting faces. Who could he be,
she wondered?

"You said you had a message for me," she remarked.

"Yes," he replied. "I am here to tell you that a serious contretemps has
occurred, and that Mr. Henfrey has escaped from France."

"Escaped!" she echoed. "Why?"

"Because the police suspect him of a crime."

"Crime! What crime? Surely he is innocent?" she cried.

"He certainly is. His friends know that. Therefore, Miss Ranscomb, I beg
of you to betray no undue anxiety even if you do not hear from him for
many weeks."

"But will he write to me?" she asked in despair. "Surely he will not
keep me in suspense?"

"He will not if he can avoid it. But as soon as the French
police realize that he has got away a watch will be kept upon his
correspondence." Then, lowering his voice, he urged her to move away,
as he thought that an idling masker was trying to overhear their
conversation.

"You see," he went on a few moments later, "it might be dangerous if he
were to write to you."

Dorise was thinking of what her mother would say when the truth reached
her ears. Hugh was a _fugitive_!

"Of what crime is he suspected?" asked the girl.

"I--well, I don't exactly know," was the stranger's faltering response.
"I was told by a friend of his that it was a serious one, and that
he might find it extremely difficult to prove himself innocent. The
circumstantial evidence against him is very strong."

"Do you know where he is now?"

"Not in the least. All I know is that he is safely across the frontier
into Italy," was the reply of the tall white cavalier.

"I wish I could see your face," declared Dorise frankly.

"And I might express a similar desire, Miss Ranscomb. But for the
present it is best as it is. I have sought you here to tell you the
truth in secret, and to urge you to remain calm and patient."

"Is that a message from Hugh?"

"No--not exactly. It is a message from one who is his friend."

"You are very mysterious," she declared. "If you do not know where he is
at the moment, perhaps you know where we can find him later."

"Yes. He is making his way to Brussels. A letter addressed to Mr.
Godfrey Brown, Poste Restante, Brussels, will eventually find him.
Recollect the name," he added. "Disguise your handwriting on the
envelope, and when you post it see that you are not observed. Recollect
that his safety lies in your hands."

"Trust me," she said. "But do let me know your name," she implored.

"Any old name is good enough for me," he replied. "Call me Mr. X."

"Don't mystify me further, please."

"Well, call me Smith, Jones, Robinson--whatever you like."

"Then you refuse to satisfy my curiosity--eh?"

"I regret that I am compelled to do so--for certain reasons."

"Are you a detective?" Dorise suddenly inquired.

The stranger laughed.

"If I were a police officer I should scarcely act as an intermediary
between Mr. Henfrey and yourself, Miss Ranscomb."

"But you say he is innocent. Are you certain of that? May I set my mind
at rest that he never committed this crime of which the police suspect
him?" she asked eagerly.

"Yes. I repeat that he is entirely innocent," was the earnest response.
"But I would advise you to affect ignorance. The police may question
you. If they do, you know nothing, remember--absolutely nothing. If you
write to Mr. Henfrey, take every precaution that nobody sees you post
the letter. Give him a secret address in London, or anywhere in England,
so that he can write to you there."

"But how long will it be before I can see him again?"

"Ah! That I cannot tell. There is a mystery underlying it all that even
I cannot fathom, Miss Ranscomb."

"What kind of mystery?"

The white cavalier shrugged his shoulders.

"You must ask Mr. Henfrey. Or perhaps his friend Brock knows. Yet if he
does, I do not suppose he would disclose anything his friend may have
told him in confidence."

"I am bewildered!" the girl declared. "It is all so very
mysterious--Hugh a fugitive from justice! I--I really cannot believe it!
What can the mystery be?"

"Of that I have no means of ascertaining, Miss Ranscomb. I am here
merely to tell you what has happened and to give you in secret the name
and address to which to send a letter to him," the masked man said
very politely. "And now I think we must part. Perhaps if ever we meet
again--which is scarcely probable--you will recognize my voice. And
always recollect that should you or Mr. Henfrey ever receive a message
from 'Silverado' it will be from myself." And he spelt the name.

"Silverado. Yes, I shall not forget you, my mysterious friend."

"_Au revoir_!" he said as, bowing gracefully, he turned and left her.

The sun was rising from the sea when Dorise entered her bedroom at the
hotel. Her maid had retired, so she undressed herself, and putting on a
dressing-gown, she pulled up the blinds and sat down to write a letter
to Hugh.

She could not sleep before she had sent him a reassuring message.

In the frenzy of her despair she wrote one letter and addressed it, but
having done so she changed her mind. It was not sufficiently reassuring,
she decided. It contained an element of doubt. Therefore she tore it up
and wrote a second one which she locked safely in her jewel case, and
then pulled the blinds and retired.

It was nearly noon next day before she left her room, yet almost as soon
as she had descended in the lift the head _femme de chambre_, a stout
Frenchwoman in a frilled cap, entered the room, and walking straight to
the waste-paper basket gathered up the contents into her apron and went
back along the corridor with an expression of satisfaction upon her full
round face.




NINTH CHAPTER

CONCERNS THE SPARROW

With the rosy dawn rising behind them the big dusty car tore along
over the white road which led through Pegli and Cornigliano, with their
wealth of olives and palms, into the industrial suburbs of old-world
Genoa. Then, passing around by the port, the driver turned the car up
past Palazzo Doria and along that street of fifteenth-century palaces,
the Via Garibaldi, into the little piazza in front of the Annunziata
Church.

There he pulled up after a run of two hours from the last of the many
railway crossings, most of which they had found closed.

When Hugh got out, the mysterious man, whose face was more forbidding in
the light of day, exclaimed:

"Here I must leave you very shortly, signore. But first I have certain
instructions to give you, namely, that you remain for the present in a
house in the Via della Maddalena to which I shall take you. The man and
the woman there you can trust. It will be as well not to walk about in
the daytime. Remain here for a fortnight, and then by the best means,
without, of course, re-entering France, you must get to Brussels. There
you will receive letters at the Poste Restante in the name of Godfrey
Brown. That, indeed, is the name you will use here."

"Well, all this is very strange!" remarked Hugh, utterly bewildered as
he glanced at the forbidding-looking chauffeur and the dust-covered car.

"I agree, signore," the man laughed. "But get in again and I will drive
to the Via della Maddalena."

Five minutes later the car pulled up at the end of a narrow stuffy
ancient street of high houses with closed wooden shutters. From house
to house across the road household linen was flying in the wind, for the
neighbourhood was certainly a poverty-stricken one.

The place did not appeal to Hugh in the least. He, however, recollected
that he was about to hide from the police. Italians are early risers,
and though it was only just after dawn, Genoa was already agog with life
and movement.

Leaving the car, the mysterious chauffeur conduced the young Englishman
along the street, where women were calling to each other from the
windows of their apartments and exchanging salutations, until they came
to an entrance over which there was an old blue majolica Madonna. The
house had no outer door, but at the end of the passage was a flight of
stone steps leading up to the five storeys above.

At the third flight Hugh's conductor paused, and finding a piece of cord
protruding from a hole in a door, pulled it. A slight tinkle was heard
within, and a few moments later the sound of wooden shoes was heard upon
the tiles inside.

The door opened, revealing an ugly old woman whose face was sallow and
wrinkled, and who wore a red kerchief tied over her white hair.

As soon as she saw the chauffeur she welcomed him, addressing him as
Paolo, and invited them in.

"This is the English signore," explained the man. "He has come to stay
with you."

"The signore is welcome," replied the old woman as she clattered into
the narrow, cheaply furnished little sitting-room, which was in half
darkness owing to the _persiennes_ being closed.

Truly, it was an uninviting place, which smelt of garlic and of the
paraffin oil with which the tiled floors had been rubbed.

"You will require another certificate of identity, signore," said the
man, who admitted that he had been engaged in smuggling contraband
across the Alps. And delving into his pocket he produced an American
passport. It was blank, though the embossed stamp of the United States
Government was upon it. The places were ready for the photograph and
signature. With it the man handed him a large metal disc, saying:

"When you have your picture taken and affixed to it, all you have to do
is to damp the paper slightly and impress this stamp. It will then defy
detection."

"Where on earth did you get this from?" asked Hugh, noticing that it was
a replica of the United States consular seal.

The man smiled, replying:

"They make passports of all countries in Spain. You pay for them, and
you can get them by the dozen. The embossing stamps are extra. There is
a big trade in them now owing to the passport restrictions. Besides, in
every country there are passport officers who are amenable to a little
baksheesh!" And he grinned.

What he said was true. At no period has it ever been more easy for a
criminal to escape than it is to-day, providing, of course, that he is a
cosmopolitan and has money.

Hugh took the passport and the disc, adding:

"How am I to repay you for all this?"

"I want no payment, signore. All I ask you is to conform to the
suggestions of the worthy Signore Ravecca and his good wife here. You
are not the first guest they have had for whom the police searched in
vain."

"No," laughed the old woman. "Do you recollect the syndic of Porticello,
how we had him here for nearly three years, and then he got safely away
to Argentina and took the money, three million lire, with him?"

"Yes," was the man's reply. "I recollect it, signora. But the Signore
Inglese must be very careful--very careful. He must never go out in the
daytime. You can buy him English papers and books of Luccoli, in the Via
Bosco. They will serve to while away the time."

"I shall, no doubt, pass the time very pleasantly," laughed Hugh,
speaking in French.

Then the old crone left them and returned with two cups of excellent
_cafe nero_, that coffee which, roasted at home one can get only in
Italy.

It was indeed refreshing after that long night drive.

Hugh stood there without luggage, and with only about thirty pounds in
his pocket.

Suddenly the man who had driven him looked him curiously in the face,
and said:

"Ah! I know you are wondering what your lady friend in Monte Carlo
will think. Well, I can tell you this. She already knows that you have
escaped, and she had been told to write to you in secret at the Poste
Restante at Brussels."

Hugh started.

"Who has told her? Surely she knows nothing of the affair at the Villa
Amette?"

"She will not be told that. But she has been told that you are going to
Brussels, and that in future your name is Monsieur Godfrey Brown."

"But why have all these elaborate arrangements been made for my
security?" Hugh demanded, more than ever nonplussed.

"It is useless to take one precaution unless the whole are taken,"
laughed the sphinx-like fellow whose cheerful banter had so successfully
passed them through the customs barrier.

Then, swallowing his coffee, he wished Hugh, "buon viaggio" and was
about to depart, when Hugh said:

"Look here. Is it quite impossible for you to give me any inkling
concerning this astounding affair? I know that some unknown friend, or
friends, are looking after my welfare. But why? To whom am I indebted
for all this? Who has warned Miss Ranscomb and told her of my alias and
my journey to Brussels?"

"A friend of hers and of yourself," was the chauffeur's reply. "No,
please do not question me, signore," he added. "I have done my best for
you. And now my journey is at an end, while yours is only beginning.
Pardon me--but you have money with you, I suppose? If you have not,
these good people here will trust you."

"But what is this house?"

The man laughed. Then he said:

"Well, really it is a bolt-hole used by those who wish to evade our very
astute police. If one conforms to the rules of Signora Ravecca and her
husband, then one is quite safe and most comfortable."

Hugh realized that he was in a hiding-place used by thieves. A little
later he knew that the ugly old woman's husband paid toll to a certain
_delegato_ of police, hence their house was never searched. While the
criminal was in those shabby rooms he was immune from arrest. The place
was, indeed, one of many hundreds scattered over Europe, asylums known
to the international thief as places ever open so long as they can pay
for their board and lodging and their contribution towards the police
bribes.

A few moments later the ugly, uncouth man who had brought him from Monte
Carlo lit a cigarette, and wishing the old woman a merry "addio" left
and descended the stairs.

The signora then showed Hugh to his room, a small, dispiriting and
not overclean little chamber which looked out upon the backs of the
adjoining houses, all of which were high and inartistic. Above, however,
was a narrow strip of brilliantly blue sunlit sky.

A quarter of an hour later he made the acquaintance of the woman's
husband, a brown-faced, sinister-looking individual whose black bushy
eyebrows met, and who greeted the young Englishman familiarly
in atrocious French, offering him a glass of red wine from a big
rush-covered flask.

"We only had word of your coming late last night," the man said. "You
had already started from Monte Carlo, and we wondered if you would get
past the frontier all right."

"Yes," replied Hugh, sipping the wine out of courtesy. "We got out of
France quite safely. But tell me, who made all these arrangements for
me?"

"Why, Il Passero, of course," replied the man, whose wife addressed him
affectionately as Beppo.

"Who is Il Passero, pray?"

"Well, you know him surely. Il Passero, or The Sparrow. We call him so
because he is always flitting about Europe, and always elusive."

"The police want him, I suppose."

"I should rather think they do. They have been searching for him for
these past five years, but he always dodges them, first in France, then
here, then in Spain, and then in England."

"But what is this mysterious and unknown friend of mine?"

"Il Passero is the chief of the most daring of all the gangs of
international thieves. We all work at his direction."

"But how did he know of my danger?" asked Hugh, mystified and dismayed.

"Il Passero knows many strange things," he replied with a grin. "It
is his business to know them. And besides, he has some friends in the
police--persons who never suspect him."

"What nationality is he?"

The man Beppo shrugged his shoulders.

"He is not Italian," he replied. "Yet he speaks the _lingua Toscano_
perfectly and French and English and _Tedesco_. He might be Belgian or
German, or even English. Nobody knows his true nationality."

"And the man who brought me here?"

"Ah! that was Paolo, Il Passero's chauffeur--a merry fellow--eh?"

"Remarkable," laughed Hugh. "But I cannot see why The Sparrow has taken
such a paternal interest in me," he added.

"He no doubt has, for he has, apparently, arranged for your safe return
to England."

"You know him, of course. What manner of man is he?"

"A signore--a great signore," replied Beppo. "He is rich, and is often
on the Riviera in winter. He's probably there now. Nobody suspects him.
He is often in England, too. I believe he has a house in London. During
the war he worked for the French Secret Service under the name of
Monsieur Franqueville, and the French Government never suspected that
they actually had in their employ the famous Passero for whom the Surete
were looking everywhere."

"You have no idea where he lives in London?"

"I was once told that he had a big house somewhere in what you call
the West End--somewhere near Piccadilly. I have, however, only seen him
once. About eighteen months ago he was hard pressed by the police and
took refuge here for two nights, till Paolo called for him in his fine
car and he passed out of Italy as a Swiss hotel-proprietor."

"Then he is head of a gang--is he?"

"Yes," was the man's reply. "He is marvellous, and has indeed well
earned his sobriquet 'Il Passero.'"

A sudden thought flitted through Hugh's mind.

"I suppose he is a friend of Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo?"

"Ah, signore, I do not know. Il Passero had many friends. He is rich,
prosperous, well-dressed, and has influential friends in France, in
Italy and in England who never suspect him to be the notorious king of
the thieves."

"Now, tell me," urged young Henfrey. "What do you know concerning
Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo?"

The Italian looked at him strangely.

"Nothing," he replied, still speaking bad French.

"You are not speaking the truth."

"Why should I tell it to you? I do not know you!" was the quick retort.

"But you are harbouring me."

"At the orders of Il Passero."

"You surely can tell me what you know of Mademoiselle," Hugh persisted
after a brief pause. "We are mutually her friends. The attempt to kill
her is outrageous, and I, for one, intend to do all I can to trace and
punish the culprit."

"They say that you shot her."

"Well--you know that I did not," Henfrey said. "Have you yourself ever
met Mademoiselle?"

"I have seen her. She was living for a time at Santa Margherita last
year. I had a friend of hers living here with me and I went to her with
a message. She is a very charming lady."

"And a friend of Il Passero?"

The Italian shrugged his shoulders with a gesture of ignorance.

Hugh Henfrey had certainly learned much that was curious. He had never
before heard of the interesting cosmopolitan thief known as The Sparrow,
but it seemed evident that the person in question had suddenly become
interested in him for some obscure and quite unaccountable reason.

As day followed day in that humble place of concealment, Beppo told him
many things concerning the famous criminal Il Passero, describing his
exploits in terms of admiration. Hugh learnt that it was The Sparrow who
had planned the great jewel robbery at Binet's, in the Rue de la Paix,
when some famous diamonds belonging to the Shah of Persia, which had
been sent to Paris to be reset, were stolen. It was The Sparrow, too,
who had planned the burglary at the art gallery of Evans and Davies in
Bond Street and stolen Raphael's famous Madonna.

During the daytime Hugh, anxious to get away to Brussels, but compelled
to obey the order of the mysterious Passero, spent the time in smoking
and reading books and newspapers with which Beppo's wife provided him,
while at night he would take long walks through the silent city, with
its gloomy old palaces, the courtyards of which echoed to his footsteps.
At such times he was alone with his thoughts and would walk around the
port and out upon the hills which surrounded the bay, and then sit down
and gaze out to the twinkling lights across the sea and watch the long
beams of the great lighthouse searching in the darkness.

His host and hostess were undoubtedly criminals. Indeed, they did not
hide the fact. Both were paid by The Sparrow to conceal and provide for
anyone whom he sent there.

He had been there four weary, anxious days when one evening a pretty,
well-dressed young French girl called, and after a short chat with
Beppo's wife became installed there as his fellow-guest. He did not know
her name and she did not tell him.

She was known to them as Lisette, and Hugh found her a most vivacious
and interesting companion. Truly, he had been thrown into very queer
company, and he often wondered what his friends would say if they knew
that he was guest in a hiding-place of thieves.




TENTH CHAPTER

A LESSON IN ARGOT

Late one evening the dainty girl thief, Lisette, went out for a stroll
with Hugh, but in the Via Roma they met an agent of police.

"Look!" whispered the girl in French, "there's a _pince sans rire_! Be
careful!"

She constantly used the argot of French thieves, which was often
difficult for the young Englishman to understand. And the dark-haired
girl would laugh, apologize, and explain the meaning of her strange
expressions.

Outside the city they were soon upon the high road which wound up the
deep green valley of the Bisagno away into the mountains, ever ascending
to the little hill-town of Molassana. The scene was delightful in the
moonlight as they climbed the steep hill and then descended again
into the valley, Lisette all the time gossiping on in a manner which
interested and amused him.

Her arrival had put an end to his boredom, and, though he was longing to
get away from his surroundings, she certainly cheered him up.

They had walked for nearly an hour, when, declaring she felt tired,
they sat upon a rock to rest and eat the sandwiches with which they had
provided themselves.

Two carabineers in cloaks and cocked hats who met them on the road put
them down as lovers keeping a clandestine tryst. They never dreamed that
for both of them the police were in search.

"Now tell me something concerning yourself, mademoiselle," Hugh urged
presently.

"Myself! Oh! la la!" she laughed. "What is there to tell? I am just of
_la haute pegre--a truqueuse_. Ah! you will not know the expression.
Well--I am a thief in high society. I give indications where we can
make a coup, and afterwards _bruler le pegriot_--efface the trace of the
affair."

"And why are you here?"

"_Malheureusement_! I was in Orleans and a _friquet_ nearly captured me.
So Il Passero sent me here for a while."

"You help Il Passero--eh?"

"Yes. Very often. Ah! m'sieur, he is a most wonderful man--English, I
think. _Girofle_ (genteel and amiable), like yourself."

"No, no, mademoiselle," Hugh protested, laughing.

"But I mean it. Il Passero is a real gentleman--but--_maquiller son
truc_, and he is marvellous. When he exercises his wonderful talent and
forms a plan it is always flawless."

"Everyone seems to hold him in high esteem. I have never met him," Hugh
remarked.

"He was in Genoa on the day that I arrived. Curious that he did not call
and see Beppo. I lunched with him at the Concordia, and he paid me five
thousand francs, which he owed me. He has gone to London now with his
_ecrache-tarte_."

"What is that, pray?"

"His false passport. He has always a good supply of them for anyone
in need of one. They are printed secretly in Spain. But m'sieur," she
added, "you are not of our world. You are in just a little temporary
trouble. Over what?"

In reply he was perfectly frank with her. He told her of the suspicion
against him because of the affair of the Villa Amette.

"Ah!" she replied, her manner changing, "I have heard that Mademoiselle
was shot, but I had no idea that you had any connexion with that ugly
business."

"Yes. Unfortunately I have. Do you happen to know Yvonne Ferad?"

"Of course. Everyone knows her. She is very charming. Nobody knows the
truth."

"What truth?" inquired Hugh quickly.

"Well--that she is a _marque de ce_."

"A _marque de ce_--what is that?" asked Hugh eagerly.

"Ah! _non_, m'sieur. I must not tell you anything against her. You are
her friend."

"But I am endeavouring to find out something about her. To me she is a
mystery."

"No doubt. She is to everybody."

"What did you mean by that expression?" he demanded. "Do tell me. I am
very anxious to know your opinion of her, and something about her. I
have a very earnest motive in trying to discover who and what she really
is."

"If I told you I should offend Il Passero," replied the girl simply. "It
is evident that he wishes you should remain in ignorance."

"But surely, you can tell me in confidence? I will divulge nothing."

"No," answered the girl, whose face he could not see in the shadow. "I
am sorry, M'sieur Brown"--she had not been told his Christian name--"but
I am not permitted to tell you anything concerning Mademoiselle Yvonne."

"She is a very remarkable person--eh?" said Henfrey, again defeated.

"Remarkable! Oh, yes. She is of the _grande monde_."

"Is that still your argot?" he asked.

"Oh no. Mademoiselle Yvonne is a lady. Some say she is the daughter of a
rich Englishman. Others say she is just a common adventuress."

"The latter is true, I suppose?"

"I think not. She has _le clou_ for the _eponge d'or_."

"I do not follow that."

"Well," she laughed, "she has the attraction for those who hold the
golden sponge--the Ministers of State. Our argot is difficult for you,
m'sieur--eh?"

"I see! Your expressions are a kind of cipher, unintelligible to the
ordinary person--eh?"

"That is so. If I exclaim, _par exemple, tarte_, it means false; if I
say _gilet de flanelle_, it is lemonade; if I say _frise_, it means a
Jew; or _casserole_, which is in our own tongue a police officer. So
you see it is a little difficult--is it not? To us _tire-jus_ is a
handkerchief, and we call the ville de Paris _Pantruche_."

Hugh sat in wonder. It was certainly a strange experience to be on
a moonlight ramble with a girl thief who had, according to her own
confession, been born in Paris the daughter of a man who was still one
of Il Passero's clever and desperate band.

"Yes, m'sieur," she said a few moments later. "They are all dangerous.
They do not fear to use the knife or automatic pistol when cornered.
For myself, I simply move about Europe and make discoveries as to where
little affairs can be negotiated. I tell Il Passero, and he then works
out the plans. _Dieu_! But I had a narrow escape the other day in
Orleans!"

"Do tell me about Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo. I beg of you to tell me
something, Mademoiselle Lisette," Hugh urged, turning to the girl of
many adventures who was seated at his side upon the big rock overlooking
the ravine down which the bright moon was shining.

"I would if I were permitted," she replied. "Mademoiselle Yvonne is
charming. You know her, so I need say nothing, but----"

"Well--what?"

"She is clever--very clever," said the girl. "As Il Passero is clever,
so is she."

"Then she is actively associated with him--eh?"

"Yes. She is cognizant of all his movements, and of all his plans. While
she moves in one sphere--often in a lower sphere, like myself--yet in
society she moves in the higher sphere, and she 'indicates,' just as I
do."

"So she is one of The Sparrow's associates?" Hugh said.

"Yes," was the reply. "From what you have told me I gather that Il
Passero knew by one of his many secret sources of information that you
were in danger of arrest, and sent Paolo to rescue you--which he did."

"No doubt that is so. But why should he take all this interest in me? I
don't know and have never even met him."

"Il Passero is always courteous. He assists the weak against the strong.
He is like your English bandit Claude Duval of the old days. He always
robs with exquisite courtesy, and impresses the same trait upon all who
are in his service. And I may add that all are well paid and all devoted
to their great master."

"I have heard that he has a house in London," Hugh said. "Do you know
where it is situated?"

"Somewhere near Piccadilly. But I do not know exactly where it is. He is
always vague regarding his address. His letters he receives in several
names at a newspaper shop in Hammersmith and at the Poste Restante at
Charing Cross."

"What names?" asked Hugh, highly interested.

"Oh! a number. They are always being changed," the French girl replied.

"Where do you write when you want to communicate with him?"

"Generally to the Poste Restante in the Avenue de l'Opera, in Paris.
Letters received there are collected for him and forwarded every day."

"And so clever is he that nobody suspects him--eh?"

"Exactly, m'sieur. His policy is always '_Rengraciez_!' and he cares not
a single _rotin_ for _La Reniffe_," she replied, dropping again into the
slang of French thieves.

"Of course he is on friendly terms with Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo?"
Hugh remarked. "He may have been at Monte Carlo on the night of the
tragic affair."

"He may have been. He was, no doubt, somewhere on the Riviera, and he
sent Paolo in one of the cars to rescue you from the police."

"In that case, he at least knows that I am innocent."

"Yes. And he probably knows the guilty person. That would account for
the interest he takes in you, though you do not know him," said Lisette.
"I have known Il Passero perform many kindly acts to persons in distress
who have never dreamed that they have received money from a notorious
international thief."

"Well, in my case he has, no doubt, done me signal service," young
Henfrey replied. "But," he added, "why cannot you tell me something
more concerning Mademoiselle? What did you mean by saying that she was
a _marque de ce_? I know it is your slang, but won't you explain what it
means? You have explained most of your other expressions."

But the girl thief was obdurate. She was certainly a _chic_ and engaging
little person, apparently well educated and refined, but she was as sly
as her notorious employer, whom she served so faithfully. She was, she
had already told Hugh, the daughter of a man who had made jewel thefts
his speciality and after many convictions was now serving ten years at
the convict prison at Toulon. She had been bred in the Montmartre, and
trained and educated to a criminal life. Il Passero had found her, and,
after several times successfully "indicating" where coups could be made,
she had been taken into his employment as a decoy, frequently travelling
on the international _wagon-lits_ and restaurants, where she succeeded
in attracting the attention of men and holding them in conversation
with a mild flirtation while other members of the gang investigated the
contents of their valises. From one well-known diamond dealer travelling
between Paris and Amsterdam, she and the man working with her had
stolen a packet containing diamonds of the value of two hundred thousand
francs, while from an English business man travelling from Boulogne to
Paris, two days later, she had herself taken a wallet containing nearly
four thousand pounds in English bank-notes. It was her share of the
recent robbery that Il Passero had paid her three days before at the
Concordia Restaurant in the Via Garibaldi, in Genoa.

Hugh pressed her many times to tell him something concerning the
mysterious Mademoiselle, but he failed to elicit any further information
of interest.

"Her fortune at the Rooms is wonderful, they say," Lisette said. "She
must be very rich."

"But she is one of Il Passero's assistants--eh?"

The girl laughed lightly.

"Perhaps," was her enigmatical reply. "Who knows? It is, however,
evident that Il Passero is seriously concerned at the tragic affair at
the Villa Amette."

"Have you ever been there?"

She hesitated a few moments, then said: "Yes, once."

"And you know the old Italian servant Cataldi?"

She replied in the affirmative. Then she added:

"I know him, but I do not like him. She trusts him, but----"

"But what?"

"I would not. I should be afraid, for to my knowledge he is a _saigneur
a musique_."

"And what is that?"

"An assassin."

"What?" cried Henfrey. "Is he guilty of murder--and Mademoiselle knows
it?"

"Mademoiselle may not know about it. She is probably in ignorance, or
she would not employ him."

Her remark was of considerable interest, inasmuch as old Cataldi had
seemed to be most devoted to his mistress, and entirely trusted by her.

"Do you know the circumstances?" asked Hugh.

"Yes. But it is not our habit to speak of another's--well,
shortcomings," was her reply.

"Surely, Mademoiselle should have been told the truth! Does not Il
Passero know?" he asked.

There flitted across his mind at that moment the recollection of Dorise.
What could she think of his disappearance? He longed to write to her,
but The Sparrow's chauffeur had impressed upon him the serious danger he
would be running if he wrote to her while she was at Monte Carlo.

"I question whether he does know. But if he does he would say nothing."

"Ah!" sighed Hugh. "Yours is indeed a queer world, mademoiselle. And not
without interest."

"It is full of adventure and excitement, of ups and downs, of constant
travel and change, and of eternal apprehension of arrest," replied the
girl, with a laugh.

"I wish you would tell me something about Yvonne Ferad," he repeated.

"Alas! m'sieur, I am not permitted," was her obdurate reply. "I am truly
sorry to hear of the dastardly attack upon her. She once did me a
very kind and friendly action at a moment when I was in sore need of a
friend."

"Who could have fired the shot, do you think?" Henfrey asked. "You know
her friends. Perhaps you know her enemies?"

Mademoiselle Lisette was silent for some moments.

"Yes," she replied reflectively. "She has enemies, I know. But who has
not?"

"Is there any person who, to your knowledge, would have any motive to
kill her?"

Again she was silent.

"There are several people who hate her. One of them might have done it
out of revenge. You say you saw nobody?"

"Nobody."

"Why did you go and see her at that hour?" asked the girl.

"Because I wanted her to tell me something--something of greatest
importance to me."

"And she refused, of course? She keeps her own secrets."

"No. On the other hand, she was about to disclose to me the information
I sought when someone fired through the open window."

"The shot might have been intended for you--eh?"

Hugh paused.

"It certainly might," he admitted. "But with what motive?"

"To prevent you from learning the truth."

"She was on the point of telling me what I wanted to know."

"Exactly. And what more likely than someone outside, realizing that
Mademoiselle was about to make a disclosure, fired at you."

"But you said that Mademoiselle had enemies."

"So she has. But I think my theory is the correct one," replied the
girl. "What was it that you asked her to reveal to you?"

"Well," he replied, after a brief hesitation, "my father died
mysteriously in London some time ago, and I have reason to believe that
she knows the truth concerning the sad affair."

"Where did it happen?"

"My father was found in the early morning lying in a doorway in
Albemarle Street, close to Piccadilly. The only wound found was a slight
scratch in the palm of the hand. The police constable at first thought
he was intoxicated, but the doctor, on being called, declared that my
father was suffering from poison. He was at once taken to St. George's
Hospital, but an hour later he died without recovering consciousness."

"And what was your father's name?" asked Lisette in a strangely altered
voice.

"Henfrey."

"Henfrey!" gasped the girl, starting up at mention of the name.
"_Henfrey_! And--and are--you--_his son_?"

"Yes," replied Hugh. "Why? You know about the affair, mademoiselle! Tell
me all you know," he cried. "I--the son of the dead man--have a right to
demand the truth."

"Henfrey!" repeated the girl hoarsely in a state of intense agitation.
"Monsieur Henfrey! And--and to think that I am here--with you--_his
son_! Ah! forgive me!" she gasped. "I--I----Let us return."

"But you shall tell me the truth!" cried Hugh excitedly. "You know it!
You cannot deny that you know it!"

All, however, he could get from her were the words:

"You--Monsieur Henfrey's son! _Surely Il Passero does not know this_!"




ELEVENTH CHAPTER

MORE ABOUT THE SPARROW

A month of weary anxiety and nervous tension had gone by.

Yvonne Ferad had slowly struggled back to health, but the injury to the
brain had, alas! seriously upset the balance of her mind. Three of
the greatest French specialists upon mental diseases had seen her and
expressed little hope of her ever regaining her reason.

It was a sad affair which the police of Monaco had, by dint of much
bribery and the telling of many untruths, successfully kept out of the
newspapers.

The evening after Hugh's disappearance, Monsieur Ogier had called upon
Dorise Ranscomb--her mother happily being away at the Rooms at the time.
In one of the sitting-rooms of the hotel the official of police closely
questioned the girl, but she, of course made pretense of complete
ignorance. Naturally Ogier was annoyed at being unable to obtain the
slightest information, and after being very rude, he told the girl the
charge against her lover and then left the hotel in undisguised anger.

Lady Ranscomb was very much mystified at Hugh's disappearance, though
secretly she was very glad. She questioned Brock, but he, on his part,
expressed himself very much puzzled. A week later, however, Walter
returned to London, and on the following night Lady Ranscomb and her
daughter took the train-de-luxe for Boulogne, and duly arrived home.

As day followed day, Dorise grew more mystified and still more anxious
concerning Hugh. What was the truth? She had written to Brussels three
times, but her letters had elicited no response. He might be already
under arrest, for aught she knew. Besides, she could not rid herself of
the recollection of the white cavalier, that mysterious masker who had
told her of her lover's escape.

In this state of keen anxiety and overstrung nerves she was compelled
to meet almost daily, and be civil to, her mother's friend, the odious
George Sherrard.

Lady Ranscomb was for ever singing the man's praises, and never weary of
expressing her surprise at Hugh's unforgivable behaviour.

"He simply disappeared, and nobody has heard a word of him since!" she
remarked one day as they sat at breakfast. "I'm quite certain he's done
something wrong. I've never liked him, Dorise."

"You don't like him, mother, because he hasn't money," remarked the girl
bitterly. "If he were rich and entertained you, you would call him a
delightful man!"

"Dorise! What are you saying? What's the good of life without money?"
queried the widow of the great contractor.

"Everyone can't be rich," the girl averred simply. "I think it's
positively hateful to judge people by their pockets."

"Well, has Hugh written to you?" snapped her mother.

Dorise replied in the negative, stifling a sigh.

"And he isn't likely to. He's probably hiding somewhere. I wonder what
he's done?"

"Nothing. I'm sure of that!"

"Well, I'm not so sure," was her mother's response. "I was chatting
about it to Mr. Sherrard last night, and he's promised to make inquiry."

"Let Mr. Sherrard inquire as much as he likes," cried the girl angrily.
"He'll find nothing against Hugh, except that he's poor."

"H'm! And he's been far too much in your company of late, Dorise. People
were beginning to talk at Monte Carlo."

"Oh! Let them talk, mother! I don't care a scrap. I'm my own mistress!"

"Yes, but I tell you frankly that I'm very glad that we've seen the last
of the fellow."

"Mother! You are really horrid!" cried the girl, rising abruptly and
leaving the table. When out of the room she burst into tears.

Poor girl, her heart was indeed full.

Now it happened that early on that same morning Hugh Henfrey stepped
from a train which had brought him from Aix-la-Chapelle to the Gare du
Nord, in Brussels. He had spent three weeks with the Raveccas, in Genoa,
whence he had travelled to Milan and Bale, and on into Belgium by way of
Germany.

