Read TWENTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER - THE INQUISITIVE MR. SHRIMPTON of Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, free online book, by William Le Queux, on ReadCentral.com.

An hour later Hugh stood in The Sparrow’s room, and related his exciting adventure in Marseilles and on the high road.

“H’m!” remarked the man with the gloved hand.  “A very pretty piece of business.  The police endeavoured to mislead you, and you, by a very fortunate circumstance, suspected.  That cigarette, my dear young friend, stood you in very good stead.  It was fortunate that I gave it to you.”

“By this time the driver of the car has, of course, recovered and told his story,” Hugh remarked.

“And by this time the police probably know that you have come to Paris,” remarked The Sparrow.  “Now, Mr. Henfrey, only an hour ago I learnt something which has altered my plans entirely.  There is a traitor somewhere ­somebody has given you away.”

“Who?”

“At present I have not decided.  But we must all be wary and watchful,” was The Sparrow’s reply.  “In any case, it is a happy circumstance that you saw through the ruse of the police to get you to Cette.  First the Madrid police were put upon your track, and then, as you eluded them, the Marseilles police were given timely information ­a clever trap,” he laughed.  “I admire it.  But at Marseilles they are even more shrewd than in Paris.  Maillot, the chef de la Sûreté at Marseilles, is a really capable official.  I know him well.  A year ago he dined with me at the Palais de la Bouillabaisse.  I pretended that I had been the victim of a great theft, and he accepted my invitation.  He little dreamed that I was Il Passero, for whom he had been spreading the net for years!”

“You are really marvellous, Mr. Peters,” remarked Hugh.  “And I have to thank you for the way in which you have protected me time after time.  Your organization is simply wonderful.”

The man with the black glove laughed.

“Nothing really wonderful,” he said.  “Those who are innocent I protect, those who are traitors I condemn.  And they never escape me.  We have traitors at work now.  It is for me to fix the identity.  And in this you, Mr. Henfrey, must help me.  Have you heard from Miss Ranscomb?”

“No.  Not a word,” replied the young man.  “I dare not write to her.”

“No, don’t.  A man from Scotland Yard went to see her.  So it is best to remain apart ­my dear boy ­even though that unfortunate misunderstanding concerning Louise Lambert has arisen between you.”

“But I am anxious to put it right,” the young fellow said.  “Dorise misjudges me.”

“Ah!  I know.  But at present you must allow her to think ill of you.  You must not court arrest.  We now know that you have enemies who intend you to be the victim, while they reap the profit,” said The Sparrow kindly.  “Leave matters to me and act at my suggestion.”

“That I certainly will,” Hugh replied.  “You have never yet advised me wrongly.”

“Ah!  I am not infallible,” laughed the master criminal.

Then he rose, and crossing to the telephone, he inquired for the Grand Hotel.  After a few minutes he spoke to Mademoiselle Lisette, telling her that she need not go to Marseilles, and asking her to call upon him again at nine o’clock that night.

“Monsieur Hugh has returned from the south,” he added.  “He is anxious to see you again.”

Très bien, m’sieur,” answered the smart Parisienne.  “I will be there.  But will you not dine with me ­eh?  At Vian’s at seven.  You know the place.”

“Mademoiselle Lisette asks us to dine with her at Vian’s,” The Sparrow said, turning to Hugh.

“Yes, I shall be delighted,” replied the young man.

So The Sparrow accepted the girl’s invitation.

On that same morning, Dorise Ranscomb had, after breakfast, settled herself to write some letters.  Her mother had gone to Warwickshire for the week-end, and she was alone with the maids.

The whole matter concerning Hugh puzzled her.  She could not bring herself to a decision as to his innocence or his guilt.

As she sat writing in the morning-room, the maid announced that Mr. Shrimpton wished to see her.

She started at the name.  It was the detective inspector from Scotland Yard who had called upon her on a previous occasion.

