Outside, he walked in the darkness along the Boulevard du Nord, past the Turbie station, until he came to the long blank wall behind which lay the reservoir.
At the kerb he saw the dim red rear-light of a car, and almost at the same moment a rough-looking Italian chauffeur approached him.
“Quick, signore!” he whispered excitedly. “Every moment is full of danger. There is a warrant out for your arrest! The police know that you intended to go to Nice and they are watching for you on the Corniche road. But we will try to get into Italy. You are an invalid, remember! You’ll find in the car a few things with which you can make up to look the part. You are an American subject and a cripple, who cannot leave the car when the customs officers search it. Now, signore, let’s be off and trust to our good fortune in getting away. I will tell the officers of the dogana at Ventimiglia a good story—trust me! I haven’t been smuggling backwards and forwards for ten years without knowing the ropes!”
“But where are we going?” asked Hugh bewildered.
“You, signore, are going to prison if we fail on this venture, I fear,” was the rough-looking driver’s reply.
So urged by him Hugh got into the car, and then they drove swiftly along the sea-road of the littoral towards the rugged Italian frontier.
Hugh Henfrey was going forth to face the unknown.
FROM DARK TO DAWN
In the darkness the car went swiftly through Mentone and along the steep winding road which leads around the rugged coast close to the sea—the road over the yellow rocks which Napoleon made into Italy.
Presently they began to ascend a hill, a lonely, wind-swept highway with the sea plashing deep below, when, after a sudden bend, some lights came into view. It was the wayside Italian Customs House.
They had arrived at the frontier.
Hugh, by the aid of a flash-lamp, had put on a grey moustache and changed his clothes, putting his own into the suit case wherein he had found the suit already prepared for him. He had wrapped himself up in a heavy travelling-rug, and by his side reposed a pair of crutches, so that when they drew up before the little roadside office of the Italian dogana he was reclining upon a cushion presenting quite a pathetic figure.
But who had made all these preparations for his flight?
He held his breath as the chauffeur sounded his horn to announce his arrival. Then the door opened, shedding a long ray of light across the white dusty road.
“Buona sera, signore!” cried the chauffeur merrily, as a Customs officer in uniform came forward. “Here’s my driving licence and papers for the car. And our two passports.”
The man took them, examined them by the light of his electric torch, and told the chauffeur to go into the office for the visas.