The Secret Adversary
Agatha Christie

Part 2 out of 6

behind the times!"

The upshot of these confidential relations was that Tommy and
Tuppence took up their abode forthwith at the Ritz, in order, as
Tuppence put it, to keep in touch with Jane Finn's only living
relation. "And put like that," she added confidentially to Tommy,
"nobody could boggle at the expense!"

Nobody did, which was the great thing.

"And now," said the young lady on the morning after their
installation, "to work!"

Mr. Beresford put down the Daily Mail, which he was reading, and
applauded with somewhat unnecessary vigour. He was politely
requested by his colleague not to be an ass.

"Dash it all, Tommy, we've got to DO something for our money."

Tommy sighed.

"Yes, I fear even the dear old Government will not support us at
the Ritz in idleness for ever."

"Therefore, as I said before, we must DO something."

"Well," said Tommy, picking up the Daily Mail again, "DO it. I
shan't stop you."

"You see," continued Tuppence. "I've been thinking----"

She was interrupted by a fresh bout of applause.

"It's all very well for you to sit there being funny, Tommy. It
would do you no harm to do a little brain work too."

"My union, Tuppence, my union! It does not permit me to work
before 11 a.m."

"Tommy, do you want something thrown at you? It is absolutely
essential that we should without delay map out a plan of

"Hear, hear!"

"Well, let's do it."

Tommy laid his paper finally aside. "There's something of the
simplicity of the truly great mind about you, Tuppence. Fire
ahead. I'm listening."

"To begin with," said Tuppence, "what have we to go upon?"

"Absolutely nothing," said Tommy cheerily.

"Wrong!" Tuppence wagged an energetic finger. "We have two
distinct clues."

"What are they?"

"First clue, we know one of the gang."


"Yes. I'd recognize him anywhere."

"Hum," said Tommy doubtfully, "I don't call that much of a clue.
You don't know where to look for him, and it's about a thousand
to one against your running against him by accident."

"I'm not so sure about that," replied Tuppence thoughtfully.
"I've often noticed that once coincidences start happening they
go on happening in the most extraordinary way. I dare say it's
some natural law that we haven't found out. Still, as you say, we
can't rely on that. But there ARE places in London where simply
every one is bound to turn up sooner or later. Piccadilly Circus,
for instance. One of my ideas was to take up my stand there
every day with a tray of flags."

"What about meals?" inquired the practical Tommy.

"How like a man! What does mere food matter?"

"That's all very well. You've just had a thundering good
breakfast. No one's got a better appetite than you have,
Tuppence, and by tea-time you'd be eating the flags, pins and
all. But, honestly, I don't think much of the idea. Whittington
mayn't be in London at all."

"That's true. Anyway, I think clue No. 2 is more promising."

"Let's hear it."

"It's nothing much. Only a Christian name--Rita. Whittington
mentioned it that day."

"Are you proposing a third advertisement: Wanted, female crook,
answering to the name of Rita?"

"I am not. I propose to reason in a logical manner. That man,
Danvers, was shadowed on the way over, wasn't he? And it's more
likely to have been a woman than a man----"

"I don't see that at all."

"I am absolutely certain that it would be a woman, and a
good-looking one," replied Tuppence calmly.

"On these technical points I bow to your decision," murmured Mr.

"Now, obviously this woman, whoever she was, was saved."

"How do you make that out?"

"If she wasn't, how would they have known Jane Finn had got the

"Correct. Proceed, O Sherlock!"

"Now there's just a chance, I admit it's only a chance, that this
woman may have been 'Rita.' "

"And if so?"

"If so, we've got to hunt through the survivors of the Lusitania
till we find her."

"Then the first thing is to get a list of the survivors."

"I've got it. I wrote a long list of things I wanted to know,
and sent it to Mr. Carter. I got his reply this morning, and
among other things it encloses the official statement of those
saved from the Lusitania. How's that for clever little

"Full marks for industry, zero for modesty. But the great point
is, is there a 'Rita' on the list?"

"That's just what I don't know," confessed Tuppence.

"Don't know?"

"Yes. Look here." Together they bent over the list. "You see,
very few Christian names are given. They're nearly all Mrs. or

Tommy nodded.

"That complicates matters," he murmured thoughtfully.

Tuppence gave her characteristic "terrier" shake.

"Well, we've just got to get down to it, that's all. We'll start
with the London area. Just note down the addresses of any of the
females who live in London or roundabout, while I put on my hat."

Five minutes later the young couple emerged into Piccadilly, and
a few seconds later a taxi was bearing them to The Laurels,
Glendower Road, N.7, the residence of Mrs. Edgar Keith, whose
name figured first in a list of seven reposing in Tommy's

The Laurels was a dilapidated house, standing back from the road
with a few grimy bushes to support the fiction of a front garden.
Tommy paid off the taxi, and accompanied Tuppence to the front
door bell. As she was about to ring it, he arrested her hand.

"What are you going to say?"

"What am I going to say? Why, I shall say--Oh dear, I don't
know. It's very awkward."

"I thought as much," said Tommy with satisfaction. "How like a
woman! No foresight! Now just stand aside, and see how easily
the mere male deals with the situation." He pressed the bell.
Tuppence withdrew to a suitable spot.

A slatternly looking servant, with an extremely dirty face and a
pair of eyes that did not match, answered the door.

Tommy had produced a notebook and pencil.

"Good morning," he said briskly and cheerfully. "From the
Hampstead Borough Council. The new Voting Register. Mrs. Edgar
Keith lives here, does she not?"

"Yaas," said the servant.

"Christian name?" asked Tommy, his pencil poised.

"Missus's? Eleanor Jane."

"Eleanor," spelt Tommy. "Any sons or daughters over twenty-one?"


"Thank you." Tommy closed the notebook with a brisk snap. "Good

The servant volunteered her first remark:

"I thought perhaps as you'd come about the gas," she observed
cryptically, and shut the door.

Tommy rejoined his accomplice.

"You see, Tuppence," he observed. "Child's play to the masculine

"I don't mind admitting that for once you've scored handsomely. I
should never have thought of that."

"Good wheeze, wasn't it? And we can repeat it ad lib."

Lunch-time found the young couple attacking a steak and chips in
an obscure hostelry with avidity. They had collected a Gladys
Mary and a Marjorie, been baffled by one change of address, and
had been forced to listen to a long lecture on universal suffrage
from a vivacious American lady whose Christian name had proved to
be Sadie.

"Ah!" said Tommy, imbibing a long draught of beer, "I feel
better. Where's the next draw?"

The notebook lay on the table between them. Tuppence picked it

"Mrs. Vandemeyer," she read, "20 South Audley Mansions. Miss
Wheeler, 43 Clapington Road, Battersea. She's a lady's maid, as
far as I remember, so probably won't be there, and, anyway, she's
not likely."

"Then the Mayfair lady is clearly indicated as the first port of

"Tommy, I'm getting discouraged."

"Buck up, old bean. We always knew it was an outside chance.
And, anyway, we're only starting. If we draw a blank in London,
there's a fine tour of England, Ireland and Scotland before us."

"True," said Tuppence, her flagging spirits reviving. "And all
expenses paid! But, oh, Tommy, I do like things to happen
quickly. So far, adventure has succeeded adventure, but this
morning has been dull as dull."

"You must stifle this longing for vulgar sensation, Tuppence.
Remember that if Mr. Brown is all he is reported to be, it's a
wonder that he has not ere now done us to death. That's a good
sentence, quite a literary flavour about it."

"You're really more conceited than I am--with less excuse! Ahem!
But it certainly is queer that Mr. Brown has not yet wreaked
vengeance upon us. (You see, I can do it too.) We pass on our way

"Perhaps he doesn't think us worth bothering about," suggested
the young man simply.

Tuppence received the remark with great disfavour.

"How horrid you are, Tommy. Just as though we didn't count."

"Sorry, Tuppence. What I meant was that we work like moles in
the dark, and that he has no suspicion of our nefarious schemes.
Ha ha!"

"Ha ha!" echoed Tuppence approvingly, as she rose.

South Audley Mansions was an imposing-looking block of flats just
off Park Lane. No. 20 was on the second floor.

Tommy had by this time the glibness born of practice. He rattled
off the formula to the elderly woman, looking more like a
housekeeper than a servant, who opened the door to him.

"Christian name?"


Tommy spelt it, but the other interrupted him.

"No, G U E."

"Oh, Marguerite; French way, I see." He paused, then plunged
boldly. "We had her down as Rita Vandemeyer, but I suppose that's

"She's mostly called that, sir, but Marguerite's her name."