From Lisette he had failed to elicit any further facts concerning his
father's death, though it was apparent that she knew something about
it--something she dared not tell.

On the day following their midnight stroll, he had done all in his power
to induce her to reveal something at least of the affair, but, alas! to
no avail. Then, two days later, she had suddenly left--at orders of The
Sparrow, she said.

Before Hugh left Ravecca had given him eighty pounds in English notes,
saying that he acted at Il Passero's orders, for Hugh would no doubt
need the money, and it would be most dangerous for him to write to his
bankers.

At first Henfrey protested, but, as his funds were nearly exhausted, he
had accepted the money.

As he left the station in Brussels on that bright spring morning and
crossed the busy Place, he was wondering to what hotel he should go. He
had left his scanty luggage in the _consigne_, intending to go out on
foot and search for some cheap and obscure hotel, there being many such
in the vicinity of the station. After half an hour he chose a small
and apparently clean little place in a narrow street off the Place de
Brouckere, and there, later on, he carried his handbag. Then, after a
wash, he set out for the Central Post Office in the Place de la Monnaie.

He had not gone far along the busy boulevard when he was startled to
hear his name uttered from behind, and, turning, encountered a short,
thick-set little man wearing a brown overcoat.

The man, noticing the effect his words had upon him, smiled
reassuringly, and said in broken English: "It is all right! I am not
a police officer, Monsieur Henfrey. Cross the road and walk down that
street yonder. I will follow in a few moments."

And then the man walked on, leaving Hugh alone.

Much surprised, Hugh did as he was bid, and a few minutes later the
Belgian met him again.

"It is very dangerous for us to be seen together," he said quickly,
scarcely pausing as he walked. "Do not go near the Post Office, but go
straight to 14 Rue Beyaert, first floor. I shall be there awaiting you.
I have a message for you from a friend. You will find the street close
to the Porte de Hal."

And the man continued on his way, leaving Hugh in wonder. He had been on
the point of turning from the boulevard into the Place de la Monnaie to
obtain Dorise's long looked for letter. Indeed, he had been hastening
his footsteps full of keen apprehension when the stranger had accosted
him.

But in accordance with the man's suggestion, he turned back towards the
station, where he entered a taxi and drove across the city to the corner
of Rue Beyaert, a highly respectable thoroughfare. He experienced no
difficulty in finding the house indicated, and on ascending the stairs,
found the stranger awaiting him.

"Ah!" he cried. "Come in! I am glad that I discovered you! I have been
awaiting your arrival from Italy for the past fortnight. It is indeed
fortunate that I found you in time to warn you not to go to the Poste
Restante." He spoke in French, and had shown his visitor into a small
but well furnished room.

"Why?" asked Hugh. "Is there danger in that quarter?"

"Yes, Monsieur Henfrey. The French police have, by some unknown means,
discovered that you were coming here, and a strict watch is being kept
for anyone calling for letters addressed to Godfrey Brown."

"But how could they know?" asked Hugh.

"Ah! That is the mystery! Perhaps your lady friend has been indiscreet.
She was told in strict confidence, and was warned that your safety was
in her hands."

"Surely, Dorise would be most careful not to betray me!" cried the young
Englishman.

"Well, somebody undoubtedly has."

"I presume you are one of Il Passero's friends?" Hugh said with a smile.

"Yes. Hence I am your friend," was the reply.

"Have you heard of late how Mademoiselle Yvonne is progressing?"

The man, who told his visitor his name was Jules Vervoort, shook his
head.

"She is no better. I heard last week that the doctors have said that she
will never recover her mental balance."

"What! Is she demented?"

"Yes. The report I had was that she recognized nobody, except at
intervals she knows her Italian manservant and calls him by name. I was
ordered to tell you this."

"Ordered by Il Passero--eh?"

The man Vervoort nodded in the affirmative. Then he went on to warn
his visitor that the Brussels police were on the eager watch for his
arrival. "It is fortunate that you were not recognized when you came
this morning," he said. "I had secret warning and was at the station,
but I dared not approach you. You passed under the very nose of two
detectives, but luckily for you, their attention had been diverted to a
woman who is a well-known pickpocket. I followed you to your hotel and
then waited for you to go to the Poste Restante."

"But I want my letters," said Hugh.

"Naturally, but it is far too dangerous to go near there. You, of
course, want news of your lady friend. That you will have by special
messenger very soon. Therefore remain patient."

"Why are all these precautions being taken to prevent my arrest?" Hugh
asked. "I confess I don't understand it."

"Neither do I. But when Il Passero commands we all obey."

"You are, I presume, his agent in Brussels?"

"His friend--not his agent," Vervoort replied with a smile.

"Do you know Mademoiselle Lisette?" Hugh asked. "She was with me in
Genoa."

"Yes. We have met. A very clever little person. Il Passero thinks very
highly of her. She has been educated in the higher schools, and is
perhaps one of our cleverest decoys."

Hugh Henfrey paused.

"Now look here, Monsieur Vervoort," he exclaimed at last, "I'm very
much in the dark about all this curious business. Lisette knows a lot
concerning Mademoiselle Yvonne."

"Admitted. She acted once as her maid, I believe, in some big affair.
But I don't know much about it."

"Well, you know what happened at the Villa Amette that night? Have you
any idea of the identity of the person who shot poor Mademoiselle--the
lady they call Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo?"

"Not in the least," was the reply. "All I know is that Il Passero has
some very keen and personal interest in the affair. He has sent further
orders to you. It is imperative, he says, that you should get away from
Brussels. The police are too keen here."

"Where shall I go?"

"I suggest that you go at once to Malines. Go to Madame Maupoil, 208 Rue
de Stassart, opposite the Military Hospital. It is far too dangerous
for you to remain here in Brussels. I have already written that you
are coming. Her house is one of the sanctuaries of the friends of Il
Passero. Remember the name and address."

"The Sparrow seems to be ubiquitous," Hugh remarked.

"He is. No really great robbery can be accomplished unless he plans and
finances it."

"I cannot think why he takes so keen an interest in me."

"He often does in persons who are quite ignorant of his existence."

"That is my own case. I never heard of him until I was in Genoa, a
fugitive," said Hugh. "But you told me I shall receive a message from
Miss Ranscomb by special messenger. When?"

"When you are in Malines."

"But all this is very strange. Will the mysterious messenger call upon
Miss Ranscomb in London?"

"Of course. Il Passero has several messengers who travel to and fro in
secret. Mademoiselle Lisette was once one of them. She has travelled
many times the length and breadth of Europe. But nowadays she is an
indicator--and a very clever one indeed," he added with a laugh.

"I suppose I had better get away to Malines without delay?" Hugh
remarked.

"Yes. Go to your hotel, pay them for your room and get your valise. I
shall be waiting for you at noon in a car in the Rue Gretry, close to
the Palais d'Ete. Then we can slip away to Malines. Have you sufficient
money? If not, I can give you some. Il Passero has ordered me to do so."

"Thanks," replied Hugh. "I have enough for the present. My only desire
is to be back again in London."

"Ah! I am afraid that is not possible for some time to come."

"But I shall hear from Miss Ranscomb?"

"Oh, yes. The messenger will come to you in Malines."

"Who is the messenger?"

"Of that I have no knowledge," was Vervoort's reply. He seemed a very
refined man, and was no doubt an extremely clever crook. He said little
of himself, but sufficient to cause Hugh to realize that his was one of
the master minds of underground Europe.

The young Englishman was naturally eager to further penetrate the veil
of mystery surrounding Mademoiselle Yvonne, but he learned little or
nothing. Vervoort either knew nothing, or else refused to disclose what
he knew. Which, Hugh could not exactly decide.

Therefore, in accordance with the Belgian's instructions, he left the
house and at noon carried his valise to the Rue Gretry, where he found
his friend awaiting him in a closed car, which quickly moved off out
of the city by the Laeken road. Travelling by way of Vilvorde they
were within an hour in old-world Malines, famous for its magnificent
cathedral and its musical carillon. Crossing the Louvain Canal and
entering by the Porte de Bruxelles, they were soon in an inartistic
cobbled street under the shadow of St. Rombold, and a few minutes later
Hugh was introduced to a short, stout Belgian woman, Madame Maupoil. The
place was meagrely furnished, but scrupulously clean. The floor of the
room to which Hugh was shown shone with beeswax, and the walls were
whitewashed.

"I hope monsieur will make himself quite comfortable," madame said, a
broad smile of welcome upon her round face.

"You will be comfortable enough under madame's care," Vervoort assured
him. "She has had some well-known guests before now."

"True, monsieur. More than one of them have been world-famous
and--well--believed to be perfectly honest and upright."

"Yes," laughed Vervoort. "Do you remember the English ex-member of
Parliament?"

"Ah! He was with me nearly four months when supposed to be in South
America. There was a warrant out for him on account of some great
financial frauds--all of which was, of course, hushed up. But he stayed
here in strict concealment and his friends managed to get the warrant
withdrawn. He was known to Il Passero, and the latter aided him--in
return for certain facilities regarding the English police."

"What do you think of the English police, madame?" Hugh asked. The fat
woman grinned expressively and shrugged her broad shoulders.

"Since the war they have been effete as regards serious crime. At least,
that is what Il Passero told me when he was here a month ago."

"Someone is coming here to meet Monsieur Henfrey," Vervoort said. "Who
is it?"

"I don't know. I only received word of it the day before yesterday. A
messenger from London, I believe."

"Well, each day I become more and more mystified," Hugh declared. "Why
Il Passero, whom I do not know, should take all this interest in me, I
cannot imagine."

"Il Passero very often assists those against whom a false charge is
laid," the woman remarked. "There is no better friend when one is in
trouble, for so clever and ubiquitous is he, and so many friends in high
quarters does he possess, that he can usually work his will. His is the
master-mind, and we obey without question."




TWELFTH CHAPTER

THE STRANGER IN BOND STREET

As Dorise walked up Bond Street, smartly dressed, next afternoon, on her
way to her dressmaker's, she was followed by a well-dressed young girl
in black, dark-eyed, with well-cut, refined features, and apparently a
lady.

From Piccadilly the stranger had followed Dorise unseen, until at the
corner of Maddox Street she overtook her, and smiling, uttered her name.

"Yes," responded Doris in surprise. "But I regret--you have the
advantage of me?"

"Probably," replied the stranger. "Do you recollect the _bal blanc_ at
Nice and a certain white cavalier? I have a message from him to give you
in secret."

"Why in secret?" Dorise asked rather defiantly.

"Well--for certain reasons which I think you can guess," answered the
girl in black, as she strolled at Dorise's side.

"Why did not you call on me at home?"

"Because of your mother. She would probably have been a little
inquisitive. Let us go into some place--a tea-room--where we can talk,"
she suggested. "I have come to see you concerning Mr. Henfrey."

"Where is he?" asked Dorise, in an instant anxious.

"Quite safe. He arrived in Malines yesterday--and is with friends."

"Has he had my letters?"

"Unfortunately, no. But do not let us talk here. Let's go in yonder,"
and she indicated the Laurel Tea Rooms, which, the hour being early,
they found, to their satisfaction, practically deserted.

At a table in the far corner they resumed their conversation.

"Why has he not received my letters?" asked Dorise. "It is nearly a
month ago since I first wrote."

"By some mysterious means the police got to know of your friend's
intended visit to Brussels to obtain his letters. Therefore, it was too
dangerous for him to go to the Poste Restante, or even to send anyone
there. The Brussels police were watching constantly. How they have
gained their knowledge is a complete mystery."

"Who sent you to me?"

"A friend of Mr. Henfrey. My instructions are to see you, and to
convey any message you may wish to send to Mr. Henfrey to him direct in
Malines."

"I'm sure it's awfully good of you," Dorise replied. "Does he know you
are here?"

"Yes. But I have not met him. I am simply a messenger. In fact, I travel
far and wide for those who employ me."

"And who are they?"

"I regret, but they must remain nameless," said the girl, with a smile.

Dorise was puzzled as to how the French police could have gained any
knowledge of Hugh's intentions. Then suddenly, she became horrified as
a forgotten fact flashed across her mind. She recollected how, early
in the grey morning, after her return from the ball at Nice, she had
written and addressed a letter to Hugh. On reflection, she had realized
that it was not sufficiently reassuring, so she had torn it up and
thrown it into the waste-paper basket instead of burning it.

She had, she remembered, addressed the envelope to Mr. Godfrey Brown, at
the Poste Restante in Brussels.

Was it possible that the torn fragments had fallen into the hands of the
police? She knew that they had been watching her closely. Her surmise
was, as a matter of fact, the correct one. Ogier had employed the head
chambermaid to give him the contents of Dorise's waste-paper basket from
time to time, hence the knowledge he had gained.

"Are you actually going to Malines?" asked Dorise of the girl.

"Yes. As your messenger," the other replied with a smile. "I am leaving
to-night. If you care to write him a letter, I will deliver it."

"Will you come with me over to the Empress Club, and I will write the
letter there?" Dorise suggested, still entirely mystified.

To this the stranger agreed, and they left the tea-shop and walked
together to the well-known ladies' club, where, while the mysterious
messenger sipped tea, Dorise sat down and wrote a long and affectionate
letter to her lover, urging him to exercise the greatest caution and to
get back to London as soon as he could.

When she had finished it, she placed it in an envelope.

"I would not address it," remarked the other girl. "It will be safer
blank, for I shall give it into his hand."

And ten minute later the mysterious girl departed, leaving Dorise to
reflect over the curious encounter.

So Hugh was in Malines. She went to the telephone, rang up Walter Brock,
and told him the reassuring news.

"In Malines?" he cried over the wire. "I wonder if I dare go there to
see him? What a dead-alive hole!"

Not until then did Dorise recollect that the girl had not given her
Hugh's address. She had, perhaps, purposely withheld it.

This fact she told Hugh's friend, who replied over the wire:

"Well, it is highly satisfactory news, in any case. We can only wait,
Miss Ranscomb. But this must relieve your mind, I feel sure."

"Yes, it does," admitted Dorise, and a few moments later she rang off.

That evening Il Passero's _chic_ messenger crossed from Dover to Ostend,
and next morning she called at Madame Maupoil's, in Malines, where she
delivered Dorise's note into Hugh's own hand. She was an expert and
hardened traveller.

Hugh eagerly devoured its contents, for it was the first communication
he had had from her since that fateful night at Monte Carlo. Then,
having thanked the girl again, and again, the latter said:

"If you wish to write back to Miss Ranscomb do so. I will address the
envelope, and as I am going to Cologne to-night I will post it on my
arrival."

Hugh thanked her cordially, and while she sat chatting with Madame
Maupoil, sipping her _cafe au lait_, he sat down and wrote a long letter
to the girl he loved so deeply--a letter which reached its destination
four days later.

One morning about ten days afterwards, when the sun shone brightly upon
the fresh green of the Surrey hills, Mrs. Bond was sitting before a fire
in the pretty morning room at Shapley Manor, a room filled with antique
furniture and old blue china, reading an illustrated paper. At the long,
leaded window stood a tall, fair-faced girl in a smart navy-suit. She
was decidedly pretty, with large, soft grey eyes, dimpled cheeks, and a
small, well-formed mouth. She gazed abstractedly out of the window
over the beautiful panorama to where Hindhead rose abruptly in the blue
distance. The view from the moss-grown terrace at Shapley, high upon
the Hog's back, was surely one of the finest within a couple of hundred
miles of London.

Since Mrs. Bond's arrival there she had had many callers among the
_nouveau riche_, those persons who, having made money at the expense of
our gallant British soldiers, have now ousted half the county families
from their solid and responsible homes. Mrs. Bond, being wealthy, had
displayed her riches ostentatiously. She had subscribed lavishly to
charities both in Guildford and in Farnham, and hence, among her callers
there had been at least three magistrates and their flat-footed wives,
as well as a plethoric alderman, and half a dozen insignificant persons
possessing minor titles.

The display of wealth had always been one of Molly Maxwell's games. It
always paid. She knew that to succeed one must spend, and now, with her
recently acquired "fortune," she spent to a very considerable tune.

"I do wish you'd go in the car to Guildford and exchange those library
books, Louise," exclaimed the handsome woman, suddenly looking up from
her paper. "We've got those horrid Brailsfords coming to lunch. I was
bound to ask them back."

"Can't you come, too?" asked the girl.

"No. I expect Mr. Benton this morning."

"I didn't know he was back from Paris. I'm so glad he's coming," replied
the girl. "He'll stay all the afternoon, of course?"

"I hope so. Go at once and get back as soon as you can, dear. Choose me
some nice new books, won't you?"

Louise Lambert, Benton's adopted daughter, turned from the leaded
window. In the strong morning light she looked extremely charming, but
upon her countenance there was a deep, thoughtful expression, as though
she were entirely preoccupied.

"I've been thinking of Hugh Henfrey," the woman remarked suddenly. "I
wonder why he never writes to you?" she added, watching the girl's face.

Louise's cheeks reddened slightly, as she replied with affected
carelessness:

"If he doesn't care to write, I shall trouble no longer."

"He's still abroad, is he not? The last I heard of him was that he was
at Monte Carlo with that Ranscomb girl."

Mention of Dorise Ranscomb caused the girl's cheeks to colour more
deeply.

"Yes," she said, "I heard that also."

"You don't seem to care very much, Louise," remarked the woman. "And
yet, he's such an awfully nice young fellow."

"You've said that dozens of times before," was Louise's abrupt reply.

"And I mean it. You could do a lot worse than to marry him, remember,
though he is a bit hard-up nowadays. But things with him will right
themselves before long."

"Why do you suggest that?" asked the girl resentfully.

"Well--because, my dear, I know that you are very fond of him," the
woman laughed. "Now, you can't deny it--can you?"

The girl, who had travelled so widely ever since she had left school,
drew a deep breath and, turning her head, gazed blankly out of the
window again.

What Mrs. Bond had said was her secret. She was very fond of Hugh. They
had not met very often, but he had attracted her--a fact of which both
Benton and his female accomplice were well aware.

"You don't reply," laughed the woman for whom the Paris Surete was
searching everywhere; "but your face betrays the truth, my dear. Don't
worry," she added in a tone of sympathy. "No doubt he'll write as soon
as he is back in England. Personally, I don't believe he really cares a
rap for the Ranscomb girl. It's only a matter of money--and Dorise has
plenty."

"I don't wish to hear anything about Mr. Henfrey's love affairs!" cried
the girl petulantly. "I tell you that they do not interest me."

"Because you are piqued that he does not write, child. Ah, dear, I
know!" she laughed, as the girl left the room.

A quarter of an hour later Louise was seated in the car, while Mead
drove her along the broad highway over the Hog's Back into Guildford.
The morning was delightful, the trees wore their spring green, and all
along in the fields, as they went over the high ridge, the larks were
singing gaily the music of a glad morning of the English spring, and the
view spread wide on either side.

Life in Surrey was, she found, much preferable to that on the Continent.
True, in the Rue Racine they had entertained a great deal, and she
had, during the war, met many very pleasant young English and American
officers; but the sudden journey to Switzerland, then on into Italy,
and across to New York, had been a whirl of excitement. Mrs. Maxwell had
changed her name several times, because she said that she did not want
her divorced husband, a ne'er-do-well, to know of her whereabouts. He
was for ever molesting her, she had told Louise, and for that reason she
had passed in different names.

The girl was in complete ignorance of the truth. She never dreamed that
the source of the woman's wealth was highly suspicious, or that the
constant travelling was in order to evade the police.

As she was driven along, she sat back reflecting. Truth to tell, she was
much in love with Hugh. Benton had first introduced him one night at
the Spa in Scarborough, and after that they had met several times on the
Esplanade, then again in London, and once in Paris. Yet while she,
on her part, became filled with admiration, he was, apparently, quite
unconscious of it.

At last she had heard of Hugh's infatuation for Dorise Ranscomb, the
daughter of the great engineer who had recently died, and indeed she had
met her once and been introduced to her.

Of the conditions of old Mr. Henfrey's will she was, of course, in
ignorance. The girl had no idea of the great plot which had been formed
by her foster father and his clever female friend.

The world is a strange one beneath the surface of things. Those who
passed the imposing gates of the beautiful old English manor-house never
dreamed that it sheltered one of the most notorious female criminals in
Europe. And the worshipful magistrates and their wives who visited her
would have received a rude shock had they but known. But many modern
adventuresses have been able to bamboozle the mighty. Madame Humbert
of Paris, in whose imagination were "The Humbert Millions," used to
entertain Ministers of State, aristocrats, financiers, and others of
lower degree, and show them the sealed-up safe in which she declared
reposed millions' worth of negotiable securities which might not see the
light of day until a certain date. The avaricious, even shrewd, bankers
advanced loans upon things they had never seen, and the Humberts were
the most sought-after family in Paris until the bubble burst and they
fled and were afterwards arrested in Spain.

Molly Maxwell was a marvel of ingenuity, of criminal foresight, and of
amazing elusiveness. Louise, young and unsuspicious, looked upon her as
a mother. Benton she called "Uncle," and was always grateful to him
for all he did for her. She understood that they were cousins, and that
Benton advised Mrs. Maxwell in her disastrous matrimonial affairs.

Yet the life she had led ever since leaving school had been a truly
adventurous one. She had been in half the watering places of Europe, and
in most of its capitals, leading, with the woman who now called herself
Mrs. Bond, a most extravagant life at hotels of the first order.

The car at last ran into the station yard at Guildford, and at the
bookstall Louise exchanged her books with the courteous manager.

She was passing through the booking-office back to the car, when a voice
behind her called:

"Hallo, Louise!"

Turning, she found her "uncle," Charles Benton, who, wearing a light
overcoat and grey velour hat, grasped her hand.

"Well, dear," he exclaimed. "This is fortunate. Mead is here, I
suppose?"

"Yes, uncle," replied the girl, much gratified at meeting him.

"I was about to engage a taxi to take me up to the Manor, but now you
can take me there," said the rather handsome man. "How is Mrs. Bond?" he
asked, calling her by her new name.

"Quite well. She's expecting you to lunch. But she has some impossible
people there to-day--the Brailsfords, father, mother, and son. He made
his money in motor-cars during the war. They live over at Dorking in
a house with forty-nine bedrooms, and only fifteen years ago Mrs.
Brailsford used to do the housework herself. Now they're rolling in
money, but can't keep servants."

"Ah, my dear, it's the same everywhere," said Benton as he entered the
car after her. "I've just got back from Madrid. It is the same there.
The world is changing. Crooks prosper while white men starve. Honesty
spells ruin in these days."

They drove over the railway bridge and up the steep hill out of
Guildford seated side by side. Benton had been her "uncle" ever since
her childhood days, and a most kind and considerate one he had always
proved.

Sometimes when at school she did not see him for periods of a year or
more and she had no home to go to for holidays. Her foster-father was
abroad. Yet her school fees were paid regularly, her allowance had been
ample, and her clothes were always slightly better than those of the
other girls. Therefore, though she called him "uncle," she looked upon
Benton as her father and obeyed all his commands.

Just about noon the car swung into the gates of Shapley, and soon they
were indoors. Benton threw off his coat, and in an abrupt manner said to
the servant:

"I want to see Mrs. Bond at once."

Then, turning to Louise, he exclaimed:

"I want to see Molly privately. I have some urgent business to discuss
with her before your profiteer friends arrive."

"All right," replied the girl cheerily. "I'll leave you alone," and she
ascended the broad oak staircase, the steps of which were worn thin by
the tramp of many generations.

A few moments later Charles Benton stood in the morning-room, where Mrs.
Bond still sat before the welcome log fire.

"Back again, Charles!" she exclaimed, rising to greet him. "Well, how
goes it?"

"Not too well," was his reply as he closed the door. "I only got back
last night. Five days ago I saw The Sparrow at the Palace Hotel in
Madrid. He's doing all he can in young Henfrey's interests, but he is
not too hopeful."

"Why?"

"I can't make out," said the man, apparently much perturbed. "He wired
me to go to Madrid, and I went. But it seems that I've been on a fool's
errand."

"That's very unsatisfactory," said the woman.

"It is, my dear Molly! From his attitude it seemed to me that he is
protecting Henfrey from some secret motive of his own--one that is not
at all in accordance with our plans."

"But he is surely acting in our interests!"

"Ah! I'm not so sure about that."

"You surprise me. He knows our intentions and approved of them!"

"His approval has, I think, been upset by the murderous attack upon
Yvonne."

"But he surely will not act against us! If he does----"

"If he does--then we may as well throw up the sponge, Molly."

"We could give it all away to the police," remarked the woman.

"And by so doing give ourselves away!" answered Benton. "The Sparrow has
many friends in the police, recollect. Abroad, he distributes a quantity
of annual _douceurs_, and hence he is practically immune from arrest."

"I wish we were," laughed the handsome adventuress.

"Yes. We have only to dance to his tune," said he. "And the tune just
now is not one which is pleasing to us--eh?"

"You seem strangely apprehensive."

"I am. I believe that The Sparrow, while making pretence of supporting
our little affair, is in favour of Hugh's marriage with Dorise
Ranscomb."

The woman looked him straight in the face.

"He could never go back on his word!" she declared.

"The Sparrow is a curious combination of the crook--chivalrous and
philanthropic--as you already know."

"But surely, he wouldn't let us down?"

Benton paused. He was thinking deeply. A certain fact had suddenly
occurred to him.

"If he does, then we must, I suppose, do our best to expose him.
I happen to know that he has quarrelled with Henri Michaux, the
under-secretary of the Surete in Paris, who has declared that his
payment is not sufficient. Michaux is anxious to get even with him. A
word from us would result in The Sparrow's arrest."

"Excellent!" exclaimed Molly. "If we fail we can, after all, have our
revenge. But," she added, "would not he suspect us both, and, in turn,
give us away?"

"No. He will never suspect, my dear Molly. Leave it to me. Are we not
his dearest and most trusted friends?" and the man, who was as keenly
sought by the police of Europe, grinned sardonically and took a
cigarette from the big silver box on the little table at his elbow.




THIRTEENTH CHAPTER

POISONED LIPS

Week after week passed.

Spring was slowly developing into summer and the woods around Blairglas,
the fine estate in Perthshire which old Sir Richard Ranscomb had left to
his wife, were delightful.

Blairglas Castle, a grand old turreted pile, was perched on the edge
of a wooded glen through which flowed a picturesque burn well known to
tourists in Scotland. Once Blairglas Burn had been a mighty river which
had, in the bygone ages, worn its way deep through the grey granite down
to the broad Tay and onward to the sea. On the estate was some excellent
salmon-fishing, as well as grouse on Blairglas Moor, and trout in
Blairglas Loch. Here Lady Ranscomb entertained her wealthy Society
friends, and certainly she did so lavishly and well. Twice each year
she went up for the fishing and for the shooting. Old Sir Richard,
notwithstanding his gout, had been fond of sport, and for that reason
he had given a fabulous price for the place, which had belonged to a
certain Duke who, like others, had become impoverished by excessive
taxation and the death duties.

Built in the fifteenth century as a fortress, it was, for a time,
the home of James V. after his marriage with Mary of Guise. It was
to Blairglas that, after his defeat on Solway Moss, he retired,
subsequently dying of a broken heart. Twenty years later Darnley,
the elegant husband of Mary Stuart, had lived there, and on the level
bowling green he used to indulge in his favourite sport.

The grim old place, with its towers, its dimly-lit long stone corridors,
cyclopean ivy-clad walls, narrow windows, and great panelled chambers,
breathed an atmosphere of the long ago. So extensive was it that only
one wing--that which looked far down the glen to the blue distant
mountains--had been modernised; yet that, in itself, was sufficiently
spacious for the entertainment of large house-parties.

One morning, early in June, Dorise, in a rough tweed suit and a
pearl-grey suede tam-o'shanter, carrying a mackintosh across her
shoulder, and accompanied by a tall, dark-haired, clean-shaven man
of thirty-two, with rather thick lips and bushy eyebrows, walked down
through the woods to the river. The man, who was in fishing clothes,
sauntered at her side, smoking a cigarette; while behind them came
old Sandy Murray, the grizzled, fair-bearded head keeper, carrying the
salmon rods, the gaff, creel, and luncheon basket.

"The spate is excellent for us," exclaimed George Sherrard. "We ought to
kill a salmon to-day, Dorise."

"I sincerely hope so," replied the girl; "but somehow I never have any
luck in these days."

"No, you really don't! But Marjorie killed a twelve-pounder last week,
your mother tells me."

"Yes. She went out with Murray every day for a whole fortnight, and then
on the day before she went back to town she landed a splendid fish."

On arrival at the bank of the broad shallow Tay, Murray stepped forward,
and in his pleasant Perthshire accent suggested that a trial might be
made near the Ardcraig, a short walk to the left.

After fixing the rods and baiting them, the head keeper discreetly
withdrew, leaving the pair alone. In the servants' hall at Blairglas it
was quite understood that Miss Dorise and Mr. Sherrard were to marry,
and that the announcement would be made in due course.

"What a lovely day--and what a silent, delightful spot," Sherrard
remarked, as he filled his pipe preparatory to walking up-stream, while
the girl remained beside the dark pool where sport seemed likely.

"Yes," she replied, inwardly wishing to get rid of her companion so as
to be left alone with her own thoughts. "I'll remain here for a little
and then go down-stream to the end of our water."

"Right oh!" he replied cheerily as he moved away.

Dorise breathed more freely when he had gone.

George Sherrard had arrived from London quite unexpectedly at nine
o'clock on the previous morning. She had been alone with her mother
after the last guest of a gay house-party had departed, when, unknown
to Dorise, Lady Ranscomb had telegraphed to her friend George to "run up
for a few days' fishing."

Lady Ranscomb's scheme was to throw the pair into each other's society
as much as possible. She petted George, flattered him, and in every way
tried to entertain him with one sole object, namely, to induce him to
propose to Dorise, and so get the girl "off her hands."

On the contrary, the girl's thoughts were for ever centred upon Hugh,
even though he remained under that dark cloud of suspicion. To her the
chief element in the affair was the mystery why her lover had gone on
that fateful night to the Villa Amette, the house of that notorious
Mademoiselle. What had really occurred?

Twice she had received letters from him brought to her by the mysterious
girl-messenger from Belgium. From them she knew how grey and dull was
his life, hiding there from those who were so intent upon his arrest.

Indeed, within her blouse she carried his last letter which she had
received three weeks before when in London--a letter in which he
implored her not to misjudge him, and in which he promised that, as soon
as he dared to leave his hiding-place and meet her, he would explain
everything. In return, she had again written to him, but though three
weary weeks had passed, she had received no word in reply. She
could neither write by post, nor could she telegraph. It was far too
dangerous. In addition, his address had been purposely withheld from
her.

Walter Brock had tried to ascertain it. He had even seen the mysterious
messenger on her last visit to England, but she had refused point-blank,
declaring that she had been ordered to disclose nothing. She was merely
a messenger.

That her correspondence was still being watched by the police, Dorise
was quite well aware. Her maid, Duncan, had told her in confidence quite
recently that while crossing Berkeley Square one evening she had been
accosted by a good-looking young man who, having pressed his attentions
upon her, had prevailed upon her to meet him on the following evening.

He then took her to dinner to a restaurant in Soho, and to the pictures
afterwards. They had met half a dozen times, when he began to cleverly
question her concerning her mistress, asking whether she had letters
from her gentleman friends. At this Duncan had grown suspicious, and she
had not met the young fellow since.

That, in itself, showed her that the police were bent on discovering and
arresting Hugh.

The great mystery of it all was why Hugh should have gone deliberately
and clandestinely to the Villa Amette on the night of the tragic affair.

Dorise was really an expert in casting a fly; also she excelled in
several branches of sport. She was a splendid tennis-player, she rode
well to hounds, and was very fair at golf. But that morning she had no
heart for fishing, and especially in such company. She despised George
Sherrard as a prig, fond of boasting of his means, and, indeed, so
terribly self-conscious was he that in many circles he was declared
impossible. Men disliked him for his swagger and conceit, and women
despised him for his superior attitude towards them.

For a full hour Dorise continued making casts, but in vain. She changed
her flies once or twice, until at last, by a careless throw, she got her
tackle hooked high in a willow, with the result that, in endeavouring
to extricate it, she broke off the hook. Then with an exclamation of
impatience, she wound up her line and threw her rod upon the grass.

"Hallo, Dorise!" cried a voice. "No luck, eh?"

Sherrard had returned and had witnessed her outbreak of impatience.

"None!" she snapped, for the loss of her fly annoyed her. She knew that
she had been careless, because under old Murray's careful tuition she
had become quite expert with the rod, both with trout and salmon.

"Never mind," he said, "I've had similar luck. I've just got hooked up
in a root and lost a fly. Let's have lunch--shall we?"

Dorise was in no mood to lunch with her mother's visitor, but,
nevertheless, was compelled to be polite.

After washing their hands in the stream, they sat down together upon
a great, grey boulder that had been worn smooth by the action of the
water, and, taking out their sandwiches, began to eat them.

"Oh, I say!" exclaimed Sherrard suddenly, after they had been gossiping
for some time. "Have you heard from your friend Henfrey lately?"

"Not lately," replied the girl, a trifle resentful that he should
obtrude upon her private affairs.

"I only ask because--well, because there are some jolly queer stories
going about town of him."

"Queer stories!" she echoed quickly. "What are they? What do people
say?"

"Oh! They say lots of extraordinary things. I think your mother has done
very well to drop him."

"Has mother dropped him?" asked the girl in pretence of ignorance.

"She told me so last night, and I was extremely glad to hear it--though
he is your friend. It seems that he's hardly the kind of fellow you
should know, Dorise."

"Why do you say that?" his companion asked, her eyes flashing instantly.

"What! Haven't you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"The story that's going round the clubs. He's missing, and has been so
for quite a long time. You haven't seen him--have you?"

The girl was compelled to reply in the negative.

"But what do they say against him?" she demanded breathlessly.

"There's a lot of funny stories," was Sherrard's reply. "They say he's
hiding from the police because he attempted to murder a notorious woman
called Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo. Do you know about it?"

"It's a wicked lie!" blurted forth the girl. "Hugh never attempted to
kill the woman!"

Sherrard looked straight into her blue eyes, and asked:

"Then why was he in her room at midnight? They say the reason Henfrey
is hard-up is because he spent all he possessed upon the woman, and on
going there that night she laughed him to scorn and told him she had
grown fond of a rich Austrian banker. After mutual recriminations,
Henfrey, knowing the woman had ruined him, drew out a revolver and shot
her."

