“You are all right, my friend. Get into the back of the car and rest. You will be yourself very quickly.”
And he half dragged the man from his seat and placed him in the back of the car, where he fell inert and unconscious.
The cigarette which The Sparrow had given to Hugh only to be used in case of urgent necessity had certainly done its work. The man, whether friend or enemy, would now remain unconscious for many hours.
Hugh, having settled him in the bottom of the car, placed a rug over him. Then, mounting to the driver’s place, he turned the car and drove as rapidly as he dared back over the roads to Salon.
Time after time, he wondered whether he had been misled; whether, after all, the man who had driven him was actually acting under The Sparrow’s orders. If so, then he had committed a fatal error!
However, the die was cast. He had acted upon his own initiative, and if a net had actually been spread to catch him he had successfully broken through it. He laughed as he thought of the police at Cette awaiting his arrival, and their consternation when hour after hour passed without news of the car from Marseilles.
At Salon he passed half way through the town to cross roads where he had noticed in passing a sign-board which indicated the road to Avignon—the broad high road from Marseilles to Paris.
Already he had made up his mind how to act. He would get to Avignon, and thence by express to Paris. The rapides from Marseilles and the Riviera all stopped at the ancient city of the Popes.
Therefore, being a good motor driver, Hugh started away down the long road which led through the valley to Orgon, and thence direct to Avignon, which came into sight about seven o’clock in the morning.
Before entering the old city of walls and castles Hugh turned into a side road about two miles distant, drove the car to the end, and opening a gate succeeded in getting it some little distance into a wood, where it was well concealed from anyone passing along the road.
Then, descending and ascertaining that the driver was sleeping comfortably from the effects of the strong narcotic, he took his bag and walked into the town.
At the railway station he found the through express from Ventimiglia—the Italian frontier—to Paris would be due in twenty minutes, therefore he purchased a first-class ticket for Paris, and in a short time was taking his morning coffee in the wagon-restaurant on his way to the French capital.
THE MAN CATALDI
On the day that Hugh was travelling in hot haste to Paris, Charles Benton arrived in Nice early in the afternoon.
Leaving the station it was apparent he knew his way about the town, for passing down the Avenue de la Gare, with its row of high eucalyptus trees, to the Place Massena, he plunged into the narrow, rather evil-smelling streets of the old quarter.