“Where to?” asked Hugh blankly.
“Well, there’s a lady you met once or twice with me, Mrs. Bond. She will be delighted to put you up for a few weeks. She has a charming house down in Surrey—a place called Shapley Manor.”
“She might learn the truth and give me away,” remarked Hugh dubiously.
“She won’t. Recollect, Hugh, that I was your father’s friend, and am yours. What advice I give you is for your own good. You can’t stay here—it’s impossible.”
The name of The Sparrow was upon Hugh’s lips, and he was about to tell Benton of that mysterious person’s efforts on his behalf, but, on reflection, he saw that he had no right to expose The Sparrow’s existence to others. The very house in which they were was one of the bolt-holes of the wonderfully organized gang of crooks which Il Passero controlled.
“How did you know that I was here?” asked Hugh suddenly in curiosity.
“That I’m not at liberty to say. It was not a friend of yours, but rather an enemy who told me—hence I tell you that you run the gravest risk in remaining here a moment longer. As soon as I heard you were here, I telephoned to Mrs. Bond, and she has very generously asked us both to stay with her,” Benton went on. “If you agree, I’ll get a car now, without delay, and we’ll run down into Surrey together,” he added.
Hugh glanced at the tall, well-dressed man of whom his father had thought so highly. Charles Benton, in spite of his hair tuning grey, was a handsome man, and moved in a very good circle of society. Nobody knew his source of income, and nobody cared. In these days clothes make the gentleman, and a knighthood a lady.
Like many others, old Mr. Henfrey had been sadly deceived by Charles Benton, and had taken him into his family as a friend. Other men had done the same. His geniality, his handsome, open face, and his plausible manner, proved the open sesame to many doors of the wealthy, and the latter were robbed in various ways, yet never dreaming that Benton was the instigator of it all. He never committed a theft himself. He gave the information—and others did the dirty work.
“You recollect Mrs. Bond,” said Benton. “But I believe Maxwell, her first husband, was alive then, wasn’t he?”
“I have a faint recollection of meeting a Mrs. Maxwell in Paris—at lunch at the Pre Catalan—was it not?”
“Yes, of course. About six years ago. That’s quite right!” laughed Benton. “Well, Maxwell died and she married again—a Colonel Bond. He was killed in Mesopotamia, and now she’s living up on the Hog’s Back, beyond Guildford, on the road to Farnham.”
Hugh again reflected. He had come to Abingdon Road at the suggestion of the mysterious White Cavalier. Ought he to leave the place without first consulting him? Yet he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the man of mystery whom he firmly believed was none other than the elusive Sparrow. Besides, was not Benton, his father’s closest friend, warning him of his peril?