"Thank you. That's all. Good morning."

Hardly able to contain his excitement, Tommy hurried down the
stairs. Tuppence was waiting at the angle of the turn.

"You heard?"

"Yes. Oh, TOMMY!"

Tommy squeezed her arm sympathetically.

"I know, old thing. I feel the same."

"It's--it's so lovely to think of things--and then for them
really to happen!" cried Tuppence enthusiastically.

Her hand was still in Tommy's. They had reached the entrance
hall. There were footsteps on the stairs above them, and voices.

Suddenly, to Tommy's complete surprise, Tuppence dragged him into
the little space by the side of the lift where the shadow was

"What the----"


Two men came down the stairs and passed out through the entrance.
Tuppence's hand closed tighter on Tommy's arm.

"Quick--follow them. I daren't. He might recognize me. I don't
know who the other man is, but the bigger of the two was



WHITTINGTON and his companion were walking at a good pace. Tommy
started in pursuit at once, and was in time to see them turn the
corner of the street. His vigorous strides soon enabled him to
gain upon them, and by the time he, in his turn, reached the
corner the distance between them was sensibly lessened. The small
Mayfair streets were comparatively deserted, and he judged it
wise to content himself with keeping them in sight.

The sport was a new one to him. Though familiar with the
technicalities from a course of novel reading, he had never
before attempted to "follow" anyone, and it appeared to him at
once that, in actual practice, the proceeding was fraught with
difficulties. Supposing, for instance, that they should suddenly
hail a taxi? In books, you simply leapt into another, promised
the driver a sovereign--or its modern equivalent--and there you
were. In actual fact, Tommy foresaw that it was extremely likely
there would be no second taxi. Therefore he would have to run.
What happened in actual fact to a young man who ran incessantly
and persistently through the London streets? In a main road he
might hope to create the illusion that he was merely running for
a bus. But in these obscure aristocratic byways he could not but
feel that an officious policeman might stop him to explain

At this juncture in his thoughts a taxi with flag erect turned
the corner of the street ahead. Tommy held his breath. Would
they hail it?

He drew a sigh of relief as they allowed it to pass unchallenged.
Their course was a zigzag one designed to bring them as quickly
as possible to Oxford Street. When at length they turned into
it, proceeding in an easterly direction, Tommy slightly increased
his pace. Little by little he gained upon them. On the crowded
pavement there was little chance of his attracting their notice,
and he was anxious if possible to catch a word or two of their
conversation. In this he was completely foiled; they spoke low
and the din of the traffic drowned their voices effectually.

Just before the Bond Street Tube station they crossed the road,
Tommy, unperceived, faithfully at their heels, and entered the
big Lyons'. There they went up to the first floor, and sat at a
small table in the window. It was late, and the place was
thinning out. Tommy took a seat at the table next to them,
sitting directly behind Whittington in case of recognition. On
the other hand, he had a full view of the second man and studied
him attentively. He was fair, with a weak, unpleasant face, and
Tommy put him down as being either a Russian or a Pole. He was
probably about fifty years of age, his shoulders cringed a little
as he talked, and his eyes, small and crafty, shifted

Having already lunched heartily, Tommy contented himself with
ordering a Welsh rarebit and a cup of coffee. Whittington
ordered a substantial lunch for himself and his companion; then,
as the waitress withdrew, he moved his chair a little closer to
the table and began to talk earnestly in a low voice. The other
man joined in. Listen as he would, Tommy could only catch a word
here and there; but the gist of it seemed to be some directions
or orders which the big man was impressing on his companion, and
with which the latter seemed from time to time to disagree.
Whittington addressed the other as Boris.

Tommy caught the word "Ireland" several times, also "propaganda,"
but of Jane Finn there was no mention. Suddenly, in a lull in
the clatter of the room, he got one phrase entire. Whittington
was speaking. "Ah, but you don't know Flossie. She's a marvel.
An archbishop would swear she was his own mother. She gets the
voice right every time, and that's really the principal thing."

Tommy did not hear Boris's reply, but in response to it
Whittington said something that sounded like: "Of course--only
in an emergency...."

Then he lost the thread again. But presently the phrases became
distinct again whether because the other two had insensibly
raised their voices, or because Tommy's ears were getting more
attuned, he could not tell. But two words certainly had a most
stimulating effect upon the listener. They were uttered by Boris
and they were: "Mr. Brown."

Whittington seemed to remonstrate with him, but he merely

"Why not, my friend? It is a name most respectable--most common.
Did he not choose it for that reason? Ah, I should like to meet
him--Mr. Brown."

There was a steely ring in Whittington's voice as he replied:

"Who knows? You may have met him already."

"Bah!" retorted the other. "That is children's talk--a fable for
the police. Do you know what I say to myself sometimes? That he
is a fable invented by the Inner Ring, a bogy to frighten us
with. It might be so."

"And it might not."

"I wonder ... or is it indeed true that he is with us and amongst
us, unknown to all but a chosen few? If so, he keeps his secret
well. And the idea is a good one, yes. We never know. We look
at each other--ONE OF US IS MR. BROWN--which? He commands--but
also he serves. Among us--in the midst of us. And no one knows
which he is...."

With an effort the Russian shook off the vagary of his fancy. He
looked at his watch.

"Yes," said Whittington. "We might as well go."

He called the waitress and asked for his bill. Tommy did
likewise, and a few moments later was following the two men down
the stairs.

Outside, Whittington hailed a taxi, and directed the driver to go
to Waterloo.

Taxis were plentiful here, and before Whittington's had driven
off another was drawing up to the curb in obedience to Tommy's
peremptory hand.

"Follow that other taxi," directed the young man. "Don't lose

The elderly chauffeur showed no interest. He merely grunted and
jerked down his flag. The drive was uneventful. Tommy's taxi
came to rest at the departure platform just after Whittington's.
Tommy was behind him at the booking-office. He took a first-class
single ticket to Bournemouth, Tommy did the same. As he emerged,
Boris remarked, glancing up at the clock: "You are early. You
have nearly half an hour."

Boris's words had aroused a new train of thought in Tommy's mind.
Clearly Whittington was making the journey alone, while the other
remained in London. Therefore he was left with a choice as to
which he would follow. Obviously, he could not follow both of
them unless----Like Boris, he glanced up at the clock, and then
to the announcement board of the trains. The Bournemouth train
left at 3.30. It was now ten past. Whittington and Boris were
walking up and down by the bookstall. He gave one doubtful look
at them, then hurried into an adjacent telephone box. He dared
not waste time in trying to get hold of Tuppence. In all
probability she was still in the neighbourhood of South Audley
Mansions. But there remained another ally. He rang up the Ritz
and asked for Julius Hersheimmer. There was a click and a buzz.
Oh, if only the young American was in his room! There was another
click, and then "Hello" in unmistakable accents came over the

"That you, Hersheimmer? Beresford speaking. I'm at Waterloo.
I've followed Whittington and another man here. No time to
explain. Whittington's off to Bournemouth by the 3.30. Can you
get there by then?"

The reply was reassuring.

"Sure. I'll hustle."

The telephone rang off. Tommy put back the receiver with a sigh
of relief. His opinion of Julius's power of hustling was high.
He felt instinctively that the American would arrive in time.

Whittington and Boris were still where he had left them. If Boris
remained to see his friend off, all was well. Then Tommy fingered
his pocket thoughtfully. In spite of the carte blanche assured
to him, he had not yet acquired the habit of going about with any
considerable sum of money on him. The taking of the first-class
ticket to Bournemouth had left him with only a few shillings in
his pocket. It was to be hoped that Julius would arrive better

In the meantime, the minutes were creeping by: 3.15, 3.20, 3.25,
3.27. Supposing Julius did not get there in time. 3.29.... Doors
were banging. Tommy felt cold waves of despair pass over him.
Then a hand fell on his shoulder.

"Here I am, son. Your British traffic beats description! Put me
wise to the crooks right away."

"That's Whittington--there, getting in now, that big dark man.
The other is the foreign chap he's talking to."

"I'm on to them. Which of the two is my bird?"

Tommy had thought out this question.

"Got any money with you?"

Julius shook his head, and Tommy's face fell.

"I guess I haven't more than three or four hundred dollars with
me at the moment," explained the American.

Tommy gave a faint whoop of relief.

"Oh, Lord, you millionaires! You don't talk the same language!
Climb aboard the lugger. Here's your ticket. Whittington's your

"Me for Whittington!" said Julius darkly. The train was just
starting as he swung himself aboard. "So long, Tommy." The
train slid out of the station.