A few moments afterwards he was shown in, a tall figure in a rough tweed suit.

“I really must apologize, Miss Ranscomb, for disturbing you, but I have heard news of Mr. Henfrey.  He has been in Marseilles.  Have you heard from him?”

“Not a word,” the girl replied.  “And, Mr. Shrimpton, I am growing very concerned.  I really can’t think that he tried to kill the young Frenchwoman.  Why should he?”

“Well, because she had connived at his father’s death.  That seems to be proved.”

“Then your theory is that it was an act of vengeance?”

“Exactly, Miss Ranscomb.  That is our opinion, and a warrant being out for his arrest both in France and in England, we are doing all we can to get him.”

“But are you certain?” asked the girl, much distressed.  “After all, though on the face of things it seems that there is a distinct motive, I do not think that Hugh would be guilty of such a thing.”

“Naturally.  Forgive me for saying so, miss, but I quite appreciate your point of view.  If I were in your place I should regard the matter in just the same light.  I, however, wondered whether you had heard news of him during the last day or two.”

“No.  I have heard nothing.”

“And,” he said, “I suppose if you did hear, you would not tell me?”

“That is my own affair, Mr. Shrimpton,” she replied resentfully.  “If you desire to arrest Mr. Henfrey it is your own affair.  Why do you ask me to assist you?”

“In the interests of justice,” was the inspector’s reply.

“Well,” said the girl, very promptly, “I tell you at once that I refuse to assist you in your endeavour to arrest Mr. Henfrey.  Whether he is guilty or not guilty I have not yet decided.”

“But he must be guilty.  There was the motive.  He shot the woman who had enticed his father to his death.”

“And how have you ascertained that?”

“By logical deduction.”

“Then you are trying to convict Mr. Henfrey upon circumstantial evidence alone?”

“Others have gone to the gallows on circumstantial evidence ­Crippen, for instance.  There was no actual witness of his crime.”

“I fear I must allow you to continue your investigations, Mr. Shrimpton,” she said coldly.

“But your lover has deceived you.  He was staying down in Surrey with the girl, Miss Lambert, as his fellow-guest.”

“I know that,” was Dorise’s reply.  “But I have since come to the conclusion that my surmise ­my jealousy if you like to call it so ­is unfounded.”

“Ah! then you refuse to assist justice?”

“No, I do not.  But knowing nothing of the circumstances I do not see how I can assist you.”

“But no doubt you know that Mr. Henfrey evaded us and went away ­that he was assisted by a man whom we know as The Sparrow.”

“I do not know where he is,” replied the girl with truth.

“But you know The Sparrow,” said the detective.  “You admitted that you had met him when I last called here.”

“I have met him,” she replied.

“Where does he live?”

She smiled, recollecting that even though she had quarrelled with Hugh, the strange old fellow had been his best friend.  She remembered how the White Cavalier had been sent by him with messages to reassure her.

“I refuse to give away the secrets of my friends,” she responded a trifle haughtily.

“Then you prefer to shield the master criminal of Europe?”

“I have no knowledge that The Sparrow is a criminal.”

“Ask the police of any city in Europe.  They will tell you that they have for years been endeavouring to capture Il Passero.  Yet so cleverly is his gang organized that never once has he been betrayed.  All his friends are so loyal to him.”

“Yet you want me to betray him!”

“You are not a member of the gang of criminals, Miss Ranscomb,” replied Shrimpton.

“Whether I am or not, I refuse to say a word concerning anyone who has been of service to me,” was her stubborn reply.  And with that the man from the Criminal Investigation Department had to be content.

Even then, Dorise was not quite certain whether she had misjudged the man who loved her so well, but who was beneath a cloud.  She had acted hastily in writing that letter, she felt.  Yet she had successfully warned him of his peril, and he had been able to extricate himself from the net spread for him.

It was evident that The Sparrow, who was her friend and Hugh’s, was a most elusive person.

