Read TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER - WHAT LISETTE KNEW of Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, free online book, by William Le Queux, on ReadCentral.com.

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 façade of the Ministerio de la Gobernación (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.