Tommy drew a deep breath. The man Boris was coming along the
platform towards him. Tommy allowed him to pass and then took up
the chase once more.

From Waterloo Boris took the tube as far as Piccadilly Circus.
Then he walked up Shaftesbury Avenue, finally turning off into
the maze of mean streets round Soho. Tommy followed him at a
judicious distance.

They reached at length a small dilapidated square. The houses
there had a sinister air in the midst of their dirt and decay.
Boris looked round, and Tommy drew back into the shelter of a
friendly porch. The place was almost deserted. It was a
cul-de-sac, and consequently no traffic passed that way. The
stealthy way the other had looked round stimulated Tommy's
imagination. From the shelter of the doorway he watched him go
up the steps of a particularly evil-looking house and rap
sharply, with a peculiar rhythm, on the door. It was opened
promptly, he said a word or two to the doorkeeper, then passed
inside. The door was shut to again.

It was at this juncture that Tommy lost his head. What he ought
to have done, what any sane man would have done, was to remain
patiently where he was and wait for his man to come out again.
What he did do was entirely foreign to the sober common sense
which was, as a rule, his leading characteristic. Something, as
he expressed it, seemed to snap in his brain. Without a moment's
pause for reflection he, too, went up the steps, and reproduced
as far as he was able the peculiar knock.

The door swung open with the same promptness as before. A
villainous-faced man with close-cropped hair stood in the

"Well?" he grunted.

It was at that moment that the full realization of his folly
began to come home to Tommy. But he dared not hesitate. He
seized at the first words that came into his mind.

"Mr. Brown?" he said.

To his surprise the man stood aside.

"Upstairs," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder, "second
door on your left."



TAKEN aback though he was by the man's words, Tommy did not
hesitate. If audacity had successfully carried him so far, it was
to be hoped it would carry him yet farther. He quietly passed
into the house and mounted the ramshackle staircase. Everything
in the house was filthy beyond words. The grimy paper, of a
pattern now indistinguishable, hung in loose festoons from the
wall. In every angle was a grey mass of cobweb.

Tommy proceeded leisurely. By the time he reached the bend of
the staircase, he had heard the man below disappear into a back
room. Clearly no suspicion attached to him as yet. To come to
the house and ask for "Mr. Brown" appeared indeed to be a
reasonable and natural proceeding.

At the top of the stairs Tommy halted to consider his next move.
In front of him ran a narrow passage, with doors opening on
either side of it. From the one nearest him on the left came a
low murmur of voices. It was this room which he had been
directed to enter. But what held his glance fascinated was a
small recess immediately on his right, half concealed by a torn
velvet curtain. It was directly opposite the left-handed door
and, owing to its angle, it also commanded a good view of the
upper part of the staircase. As a hiding-place for one or, at a
pinch, two men, it was ideal, being about two feet deep and three
feet wide. It attracted Tommy mightily. He thought things over
in his usual slow and steady way, deciding that the mention of
"Mr. Brown" was not a request for an individual, but in all
probability a password used by the gang. His lucky use of it had
gained him admission. So far he had aroused no suspicion. But he
must decide quickly on his next step.

Suppose he were boldly to enter the room on the left of the
passage. Would the mere fact of his having been admitted to the
house be sufficient? Perhaps a further password would be
required, or, at any rate, some proof of identity. The
doorkeeper clearly did not know all the members of the gang by
sight, but it might be different upstairs. On the whole it seemed
to him that luck had served him very well so far, but that there
was such a thing as trusting it too far. To enter that room was a
colossal risk. He could not hope to sustain his part
indefinitely; sooner or later he was almost bound to betray
himself, and then he would have thrown away a vital chance in
mere foolhardiness.

A repetition of the signal knock sounded on the door below, and
Tommy, his mind made up, slipped quickly into the recess, and
cautiously drew the curtain farther across so that it shielded
him completely from sight. There were several rents and slits in
the ancient material which afforded him a good view. He would
watch events, and any time he chose could, after all, join the
assembly, modelling his behaviour on that of the new arrival.

The man who came up the staircase with a furtive, soft-footed
tread was quite unknown to Tommy. He was obviously of the very
dregs of society. The low beetling brows, and the criminal jaw,
the bestiality of the whole countenance were new to the young
man, though he was a type that Scotland Yard would have
recognized at a glance.

The man passed the recess, breathing heavily as he went. He
stopped at the door opposite, and gave a repetition of the signal
knock. A voice inside called out something, and the man opened
the door and passed in, affording Tommy a momentary glimpse of
the room inside. He thought there must be about four or five
people seated round a long table that took up most of the space,
but his attention was caught and held by a tall man with
close-cropped hair and a short, pointed, naval-looking beard, who
sat at the head of the table with papers in front of him. As the
new-comer entered he glanced up, and with a correct, but
curiously precise enunciation, which attracted Tommy's notice, he

"Your number, comrade?"

"Fourteen, gov'nor," replied the other hoarsely.


The door shut again.

"If that isn't a Hun, I'm a Dutchman!" said Tommy to himself.
"And running the show darned systematically too--as they always
do. Lucky I didn't roll in. I'd have given the wrong number, and
there would have been the deuce to pay. No, this is the place
for me. Hullo, here's another knock."

This visitor proved to be of an entirely different type to the
last. Tommy recognized in him an Irish Sinn Feiner. Certainly
Mr. Brown's organization was a far-reaching concern. The common
criminal, the well-bred Irish gentleman, the pale Russian, and
the efficient German master of the ceremonies! Truly a strange
and sinister gathering! Who was this man who held in his finger
these curiously variegated links of an unknown chain?

In this case, the procedure was exactly the same. The signal
knock, the demand for a number, and the reply "Correct."

Two knocks followed in quick succession on the door below. The
first man was quite unknown to Tommy, who put him down as a city
clerk. A quiet, intelligent-looking man, rather shabbily dressed.
The second was of the working classes, and his face was vaguely
familiar to the young man.

Three minutes later came another, a man of commanding appearance,
exquisitely dressed, and evidently well born. His face, again,
was not unknown to the watcher, though he could not for the
moment put a name to it.

After his arrival there was a long wait. In fact Tommy concluded
that the gathering was now complete, and was just cautiously
creeping out from his hiding-place, when another knock sent him
scuttling back to cover.

This last-comer came up the stairs so quietly that he was almost
abreast of Tommy before the young man had realized his presence.

He was a small man, very pale, with a gentle almost womanish air.
The angle of the cheek-bones hinted at his Slavonic ancestry,
otherwise there was nothing to indicate his nationality. As he
passed the recess, he turned his head slowly. The strange light
eyes seemed to burn through the curtain; Tommy could hardly
believe that the man did not know he was there and in spite of
himself he shivered. He was no more fanciful than the majority of
young Englishmen, but he could not rid himself of the impression
that some unusually potent force emanated from the man. The
creature reminded him of a venomous snake.

A moment later his impression was proved correct. The new-comer
knocked on the door as all had done, but his reception was very
different. The bearded man rose to his feet, and all the others
followed suit. The German came forward and shook hands. His
heels clicked together.

"We are honoured," he said. "We are greatly honoured. I much
feared that it would be impossible."

The other answered in a low voice that had a kind of hiss in it:

"There were difficulties. It will not be possible again, I fear.
But one meeting is essential--to define my policy. I can do
nothing without--Mr. Brown. He is here?"

The change in the German's voice was audible as he replied with
slight hesitation:

"We have received a message. It is impossible for him to be
present in person." He stopped, giving a curious impression of
having left the sentence unfinished.

A very slow smile overspread the face of the other. He looked
round at a circle of uneasy faces.

"Ah! I understand. I have read of his methods. He works in the
dark and trusts no one. But, all the same, it is possible that
he is among us now...." He looked round him again, and again that
expression of fear swept over the group. Each man seemed eyeing
his neighbour doubtfully.

The Russian tapped his cheek.

"So be it. Let us proceed."

The German seemed to pull himself together. He indicated the
place he had been occupying at the head of the table. The Russian
demurred, but the other insisted.

"It is the only possible place," he said, "for--Number One.
Perhaps Number Fourteen will shut the door?"

In another moment Tommy was once more confronting bare wooden
panels, and the voices within had sunk once more to a mere
undistinguishable murmur. Tommy became restive. The conversation
he had overheard had stimulated his curiosity. He felt that, by
hook or by crook, he must hear more.

