Lady Ranscomb was very much mystified at Hugh’s disappearance, though secretly she was very glad. She questioned Brock, but he, on his part, expressed himself very much puzzled. A week later, however, Walter returned to London, and on the following night Lady Ranscomb and her daughter took the train-de-luxe for Boulogne, and duly arrived home.
As day followed day, Dorise grew more mystified and still more anxious concerning Hugh. What was the truth? She had written to Brussels three times, but her letters had elicited no response. He might be already under arrest, for aught she knew. Besides, she could not rid herself of the recollection of the white cavalier, that mysterious masker who had told her of her lover’s escape.
In this state of keen anxiety and overstrung nerves she was compelled to meet almost daily, and be civil to, her mother’s friend, the odious George Sherrard.
Lady Ranscomb was for ever singing the man’s praises, and never weary of expressing her surprise at Hugh’s unforgivable behaviour.
“He simply disappeared, and nobody has heard a word of him since!” she remarked one day as they sat at breakfast. “I’m quite certain he’s done something wrong. I’ve never liked him, Dorise.”
“You don’t like him, mother, because he hasn’t money,” remarked the girl bitterly. “If he were rich and entertained you, you would call him a delightful man!”
“Dorise! What are you saying? What’s the good of life without money?” queried the widow of the great contractor.
“Everyone can’t be rich,” the girl averred simply. “I think it’s positively hateful to judge people by their pockets.”
“Well, has Hugh written to you?” snapped her mother.
Dorise replied in the negative, stifling a sigh.
“And he isn’t likely to. He’s probably hiding somewhere. I wonder what he’s done?”
“Nothing. I’m sure of that!”
“Well, I’m not so sure,” was her mother’s response. “I was chatting about it to Mr. Sherrard last night, and he’s promised to make inquiry.”
“Let Mr. Sherrard inquire as much as he likes,” cried the girl angrily. “He’ll find nothing against Hugh, except that he’s poor.”
“H’m! And he’s been far too much in your company of late, Dorise. People were beginning to talk at Monte Carlo.”
“Oh! Let them talk, mother! I don’t care a scrap. I’m my own mistress!”
“Yes, but I tell you frankly that I’m very glad that we’ve seen the last of the fellow.”
“Mother! You are really horrid!” cried the girl, rising abruptly and leaving the table. When out of the room she burst into tears.
Poor girl, her heart was indeed full.
Now it happened that early on that same morning Hugh Henfrey stepped from a train which had brought him from Aix-la-Chapelle to the Gare du Nord, in Brussels. He had spent three weeks with the Raveccas, in Genoa, whence he had travelled to Milan and Bale, and on into Belgium by way of Germany.