"I tell you it's an abominable lie! Hugh is not an assassin!" cried the
girl fiercely.

"I merely repeat what I have heard on very good authority," replied the
smug-faced man with the thick red lips.

"And you have of course told my mother that--eh?"

"I didn't think it was any secret," he said. "Indeed, I think it most
fortunate we all know the truth. The police must get him one day--before
long."

For a few moments Dorise remained silent, her eyes fixed across the
broad river to the opposite bank.

"And if they do, he will most certainly clear himself, Mr. Sherrard,"
she said coldly.

"Ah! You still have great faith in him," he laughed airily. "Well--we
shall see," and he grinned.

"Yes, Mr. Sherrard. I still have faith in Mr. Henfrey. I know him well
enough to be certain that he is no assassin."

"Then I ask you, Dorise, why is he hiding?" said her companion. "If he
is innocent, what can he fear?"

"I know he is innocent."

"Of course. You must remain in that belief until he is found guilty."

"You already condemn him!" the girl cried in anger. "By what right do
you do this, I ask?"

"Well, common sense shows that he is in fear lest the truth should come
to light," was Sherrard's lame reply. "He escaped very cleverly from
Monte Carlo the moment he heard that the police suspected him, but
where is he now? Nobody knows. Haynes, of Scotland Yard, who made the
inquiries when my flat in Park Lane was broken into, tells me they
have had a description of him from the Paris police, and that a general
hue-and-cry has been circulated."

"But the woman is still alive, is she not?"

"Yes. She's a hopeless idiot, Haynes tells me. She had developed
homicidal mania as a result of the bullet wound in the head, and they
have had to send her to a private asylum at Cannes. She's there in close
confinement."

Dorise paused. Her anger had risen, and her cheeks were flushed. The
sandwich she was eating choked her, so she cast it into the river.

Then she rose abruptly, and looking very straight into the man's eyes,
said:

"I consider, Mr. Sherrard, that you are absolutely horrid. Mr. Henfrey
is a friend of mine, and whatever gossip there is concerning him I will
not believe until I hear his story from his own lips."

"I merely tell you of the report from France to Scotland Yard," said
Sherrard.

"You tell me this in order to prejudice me against Hugh--to--to----"

"Hugh! Whom you love--eh?" sneered Sherrard.

"Yes. I _do_ love him," the girl blurted forth. "I make no secret of it.
And if you like you can tell my mother that! You are very fond of acting
as her factotum!"

"It is to be regretted, Dorise, that you have fallen in love with a
fellow who is wanted by the police," he remarked with a sigh.

"At any rate, I love a genuine man," she retorted with bitter sarcasm.
"I know my mother's intention is that I shall marry you. But I tell you
here frankly--as I stand here--I would rather kill myself first!"

George Sherrard with his dark bushy brows and thick lips only laughed at
her indignation. This incensed her the more.

"Yes," she went on. "You may be amused at my distress. You have laughed
at the distress of other women, Mr. Sherrard. Do not think that I am
blind. I have watched you, and I know more concerning your love affairs
of the past than you ever dream. So please leave Blairglas as soon as
you can with decency excuse yourself, and keep away from me in future."

"But really, Dorise----!" he cried, advancing towards her.

"I mean exactly what I say. Let me get back. When I go fishing I prefer
to go alone," the girl said.

"But what am I to say to Lady Ranscomb?"

"Tell her that I love Hugh," laughed the girl defiantly. "Tell her that
I intend to defeat all her clever intrigues and sly devices!"

His countenance now showed that he was angry. He and Lady Ranscomb
thoroughly understood each other. He admired the girl, and her mother
had assured him her affection for Hugh Henfrey was but a passing fancy.
This stubborn outburst was to him a complete revelation.

"I have no knowledge of any intrigue, Dorise," he said in that bland,
superior manner which always irritated her. She knew that a dozen
mothers with eligible feminine encumbrances were trying to angle him,
and that Lady Ranscomb was greatly envied by them. But to be the wife of
the self-conscious ass--well, as she has already bluntly told him, she
would die rather than become Mrs. George Sherrard.

"Intrigue!" the girl retorted. "Why, from first to last the whole thing
is a plot between my mother and yourself. Please give me credit for just
a little intelligence. First, I despise you as a coward. During the war
you crept into a little clerkship in the Home Office in order to save
your precious skin, while Hugh went to the front and risked his
life flying a 'bomber' over the enemy's lines. You were a miserable
stay-at-home, hiding in your little bolt-hole in Whitehall when the
Zepps came over, while Hugh Henfrey fought for his King and for Britain.
Now I am quite frank, Mr. Sherrard. That's why I despise you!" and the
girl's pale face showed two pink spots in the centre of her cheeks.

"Really," he said in that same superior tone which he so constantly
assumed. "I must say that you are the reverse of polite, Miss Dorise,"
and his colour heightened.

"I am! And I intend to be so!" she cried in a frenzy, for all her
affection for Hugh had in those moments been redoubled. Her lover was
accused and had no chance of self-defence. "Go back to my mother," she
went on. "Tell her every word I have said and embroider it as much as
you like. Then you can both put your wits together a little further.
But, remember, I shall exert my own woman's wits against yours. And as
soon as you feel it practicable, I hope you will leave Blairglas. And
further, if you have not left by noon to-morrow, I will tell my maid,
Duncan, the whole story of this sinister plot to part me from Hugh. She
will spread it, I assure you. Maids gossip--and to a purpose when their
mistresses will it so."

"But Dorise--"

"Enough! Mr. Sherrard. I prefer to walk up to the Castle by myself.
Murray will bring up the rods. Please tell my mother what I say when you
get back," she added. "The night train from Perth to London leaves at
nine-forty to-night," she said with biting sarcasm.

Then turning, she began to ascend the steep path which led from the
river bank into a cornfield and through the wood, while the man stood
and bit his lip.

"H'm!" he growled beneath his breath. "We shall see!--yes, we shall
see!"




FOURTEENTH CHAPTER

RED DAWN

That night when Dorise, in a pretty, pale-blue evening gown, entered
the great, old panelled dining-room rather late for dinner, her mother
exclaimed petulantly:

"How late you are, dear! Mr. Sherrard has had a telegram recalling him
to London. He has to catch the nine-something train from Perth."

"Have you?" she asked the man who was odious to her. "I'm so sorry I'm
late, but that Mackenzie girl called. They are getting up a bazaar for
the old people down in the village, and we have to help it, I suppose.
Oh! these bazaars, sales of work, and other little excuses for
extracting shillings from the pockets of everybody! They are most
wearying."

"She called on me last week," said Lady Ranscomb. "Newte told her I was
not at home."

The old-fashioned butler, John Newte, a white-haired, rosy-faced man,
who had seen forty years' service with the ducal owner of Blairglas,
served the dinner in his own stately style. Sir Richard had been a good
master, but things had never been the same since the castle had passed
into its new owner's hands.

Dorise endeavoured to be quite affable to the smooth-haired man seated
before her, expressing regret that he was called away so suddenly, while
he, on his part, declared that it was "awful hard luck," as he had been
looking forward to a week's good sport on the river.

"Do come back, George," Lady Ranscomb urged. "Get your business over and
get back here for the weekend."

"I'll try," was Sherrard's half-hearted response, whereat Newte entered
to announce that the car was ready.

Then he bade mother and daughter adieu, and went out.

Dorise could see that her mother was considerably annoyed at her plans
being so abruptly frustrated.

"We must ask somebody else," she said, as they lingered over the
dessert. "Whom shall we ask?"

"I really don't care in the least, mother. I'm quite happy here alone.
It is a rest. We shall have to be back in town in a fortnight, I
suppose."

"George could quite well have waited for a day or two," Lady Ranscomb
declared. "I went out to see the Muirs, at Forteviot, and when I got
back he told me he had just had a telegram telling him that it was
imperative he should be in town to-morrow morning. I tried to persuade
him to stay, but he declared it to be impossible."

"An appointment with a lady, perhaps," laughed Dorise mischievously.

"What next, my dear! You know he is over head and ears in love with
you!"

"Oh! That's quite enough, mother. You've told me that lots of times
before. But I tell you quite frankly his love leaves me quite cold."

"Ah! dear. That reply is, after all, but natural. You, of course, won't
confess the truth," her mother laughed.

"I do, mother. I'm heartily glad the fellow has gone. I hate his
supercilious manner, his superior tone, and his unctuous bearing. He's
simply odious! That's my opinion."

Her mother looked at her severely across the table.

"Please remember, Dorise, that George is my friend."

"I never forget that," said the girl meaningly, as she rose and left the
table.

Half an hour later, when she entered her bedroom, she found Duncan, her
maid, awaiting her.

"Oh! I've been waiting to see you this half hour, miss," she said. "I
couldn't get you alone. Just before eight o'clock, as I was about to
enter the park by the side gate near Bervie Farm, a gentleman approached
me and asked if my name was Duncan. I told him it was, and then he gave
me this to give to you in secret. He also gave me a pound note, miss,
to say nothing about it." And the prim lady's maid handed her young
mistress a small white envelope upon which her name was written.

Opening it, she found a plain visiting card which bore the words in a
man's handwriting:


"Would it be possible for you to meet me to-night at ten at the spot
where I have given this to your maid? Urgent.--SILVERADO."


Dorise held her breath. It was a message from the mysterious white
cavalier who had sought her out at the _bal blanc_ at Nice, and told her
of Hugh's peril!

Duncan was naturally curious owing to the effect the card had had upon
her mistress, but she was too well trained to make any comment. Instead,
she busied herself at the wardrobe, and a few moments afterwards left
the room.

Dorise stood before the long cheval glass, the card still in her hand.

What did it mean? Why was the mysterious white cavalier in Scotland? At
least she would now be able to see his face. It was past nine, and the
moon was already shining. She had still more than half an hour before
she went forth to meet the man of mystery.

She descended to the drawing-room, where her mother was reading, and
after playing over a couple of songs as a camouflage, she pretended to
be tired and announced her intention of retiring.

"We have to go into Edinburgh to-morrow morning," her mother remarked.
"So we should start pretty early. I've ordered the car for nine
o'clock."

"All right, mother. Good-night," said the girl as she closed the door.

Then hastening to her room she threw off her dinner gown, and putting
on a coat and skirt and the boots which she had worn when fishing that
morning, she went out by a door which led from the great old library,
with its thousands of brown-backed volumes, on to the broad terrace
which overlooked the glen, now a veritable fairyland beneath the light
of the moon.

Outside the silence was only broken by the ripple of the burn over its
pebbles deep below, and the cry of the night-bird upon the steep rock
whereon the historic old castle was built. By a path known to her she
descended swiftly, and away into the park by yet another path, used
almost exclusively by the servants and the postman, down to a gate which
led out into the high road to Perth by one of the farms on the estate,
the one known as the Bervie.

As she was about to pass through the small swing gate, she heard a voice
which she recognized exclaim:

"Miss Ranscomb! I have to apologize!" And from the dark shadow a rather
tall man emerged and barred her path.

"I daresay you will think this all very mysterious," he went on,
laughing lightly. "But I do hope I have not inconvenienced you. If so,
pray accept my deepest apologies. Will you?"

"Not at all," the girl replied, though somewhat taken aback by the
suddenness of the encounter. The man spoke slowly and with evident
refinement. His voice was the same she had heard at Nice on that
memorable night of gaiety. She recognized it instantly.

As he stood before her, his countenance became revealed in the
moonlight, and she saw a well-moulded, strongly-marked face, with a pair
of dark, penetrating eyes, set a little too close perhaps, but denoting
strong will and keen intelligence.

"Yes," he laughed. "Look at me well, Miss Ranscomb. I am the white
cavalier whom you last saw disguised by a black velvet mask. Look at me
again, because perhaps you may wish to recognize me later on."

"And you are still Mr. X--eh?" asked the girl, who had halted, and was
gazing upon his rather striking face.

"Still the same," he said, smiling. "Or you may call me Brown, Jones, or
Robinson--or any of the other saints' names if you prefer."

"You have been very kind to me. Surely I may know your real name?"

"No, Miss Ranscomb. For certain very important reasons I do not wish to
disclose it. Pardon me--will you not? I ask that favour of you."

"But will you not satisfy my curiosity?"

"At my personal risk? No. I do not think you would wish me to do
that--eh?" he asked in a tone of mild reproof.

Then he went on:

"I'm awfully sorry I could not approach you openly. In London I found
out that you were up here, so I thought it best to see you in secret.
You know why I have come to you, Miss Ranscomb--eh?"

"On behalf of Mr. Henfrey."

"Yes. He is still in hiding. It has been impossible--through force of
circumstances--for him to send you further messages."

"Where is he? I want to see him."

"Have patience, Miss Ranscomb, and I will arrange a meeting between
you."

"But why do the police still search for him?"

"Because of an unfortunate fact. The lady, Mademoiselle Ferad, is now
confined to a private asylum at Cannes, but all the time she raves
furiously about Monsieur Henfrey. Hence the French police are convinced
that he shot her--and they are determined upon his arrest."

"But do you think he is guilty?"

"I know he is not. Yet by force of adverse circumstances, he is
compelled to conceal himself until such time that we can prove his
innocence."

"Ah! But shall we ever be in a position to prove that?"

"I hope so. We must have patience--and still more patience," urged the
mysterious man as he stood in the full light of the brilliant moon. "I
have here a letter for you which Mr. Henfrey wrote a week ago. It only
came into my hands yesterday." And he gave her an envelope.

"Tell me something about this woman, Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo. Who is
she?" asked Dorise excitedly.

"Well--she is a person who was notorious at the Rooms, as you yourself
know. You have seen her."

"And tell me, why do you take such an interest in Hugh?" inquired the
girl, not without a note of suspicion in her voice.

"For reasons best known to myself, Miss Ranscomb. Reasons which are
personal."

"That's hardly a satisfactory reply."

"I fear I can give few satisfactory replies until we succeed in
ascertaining the truth of what occurred at the Villa Amette," he said.
"I must urge you, Miss Ranscomb, to remain patient, and--and not to lose
faith in the man who is wrongfully accused."

"But when can I see him?" asked Dorise eagerly.

"Soon. But you must be discreet--and you must ask no questions. Just
place yourself in my hands--that is, if you can trust me."

"I do, even though I am ignorant of your name."

"It is best that you remain in ignorance," was his reply. "Otherwise
perhaps you would hesitate to trust me."

"Why?"

But the tall, good-looking man only laughed, and then he said:

"My name really doesn't matter at present. Later, Miss Ranscomb, you
will no doubt know it. I am only acting in the interests of Henfrey."

Again she looked at him. His face was smiling, and yet was sphinx-like
in the moonlight. His voice was certainly that of the white cavalier
which she recollected so well, but his personality, so strongly marked,
was a little overbearing.

"I know you mistrust me," he went on. "If I were in your place I
certainly should do so. A thousand pities it is that I cannot tell you
who I am. But--well--I tell you in confidence that I dare not!"

"Dare not! Of what are you afraid?" inquired Dorise. The man she had met
under such romantic circumstances interested her keenly. He was Hugh's
go-between. Poor Hugh! She knew he was suffering severely in his
loneliness, and his incapability to clear himself of the terrible stigma
upon him.

"I'm afraid of several things," replied the white cavalier. "The
greatest fear I have is that you may not believe in me."

"I do believe in you," declared the girl.

"Excellent!" he replied enthusiastically. "Then let us get to
business--pardon me for putting it so. But I am, after all, a business
man. I am interested in a lot of different businesses, you see."

"Of what character?"

"No, Miss Ranscomb. That is another point upon which I regret that I
cannot satisfy your pardonable curiosity. Please allow your mind to rest
upon the one main point--that I am acting in the interests of the
man with--the man who is, I believe, your greatest and most intimate
friend."

"I understood that when we met in Nice."

"Good! Now I understand that your mother, Lady Ranscomb, is much against
your marriage with Hugh Henfrey. She has other views."

"Really! Who told you that?"

"I have ascertained it in the course of my inquiry."

Dorise paused, and then looking the man of mystery straight in the face,
asked:

"What do you really know about me?"

"Well," he laughed lightly. "A good deal. Now tell me when could you be
free to get away from your mother for a whole day?"

"Why?"

"I want to know. Just tell me the date. When are you returning to
London?"

"On Saturday week. I could get away--say--on Tuesday week."

"Very good. You would have to leave London by an early train in the
morning--if I fail to send a car for you, which I hope to do. And be
back again late at night."

"Why?"

"Why," he echoed. "Because I have a reason."

"I believe you will take me to meet Hugh--eh? Ah! How good you are!"
cried the girl in deep emotion. "I shall never be able to thank you
sufficiently for all you are doing. I--I have been longing all these
weeks to see him again--to hear his explanation why he went to the
woman's house at that hour--why----"

"He will tell you everything, no doubt," said her mysterious visitor.
"He will tell you everything except one fact."

"And what is that?" she asked breathlessly.

"One fact he will not tell you. But you will know it later. Hugh Henfrey
is a fine manly fellow, Miss Ranscomb. That is why I have done my level
best in his interest."

"But why should you?" she asked. "You are, after all, a stranger."

"True. But you will know the truth some day. Meanwhile, leave matters as
they are. Do not prejudge him, even if the police are convinced of
his guilt. Could you be at King's Cross station at ten o'clock on the
morning of Tuesday week? If so, I will meet you there."

"Yes," she replied. "But where are we going?"

"At present I have no idea. When one is escaping from the police one's
movements have to be ruled by circumstances from hour to hour. I will do
my best on that day to arrange a meeting between you," he added.

She thanked him very sincerely. He was still a mystery, but his face and
his whole bearing attracted her. He was her friend. She recollected
his words amid that gay revelry at Nice--words of encouragement and
sympathy. And he had travelled there, far north into Perthshire, in
order to carry the letter which she had thrust into her pocket, yet
still holding it in her clenched hand.

"I do wish you would tell me the motive of your extreme kindness towards
us both," Dorise urged. "I can't make it out at all. I am bewildered."

"Well--so am I, Miss Ranscomb," replied the tall, elegant man who spoke
with such refinement, and was so shrewd and alert. "There are certain
facts--facts of which I have no knowledge. The affair at the Villa
Amette is still, to me, a most profound mystery."

"Why did Hugh go there at all? That is what I fail to understand," she
declared.

"Don't wonder any longer. He had, I know, an urgent and distinct motive
to call that night."

"But the woman! I hear she is a notorious adventuress."

"And the adventuress, Miss Ranscomb, often has, deep in her soul, the
heart of a pure woman," he said. "One must never judge by appearance or
gossip. What people may think is the curse of many of our lives. I hope
you do not misjudge Mr. Henfrey."

"I do not. But I am anxious to hear his explanation."

"You shall--and before long, too," he replied. "But I want you, if you
will, to answer a question. I do not put it from mere idle curiosity,
but it very closely concerns you both. Have you ever heard him speak of
a girl named Louise Lambert?"

"Louise Lambert? Why, yes! He introduced her to me once. She is, I
understand, the adopted daughter of a man named Benton, an intimate
friend of old Mr. Henfrey."

"Has he ever told you anything concerning her?"

"Nothing much. Why?"

"He has never told you the conditions of his father's will?"

"Never--except that he has been left very poorly off, though his father
died in affluent circumstances. What are the conditions?"

The mysterious stranger paused for a moment.

"Have you, of late, formed an acquaintance of a certain Mrs. Bond, a
widow?"

"I met her recently in South Kensington, at the house of a friend of my
mother, Mrs. Binyon. Why?"

"How many times have you met her?"

"Two--or I think three. She came to tea with us the day before we came
up here."

"H'm! Your mother seems rather prone to make easy acquaintanceships--eh?
The Hardcastles were distinctly undesirable, were they not?--and the
Jameses also?"

"Why, what do you know about them?" asked the girl, much surprised,
as they were two families who had been discovered to be not what they
represented.

"Well," he laughed. "I happen to be aware of your mother's charm--that's
all."

"You seem to know quite a bit about us," she remarked. "How is it?"

"Because I have made it my business to know, Miss Ranscomb," he replied.
"Further, I would urge upon you to have nothing to do with Mrs. Bond."

"Why not? We found her most pleasant. She is the widow of a wealthy man
who died abroad about two years ago, and she lives somewhere down in
Surrey."

"I know all about that," he answered in a curious tone. "But I repeat my
warning that Mrs. Bond is by no means a desirable acquaintance. I tell
you so for your own benefit."

Inwardly he was angry that the woman should have so cleverly made the
acquaintance of the girl. It showed him plainly that Benton and she
were working on a set and desperate plan, while the girl before him was
entirely ignorant of the plot.

"Now, Miss Ranscomb," he added, "I want you to please make me a
promise--namely, that you will say nothing to a single soul of what I
have said this evening--not even to your friend, Mr. Henfrey. I have
very strong reasons for this. Remember, I am acting in the interests of
you both, and secrecy is the essence of success."

"I understand. But you really mystify me. I know you are my friend," she
said, "but why are you doing all this for our benefit?"

"In order that Hugh Henfrey may return to your side, and that hand in
hand you may be able to defeat your enemies."

"My enemies! Who are they?" asked the girl.

"One day, very soon, they must reveal themselves. When they do, and you
find yourself in difficulties, you have only to call upon me, and I will
further assist you. Advertise in the _Times_ newspaper at any time for
an appointment with 'Silverado.' Give me seven days, and I will keep
it."

"But do tell me your name!" she urged, as they moved together from the
pathway along the road in the direction of Perth. "I beg of you to do
so."

"I have already begged a favour of you, Miss Ranscomb," he answered in
a soft, refined voice. "I ask you not to press your question. Suffice it
that I am your sincere friend."

"But when shall I see Hugh?" she cried, again halting. "I cannot bear
this terrible suspense any longer--indeed I can't! Can I go to him
soon?"

"No!" cried a voice from the shadow of a bush close beside them as a
dark alert figure sprang forth into the light. "It is needless. I am
here, dearest!--_at last_!"

And next second she found herself clasped in her lover's strong embrace,
while the stranger, utterly taken aback, stood looking on, absolutely
mystified.




FIFTEENTH CHAPTER

THE NAMELESS MAN

"Who is this gentleman, Dorise?" asked Hugh, when a moment later the
girl and her companion had recovered from their surprise.

"I cannot introduce you," was her reply. "He refuses to give his name."

The tall man laughed, and said:

"I have already told you that my name is X."

Hugh regarded the stranger with distinct suspicion. It was curious that
he should discover them together, yet he made but little comment.

"We were just speaking about you, Mr. Henfrey," the tall man went on. "I
believed that you were still in Belgium."

"How did you know I was there?"

"Oh!--well, information concerning your hiding-place reached me," was
his enigmatical reply. "I am, however, glad you have been able to return
to England in safety. I was about to arrange a meeting between you. But
I advise you to be most careful."

"You seem to know a good deal concerning me," Hugh remarked resentfully,
looking at the stern, rather handsome face in the moonlight.

"This is the gentleman who sought me out in Nice, and first told me of
your peril, Hugh. I recognize his voice, and have to thank him for a
good deal," the girl declared.

"Really, Miss Ranscomb, I require no thanks," the polite stranger
assured her. "If I have been able to render Mr. Henfrey a little service
it has been a pleasure to me. And now that you are together again I will
leave you."

"But who are you?" demanded Hugh, filled with curiosity.

"That matters not, now that you are back in England. Only I beseech of
you to be very careful," said the tall man. Then he added: "There
are pitfalls into which you may very easily fall--traps set by your
enemies."

"Well, sir, I thank you sincerely for what you have done for Miss
Ranscomb during my absence," said the young man, much mystified at
finding Dorise strolling at that hour with a man of whose name even she
was ignorant. "I know I have enemies, and I shall certainly heed your
warning."

"Your enemies must not know you are in England. If they do, they will
most certainly inform the police."

"I shall take care of that," was Hugh's reply. "I shall be compelled to
go into hiding again--but where, I do not know."

"Yes, you must certainly continue to lie low for a time," the man urged.
"I know how very dull it must have been for you through all those weeks.
But even that is better than the scandal of arrest and trial."

"Ah! I know of what you are accused, Hugh!" cried the girl. "And I also
know you are innocent!"

"Mr. Henfrey is innocent," said the tall stranger. "But there must be no
publicity, hence his only chance of safety lies in strict concealment."

"It is difficult to conceal oneself in England," replied Hugh.

The stranger laughed, as he slowly answered:

"There are certain places where no questions are asked--if you know
where to look for them. But first, I am very interested to know how you
got over here."

"I went to Ostend, and for twenty pounds induced a Belgian fisherman
to put me ashore at night near Caister, in Norfolk. I went to London at
once, only to discover that Miss Ranscomb was at Blairglas--and here I
am. But I assure you it was an adventurous crossing, for the weather was
terrible--a gale blew nearly the whole time."

"You are here, it is true, Mr. Henfrey. But you mustn't remain here,"
the stranger declared. "Though I refuse to give you my name, I will
nevertheless try to render you further assistance. Go back to London by
the next train you can get, and then call upon Mrs. Mason, who lives
at a house called 'Heathcote,' in Abingdon Road, Kensington. She is a
friend of mine, and I will advise her by telegram that she will have
a visitor. Take apartments at her house, and remain there in strict
seclusion. Will you remember the address--shall I write it down?"

"Thanks very much indeed," Hugh replied. "I shall remember it. Mrs.
Mason, 'Heathcote,' Abingdon Road, Kensington."

"That's it. Get there as soon as ever you can," urged the stranger.
"Recollect that your enemies are still in active search of you."

Hugh looked his mysterious friend full in the face.

"Look here!" he said, in a firm, hard voice. "Are you known as Il
Passero?"

"Pardon me," answered the stranger. "I refuse to satisfy your curiosity
as to who I may be. I am your friend--that is all that concerns you."

"But the famous Passero--The Sparrow--is my unknown friend," he said,
"and I have a suspicion that you and he are identical!"

"I have a motive in not disclosing my identity," was the man's reply in
a curious tone. "Get to Mrs. Mason's as quickly as you can. Perhaps one
day soon we may meet again. Till then, I wish both of you the best of
luck. _Au revoir_!"

And, raising his hat, he turned abruptly, and, leaving them, set off up
the high road which led to Perth.

"But, listen, sir--one moment!" cried Hugh, as he turned away.

Nevertheless the stranger heeded not, and a few seconds later his figure
was lost in the shadow of the high hedgerow.

"Well," said Hugh, a few moments later, "all this is most amazing. I
feel certain that he is either the mysterious Sparrow himself, or one of
his chief accomplices."

"The Sparrow? Who is he--dear?" asked Dorise, her hand upon her lover's
shoulder.

"Let's sit down somewhere, and I will tell you," he said. Then,
re-entering the park by the small iron gate, Dorise led him to a fallen
tree where, as they sat together, he related all he had been told
concerning the notorious head of a criminal gang known to his
confederates, and the underworld of Europe generally, as Il Passero, or
The Sparrow.

"How very remarkable!" exclaimed Dorise, when he had finished, and she,
in turn, had told him of the encounter at the White Ball at Nice, and
the coming and going of the messenger from Malines. "I wonder if he
really is the notorious Sparrow?"

"I feel convinced he is," declared Hugh. "He sent me a message in secret
to Malines a fortnight ago forbidding me to attempt to leave Belgium,
because he considered the danger too great. He was, no doubt, much
surprised to-night when he found me here."

"He certainly was quite as surprised as myself," the girl replied, happy
beyond expression that her lover was once again at her side.

In his strong arms he held her in a long, tight embrace, kissing her
upon the lips in a frenzy of satisfaction--long, sweet kisses which she
reciprocated with a whole-heartedness that told him of her devotion.
There, in the shadow, he whispered to her his love, repeating what he
had told her in London, and again in Monte Carlo.

Suddenly he put a question to her:

"Do you really believe I am innocent of the charge against me, darling?"

"I do, Hugh," she answered frankly.

"Ah! Thank you for those words," he said, in a broken voice. "I feared
that you might think because of my flight that I was guilty."

"I know you are not. Mother, of course, says all sorts of nasty
things--that you must have done something very wrong--and all that."

"My escape certainly gives colour to the belief that I am in fear of
arrest. And so I am. Yet I swear that I never attempted to harm the lady
at the Villa Amette."

"But why did you go there at all, dear?" the girl asked. "You surely
knew the unenviable reputation borne by that woman!"

"I know it quite well," he said. "I expected to meet an
adventuress--but, on the contrary, I met a real good woman!"

"I don't understand you, Hugh," she said.

"No, darling. You, of course, cannot understand!" he exclaimed. "I admit
that I followed her home, and I demanded an interview."

"Why?"

"Because I was determined she should divulge to me a secret of her own."

"What secret?"

"One that concerns my whole future."

"Cannot you tell me what it is?" she asked, looking into his face, which
in the moonlight she saw was much changed, for it was unusually pale and
haggard.

"I--well--at the present moment I am myself mystified, darling. Hence I
cannot explain the truth," he replied. "Will you trust me if I promise
to tell you the whole facts as soon as I have learnt them? One day I
hope I shall know all, yet----"

"Yes--yet--what?"

He drew a deep breath.

"The poor unfortunate lady has lost her reason as the result of the
attempt upon her life. Therefore, after all, I may never be in a
position to know the truth which died upon her lips."

For nearly two hours the pair remained together. Often she was locked in
her lover's arms, heedless of everything save her unbounded joy at his
return, and of the fierce, passionate caresses he bestowed upon her.
Truly, that was a night of supreme delight as they held each other's
hands, and their lips met time after time in ecstasy.

He inquired about George Sherrard, but she said little. She hesitated to
tell him of the incident while fishing that morning, but merely said:

"Oh! He was up here for two or three days, but had to go back to London
on business. And I was very glad."

"Of course, dearest, your mother still presses you to marry him."

"Yes," laughed the girl. "But she will continue to press. She's
constantly singing his praises until I'm utterly sick of hearing of all
his good qualities."

Hugh sighed, and replied:

"All men who are rich are possessed of good qualities in the estimation
of the world. The poor and hard-up are the despised. But, after all,
Dorise," he added, in a changed voice, "you have not forgotten what you
told me at Monte Carlo--that you love me?"

"I repeat it, Hugh!" declared the girl, deeply in earnest, her hand
stealing into his. "I love only you!--_you_!"

Then again he took her in his arms, and imprinted a fierce, passionate
kiss upon her ready lips.

"I suppose we must part again," he sighed. "I am compelled to keep away
from you because no doubt a watch has been set upon you, and upon your
correspondence. Up to the present, I have been able, by the good grace
of unknown friends, to slip through the meshes of the net spread for me.
But how long this will continue, I know not."

"Oh! do be careful, Hugh, won't you?" urged the girl, as they sat side
by side. The only sound was the rippling of the burn deep down in the
glen, and the distant barking of a shepherd's dog.

"Yes. I'll get away into the wilds of Kensington--to Abingdon Road. One
is safer in a London suburb than in a desert, no doubt. West London is a
good hiding-place."

"Recollect the name. Mason, wasn't it? And she lives at 'Heathcote.'"

"That was it. But do not communicate with me, otherwise my place of
concealment will most certainly be discovered."

"But can't I see you, Hugh?" implored the girl. "Must we again be
parted?"

"Yes. It seems so, according to our mysterious friend, whom I believe
most firmly to be the notorious thief known by the Italian sobriquet of
Il Passero--The Sparrow."

"Do you think he is a thief?" asked the girl.

"Yes. I am convinced that your friend is none other than the picturesque
and romantic criminal whose octopus hand is upon almost every great
theft in Europe, and whom the police always fail to catch, so elusive
and clever is he."

She gave him further details of their first meeting at Nice.

"Exactly. That is one of his methods--secrecy and generosity are his two
traits. He and his accomplices rob the wealthy, and assist those wrongly
accused. It must be he--or one of his assistants. Otherwise he would not
know of the secret hiding-place for those after whom a hue-and-cry has
been raised."

He recollected at that moment the girl who had been his fellow-guest in
Genoa--the dainty mademoiselle who evidently had some secret knowledge
of his father's death, and yet refused to divulge a single word.

Ever since that memorable night at the Villa Amette, he had existed in
a mist of suspicion and uncertainty. Yet, after all, he cared little
for anything so long as Dorise still believed in his innocence, and she
still loved him. His one great object was to clear up the mystery of
his father's tragic end, and thus defeat the clever plot of those whose
intention it, apparently, was to marry him to Louise Lambert.

On every hand there was mystification. The one woman--notorious as she
was--who knew the truth had been rendered mentally incompetent by an
assassin's bullet, while he, himself, was accused of the crime.

Hugh Henfrey would have long ago confessed to Dorise the whole facts
concerning his father's death, but his delicacy prevented him. He
honoured his dead father, and was averse to telling the girl he loved
that he had been found in a curious state in a West End street late at
night. He was loyal to his poor father's memory, and, until he knew the
actual truth, he did not intend that Dorise should be in a position to
misconstrue the facts, or to misjudge.

On the face of it, his father's death was exceedingly suspicious. He had
left his home in the country and gone to town upon pretence. Why? That
a woman was connected with his journey was now apparent. Hugh had
ascertained certain facts which he had resolved to withhold from
everybody.

But why should the notorious Sparrow, the King of the Underworld,
interest himself so actively on his behalf as to travel up there to
Perthshire, after making those secret, but elaborate, arrangements for
safety? The whole affair was a mystery, complete and insoluble.

It was early morning, after they had rambled for several hours in the
moonlight, when Hugh bade his well-beloved farewell.

They had returned through the park and were at a gate quite close to the
castle when they halted. It had crossed Hugh's mind that they might be
seen by one of the keepers, and he had mentioned this to Dorise.

"What matter?" she replied. "They do not know you, and probably will not
recognize me."

So after promising Hugh to remain discreet, she told him they were
returning to London in a few days.

"Look here!" he said suddenly. "We must meet again very soon, darling.
I daresay I may venture out at night, therefore why not let us make an
appointment--say, for Tuesday week. Where shall we meet? At midnight at
the first seat on the right on entering the part at the Marble Arch? You
remember, we met there once before--about a year ago."

"Yes. I know the spot," the girl replied. "I remember what a cold, wet
night it was, too!" and she laughed at the recollection. "Very well.
I will contrive to be there. That night we are due at a dance at the
Gordons' in Grosvenor Gardens. But I'll manage to be there somehow--if
only for five minutes."