There was no sound from below, and it did not seem likely that
the doorkeeper would come upstairs. After listening intently for
a minute or two, he put his head round the curtain. The passage
was deserted. Tommy bent down and removed his shoes, then,
leaving them behind the curtain, he walked gingerly out on his
stockinged feet, and kneeling down by the closed door he laid his
ear cautiously to the crack. To his intense annoyance he could
distinguish little more; just a chance word here and there if a
voice was raised, which merely served to whet his curiosity still

He eyed the handle of the door tentatively. Could he turn it by
degrees so gently and imperceptibly that those in the room would
notice nothing? He decided that with great care it could be
done. Very slowly, a fraction of an inch at a time, he moved it
round, holding his breath in his excessive care. A little more--a
little more still--would it never be finished? Ah! at last it
would turn no farther.

He stayed so for a minute or two, then drew a deep breath, and
pressed it ever so slightly inward. The door did not budge.
Tommy was annoyed. If he had to use too much force, it would
almost certainly creak. He waited until the voices rose a little,
then he tried again. Still nothing happened. He increased the
pressure. Had the beastly thing stuck? Finally, in desperation,
he pushed with all his might. But the door remained firm, and at
last the truth dawned upon him. It was locked or bolted on the

For a moment or two Tommy's indignation got the better of him.

"Well, I'm damned!" he said. "What a dirty trick!"

As his indignation cooled, he prepared to face the situation.
Clearly the first thing to be done was to restore the handle to
its original position. If he let it go suddenly, the men inside
would be almost certain to notice it, so, with the same infinite
pains, he reversed his former tactics. All went well, and with a
sigh of relief the young man rose to his feet. There was a
certain bulldog tenacity about Tommy that made him slow to admit
defeat. Checkmated for the moment, he was far from abandoning the
conflict. He still intended to hear what was going on in the
locked room. As one plan had failed, he must hunt about for

He looked round him. A little farther along the passage on the
left was a second door. He slipped silently along to it. He
listened for a moment or two, then tried the handle. It yielded,
and he slipped inside.

The room, which was untenanted, was furnished as a bedroom. Like
everything else in the house, the furniture was falling to
pieces, and the dirt was, if anything, more abundant.

But what interested Tommy was the thing he had hoped to find, a
communicating door between the two rooms, up on the left by the
window. Carefully closing the door into the passage behind him,
he stepped across to the other and examined it closely. The bolt
was shot across it. It was very rusty, and had clearly not been
used for some time. By gently wriggling it to and fro, Tommy
managed to draw it back without making too much noise. Then he
repeated his former manoeuvres with the handle--this time with
complete success. The door swung open--a crack, a mere fraction,
but enough for Tommy to hear what went on. There was a velvet
portiere on the inside of this door which prevented him from
seeing, but he was able to recognize the voices with a reasonable
amount of accuracy.

The Sinn Feiner was speaking. His rich Irish voice was

"That's all very well. But more money is essential. No money--no

Another voice which Tommy rather thought was that of Boris

"Will you guarantee that there ARE results?"

"In a month from now--sooner or later as you wish--I will
guarantee you such a reign of terror in Ireland as shall shake
the British Empire to its foundations."

There was a pause, and then came the soft, sibilant accents of
Number One:

"Good! You shall have the money. Boris, you will see to that."

Boris asked a question:

"Via the Irish Americans, and Mr. Potter as usual?"

"I guess that'll be all right!" said a new voice, with a
transatlantic intonation, "though I'd like to point out, here and
now, that things are getting a mite difficult. There's not the
sympathy there was, and a growing disposition to let the Irish
settle their own affairs without interference from America."

Tommy felt that Boris had shrugged his shoulders as he answered:

"Does that matter, since the money only nominally comes from the

"The chief difficulty is the landing of the ammunition," said the
Sinn Feiner. "The money is conveyed in easily enough--thanks to
our colleague here."

Another voice, which Tommy fancied was that of the tall,
commanding-looking man whose face had seemed familiar to him,

"Think of the feelings of Belfast if they could hear you!"

"That is settled, then," said the sibilant tones. "Now, in the
matter of the loan to an English newspaper, you have arranged the
details satisfactorily, Boris?"

"I think so."

"That is good. An official denial from Moscow will be
forthcoming if necessary."

There was a pause, and then the clear voice of the German broke
the silence:

"I am directed by--Mr. Brown, to place the summaries of the
reports from the different unions before you. That of the miners
is most satisfactory. We must hold back the railways. There may
be trouble with the A.S.E."

For a long time there was a silence, broken only by the rustle of
papers and an occasional word of explanation from the German.
Then Tommy heard the light tap-tap of fingers, drumming on the

"And--the date, my friend?" said Number One.

"The 29th."

The Russian seemed to consider:

"That is rather soon."

"I know. But it was settled by the principal Labour leaders, and
we cannot seem to interfere too much. They must believe it to be
entirely their own show."

The Russian laughed softly, as though amused.

"Yes, yes," he said. "That is true. They must have no inkling
that we are using them for our own ends. They are honest
men--and that is their value to us. It is curious--but you
cannot make a revolution without honest men. The instinct of the
populace is infallible." He paused, and then repeated, as though
the phrase pleased him: "Every revolution has had its honest
men. They are soon disposed of afterwards."

There was a sinister note in his voice.

The German resumed:

"Clymes must go. He is too far-seeing. Number Fourteen will see
to that."

There was a hoarse murmur.

"That's all right, gov'nor." And then after a moment or two:
"Suppose I'm nabbed."

"You will have the best legal talent to defend you," replied the
German quietly. "But in any case you will wear gloves fitted
with the finger-prints of a notorious housebreaker. You have
little to fear."

"Oh, I ain't afraid, gov'nor. All for the good of the cause. The
streets is going to run with blood, so they say." He spoke with a
grim relish. "Dreams of it, sometimes, I does. And diamonds and
pearls rolling about in the gutter for anyone to pick up!"

Tommy heard a chair shifted. Then Number One spoke:

"Then all is arranged. We are assured of success?"

"I--think so." But the German spoke with less than his usual

Number One's voice held suddenly a dangerous quality:

"What has gone wrong?"

"Nothing; but----"

"But what?"

"The Labour leaders. Without them, as you say, we can do
nothing. If they do not declare a general strike on the 29th----"

"Why should they not?"

"As you've said, they're honest. And, in spite of everything
we've done to discredit the Government in their eyes, I'm not
sure that they haven't got a sneaking faith and belief in it."


"I know. They abuse it unceasingly. But, on the whole, public
opinion swings to the side of the Government. They will not go
against it."

Again the Russian's fingers drummed on the table.

"To the point, my friend. I was given to understand that there
was a certain document in existence which assured success."

"That is so. If that document were placed before the leaders,
the result would be immediate. They would publish it broadcast
throughout England, and declare for the revolution without a
moment's hesitation. The Government would be broken finally and

"Then what more do you want?"

"The document itself," said the German bluntly.

"Ah! It is not in your possession? But you know where it is?"


"Does anyone know where it is?"

"One person--perhaps. And we are not sure of that even."

"Who is this person?"

"A girl."

Tommy held his breath.

"A girl?" The Russian's voice rose contemptuously. "And you have
not made her speak? In Russia we have ways of making a girl

"This case is different," said the German sullenly.

"How--different?" He paused a moment, then went on: "Where is
the girl now?"

"The girl?"


"She is----"

But Tommy heard no more. A crashing blow descended on his head,
and all was darkness.



WHEN Tommy set forth on the trail of the two men, it took all
Tuppence's self-command to refrain from accompanying him.
However, she contained herself as best she might, consoled by the
reflection that her reasoning had been justified by events. The
two men had undoubtedly come from the second floor flat, and that
one slender thread of the name "Rita" had set the Young
Adventurers once more upon the track of the abductors of Jane

The question was what to do next? Tuppence hated letting the
grass grow under her feet. Tommy was amply employed, and
debarred from joining him in the chase, the girl felt at a loose
end. She retraced her steps to the entrance hall of the mansions.
It was now tenanted by a small lift-boy, who was polishing brass
fittings, and whistling the latest air with a good deal of vigour
and a reasonable amount of accuracy.

He glanced round at Tuppence's entry. There was a certain amount
of the gamin element in the girl, at all events she invariably
got on well with small boys. A sympathetic bond seemed instantly
to be formed. She reflected that an ally in the enemy's camp, so
to speak, was not to be despised.

"Well, William," she remarked cheerfully, in the best approved
hospital-early-morning style, "getting a good shine up?"

