“I have heard many strange things concerning you from those who have never met you,” Hugh said frankly. “But nothing to your detriment. Everyone speaks of you, sir, as a gallant sportsman, possessed of an almost uncanny cleverness in outwitting the authorities.”
“Oh, well!” laughed the shrewd old man. “By the exercise of a little wit, and the possession of a little knowledge of the personnel of the police, one can usually outwit them. Curious as you may think it, a very high official at Scotland Yard dined with me here only last night. As I am known as a student of criminology, and reputed to be the author of a book upon that subject, he discussed with me the latest crime problem with which he had been called upon to deal—the mysterious murder of a young girl upon the beach on the north-east coast. His frankness rather amused me. It was, indeed, a quaint situation,” he laughed.
“But does he not recognize you, or suspect?” asked Hugh.
“Why should he? I have never been through the hands of the police in my life. Hence I have never been photographed, nor have my finger prints been taken. I merely organize—that is all.”
“Your organization is most wonderful, Mr.—er—Mr. Peters,” declared the young man. “Since my flight I have had opportunity of learning something concerning it. And frankly, I am utterly astounded.”
The old man’s face again relaxed into a sphinx-like smile.
“When I order, I am obeyed,” he said in a curious tone. “I ordered your rescue from that ugly situation in Monte Carlo. You and Miss Ranscomb no doubt believed the tall man who went to the ball at Nice as a cavalier to be myself. He did not tell you anything to the contrary, because I only reveal my identity to persons whom I can trust, and then only in cases of extreme necessity.”
“Then I take it, sir, that you trust me, and that my case is one of extreme necessity?”
“It is,” was The Sparrow’s reply. “At present I can see no solution of the problem. It will be best, perhaps, for you to remain where you are for the present,” he added. He did not tell the young man of his knowledge of Benton and his hostess.
“But I am very desirous of seeing Miss Ranscomb,” Hugh said. “Is there any way possible by which I can meet her without running too great a risk?”
The Sparrow reflected in silence for some moments.
“To-day is Wednesday,” he remarked slowly at last. “Miss Ranscomb is in London. That I happen to know. Well, go to the Bush Hotel, in Farnham, on Friday afternoon and have tea. She will probably motor there and take tea with you.”
“Will she?” cried Hugh eagerly. “Will you arrange it? You are, indeed, a good Samaritan!”
The little old man smiled.
“I quite understand that this enforced parting under such circumstances is most unfortunate for you both,” he said. “But I have done, and will continue to do, all I can in your interest.”