"Good," he exclaimed, again kissing her fondly. "Now I must make all
speed to Kensington and there go once more into hiding. When--oh, when
will this wearying life be over!"

"You have a friend, as I have, in the mysterious white cavalier," she
said. "I wonder who he really is?"

"The Sparrow--without a doubt--the famous 'Il Passero' for whom the
police of Europe are ever searching, the man who at one moment lives
in affluence and the highest respectability in a house somewhere near
Piccadilly, and at another is tearing over the French, Spanish, or
Italian roads in his powerful car directing all sorts of crooked
business. It's a strange world in which I find myself, Dorise, I assure
you! Good-bye, darling--good-bye!" and he took her in a final embrace.
"Good-bye--till Tuesday week."

Then stepping on to the grass, where his feet fell noiselessly, he
disappeared in the dark shadow of the great avenue of beeches.




SIXTEENTH CHAPTER

THE ESCROCS OF LONDON

For ten weary days Hugh Henfrey had lived in the close, frowsy-smelling
house in Abingdon Road, Kensington, a small, old-fashioned place, once a
residence of well-to-do persons, but now sadly out of repair.

Its occupier was a worthy, and somewhat wizened, widow named Mason, who
was supposed to be the relict of an army surgeon who had been killed at
the Battle of the Marne. She was about sixty, and suffered badly from
asthma. Her house was too large for one maid, a stout, matronly person
called Emily, hence the place was not kept as clean as it ought to have
been, and the cuisine left much to be desired.

Still, it appeared to be a safe harbour of refuge for certain strange
persons who came there, men who looked more or less decent members of
society, but whose talk and whose slang was certainly that of crooks.
That house in the back street of old-world Kensington, a place built
before Victoria ascended the throne, was undoubtedly on a par with the
flat of the Reveccas in Genoa, and the thieves' sanctuary in the shadow
of the cathedral at Malines.

Adversity brings with it queer company, and Hugh had found himself
among a mixed society of men who had been gentlemen and had taken up the
criminal life as an up-to-date profession. They all spoke of The Sparrow
with awe; and they all wondered what his next great coup would be.

Hugh became more than ever satisfied that Il Passero was one of the
greatest and most astute criminals who have graced the annals of our
time.

Everyone sang his praise. The queer visitors who lodged there for a
day, a couple of days, or more; the guests who came suddenly, and who
disappeared just as quickly, were one and all loud in their admiration
of Il Passero, though Hugh could discover nobody who had actually seen
the arch-thief in the flesh.

On the Tuesday night Hugh had had a frugal and badly-cooked meal with
three mysterious men who had arrived as Mrs. Mason's guests during the
day. After supper the widow rose and left the room, whereupon the trio,
all well-dressed men-about-town, began to chatter openly about a little
"deal" in diamonds in which they had been interested. The "deal" in
question had been reported in the newspapers on the previous morning,
namely, how a Dutch diamond dealer's office in Hatton Garden had been
broken into, the safe cut open by the most scientific means, and a very
valuable parcel of stones extracted.

"Harry Austen has gone down to Surrey to stay with Molly."

"Molly? Why, I thought she was in Paris!"

"She was--but she went to America for a trip and she finds it more
pleasant to live down in Surrey just now," replied the other with a
grin. "She has Charlie's girl living with her."

"H'm!" grunted the third man. "Not quite the sort of companion Charlie
might choose for his daughter--eh?"

Hugh took but little notice of the conversation. It was drawing near the
time when he would go forth to meet Dorise at their trysting place. In
anxiety he went into the adjoining room, and there smoked alone until
just past eleven o'clock, when he put on his hat and went forth into the
dark, deserted street.

Opposite High Street Kensington Station he jumped upon a bus, and at
five minutes to midnight alighted at the Marble Arch. On entering the
park he quickly found the seat he had indicated as their meeting place,
and sat down to wait.

The home-going theatre traffic behind him in the Bayswater Road had
nearly ceased as the church clocks chimed the midnight hour. In the
semi-darkness of the park dark figures were moving, lovers with midnight
trysts like his own. In the long, well-lit road behind him motors full
of gaily-dressed women flashed homeward from suppers or theatres, while
from the open windows of a ballroom in a great mansion, the house of an
iron magnate, came the distant strains of waltz music.

Time dragged along. He strained his eyes down the dark pathway, but
could see no approaching figure. Had she at the last moment been
prevented from coming? He knew how difficult it was for her to slip
away at night, for Lady Ranscomb was always so full of engagements, and
Dorise was compelled to go everywhere with her.

At last he saw a female figure in the distance, as she turned into the
park from the Marble Arch, and springing to his feet, he went forward
to meet her. At first he was not certain that it was Dorise, but as he
approached nearer he recognized her gait.

A few seconds later he confronted her and grasped her warmly by the
hand. The black cloak she was wearing revealed a handsome jade-coloured
evening gown, while her shoes were not those one would wear for
promenading in the park.

"Welcome at last, darling!" he cried. "I was wondering if you could get
away, after all!"

"I had a little difficulty," she laughed. "I'm at a dance at the
Gordons' in Grosvenor Gardens, but I managed to slip out, find a taxi,
and run along here. I fear I can't stay long, or they will miss me."

"Even five minutes with you is bliss to me, darling," he said, grasping
her ungloved hand and raising it to his lips.

"Ah! Hugh. If you could only return to us, instead of living under this
awful cloud of suspicion!" the girl cried. "Every day, and every night,
I think of you, dear, and wonder how you are dragging out your days in
obscurity down in Kensington. Twice this week I drove along the Earl's
Court Road, quite close to you."

"Oh! life is a bit dull, certainly," he replied cheerfully. "But I have
papers and books--and I can look out of the window on to the houses
opposite."

"But you go out for a ramble at night?"

"Oh! yes," he replied. "Last night I set out at one o'clock and walked
up to Hampstead Heath, as far as Jack Straw's Castle and back. The night
was perfect. Really, Londoners who sleep heavily all night lose the best
part of their lives. London is only beautiful in the night hours and
at early dawn. I often watch the sun rise from the Thames Embankment.
I have a favourite seat--just beyond Scotland Yard. I've become quite a
night-bird these days. I sleep when the sun shines, and with a sandwich
box and a flask I go long tramps at night, just as others do who, like
myself, are concealing their identity."

"But when will all this end?" queried the girl, as together they
strolled in the direction of Bayswater, passing many whispering couples
sitting on seats. London lovers enjoy the park at all hours of the
twenty-four.

"It will only end when I am able to discover the truth," he said
vaguely. "Meanwhile I am not disheartened, darling, because--because I
know that you believe in me--that you still trust me."

"That man whom I saw in Nice dressed as a cavalier, and who again came
to me in Scotland, is a mystery," she said. "Do you really believe he is
the person you suspect?"

"I do. I still believe he is the notorious and defiant criminal 'Il
Passero'--the most daring and ingenious thief of the present century."

"But he is evidently your friend."

"Yes. That is the great mystery of it all. I cannot discern his motive."

"Is it a sinister one, do you think?"

"No. I do not believe so. I have heard of The Sparrow's fame from the
lips of many criminals, but none has uttered a single word against him.
He is, I hear, fierce, bitter, and relentless towards those who are his
enemies. To his friends, however, he is staunchly loyal. That is what is
said of him."

"But, Hugh, I wish you would be more frank with me," the girl said.
"There are several things you are hiding from me."

"I admit it, darling," he blurted forth, holding her hand in the
darkness as they walked. The ecstasy and the bliss of that moment
held him almost without words. She was as life to him. He pursued that
soul-deadening evasion, and lived that grey, sordid life among men and
women escaping from justice solely for her sake. If he married Louise
Lambert and then cast off the matrimonial shackles he would recover his
patrimony and be well-off.

To many men the temptation would have proved too great. The inheritance
of his father's fortune was so very easy. Louise was a pretty girl, well
educated, bright, vivacious, and thoroughly up to date. Yet somehow,
he always mistrusted Benton, though his father, perhaps blinded in his
years, had reckoned him his best and most sincere friend. There are many
unscrupulous men who pose as dear, devoted friends of those who they
know are doomed by disease to die--men who hope to be left executors
with attaching emoluments, and men who have some deep game to play
either by swindling the orphans, or by advancing one of their own kith
and kin in the social scale.

Old Mr. Henfrey, a genuine country landowner of the good old school, a
man who lived in tweeds and leggings, and who rode regularly to hounds
and enjoyed his days across the stubble, was one of the unsuspicious.
Charles Benton he had first met long ago in the Hotel de Russie in
Rome while he was wintering there. Benton was merry, and, apparently, a
gentleman. He talked of his days at Harrow, and afterwards at Cambridge,
of being sent down because of a big "rag" in the Gladstonian days, and
of his life since as a fairly well-off bachelor with rooms in London.

Thus a close intimacy had sprung up between them, and Hugh had naturally
regarded his father's friend with entire confidence.

"You admit that you are not telling me the whole truth, Hugh," remarked
the girl after a long pause. "It is hardly fair of you, is it?"

"Ah! darling, you do not know my position," he hastened to explain as
he gripped her little hand more tightly in his own. "I only wish I
could learn the truth myself so as to make complete explanation. But at
present all is doubt and uncertainty. Won't you trust me, Dorise?"

"Trust you!" she echoed. "Why, of course I will! You surely know that,
Hugh."

The young man was again silent for some moments. Then he exclaimed:

"Yet, after all, I can see no ray of hope."

"Why?"

"Hope of our marriage, Dorise," he said hoarsely. "How can I, without
money, ever hope to make you my wife?"

"But you will have your father's estate in due course, won't you?" she
asked quite innocently. "You always plead poverty. You are so like a
man."

"Ah! Dorise, I am really poor. You don't understand--_you can't_!"

"But I do," she said. "You may have debts. Every man has them--tailor's
bills, restaurant bills, betting debts, jewellery debts. Oh! I know.
I've heard all about these things from another. Well, if you have them,
you'll be able to settle them out of your father's estate all in due
course."

"And if he has left me nothing?"

"Nothing!" exclaimed the handsome girl at his side. "What do you mean?"

"Well----" he said very slowly. "At present I have nothing--that's all.
That is why at Monte Carlo I suggested that--that----"

He did not conclude the sentence.

"I remember. You said that I had better marry George Sherrard--that
thick-lipped ass. You said that because you are hard-up?"

"Yes. I am hard-up. Very hard-up. At present I am existing in an obscure
lodging practically upon the charity of a man upon whom, so far as I can
ascertain, I have no claim whatsoever."

"The notorious thief?"

Hugh nodded, and said:

"That fact in itself mystifies me. I can see no motive. I am entirely
innocent of the crime attributed to me, and if Mademoiselle were in her
right mind she would instantly clear me of this terrible charge."

"But why did you go to her home that night, Hugh?"

"As I have already told you, I went to demand a reply to a single
question I put to her," he said. "But please do no let us discuss the
affair further. The whole circumstances are painful to me--more painful
than you can possibly imagine. One day--and I hope it will be soon--you
will fully realize what all this has cost me."

The girl drew a long breath.

"I know, Hugh," she said. "I know, dear--and I do trust you."

They halted, and he bent and impressed upon her lips a fierce caress.

So entirely absorbed in each other were the pair that they failed
to notice the slim figure of a man who had followed the girl at some
distance. Indeed, the individual in question had been lurking outside
the house in Grosvenor Gardens, and had watched Dorise leave. At the end
of the street a taxi was drawn up at the kerb awaiting him. Dorise had
hailed the man, but his reply was a surly "Engaged."

Then, walking about a couple of hundred yards, she had found another,
and entering it, had driven to the Marble Arch. But the first taxi
had followed the second one, and in it was the well-set-up man who was
silently watching her in the park as she walked with her lover towards
the Victoria Gate.

"What can I say to you in reply to your words of hope, darling?"
exclaimed Hugh as he walked beside her. "I know full well how much all
this must puzzle you. Have you seen Brock?"

"Oh! yes. I saw him two days ago. He called upon mother and had tea. I
managed to get five minutes alone with him, and I asked if he had heard
from you. He replied that he had not. He's much worried about you."

"Is he, dear old chap? I only wish I dared write to him, and give him my
address."

"I told him that you were back in London. But I did not give him your
address. You told me to disclose nothing."

"Quite right, Dorise," he said. "If, as I hope one day to do, I can ever
clear myself and combat my secret enemies, then there will be revealed
to you a state of things of which you little dream. To-day I confess I
am under a cloud. In the to-morrow I hope and pray that I may be able to
expose the guilty and throw a new light upon those who have conspired to
secure my downfall."

They had halted in the dark path, and again their lips met in fond
caress. Behind them was the silent watcher, the tall man who had
followed Dorise when she had made her secret exit from the house wherein
the gay dance was till in progress.

An empty seat was near, and with one accord the lovers sank upon it,
Hugh still holding the girl's soft hand.

"I must really go," she said. "Mother will miss me, no doubt."

"And George Sherrard, too?" asked her companion bitterly.

"He may, of course."

"Ah! Then he is with you to-night?"

"Yes. Unfortunately, he is. Ah! Hugh! How I hate his exquisite and
superior manners. But he is such a close friend of mother's that I can
never escape him."

"And he still pesters you with his attentions, of course," remarked Hugh
in a hard voice.

"Oh! yes, he is always pretending to be in love with me."

"Love!" echoed Hugh. "Can such a man ever love a woman? Never, Dorise.
He does not love you as I love you--with my whole heart and my whole
soul."

"Of course the fellow cannot," she replied. "But, for mother's sake, I
have to suffer his presence."

"At least you are frank, darling," he laughed.

"I only tell you the truth, dear. Mother thinks she can induce me to
marry him because he is so rich, but I repeat that I have no intention
whatever of doing so. I love you, Hugh--and only you."

Again he took her in his strong arms and pressed her to him, still being
watched by the mysterious individual who had followed Dorise.

"Ah! my darling, these are, indeed, moments of supreme happiness," Hugh
exclaimed as he held her tightly in his arms. "I wonder when we dare
meet again?"

"Soon, dear--very soon, I hope. Let us make another appointment," she
said. "On Friday week mother is going to spend the night with Mrs. Deane
down at Ascot. I shall make excuse to stay at home."

"Right. Friday week at the same place and time," he said cheerily.

"I'll have to go now," she said regretfully. "I only wish I could stay
longer, but I must get back at once. If mother misses me she'll have a
fit."

So he walked with her out of the Victoria Gate into the Bayswater Road
and put her into an empty taxi which was passing back to Oxford Street.

Then, when he had pressed her hand and wished her adieu, he continued,
towards Notting Hill Gate, and thence returned to Kensington.

But, though he was ignorant of the fact, the rather lank figure which
had been waiting outside the house in Grosvenor Gardens now followed him
almost as noiselessly as a shadow. Never once did the watcher lose
sight of him until he saw him enter the house in Abingdon Road with his
latchkey.

Then, when the door had closed, the mysterious watcher passed by and
scrutinized the number, after which he hastened back to Kensington High
Street, where he found a belated taxi in which he drove away.




SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER

ON THE SURREY HILLS

On the following morning, about twelve o'clock, Emily, Mrs. Mason's
stout maid-of-all-work, showed a tall, well-dressed man into Hugh's
frowsy little sitting-room where he sat reading.

He sprang to his feet when he recognized his visitor to be Charles
Benton.

"Well my boy!" cried his visitor cheerily. "So I've found you at last!
We all thought you were on the Continent, lying low somewhere."

"So I have been," replied the young man faintly. "You've heard of that
affair at Monte Carlo?"

"Of course. And you are suspected--wanted by the police? That's why I'm
here," Benton replied. "This place isn't safe for you. You must get away
from it at once," he added, lowering his voice.

"Why isn't it safe?"

"Because at Scotland Yard they know you are somewhere in Kensington, and
they're hunting high and low for you."

"How do you know?"

"Because Harpur, one of the assistant Commissioners of Police, happened
to be in the club yesterday, and we chatted. So I pumped him as to the
suspected person from Monte Carlo, and he declared that you were known
to be in this district, and your arrest was only a matter of time. So
you must clear out at once."

"Where to?" asked Hugh blankly.

"Well, there's a lady you met once or twice with me, Mrs. Bond. She will
be delighted to put you up for a few weeks. She has a charming house
down in Surrey--a place called Shapley Manor."

"She might learn the truth and give me away," remarked Hugh dubiously.

"She won't. Recollect, Hugh, that I was your father's friend, and am
yours. What advice I give you is for your own good. You can't stay
here--it's impossible."

The name of The Sparrow was upon Hugh's lips, and he was about to
tell Benton of that mysterious person's efforts on his behalf, but,
on reflection, he saw that he had no right to expose The Sparrow's
existence to others. The very house in which they were was one of the
bolt-holes of the wonderfully organized gang of crooks which Il Passero
controlled.

"How did you know that I was here?" asked Hugh suddenly in curiosity.

"That I'm not at liberty to say. It was not a friend of yours, but
rather an enemy who told me--hence I tell you that you run the gravest
risk in remaining here a moment longer. As soon as I heard you were
here, I telephoned to Mrs. Bond, and she has very generously asked us
both to stay with her," Benton went on. "If you agree, I'll get a car
now, without delay, and we'll run down into Surrey together," he added.

Hugh glanced at the tall, well-dressed man of whom his father had
thought so highly. Charles Benton, in spite of his hair tuning grey, was
a handsome man, and moved in a very good circle of society. Nobody knew
his source of income, and nobody cared. In these days clothes make the
gentleman, and a knighthood a lady.

Like many others, old Mr. Henfrey had been sadly deceived by Charles
Benton, and had taken him into his family as a friend. Other men had
done the same. His geniality, his handsome, open face, and his plausible
manner, proved the open sesame to many doors of the wealthy, and the
latter were robbed in various ways, yet never dreaming that Benton was
the instigator of it all. He never committed a theft himself. He gave
the information--and others did the dirty work.

"You recollect Mrs. Bond," said Benton. "But I believe Maxwell, her
first husband, was alive then, wasn't he?"

"I have a faint recollection of meeting a Mrs. Maxwell in Paris--at
lunch at the Pre Catalan--was it not?"

"Yes, of course. About six years ago. That's quite right!" laughed
Benton. "Well, Maxwell died and she married again--a Colonel Bond. He
was killed in Mesopotamia, and now she's living up on the Hog's Back,
beyond Guildford, on the road to Farnham."

Hugh again reflected. He had come to Abingdon Road at the suggestion of
the mysterious White Cavalier. Ought he to leave the place without first
consulting him? Yet he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the man of
mystery whom he firmly believed was none other than the elusive Sparrow.
Besides, was not Benton, his father's closest friend, warning him of his
peril?

The latter thought decided him.

"I'm sure it's awfully good of Mrs. Bond whom I know so slightly to
invite me to stay with her."

"Nothing, my dear boy. She's a very old friend of mine. I once did her
a rather good turn when Maxwell was alive, and she's never forgotten
it. She's one of the best women in the world, I assure you," Benton
declared. "I'll run along to a garage I know in Knightsbridge and get
a car to take us down to Shapley. It's right out in the country, and as
long as you keep clear of the town of Guildford--where the police
are unusually wary under one of the shrewdest chief constables in
England--then you needn't have much fear. Pack up your traps, Hugh, and
I'll call for you at the end of the road in half an hour."

"Yes. But I'll want a dress suit and lots of other things if I'm going
to stay at a country house," the young man demurred.

"Rot! You can get all you want in Aldershot, Farnham or Portsmouth. Come
just as you are. Mrs. Bond will make all allowances."

"And probably have her suspicions aroused at the same time?"

"No, she won't. This is a sudden trip into the country. I told her you
had been taken unwell--a nervous breakdown--and that the doctor had
ordered you complete rest at once."

"I wish I had stayed in Monte Carlo and faced the charge against me,"
declared Hugh fervently. "Being hunted from pillar to post like this is
so absolutely nerve-racking."

"Why did you go to that woman's house, Hugh?" Benton asked. "What
business had you that led you to call at that hour upon such a notorious
person?"

Hugh remained silent. He saw that to tell Benton the truth would be to
reopen the whole question of the will and of Louise.

So he merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Won't you tell me what really happened at the Villa Amette, Hugh?"
asked the elder man persuasively. "I've seen Brock, but he apparently
knows nothing."

"Of course he does not. I was alone," was Hugh's answer. "The least said
about that night of horror the better, Benton."

So his father's friend left the house, while Hugh sought Mrs. Mason,
settled his bill with her, packed his meagre wardrobe into a suit-case,
and half an hour later entered the heavy old limousine which he found at
the end of the road.

They took the main Portsmouth road, by way of Kingston, Cobham and
Ripley, until in the cold grey afternoon they descended the steep hill
through Guildford High Street, and crossing the bridge, instead of
continuing along the road to Portsmouth, bore to the right, past the
station, and up the steep wide road over that long hill, the Hog's Back,
whence a great misty panorama was spread out on either side of the
long, high-up ridge which in the sunshine gives such a wonderful view to
motorists on their way out of London southward.

Presently the car turned into the gravelled drive, and Hugh found
himself at Shapley.

In the chintz-hung, old-world morning-room, lit by the last rays of
the declining sun, for the sky had suddenly cleared, Mrs. Bond entered,
loud-voiced and merry.

"Why, Mr. Henfrey! I'm so awfully pleased to see you. Charles telephoned
to me that you were a bit out of sorts. So you must stay with me for
a little while--both of you. It's very healthy up here on the Surrey
hills, and you'll soon be quite right again."

"I'm sure, Mrs. Bond, it is most hospitable of you," Hugh said. "London
in these after the war days is quite impossible. I always long for the
country. Certainly your house is delightful," he added, looking round.

"It's one of the nicest houses in the whole county of Surrey, my boy,"
Benton declared enthusiastically. "Mrs. Bond was awfully lucky in
securing it. The family are unfortunately ruined, as so many others are
by excessive taxation and high prices, and she just stepped in at the
psychological moment."

"Well, I really don't know how to thank you sufficiently, Mrs. Bond,"
Hugh declared. "It is really extremely good of you."

"Remember, Mr. Henfrey, we are not strangers," exclaimed the handsome
woman. "Do you recollect when we met in Paris, and afterwards in
Biarritz, and then that night at the Carlton?"

"I recollect perfectly well. We met before the war, when one could
really enjoy oneself contentedly."

"Since then I have been travelling a great deal," said the woman. "I've
been in Italy, the South of Spain, the Azores, and over to the States. I
got back only a few months ago."

And so after a chat Hugh was shown to his room, a pretty apartment, from
the diamond-paned windows of which spread out a lovely view across to
Godalming and Hindhead, with the South Downs in the blue far away.

"Now you must make yourselves at home, both of you," the handsome woman
urged as they came down into the drawing-room after a wash.

Tea was served, and over it much chatter about people and places. Mrs.
Bond was, like her friend Benton, a thorough-going cosmopolitan. Hugh
had no idea of her real reputation, or of her remarkable adventures.
Neither had he any idea that Molly Maxwell was wanted by the Paris
Surete, just as he himself was wanted.

"Isn't this a charming place?" remarked Benton as, an hour later, they
strolled on the long terrace smoking cigarettes before dinner. "Mrs.
Bond was indeed fortunate in finding it."

"Beautiful!" declared Hugh in genuine admiration. Since that memorable
night in Monte Carlo he had been living in frowsy surroundings,
concealed in thieves' hiding-places, eating coarse food, and hearing the
slang of the underworld of Europe.

It had been exciting, yet he had been drawn into it against his
will--just because he had feared for Dorise's sake, to face the music
after that mysterious shot had been fired at the Villa Amette.

Mrs. Bond was most courteous to her guests, and as Hugh and Benton
strolled up and down the terrace in the fast growing darkness, the elder
man remarked:

"You'll be quite safe here, you know, Hugh. Don't worry. I'm truly sorry
that you have landed yourself into this hole, but--well, for the life
of me I can't see what led you to seek out that woman, Yvonne Ferad. Why
ever did you go there?"

Hugh paused.

"I--I had reasons--private reasons of my own," he replied.

"That's vague enough. We all have private reasons for doing silly
things, and it seems that you did an exceptionally silly thing. I hear
that Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, after the doctors operated upon her
brain, has now become a hopeless idiot."

"So I've been told. It is all so very sad--so horrible. Though people
have denounced her as an adventuress, yet I know that at heart she is a
real good woman."

"Is she? How do you know?" asked Benton quickly, for instantly he was on
the alert.

"I know. And that is all."

"But tell me, Hugh--tell me in confidence, my boy--what led you to seek
her that night. You must have followed her from the Casino and have seen
her enter the Villa. Then you rang at the door and asked to see her?"

"Yes, I did."

"Why?"

"I had my own reasons."

"Can't you tell them to me, Hugh?" asked the tall man in a strange, low
voice. "Remember, I am an old friend of your father. And I am still your
best friend."

Hugh pursued his walk in silence.

"No," he said at last, "I prefer not to discuss the affair. That night
is one full of painful memories."

"Very well," answered Benton shortly. "If you don't want to tell me,
Hugh, I quite understand. That's enough. Have another cigarette," and he
handed the young fellow his heavy gold case.

A week passed. Hugh Henfrey and Charles Benton greatly enjoyed their
stay at Shapley Manor. With their hostess they motored almost daily
to many points of interest in the neighbourhood, never, by the way,
descending into the town of Guildford, where the police were so
unusually alert and shrewd.

More than once when alone with Benton, Hugh felt impelled to refer to
the mysterious death of his father, but it was a very painful subject.
The last time Hugh had referred to it, about a month before his visit to
Monte Carlo, Benton had been greatly upset, and had begged the young man
not to mention the tragic affair.

Constantly, however, Benton, on his part, would put cunning questions to
him concerning Yvonne Ferad, as to what he knew concerning her, and how
he had managed to escape over the frontier into Italy.

Late one night as they sat together in the billiard-room after their
final game, Benton, removing the cigar from his lips, exclaimed:

"Oh! I quite forgot to tell you, Mrs. Bond has been awfully good to
Louise. She took her from Paris with her and they went quite a long
tour, first to Spain and other places, and then to New York and back."

"Has she?" exclaimed Hugh in surprise. Only once before had Benton
mentioned Louise's name, then he had casually remarked that she was on a
visit to some friends in Yorkshire.

"Yes. She's making her home with Mrs. Bond for the present. She returns
here to-morrow."

As he said this, he watched the young man's face. It was sphinx-like.

"Oh! That's jolly!" he replied, with well assumed satisfaction. "It
seems such an age since we last met--nearly a year before my father's
death, I believe."

In his heart he had no great liking for the girl, although she was
bright, vivacious and extremely good company.

Next afternoon the pair met in the hall after the car had brought her
from Guildford station.

"Hallo, Hugh!" she cried as she grasped his hand. "Uncle wrote and
told me you were here! How jolly, isn't it? Why--you seem to have grown
older," she laughed.

"And you younger," he replied, bending over her hand gallantly. "I hear
you've been all over the world of late!"

"Yes. Wasn't it awfully good of Mrs. Bond? I had a ripping time. I
enjoyed New York ever so much. I find this place a bit dull after Paris
though, so I'm often away with friends."

And he followed her into the big morning-room where Mrs. Bond, alias
Molly Maxwell, was awaiting her.

That afternoon there had been several callers; a retired admiral and
his wife, and two county magistrates with their womenfolk, for since her
residence at Shapley Mrs. Bond had been received in a good many
smart houses, especially by the _nouveau riche_ who abound in that
neighbourhood. But the callers had left and they were now alone.

As Louise sat opposite the woman who had taken her under her charge,
Hugh gazed at her furtively and saw that there was no comparison between
her and the girl he loved so deeply.

How strange it was, he thought. If he asked her to be his wife and
they married, he would at once become a wealthy man and inherit all his
father's possessions. True, she was very sweet and possessed more than
the ordinary _chic_ and good taste in dress. Yet he felt that he could
never fulfil his dead father's curious desire.

He could never marry her--_never_!




EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER

THE MAN WITH THE BLACK GLOVE

On his way out of London, Hugh had made excuse and stopped the car at a
post office in Putney, whence he sent an express note to Dorise, telling
her his change of address. He though it wiser not to post it.

Hence it was on the morning following Louise's arrival at Shapley, he
received a letter from Dorise, enclosing one she had received under
cover for him. He had told Dorise to address him as "Mr. Carlton Symes."

It was on dark-blue paper, such as is usually associated with the law or
officialdom. Written in a neat, educated hand, it read:


"DEAR MR. HENFREY,--I hear that you have left Abingdon Road, and am
greatly interested to know the reason. You will, no doubt, recognize me
as the friend who sent a car for you at Monte Carlo. Please call at the
above address at the earliest possible moment. Be careful that you are
not watched. Say nothing to anybody, wherever you may be. Better call
about ten-thirty P.M., and ask for me. Have no fear. I am still your
friend,

"GEORGE PETERS."


The address given was 14, Ellerston Street, Mayfair.

Hugh knew the street, which turned off Curzon Street, a short
thoroughfare, but very exclusive. Some smart society folk lived there.

But who was George Peters? Was it not The Sparrow who had sent him the
car with the facetious chauffeur to that spot in Monte Carlo? Perhaps
the writer was the White Cavalier!

During the morning Hugh strolled down the hill and through the woods
with Louise. The latter was dressed in a neat country kit, a tweed
suit, a suede tam-o'-shanter, and carried a stout ash-plant as a
walking-stick. They were out together until luncheon time.

Meanwhile, Benton sat with his hostess, and had a long confidential
chat.

"You see, Molly," he said, as he smoked lazily, "I thought it an
excellent plan to bring them together, and to let them have an
opportunity of really knowing each other. It's no doubt true that he's
over head and ears in love with the Ranscomb girl, but Lady Ranscomb has
set her mind on having Sherrard as her son-in-law. She's a clever woman,
Lady Ranscomb, and of course, in her eyes, Hugh is for ever beneath a
cloud. That he went to the woman's house at night is quite sufficient."

"Well, if I know anything of young men, Charles, I don't think you'll
ever induce that boy to marry Louise," remarked the handsome adventuress
whom nobody suspected.

"Then if he doesn't, we'll just turn him over to Scotland Yard. We
haven't any further use for him," said Benton savagely. "It's the money
we want."

"And I fear we shall go on wanting it, my dear Charles," declared the
woman, who was so well versed in the ways of men. "Louise likes him. She
has told me so. But he only tolerates her--that's all! He's obsessed by
the mystery of old Henfrey's death."

"I wonder if that was the reason he went that night to see Yvonne?"
exclaimed Benton in a changed voice, as the idea suddenly occurred to
him. "I wonder if--if he suspected something, and went boldly and asked
her?"

"Ah! I wonder!" echoed the woman. "But Yvonne would surely tell him
nothing. It would implicate her far too deeply if she did. Yvonne is a
very shrewd person. She isn't likely to have told the old man's son very
much."

"No, you're right, Molly," replied the man. "You're quite right! I don't
think we have much to fear on that score. We've got Hugh with us, and
if he again turns antagonistic the end is quite easy--just an anonymous
line to the police."

"We don't want to do that if there is any other way," the woman said.

"I don't see any other way," replied the adventurer. "If he won't marry
Louise, then the money passes out of our reach."

"I don't like The Sparrow taking such a deep interest in his welfare,"
growled the woman beneath her breath.

"And I don't like the fact that Yvonne is still alive. If she were
dead--then we should have nothing to fear--nothing!" Benton said grimly.

"But who fired the shot if Hugh didn't?" asked Mrs. Bond.

"Personally, I think he did. He discovered something--something we don't
yet know--and he went to the Villa Amette and shot her in revenge for
the old man's death. That's my firm belief."

"Then why has The Sparrow taken all these elaborate precautions?"

"Because he's afraid himself of the truth coming out," said Benton.
"He certainly has looked after Hugh very well. I had some trouble to
persuade the lad to come down here, for he evidently believes that The
Sparrow is his best friend."

"He may find him his enemy one day," laughed the woman. And then they
rose and strolled out into the grounds, across the lawn down to the
great pond.

When at half-past seven they sat down to dinner, Hugh suddenly remarked
that he found it imperative to go to London that evening, and asked Mrs.
Bond if he might have the car.

Benton looked up at him quickly, but said nothing before Louise.

"Certainly; Mead shall take you," was the woman's reply, though she was
greatly surprised at the sudden request. Both she and Benton instantly
foresaw that his intention was to visit Dorise in secret. For what other
reason could he wish to run the risk of returning to London?

"When do you wish to start?" asked his hostess.

"Oh! about nine--if I may," was the young man's reply.

"Will you be back to-night?" asked the girl who, in a pretty pink dinner
frock, sat opposite him.

"Yes. But it won't be till late, I expect," he replied.

"Remember, to-morrow we are going for a run to Bournemouth and back,"
said the girl. "Mrs. Bond has kindly arranged it, and I daresay she will
come, too."

"I don't know yet, dear," replied Mrs. Bond. The truth was that she
intended that the young couple should spend the day alone together.

Benton was filled with curiosity.

As soon as the meal was over, and the two ladies had left the room, he
poured out a glass of port and turning to the young fellow, remarked:

"Don't you think it's a bit dangerous to go to town, Hugh?"

"It may be, but I must take the risk," was the other's reply.

"What are you going up for?" asked Benton bluntly.

"To see somebody--important," was his vague answer. And though the elder
man tried time after time to get something more definite from him, he
remained silent. Had not his unknown friend urged him to say nothing to
anybody wherever he might be?

So at nine Mead drove up the car to the door, and Hugh, slipping on his
light overcoat, bade his hostess good-night, thanked her for allowing
him the use of the limousine, and promised to be back soon after
midnight.

"Good-night, Hugh!" cried Louise from the other end of the fine old
hall. And a moment later the car drove away in the darkness.

Along the Hog's Back they went, and down into Guildford. Then up the
long steep High Street, past the ancient, overhanging clock at the
Guildhall, and out again on the long straight road to Ripley and London.

As soon as they were beyond Guildford, he knocked at the window, and
afterwards mounted beside Mead. He hated to be in a car alone, for he
himself was a good driver and used always to drive his father's old
"'bus."

"I'll go to the Berkeley Hotel," he said to the man. "Drop me there, and
pick me up outside there at twelve, will you?"

