Part 2 out of 6
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
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
"Yvonne is evidently keeping a good watch upon young Hugh," remarked
Benton presently, as he blew a ring of cigarette smoke towards the
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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.
FACING THE UNKNOWN
That the police were convinced that Hugh Henfrey had shot Mademoiselle
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
"Let's walk out of the town," he suggested to the girl. "I'm tired of
"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
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."
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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,
"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
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
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
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
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
Hugh Henfrey was going forth to face the unknown.
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
Again, who was his unknown friend who had warned him of his peril and
made those elaborate arrangements for his escape? Besides, where was
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
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
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
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:
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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."
"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
"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!"
"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
"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
"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
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
What could it all mean? What, indeed?
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
"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
"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
"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
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,
"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
"Yes," he muttered in English beneath his breath. "That's she--without
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
"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
"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?"
"I expected him to come with us to-night, but he has vanished from his
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
It was indeed refreshing after that long night drive.
Hugh stood there without luggage, and with only about thirty pounds in
Suddenly the man who had driven him looked him curiously in the face,
"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."
"Who has told her? Surely she knows nothing of the affair at the Villa
"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
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-
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
"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,"
"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
"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
"But I am endeavouring to find out something about her. To me she is a
"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
"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
"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,
"I see! Your expressions are a kind of cipher, unintelligible to the
"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
"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----"
"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