Therefore, in accordance with the Belgian’s instructions, he left the house and at noon carried his valise to the Rue Gretry, where he found his friend awaiting him in a closed car, which quickly moved off out of the city by the Laeken road. Travelling by way of Vilvorde they were within an hour in old-world Malines, famous for its magnificent cathedral and its musical carillon. Crossing the Louvain Canal and entering by the Porte de Bruxelles, they were soon in an inartistic cobbled street under the shadow of St. Rombold, and a few minutes later Hugh was introduced to a short, stout Belgian woman, Madame Maupoil. The place was meagrely furnished, but scrupulously clean. The floor of the room to which Hugh was shown shone with beeswax, and the walls were whitewashed.
“I hope monsieur will make himself quite comfortable,” madame said, a broad smile of welcome upon her round face.
“You will be comfortable enough under madame’s care,” Vervoort assured him. “She has had some well-known guests before now.”
“True, monsieur. More than one of them have been world-famous and—well—believed to be perfectly honest and upright.”
“Yes,” laughed Vervoort. “Do you remember the English ex-member of Parliament?”
“Ah! He was with me nearly four months when supposed to be in South America. There was a warrant out for him on account of some great financial frauds—all of which was, of course, hushed up. But he stayed here in strict concealment and his friends managed to get the warrant withdrawn. He was known to Il Passero, and the latter aided him—in return for certain facilities regarding the English police.”
“What do you think of the English police, madame?” Hugh asked. The fat woman grinned expressively and shrugged her broad shoulders.
“Since the war they have been effete as regards serious crime. At least, that is what Il Passero told me when he was here a month ago.”
“Someone is coming here to meet Monsieur Henfrey,” Vervoort said. “Who is it?”
“I don’t know. I only received word of it the day before yesterday. A messenger from London, I believe.”
“Well, each day I become more and more mystified,” Hugh declared. “Why Il Passero, whom I do not know, should take all this interest in me, I cannot imagine.”
“Il Passero very often assists those against whom a false charge is laid,” the woman remarked. “There is no better friend when one is in trouble, for so clever and ubiquitous is he, and so many friends in high quarters does he possess, that he can usually work his will. His is the master-mind, and we obey without question.”
THE STRANGER IN BOND STREET
As Dorise walked up Bond Street, smartly dressed, next afternoon, on her way to her dressmaker’s, she was followed by a well-dressed young girl in black, dark-eyed, with well-cut, refined features, and apparently a lady.