The boy grinned responsively.

"Albert, miss," he corrected.

"Albert be it," said Tuppence. She glanced mysteriously round
the hall. The effect was purposely a broad one in case Albert
should miss it. She leaned towards the boy and dropped her voice:
"I want a word with you, Albert."

Albert ceased operations on the fittings and opened his mouth

"Look! Do you know what this is?" With a dramatic gesture she
flung back the left side of her coat and exposed a small
enamelled badge. It was extremely unlikely that Albert would have
any knowledge of it--indeed, it would have been fatal for
Tuppence's plans, since the badge in question was the device of a
local training corps originated by the archdeacon in the early
days of the war. Its presence in Tuppence's coat was due to the
fact that she had used it for pinning in some flowers a day or
two before. But Tuppence had sharp eyes, and had noted the corner
of a threepenny detective novel protruding from Albert's pocket,
and the immediate enlargement of his eyes told her that her
tactics were good, and that the fish would rise to the bait.

"American Detective Force!" she hissed.

Albert fell for it.

"Lord!" he murmured ecstatically.

Tuppence nodded at him with the air of one who has established a
thorough understanding.

"Know who I'm after?" she inquired genially.

Albert, still round-eyed, demanded breathlessly:

"One of the flats?"

Tuppence nodded and jerked a thumb up the stairs.

"No. 20. Calls herself Vandemeyer. Vandemeyer! Ha! ha!"

Albert's hand stole to his pocket.

"A crook?" he queried eagerly.

"A crook? I should say so. Ready Rita they call her in the

"Ready Rita," repeated Albert deliriously. "Oh, ain't it just
like the pictures!"

It was. Tuppence was a great frequenter of the kinema.

"Annie always said as how she was a bad lot," continued the boy.

"Who's Annie?" inquired Tuppence idly.

" 'Ouse-parlourmaid. She's leaving to-day. Many's the time
Annie's said to me: 'Mark my words, Albert, I wouldn't wonder if
the police was to come after her one of these days.' dust like
that. But she's a stunner to look at, ain't she?"

"She's some peach," allowed Tuppence carelessly. "Finds it
useful in her lay-out, you bet. Has she been wearing any of the
emeralds, by the way?"

"Emeralds? Them's the green stones, isn't they?"

Tuppence nodded.

"That's what we're after her for. You know old man Rysdale?"

Albert shook his head.

"Peter B. Rysdale, the oil king?"

"It seems sort of familiar to me."

"The sparklers belonged to him. Finest collection of emeralds in
the world. Worth a million dollars!"

"Lumme!" came ecstatically from Albert. "It sounds more like the
pictures every minute."

Tuppence smiled, gratified at the success of her efforts.

"We haven't exactly proved it yet. But we're after her.
And"--she produced a long-drawn-out wink--"I guess she won't get
away with the goods this time."

Albert uttered another ejaculation indicative of delight.

"Mind you, sonny, not a word of this," said Tuppence suddenly. "I
guess I oughtn't to have put you wise, but in the States we know
a real smart lad when we see one."

"I'll not breathe a word," protested Albert eagerly. "Ain't there
anything I could do? A bit of shadowing, maybe, or such like?"

Tuppence affected to consider, then shook her head.

"Not at the moment, but I'll bear you in mind, son. What's this
about the girl you say is leaving?"

"Annie? Regular turn up, they 'ad. As Annie said, servants is
some one nowadays, and to be treated accordingly, and, what with
her passing the word round, she won't find it so easy to get

"Won't she?" said Tuppence thoughtfully. "I wonder----"

An idea was dawning in her brain. She thought a minute or two,
then tapped Albert on the shoulder.

"See here, son, my brain's got busy. How would it be if you
mentioned that you'd got a young cousin, or a friend of yours
had, that might suit the place. You get me?"

"I'm there," said Albert instantly. "You leave it to me, miss,
and I'll fix the whole thing up in two ticks."

"Some lad!" commented Tuppence, with a nod of approval. "You
might say that the young woman could come in right away. You let
me know, and if it's O.K. I'll be round to-morrow at eleven

"Where am I to let you know to?"

"Ritz," replied Tuppence laconically. "Name of Cowley."

Albert eyed her enviously.

"It must be a good job, this tec business."

"It sure is," drawled Tuppence, "especially when old man Rysdale
backs the bill. But don't fret, son. If this goes well, you
shall come in on the ground floor."

With which promise she took leave of her new ally, and walked
briskly away from South Audley Mansions, well pleased with her
morning's work.

But there was no time to be lost. She went straight back to the
Ritz and wrote a few brief words to Mr. Carter. Having
dispatched this, and Tommy not having yet returned--which did not
surprise her--she started off on a shopping expedition which,
with an interval for tea and assorted creamy cakes, occupied her
until well after six o'clock, and she returned to the hotel
jaded, but satisfied with her purchases. Starting with a cheap
clothing store, and passing through one or two second-hand
establishments, she had finished the day at a well-known
hairdresser's. Now, in the seclusion of her bedroom, she
unwrapped that final purchase. Five minutes later she smiled
contentedly at her reflection in the glass. With an actress's
pencil she had slightly altered the line of her eyebrows, and
that, taken in conjunction with the new luxuriant growth of fair
hair above, so changed her appearance that she felt confident
that even if she came face to face with Whittington he would not
recognize her. She would wear elevators in her shoes, and the
cap and apron would be an even more valuable disguise. From
hospital experience she knew only too well that a nurse out of
uniform is frequently unrecognized by her patients.

"Yes," said Tuppence aloud, nodding at the pert reflection in the
glass, "you'll do." She then resumed her normal appearance.

Dinner was a solitary meal. Tuppence was rather surprised at
Tommy's non-return. Julius, too, was absent--but that to the
girl's mind was more easily explained. His "hustling" activities
were not confined to London, and his abrupt appearances and
disappearances were fully accepted by the Young Adventurers as
part of the day's work. It was quite on the cards that Julius P.
Hersheimmer had left for Constantinople at a moment's notice if
he fancied that a clue to his cousin's disappearance was to be
found there. The energetic young man had succeeded in making the
lives of several Scotland Yard men unbearable to them, and the
telephone girls at the Admiralty had learned to know and dread
the familiar "Hullo!" He had spent three hours in Paris hustling
the Prefecture, and had returned from there imbued with the idea,
possibly inspired by a weary French official, that the true clue
to the mystery was to be found in Ireland.

"I dare say he's dashed off there now," thought Tuppence. "All
very well, but this is very dull for ME! Here I am bursting with
news, and absolutely no one to tell it to! Tommy might have
wired, or something. I wonder where he is. Anyway, he can't have
'lost the trail' as they say. That reminds me----" And Miss
Cowley broke off in her meditations, and summoned a small boy.

Ten minutes later the lady was ensconced comfortably on her bed,
smoking cigarettes and deep in the perusal of Garnaby Williams,
the Boy Detective, which, with other threepenny works of lurid
fiction, she had sent out to purchase. She felt, and rightly,
that before the strain of attempting further intercourse with
Albert, it would be as well to fortify herself with a good supply
of local colour.

The morning brought a note from Mr. Carter:


"You have made a splendid start, and I congratulate you. I feel,
though, that I should like to point out to you once more the
risks you are running, especially if you pursue the course you
indicate. Those people are absolutely desperate and incapable of
either mercy or pity. I feel that you probably underestimate the
danger, and therefore warn you again that I can promise you no
protection. You have given us valuable information, and if you
choose to withdraw now no one could blame you. At any rate,
think the matter over well before you decide.

"If, in spite of my warnings, you make up your mind to go through
with it, you will find everything arranged. You have lived for
two years with Miss Dufferin, The Parsonage, Llanelly, and Mrs.
Vandemeyer can apply to her for a reference.

"May I be permitted a word or two of advice? Stick as near to
the truth as possible--it minimizes the danger of 'slips.' I
suggest that you should represent yourself to be what you are, a
former V.A.D., who has chosen domestic service as a profession.
There are many such at the present time. That explains away any
incongruities of voice or manner which otherwise might awaken

"Whichever way you decide, good luck to you.
"Your sincere friend, "MR. CARTER."

Tuppence's spirits rose mercurially. Mr. Carter's warnings
passed unheeded. The young lady had far too much confidence in
herself to pay any heed to them.

With some reluctance she abandoned the interesting part she had
sketched out for herself. Although she had no doubts of her own
powers to sustain a role indefinitely, she had too much common
sense not to recognize the force of Mr. Carter's arguments.

