“You’ll be quite safe here, you know, Hugh. Don’t worry. I’m truly sorry that you have landed yourself into this hole, but—well, for the life of me I can’t see what led you to seek out that woman, Yvonne Ferad. Why ever did you go there?”
“I—I had reasons—private reasons of my own,” he replied.
“That’s vague enough. We all have private reasons for doing silly things, and it seems that you did an exceptionally silly thing. I hear that Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, after the doctors operated upon her brain, has now become a hopeless idiot.”
“So I’ve been told. It is all so very sad—so horrible. Though people have denounced her as an adventuress, yet I know that at heart she is a real good woman.”
“Is she? How do you know?” asked Benton quickly, for instantly he was on the alert.
“I know. And that is all.”
“But tell me, Hugh—tell me in confidence, my boy—what led you to seek her that night. You must have followed her from the Casino and have seen her enter the Villa. Then you rang at the door and asked to see her?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I had my own reasons.”
“Can’t you tell them to me, Hugh?” asked the tall man in a strange, low voice. “Remember, I am an old friend of your father. And I am still your best friend.”
Hugh pursued his walk in silence.
“No,” he said at last, “I prefer not to discuss the affair. That night is one full of painful memories.”
“Very well,” answered Benton shortly. “If you don’t want to tell me, Hugh, I quite understand. That’s enough. Have another cigarette,” and he handed the young fellow his heavy gold case.
A week passed. Hugh Henfrey and Charles Benton greatly enjoyed their stay at Shapley Manor. With their hostess they motored almost daily to many points of interest in the neighbourhood, never, by the way, descending into the town of Guildford, where the police were so unusually alert and shrewd.
More than once when alone with Benton, Hugh felt impelled to refer to the mysterious death of his father, but it was a very painful subject. The last time Hugh had referred to it, about a month before his visit to Monte Carlo, Benton had been greatly upset, and had begged the young man not to mention the tragic affair.
Constantly, however, Benton, on his part, would put cunning questions to him concerning Yvonne Ferad, as to what he knew concerning her, and how he had managed to escape over the frontier into Italy.
Late one night as they sat together in the billiard-room after their final game, Benton, removing the cigar from his lips, exclaimed:
“Oh! I quite forgot to tell you, Mrs. Bond has been awfully good to Louise. She took her from Paris with her and they went quite a long tour, first to Spain and other places, and then to New York and back.”
“Has she?” exclaimed Hugh in surprise. Only once before had Benton mentioned Louise’s name, then he had casually remarked that she was on a visit to some friends in Yorkshire.