The man promised to do so, and then they chatted as they continued on
their way to London. Mead, a Guildfordian, knew every inch of the road.
Before entering Mrs. Bond's service he had, for a month, driven a lorry
for a local firm of builders, and went constantly to and from London.

They arrived at the corner of St. James's Street at half-past ten. Hugh
gave Mead five shillings to get his evening meal, and said:

"Be back here at midnight, Mead. I expect I'll be through my business
long before that. But it's a clear night, and we shall have a splendid
run home."

"Very well, sir. Thank you," replied his hostess's chauffeur.

Hugh Henfrey, instead of entering the smart Society hotel, turned up
the street, and, walking quickly, found himself ten minutes later in
Ellerston Street before a spacious house, upon the pale-green door of
which was marked in Roman numerals the number fourteen.

By the light of the street lamp he saw it was an old Georgian town
house. In the ironwork were two-foot-scrapers, relics of a time long
before macadam or wood paving.

The house, high and inartistic, was a relic of the days of the dandies,
when country squires had their town houses, and before labour found
itself in London drawing-rooms. Consumed by curiosity, Hugh pressed the
electric button marked "visitors," and a few moments later a smart young
footman opened the door.

"Mr. George Peters?" inquired Hugh. "I have an appointment."

"What name, sir?" the young, narrow-eyed man asked.

"Henfrey."

"Oh, yes, sir! Mr. Peters is expecting you," he said. And at once he
conducted him along the narrow hall to a room beyond.

The house was beautifully appointed. Everywhere was taste and luxury.
Even in the hall there were portraits by old Spanish masters and many
rare English sporting prints.

The room into which he was shown was a long apartment furnished in the
style of the Georgian era. The genuine Adams ceiling, mantelpiece,
and dead white walls, with the faintly faded carpet of old rose and
light-blue, were all in keeping. The lights, too, were shaded, and over
all was an old-world atmosphere of quiet and dignified repose.

The room was empty, and Hugh crossed to examine a beautiful little
marble statuette of a girl bather, with her arms raised and about to
dive. It was, no doubt, a gem of the art of sculpture, mounted upon a
pedestal of dark-green marble which revolved.

The whole conception was delightful, and the girl's laughing face was
most perfect in its portraiture.

Of a sudden the door reopened, and he was met by a stout, rather wizened
old gentleman with white bristly hair and closely cropped moustache, a
man whose ruddy face showed good living, and who moved with the brisk
alertness of a man twenty years his junior.

"Ah! here you are, Mr. Henfrey!" he exclaimed warmly, as he offered his
visitor his hand. Upon the latter was a well-worn black glove--evidently
to hide either some disease or deformity. "I was wondering if you
received my letter safely?"

"Yes," replied Hugh, glancing at the shrewd little man whose gloved
right hand attracted him.

"Sit down," the other said, as he closed the door. "I'm very anxious to
have a little chat with you."

Hugh took the arm-chair which Mr. Peters indicated. Somehow he viewed
the man with suspicion. His eyes were small and piercing, and his face
with its broad brow and narrow chin was almost triangular. He was a man
of considerable personality, without a doubt. His voice was high pitched
and rather petulant.

"Now," he said. "I was surprised to learn that you had left your safe
asylum in Kensington. Not only was I surprised--but I confess, I was
alarmed."

"I take it that I have to thank you for making those arrangements for
my escape from Monte Carlo?" remarked Hugh, looking him straight in the
face.

"No thanks are needed, my dear Mr. Henfrey," replied the elder man.
"So long as you are free, what matters? But I do not wish you to
deliberately run risks which are so easily avoided. Why did you leave
Abingdon Road?"

"I was advised to do so by a friend."

"Not by Miss Ranscomb, I am sure."

"No, by a Mr. Benton, whom I know."

The old man's eyebrows narrowed for a second.

"Benton?" he echoed. "Charles Benton--is he?"

"Yes. As he was a friend of my late father I naturally trust him."

Mr. Peters paused.

"Oh, naturally," he said a second later. "But where are you living now?"

Hugh told him that he was the guest of Mrs. Bond of Shapley Manor,
whereupon Mr. Peters sniffed sharply, and rising, obtained a box of good
cigars from a cupboard near the fireplace.

"You went there at Benton's suggestion?"

"Yes, I did."

Mr. Peters gave a grunt of undisguised dissatisfaction, as he curled
himself in his chair and examined carefully the young man before him.

"Now, Mr. Henfrey," he said at last. "I am very sorry for you. I happen
to know something of your present position, and the great difficulty in
which you are to-day placed by the clever roguery of others. Will you
please describe to me accurately exactly what occurred on that fateful
night at the Villa Amette? If I am to assist you further it is necessary
for you to tell me everything--remember, _everything_!"

Hugh paused and looked the stranger straight in the face.

"I thought you knew all about it," he said.

"I know a little--not all. I want to know everything. Why did you
venture there at all? You did not know the lady. It was surely a very
unusual hour to pay a call?" said the little man, his shrewd eyes fixed
upon his visitor.

"Well, Mr. Peters, the fact is that my father died in very suspicious
circumstances, and I was led to believe the Mademoiselle was cognizant
of the truth."

The other man frowned slightly.

"And so you went there with the purpose of getting the truth from her?"
he remarked, with a grunt.

Hugh nodded in the affirmative.

"What did she tell you?"

"Nothing. She was about to tell me something when the shot was fired by
someone on the veranda outside."

"H'm! Then the natural surmise would be that you, suspecting that woman
of causing your father's death, shot her because she refused to tell you
anything?"

"I repeat she was about to disclose the circumstances--to divulge her
secret, when she was struck down."

"You have no suspicion of anyone? You don't think that her manservant--I
forget the fellow's name--fired the shot? Remember, he was not in the
room at the time!"

"I feel confident that he did not. He was far too distressed at the
terrible affair," said Hugh. "The outrage must have been committed by
someone to whom the preservation of the secret of my father's end was of
most vital importance."

"Agreed," replied the man with the black glove. "The problem we have to
solve is who was responsible for your father's death."

"Yes," said Hugh. "If that shot had not been fired I should have known
the truth."

"You think, then, that Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo would have told you
the truth?" asked the bristly-haired man with a mysterious smile.

"Yes. She would."

"Well, Mr. Henfrey, I think I am not of your opinion."

"You think possibly she would have implicated herself if she had told me
the truth?"

"I do. But the chief reason I asked you to call and see me to-night is
to learn for what reason you have been induced to go on a visit to this
Mrs. Bond."

"Because Benton suggested it. He told me that Scotland Yard knew of my
presence in Kensington, making further residence there dangerous."

"H'm!" And the man with the black glove paused again.

"You don't like Benton, do you?"

"I have no real reason to dislike him. He has always been very friendly
towards me--as he was to my late father. The only thing which causes
me to hold aloof from him as much as I can is the strange clause in my
father's will."

"Strange clause?" echoed the old man. "What clause?"

"My father, in his will, cut me off every benefit he could unless I
married Benton's adopted daughter, Louise. If I marry her, then I obtain
a quarter of a million. I at first thought of disputing the will, but
Mr. Charman, our family solicitor, says that it is perfectly in order.
The will was made in Paris two years before his death. He went over
there on some financial business."

"Was Benton with him?" asked Mr. Peters.

"No. Benton went to New York about two months before."

"H'm! And how soon after your father's return did he come home?"

"I think it was about three months. He was in America five months
altogether, I believe."

The old man, still curled in his chair, smoked his cigar in silence.
Apparently he was thinking deeply.

"So Benton has induced you to go down to Shapley in order that you may
be near his adopted daughter, in the hope that you will marry her! In
the meantime you are deeply in love with Lady Ranscomb's daughter.
I know her--a truly charming girl. I congratulate you," he added,
as though speaking to himself. "But the situation is indeed a very
complicated one."

"For me it is terrible. I am living under a cloud, and in constant fear
of arrest. What can be done?"

"I fear nothing much can be done at present," said the old man, shaking
his head gravely. "I quite realize that you are victim of certain
enemies who intend to get hold of your father's fortune. It is for us to
combat them--if we can."

"Then you will continue to help me?" asked Hugh eagerly, looking into
the mysterious face of the old fellow who wore the black glove.

"I promise you my aid," he replied, putting out his gloved hand as
pledge.

Then, as Hugh took it, he looked straight into those keen eyes, and
asked:

"You have asked me many questions, sir, and I have replied to them all.
May I ask one of you--my friend?"

"Certainly," replied the older man.

"Then am I correct in assuming that you are actually the person of whom
I have heard so much up and down Europe--the man of whom certain men
and women speak with admiration, and with bated breath--the man known in
certain circles as--as _Il Passero_?"

The countenance of the little man with the bristly white hair and the
black glove relaxed into a smile, as, still holding Hugh's hand in
friendship, he replied:

"Yes. It is true. Some know me as 'The Sparrow!'"




NINETEENTH CHAPTER

THE SPARROW

Hugh Henfrey was at last face to face with the most notorious criminal
in Europe!

The black-gloved hand of the wizened, bristly-haired old man was the
hand that controlled a great organization spread all over Europe--an
organization which only knew Il Passero by repute, but had never seen
him in the flesh.

Yet there he was, a discreet, rather petulant old gentleman, who lived
at ease in an exclusive West End street, and was entirely unsuspected!

When "Mr. Peters" admitted his identity, Hugh drew a long breath. He
was staggered. He was profuse in his thanks, but "The Sparrow" merely
smiled, saying:

"It is true that I and certain of my friends make war upon Society--and
more especially upon those who have profiteered upon those brave fellows
who laid down their lives for us in the war. Whatever you have heard
concerning me I hope you will forgive, Mr. Henfrey. At least I am the
friend of those who are in distress, or who are wrongly judged--as you
are to-day."

"I have heard many strange things concerning you from those who have
never met you," Hugh said frankly. "But nothing to your detriment.
Everyone speaks of you, sir, as a gallant sportsman, possessed of an
almost uncanny cleverness in outwitting the authorities."

"Oh, well!" laughed the shrewd old man. "By the exercise of a little
wit, and the possession of a little knowledge of the _personnel_ of the
police, one can usually outwit them. Curious as you may think it, a very
high official at Scotland Yard dined with me here only last night. As I
am known as a student of criminology, and reputed to be the author of
a book upon that subject, he discussed with me the latest crime problem
with which he had been called upon to deal--the mysterious murder of a
young girl upon the beach on the north-east coast. His frankness rather
amused me. It was, indeed, a quaint situation," he laughed.

"But does he not recognize you, or suspect?" asked Hugh.

"Why should he? I have never been through the hands of the police in my
life. Hence I have never been photographed, nor have my finger prints
been taken. I merely organize--that is all."

"Your organization is most wonderful, Mr.--er--Mr. Peters," declared the
young man. "Since my flight I have had opportunity of learning something
concerning it. And frankly, I am utterly astounded."

The old man's face again relaxed into a sphinx-like smile.

"When I order, I am obeyed," he said in a curious tone. "I ordered your
rescue from that ugly situation in Monte Carlo. You and Miss Ranscomb no
doubt believed the tall man who went to the ball at Nice as a cavalier
to be myself. He did not tell you anything to the contrary, because I
only reveal my identity to persons whom I can trust, and then only in
cases of extreme necessity."

"Then I take it, sir, that you trust me, and that my case is one of
extreme necessity?"

"It is," was The Sparrow's reply. "At present I can see no solution of
the problem. It will be best, perhaps, for you to remain where you
are for the present," he added. He did not tell the young man of his
knowledge of Benton and his hostess.

"But I am very desirous of seeing Miss Ranscomb," Hugh said. "Is there
any way possible by which I can meet her without running too great a
risk?"

The Sparrow reflected in silence for some moments.

"To-day is Wednesday," he remarked slowly at last. "Miss Ranscomb is in
London. That I happen to know. Well, go to the Bush Hotel, in Farnham,
on Friday afternoon and have tea. She will probably motor there and take
tea with you."

"Will she?" cried Hugh eagerly. "Will you arrange it? You are, indeed, a
good Samaritan!"

The little old man smiled.

"I quite understand that this enforced parting under such circumstances
is most unfortunate for you both," he said. "But I have done, and will
continue to do, all I can in your interest."

"I can't quite make you out, Mr. Peters," said the young man. "Why
should you evince such a paternal interest in me?"

The Sparrow did not at once reply. A strange expression played about his
lips.

"Have I not already answered that question twice?" he asked. "Rest
assured, Mr. Henfrey, that I have your interests very much at heart."

"You have some reason for that, I'm sure."

"Well--yes, I have a reason--a reason which is my own affair." And he
rose to wish his visitor "good-night."

"I'll not forget to let Miss Ranscomb know that you will be at Farnham.
She will, no doubt, manage to get her mother's car for the afternoon,"
he said. "Good-night!" and with his gloved fingers he took the young
man's outstretched hand.

The instant he heard the front door close he crossed to the telephone,
and asking for a number, told the person who answered it to come round
and see him without a moment's delay.

Thus, while Hugh Henfrey was seated beside Mead as Mrs. Bond's car went
swiftly towards Kensington, a thin, rather wiry-looking man of middle
age entered The Sparrow's room.

The latter sprang to his feet quickly at sight of his visitor.

"Ah! Howell! I'm glad you've come. Benton and Molly Maxwell are
deceiving us. They mean mischief!"

The man he addressed as Howell looked aghast.

"Mischief?" he echoed. "In what way?"

"I've not yet arrived at a full conclusion. But we must be on the alert
and ready to act whenever the time is ripe. You know what they did over
that little affair in Marseilles not so very long ago? They'll repeat,
if we're not very careful. That girl of Benton's they are using as a
decoy--and she's a dangerous one."

"For whom?"

"For old Henfrey's son."

The Sparrow's visitor gave vent to a low whistle.

"They intend to get old Henfrey's money?"

"Yes--and they will if we are not very wary," declared the little,
bristly-haired old gentleman known as The Sparrow. "The boy has been
entirely entrapped. They made one _faux pas_, and it is upon that
we may--if we are careful--get the better of them. I don't like the
situation at all. They have a distinctly evil design against the boy."

"Benton and Molly are a combination pretty hard to beat," remarked Mr.
Howell. "But I thought they were friends of ours."

"True. They were. But after the little affair in Marseilles I don't
trust them," replied The Sparrow. "When anyone makes a slip, either
by design or sheer carelessness, or perhaps by reason of inordinate
avarice, then I always have to safeguard myself. I suspect--and my
suspicion usually proves correct."

His midnight visitor drew a long breath.

"What we all say of you is that The Sparrow is gifted with an extra
sense," he said.

The little old man with the gloved hand smiled contentedly.

"I really don't know why," he said. "But I scent danger long before
others have any suspicion of it. If I did not, you would, many of you
who are my friends, have been in prison long ago."

"But you have such a marvellous memory."

"Memory!" he echoed. "Quite wrong. I keep everything filed. I work
yonder at my desk all day. See this old wardrobe," and he crossed to a
long, genuine Jacobean wardrobe which stood in a corner and, unlocking
it, opened the carved doors. "There you see all my plans arranged and
docketed. I can tell you what has been attempted to-night. Whether the
coup is successful I do not yet know."

Within were shelves containing many bundles of papers, each tied with
pink tape in legal fashion. He took out a small, black-covered index
book and, after consulting it, drew out a file of papers from the second
shelf.

These he brought to his table, and opened.

"Ah, yes!" he said, knitting his brows as he read a document beneath the
green-shaded electric lamp. "You know Franklyn, don't you?"

"Harold Franklyn?"

"Yes. Well, he's in the Tatra, in Hungary. He and Matthews are with
three Austrian friends of ours, and to-night they are at the Castle of
Szombat, belonging to Count Zsolcza, the millionaire banker of Vienna.
The Countess has some very valuable jewels, which were indicated to
me several months ago by her discharged lady's maid--through another
channel, of course. I hope that before dawn the jewels will be no longer
at Szombat, for the Count is an old scoundrel who cornered the people's
food in Austria just before the Armistice and is directly responsible
for an enormous amount of suffering. The Countess was a cafe singer in
Budapest. Her name was Anna Torna."

Mr. Howell sat open-mouthed. He was a crook and the bosom friend of the
great Passero. Like all others who knew him, he held the master criminal
in awe and admiration. The Sparrow, whatever he was, never did a
mean action and never took advantage of youth or inexperience. To his
finger-tips he was a sportsman, whose chief delight in life was to
outwit and puzzle the police of Europe. In the underworld he was
believed to be fabulously wealthy, as no doubt he was. To the outside
world he was a very rich old gentleman, who contributed generously to
charities, kept two fine cars, and, as well as his town house, had a
pretty place down in Gloucestershire, and usually rented a grouse moor
in Scotland, where he entertained Mr. Howell and several other of his
intimate friends who were in the same profitable profession as himself,
and in whose "business" he held a controlling interest.

In Paris, Rome, Madrid, or Brussels, he was well known as an idler who
stayed at the best hotels and patronized the most expensive restaurants,
while his villa on the Riviera he had purchased from a Roumanian prince
who had ruined himself by gambling. His gloved hand--gloved because of
a natural deformity--was the hand which controlled most of the greater
robberies, for his war upon society was constantly far-reaching.

"Is Franklyn coming straight back?" asked Howell.

"That is the plan. He should leave Vienna to-morrow night," said The
Sparrow, again consulting the papers. "And he comes home with all speed.
But first he travels to Brussels, and afterwards to The Hague, where he
will hand over Anna Torna's jewels to old Van Ort, and they'll be cut
out of all recognition by the following day. Franklyn will then cross
from the Hook to Harwich. He will wire me his departure from Vienna.
He's bought a car for the job, and will have to abandon it somewhere
outside of Vienna, for, as in most of our games, time is the essence of
the contract," and the old fellow laughed oddly.

"I thought Franklyn worked with Molly," said Mr. Howell.

"So he does. I want him back, for I've a delicate mission for him,"
replied the sphinx-like man known as The Sparrow.

Mr. Howell, at the invitation of the arch-criminal, helped himself to a
drink. Then The Sparrow said:

"You are due to leave London the day after to-morrow on that little
business in Madrid. You must remain in town. I may want you."

"Very well. But Tresham is already there. I had a letter from him from
the Palace Hotel yesterday."

"I will recall him by wire to-morrow. Our plans are complete. The
Marquis's picture will still hang in his house until we are ready for
it. It is the best specimen of Antonio del Rincon, and will fetch a big
price in New York--when we have time to go and get it," he laughed.

"Is Franklyn to help the Maxwell woman again?" asked Mr. Howell, who was
known as an expert valuer of antiques and articles of worth, and who had
an office in St. James's. He only dealt in collectors' pieces, and
in the trade bore an unblemished reputation, on account of his expert
knowledge and his sound financial condition. He bought old masters
and pieces of antique silver now and then, but none suspected that the
genuine purchases at big prices were only made in order to blind his
friends as to the actual nature of his business.

Indeed, to his office came many an art gem stolen from its owner on the
Continent and smuggled over by devious ways known only to The Sparrow
and his associates. And just as ingeniously the stolen property was sent
across to America, so well camouflaged that the United States Customs
officers were deceived. With pictures it was their usual method to
coat the genuine picture with a certain varnish, over which one of the
organization, an old artist living in Chelsea, would paint a modern and
quite passable picture and add a new canvas back.

Then, on its arrival in America, the new picture was easily cleaned
off, the back removed, and lo! it was an old master once more ready for
purchase at a high price by American collectors.

Truly, the gloved hand of The Sparrow was a master hand. He had brought
well-financed and well-organized theft to a fine art. His "indicators,"
both male and female, were everywhere, and cosmopolitan as he was
himself, and a wealthy man, he was able to direct--and finance--all
sorts of coups, from a barefaced jewel theft to the forgery of American
banknotes.

And yet, so strange and mysterious a personality was he that not twenty
persons in the whole criminal world had ever met him in the flesh. The
tall, good-looking man whom Dorise knew as the White Cavalier was one of
four other men who posed in his stead when occasion arose.

Scotland Yard, the Surete in Paris, the Pubblica Sicurezza in Rome, and
the Detective Department of the New York police knew, quite naturally,
of the existence of the elusive Sparrow, but none of them had been able
to trace him.

Why? Because he was only the brains of the great, widespread criminal
organization. He remained in smug respectability, while others beneath
his hand carried out his orders--they were the servants, well-paid too,
and he was the master.

No more widespread nor more wonderful criminal combine had ever been
organized than that headed by The Sparrow, the little old man whom
Londoners believed to be Cockney, yet Italians believed to be pure-bred
Tuscan, while in Paris he was a true Parisian who could speak the argot
of the Montmartre without a trace of English accent.

As a politician, as a City man, as a professional man, The Sparrow,
whose real name was as obscure as his personality, would have made his
mark. If a lawyer, he would have secured the honour of a knighthood--or
of a baronetcy, and more than probable he would have entered Parliament.

The Sparrow was a philosopher, and a thorough-going Englishman to
boot. Though none knew it, he was able by his unique knowledge of the
underworld of Europe to give information--as he did anonymously to the
War Office--of certain trusted persons who were, at the moment of the
outbreak of war, betraying Britain's secrets.

The Department of Military Operations was, by means of the anonymous
information, able to quash a gigantic German plot against us; but they
had been unable to discover either the true source of their information
or the identity of their informant.

"I'd better be off. It's late!" said Mr. Howell, after they had been in
close conversation for nearly half an hour.

"Yes; I suppose you must go," The Sparrow remarked, rising. "I must get
Franklyn back. He must get to the bottom of this curious affair. I
fell that I am being bamboozled by Benton and Molly Maxwell. The boy is
innocent--he is their victim," he added; "but if I can save him, by
gad! I will! Yet it will be difficult. There is much trouble ahead, I
anticipate, and it is up to us, Howell, to combat it!"

"Perhaps Franklyn can assist us?"

"Perhaps. I shall not, however, know before he gets back here from his
adventures in Hungary. But I tell you, Howell, I am greatly concerned
about the lad. He has fallen into the hands of a bad crowd--a very bad
crowd indeed."




TWENTIETH CHAPTER

THE MAN WHO KNEW

Late on Thursday night Dorise and her mother were driving home from Lady
Strathbayne's, in Grosvenor Square, where they had been dining. It was
a bright starlight night, and the myriad lamps of the London traffic
flashed past the windows as Dorise sat back in silence.

She was tired. The dinner had been followed by a small dance, and she
had greatly enjoyed it. For once, George Sherrard, her mother's friend,
had not accompanied them. As a matter of fact, Lady Strathbayne disliked
the man, hence he had not been invited.

Suddenly Lady Ranscomb exclaimed:

"I heard about Hugh Henfrey this evening."

"From whom?" asked her daughter, instantly aroused.

"From that man who took me in to dinner. I think his name was Bowden."

"Oh! That stout, red-faced man. I don't know him."

"Neither do I. He was, however, very pleasant, and seems to have
travelled a lot," replied her mother. "He told me that your precious
friend, Henfrey, is back, and is staying down in Surrey as guest of some
woman named Bond."

Dorise sat staggered. Then her lover's secret was out! If his
whereabouts were known in Society, then the police would quickly get
upon his track! She felt she must warn him instantly of his peril.

"How did he know, I wonder?" she asked anxiously.

"Oh! I suppose he's heard. He seemed to know all about the fellow. It
appears that at last he's become engaged."

"Engaged? Hugh engaged?"

"Yes, to a girl named Louise Lambert. She's the adopted daughter of
a man named Benton, who was, by the way, a great friend of old Mr.
Henfrey."

Hugh engaged to Louise Lambert! Dorise sat bewildered.

"I--I don't believe it!" she blurted forth at last.

"Ah, my dear. You mean you don't want to believe it--because you are in
love with him!" said her mother as the car rushed homeward. "Now put all
this silly girlish nonsense aside. The fellow is under a cloud, and no
good. I tell you frankly I will never have him as my son-in-law. How he
has escaped the police is a marvel; but if the man Bowden knows where he
is, Scotland Yard will, no doubt, soon hear."

The girl remained silent. Could it be possible that, after all, Hugh had
asked Louise Lambert to be his wife? She had known of her, and had
met her with Hugh, but he had always assured her that they were merely
friends. Yet it appeared that he was now living in concealment under the
same roof as she!

Lady Ranscomb, clever woman of the world as she was, watched her
daughter's face in the fleeting lights as they sped homeward, and saw
what a crushing blow the announcement had dealt her.

"I don't believe it," the girl cried.

She had received word in secret--presumably from the White Cavalier--to
meet Hugh at the Bush Hotel at Farnham on the following afternoon, but
this secret news held her in doubt and despair.

Lady Ranscomb dropped the subject, and began to speak of other
things--of a visit to the flying-ground at Hendon on the following day,
and of an invitation they had received to spend the following week with
a friend at Cowes.

On arrival home Dorise went at once to her room, where her maid awaited
her.

After the distracted girl had thrown off her cloak, her maid unhooked
her dress, whereupon Dorise dismissed her to bed.

"I want to read, so go to bed," she said in a petulant voice which
rather surprised the neat muslin-aproned maid.

"Very well, miss. Good-night," the latter replied meekly.

But as soon as the door was closed Dorise flung herself upon the
chintz-covered couch and wept bitterly as though her heart would break.

She had met Louise Lambert--it was Hugh who had introduced them. George
Sherrard had several times told her of the friendship between the pair,
and one night at the Haymarket Theatre she had seen them together in a
box. On another occasion she had met them at Ciro's, and they had been
together at the Embassy, at Ranelagh, and yet again she had seen them
lunching together one Sunday at the Metropole at Brighton.

All this had aroused suspicion and jealousy in her mind. It was all very
well for Hugh to disclaim anything further than pure friendship, but now
that Gossip was casting her hydra-headed venom upon their affairs, it
was surely time to act.

Hugh would be awaiting her at Farnham next afternoon.

She crossed to the window and looked at the bright stars. In war time
she used to see the long beams of searchlights playing to and fro. But
now all was peace in London, and the world-war half forgotten.

Within herself arose a great struggle. Hugh was accused of a crime--an
accusation of which he could not clear himself. He had been hunted
across Europe by the police and had, up to the present, been successful
in slipping through their fingers.

But why did he visit that notorious woman at that hour of the night?
What could have been the secret bond between them?

The woman had narrowly escaped death presumably on account of his
murderous attack upon her, while he had cleverly evaded arrest, until,
at the present moment, his whereabouts was known only to a dinner-table
gossip, and he was staying in the same house as the girl, love for whom
he had always so vehemently disclaimed.

Poor Dorise spent a sleepless night. She lay awake thinking--and yet
thinking!

At breakfast her mother looked at her and, with satisfaction, saw that
she had gained a point nearer her object.

Dorise went into Bond Street shopping at eleven o'clock, still undecided
whether to face Hugh or not. The shopping was a fiasco. She bought only
a bunch of flowers.

But in her walk she made a resolve not to make further excuse. She would
not ask her mother for the car, and Hugh, by waiting alone, should be
left guessing.

On returning home, her mother told her of George's acceptance of an
invitation to lunch.

"There's a matinee at the Lyric, and he's taking us there," she added.
"But, dear," she went on, "you look ever so pale! What is worrying you?
I hope you are not fretting over that good-for-nothing waster, Henfrey!
Personally, I'm glad to be rid of a fellow who is wanted by the police
for a very serious crime. Do brighten up, dear. This is not like you!"

"I--well, mother, I--I don't know what to do," the girl confessed.

"Do! Take my advice, darling. Think no more of the fellow. He's no use
to you--or to me."

"But, mother dear--"

"No, Dorise, no more need be said!" interrupted Lady Ranscomb severely.
"You surely would not be so idiotic as to throw in your lot with a man
who is certainly a criminal."

"A criminal! Why do you denounce him, mother?"

"Well, he stands self-condemned. He has been in hiding ever since that
night at Monte Carlo. If he were innocent, he would surely, for your
sake, come forward and clear himself. Are you mad, Dorise--or are you
blind?"

The girl remained silent. Her mother's argument was certainly a very
sound one. Had Hugh deceived her?

Her lover's attitude was certainly that of a guilty man. She could not
disguise from herself the fact that he was fleeing from justice, and
that he was unable to give an explanation why he went to the house of
Mademoiselle at all.

Yvonne Ferad, the only person who could tell the truth, was a hopeless
idiot because of the murderous attack. Hence, the onus of clearing
himself rested upon Hugh.

She loved him, but could she really trust him in face of the fact that
he was concealed comfortably beneath the same roof as Louise Lambert?

She recalled that once, when they had met at Newquay in Cornwall over a
tete-a-tete lunch, he had said, in reply to her banter, that Louise
was a darling! That he was awfully fond of her, that she had the most
wonderful eyes, and that she was always alert and full of a keen sense
of humour.

Such a compliment Hugh had never paid to her. The recollection of it
stung her.

She wondered what sort of woman was the person named Bond. Then she
decided that she had acted wisely in not going to Farnham. Why should
she? If Hugh was with the girl he admired, then he might return with
her.

Her only fear was lest he should be arrested. If his place of
concealment were spoken of over a West End dinner-table, then it could
not be long before detectives arrested him for the affair at the Villa
Amette.

On that afternoon Hugh had borrowed Mrs. Bond's car upon a rather lame
pretext, and had pulled up in the square, inartistic yard before the
Bush--the old coaching house, popular before the new road over the Hog's
Back was made, and when the coaches had to ascend that steep hill out
of Guildford, now known as The Mount. For miles the old road is now
grass-grown and forms a most delightful walk, with magnificent views
from the Thames Valley to the South Downs. The days of the coaches have,
alas! passed, and the new road, with its tangle of telegraph wires,
is beloved by every motorist and motor-cyclist who spins westward in
Surrey.

Hugh waited anxiously in the little lounge which overlooks the
courtyard. He went into the garden, and afterwards stood in impatience
beneath the archway from which the street is approached. Later, he
strolled along the road over which he knew Dorise must come. But all to
no avail.

There was no sign of her.

Until six o'clock he waited, when, in blank despair, he mounted beside
Mead again and drove back to Shapley Manor. It was curious that
Dorise had not come to meet him, but he attributed it to The Sparrow's
inability to convey a message to her. She might have gone out of town
with her mother, he thought. Or, perhaps, at the last moment, she had
been unable to get away.

On his return to Shapley he found Louise and Mrs. Bond sitting together
in the charming, old-world drawing-room. A log fire was burning
brightly.

"Did you have a nice run, Hugh?" asked the girl, clasping her hands
behind her head and looking up at him as he stood upon the pale-blue
hearthrug.

"Quite," he replied. "I went around Hindhead down to Frensham Ponds and
back through Farnham--quite a pleasant run."

"Mr. Benton has had to go to town," said his hostess. "Almost as soon
as you had gone he was rung up, and he had to get a taxi out from
Guildford. He'll be back to-morrow."

"Oh, yes--and, by the way, Hugh," exclaimed Louise, "there was a call
for you about a quarter of an hour afterwards. I thought nobody knew you
were down here."

"For me!" gasped Henfrey, instantly alarmed.

"Yes, I answered the 'phone. It was a girl's voice!"

"A girl! Who?"

"I don't know who she was. She wouldn't give her name," Louise replied.
"She asked if we were Shapley, and I replied. Then she asked for you. I
told her that you were out in the car and asked her name. But she said
it didn't matter at all, and rang off."

"I wonder who she was?" remarked Hugh, much puzzled and, at the same
time, greatly alarmed. He scented danger. The fact in itself showed that
somebody knew the secret of his hiding-place, and, if they did, then the
police were bound to discover him sooner or later.

Half an hour afterwards he took Mrs. Bond aside, and pointed out the
peril in which he was placed. His hostess, on her part, grew alarmed,
for though Hugh was unaware of it, she had no desire to meet the police.
That little affair in Paris was by no means forgotten.

"It is certainly rather curious," the woman admitted. "Evidently it is
known by somebody that you are staying with me. Don't you think it would
be wiser to leave?"

Hugh hesitated. He wished to take Benton's advice, and told his hostess
so. With this she agreed, yet she was inwardly highly nervous at
the situation. Any police inquiry at Shapley would certainly be most
unwelcome to her, and she blamed herself for agreeing to Benton's
proposal that Hugh should stay there.

"Benton will be back to-morrow," Hugh said. "Do you think it safe for me
to remain here till then?" he added anxiously.

"I hardly know what to think," replied the woman. She herself had a
haunting dread of recognition as Molly Maxwell. She had crossed and
recrossed the Atlantic, carefully covering her tracks, and she did not
intend to be cornered at last.

After dinner, Hugh, still greatly perturbed at the mysterious telephone
call, played billiards with Louise. About a quarter to eleven, however,
Mrs. Bond was called to the telephone and, closing the door, listened to
an urgent message.

It was from Benton, who spoke from London--a few quick, cryptic, but
reassuring words--and when the woman left the room three minutes later
all her anxiety as to the police had apparently passed.

She joined the young couple and watched their game. Louise handled her
cue well, and very nearly beat her opponent. Afterwards, when Louise
went out, Mrs. Bond closed the door swiftly, and said:

"I've been thinking over that little matter, Mr. Henfrey. I really don't
think there is much cause for alarm. Charles will be back to-morrow, and
we can consult him."

Hugh shrugged his shoulders. He was much puzzled.

"The fact is, Mrs. Bond, I'm tired of being hunted like this!" he said.
"This eternal fear of arrest has got upon my nerves to such an extent
that I feel if they want to bring me for trial--well, they can. I'm
innocent--therefore, how can they prove me guilty?"

"Oh! you mustn't let it obsess you," the woman urged. "Mr. Benton has
told me all about the unfortunate affair, and I greatly sympathize with
you. Of course, to court the publicity of a trial would be fatal. What
would your poor father think, I wonder, if he were still alive?"

"He's dead," said the young man in a low, hoarse voice; "but
Mademoiselle Ferad knows the secret of his death."

"He died suddenly--did he not?"

"Yes. He was murdered, Mrs. Bond. I'm certain of it. My father was
murdered!"

"Murdered?" she echoed. "What did the doctors say?"

"They arrived at no definite conclusion," was Hugh's response. "He left
home and went up to London on some secret and mysterious errand. Later,
he was found lying upon the pavement in a dying condition. He never
recovered consciousness, but sank a few hours afterwards. His death is
one of the many unsolved mysteries of London."

"The police believe that you went to the Villa Amette and murdered
Mademoiselle out of revenge."

"Let them prove it!" said the young fellow defiantly. "Let them prove
it!"