There was still no word or message from Tommy, but the morning
post brought a somewhat dirty postcard with the words: "It's
O.K." scrawled upon it.

At ten-thirty Tuppence surveyed with pride a slightly battered
tin trunk containing her new possessions. It was artistically
corded. It was with a slight blush that she rang the bell and
ordered it to be placed in a taxi. She drove to Paddington, and
left the box in the cloak room. She then repaired with a handbag
to the fastnesses of the ladies' waiting-room. Ten minutes later
a metamorphosed Tuppence walked demurely out of the station and
entered a bus.

It was a few minutes past eleven when Tuppence again entered the
hall of South Audley Mansions. Albert was on the look-out,
attending to his duties in a somewhat desultory fashion. He did
not immediately recognize Tuppence. When he did, his admiration
was unbounded.

"Blest if I'd have known you! That rig-out's top-hole."

"Glad you like it, Albert," replied Tuppence modestly. "By the
way, am I your cousin, or am I not?"

"Your voice too," cried the delighted boy. "It's as English as
anything! No, I said as a friend of mine knew a young gal. Annie
wasn't best pleased. She's stopped on till to-day--to oblige, SHE
said, but really it's so as to put you against the place."

"Nice girl," said Tuppence.

Albert suspected no irony.

"She's style about her, and keeps her silver a treat--but, my
word, ain't she got a temper. Are you going up now, miss? Step
inside the lift. No. 20 did you say?" And he winked.

Tuppence quelled him with a stern glance, and stepped inside.

As she rang the bell of No. 20 she was conscious of Albert's eyes
slowly descending beneath the level of the floor.

A smart young woman opened the door.

"I've come about the place," said Tuppence.

"It's a rotten place," said the young woman without hesitation.
"Regular old cat--always interfering. Accused me of tampering
with her letters. Me! The flap was half undone anyway. There's
never anything in the waste-paper basket--she burns everything.
She's a wrong 'un, that's what she is. Swell clothes, but no
class. Cook knows something about her--but she won't
tell--scared to death of her. And suspicious! She's on to you in
a minute if you as much as speak to a fellow. I can tell you----"

But what more Annie could tell, Tuppence was never destined to
learn, for at that moment a clear voice with a peculiarly steely
ring to it called:


The smart young woman jumped as if she had been shot.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Who are you talking to?"

"It's a young woman about the situation, ma'am."

"Show her in then. At once."

"Yes, ma'am."

Tuppence was ushered into a room on the right of the long
passage. A woman was standing by the fireplace. She was no
longer in her first youth, and the beauty she undeniably
possessed was hardened and coarsened. In her youth she must have
been dazzling. Her pale gold hair, owing a slight assistance to
art, was coiled low on her neck, her eyes, of a piercing electric
blue, seemed to possess a faculty of boring into the very soul of
the person she was looking at. Her exquisite figure was enhanced
by a wonderful gown of indigo charmeuse. And yet, despite her
swaying grace, and the almost ethereal beauty of her face, you
felt instinctively the presence of something hard and menacing, a
kind of metallic strength that found expression in the tones of
her voice and in that gimletlike quality of her eyes.

For the first time Tuppence felt afraid. She had not feared
Whittington, but this woman was different. As if fascinated, she
watched the long cruel line of the red curving mouth, and again
she felt that sensation of panic pass over her. Her usual
self-confidence deserted her. Vaguely she felt that deceiving
this woman would be very different to deceiving Whittington. Mr.
Carter's warning recurred to her mind. Here, indeed, she might
expect no mercy.

Fighting down that instinct of panic which urged her to turn tail
and run without further delay, Tuppence returned the lady's gaze
firmly and respectfully.

As though that first scrutiny had been satisfactory, Mrs.
Vandemeyer motioned to a chair.

"You can sit down. How did you hear I wanted a

"Through a friend who knows the lift boy here. He thought the
place might suit me."

Again that basilisk glance seemed to pierce her through.

"You speak like an educated girl?"

Glibly enough, Tuppence ran through her imaginary career on the
lines suggested by Mr. Carter. It seemed to her, as she did so,
that the tension of Mrs. Vandemeyer's attitude relaxed.

"I see," she remarked at length. "Is there anyone I can write to
for a reference?"

"I lived last with a Miss Dufferin, The Parsonage, Llanelly. I
was with her two years."

"And then you thought you would get more money by coming to
London, I suppose? Well, it doesn't matter to me. I will give
you L50--L60--whatever you want. You can come in at once?"

"Yes, ma'am. To-day, if you like. My box is at Paddington."

"Go and fetch it in a taxi, then. It's an easy place. I am out
a good deal. By the way, what's your name?"

"Prudence Cooper, ma'am."

"Very well, Prudence. Go away and fetch your box. I shall be
out to lunch. The cook will show you where everything is."

"Thank you, ma'am."

Tuppence withdrew. The smart Annie was not in evidence. In the
hall below a magnificent hall porter had relegated Albert to the
background. Tuppence did not even glance at him as she passed
meekly out.

The adventure had begun, but she felt less elated than she had
done earlier in the morning. It crossed her mind that if the
unknown Jane Finn had fallen into the hands of Mrs. Vandemeyer,
it was likely to have gone hard with her.



TUPPENCE betrayed no awkwardness in her new duties. The daughters
of the archdeacon were well grounded in household tasks. They
were also experts in training a "raw girl," the inevitable result
being that the raw girl, once trained, departed elsewhere where
her newly acquired knowledge commanded a more substantial
remuneration than the archdeacon's meagre purse allowed.

Tuppence had therefore very little fear of proving inefficient.
Mrs. Vandemeyer's cook puzzled her. She evidently went in deadly
terror of her mistress. The girl thought it probable that the
other woman had some hold over her. For the rest, she cooked
like a chef, as Tuppence had an opportunity of judging that
evening. Mrs. Vandemeyer was expecting a guest to dinner, and
Tuppence accordingly laid the beautifully polished table for two.
She was a little exercised in her own mind as to this visitor. It
was highly possible that it might prove to be Whittington.
Although she felt fairly confident that he would not recognize
her, yet she would have been better pleased had the guest proved
to be a total stranger. However, there was nothing for it but to
hope for the best.

At a few minutes past eight the front door bell rang, and
Tuppence went to answer it with some inward trepidation. She was
relieved to see that the visitor was the second of the two men
whom Tommy had taken upon himself to follow.

He gave his name as Count Stepanov. Tuppence announced him, and
Mrs. Vandemeyer rose from her seat on a low divan with a quick
murmur of pleasure.

"It is delightful to see you, Boris Ivanovitch," she said.

"And you, madame!" He bowed low over her hand.

Tuppence returned to the kitchen.

"Count Stepanov, or some such," she remarked, and affecting a
frank and unvarnished curiosity: "Who's he?"

"A Russian gentleman, I believe."

"Come here much?"

"Once in a while. What d'you want to know for?"

"Fancied he might be sweet on the missus, that's all," explained
the girl, adding with an appearance of sulkiness: "How you do
take one up!"

"I'm not quite easy in my mind about the souffle," explained the

"You know something," thought Tuppence to herself, but aloud she
only said: "Going to dish up now? Right-o."

Whilst waiting at table, Tuppence listened closely to all that
was said. She remembered that this was one of the men Tommy was
shadowing when she had last seen him. Already, although she
would hardly admit it, she was becoming uneasy about her partner.
Where was he? Why had no word of any kind come from him? She had
arranged before leaving the Ritz to have all letters or messages
sent on at once by special messenger to a small stationer's shop
near at hand where Albert was to call in frequently. True, it was
only yesterday morning that she had parted from Tommy, and she
told herself that any anxiety on his behalf would be absurd.
Still, it was strange that he had sent no word of any kind.

But, listen as she might, the conversation presented no clue.
Boris and Mrs. Vandemeyer talked on purely indifferent subjects:
plays they had seen, new dances, and the latest society gossip.
After dinner they repaired to the small boudoir where Mrs.
Vandemeyer, stretched on the divan, looked more wickedly
beautiful than ever. Tuppence brought in the coffee and liqueurs
and unwillingly retired. As she did so, she heard Boris say:

"New, isn't she?"

"She came in to-day. The other was a fiend. This girl seems all
right. She waits well."

Tuppence lingered a moment longer by the door which she had
carefully neglected to close, and heard him say:

"Quite safe, I suppose?"

"Really, Boris, you are absurdly suspicious. I believe she's the
cousin of the hall porter, or something of the kind. And nobody
even dreams that I have any connection with our--mutual friend,
Mr. Brown."

