On every hand there were whispers and wild reports concerning the tragedy at the Villa Amette. He had heard about it from a dozen people, though not a word was in the papers. Yet nobody dreamed that he, of all men, had been present when the mysterious shot was fired, or that he was, indeed, the cause of the secret attack.
He dressed slowly, and having done so, descended to the salle a manger. The big white room was filled with a gay, reckless cosmopolitan crowd—the crowd of well-dressed moths of both sexes which eternally flutters at night at Monte Carlo, attracted by the candle held by the great god Hazard.
Brock was not there, and he seated himself alone at their table near the long-curtained window. He was surprised at his friend’s absence. Perhaps, however, he had met friends and gone over to Beaulieu, Nice, or Mentone with them.
He had but little appetite. He ate a small portion of langouste with an exquisite salad, and drank a single glass of chablis. Then he rose and quitted the chattering, laughing crowd of diners, whose gossip was mainly upon a sensational run on the red at five o’clock that evening. One woman, stout and of Hebrew type, sitting with three men, was wildly merry, for she had won the equivalent to sixty thousand pounds.
All that recklessness jarred upon the young man’s nerves. He tried to close his ears to it all, and ascended again to his room, where he sat in silent despondency till it was time for him to go round to the Metropole to join Lady Ranscomb and Dorise.
He had brushed his hair and rearranged his tie, and was about to put on the pierrot’s costume of white satin with big buttons of black velvet which he had worn at the bal blanc at Mentone about a week before, when the page handed him another note.
Written in a distinctly foreign hand, it read:
“Instantly you receive this get into a travelling-suit and put what money and valuables you have into your pockets. Then go to a dark-green car which will await you by the reservoir in the Boulevard du Midi. Trust the driver. You must get over the frontier into Italy at the earliest moment. Every second’s delay is dangerous to you. Do not trouble to find out who sends you this warning! Bon voyage!”
Hugh Henfrey read it and re-read it. The truth was plain. The police of Monaco suspected him, and intended that he should be arrested on suspicion of having committed the crime.
But who was his unknown friend?
He stood at the window reflecting. If he did not keep his appointment with Dorise she would reproach him for breaking his word to her. On the other hand, if he motored to Nice he would no doubt be arrested on the French frontier a few miles along the Corniche road.
Inspector Ogier suspected him, hence discretion was the better part of valour. So, after brief consideration, he threw off his dress clothes and assumed a suit of dark tweed. He put his money and a few articles of jewellry in his pockets, and getting into his overcoat he slipped out of the hotel by the back entrance used by the staff.