"Prove what?" asked Louise, as she suddenly reopened the door, greatly
to the woman's consternation.

"Oh! Only somebody--that Spicer woman over at Godalming--has been saying
some wicked and nasty things about Mr. Henfrey," replied Mrs. Bond.
"Personally, I should be annoyed. Really those gossiping people are
simply intolerable."

"What have they been saying, Hugh?" asked the girl.

"Oh, it's really nothing," laughed Henfrey. "I apologize. I was put out
a moment ago, but I now see the absurdity of it. Forgive me, Louise."

The girl looked from Mrs. Bond to her guest in amazement.

"What is there to forgive?" she asked.

"The fact that I was in the very act of losing my temper. That's all."

Presently, when Louise was ascending the stairs with Mrs. Bond, the girl
asked:

"Why was Hugh so put out? What has Mrs. Spicer been saying about him?"

"Only that he was a shirker during the war. And, naturally, he is highly
indignant."

"He has a right to be. He did splendidly. His record shows that,"
declared the girl.

"I urged him to take no notice of the insults. The Spicer woman has a
very venomous tongue, my dear! She is a vicar's widow!"

And then they separated to their respective rooms.

Half an hour later Hugh Henfrey retired, but he found sleep impossible;
so he got up and sat at the open window, gazing across to the dim
outlines of the Surrey hills, picturesque and undulating beneath the
stars.

Who could have called him on the telephone? It was a woman, but the
voice might have been that of a female telephone operator. Or yet--it
might have been that of Dorise! She knew that he was at Shapley and
looked it up in the telephone directory. If that were the explanation,
then she certainly would not give away the secret of his hiding-place.

Still he was haunted by a great dread the whole of that night. The
Sparrow had told him he had acted foolishly in leaving his place of
concealment in Kensington. The Sparrow was his firm friend, and in
future he intended to obey the little old man's orders implicitly--as so
many others did.

Next morning he came down to breakfast before the ladies, and beside his
plate he found a letter--addressed to him openly. He had not received
one addressed in his real name for many months. Sight of it caused his
heart to bound in anxiety, but when he read it he stood rooted to the
spot.

Those lines which he read staggered him; the room seemed to revolve, and
he re-read them, scarce believing his own eyes.

He realized in that instant that a great blow had fallen upon him, and
that all was now hopeless. The sunshine of his life, had in that single
instant, been blotted out!




TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER

THE MAN WITH MANY NAMES

At the moment he had read the letter Mrs. Bond entered the room.

"Hallo! You're down early," she remarked. "And already had your letters,
I see! They don't generally come so early. The postman has to walk over
from Puttenham."

Then she took up her own and carelessly placed them aside. They
consisted mostly of circulars and the accounts of Guildford tradesmen.

"Yes," he said, "I was down early. Lately I've acquired the habit of
early rising."

"An excellent habit in a young man," she laughed. "All men who achieve
success are early risers--so a Cabinet Minister said the other day. And
really, I believe it."

"An hour in the early morning is worth three after dinner. That is why
Cabinet Ministers entertain people at breakfast nowadays instead of at
dinner. In the morning the brain is fresh and active--a fact recently
discovered in our post-war days," Hugh said.

Then, as his hostess turned to the hot-plate upon the sideboard, lifting
the covers to see what her cook had provided, he re-scanned the letter
which had been openly addressed to him. It was from Dorise:


"I refuse to be deceived any longer, I have discovered that you are now
a fellow-guest with the girl Louise, to whom you introduced me. And yet
you arranged to meet me at Farnham, believing that I was not aware
of your close friendship with her! I have believed in you up to the
present, but the scales have now fallen from my eyes. I thought you
loved me too well to deceive me--as you are doing. Hard things are being
said about you--but you can rest content that I shall reveal nothing
that I happen to know. What I do know, however, has changed my thoughts
concerning you. I believed you to be the victim of circumstance. Now
I know you have deceived me, and that I, myself, am the victim. I need
only add that someone else--whom I know not--knows of your hiding-place,
for, by a roundabout way, I heard of it, and hence, I address this
letter to you.--DORISE."


Hugh Henfrey stood staggered. There was no mistaking the meaning of that
letter now that he had read it a second time.

Dorise doubted him! And what answer could he give her? Any explanation
must, to her, be but a lame excuse.

Hugh ate his breakfast sullenly. To Louise, who put in a late
appearance, and helped herself off the hot-plate, he said cheerfully:

"How lazy you are!"

"It's not laziness, Hugh," replied the girl. "The maid was so late with
my tea--and--well, to tell the truth, I upset a whole new box of powder
on my dressing-table and had to clean up the mess."

"More haste--less speed," laughed Hugh. "It is always the same in the
morning--eh?"

When the girl sat down at the table Hugh had brightened up. Still the
load upon his shoulders was a heavy one. He was ever obsessed by the
mystery of his father's death, combined with that extraordinary will
by which it was decreed that if he married Louise he would acquire his
father's fortune.

Louise was certainly very good-looking, and quite charming. He admitted
that as he gazed across at her fresh figure on the opposite side of the
table. He, of course, was in ignorance of the fact that Benton, who had
adopted her, was a clever and unscrupulous adventurer, whose accomplice
was the handsome woman who was his hostess.

Naturally, he never dreamed that that quiet and respectable house, high
on the beautiful Surrey hills, was the abode of a woman for whom the
police of Europe were everywhere searching.

His thoughts all through breakfast were of The Sparrow--the great
criminal, who was his friend. Hence, after they rose, he strolled into
the morning-room with his hostess, and said:

"I'll have to go to town again this morning. I have an urgent letter.
Can Mead take me?"

"Certainly," was the woman's reply. "I have to make a call at Worplesdon
this afternoon, and Louise is going with me. But Mead can be back before
then to take us."

So half an hour later Hugh was driving up the steep High Street of
Guildford on his way to London.

He alighted in Piccadilly, at the end of Half Moon Street, soon after
eleven, and, dismissing Mead, made his way to Ellerston Street to the
house of Mr. George Peters.

He rang the bell at the old-fashioned mansion, and a few moments later
the door was opened by the manservant he had previously seen.

In an instant the servant recognized the visitor.

"Mr. Peters will not be in for a quarter of an hour," he said. "Would
you care to wait, sir?"

"Yes," Hugh replied. "I want to see him very urgently."

"Will you come in? Mr. Peters has left instructions that you might
probably call; Mr. Henfrey, is it not?"

"Yes," replied Hugh. The man seemed to possess a memory like that of a
club hall-porter.

Young Henfrey was ushered into a small but cosy little room, which, in
the light of day, he saw was well-furnished and upholstered. The door
closed, and he waited.

A few moments after he distinctly heard a man's voice, which he at once
recognized as that of The Sparrow.

The servant had told him that Mr. Peters was absent, yet he recognized
his voice--a rather high-pitched, musical one.

"Mr. Henfrey is waiting," he heard the servant say.

"Right! I hope you told him I was out," The Sparrow replied.

Then there was silence.

Hugh stood there very much puzzled. The room was cosy and
well-furnished, but the light was somewhat dim, while the atmosphere
was decidedly murky, as it is in any house in Mayfair. One cannot obtain
brightness and light in a West End house, where one's vista is bounded
by bricks and mortar. The dukes in their great town mansions are
no better off for light and air than the hard-working and worthy
wage-earners of Walworth, Deptford, or Peckham. The air in the
working-class districts of London is not one whit worse than it is in
Mayfair or in Belgravia.

Hugh stood before an old coloured print representing the hobby-horse
school--the days of the "bone-shakers"--and studied it. He awaited Il
Passero and the advice which he had promised to give.

His ears were strained. That house was curiously quiet and forbidding.
The White Cavalier, whom he had believed to be the notorious Sparrow,
had been proved to be one of his assistants. He had now met the real,
elusive adventurer, who controlled half the criminal adventurers in
Europe, and had found in him a most genial friend. He was there to seek
his advice and to act upon it.

As he reflected, he realized that without the aid of The Sparrow he
would have long ago been in the hands of the police. So widespread was
the organization which The Sparrow controlled that it mattered not in
what capital he might be, the paternal hand of protection was placed
upon him--in Genoa, in Brussels, in London--anywhere.

It seemed that when The Sparrow protected any criminal the fugitive was
safe. He had been sent to Mrs. Mason in Kensington, and he had left her
room against The Sparrow's will.

Hence his peril of arrest. It was that point which he wished to discuss
with the great arch-criminal of Europe.

That house was one of mystery. The servant had told him that he was
expected. Why? What did The Sparrow suspect?

The whole atmosphere of that old-fashioned place was mysterious and
apprehensive. And yet its owner had succeeded in extricating him from
that very perilous position at Monte Carlo!

Suddenly, as he stood there, he heard voices again. They were raised in
discussion.

One voice he recognized as that of The Sparrow.

"Well, I tell you my view is still the same," he exclaimed. "What you
have told me does not alter it, however much you may ridicule me!"

"Then you know the truth--eh?"

"I really didn't say so, my dear Howell. But I have my
suspicions--strong suspicions."

"Which you will, in due course, impart to young Henfrey, I suppose?"

"I shall do nothing of the sort," was The Sparrow's reply. "The lad is
in serious peril. I happen to know that."

"Then why don't you warn him at once?"

"That's my affair!" snapped the gentleman known in Mayfair as Mr.
Peters.

"IF Henfrey is here, then I'd like to meet him," Howell said.

It seemed as though the pair were in a room on the opposite side of the
passage, and yet, though Hugh stood at some distance away, he could hear
the words quite distinctly. At this he was much surprised. He did not,
however, know that in that house in Ellerston Street there had been
constructed a curious system of ventilation of the rooms by which a
conversation taking place in a distant apartment could be heard in
certain other rooms.

The fact was that The Sparrow received a good many queer visitors, and
some of their whispered conversations while they awaited him were often
full of interest.

The house was, in more than one way, a curiosity. It had a secret exit
through a mews at the rear--now converted into a garage--and several
other mysterious contrivances which were unsuspected by visitors.

"It would hardly do for him to know what we know, Mr. Peters--eh?"
Hugh heard Howell say a moment later. It was the habit of The Sparrow's
accomplices to address their great director--the brain of criminal
Europe--by the name under which they inquired for him. The Sparrow had
twenty names--one for every city in which he had a cosy _pied-a-terre_.
In Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Marseilles, Vienna, Hamburg, Budapest,
Stockholm and on the Riviera, he was, in all the cities, known by a
different name. Yet each was so distinct, and each individuality so well
kept up, that he snapped his fingers at the police and pitied them their
red tape, ignorance, and lack of initiative.

Truly, Il Passero, the cosmopolitan of many names and half a dozen
nationalities, had brought criminality to a fine art.

Hugh, standing there breathless, listened to every word. Who was this
man Howell?

"Hush!" cried The Sparrow suddenly. "What a fool I am! I quite forgot
to close the ventilator in the room to which the young fellow has been
shown! I hope he hasn't overheard! I had Evans and Janson in there an
hour ago, and they were discussing me, as I expected they would! It was
a good job that I took the precaution of opening the ventilator, because
I learned a good deal that I had never suspected. It has placed me on
my guard. I'll go and get young Henfrey. But," he added, "be extremely
careful. Disclose nothing you know concerning the affair."

"I shall be discreet, never fear," replied his visitor.

A moment later The Sparrow entered the room where Henfrey was, and
greeted him warmly. Then he ushered him down the passage to the room
wherein stood his mysterious visitor.

The room was such a distance away that Hugh was surprised that he could
have heard so distinctly. But, after all, it was an uncanny experience
to be associated with that man of mystery, whose very name was uttered
by his accomplices with bated breath.

"My friend, Mr. George Howell," said The Sparrow, introducing the slim,
wiry-looking, middle-aged man, who was alert and clean-shaven, and
plainly but well dressed--a man whom the casual acquaintance would take
to be a solicitor of a fair practice. He bore the stamp of suburbia all
over him, and his accent was peculiarly that of London.

His bearing was that of high respectability. The diamond scarf-pin was
his only ornament--a fine one, which sparkled even in that dull London
light. He was a square-shouldered man, with peculiarly shrewd, rather
narrow eyes, and dark, bushy eyebrows.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Henfrey," he replied, with a gay, rather
nonchalant air. "My friend Mr. Peters has been speaking about you. Had a
rather anxious time, I hear."

Henfrey looked at the stranger inquisitively, and then glanced at The
Sparrow.

"Mr. Howell is quite safe," declared the man with the gloved hand. "He
is one of Us. So you may speak without fear."

"Well," replied the young man, "the fact is, I've had a very
apprehensive time. I'm here to seek Mr. Peters' kind advice, for without
him I'm sure I'd have been arrested and perhaps convicted long ago."

"Oh! A bit of bad luck--eh? Nearly found out, have you been? Ah! All of
us have our narrow escapes. I've had many in my time," and he grinned.

"So have all of us," laughed the bristly-haired man. "But tell me,
Henfrey, why have you come to see me so quickly?"

"Because they know where I'm in hiding!"

"They know? Who knows?"

"Miss Ranscomb knows my whereabouts and has written to me in my real
name and addressed the letter to Shapley."

"Well, what of that?" he asked. "I told her."

"She tells me that my present hiding-place is known!"

"Not known to the police? _Impossible_!" gasped the black-gloved man.

"I take it that such is a fact."

"Why, Molly is there!" cried the man Howell. "If the police suspect that
Henfrey is at Shapley, then they'll visit the place and have a decided
haul."

"Why?" asked Hugh in ignorance.

"Nothing. I never discuss other people's private affairs, Mr. Henfrey,"
Howell answered very quietly.

Hugh was surprised at the familiar mention of "Molly," and the
declaration that if the Manor were searched the police would have "a
decided haul."

"This is very interesting," declared The Sparrow. "What did Miss
Ranscomb say in her letter?"

For a second Hugh hesitated; then, drawing it from his pocket, he gave
it to the gloved man to read.

Hugh knew that The Sparrow was withholding certain truths from him, yet
had he not already proved himself his best and only friend? Brock was a
good friend, but unable to assist him.

The Sparrow's strongly marked face changed as he read Dorise's angry
letter.

"H'm!" he grunted. "I will see her. We must discover why she has sent
you this warning. Come back again this evening. But be very careful
where you go in the meantime."

Thus dismissed, Hugh walked along Ellerston Street into Curzon Street
towards Piccadilly, not knowing where to go to spend the intervening
hours.

The instant he had gone, however, The Sparrow turned to his companion,
who said:

"I wonder if Lisette has revealed anything?"

"By Jove!" remarked The Sparrow, for once suddenly perturbed. _"I never
thought of that!"_




TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER

CLOSING THE NET

"Well--recollect how much the girl knows!" Howell remarked as he stood
before The Sparrow in the latter's room.

"I have not forgotten," said the other. "The whole circumstances of old
Henfrey's death are not known to me. That it was an unfortunate affair
has long ago been proved."

"Yvonne was the culprit, of course," said Howell. "That was apparent
from the first."

"I suppose she was," remarked The Sparrow reflectively. "But that
attempt upon her life puzzles me."

"Who could have greater motive in killing her out of revenge than the
dead man's son?"

"Agreed. But I am convinced that the lad is innocent. Therefore I gave
him our protection."

"I was travelling abroad at the time, you recollect. When I learnt of
the affair through Franklyn about a week afterwards I was amazed. The
loss of Yvonne to us is a serious one."

"Very--I agree. She had done some excellent work--the affair in the Rue
Royale, for instance."

"And the clever ruse by which she got those emeralds of the Roumanian
princess. The Vienna police are still searching for her--after three
years," laughed the companion of the chief of the international
organization, whose word was law in the criminal underworld of Europe.

"Knowing what you did regarding the knowledge of old Mr. Henfrey's death
possessed by Lisette, I have been surprised that you placed her beneath
your protection."

"If she had been arrested she might have told some very unpleasant
truths, in order to save herself," The Sparrow remarked, "so I chose the
latter evil."

"Young Henfrey met her. I wonder whether she told him anything?"

"No. I questioned her. She was discreet, it seems. Or at least, she
declares that she was."

"That's a good feature. But, speaking frankly, have you any idea of the
identity of the person--man or woman--who attempted to kill Yvonne?"
asked Howell.

"I have a suspicion--a pretty shrewd suspicion," replied the little
bristly-haired man.

His companion was silent.

"And you don't offer to confide in me your suspicions--eh?"

"It is wiser to obtain proof before making any allegations," answered
The Sparrow, smiling.

"You will still protect Lisette?" Howell asked. "I agree that, like
Yvonne, she has been of great use to us in many ways. Beauty and wit
are always assets in our rather ticklish branch of commerce. Where is
Lisette now?"

"At the moment, she's in Madrid," The Sparrow replied. "There is a
little affair there--the jewels of a Belgian's wife--a fellow who,
successfully posing as a German during the occupation of Brussels, made
a big fortune by profiteering in leather. They are in Madrid for six
months, in order to escape unwelcome inquiries by the Government in
Brussels. They have a villa just outside the city, and I have sent
Lisette there with certain instructions."

"Who is with her?"

"Nobody yet. Franklyn will go in due course."

Howell's thin lips relaxed into a curious smile.

"Franklyn is in love with Lisette," he remarked.

"That is why I am sending them together to execute the little mission,"
The Sparrow said. "Lisette was here a fortnight ago, and I mapped out
for her a plan. I went myself to Madrid not long ago, in order to survey
the situation."

"The game is worth the candle, I suppose--eh?"

"Yes. If we get the lot Van Groot, in Amsterdam, will give at least
fifteen thousand for them. Moulaert bought most of them from old Leplae
in the Rue de la Paix. There are some beautiful rubies among them. I saw
Madame wearing some of the jewels at the Palace Hotel, in Madrid, while
they were staying there before their villa was ready. Moulaert, with his
wife and two friends from the Belgian Legation, dined at a table next to
mine, little dreaming with what purpose I ate my meal alone."

Truly, the intuition and cleverness of The Sparrow were wonderful. He
never moved without fully considering every phase of the consequences.
Unlike most adventurers, he drank hardly anything. Half a glass of dry
sherry at eleven in the morning, the same at luncheon, and one glass of
claret for his dinner.

Yet often at restaurants he would order champagne, choice vintage
clarets, and liqueurs--when occasion demanded. He would offer them to
his friends, but just sip them himself, having previously arranged with
the waiter to miss filling his glass.

Of the peril of drink "Mr. Peters" was constantly lecturing the great
circle of his friends.

Each year--on the 26th of February to be exact--there was held a dinner
at a well-known restaurant in the West End--the annual dinner of a
club known as "The Wonder Wizards." It was supposed to be a circle of
professional conjurers.

This dinner was usually attended by fifty guests of both sexes, all
well-dressed and prosperous, and of several nationalities. It was
presided over by a Mr. Charles Williams.

Now, to tell the truth, the guests believed him to be The Sparrow;
but in reality Mr. Williams was the tall White Cavalier whom Hugh had
believed to be the great leader, until he had gone to Mayfair and met
the impelling personality whom the police had for so long failed to
arrest.

The situation was indeed humorous. It was The Sparrow's fancy to hold
the reunion at a public restaurant instead of at a private house. Under
the very nose of Scotland Yard the deputy of the notorious Sparrow
entertained the chiefs of the great criminal octopus. There were
speeches, but from them the waiters learned nothing. It was simply
a club of conjurers. None suspected that the guests were those who
conjured fortunes out of the pockets of the unsuspecting. And while the
chairman--believed by those who attended to be The Sparrow himself--sat
there, the bristly-haired, rather insignificant-looking little man
occupied a seat in a far-off corner, from where he scrutinized his
guests very closely, and smiled at the excellent manner in which his
deputy performed the duties of chairman.

Because it was a club of conjurers, and because the conjurers displayed
their new tricks and illusions, after an excellent dinner the waiters
were excluded and the doors locked after the coffee.

It was then that the bogus Sparrow addressed those present, and gave
certain instructions which were later on carried into every corner of
Europe. Each member had his speciality, and each group its district
and its sanctuary, in case of a hue-and-cry. Every crime that could be
committed was committed by them--everything save murder.

The tall, thin man whom everyone believed to be The Sparrow never failed
to impress upon his hearers, after the doors were carefully locked, that
however they might attack and rob the rich, human life was sacred.

It was the real Sparrow's order. He abominated the thought of taking
human life, hence when old Mr. Henfrey had been foully done to death in
the West End he had at once set to work to discover the actual criminal.
This he had failed to do. And afterwards there had followed the
attempted assassination of Yvonne Ferad, known as Mademoiselle of Monte
Carlo.

The two men stood discussing the young French girl, Lisette, whom Hugh
had met when in hiding in the Via della Maddalena in Genoa.

"I only hope; that she has not told young Henfrey anything," Howell
said, with distinct apprehension.

"No," laughed The Sparrow. "She came to me and told me how she had met
him in Genoa and discovered to her amazement that he was old Henfrey's
son."

"How curious that the pair should meet by accident," remarked Howell.
"I tell you that Benton is not playing a straight game. That iniquitous
will which the old man left he surely must have signed under some
misapprehension. Perhaps he thought he was applying for a life
policy--or something of that short. Signatures to wills have been
procured under many pretexts by scoundrelly relatives and unscrupulous
lawyers."

"I know. And the witnesses have placed their signatures afterward,"
remarked The Sparrow thoughtfully. "But in this case all seems above
board--at least so far as the will is concerned. Benton was old
Henfrey's bosom friend. Henfrey was very taken with Louise, and I know
that he was desirous Hugh should marry her."

"And if he did, Hugh would acquire the old man's fortune, and Benton
would step in and seize it--as is his intention."

"Undoubtedly. All we can do is to keep Hugh and Louise apart. The latter
is in entire ignorance of the true profession of her adopted father,
and she'd be horrified if she knew that Molly was simply a clever
adventuress, who is very much wanted in Paris and in Brussels," said the
gloved man.

"A good job that she knows nothing," said Howell. "But it would be a
revelation to her if the police descended upon Shapley Manor--wouldn't
it?"

"Yes. That is why I must see Dorise Ranscomb and ascertain from her
exactly what she has heard. I know the police tracked Hugh to London,
and for that reason he went with Benton down into Surrey--out of the
frying-pan into the fire."

"Well, before we can go farther, it seems that we should ascertain who
shot Yvonne," Howell suggested. "It was a most dastardly thing, and
whoever did it ought to be punished."

"He ought. But I'm as much in the dark as you are, Howell; but, as I
have already said, I entertain strong suspicions."

"I'll suggest one name--Benton?"

The Sparrow shook his head.

"The manservant, Giulio Cataldi?" Howell ventured. "I never liked that
sly old Italian."

"What motive could the old fellow have had?"

"Robbery, probably. We have no idea what were Yvonne's winnings that
night--or of the money she had in her bag."

"Yes, we do know," was The Sparrow's reply. "According to the police
report, Yvonne, on her return home, went to her room, carrying her bag,
which she placed upon her dressing-table. Then, after removing her cloak
and hat, she went downstairs again and out on to the veranda. A few
minutes later the young man was announced. High words were heard by old
Cataldi, and then a shot."

"And Yvonne's bag?"

"It was found where she had left it. In it were three thousand eight
hundred francs, all in notes."

"Yet Franklyn told me that he had heard how Yvonne won quite a large sum
that night."

"She might have done so--and have lost the greater part of it," The
Sparrow replied.

"On the other hand, what more feasible than that the old manservant,
watching her place it there, abstracted the bulk of the money--a large
sum, no doubt--and afterwards, in order to conceal his crime, shot his
mistress in such circumstances as to place the onus of the crime upon
her midnight visitor?"

"That the affair was very cleverly planned there is no doubt," said The
Sparrow. "There is a distinct intention to fasten the guilt upon young
Henfrey, because he alone would have a motive for revenge for the death
of his father. Of that fact the man or woman who fired the shot was most
certainly aware. How could Cataldi have known of it?"

"I certainly believe the Italian robbed his mistress and afterwards
attempted to murder her," Howell insisted.

"He might rob his mistress, certainly. He might even have robbed her of
considerable sums systematically," The Sparrow assented. "The maids
told the police that Mademoiselle's habit was to leave her bag with her
winnings upon the dressing-table while she went downstairs and took a
glass of wine."

"Exactly. She did so every evening. Her habits were regular. Yet she
never knew the extent of her winnings at the tables before she counted
them. And she never did so until the following morning. That is what
Franklyn told me in Venice when we met a month afterwards."

"He learnt that from me," The Sparrow said with a smile. "No," he went
on; "though old Cataldi could well have robbed his mistress, just as the
maids could have done, and Yvonne would have been none the wiser, yet
I do not think he would attempt to conceal his crime by shooting her,
because by so doing he cut off all future supplies. If he were a thief
he would not be such a fool. Therefore you may rest assured, Howell,
that the hand that fired the shot was that of some person who desired to
close Yvonne's mouth."

"She might have held some secret concerning old Cataldi. Or, on his
part, he might have cherished some grievance against her. Italians are
usually very vindictive," replied the visitor. "On the other hand, it
would be to Benton's advantage that the truth concerning old
Henfrey's death was suppressed. Yvonne was about to tell the young man
something--perhaps confess the truth, who knows?--when the shot was
fired."

"Well, my dear Howell, you have your opinion and I have mine," laughed
The Sparrow. "The latter I shall keep to myself--until my theory is
disproved."

Thereupon Howell took a cigar that his host offered him, and while he
slowly lit it, The Sparrow crossed to the telephone.

He quickly found Lady Ranscomb's number in the directory, and a few
moments later was talking to the butler, of whom he inquired for Miss
Dorise.

"Tell her," he added, "that a friend of Mr. Henfrey's wishes to speak to
her."

In a few moments The Sparrow heard the girl's voice.

"Yes?" she inquired. "Who is speaking?"

"A friend of Mr. Henfrey," was the reply of the man with the gloved
hand. "You will probably guess who it is."

He heard a little nervous laugh, and then:

"Oh, yes. I--I have an idea, but I can't talk to you over the 'phone.
I've got somebody who's just called. Mother is out--and----" Then
she lowered her voice, evidently not desirous of being heard in the
adjoining room. "Well, I don't know what to do."

"What do you mean? Does it concern Mr. Henfrey?"

"Yes. It does. There's a man here to see me from Scotland Yard! What
shall I do?"

The Sparrow gasped at the girl's announcement.

Next second he recovered himself.

"A man from Scotland Yard!" he echoed. "Why has he called?"

"He knows that Mr. Henfrey is living at Shapley, in Surrey. And he has
been asking whether I am acquainted with you."




TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER

WHAT LISETTE KNEW

A fortnight had gone by.

Ten o'clock in the morning in the Puerta del Sol, that great plaza in
Madrid--the fine square which, like the similarly-named gates at Toledo
and Segovia, commands a view of the rising sun, as does the ancient
Temple of Abu Simbel on the Nile.

Hugh Henfrey--a smart, lithe figure in blue serge--had been lounging for
ten minutes before the long facade of the Ministerio de la Gobernacion
(or Ministry of the Interior) smoking a cigarette and looking eagerly
across the great square. The two soldiers on sentry at the door,
suspicious of all foreigners in the days of Bolshevism and revolution,
had eyed him narrowly. But he appeared to be inoffensive, so they had
passed him by as a harmless lounger.

Five minutes later a smartly-dressed girl, with short skirt, silk
stockings, and a pretty hat, came along the pavement, and Hugh sprang
forward to greet her.

It was Lisette, the girl whom he had met when in hiding in that back
street in Genoa.

"Well?" he exclaimed. "So here we are! The Sparrow sent me to you."

"Yes. I had a telegram from him four days ago ordering me to meet you.
Strange things are happening--it seems!"

"How?" asked the young Englishman, in ignorance of the great conspiracy
or of what was taking place. "Since I saw you last, mademoiselle, I have
been moving about rapidly, and always in danger of arrest."

"So have I. But I am here at The Sparrow's orders--on a little business
which I hope to bring off successfully on any evening. I have an English
friend with me--a Mr. Franklyn."

"I left London suddenly. I saw The Sparrow in the evening, and next
morning, at eleven o'clock, without even a bag, I left London for Madrid
with a very useful passport."

"You are here because Madrid is safer for you than London, I suppose?"
said the girl in broken English.

"That is so. A certain Mr. Howell, a friend of The Sparrow's suggested
that I should come here," Hugh explained. "Ever since we met in Italy
I have been in close hiding until, by some means, my whereabouts became
known, and I had to fly."

The smartly-dressed girl walked slowly at his side and, for some
moments, remained silent.

"Ah! So you have met Hamilton Shaw--alias Howell?" she remarked at last
in a changed voice. "He certainly is not your friend."

"Not my friend! Why? I've only met him lately."

"You say that the police knew of your hiding-place," said mademoiselle,
speaking in French, as it was easier for her. "Would you be surprised if
Howell had revealed your secret?"

"Howell!" gasped Hugh. "Yes, I certainly would. He is a close friend of
The Sparrow!"

"That may be. But that does not prove that he is any friend of yours. If
you came here at Howell's suggestion--then, Mr. Henfrey, I should advise
you to leave Madrid at once. I say this because I have a suspicion that
he intends both of us to fall into a trap!"

"But why? I don't understand."

"I can give you no explanation," said the girl. "Now I know that
Hamilton Shaw sent you here, I can, I think, discern his motive. I
myself will see Mr. Franklyn at once, and shall leave Madrid as soon as
possible. And I advise you, Mr. Henfrey, to do the same."

"Surely you don't suspect that it was this Mr. Howell who gave me away
to Scotland Yard!" exclaimed Hugh, surprised, but at the same time
recollecting that The Sparrow had been alarmed at the detective's visit
to Dorise. He knew that Benton and Mrs. Bond had suddenly disappeared
from Shapley, but the reason he could only guess. He had, of course,
no proof that Benton and Molly were members of the great criminal
organization. He only knew that Benton had been his late father's
closest friend.

He discussed the situation with the girl jewel-thief as they walked
along the busy Carrera de San Jeronimo wherein are the best shops in
Madrid, to the great Plaza de Canovas in the leafy Prado.

Again he tried to extract from her what she knew concerning his father's
death. But she would tell him nothing.

"I am not permitted to say anything, Mr. Henfrey. I can only regret it,"
she said quietly. "Mr. Franklyn is at the Ritz opposite. I should like
you to meet him."

And she took him across to the elegant hotel opposite the Neptune
fountain, where, in a private sitting-room on the second floor, she
introduced him to a rather elderly, aristocratic-looking Englishman,
whom none would take to be one of the most expert jewel-thieves in
Europe.

When the door was closed and they were alone, mademoiselle suddenly
revealed to her friend what Hugh had said concerning Howell's suggestion
that he should travel to Madrid.

Franklyn's face changed. He was instantly apprehensive.

"Then we certainly are not safe here any longer. Howell probably intends
to play us false! We shall know from The Sparrow the reason we are
here, and, for aught we know, the police are watching and will arrest
us red-handed. No," he added, "we must leave this place--all three
of us--as soon as possible. You, Lisette, had better go to Paris and
explain matters to The Sparrow, while I shall fade away to Switzerland.
And you, Mr. Henfrey? Where will you go?"

"To France," was Hugh's reply, on the spur of the moment. "I can get to
Marseilles."

"Yes. Go by way of Barcelona. It is quickest," said the Englishman. "The
express leaves just after three o'clock."

Then, after he had thanked Hugh for his timely warning, the latter
walked out more than ever mystified at the attitude of The Sparrow's
accomplices.

It did not seem possible that Howell should have told Scotland Yard
that he was hiding at Shapley; yet it was quite evident that both
mademoiselle and her companion were equally in fear of the man Howell,
whose real name was Hamilton Shaw. The theory seemed to him a thin one,
for Howell was The Sparrow's intimate friend.

Yet, mademoiselle, while they had been discussing the situation, had
denounced him as their enemy, declaring that The Sparrow himself should
be warned of him.

That afternoon Hugh, having only been in Madrid twelve hours, left again
on the long, dusty railway journey across Spain to Zaragoza and down
the valley of the Ebro to the Mediterranean. After crossing the French
frontier, he broke the journey at the old-world town of Nimes for a
couple of days, and then went on to Marseilles, where he took up his
quarters in the big Louvre et Paix Hotel, still utterly mystified, and
still not daring to write to Dorise.

It was as well that he left Madrid, for, just as Lisette and Franklyn
had suspected, the police called at his hotel--an obscure one near the
station--only two hours after his departure. Then, finding him gone,
they sought both mademoiselle and Franklyn, only to find that they also
had fled.

_Someone had given away their secret!_

On arrival at Marseilles in the evening Hugh ate his dinner alone in the
hotel, and then strolled up the well-lit Cannebiere, with its many smart
shops and gay cafes--that street which, to many thousands on their way
to the Near or Far East, is their last glimpse of European life. He was
entirely at a loose end.

Unnoticed behind him there walked an undersized little Frenchman,
an alert, business-like man of about forty-five, who had awaited him
outside his hotel, and who leisurely followed him up the broad, main
street of that busy city.

He was well-dressed, possessing a pair of shrewd, searching eyes, and
a moustache carefully trimmed. His appearance was that of a prosperous
French tradesman--one of thousands one meets in the city of Marseilles.

As Hugh idled along, gazing into some of the shop windows as he lazily
smoked his cigarette, the under-sized stranger kept very careful watch
upon his movements. He evidently intended that he should not escape
observation. Hugh paused at a tobacconist's and bought some stamps, but
as he came out of the shop, the watcher drew back suddenly and in such a
manner as to reveal to anyone who might have observed him that he was no
tyro in the art of surveillance.

Walking a little farther along, Hugh came to the corner of the broad
Rue de Rome, where he entered a crowded cafe in which an orchestra was
playing.

He had taken a corner seat in the window, had ordered his coffee,
and was glancing at the _Petit Parisien_, which he had taken from his
pocket, when another man entered, gazed around in search of a seat and,
noticing one at Hugh's table, crossed, lifted his hat, and took the
vacant chair.

He was the stranger who had followed him from the Louvre et Paix.

The young Englishman, all unsuspecting, glanced at the newcomer, and
then resumed his paper, while the keen-eyed little man took a long, thin
cigar which the waiter brought, lit it carefully, and sipped his coffee,
his interest apparently centred in the music.

Suddenly a tall, dark-haired woman, who had been sitting near by with a
man who seemed to be her husband, rose and left. A moment before she had
exchanged glances with the watcher, who, apparently at her bidding, rose
and followed her.