"For heaven's sake, be careful, Rita. That door isn't shut."

"Well, shut it then," laughed the woman.

Tuppence removed herself speedily.

She dared not absent herself longer from the back premises, but
she cleared away and washed up with a breathless speed acquired
in hospital. Then she slipped quietly back to the boudoir door.
The cook, more leisurely, was still busy in the kitchen and, if
she missed the other, would only suppose her to be turning down
the beds.

Alas! The conversation inside was being carried on in too low a
tone to permit of her hearing anything of it. She dared not
reopen the door, however gently. Mrs. Vandemeyer was sitting
almost facing it, and Tuppence respected her mistress's lynx-eyed
powers of observation.

Nevertheless, she felt she would give a good deal to overhear
what was going on. Possibly, if anything unforeseen had
happened, she might get news of Tommy. For some moments she
reflected desperately, then her face brightened. She went quickly
along the passage to Mrs. Vandemeyer's bedroom, which had long
French windows leading on to a balcony that ran the length of the
flat. Slipping quickly through the window, Tuppence crept
noiselessly along till she reached the boudoir window. As she had
thought it stood a little ajar, and the voices within were
plainly audible.

Tuppence listened attentively, but there was no mention of
anything that could be twisted to apply to Tommy. Mrs.
Vandemeyer and the Russian seemed to be at variance over some
matter, and finally the latter exclaimed bitterly:

"With your persistent recklessness, you will end by ruining us!"

"Bah!" laughed the woman. "Notoriety of the right kind is the
best way of disarming suspicion. You will realize that one of
these days--perhaps sooner than you think!"

"In the meantime, you are going about everywhere with Peel
Edgerton. Not only is he, perhaps, the most celebrated K.C. in
England, but his special hobby is criminology! It is madness!"

"I know that his eloquence has saved untold men from the
gallows," said Mrs. Vandemeyer calmly. "What of it? I may need
his assistance in that line myself some day. If so, how fortunate
to have such a friend at court--or perhaps it would be more to
the point to say IN court."

Boris got up and began striding up and down. He was very

"You are a clever woman, Rita; but you are also a fool! Be guided
by me, and give up Peel Edgerton."

Mrs. Vandemeyer shook her head gently.

"I think not."

"You refuse?" There was an ugly ring in the Russian's voice.

"I do."

"Then, by Heaven," snarled the Russian, "we will see----" But
Mrs. Vandemeyer also rose to her feet, her eyes flashing.

"You forget, Boris," she said. "I am accountable to no one. I
take my orders only from--Mr. Brown."

The other threw up his hands in despair.

"You are impossible," he muttered. "Impossible! Already it may
be too late. They say Peel Edgerton can SMELL a criminal! How do
we know what is at the bottom of his sudden interest in you?
Perhaps even now his suspicions are aroused. He guesses----"

Mrs. Vandemeyer eyed him scornfully.

"Reassure yourself, my dear Boris. He suspects nothing. With
less than your usual chivalry, you seem to forget that I am
commonly accounted a beautiful woman. I assure you that is all
that interests Peel Edgerton."

Boris shook his head doubtfully.

"He has studied crime as no other man in this kingdom has studied
it. Do you fancy that you can deceive him?"

Mrs. Vandemeyer's eyes narrowed.

"If he is all that you say--it would amuse me to try!"

"Good heavens, Rita----"

"Besides," added Mrs. Vandemeyer, "he is extremely rich. I am not
one who despises money. The 'sinews of war,' you know, Boris!"

"Money--money! That is always the danger with you, Rita. I
believe you would sell your soul for money. I believe----" He
paused, then in a low, sinister voice he said slowly: "Sometimes
I believe that you would sell--us!"

Mrs. Vandemeyer smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"The price, at any rate, would have to be enormous," she said
lightly. "It would be beyond the power of anyone but a
millionaire to pay."

"Ah!" snarled the Russian. "You see, I was right!"

"My dear Boris, can you not take a joke?"

"Was it a joke?"

"Of course."

"Then all I can say is that your ideas of humour are peculiar, my
dear Rita."

Mrs. Vandemeyer smiled.

"Let us not quarrel, Boris. Touch the bell. We will have some

Tuppence beat a hasty retreat. She paused a moment to survey
herself in Mrs. Vandemeyer's long glass, and be sure that nothing
was amiss with her appearance. Then she answered the bell

The conversation that she had overheard, although interesting in
that it proved beyond doubt the complicity of both Rita and
Boris, threw very little light on the present preoccupations. The
name of Jane Finn had not even been mentioned.

The following morning a few brief words with Albert informed her
that nothing was waiting for her at the stationer's. It seemed
incredible that Tommy, if all was well with him, should not send
any word to her. A cold hand seemed to close round her heart....
Supposing ... She choked her fears down bravely. It was no good
worrying. But she leapt at a chance offered her by Mrs.

"What day do you usually go out, Prudence?"

"Friday's my usual day, ma'am."

Mrs. Vandemeyer lifted her eyebrows.

"And to-day is Friday! But I suppose you hardly wish to go out
to-day, as you only came yesterday."

"I was thinking of asking you if I might, ma'am."

Mrs. Vandemeyer looked at her a minute longer, and then smiled.

"I wish Count Stepanov could hear you. He made a suggestion
about you last night." Her smile broadened, catlike. "Your
request is very--typical. I am satisfied. You do not understand
all this--but you can go out to-day. It makes no difference to
me, as I shall not be dining at home."

"Thank you, ma'am."

Tuppence felt a sensation of relief once she was out of the
other's presence. Once again she admitted to herself that she was
afraid, horribly afraid, of the beautiful woman with the cruel

In the midst of a final desultory polishing of her silver,
Tuppence was disturbed by the ringing of the front door bell, and
went to answer it. This time the visitor was neither Whittington
nor Boris, but a man of striking appearance.

Just a shade over average height, he nevertheless conveyed the
impression of a big man. His face, clean-shaven and exquisitely
mobile, was stamped with an expression of power and force far
beyond the ordinary. Magnetism seemed to radiate from him.

Tuppence was undecided for the moment whether to put him down as
an actor or a lawyer, but her doubts were soon solved as he gave
her his name: Sir James Peel Edgerton.

She looked at him with renewed interest. This, then, was the
famous K.C. whose name was familiar all over England. She had
heard it said that he might one day be Prime Minister. He was
known to have refused office in the interests of his profession,
preferring to remain a simple Member for a Scotch constituency.

Tuppence went back to her pantry thoughtfully. The great man had
impressed her. She understood Boris's agitation. Peel Edgerton
would not be an easy man to deceive.

In about a quarter of an hour the bell rang, and Tuppence
repaired to the hall to show the visitor out. He had given her a
piercing glance before. Now, as she handed him his hat and
stick, she was conscious of his eyes raking her through. As she
opened the door and stood aside to let him pass out, he stopped
in the doorway.

"Not been doing this long, eh?"

Tuppence raised her eyes, astonished. She read in his glance
kindliness, and something else more difficult to fathom.

He nodded as though she had answered.

"V.A.D. and hard up, I suppose?"

"Did Mrs. Vandemeyer tell you that?" asked Tuppence suspiciously.

"No, child. The look of you told me. Good place here?"

"Very good, thank you, sir."

"Ah, but there are plenty of good places nowadays. And a change
does no harm sometimes."

"Do you mean----?" began Tuppence.

But Sir James was already on the topmost stair. He looked back
with his kindly, shrewd glance.

"Just a hint," he said. "That's all."

Tuppence went back to the pantry more thoughtful than ever.



DRESSED appropriately, Tuppence duly sallied forth for her
"afternoon out." Albert was in temporary abeyance, but Tuppence
went herself to the stationer's to make quite sure that nothing
had come for her. Satisfied on this point, she made her way to
the Ritz. On inquiry she learnt that Tommy had not yet returned.
It was the answer she had expected, but it was another nail in
the coffin of her hopes. She resolved to appeal to Mr. Carter,
telling him when and where Tommy had started on his quest, and
asking him to do something to trace him. The prospect of his aid
revived her mercurial spirits, and she next inquired for Julius
Hersheimmer. The reply she got was to the effect that he had
returned about half an hour ago, but had gone out immediately.

Tuppence's spirits revived still more. It would be something to
see Julius. Perhaps he could devise some plan for finding out
what had become of Tommy. She wrote her note to Mr. Carter in
Julius's sitting-room, and was just addressing the envelope when
the door burst open.

