“How?” asked the man.
“Well,” he replied. “If the culprit is found, then there would no longer be any suspicion against myself.”
“Probably he never will be found,” the man said.
“But tell me, how did you know about the affair, and why are you risking arrest by driving me to-night?”
“I have reasons,” was all he would say. “I obey the demands of those who are your friends.”
“Who are they?”
“They desire to conceal their identity. There is a strong reason why this should be done.”
“Are they not protecting one who is suspected of a serious crime? If discovered they would be punished,” was the quiet response.
“Ah! There is some hidden motive behind all this!” declared the young Englishman. “I rather regret that I did not remain and face the music.”
“It would have been far too dangerous, signore. Your enemies would have contrived to convict you of the crime.”
“My enemies—but who are they?”
“Of that, signore, I am ignorant. Only I have been told that you have enemies, and very bitter ones.”
“But I have committed no crime, and yet I am a fugitive from justice!” Hugh cried.
“You escaped in the very nick of time,” the man replied. “But had we not better be moving again? We must be in Genoa by daybreak.”
“But do, I beg of you, tell me more,” the young man implored. “To whom do I owe my liberty?”
“As I have already told you, signore, you owe it to those who intend to protect you from a false charge.”
“Yes. But there is a lady in the case,” Hugh said. “I fear that if she hears that I am a fugitive she will misjudge me and believe me to be guilty.”
“Probably so. That is, I admit, unfortunate—but, alas! it cannot be avoided. It was, however, better for you to get out of France.”
“But the French police, when they know that I have escaped, will probably ask the Italian police to arrest me, and then apply for my extradition.”
“If they did, I doubt whether you would be surrendered. The police of my country are not too fond of assisting those of other countries. Thus if an Italian commits murder in a foreign country and gets back to Italy, our Government will refuse to give him up. There have been many such cases, and the murderer goes scot free.”
“Then you think I am safe in Italy?”
“Oh, no, not by any means. You are not an Italian subject. No, you must not be very long in Italy.”
“But what am I to do when we get to Genoa?” Hugh asked.
“The signore had better wait until we arrive there,” was the driver’s enigmatical reply.
Then the supposed invalid re-entered the car and they continued on their way along the bleak, storm-swept road beside the sea towards that favourite resort of the English, San Remo.
The night had grown pitch dark, and rain had commenced to fall. Before the car the great head-lamps threw long beams of white light against which Hugh saw the silhouette of the muffled-up mysterious driver, with his keen eyes fixed straight before him, and driving at such a pace that it was apparent that he knew every inch of the dangerous road.