All this seemed quite unnoticed by Hugh, immersed as he was in his
newspaper.

Outside the man and woman met. They held hurried consultation. The woman
told him something which evidently caused him sudden surprise.

"I will call on you at eleven to-morrow morning, madame," he said.

"No. I will meet you at the Reserve. I will lunch there at twelve. You
will lunch with me?"

"Very well," he answered. "_Au revoir_," and he returned to his seat in
the cafe, while she disappeared without returning to her companion.

The mysterious watcher resumed his coffee, for he had only been absent
for a few moments, and the waiter had not cleared it away.

Hugh took out his cigarette-case and, suddenly finding himself without
a match, made the opportunity for which the mysterious stranger had been
waiting.

He struck one and handed it to his _vis-a-vis_, bowing with his foreign
grace.

Then they naturally dropped into conversation.

"Ah! m'sieur is English!" exclaimed the shrewd-eyed little man. "Here,
in Marseilles, we have many English who pass to and fro from the boats.
I suppose, m'sieur is going East?" he suggested affably.

"No," replied Hugh, speaking in French, "I have some business here--that
is all." He was highly suspicious of all strangers, and the more so of
anyone who endeavoured to get into conversation with him.

"You know Marseilles--of course?" asked the stranger, sharply
scrutinizing him.

"I have been here several times before. I find the city always gay and
bright."

"Not so bright as before the war," declared the little man, smoking at
his ease. "There have been many changes lately."

Hugh Henfrey could not make the fellow out. Yet many times before he had
been addressed by strangers who seemed to question him out of curiosity,
and for no apparent reason. This man was one of them, no doubt.

The man, who had accompanied the woman whom the stranger had followed
out, rose, exchanged a significant glance with the little man, and
walked out. That the three were in accord seemed quite apparent, though
Hugh was still unsuspicious.

He chatted merrily with the stranger for nearly half an hour, and then
rose and left the cafe. When quite close to the hotel the stranger
overtook him, and halting, asked in a low voice, in very good English:

"I believe you are Mr. Henfrey--are you not?"

"Why do you ask that?" inquired Hugh, much surprised. "My name is
Jordan--William Jordan."

"Yes," laughed the man. "That is, I know, the name you have given at the
hotel. But your real name is Henfrey."

Hugh started. The stranger, noticing his alarm, hastened to reassure
him.




TWENTY-FOURTH CHAPTER

FRIEND OR ENEMY?

"You need not worry," said the stranger to Hugh. "I am not your enemy,
but a friend. I warn you that Marseilles is unsafe for you. Get away
as soon as possible. The Spanish police have learnt that you have come
here," he went on as he strolled at his side.

Hugh was amazed.

"How did you know my identity?" he asked eagerly.

"I was instructed to watch for your arrival--and to warn you."

"Who instructed you?"

"A friend of yours--and mine--The Sparrow."

"Has he been here?"

"No. He spoke to me on the telephone from Paris."

"What were his instructions?"

"That you were to go at once--to-night--by car to the Hotel de Paris,
at Cette. A car and driver awaits you at the Garage Beauvau, in the Rue
Beauvau. I have arranged everything at The Sparrow's orders. You are one
of Us, I understand," and the man laughed lightly.

"But my bag?" exclaimed Hugh.

"Go to the hotel, pay your bill, and take your bag to the station
cloak-room. Then go and get the car, pick up your bag, and get out
on the road to Cette as soon as ever you can. Your driver will ask no
questions, and will remain silent. He has his orders from The Sparrow."

"Does The Sparrow ever come to Marseilles?" Hugh asked.

"Yes, sometimes--when anything really big brings him here. I have,
however, only seen him once, five years ago. He was at your hotel,
and the police were so hot upon his track that only by dint of great
promptitude and courage he escaped by getting out of the window of his
room and descending by means of the rain-water pipe. It was one of the
narrowest escapes he has ever had."

As the words left the man's mouth, they were passing a well-lit
brasserie. A tall, cadaverous man passed them and Hugh had a suspicion
that they exchanged glances of recognition.

Was his pretended friend an agent of the police?

For a few seconds he debated within himself how he should act. To refuse
to do as he was bid might be to bring instant arrest upon himself.
If the stranger were actually a detective--which he certainly did not
appear to be--then the ruse was to get him on the road to Cette because
the legal formalities were not yet complete for his arrest as a British
subject.

Yet he knew all about The Sparrow, and his attitude was not in the least
hostile.

Hugh could not make up his mind whether the stranger was an associate of
the famous Sparrow, or whether he was very cleverly inveigling him into
the net.

It was only that exchange of glances with the passer-by which had
aroused Hugh's suspicions.

But that significant look caused him to hesitate to accept the
mysterious stranger as his friend.

True, he had accepted as friends numbers of other unknown persons
since that fateful night at Monte Carlo. Yet in this case, he felt, by
intuition, that all was not plain sailing.

"Very well," he said, at last. "I esteem it a very great favour that
you should have interested yourself on behalf of one who is an entire
stranger to you, and I heartily thank you for warning me of my danger.
When I see The Sparrow I shall tell him how cleverly you approached me,
and how perfect were your arrangements for my escape."

"I require no thanks or reward, Mr. Henfrey," replied the man politely.
"My one desire is to get you safely out of Marseilles."

And with that the stranger lifted his hat and left him.

Hugh went about fifty yards farther along the broad, well-lit street
full of life and movement, for the main streets of Marseilles are alive
both day and night.

By some intuition--why, he knew not--he suspected that affable little
man who had posed as his friend. Was it possible that, believing the
notorious Sparrow to be his friend, he had at haphazard invented the
story, and posed as one of The Sparrow's gang?

If so, it was certainly a very clever and ingenious subterfuge.

He was undecided how to act. He did not wish to give offence to his
friend, the king of the underworld, and yet he felt a distinct suspicion
of the man who had so cleverly approached him, and who had openly
declared himself to be a crook.

That strange glance he had exchanged with the passer-by beneath the rays
of the street-lamp had been mysterious and significant. If the passer-by
had been a crook, like himself, the sign of recognition would be one of
salutation. But the expression upon his alleged friend's face was one of
triumph. That made all the difference, and to Hugh, with his observation
quickened as it had been in those months of living with daily dread
of arrest, it had caused him to be seized with strong and distinct
suspicions.

He felt in his hip pocket and found that his revolver, an American
Smith-Wesson, was there. He had a dislike of automatic pistols, as he
had once had a very narrow escape. He had been teaching a girl to shoot
with a revolver, when, believing that she had discharged the whole
magazine, he was examining the weapon and pulled the trigger, narrowly
escaping shooting her dead.

For a few seconds he stood upon the broad pavement. Then he drew out his
cigarette-case. In it were four cigarettes, two of which The Sparrow had
given him when in London.

"Yes," he muttered to himself. "Somebody must have given me away at
Shapley, and now they have followed me! I will act for myself, and take
the risks."

Then he walked boldly on, crossed the road, and entered the big Hotel
de Louvre et Paix. To appear unconcerned he had a drink at the bar, and
ascending in the lift, called the floor-waiter, asked for his bill, and
packed his bag.

"Ah!" he said to himself. "If I could only get to know where The Sparrow
is and ask him the truth! He may be at that address in Paris which he
gave me."

After a little delay the bill was brought and he paid it. Then in a taxi
he drove to the station where he deposited his bag in the cloak-room.

Close by the _consigne_ a woman was standing. He glanced at her, when,
to his surprise, he saw that she was the same woman who had been sitting
in the cafe with a male companion.

Was she, he wondered, in league with his so-called friend? And if so,
what was intended.

Sight of that woman lounging there, however, decided him. She was, no
doubt, awaiting his coming.

He walked out of the great railway terminus, and, inquiring the way to
the Rue Beauvau, soon found the garage where a powerful open car was
awaiting him in the roadway outside.

A smart driver in a dark overcoat came forward, and apparently
recognizing Hugh from a description that had been given to him, touched
his cap, and asked in French:

"Where does m'sieur wish to go?"

"To the station to fetch my coat and bag," replied the young Englishman,
peering into the driver's face. He was a clean-shaven man of about
forty, broad-shouldered and stalwart. Was it possible that the car had
been hired by the police, and the driver was himself a police agent?

"Very well, m'sieur," the man answered politely. And Hugh having
entered, he drove up the Boulevard de la Liberte to the Gare St.
Charles.

As he approached the _consigne_, he looked along the platform, and
there, sure enough, was the same woman on the watch, though she
pretended to be without the slightest interest in his movements.

Hugh put on his coat, and, carrying his bag, placed it in the car.

"You have your orders?" asked Hugh.

"Yes, m'sieur. We are to go to Cette with all speed. Is not that so?"

"Yes," was Hugh's reply. "I will come up beside you. I prefer it. We
shall have a long, dark ride to-night."

"Ah! but the roads are good," was the man's reply. "I came from Cette
yesterday," he added, as he mounted to his seat and the passenger got up
beside him.

Hugh sat there very thoughtful as the car sped out of the city of noise
and bustle. The man's remark that he had come from Cette on the previous
day gave colour to the idea that no net had been spread, but that the
stranger was acting at the orders of the ubiquitous Sparrow. Indeed,
were it not for the strange glance the undersized little man had given
to the passer-by, he would have been convinced that he was actually once
again under the protection of the all-powerful ruler of the criminal
underworld.

As it was, he remained suspicious. He did not like that woman who had
watched so patiently his coming and going at the station.

With strong headlights glaring--for the night was extremely dark and a
strong wind was blowing--they were soon out on the broad highway which
leads first across the plain and then beside the sea, and again across
the lowlands to old-world Arles.

It was midnight before they got to the village of Lancon, an obscure
little place in total darkness.

But on the way the driver, who had told Hugh that his name was Henri
Aramon, and who insinuated that he was one of The Sparrow's associates,
became most affable and talkative. Over those miles of dark roads,
unfamiliar to Hugh, they travelled at high speed, for Henri had from the
first showed himself to be an expert driver, not only in the unceasing
traffic of the main streets of Marseilles, but also on the dark,
much-worn roads leading out of the city. The roads around Marseilles
have never been outstanding for their excellence, and after the war they
were indeed execrable.

"This is Lancon," the driver remarked, as they sped through the dark
little town. "We now go on to Salon, where we have a direct road across
the plain they call the Crau into Arles. From there the road to Cette is
quite good and straight. The road we are now on is the worst," he added.

Hugh was undecided. Was the man who was driving him so rapidly out of
the danger zone his friend--or his enemy?

He sat there for over an hour unable to decide.

"This is an outlandish part of France," he remarked to the driver
presently.

"Yes. But after Salon it is more desolate."

"And is there no railway near?"

"After Salon, yes. It runs parallel with the road about two miles to the
north--the railway between Arles and Aix-en-Provence."

"So if we get a breakdown, which I hope we shall not, we are not far
from a railway?" Hugh remarked, as through the night the heavy car tore
along that open desolate road.

As he sat there he thought of Dorise, wondering what had happened--and
of Louise. If he had obeyed his father's wishes and married the latter
all the trouble would have been avoided, he thought. Yet he loved
Dorise--loved her with his whole soul.

And she doubted him.

Poor fellow! Hustled from pillar to post, and compelled to resort to
every ruse in order to avoid arrest for a crime which he did not commit,
yet about which he could not establish his innocence, he very
often despaired. At that moment he felt somehow--how he could not
explain--that he was in a very tight corner. He felt confident after two
hours of reflection that he was being driven over these roads that
night in order that the police should gain time to execute some legal
formality for his arrest.

Why had not the police of Marseilles arrested him? There was some subtle
motive for sending him to Cette.

He had not had time to send a telegram to Mr. Peters in London, or to
Monsieur Gautier, the name by which The Sparrow told him he was known at
his flat in the Rue des Petits Champs, in the centre of Paris. He longed
to be able to communicate with his all-powerful friend, but there had
been no opportunity.

Suddenly the car began to pass through banks of mist, which are usual at
night over the low marshes around the mouths of the Rhone. It was about
half-past two in the morning. They had passed through the long dark
streets of Salon, and were already five or six miles on the broad
straight road which runs across the marshes through St. Martin-de-Crau
into Arles.

Of a sudden Hugh declared that he must have a cigarette, and producing
his case handed one to the driver and took one himself. Then he lit the
man's, and afterwards his own.

"It is cold here on the marshes, monsieur," remarked the driver, his
cigarette between his lips. "This mist, too, is puzzling. But it is
nearly always like this at night. That is why nobody lives about here."

"Is it quite deserted?"

"Yes, except for a few shepherds, and they live up north at the foot of
the hills."

For some ten minutes or so they kept on, but Hugh had suddenly become
very watchful of the driver.

Presently the man exclaimed in French:

"I do not feel very well!"

"What is the matter?" asked Hugh in alarm. "You must not be taken ill
here--so far from anywhere!"

But the man was evidently unwell, for he pulled up the car.

"Oh! my head!" he cried, putting both hands to his brow as the cigarette
dropped from his lips. "My head! It seems as if it will burst! And--and
I can't see! Everything is going round--round! Where--_where am I_?"

"You are all right, my friend. Get into the back of the car and rest.
You will be yourself very quickly."

And he half dragged the man from his seat and placed him in the back of
the car, where he fell inert and unconscious.

The cigarette which The Sparrow had given to Hugh only to be used in
case of urgent necessity had certainly done its work. The man, whether
friend or enemy, would now remain unconscious for many hours.

Hugh, having settled him in the bottom of the car, placed a rug over
him. Then, mounting to the driver's place, he turned the car and drove
as rapidly as he dared back over the roads to Salon.

Time after time, he wondered whether he had been misled; whether, after
all, the man who had driven him was actually acting under The Sparrow's
orders. If so, then he had committed a fatal error!

However, the die was cast. He had acted upon his own initiative, and if
a net had actually been spread to catch him he had successfully broken
through it. He laughed as he thought of the police at Cette awaiting
his arrival, and their consternation when hour after hour passed without
news of the car from Marseilles.

At Salon he passed half way through the town to cross roads where he had
noticed in passing a sign-board which indicated the road to Avignon--the
broad high road from Marseilles to Paris.

Already he had made up his mind how to act. He would get to Avignon,
and thence by express to Paris. The _rapides_ from Marseilles and the
Riviera all stopped at the ancient city of the Popes.

Therefore, being a good motor driver, Hugh started away down the
long road which led through the valley to Orgon, and thence direct to
Avignon, which came into sight about seven o'clock in the morning.

Before entering the old city of walls and castles Hugh turned into a
side road about two miles distant, drove the car to the end, and opening
a gate succeeded in getting it some little distance into a wood, where
it was well concealed from anyone passing along the road.

Then, descending and ascertaining that the driver was sleeping
comfortably from the effects of the strong narcotic, he took his bag and
walked into the town.

At the railway station he found the through express from
Ventimiglia--the Italian frontier--to Paris would be due in twenty
minutes, therefore he purchased a first-class ticket for Paris, and in
a short time was taking his morning coffee in the _wagon-restaurant_ on
his way to the French capital.




TWENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

THE MAN CATALDI

On the day that Hugh was travelling in hot haste to Paris, Charles
Benton arrived in Nice early in the afternoon.

Leaving the station it was apparent he knew his way about the town,
for passing down the Avenue de la Gare, with its row of high eucalyptus
trees, to the Place Massena, he plunged into the narrow, rather
evil-smelling streets of the old quarter.

Before a house in the Rue Rossette he paused, and ascending to a flat
on the third floor, rang the bell. The door was slowly opened by an
elderly, rather shabbily-attired Italian.

It was Yvonne's late servant at the Villa Amette, Giulio Cataldi.

The old man drew back on recognizing his visitor.

"Well, Cataldi!" exclaimed the well-dressed adventurer cheerily. "I'm
quite a stranger--am I not? I was in Nice, and I could not leave without
calling to see you."

The old man, with ill-grace scarcely concealed, invited him into his
shabby room, saying:

"Well, Signor Benton, I never thought to see you again."

"Perhaps you didn't want to--eh? After that little affair in Brussels.
But I assure you it was not my fault. Mademoiselle Yvonne made the
blunder."

"And nearly let us all into the hands of the police--including The
Sparrow himself!" growled the old fellow.

"Ah! But all that has long blown over. Now," he went on, after he had
offered the old man a cigar. "Now the real reason I've called is to ask
you about this nasty affair concerning Mademoiselle Yvonne. You were
there that night. What do you know about it?"

"Nothing," the old fellow declared promptly. "Since that night I've
earned an honest living. I'm a waiter in a cafe in the Avenue de la
Gare."

"A most excellent decision," laughed the well-dressed man. "It is not
everyone who can afford to be honest in these hard times. I wish I could
be, but I find it impossible. Now, tell me, Giulio, what do you know
about the affair at the Villa Amette? The boy, Henfrey, went there to
demand of Mademoiselle how his father died. She refused to tell him,
angry words arose--and he shot her. Now, isn't that your theory--the
same as that held by the police?"

The old man looked straight into his visitor's face for a few moments.
Then he replied quite calmly:

"I know nothing, Signor Benton--and I don't want to know anything. I've
told the police all I know. Indeed, when they began to inquire into my
antecedents I was not very reassured, I can tell you."

"I should think not," laughed Benton. "Still, they never suspected you
to be the man wanted for the Morel affair--an unfortunate matter that
was."

"Yes," sighed the old fellow. "Please do not mention it," and he turned
away to the window as though to conceal his guilty countenance.

"You mean that you _know_ something--but you won't tell it!" Benton
said.

"I know nothing," was the old fellow's stubborn reply.

"But you know that the young fellow, Henfrey, is guilty!" exclaimed
Benton. "Come! you were there at the time! You heard high words between
them--didn't you?"

"I have already made my statement to the police," declared the old
Italian. "What else I know I shall keep to myself."

"But I'm interested in ascertaining whether Henfrey is innocent or
guilty. Only two persons can tell us that--Mademoiselle, who is, alas!
in a hopeless mental state, and yourself. You know--but you refuse to
incriminate the guilty person. Why don't you tell the truth? You know
that Henfrey shot her!"

"I tell you I know nothing," retorted the old man. "Why do you come here
and disturb me?" he added peevishly.

"Because I want to know the truth," Benton answered. "And I mean to!"

"Go away!" snapped the wilful old fellow. "I've done with you all--all
the crowd of you!"

"Ah!" laughed Benton. "Then you forget the little matter of the man
Morel--eh? That is not forgotten by the police, remember!"

"And if you said a word to them, Signor Benton, then you would implicate
yourself," the old man growled. Seeing hostility in the Englishman's
attitude he instantly resented it.

"Probably. But as I have no intention of giving you away, my dear
Giulio, I do not think we need discuss it. What I am anxious to do is to
establish the guilt--or the innocence--of Hugh Henfrey," he went on.

"No doubt. You have reason for establishing his guilt--eh?"

"No. Reasons for establishing his innocence."

"For your own ends, Signor Benton," was the shrewd old man's reply.

"At one time there was a suspicion that you yourself had fired at
Mademoiselle."

"What!" gasped the old man, his countenance changing instantly. "Who
says that?" he asked angrily.

"The police were suspicious, I believe. And as far as I can gather they
are not yet altogether satisfied."

"Ah!" growled the old Italian in a changed voice. "They will have to
prove it!"

"Well, they declare that the shot was fired by either one or the
other of you," Benton said, much surprised at the curious effect the
allegation had upon the old fellow.

"So they think that if the Signorino Henfrey is innocent I am guilty of
the murderous attack--eh?"

Benton nodded.

"But they are seeking to arrest the signorino!" remarked the Italian.

"Yes. That is why I am here--to establish his innocence."

"And if I were to tell you that he was innocent I should condemn
myself!" laughed the crafty old man.

"Look here, Giulio," said Benton. "I confess that I have long ago
regretted the shabby manner in which I treated you when we were all in
Brussels, and I hope you will allow me to make some little amend." Then,
taking from his pocket-book several hundred-franc notes, he doubled them
up and placed them on the table.

"Ah!" said the old man. "I see! You want to _buy_ my secret! No, take
your money!" he cried, pushing it back towards him contemptuously. "I
want none of it."

"Because you are now earning an honest living," Benton sneered.

"Yes--and Il Passero knows it!" was Cataldi's bold reply.

"Then you refuse to tell me anything you know concerning the events of
that night at the Villa Amette?"

"Yes," he snapped. "Take your money, and leave me in peace!"

"And I have come all the way from England to see you," remarked the
disappointed man.

"Be extremely careful. You have enemies, so have I. They are the same as
those who denounced the signorino to the police--as they will no doubt,
before long, denounce you!" said the old man.

"Bah! You always were a pessimist, Giulio," Benton laughed. "I do not
fear any enemies--I assure you. The Sparrow takes good care that we
are prevented from falling into any traps the police may set," he added
after a moment's pause.

The old waiter shook his head dubiously.

"One day there may be a slip--and it will cost you all very dearly," he
said.

"You are in a bad mood, Giulio--like all those who exist by being
honest," Benton laughed, though he was extremely annoyed at his failure
to learn anything from the old fellow.

Was it possible that the suspicions which both Molly and he had
entertained were true--namely, that the old man had attempted to kill
his mistress? After all, the hue-and-cry had been raised by the police
merely because Hugh Henfrey had fled and successfully escaped.

Benton, after grumbling because the old man would make no statement, and
again hinting at the fact that he might be the culprit, left with very
ill grace, his long journey from London having been in vain.

If Henfrey was to be free to marry Louise, then his innocence must first
be proved. Charles Benton had for many weeks realized that his chance of
securing old Mr. Henfrey's great fortune was slowly slipping from him.
Once Hugh had married Louise and settled the money upon her, then the
rest would be easy. He had many times discussed it with Molly, and they
were both agreed upon a vile, despicable plot which would result in the
young man's sudden end and the diversion of his father's fortune.

The whole plot against old Mr. Henfrey was truly one of the most
elaborate and amazing ones ever conceived by criminal minds.

Charles Benton was a little too well known in Nice, hence he took care
to leave the place by an early train, and went on to Cannes, where he
was a little less known. As an international crook he had spent several
seasons at Nice and Monte Carlo, but had seldom gone to Cannes, as it
was too aristocratic and too slow for an _escroc_ like himself.

Arrived at Cannes he put up at the Hotel Beau Site, and that night ate
an expensive dinner in the restaurant at the Casino. Then, next day, he
took the _train-de-luxe_ direct for Calais, and went on to London, all
unconscious of the sensational events which were then happening.

On arrival in London he found a telegram lying upon his table among some
letters. It was signed "Shaw," and urged him to meet him "at the usual
place" at seven o'clock in the evening. "I know you are away, but I'll
look in each night at seven," it concluded.

It was just six o'clock, therefore Benton washed and changed, and
just before seven o'clock entered a little cafe off Wardour Street,
patronized mostly by foreigners. At one of the tables, sitting alone,
was a wiry-looking, middle-aged man--Mr. Howell, The Sparrow's friend.

"Well?" asked Howell, when a few minutes later they were walking along
Wardour Street together. "How did you get on in Nice?"

"Had my journey for nothing."

"Wouldn't the old man tell anything?" asked Howell eagerly.

"Not a word," Benton replied. "But my firm opinion is that he himself
tried to kill Yvonne--that he shot her."

"Do you really agree with me?" gasped Howell excitedly. "Of course,
there has, all along, been a certain amount of suspicion against him.
The police were once on the point of arresting him. I happen to know
that."

"Well, my belief is that young Henfrey is innocent. I never thought so
until now."

"Then we must prove Cataldi guilty, and Henfrey can marry Louise,"
Howell said. "But the reason I wanted to get in touch with you is that
the police went to Shapley."

"To Shapley!" gasped Benton.

"Yes. They went there the night you left London. Evidently somebody has
given you away!"

"Given me away! Who in the devil's name can it be? If I get to know who
the traitor is I--I'll--by gad, I'll kill him. I swear I will!"

"Who knows? Some secret enemy of yours--no doubt. Molly has been
arrested and has been up at Bow Street. They also arrested Louise, but
there being no charge against her, she has been released. I've sent her
up to Cambridge--to old Mrs. Curtis. I thought she'd be quite quiet and
safe there for a time."

"But Molly arrested! What's the charge?"

"Theft. An extradition warrant from Paris. That jeweller's affair in the
Rue St. Honore, eighteen months ago."

"Well, I hope they won't bring forward other charges, or it will go
infernally bad with her. What has The Sparrow done?"

"He's abroad somewhere--but I've had five hundred pounds from an unknown
source to pay for her defence. I saw the solicitors. Brigthorne, the
well-known barrister, appeared for her."

"But all this is very serious, my dear Howell," Benton declared, much
alarmed.

"Of course it is. You can't marry the girl to young Henfrey until he is
proved innocent, and that cannot be until the guilt is fixed upon the
crafty old Giulio."

"Exactly. That's what we must do. But with Molly arrested we shall
be compelled to be very careful," said Benton, as they turned toward
Piccadilly Circus. "I don't see how we dare move until Molly is either
free or convicted. If she knew our game she might give us away. Remember
that if we bring off the Henfrey affair Molly has to have a share in the
spoils. But if she happens to be in a French prison she won't get much
chance--eh?"

"If she goes it will be ten years, without a doubt," Howell remarked.

"Yes. And in the meantime much can happen--eh?" laughed Benton.

"Lots. But one reassuring fact is that, as far as old Henfrey's fate
is concerned, Mademoiselle's lips are closed. Whoever shot her did us a
very good turn."

"Of course. But I agree we must fix the guilt upon old Cataldi. He
almost as good as admitted it by his face when I taxed him with it. Why
not give him away to the Nice police?"

"No, not yet. Certainly not," exclaimed Howell.

"It's a pity The Sparrow does not know about the Henfrey business. He
might help us. Dare we tell him? What do you think?"

"Tell him! Good Heavens! No! Surely you are fully aware how he always
sets his face against any attempt upon human life, and no one who has
taken life has ever had his forgiveness," said Howell. "The Sparrow is
our master--a fine and marvellous mind which has no equal in Europe. If
he had gone into politics he could have been the greatest statesman
of the age. But he is Il Passero, the man who directs affairs of every
kind, and the man at the helm of every great enterprise. Yet his one
fixed motto is that life shall not be taken."

"But in old Henfrey's case we acted upon our own initiative," remarked
Benton.

"Yes. Yours was a wonderfully well-conceived idea. And all worked
without a hitch until young Henfrey's visit to Monte Carlo, and his
affection for that girl Ranscomb."

"We are weaning him away from her," Benton said. "At last the girl's
suspicions are excited, and there is just that little disagreement
which, broadening, leads to the open breach. Oh! my dear Howell, how
could you and I live if it were not for that silly infection called
love? In our profession love is all-conquering. Without it we could make
no progress, no smart coups, no conquests of women who afterwards shed
out to us money which at the assizes they would designate by the ugly
word 'blackmail.'"

"Ah! Charles. You were always a philosopher," laughed his companion--the
man who was a bosom friend of The Sparrow. "But it carries us no nearer.
We must, at all costs, fix the hand that shot Yvonne."

"Giulio shot her--without a doubt!" was Benton's quick reply.

They were standing together on the kerb outside the Tube station at
Piccadilly Circus as Benton uttered the words.

"Well, my dear fellow, then let us prove it," said Howell. "But not yet,
remember. We must first see how it goes with Molly. She must be watched
carefully. Of course, I agree that Giulio Cataldi shot Yvonne. Later we
will prove that fact, but the worst of it is that the French police are
hot on the track of young Henfrey."

"How do you know that?" asked his companion quickly.

"Well," he answered, after a second's hesitation, "I heard so two days
ago."

Then Howell, pleading an urgent meeting with a mutual friend, also a
crook like themselves, grasped the other's hand, and they parted.




TWENTY-SIXTH CHAPTER

LISETTE'S DISCLOSURES

At ten o'clock on the morning that Hugh Henfrey left Avignon for Paris,
The Sparrow stood at the window of his cozy little flat in the Rue des
Petits Champs, where he was known to his elderly housekeeper--a worthy
old soul from Yvetot, in the north--as Guillaume Gautier.

The house was one of those great old ones built in the days of the First
Empire, with a narrow entrance and square courtyard into which the
stage coaches with postilions rumbled before the days of the P.L.M. and
aircraft. In the Napoleonic days it had been the residence of the Dukes
de Vizelle, but in modern times it had been converted into a series of
very commodious flats.

The Sparrow, sprightly and alert, stood, after taking his _cafe au
lait_, looking down into the courtyard. He had been reading through
several letters and telegrams which had caused him some perturbation.

"They are playing me false!" he muttered, as he gazed out of the window.
"I'm certain of it--quite certain! But, Gad! If they do I'll be even
with them! Who could have given Henfrey away in London--_and why_?"

He paced the length of the room, his teeth hard set and his hands
clenched.

"I thought they were all loyal after what I have done for them--after
the fortunes I have put into their pockets. Fancy! One of them a
well-known member of Parliament--another a director of one of the
soundest insurance companies! Nobody suspects the really great crooks.
It is only the little clumsy muddlers whom the police catch and the
judge makes examples of!"

Then crossing back to the window, he said aloud:

"Lisette ought to be here! She was due in from Toulouse at nine o'clock.
I hope nothing further has happened. One thing is satisfactory--young
Henfrey is safe."

As a matter of fact, the girl had spoken to The Sparrow from her hotel
in Toulouse late on the previous night, and told him that her "friend
Hugh" was in Marseilles.

Even to the master criminal the whole problem was increasingly
complicated. He could not prove the innocence of young Henfrey, because
of the mysterious, sinister influence being brought to bear against him.
He had interested himself in aiding the young fellow to evade arrest,
because he had no desire that there should be a trial in which he and
his associates might be implicated.

The Sparrow hated trials of any sort. With him silence was golden, and
very wisely he would pay any sum rather than court publicity.

Half an hour went past, but the girl he expected did not put in an
appearance.

Monsieur Gautier--the man with the gloved hand--was believed by his
old housekeeper to be a rich and somewhat eccentric bachelor, who
was interested in old clocks and antique silver, and who travelled
extensively in order to purchase fine specimens. Indeed it was by that
description he was registered in the archives of the Surete, with the
observation that notwithstanding his foreign name he was an Englishman
of highest standing.

It was never dreamed that the bristly-haired alert little man, who was
so often seen in the salerooms of Paris when antique silver was being
sold, was the notorious Sparrow.

Lisette's failure to arrive considerably disturbed him. He hoped that
nothing had happened to her. Time after time, he walked to the window
and looked out eagerly for her to cross the courtyard. In those rooms
he sometimes lived for weeks in safe obscurity, his neighbours regarding
him as a man of the greatest integrity, though a trifle eccentric in his
habits.

At last, just before eleven, he saw Lisette's smart figure in a heavy
travelling coat crossing the courtyard, and a few moments later she was
shown into his room.

"You're late!" the old man said, as soon as the door was closed. "I
feared that something had gone wrong! Why did you leave Madrid? What has
happened?" he asked eagerly.

"Happened!" she echoed in French. "Why, very nearly a disaster! Someone
has given us away--at least, Monsieur Henfrey was given away to the
police!"

"Not arrested?" he asked breathlessly.

"No. We all three managed to get away--but only just in time! I had a
wire to-night from Monsieur Tresham, telling me guardedly that within
an hour or so after we left Madrid the police called at my hotel--and at
Henfrey's."

"Who can have done that?" asked The Sparrow, his eyes narrowing in
anger, his gloved hand clenched.

"Your enemy--and mine!" was the girl's reply. "Franklyn is in
Switzerland. Monsieur Henfrey is in Marseilles--at the Louvre et
Paix--and I am here."

"Then we have a secret enemy--eh?"

"Yes--and he is not very far to seek. Monsieur Howell has done this!"

"Howell! He would never do such a thing, my dear mademoiselle," replied
the gloved man, smiling.

"Oh! wouldn't he? I would not trust either Benton or Howell!"

"I think you are mistaken, mademoiselle. They have never shown much
friendship towards each other."

"They are close friends as far as concerns the Henfrey affair," declared
mademoiselle. "I happen to know that it was Howell who prepared the old
man's will. It is in his handwriting, and his manservant, Cooke, is one
of the witnesses."

"What? _You know about that will, Lisette?_ Tell me everything."

"Howell himself let it out to me. They were careful that you should
not know. At the time I was in London with Franklyn and Benton over
the jewels of that ship-owner's wife, I forget her name--the affair in
Carlton House Terrace."

"Yes. I recollect. A very neat piece of business."

"Well--Howell told me how he had prepared the will, and how Benton, who
was staying with old Mr. Henfrey away in the country, got him to put his
signature to it by pretending it to be for the purchase of a house
at Eltham, in Kent. The house was, indeed, purchased at Benton's
suggestion, but the signature was to a will which Howell's man, Cooke,
and a friend of his, named Saunders, afterwards witnessed, and which has
now been proved--the will by which the young man is compelled to marry
Benton's adopted daughter before he inherits his father's estates."

"You actually know this?"

"Howell told me so with his own lips."

"Then why is young Henfrey being made the victim?" asked The Sparrow
shrewdly. "Why, indeed, have you not revealed this to me before?"

"Because I had no proof before that Howell is _our_ enemy. He has now
given us away. He has some motive. What is it?"

The bristly-haired little man of twenty names and as many
individualities pondered for a moment. It was evident that he was both
apprehensive and amazed at the suggestion the pretty young French girl
had placed before him.

When one finds a betrayer, then in order to fix his guilt it becomes
necessary to discover the motive.

The Sparrow was in a quandary. Seldom was he in such a perturbed state
of mind. He and his accomplices could always defy the police. It was not
the first time in his career, however, that he had found a traitor in
his camp. If Howell was really a traitor, then he would pay dearly for
it. Three times within the last ten years there had been traitors in the
great criminal organization. One was a Dutchman; the second was a Greek;
and the third a Swiss. Each died--for dead men tell no tales.

The Sparrow ordered some _cafe noir_ from his housekeeper and produced
a particularly seductive brand of liqueur, which mademoiselle
took--together with a cigarette.

Then she left, he giving her the parting injunction:

"It is probable that you will go to Marseilles and meet young Henfrey. I
will think it all over. You will have a note from me at the Grand Hotel
before noon to-morrow."




TWENTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER

THE INQUISITIVE MR. SHRIMPTON

An hour later Hugh stood in The Sparrow's room, and related his exciting
adventure in Marseilles and on the high road.