She recollected the White Cavalier at the ball at Nice, and how she had never suspected him to be the deputy of the King of the Underworld ­the man whose one hand was gloved.

Within half an hour of the departure of her visitor from Scotland Yard, the maid announced Mr. Sherrard.

Dorise, with a frown, arose from her chair, and a few seconds later faced the man who was her mother’s intimate friend, and who daily forced his unwelcome attentions upon her.

“Your mother told me you would be alone, Dorise,” he said in his forced manner of affected elegance.  “So I just dropped in.  I hope I’m not worrying you.”

“Oh! not at all,” replied the girl, sealing a letter which she had just written.  “Mother has gone to Warwickshire, and I’m going out to lunch with May Petheridge, an old schoolfellow of mine.”

“Oh!  Then I won’t keep you,” said the smug lover of Lady Ranscomb’s choice.  He was one of those over-dressed fops who haunted the lounges of the Ritz and the Carlton, and who scraped acquaintance with anybody with a title.  At tea parties he would refer to Lord This and Lady That as intimate friends, whereas he had only been introduced to them by some fat wife of a fatter profiteer.

Sherrard saw that Dorise’s attitude was one of hostility, but with his superior overbearing manner he pretended not to notice it.

“You were not at Lady Oundle’s the night before last,” he remarked, for want of something better to say.  “I went there specially to meet you, Dorise.”

“I hate Lady Oundle’s dances,” was the girl’s reply.  “Such a lot of fearful old fogies go there.”

“True, but a lot of your mother’s friends are in her set.”

“I know.  But mother always avoids going to her dances if she possibly can.  We had a good excuse to be away, as mother was packing.”

“Elise was there,” he remarked.

“And you danced with her, of course.  She’s such a ripping dancer.”

“Twice.  When I found you were not there I went on to the club,” he replied, with his usual air of boredom.  “When do you expect your mother back?”

“Next Tuesday.  I’m going down to Huntingdon to-morrow to stay with the Fishers.”

“Oh! by the way,” he remarked suddenly.  “Tubby Hall, who is just back from Madrid, told me in the club last night that he’d seen your friend Henfrey in a restaurant there with a pretty French girl.”

“In Madrid!” echoed Dorise, for she had no idea of her lover’s whereabouts.  “He must have been mistaken surely.”

“No.  Tubby is an old friend of Henfrey’s.  He says that he and the girl seemed to be particularly good friends.”

Dorise hesitated.

“You tell me this in order to cause me annoyance!” she exclaimed.

“Not at all.  I’ve only told you what Tubby said.”

“Did your friend speak to Mr. Henfrey?”

“I think not.  But I really didn’t inquire,” Sherrard replied, not failing, however, to note how puzzled she was.

Lady Ranscomb was already assuring him that the girl’s affection for the absconding Henfrey would, sooner or later, fade out.  More than once he and she had held consultation concerning the proposed marriage, and more than once Sherrard had been on the point of withdrawing from the contest for the young girl’s heart.  But her mother was never tired of bidding him be patient, and saying that in the end he would obtain his desire.

Sherrard, however, little dreamed how great was Dorise’s love for Hugh, and how deeply she regretted having written that hasty letter to Shapley.

Yet one of Hugh’s friends had met him in Madrid in company with what was described as a pretty young French girl!

What was the secret of it all?  Was Hugh really guilty of the attempt upon the notorious Mademoiselle?  If not, why did he not face the charge like a man?

Such were her thoughts when, an hour later, her mother’s car took her out to Kensington to lunch with her old school friend who was on the point of being married to a man who had won great distinction in the Air Force, and whose portrait was almost daily in the papers.

Would she ever marry Hugh, she wondered, as she sat gazing blankly out upon the London traffic.  She would write to him, but, alas! she knew neither the name under which he was going, nor his address.

And a telephone message to Mr. Peters’s house had been answered to the effect that the man whose hand was gloved was abroad, and the date of his return uncertain.