"What the hell----" began Julius, but checked himself abruptly.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Tuppence. Those fools down at the
office would have it that Beresford wasn't here any
longer--hadn't been here since Wednesday. Is that so?"

Tuppence nodded.

"You don't know where he is?" she asked faintly.

"I? How should I know? I haven't had one darned word from him,
though I wired him yesterday morning."

"I expect your wire's at the office unopened."

"But where is he?"

"I don't know. I hoped you might."

"I tell you I haven't had one darned word from him since we
parted at the depot on Wednesday."

"What depot?"

"Waterloo. Your London and South Western road."

"Waterloo?" frowned Tuppence.

"Why, yes. Didn't he tell you?"

"I haven't seen him either," replied Tuppence impatiently. "Go on
about Waterloo. What were you doing there?"

"He gave me a call. Over the phone. Told me to get a move on,
and hustle. Said he was trailing two crooks."

"Oh!" said Tuppence, her eyes opening. "I see. Go on."

"I hurried along right away. Beresford was there. He pointed
out the crooks. The big one was mine, the guy you bluffed. Tommy
shoved a ticket into my hand and told me to get aboard the cars.
He was going to sleuth the other crook." Julius paused. "I
thought for sure you'd know all this."

"Julius," said Tuppence firmly, "stop walking up and down. It
makes me giddy. Sit down in that armchair, and tell me the whole
story with as few fancy turns of speech as possible."

Mr. Hersheimmer obeyed.

"Sure," he said. "Where shall I begin?"

"Where you left off. At Waterloo."

"Well," began Julius, "I got into one of your dear old-fashioned
first-class British compartments. The train was just off. First
thing I knew a guard came along and informed me mighty politely
that I wasn't in a smoking-carriage. I handed him out half a
dollar, and that settled that. I did a bit of prospecting along
the corridor to the next coach. Whittington was there right
enough. When I saw the skunk, with his big sleek fat face, and
thought of poor little Jane in his clutches, I felt real mad that
I hadn't got a gun with me. I'd have tickled him up some.

"We got to Bournemouth all right. Whittington took a cab and
gave the name of an hotel. I did likewise, and we drove up
within three minutes of each other. He hired a room, and I hired
one too. So far it was all plain sailing. He hadn't the remotest
notion that anyone was on to him. Well, he just sat around in
the hotel lounge, reading the papers and so on, till it was time
for dinner. He didn't hurry any over that either.

"I began to think that there was nothing doing, that he'd just
come on the trip for his health, but I remembered that he hadn't
changed for dinner, though it was by way of being a slap-up
hotel, so it seemed likely enough that he'd be going out on his
real business afterwards.

"Sure enough, about nine o'clock, so he did. Took a car across
the town--mighty pretty place by the way, I guess I'll take Jane
there for a spell when I find her--and then paid it off and
struck out along those pine-woods on the top of the cliff. I was
there too, you understand. We walked, maybe, for half an hour.
There's a lot of villas all the way along, but by degrees they
seemed to get more and more thinned out, and in the end we got to
one that seemed the last of the bunch. Big house it was, with a
lot of piny grounds around it.

"It was a pretty black night, and the carriage drive up to the
house was dark as pitch. I could hear him ahead, though I
couldn't see him. I had to walk carefully in case he might get on
to it that he was being followed. I turned a curve and I was
just in time to see him ring the bell and get admitted to the
house. I just stopped where I was. It was beginning to rain, and
I was soon pretty near soaked through. Also, it was almighty

"Whittington didn't come out again, and by and by I got kind of
restive, and began to mouch around. All the ground floor windows
were shuttered tight, but upstairs, on the first floor (it was a
two-storied house) I noticed a window with a light burning and
the curtains not drawn.

"Now, just opposite to that window, there was a tree growing. It
was about thirty foot away from the house, maybe, and I sort of
got it into my head that, if I climbed up that tree, I'd very
likely be able to see into that room. Of course, I knew there
was no reason why Whittington should be in that room rather than
in any other--less reason, in fact, for the betting would be on
his being in one of the reception-rooms downstairs. But I guess
I'd got the hump from standing so long in the rain, and anything
seemed better than going on doing nothing. So I started up.

"It wasn't so easy, by a long chalk! The rain had made the
boughs mighty slippery, and it was all I could do to keep a
foothold, but bit by bit I managed it, until at last there I was
level with the window.

"But then I was disappointed. I was too far to the left. I could
only see sideways into the room. A bit of curtain, and a yard of
wallpaper was all I could command. Well, that wasn't any manner
of good to me, but just as I was going to give it up, and climb
down ignominiously, some one inside moved and threw his shadow on
my little bit of wall--and, by gum, it was Whittington!

"After that, my blood was up. I'd just got to get a look into
that room. It was up to me to figure out how. I noticed that
there was a long branch running out from the tree in the right
direction. If I could only swarm about half-way along it, the
proposition would be solved. But it was mighty uncertain whether
it would bear my weight. I decided I'd just got to risk that, and
I started. Very cautiously, inch by inch, I crawled along. The
bough creaked and swayed in a nasty fashion, and it didn't do to
think of the drop below, but at last I got safely to where I
wanted to be.

"The room was medium-sized, furnished in a kind of bare hygienic
way. There was a table with a lamp on it in the middle of the
room, and sitting at that table, facing towards me, was
Whittington right enough. He was talking to a woman dressed as a
hospital nurse. She was sitting with her back to me, so I
couldn't see her face. Although the blinds were up, the window
itself was shut, so I couldn't catch a word of what they said.
Whittington seemed to be doing all the talking, and the nurse
just listened. Now and then she nodded, and sometimes she'd shake
her head, as though she were answering questions. He seemed very
emphatic--once or twice he beat with his fist on the table. The
rain had stopped now, and the sky was clearing in that sudden way
it does.

"Presently, he seemed to get to the end of what he was saying.
He got up, and so did she. He looked towards the window and
asked something--I guess it was whether it was raining. Anyway,
she came right across and looked out. Just then the moon came out
from behind the clouds. I was scared the woman would catch sight
of me, for I was full in the moonlight. I tried to move back a
bit. The jerk I gave was too much for that rotten old branch.
With an almighty crash, down it came, and Julius P. Hersheimmer
with it!"

"Oh, Julius," breathed Tuppence, "how exciting! Go on."

"Well, luckily for me, I pitched down into a good soft bed of
earth--but it put me out of action for the time, sure enough. The
next thing I knew, I was lying in bed with a hospital nurse (not
Whittington's one) on one side of me, and a little black-bearded
man with gold glasses, and medical man written all over him, on
the other. He rubbed his hands together, and raised his eyebrows
as I stared at him. 'Ah!' he said. 'So our young friend is
coming round again. Capital. Capital.'

"I did the usual stunt. Said: 'What's happened?' And 'Where am
I?' But I knew the answer to the last well enough. There's no
moss growing on my brain. 'I think that'll do for the present,
sister,' said the little man, and the nurse left the room in a
sort of brisk well-trained way. But I caught her handing me out a
look of deep curiosity as she passed through the door.

"That look of hers gave me an idea. 'Now then, doc,' I said, and
tried to sit up in bed, but my right foot gave me a nasty twinge
as I did so. 'A slight sprain,' explained the doctor. 'Nothing
serious. You'll be about again in a couple of days.' "

"I noticed you walked lame," interpolated Tuppence.

Julius nodded, and continued:

" 'How did it happen?' I asked again. He replied dryly. 'You
fell, with a considerable portion of one of my trees, into one of
my newly planted flower-beds.'

"I liked the man. He seemed to have a sense of humour. I felt
sure that he, at least, was plumb straight. 'Sure, doc,' I said,
'I'm sorry about the tree, and I guess the new bulbs will be on
me. But perhaps you'd like to know what I was doing in your
garden?' 'I think the facts do call for an explanation,' he
replied. 'Well, to begin with, I wasn't after the spoons.'

"He smiled. 'My first theory. But I soon altered my mind. By
the way, you are an American, are you not?' I told him my name.
'And you?' 'I am Dr. Hall, and this, as you doubtless know, is
my private nursing home.'

"I didn't know, but I wasn't going to put him wise. I was just
thankful for the information. I liked the man, and I felt he was
straight, but I wasn't going to give him the whole story. For one
thing he probably wouldn't have believed it.

"I made up my mind in a flash. 'Why, doctor,' I said, 'I guess I
feel an almighty fool, but I owe it to you to let you know that
it wasn't the Bill Sikes business I was up to.' Then I went on


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