"H'm!" remarked the man with the gloved hand. "A very pretty piece of
business. The police endeavoured to mislead you, and you, by a very
fortunate circumstance, suspected. That cigarette, my dear young friend,
stood you in very good stead. It was fortunate that I gave it to you."

"By this time the driver of the car has, of course, recovered and told
his story," Hugh remarked.

"And by this time the police probably know that you have come to Paris,"
remarked The Sparrow. "Now, Mr. Henfrey, only an hour ago I learnt
something which has altered my plans entirely. There is a traitor
somewhere--somebody has given you away."

"Who?"

"At present I have not decided. But we must all be wary and watchful,"
was The Sparrow's reply. "In any case, it is a happy circumstance that
you saw through the ruse of the police to get you to Cette. First the
Madrid police were put upon your track, and then, as you eluded them,
the Marseilles police were given timely information--a clever trap," he
laughed. "I admire it. But at Marseilles they are even more shrewd than
in Paris. Maillot, the _chef de la Surete_ at Marseilles, is a really
capable official. I know him well. A year ago he dined with me at the
Palais de la Bouillabaisse. I pretended that I had been the victim of a
great theft, and he accepted my invitation. He little dreamed that I was
Il Passero, for whom he had been spreading the net for years!"

"You are really marvellous, Mr. Peters," remarked Hugh. "And I have to
thank you for the way in which you have protected me time after time.
Your organization is simply wonderful."

The man with the black glove laughed.

"Nothing really wonderful," he said. "Those who are innocent I protect,
those who are traitors I condemn. And they never escape me. We have
traitors at work now. It is for me to fix the identity. And in this you,
Mr. Henfrey, must help me. Have you heard from Miss Ranscomb?"

"No. Not a word," replied the young man. "I dare not write to her."

"No, don't. A man from Scotland Yard went to see her. So it is best to
remain apart--my dear boy--even though that unfortunate misunderstanding
concerning Louise Lambert has arisen between you."

"But I am anxious to put it right," the young fellow said. "Dorise
misjudges me."

"Ah! I know. But at present you must allow her to think ill of you. You
must not court arrest. We now know that you have enemies who intend you
to be the victim, while they reap the profit," said The Sparrow kindly.
"Leave matters to me and act at my suggestion."

"That I certainly will," Hugh replied. "You have never yet advised me
wrongly."

"Ah! I am not infallible," laughed the master criminal.

Then he rose, and crossing to the telephone, he inquired for the Grand
Hotel. After a few minutes he spoke to Mademoiselle Lisette, telling
her that she need not go to Marseilles, and asking her to call upon him
again at nine o'clock that night.

"Monsieur Hugh has returned from the south," he added. "He is anxious to
see you again."

"_Tres bien, m'sieur_," answered the smart Parisienne. "I will be there.
But will you not dine with me--eh? At Vian's at seven. You know the
place."

"Mademoiselle Lisette asks us to dine with her at Vian's," The Sparrow
said, turning to Hugh.

"Yes, I shall be delighted," replied the young man.

So The Sparrow accepted the girl's invitation.

On that same morning, Dorise Ranscomb had, after breakfast, settled
herself to write some letters. Her mother had gone to Warwickshire for
the week-end, and she was alone with the maids.

The whole matter concerning Hugh puzzled her. She could not bring
herself to a decision as to his innocence or his guilt.

As she sat writing in the morning-room, the maid announced that Mr.
Shrimpton wished to see her.

She started at the name. It was the detective inspector from Scotland
Yard who had called upon her on a previous occasion.

A few moments afterwards he was shown in, a tall figure in a rough tweed
suit.

"I really must apologize, Miss Ranscomb, for disturbing you, but I have
heard news of Mr. Henfrey. He has been in Marseilles. Have you heard
from him?"

"Not a word," the girl replied. "And, Mr. Shrimpton, I am growing
very concerned. I really can't think that he tried to kill the young
Frenchwoman. Why should he?"

"Well, because she had connived at his father's death. That seems to be
proved."

"Then your theory is that it was an act of vengeance?"

"Exactly, Miss Ranscomb. That is our opinion, and a warrant being out
for his arrest both in France and in England, we are doing all we can to
get him."

"But are you certain?" asked the girl, much distressed. "After all,
though on the face of things it seems that there is a distinct motive, I
do not think that Hugh would be guilty of such a thing."

"Naturally. Forgive me for saying so, miss, but I quite appreciate your
point of view. If I were in your place I should regard the matter in
just the same light. I, however, wondered whether you had heard news of
him during the last day or two."

"No. I have heard nothing."

"And," he said, "I suppose if you did hear, you would not tell me?"

"That is my own affair, Mr. Shrimpton," she replied resentfully. "If you
desire to arrest Mr. Henfrey it is your own affair. Why do you ask me to
assist you?"

"In the interests of justice," was the inspector's reply.

"Well," said the girl, very promptly, "I tell you at once that I refuse
to assist you in your endeavour to arrest Mr. Henfrey. Whether he is
guilty or not guilty I have not yet decided."

"But he must be guilty. There was the motive. He shot the woman who had
enticed his father to his death."

"And how have you ascertained that?"

"By logical deduction."

"Then you are trying to convict Mr. Henfrey upon circumstantial evidence
alone?"

"Others have gone to the gallows on circumstantial evidence--Crippen,
for instance. There was no actual witness of his crime."

"I fear I must allow you to continue your investigations, Mr.
Shrimpton," she said coldly.

"But your lover has deceived you. He was staying down in Surrey with the
girl, Miss Lambert, as his fellow-guest."

"I know that," was Dorise's reply. "But I have since come to the
conclusion that my surmise--my jealousy if you like to call it so--is
unfounded."

"Ah! then you refuse to assist justice?"

"No, I do not. But knowing nothing of the circumstances I do not see how
I can assist you."

"But no doubt you know that Mr. Henfrey evaded us and went away--that he
was assisted by a man whom we know as The Sparrow."

"I do not know where he is," replied the girl with truth.

"But you know The Sparrow," said the detective. "You admitted that you
had met him when I last called here."

"I have met him," she replied.

"Where does he live?"

She smiled, recollecting that even though she had quarrelled with Hugh,
the strange old fellow had been his best friend. She remembered how the
White Cavalier had been sent by him with messages to reassure her.

"I refuse to give away the secrets of my friends," she responded a
trifle haughtily.

"Then you prefer to shield the master criminal of Europe?"

"I have no knowledge that The Sparrow is a criminal."

"Ask the police of any city in Europe. They will tell you that they have
for years been endeavouring to capture Il Passero. Yet so cleverly is
his gang organized that never once has he been betrayed. All his friends
are so loyal to him."

"Yet you want me to betray him!"

"You are not a member of the gang of criminals, Miss Ranscomb," replied
Shrimpton.

"Whether I am or not, I refuse to say a word concerning anyone who has
been of service to me," was her stubborn reply. And with that the man
from the Criminal Investigation Department had to be content.

Even then, Dorise was not quite certain whether she had misjudged the
man who loved her so well, but who was beneath a cloud. She had acted
hastily in writing that letter, she felt. Yet she had successfully
warned him of his peril, and he had been able to extricate himself from
the net spread for him.

It was evident that The Sparrow, who was her friend and Hugh's, was a
most elusive person.

She recollected the White Cavalier at the ball at Nice, and how she had
never suspected him to be the deputy of the King of the Underworld--the
man whose one hand was gloved.

Within half an hour of the departure of her visitor from Scotland Yard,
the maid announced Mr. Sherrard.

Dorise, with a frown, arose from her chair, and a few seconds later
faced the man who was her mother's intimate friend, and who daily forced
his unwelcome attentions upon her.

"Your mother told me you would be alone, Dorise," he said in his forced
manner of affected elegance. "So I just dropped in. I hope I'm not
worrying you."

"Oh! not at all," replied the girl, sealing a letter which she had just
written. "Mother has gone to Warwickshire, and I'm going out to lunch
with May Petheridge, an old schoolfellow of mine."

"Oh! Then I won't keep you," said the smug lover of Lady Ranscomb's
choice. He was one of those over-dressed fops who haunted the lounges of
the Ritz and the Carlton, and who scraped acquaintance with anybody with
a title. At tea parties he would refer to Lord This and Lady That as
intimate friends, whereas he had only been introduced to them by some
fat wife of a fatter profiteer.

Sherrard saw that Dorise's attitude was one of hostility, but with his
superior overbearing manner he pretended not to notice it.

"You were not at Lady Oundle's the night before last," he remarked, for
want of something better to say. "I went there specially to meet you,
Dorise."

"I hate Lady Oundle's dances," was the girl's reply. "Such a lot of
fearful old fogies go there."

"True, but a lot of your mother's friends are in her set."

"I know. But mother always avoids going to her dances if she possibly
can. We had a good excuse to be away, as mother was packing."

"Elise was there," he remarked.

"And you danced with her, of course. She's such a ripping dancer."

"Twice. When I found you were not there I went on to the club," he
replied, with his usual air of boredom. "When do you expect your mother
back?"

"Next Tuesday. I'm going down to Huntingdon to-morrow to stay with the
Fishers."

"Oh! by the way," he remarked suddenly. "Tubby Hall, who is just back
from Madrid, told me in the club last night that he'd seen your friend
Henfrey in a restaurant there with a pretty French girl."

"In Madrid!" echoed Dorise, for she had no idea of her lover's
whereabouts. "He must have been mistaken surely."

"No. Tubby is an old friend of Henfrey's. He says that he and the girl
seemed to be particularly good friends."

Dorise hesitated.

"You tell me this in order to cause me annoyance!" she exclaimed.

"Not at all. I've only told you what Tubby said."

"Did your friend speak to Mr. Henfrey?"

"I think not. But I really didn't inquire," Sherrard replied, not
failing, however, to note how puzzled she was.

Lady Ranscomb was already assuring him that the girl's affection for the
absconding Henfrey would, sooner or later, fade out. More than once he
and she had held consultation concerning the proposed marriage, and more
than once Sherrard had been on the point of withdrawing from the contest
for the young girl's heart. But her mother was never tired of bidding
him be patient, and saying that in the end he would obtain his desire.

Sherrard, however, little dreamed how great was Dorise's love for
Hugh, and how deeply she regretted having written that hasty letter to
Shapley.

Yet one of Hugh's friends had met him in Madrid in company with what was
described as a pretty young French girl!

What was the secret of it all? Was Hugh really guilty of the attempt
upon the notorious Mademoiselle? If not, why did he not face the charge
like a man?

Such were her thoughts when, an hour later, her mother's car took her
out to Kensington to lunch with her old school friend who was on the
point of being married to a man who had won great distinction in the Air
Force, and whose portrait was almost daily in the papers.

Would she ever marry Hugh, she wondered, as she sat gazing blankly out
upon the London traffic. She would write to him, but, alas! she knew
neither the name under which he was going, nor his address.

And a telephone message to Mr. Peters's house had been answered to the
effect that the man whose hand was gloved was abroad, and the date of
his return uncertain.




TWENTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

THE SPARROW'S NEST

Mademoiselle Lisette met her two guests at Vian's small but exclusive
restaurant in the Rue Daunou, and all three had a merry meal together.
Afterwards The Sparrow smoked a good cigar and became amused at the
young girl's chatter.

She was a sprightly little person, and had effectively brought off
several highly successful coups. Before leaving his cosy flat in the Rue
des Petits Champs, The Sparrow had sat for an hour calmly reviewing
the situation in the light of what Lisette had told him and of Hugh's
exciting adventure on the Arles road.

That he had successfully escaped from a very clever trap was plain, but
who was the traitor? Who, indeed, had fired that shot which, failing to
kill Yvonne, had unbalanced her brain so that no attention could be paid
to her wandering remarks?

He had that morning been on the point of trying to get into touch with
his friend Howell, but after Lisette's disclosures, he was very glad
that he had not done so. His master-mind worked quickly. He could sum up
a situation and act almost instantly where other men would be inclined
to waver. But when The Sparrow arrived at a decision it was unalterable.
All his associates knew that too well. Some of them called him stubborn,
but they had to agree that he was invariably right in his suspicions and
conclusions.

He had debated whether he should tell Hugh what Lisette had alleged
concerning the forgery of his father's will, but had decided to keep the
matter to himself and see what further proof he could obtain. Therefore
he had forbidden the girl to tell Henfrey anything, for, after all, it
was quite likely that her statements could not be substantiated.

After their coffee all three returned to the Rue des Petits Champs where
Lisette, merry and full of vivacity, joined them in a cigarette.

The Sparrow had been preoccupied and thoughtful the whole evening. But
at last, as they sat together, he said:

"We shall all three go south to-morrow--to Nice direct."

"To Nice!" exclaimed Lisette. "It is hardly safe--is it?"

"Yes. You will leave by the midday train from the Gare de Lyon--and go
to Madame Odette's in the boulevard Gambetta. I may want you. We shall
follow by the _train-de-luxe_. It is best that Mr. Henfrey is out of
Paris. The Surete will certainly be searching for him."

Then, turning to Hugh, he told him that he had better remain his guest
that night, and in the morning he would buy him another suit, hat and
coat.

"There will not be so much risk in Nice as here in Paris," he added.
"After all, we ought not to have ventured out to Vian's."

Later he sat down, and after referring to a pocket-book containing
certain entries, he scribbled four cryptic telegrams which were,
apparently, Bourse quotations, but when read by their addressees were of
quite a different character.

He went out and himself dispatched these from the office of the Grand
Hotel. He never entrusted his telegrams of instructions to others.

When he returned ten minutes later he took up _Le Soir_, and searching
it eagerly, suddenly exclaimed:

"Ah! Here it is! Manfield has been successful and got away all right
with the German countess's trinkets!"

And with a laugh he handed the paper to Lisette, who read aloud an
account of a daring robbery in one of the best hotels in Cologne--jewels
valued at a hundred thousand marks having mysteriously disappeared.
International thieves were suspected, but the Cologne police had no
clue.

"M'sieur Manfield is always extremely shrewd. He is such a real ladies'
man," laughed Lisette, using some of the _argot_ of the Montmartre.

"Yes. Do you recollect that American, Lindsay--with whom you had
something to do?"

"Oh, yes, I remember. I was in London and we went out to dinner together
quite a lot. Manfield was with me and we got from his dispatch-box the
papers concerning that oil well at Baku. The company was started later
on in Chicago, and only two months ago I received my dividend."

"Teddy Manfield is a very good friend," declared the man with the gloved
hand. "Birth and education always count, even in these days. To any
ex-service man I hold out my hand as the unit who saved us from becoming
a German colony. But do others? I make war upon those who have profited
by war. I have never attacked those who have remained honest during the
great struggle. In the case of dog-eat-dog I place myself on the side of
the worker and the misled patriot--not only in Britain, but in all
the countries of the Allies. If members of the Allied Governments are
profiteers what can the man-in-the-street expect of the poor little
scraping-up tradesman oppressed by taxation and bewildered by waste? But
there!" he added, "I am no politician! My only object is to solve the
mystery of who shot poor Mademoiselle Yvonne."

The pretty decoy of the great association of _escrocs_ smoked another
cigarette, and gazed into the young man's face. Sometimes she shuddered
when she reflected upon all she knew concerning his father's unfortunate
end, and of the cleverly concocted will by which he was to marry Louise
Lambert, and afterwards enjoy but a short career.

Fate had made Lisette what she was--a child of fortune. Her own life
would, if written, form a strange and sensational narrative. For she had
been implicated in a number of great robberies which had startled the
world.

She knew much of the truth of the Henfrey affair, and she had now
decided to assist Hugh to vanquish those whose intentions were
distinctly evil.

At last she rose and wished them _bon soir_.

"I shall leave the Gare de Lyon at eleven fifty-eight to-morrow, and go
direct to Madame Odette's in Nice," she said.

"Yes. Remain there. If I want you I will let you know," answered The
Sparrow.

And then she descended the stairs and walked to her hotel.

Next evening Hugh and The Sparrow, both dressed quite differently, left
by the Riviera _train-de-luxe_. As The Sparrow lay that night in the
_wagon-lit_ he tried to sleep, but the roar and rattle of the train
prevented it. Therefore he calmly thought out a complete and deliberate
plan.

From one of his friends in London he had had secret warning that the
police, on the day he left Charing Cross, had descended upon Shapley
Manor and had arrested Mrs. Bond under a warrant applied for by the
French police, and he also knew that her extradition for trial in Paris
had been granted.

That there was a traitor in the camp was proved, but happily Hugh
Henfrey had escaped just in time.

For himself The Sparrow cared little. He seemed to be immune from
arrest, so cleverly did he disguise his true identity; yet now that
some person had revealed his secrets, what more likely than the person,
whoever it was, would also give him away for the sake of the big reward
which he knew was offered for his apprehension.

Before leaving Paris that evening he had dispatched a telegram, a reply
to which was handed him in the train when it stopped at Lyons early next
morning.

This decided him. He sent another telegram and then returned to where
Hugh was lying half awake. When they stopped at Marseilles, both men
were careful not to leave the train, but continued in it, arriving at
the great station of Nice in the early afternoon.

They left their bags at a small hotel just outside the station, and
taking a cab, they drove away into the old town. Afterwards they
proceeded on foot to the Rue Rossetti, where they climbed to the flat
occupied by old Giulio Cataldi.

The old fellow was out, but the elderly Italian woman who kept house
for him said she expected him back at any moment. He was due to come off
duty at the cafe where he was employed.

So Hugh and his companion waited, examining the poorly-furnished little
room.

Now The Sparrow entertained a strong suspicion that Cataldi knew more
of the tragedy at the Villa Amette than anyone else. Indeed, of late, it
had more than once crossed his mind that he might be the actual culprit.

At last the door opened and the old man entered, surprised to find
himself in the presence of the master criminal, The Sparrow, whom he had
only met once before.

He greeted his visitors rather timidly.

After a short chat The Sparrow, who had offered the old man a cigarette
from a cheap plated case much worn, began to make certain inquiries.

"This is a very serious and confidential affair, Cataldi," he said. "I
want to know the absolute truth--and I must have it."

"I know it is serious, signore," replied the old man, much perturbed by
the unexpected visit of the king of the underworld, the elusive Sparrow
of whom everyone spoke in awe. "But I only know one or two facts. I
recognize Signor Henfrey."

"Ah! Then you know me!" exclaimed Hugh. "You recognized me on that night
at the Villa Amette, when you opened the door to me."

"I do, signore. I recollect everything. It is all photographed upon my
memory. Poor Mademoiselle! You questioned her--as a gentleman
would--and you demanded to know about your father's death. She
prevaricated--and----"

"Then you overheard it?" said Hugh.

"Yes, I listened. Was I not Mademoiselle's servant? On that night she
had won quite a large sum at the Rooms, and she had given me--ah! she
was always most generous--five hundred francs--twenty pounds in your
English money. And they were acceptable in these days of high prices.
I heard much. I was interested. Mademoiselle was my mistress whom I had
served faithfully."

"You wondered why this young Englishman should call upon her at that
hour?" said The Sparrow.

"I did. She never received visitors after her five o'clock tea. It was
the habit at the Villa Amette to lunch at one o'clock, English tea at
five o'clock, and dinner at eight--when the Rooms were slack save for
the tourists from seven till ten. Strange! The tourists always think
they can win while the gambling world has gone to its meals! They get
seats, it is true, but they always lose."

"Yes," replied The Sparrow. "It is a strange fact that the greatest
losses are sustained by the players when the Rooms are most empty.
Nobody has yet ever been able to account for it."

"And yet it is so," declared old Cataldi. "I have watched it day by day.
But poor Mademoiselle! What can we do to solve the mystery?"

"Were you not with Mademoiselle and Mr. Benton when you both brought off
that great coup in the Avenue Louise, in Brussels?" asked The Sparrow.

"Yes, signore," said the old man. "But I do not wish to speak of it
now."

"Quite naturally. I quite appreciate it. Since
Mademoiselle's--er--accident you have, I suppose, been leading an honest
life?"

"Yes. I have tried to do so. At present I am a cafe waiter."

"And you can tell me nothing further regarding the affair at the Villa
Amette?" asked The Sparrow, eyeing him narrowly.

"I regret, signore, I can tell you nothing further," replied the staid,
rather sad-looking old man; "nothing." And he sighed.

"Why?" asked the man whose tentacles were, like an octopus, upon a
hundred schemes, and as many criminal coups in Europe. He sought a
solution of the problem, but nothing appeared forthcoming.

He had strained every effort, but he could ascertain nothing.

That Cataldi knew the key to the whole problem The Sparrow felt assured.
Yet why did not the old fellow tell the truth?

At last The Sparrow rose and left, and Hugh followed him. Both were
bitterly disappointed. The old man refused to say more than that he was
ignorant of the whole affair.

Cataldi's attitude annoyed the master criminal.

For three days he remained in Nice with Hugh, at great risk of
recognition and arrest.

On the fourth day they went together in a hired car along the winding
road across the Var to Cannes.

At a big white villa a little distance outside the pretty winter town of
flowers and palms, they halted. The house, which was on the Frejus road,
was once the residence of a Russian prince.

With The Sparrow Hugh was ushered into a big, sunny room overlooking the
beautiful garden where climbing geraniums ran riot with carnations and
violets, and for some minutes they waited. From the windows spread a
wide view of the calm sapphire sea.

Then suddenly the door opened.




TWENTY-NINTH CHAPTER

THE STORY OF MADEMOISELLE

Both men turned and before them they saw the plainly dressed figure of a
beautiful woman, and behind her an elderly, grey-faced man.

For a few seconds the woman stared at The Sparrow blankly. Then she
turned her gaze upon Hugh.

Her lips parted. Suddenly she gave vent to a loud cry, almost of pain,
and placing both hands to her head, gasped:

_"Dieu!"_

It was Yvonne Ferad. And the cry was one of recognition.

Hugh dashed forward with the doctor, for she was on the point of
collapse at recognizing them. But in a few seconds she recovered
herself, though she was deathly pale and much agitated.

"Yvonne!" exclaimed The Sparrow in a low, kindly voice. "Then you know
who we really are? Your reason has returned?"

"Yes," she answered in French. "I remember who you are. Ah! But--but
it is all so strange!" she cried wildly. "I--I--I can't think! At last!
Yes. I know. I recollect! You!" And she stared at Hugh. "You--you are
_Monsieur Henfrey_!"

"That is so, mademoiselle."

"Ah, messieurs," remarked the elderly doctor, who was standing behind
his patient. "She recognized you both--after all! The sudden shock at
seeing you has accomplished what we have failed all these months to
accomplish. It is efficacious only in some few cases. In this it
is successful. But be careful. I beg of you not to overtax poor
mademoiselle's brain with many questions. I will leave you."

And he withdrew, closing the door softly after him.

For a few minutes The Sparrow spoke to Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo about
general things.

"I have been very ill," she said in a low, tremulous voice. "I could
think of nothing since my accident, until now--and now"--and she gazed
around her with a new interest upon her handsome countenance--"and now I
remember!--but it all seems too hazy and indistinct."

"You recollect things--eh?" asked The Sparrow in a kindly voice, placing
his hand upon her shoulder and looking into her tired eyes.

"Yes. I remember. All the past is slowly returning to me. It seems
ages and ages since I last met you, Mr.--Mr. Peters," and she laughed
lightly. "Peters--that is the name?"

"It is, mademoiselle," he laughed. "And it is a happy event that, by
seeing us unexpectedly, your memory has returned. But the reason Mr.
Henfrey is here is to resume that conversation which was so suddenly
interrupted at the Villa Amette."

Mademoiselle was silent for some moments. Her face was averted, for she
was gazing out of the window to the distant sea.

"Do you wish me to reveal to Monsieur Henfrey the--the secret of his
father's death?" she asked of The Sparrow.

"Certainly. You were about to do so when--when the accident happened."

"Yes. But--but, oh!--how can I tell him the actual truth when--when,
alas! I am so guilty?" cried the woman, much distressed.

"No, no, mademoiselle," said Hugh, placing his hand tenderly upon her
shoulder. "Calm yourself. You did not kill my father. Of that I am quite
convinced. Do not distress yourself, but tell me all that you know."

"Mr. Peters knows something of the affair, I believe," she said slowly.
"But he never planned it. The whole plot was concocted by Benton." Then,
turning to Hugh, Mademoiselle said almost in her natural tone, though
slightly high-pitched and nervous:

"Benton, the blackguard, was your father's friend at Woodthorpe. With
a man named Howell, known also as Shaw, he prepared a will which your
father signed unconsciously, and which provided that in the event of
his death you should be cut off from almost every benefit if you did not
marry Louise Lambert, Benton's adopted daughter."

"But who is Louise actually?" asked Hugh interrupting.

"The real daughter of Benton, who has made pretence of adopting her. Of
course Louise is unaware of that fact," Yvonne replied.

Hugh was much surprised at this. But he now saw the reason why Mrs. Bond
was so solicitous of the poor girl's welfare.

"Now I happened to be in London, and on one of your father's visits to
town, Benton, his friend, introduced us. Naturally I had no knowledge of
the plot which Benton and Howell had formed, and finding your father
a very agreeable gentleman, I invited him to the furnished flat I had
taken at Queen's Gate. I went to the theatre with him on two occasions,
Benton accompanying us, and then your father returned to the country.
One day, about two months later Howell happened to be in London, and
presumably they decided that the plot was ripe for execution, for they
asked me to write to Mr. Henfrey at Woodthorpe, and suggest that he
should come to London, have an early supper with us, and go to a big
charity ball at the Albert Hall. In due course I received a wire from
Mr. Henfrey, who came to London, had supper with me, Benton and Howell
being also present, while Howell's small closed car, which he always
drove himself, was waiting outside to take us to the ball."

Then she paused and drew a long breath, as though the recollection of
that night horrified her--as indeed it did.

"After supper I rose and left the room to speak to my servant for a
moment, when, just as I re-entered, I saw Howell, who was standing
behind Mr. Henfrey's chair, suddenly bend, place his left arm around
your father's neck, and with his right hand press on the nape of the
neck just above his collar. 'Here!' your father cried out, thinking it
was a joke, 'what's the game?' But the last word was scarcely audible,
for he collapsed across the table. I stood there aghast. Howell,
suddenly noticing me, told me roughly to clear out, as I was not wanted.
I demanded to know what had happened, but I was told that it did not
concern me. My idea was that Mr. Henfrey had been drugged, for he was
still alive and apparently dazed. I afterwards heard, however, that
Howell had pressed the needle of a hypodermic syringe containing a newly
discovered and untraceable poison which he had obtained in secret from a
certain chemist in Frankfort, who makes a speciality of such things."

"And what happened then?" asked Hugh, aghast and astounded at the story.

"Benton and Howell sent me out of the room. They waited for over an
hour. Then Howell went down to the car. Afterwards, when all was clear,
they half carried poor Mr. Henfrey downstairs, placed him in the car,
and drove away. Next day I heard that my guest had been found by a
constable in a doorway in Albemarle Street. The officer, who first
thought he was intoxicated, later took him to St. George's Hospital,
where he died. Afterwards a scratch was found on the palm of his hand,
and the doctors believed it had been caused by a pin infected with some
poison. The truth was, however, that his hand was scratched in opening
a bottle of champagne at supper. The doctors never suspected the tiny
puncture in the hair at the nape of the neck, and they never discovered
it."

"I knew nothing of the affair," declared The Sparrow, his face clouded
by anger. "Then Howell was the actual murderer?"

"He was," Yvonne replied. "I saw him press the needle into Mr. Henfrey's
neck, while Benton stood by, ready to seize the victim if he resisted.
Benton and Howell had agreed to kill Mr. Henfrey, compel his son to
marry Louise, and then get Hugh out of the world by one or other of
their devilish schemes. Ah!" she sighed, looking sadly before her. "I
see it all now--everything."

"Then it was arranged that after I had married Louise I should also meet
with an unexpected end?"

"Yes. One that should discredit you in the eyes of your wife and your
own friends--an end probably like your father's. A secret visit to
London, and a mysterious death," Mademoiselle replied.

She spoke quite calmly and rationally. The shock of suddenly
encountering the two persons who had been uppermost in her thoughts
before those terrible injuries to her brain had balanced it again.
Though the pains in her head were excruciating, as she explained, yet
she could now think, and she remembered all the bitterness of the past.

"You, M'sieur Henfrey, are the son of my dead friend. You have been the
victim of a great and dastardly conspiracy," she said. "But I ask your
forgiveness, for I assure you that when I invited your father up from
Woodthorpe I had no idea whatever of what those assassins intended."

"Benton is already under arrest for another affair," broke in The
Sparrow quietly. "I heard so from London yesterday."

"Ah! And I hope that Howell will also be punished for his crime," the
handsome woman cried. "Though I have been a thief, a swindler, and a
decoy--ah! yes, I admit it all--I have never committed the crime of
murder. I know, messieurs," she went on--"I know that I am a social
outcast, the mysterious Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, they call me! But
I have suffered. I have indeed in these past months paid my debt to
Society, and of you, Mr. Henfrey, I beg forgiveness."

"I forgive you, Mademoiselle," Hugh replied, grasping her slim, white
hand.

"Mademoiselle will, I hope, meet Miss Ranscomb, Mr. Henfrey's fiancee,
and tell her the whole truth," said The Sparrow.

"That I certainly will," Yvonne replied. "Now that I can think I shall
be allowed to leave this place--eh?"

"Of course. I will see after that," said the man known as Mr. Peters.
"You must return to the Villa Amette--for you are still Mademoiselle of
Monte Carlo, remember! Leave it all to me." And he laughed happily.

"But we are no nearer the solution of the mystery as to who attempted to
kill you, Mademoiselle," Hugh remarked.

"There can be but one person. Old Cataldi knows who it is," she
answered.

"Cataldi? Then why has he not told me? I questioned him closely only the
other day," said The Sparrow.

"For certain reasons," Mademoiselle replied. "He _dare_ not tell the
truth!"

"Why?" asked Hugh.

"Because--well----" and she turned to The Sparrow. "You will recollect
the affair we brought off in Brussels at that house of the Belgian
baroness close to the Bois de la Cambre. A servant was shot dead. Giulio
Cataldi shot him in self-defence. But Howell knows of it."

"Well?" asked The Sparrow.

"Howell was in Monte Carlo on the night of the attempt upon me. I met
him in the Casino half an hour before I left to walk home. He no doubt
recognized Mr. Henfrey, who was also there, as the son of the man
whom he had murdered, watched him, and followed him up to my villa.
He suspected that Mr. Henfrey's object was to face me and demand an
explanation."

"Do you really think so?" gasped Hugh.

"Of that I feel positive. Only Cataldi can prove it."

"Why Cataldi?" inquired Hugh.

"See him again and tell him what I have revealed to you," answered
Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo.

"Who was it who warned me against you by that letter posted in Tours?"

"It was part of Howell's scheme, no doubt. I have no idea of the
identity of the writer of any anonymous letter. But Howell, no doubt,
saw that if he rid himself of me it would be to his great advantage."

"Then Cataldi will not speak the truth because he fears Howell?"
remarked the notorious chief of Europe's underworld.

"Exactly. Now that I can think, I can piece the whole puzzle together.
It is all quite plain. Do you not recollect Howell's curious rifle
fashioned in the form of a walking-stick? When I halted to speak to
Madame Beranger on the steps of the Casino as I came out that night, he
passed me carrying that stick. Indeed, he is seldom without it. By means
of that disguised rifle I was shot!"

"But you speak of Cataldi. How can he know?"

"When I entered the house I told him quickly that I believed Howell was
following me. I ordered him to watch. This no doubt he did. He has ever
been faithful to me."

"Buy why should Howell have attempted to fix his guilt upon Mr.
Henfrey?" asked The Sparrow. "In doing so he was defeating his own aims.
If Mr. Henfrey were sent to prison he could not marry Louise Lambert,
and if he had married Louise he would have benefited Howell! Therefore
the whole plot was nullified."

"Exactly, m'sieur. Howell attempted to kill me in order to preserve his
secret, fearing that if I told Mr. Henfrey the truth he would inform the
police of the circumstances of his father's assassination. In making the
attempt he defeated his own ends--a fact which he only realized when too
late!"




CONCLUSION

The foregoing is perhaps one of the most remarkable stories of the
underworld of Europe.

Its details are set down in full in three big portfolios in the archives
of the Surete in Paris--where the present writer has had access to them.

In that bald official narrative which is docketed under the heading
"No. 23489/263--Henfrey" there is no mention of the love affair between
Dorise Ranscomb and Hugh Henfrey of Woodthorpe.

But the true facts are that within three days of Mademoiselle's recovery
of her mental balance, old Giulio Cataldi made a sworn statement to the
police at Nice, and in consequence two gendarmes of the Department of
Seine et Oise went one night to a small hotel at Provins, where they
arrested the Englishman, Shaw, alias Howell, who had gone there in what
he thought was safe hiding.

The arrest took place at midnight, but Howell, on being cornered in his
bedroom, showed fight, and raising an automatic pistol, which he had
under his pillow, shot and wounded one of the gendarmes. Whereupon his
companion drew his revolver in self-defence and shot the Englishman
dead.

Benton, a few months later, was sentenced to forced labour for fifteen
years, while his accomplice, Molly Bond, received a sentence of ten
years. Only one case--that of jewel robbery--was, however, proved
against her.

Dorise, about six weeks after Mademoiselle Yvonne's explanation, met
her in London, and there she and Hugh became reconciled. Her jealousy
of Louise Lambert disappeared when she knew the actual truth, and she
admired her lover all the more for his generosity in promising, when
the Probate Court had set aside the false will, that he would settle a
comfortable income upon the poor innocent girl.

This, indeed, he did.

The Sparrow has never since been traced, though Scotland Yard and the
Surete have searched everywhere for him. But he is far too clever. The
writer believes he is now living in obscurity, but perfectly happy, in a
little village outside Barcelona. He loves the sunshine.

As for Hugh, he is now happily married to Dorise, and as the Probate
Court has decided that Woodthorpe and the substantial income are his, he
is enjoying all his father's wealth.

Yvonne Ferad is still Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo. She still lives on
the hill in the picturesque Villa Amette, and is still known to the
habitues of the Rooms as--Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo.

On most nights in spring she can be seen at the Rooms, and those who
know the truth tell the queer story which I have in the foregoing pages
attempted to relate.





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