Then again he took her in his arms, and imprinted a fierce, passionate kiss upon her ready lips.
“I suppose we must part again,” he sighed. “I am compelled to keep away from you because no doubt a watch has been set upon you, and upon your correspondence. Up to the present, I have been able, by the good grace of unknown friends, to slip through the meshes of the net spread for me. But how long this will continue, I know not.”
“Oh! do be careful, Hugh, won’t you?” urged the girl, as they sat side by side. The only sound was the rippling of the burn deep down in the glen, and the distant barking of a shepherd’s dog.
“Yes. I’ll get away into the wilds of Kensington—to Abingdon Road. One is safer in a London suburb than in a desert, no doubt. West London is a good hiding-place.”
“Recollect the name. Mason, wasn’t it? And she lives at ‘Heathcote.’”
“That was it. But do not communicate with me, otherwise my place of concealment will most certainly be discovered.”
“But can’t I see you, Hugh?” implored the girl. “Must we again be parted?”
“Yes. It seems so, according to our mysterious friend, whom I believe most firmly to be the notorious thief known by the Italian sobriquet of Il Passero—The Sparrow.”
“Do you think he is a thief?” asked the girl.
“Yes. I am convinced that your friend is none other than the picturesque and romantic criminal whose octopus hand is upon almost every great theft in Europe, and whom the police always fail to catch, so elusive and clever is he.”
She gave him further details of their first meeting at Nice.
“Exactly. That is one of his methods—secrecy and generosity are his two traits. He and his accomplices rob the wealthy, and assist those wrongly accused. It must be he—or one of his assistants. Otherwise he would not know of the secret hiding-place for those after whom a hue-and-cry has been raised.”
He recollected at that moment the girl who had been his fellow-guest in Genoa—the dainty mademoiselle who evidently had some secret knowledge of his father’s death, and yet refused to divulge a single word.
Ever since that memorable night at the Villa Amette, he had existed in a mist of suspicion and uncertainty. Yet, after all, he cared little for anything so long as Dorise still believed in his innocence, and she still loved him. His one great object was to clear up the mystery of his father’s tragic end, and thus defeat the clever plot of those whose intention it, apparently, was to marry him to Louise Lambert.
On every hand there was mystification. The one woman—notorious as she was—who knew the truth had been rendered mentally incompetent by an assassin’s bullet, while he, himself, was accused of the crime.
Hugh Henfrey would have long ago confessed to Dorise the whole facts concerning his father’s death, but his delicacy prevented him. He honoured his dead father, and was averse to telling the girl he loved that he had been found in a curious state in a West End street late at night. He was loyal to his poor father’s memory, and, until he knew the actual truth, he did not intend that Dorise should be in a position to misconstrue the facts, or to misjudge.